A Slice on Eric Lo, Co-Founder and CEO of Krado, Inc.
Eric Lo’s journey into entrepreneurship came from a frustration with the academic world. With a background in biology, Lo was on the medical school track but quickly realized his creativity and outside-the-box thinking would be stifled if he continued down this path. He decided to take the often frowned-upon leap to the business side by joining Biofire, which, at the time, was small and acted like a startup. This experience opened Lo’s eyes to the possibilities on the “industry” side of the world and would inspire him to found two companies of his own, a recording studio and most recently Krado, Inc., a plant care system in its pre-seed stage.
During his time at Biofire, Lo came to love the freedom of not having to spend most of his time applying for grants or arguing over data. He felt his work was making an actual impact, and appreciated the non-hierarchical nature of a startup. However, once Biofire was acquired by a larger company, Lo felt it lost its startup feel. He reflected on what he should do next and landed on getting his Master’s in Computer Science, seeing programming as a future form of literacy that everyone will need to have familiarity with.
While getting his Master’s, Lo also had side projects going. Though he didn’t enter the business world right away, Lo notes that he’s always had a business mindset, often finding himself thinking, “Oh, this isn’t a very efficient way of doing things, how can we improve it?” Lo didn’t think he could go all in and start a business, even though it’s always been a lingering thought for him since watching Silicon Valley on HBO. He took a step back and was able to liken the startup process to something super familiar to him, the scientific method. “To build a business, you just follow the scientific method. You have a hypothesis, test it, take your data and iterate from that.” With this realization, Lo was ready to fully dive into entrepreneurship.
The idea for Krado came almost by accident. At first, Lo thought he’d get into the blockchain space in 2018 and apply it to healthcare. It wasn’t long before Lo realized how difficult of a market he was entering, not just because healthcare is heavily regulated, but also because he would be battling against tech giants trying to do similar things. Back to square one, he explored “every single sector” before landing on plant care while attempting to solve a personal problem, how to water his house plants while on vacation. After trying failed internet remedies, Lo created his own solution in the span of one weekend (as any engineer would), consisting of a sensor, a bunch of wires and a “rough-looking” app. Later on, Lo’s friend was having a similar problem with his lawn. They attempted to utilize Lo’s house plant system and joined an accelerator, the Founder’s Institute.
Through this program, they were able to notice all the “entrepreneur traps” they fell into, especially as engineers. “The first thing you do is research, you talk to your customers, and the last thing you do is you build the product. Of course, we’re all engineers and technical people, so the first thing we do is we start building stuff because that’s the fun part.” After doing more market research and determining that the lawn care system was too complicated, they pivoted back to indoor plants. The Krado system involves sensors that collect data and a user-friendly app (with cute avatars) to help plant owners proactively take better care of their plants. Further, if their plant needs something physical, like fertilizer, it’ll be shipped directly to them from suppliers pre-vetted to be the most eco-friendly.
Building this company through a pandemic has been a challenge for Lo, but has also opened new doors. Prior to COVID-19 hitting the U.S., Lo attended every startup event he could to build his network as a newcomer. Once these events ceased or became virtual, Lo had to find new ways of connecting with others. He sent cold emails and hit up LinkedIn connections to set up meetings over Zoom. Though they couldn’t interact face-to-face, Lo was actually able to set up more meetings than before since he didn’t have to leave his house.
The biggest risk for Lo was actually undoing years of being told how to live life. He felt like he didn’t fit where he was supposed to be, aka moving up in the medical field. Lo had to learn to just believe in himself and his capabilities and do what he actually wanted to in life. “That’s been the scariest thing, just jumping in. I was dipping my toe in like I’ve got this really sweet job, it pays me, we’ve got everything we want. Then I finally just jumped in, had that shock you get when you jump into cold water, and now I look back at it and I wish I did it sooner.” He stressed the importance for other founders to do the same, to believe in themselves and go for it if it’s something they really want to do.
From his own experience entering the entrepreneurship world, Lo has some advice for others looking to do the same.
Lo’s goal for the foreseeable future is to continue growing Krado, his “baby”. He has big plans for the company, eventually tapping into lawn care and even outer space when the time comes (yes, you read that right), hoping to completely change the way we grow plants.