Victoria Van Zhong went from working a 7-3 security job at the Chicago Public Schools to seeing a problem with their security system, quitting, and starting her own business in order to fix the problem! Read our interview with the lovely Victoria below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I was working for the Chicago Public Schools at the time that I decided to start my own company. I was leading a major school safety and security effort, and with a background in crime research, I noticed the flaws in our security system and how ancient both the residential and commercial security systems were. My business partner and I had a very novel and innovative piece of technology that would disrupt the home security industry. We wanted more than anything to make a security system that could save lives and be your own virtual bodyguard. So we founded Cypromus, Inc. in 2014.
Tell us about your business.
Cyp is the first intelligent home security and stereo system. The Cyp Box is ready to sense distress in cases of home invasions and calls for help. Voice command will trigger an alarm to call the authorities. For individuals who live alone, Cyp will check in frequently to make sure he or she is okay and alert friends/family if the individual does not respond.
At CYPROMUS, we believe that the residential security market needs a major disruption. Technology has improved many aspects of our everyday lives, yet the residential security systems that are available today have been around for decades. Many of them still run on old telephone lines. Many companies, large and small, have attempted and are still trying to change the game, but they’re really just a slight facelift of the same underlying products. At the same time, the tech revolution has created a huge divide between those in the tech industry and those simply consuming it. Using technology to improve the residential security market must also change the relationship of the consumer to the technology so that we’re all empowered to contribute to the entities that are most intimate with our homes.
The Cyp Box tackles both problems, creating a new residential security paradigm and getting the consumer to engage in the tech economy, by offering a platform that is open and customizable to each individual and family’s needs. As a ready-to-run security system, the Cyp Box can use its microphones to listen for your distress calls and call for help. As a DIY robot and computing platform, Cyp’s features can be enhanced at any time and by anyone. In fact, the Cyp virtual bodyguard software will interact with you to understand your security needs and provide the appropriate level of protection for you and your family.
Besides offering assistance when you need it, the Cyp Box can use its full range stereo speakers to play music and other content. Interaction with the Cyp virtual bodyguard on a regular basis is the best way to ensure that if you ever need to use it in a time of emergency, you know how to activate it. Over time, the Cyp Virtual Bodyguard will gain more and more capabilities, as we’d expect any technology to do. Because the Cyp Box is modular, you can upgrade parts of it. That saves your wallet and our natural resources.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Getting business licenses. Hiring a business attorney. Drafting a presentation deck for potential investors. Creating a list of solid potential investors to meet with.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Going out and meeting with people. Showing up to events. Talking about your product as CEO and founder. Making an incredible product video: youtu.be/-GzLUxNtBzg
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Funding is always an issue whether you’re starting up or been around for a long time. It’s very hard to find the right funders and the amount of funding that will take you to the next stage.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I always look at people’s responses a little differently than meets the eye. A “no” to me means “not yet” or “not now”. So I plan a follow up meeting and focus on the next prospect. I tell everyone I meet about my business because there might be a “yes” from any conversation. You never know who that great new partner might be. It’s both exhausting and exciting to fundraise and network but you have to get out there and do it with passion.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I have a robust social and family life so when things are bad at work, I turn to my family and friends for comfort. It always helps to come from a culture where food is the center of all gatherings. So, I eat, drink, and unwind with important people. My four-year old is my source of inspiration and my mother is who I want to impress at the end of the day.
How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I am an Asian American female running a high tech company. So I have to keep myself very knowledgeable, updated, and connected in the artificial intelligence world. It’s a man’s world still and I have to be louder, faster, and better to get noticed.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Never let someone else do the important work for you. What you define as important is up to you.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Always bring your best tools to every meeting and never save the best for last. Because your best is what will get you to the next stage. And always ask questions. Never assume. Just ask.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
LinkedIn.com and Angellist.com is very good for connecting with and finding the right people. I also like Forbes.com and The New York Times because there’s always great coverage on the latest technology and emerging tech businesses.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I read a great article “What You Can Learn From Kobe Bryant’s Latest Career Move” by Nathan Tanner. It’s a quick read that stayed with me for days. Basically, Kobe Bryant’s humble method of cold calling famous people to ask them “simple” or “stupid” questions about how they started their empire profoundly impacted me. I love asking questions and listening to people’s responses. It took me decades to learn to ask simple questions and just listen. I post all good articles or books on my Twitter.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I want to start putting my products into some homes of people who have a lot to protect. This will allow me to gather relevant data to improve the product and start more major marketing and production effort.