Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you?
I’m a creative problem solver and servant-leader. My name is Kristopher Riley, born and raised on the East Coast, educated in the Midwest and now expanding my career here in the Bay Area. Getting to the West Coast has been an interesting combination of many different (often unexpected) roads—and every one has taught me powerful lessons, each step of the way. The first step was working in the hospitality industry during college, where I learned two very powerful lessons: patience and integrity. These two defining aspects of my character created the necessary foundation to grow my personal self and my entrepreneurial career.
I got my first bite from the entrepreneurial bug at college, when I co-founded my first company, called Hype Dance. The process of starting Hype was difficult at best, but my co-founder and I managed our way through it. Today, Hype is at four different schools. It’s the longest running hip hop dance team in the Midwest.
My second and more profound “bite” was attending my first Techstars Startup Weekend in Philadelphia, almost six years ago now. Seeing the support of the community and other like-minded people caused me to look back at my days starting Hype, and wonder what that would have been with a support system like the one I saw at Techstars Startup Weekend.
I asked myself, “How do I solve this problem for other young founders?”
My mom always said, “It’s not a problem if it doesn’t have a solution.” This turned out to be an easy one—I joined Startup Weekend as an Organizer. Learning about the history of the organization, the global support system, and just the raw love of community gave me a new purpose and a great opportunity to give back.
Over the next six years I not only became a Techstars Startup Weekend Facilitator—the next level of responsibility up from Organizer—I also grew tremendously in my career. I’m now Head of Business Development for PayStand, a fast growing startup in the South Bay. The community gave me the confidence to start the founder journey again, and now I’m working with a handful of friends and bootstrapping two ideas: a mobile-first, automotive CPQ system that helps mechanics to drive business and manage customer engagements, called Oxivi; and a voice-first service allowing consumers to call a ride hailing service without the need of a smartphone, called Rotary Rider.
Why do you do what you do?
My why is simple—doing this gives me energy to be an example.
This energy is hard to explain with words. It happens when I’m able to help people get to that “a-ha moment” in their entrepreneur journey. It happens during the process of helping them build their startup and solidify their business model. It even happens when someone makes a career move because an event like Techstars Startup Weekend has opened their eyes to something they never knew they loved so much.
This moment is something I hold onto and mentally give to my younger self. I didn’t have people that looked like me in this space doing the things that I, my colleagues, and other community members are doing right now. I want to help younger black and brown aspiring founders to see the startup world (and the larger tech industry) as something that’s well within their reach.
This is the second part of my why—being an example to those who don’t have one. Reminding them that while success isn’t guaranteed, there is an active, excited community here to support their unique perspectives, ideas, and growth in so many amazing ways.
What’s new for the Bay Area?
What’s new for the Bay Area besides the Social Impact Startup Weekend on April 5th at Menlo College? Let me think 🙂 There’s a lot of new energy from the team at Techstars as they start to wrap their arms tighter around the larger Bay Area startup scene. So much is happening around the world when it comes to new technology centers: Silicon Alley (New York, New York), Silicon Fen (Cambridge, England), Silicon Wadi (Tel Aviv, Israel) and so many more. We’re leaders here in the Bay, and like all great leaders we need to step back out in front into the new and unknown. Combining the energy from new Techstars Startup Weekend Organizers with other startup community groups in the area—shoutout to Startup East Bay and The Hidden Genius Project—I’m positive 2020 and beyond will be more than just new, it’ll be news.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Keep going. Keep failing. Ask for help. Give help to others. You’ll find success and happiness in the most unexpected but absolutely wonderful places.
I’m a consummate networker. If you’re a growing startup or entrepreneur looking for introductions or keen to learn what first steps you can take, please reach out to me on LinkedIn. Furthermore, the great thing about working at PayStand is that my CEO is a true believer in entrepreneurship. Because of that I get to empower software startups with a new way to facilitate payments that also drives net new revenue for them, helping to continue their growth and success. If you’re interested in learning more, please connect with me on LinkedIn as well!
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