I first met ShanShan during a workshop at which the best and brightest of Sydney’s design community generously contributed a day of their minds to help define AirShr’s value proposition. ShanShan’s infectious character, technical curiosity and sense of humour stretched our thinking and not long afterwards she began to share her focus on medical devices and in particular Roam.
We recently caught up to exchange ideas on gender equality in tech in Australia and provide each other with counsel on various challenges we face as founders. For those who know ShanShan, you will hear her unmistakable enthusiasm and tone as she nails each question below. For those less familiar with ShanShan’s work, enjoy! You’re about to become acquainted with the next generation of entrepreneur. From where I’m sitting, the future looks to be in good hands.
1. We share the University of New South Wales as our alma mater but in very different fields, you as an industrial designer. What led you to this field?
I’ve always loved the practical side of things, being able to create, play and make things has always been apart of me since childhood. Funny story, reaching high-school- Design & Technology was pretty the only subject I really paid attention too, hahaha. What really pushed me into Industrial Design was the thought of ‘How could cool would it be if I could create something that people would love to use’. That feeling of being able to will something into existence (from sketch to physical product) was tantalisingly fun.
2. You’ve moved from traditional product design to cutting edge healthcare with the very cool Roam. What’s the big idea behind roam and what was the moment that you realised there was something special about Roam?
Roam Tech. is about using technology to enhance life specifically our fundamental healthcare needs. Oxygen is life. We need it everyday. Yet, that basic molecule in its vital format, we still can’t store and use it efficiently. In fact, in today’s market we’ve resorted to using decades old technology (20th century tech to be exact). It’s lead to more health problems than it is trying to solve it. Bill Clinton summed it up quite nicely “The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change” .
It’s that belief that we’ve been building an incredibly lightweight technology that fits healthcare requirements of this modern age and beyond. We’ve called it Roam. We believe it will influence the way we intrinsically understand our health and create better systems.
3. Your mantra of “Stay cool, be curious and have fun” doesn’t get much better. How do you apply this as a founder?
Hahaha, it’s something that I learnt in design school and has stayed with me since. Be cool in every situation (emotionally and logically). Be curious about the world, always ask questions (no matter how dumb they are) and most importantly have fun. Applying this keeps me focused, looking at the bigger picture and keeps me grounded (whilst having fun).
4. What’s surprised you the most about making the transition from employee to founder?
I’m still in mid-transitions, hahaha. Tech is hard. Like really really hard. Building new tech is especially hard. But not impossible to do. As a designer, we all know that 95% of product fail. That’s just a fact. So having the right people with the right network is sooo vital. In other words ‘hard’, hahaha.
In my case, I’m quite fortunate. I’m in a good position to move around as my day-to-day work doesn’t restrict me to an typical office. It helps that I’m part-time freelance consultant and I’ve got a great relationships between all my clients. Surprisedly, my clients have been quite supportive, they’ve encouraged, advised and pushed me to move things faster on Roam. I think as a founder, you can’t be completely focused on just one thing, you need to nimble and be open to change. The ability to adapt and endure is the biggest test in building a company from ground up.
5. You meet with a soon-to-be, first-time founder and over coffee she asks “If I had to develop three habits to be a successful founder, what are they?” what would you say?
Hahaha, that’s quite a hard question to answer. I guess what defines success? Everybody’s definition of success is very different. For me I’ve always loved design, using design to create impact has always been my benchmark. To be a successful founder, I would say; question everything, don’t ever just stop at the status quo - go beyond it and most importantly have fun while your doing it. If your not having fun, then really what’s the point.
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