A recent business graduate from the University of California, San Diego, Sidao Li was first introduced to the StartOut Community through his submission for the #OutEntrepreneur video contest. “Coming out was really hard for me, but the decision to actually film this video was even harder because this video marks the first time I am on tape as an #OutEntrepreneur.” So how did Sidao, a student entrepreneur & CEO of Chippr, get to this point? We recently sat down with Sidao to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us about your Chippr! What problem do you solve?
Chippr is a mobile platform where people can share any questions, concerns or LGBT-related news around them in real time anonymously. It’s a safe place for people to meet like-minded people through local events instead of a mere profile picture. It offers a more genuine and alternative way than LGBT dating apps for users to meet one another. Users are connected based on mutual experience, common interests, and LGBT-related issues as first impression, rather than how they look. It allows developments of the kind of relationships beyond just “hookup culture” or romantic partnership.
How did you come up with the idea for your Chippr?
I am gay myself, and when I first came out to my mom I had no one else to turn to. I was afraid of reaching out for help and I was afraid of the idea of being gay, thus I thought that the only two ways I can solve the problem was to either kill myself or runaway from home. It was the help of an anonymous stranger from the internet who came across my blog and saved my life. That’s when I realized how important it is to have your own support system and those who understand you. After struggling in finding local friends on popular gay dating apps, I struggled a lot in fitting into the community. These experiences combined became the basis of Chippr.
What milestones or successes are you most proud of?
We were able to create an app out of a team of two! We managed not only to get into an incubator at San Diego State University but also also had a very successful beta launch and received tons of support from the local community. Seeing the community and its people coming together really motivated me to move forward with the project, to bring it into fruition.
What’s up ahead for your company?
We are working hard in forming an Android development team and are looking to expand our marketing efforts to more cities and states. We are hoping to create a company that is dedicated to better serve the community — from creating safe spaces for people to communicate, to LGBT-related physical products and services.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Embrace your identity, whether it is your culture background, your ethnicity or your sexuality. It will help you to find new opportunities and resources.
You’re based in La Jolla, California… how did you hear about StartOut? And how has the StartOut community helped you in the process of developing Chippr and your journey as an #OutEntrepreneur?
StarOut has been an important part of my entrepreneurship journey. I worked as a brand ambassador for Alex Capecelatro’s mobile app company. As you know, Alex is a part of the board of directors as well as a programming board member for StartOut Los Angeles. He helped me understand what it is like to be an entrepreneur but most importantly what it is like also be an LGBT entrepreneur.
My favorite part of StartOut is being able to connect with local LGBT entrepreneurs, investors and business owners. StartOut’s networking events helped to form my own business network and helped me to gather feedback and support for my own project.
Watch Sidao’s #OutEntpreneur video submission below:
Founded in 2009 with chapters in New York City and San Francisco, StartOut is a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization fostering and developing entrepreneurship in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) community. StartOut helps aspiring LGBT entrepreneurs start new companies; supports current LGBT entrepreneurs as they grow and expand their existing businesses; and engages successful LGBT entrepreneurs as role models and mentors. StartOut’s goals are to support, educate, inspire and connect members of the LGBT community around entrepreneurship and business leadership. Learn more and become a member at https://startout.org/membership.