Posted on Friday, May 3rd 2019
Niche e-commerce still produces compelling success stories. Read on to see how CEO Brian Lim built
iHeartRaves. Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background? Brian Lim: I was raised in LA County. My parents immigrated here to escape communism in China and Cambodia. I grew up very poor. We bootstrapped our company back in 2010 with $100 and turned it into a $20 million a year company. Sramana Mitra: Were you born in the US? Brian Lim: I was born in China. My parents owned a donut shop. They were basically working 24 hours a day. If you wanted to get anything in life, you really had to earn it yourself. Sramana Mitra: What about education? What kind of education process did you go through? Brian Lim: We went through the normal public school system. I got accepted into UCLA. I did my degree in Business Economics with a minor in Accounting. I got exposed to a bunch of different internships and consulting. Ultimately, I went to Deloitte Consulting after graduating. Sramana Mitra: Were you working for a big firm as far as consulting is concerned? Brian Lim: The main client I was on was Southern California Edison. Sramana Mitra: What years are we talking? Brian Lim: In 2008, I interned during the summer. Then in 2009, I had a full-time offer. I stayed there for about two years. During my second year, I was exposed to gloving. I had started Emazing Lights on the sides. Sramana Mitra: What was this company that you were trying to build on the side? What was the concept? How did you come up with it? Brian Lim: My girlfriend at that time, who’s now my wife, got me into gloving. It’s basically an LED dance art form. I was able to entertain 5 to 10 people around me. I fell in love with the art form. Me and my girlfriend would go to these music festivals. We fell in love with the rave scene and with each other. Sramana Mitra: Wonderful story. How did that drive the company? Brian Lim: We wanted a better product so that we could practice our art. It simply wasn’t available. I would buy off-the-shelf products and resell them. That’s how we turned our $100 to millions. We would then take our profits and reinvest and create the best products that we personally love and would use. Sramana Mitra: What does that mean? Brian Lim: Gloving is a dance art form like breakdancing. It’s when you have LED lights at your fingertips and you’re dancing to the beat of the music while being able to control and manipulate light. Sramana Mitra: There’s a product involved. There are products that are necessary to make this kind of experience happen. What are the components of that product? Brian Lim: The first gloving lights were basically keychain flashlights that people would attach to their keychains. You would put them in white gloves. They were very bulky and not customizable. We had to develop our own products specifically for the gloving art form.
Our conversation continues
here. This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to an Exit . Why is Bootstrapping Important? . How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently? . Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings . Excess is NOT Required for Success . Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later . Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies . The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit . Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to Unicorns More »» . Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million . Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue . Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million . Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy . How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million . Bootstrapping with a Paycheck . How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan . Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses . How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million . Bootstrapping with Services . 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Discussing the Evolution of the Indian Startup Industry with Sasha Mirchandani, Kae Capital . Lean Company Bootstraps to $7M . Saatva Co-founder Bootstrapped a $25M E-Commerce Company . Looking at Terms with Heidi Roizen of Threshold Ventures . ADDA Co-founder CEO Bootstrapped with a Paycheck in India . Duda Co-founders Bootstrap with Paychecks . The Importance of Building Value with Shomit Ghose, Onset Ventures . Get Real Health Founder Bootstrapped Using Services . Bootstrapping Unique Vintage Using a Paycheck . Discussing E-commerce Startup Trends with Daniel Gulati, Forecast Fund . Bootstrapping a Digital Startup with a Paycheck . Discussing Seed Stages with Amir Banifatemi of K5 Ventures . Bootstrapping Avelead Using Services from Atlanta . Founder Bootstrapped a Big Data Company Using Services . Discussing Future Unicorns with Warren Weiss, Foundation Capital . Founder Bootstrapped Axosoft with a Paycheck . Raised a Series A with $10 Million in the Bank . 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Bay Dynamics Co-founders Bootstrapped Using Services . Building an AI Software Company from Dallas . RJMetrics Co-founders Bootstrapped First, Raised $22M Later . Bootstrapping Niche E-Commerce Business BuyAutoParts to Exit . TemplateMonster was Bootstrapped to $15 Million . Bootstrapping Edge Hosting to $18 Million . Bootstrapping, Fund Raising and Exiting with Sefaira . Bootstrapping IdeaScale to $5M from Scratch . Bootstrapping to $10M from Finland . Happy Grasshopper CEO Dan Stewart Bootstrapped to Inflection . Bootstrapping Gravity Pro Using Services . Founder Builds Multiple Bootstrapped Education Software Companies . Bootstrapping to $10M from Australia, Raising $25M from the US . Bootstrapped Y Soft to $30M from the Czech Republic . Bootstrapped from Belarus, Raised Money from Silicon Valley