Seibo Shen – Co-founder and CEO of VapeXhale

[quote style=”boxed”]Constantly do things that you aren’t good at. In doing this, you continue to develop your skill set, while keeping yourself humble. As you progress and refine different skills, you will discover that there are universal rules as to how one can become successful just by having the proper approach.[/quote]

Seibo Shen founded VapeXhale in 2009 with co-founder Chris Mucha and has served as CEO since the company’s inception. An active leader in the vaporizer community, Seibo works closely with VapeXhale’s product team to shape the technology behind the company’s products. In an industry with too many “me too” products, Seibo was determined to create a ground breaking, disruptive device. The approach behind VapeXhale’s flagship product “The Cloud” was Seibo’s original concept, a technology that won five best product awards its first year on the market.

Seibo received a Bachelor of Science in Ethnic Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. Seibo spent the early part of his career as a stuntman and background dancer for various artists, such as Bone Thugs N Harmony, Mortal Kombat, Bush and The Grinch. Prior to VapeXhale, Seibo worked as integral part of the sales team at four successful companies in the Silicon Valley, including Jigsaw ( a Salesforce Company), Successfactors, E2open, and Yammer. Strategically working at early stage technology start-ups throughout his career, these experiences ultimately influenced him to become an entrepreneur at one himself.

Seibo currently resides in San Francisco, California. In his spare time, he can be found mentoring young college graduates, training his three dogs, and constantly analyzing mixed martial arts.

Where did the idea for VapeXhale come from?

Growing up the son of an herbalist, I was always fascinated with various plants and their healing properties. I noticed that consuming the plants was not always a pleasant experience and many people would not use them because they either tasted bad or were noncombustible.

In 1997, I was introduced to the concept of vaporization and, while the technology was still in its infancy stage, I saw the potential vaping could have in a stellar delivery device.

Over the next 15 years, I bought and took apart most commercially available vaporizers and still was not satisfied with the technological aspect behind these type of devices. Living in an entrepreneurial area, I had access to many resourceful engineers, so I decided to take a swing in cracking the “vaporizer code.” Two years later, our team not only created a device that won “Best Vaporizer,” but also “Best Product,” at the 2013 High Times Cannabis Cup.

What does your typical day look like?

I think most entrepreneurs will tell you that there is no such thing as a typical day. That is what’s both exciting and frightening about running your own company. Once you get used to the fact that inconsistency is the only constant, it makes the ride that much more worthwhile.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The first step– and toughest part– about executing an idea is figuring out exactly what that idea is. With a remote team, we are constantly utilizing our smart phones to stay in contact with one another. In the brainstorming stage, someone may throw a completely random idea out there and, as different team members offer their opinion, it begins to take a life of its own, becoming a much more concrete, feasible idea that can be monetized.

Once an idea has been conceptualized, we then go through the process of developing and implementing methods that include constructing prototypes, testing them and organizing focus groups to ensure that our products aren’t only the best in our mind, but the best in our customers’ minds as well.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

In general, America seems to be putting in more of an effort to get healthy and, in doing so, becoming more aware of the different options offered in the market. A trend that excites me is the new innovative technology behind ways many people are now ingesting natural herbs. A growing amount of people are learning that all vaporizers are not created equal. If you are exercising and eating healthy, why shouldn’t you be healthy when consuming your medicinal herbs as well?

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am an insomniac, which helps when you have to burn the midnight oil. However, on the flip side, as someone very much concerned with their health, I know that the body is not meant to function for three days on six hours of sleep. This notion causes me to have balance. I know when to “shut it down” so that I don’t overwork myself, which ultimately would lead to less productivity.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

During summer vacation of my sophomore year, I was working as a sandwich artist in a local deli. The first week, me and three other new employees worked from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the busiest time of the day. Together, we did all the prep work, made sandwiches, cleaned up the store, and once everything died down, we were free to go home.

After a few weeks, we all began to wonder what it would be like to work after 2:00 p.m., so we asked management if it would be possible to switch up the schedule. Unfortunately, we were met with chuckles and laughter.

This made me feel humiliated and cheated, especially after working so hard. From that moment on, I promised myself that if I ever had a chance to run my own company, I would ensure that all employees always felt valued and appreciated.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

There is nothing I would do differently. Sure, I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but that is how you learn as an entrepreneur. I believe making mistakes and overcoming them is what the strong foundation for a company needs to be built on. There have been many instances where our team’s mistakes have led to us ultimately delivering something better.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Constantly do things that you aren’t good at. In doing this, you continue to develop your skill set, while keeping yourself humble. As you progress and refine different skills, you will discover that there are universal rules as to how one can become successful just by having the proper approach.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Connecting and engaging with our customer base has been paramount to our success. We have a high-end niche product in an expanding industry. The unique nature of this market requires us to get into the minds of our audience to tap into what they imagine to be the perfect product.

We constantly make ourselves extremely accessible to our customer base over several digital channels, so that they can provide feedback and ideas. Our customers have been instrumental to the success of the VapeXhale Cloud EVO.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One of my biggest challenges and failures has been hiring the wrong people. Although I am a career salesman, I have made some bad hiring decisions based on how well a person has sold himself to me during the interviewing process. While everyone can talk a good game, creating and executing a strategy is much different than being a great interviewee. Overcoming this was fairly easy, I read about best practices for interviewing and decided it would be beneficial to develop mini projects for potential interviewees to complete. This way, I could have a better understanding of their thought process and how they solved problems.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I have three dogs and their breath smells worse than rotten eggs. We’ve tried every type of chew toy, dog treat, and toothbrush, but the only thing that helps is putting the dog under and letting the dentist scale their teeth. If there was some sort of dog treat that I could give my dogs to consistently keep their breath smelling fresh, you would have a lifelong customer in me.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I can’t fall asleep without touching hair.

What software and web services do you use?

Because a majority of our team members work remotely, we use several online collaboration tools, such as Yammer, to help us with communication and productivity. We also use some cloud-based applications that support, best of breed CRM, marketing automation, customer support, social media management and inventory management to automate many manual processes.

What do you love about them?

We strategically choose cloud-based applications so that all of our employees can log in no matter where they are. Many of the applications have a corresponding smartphone app, making it possible for us to perform tasks wherever we are, keeping our lean and nimble operation running smoothly. This type of software’s service model allows start-ups, such as ourselves, to make a much smaller investment by paying a subscription fee instead of purchasing the software upfront. The benefit of this model is that as the software improves, the upgrades are typically included within the subscription fee.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’d recommend “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield. I believe that everyone has a dream and a purpose to fulfill. Going “all in” is required to fulfill any dream, but the human mind can be tricky with the brain’s subconscious– often convincing one to not pursue their dream. This book can help to identify these negative mind games that a majority of people play on themselves and tactics to use in overcoming them. Reading this novel convinced me to quit my day job and focus 100% on the development of VapeXhale.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Two people in particular are Don Miguel Ruiz and Robert Greene. I believe the dichotomy between these authors’ respective outlooks can open eyes to better understanding human nature.

Also, the philosophies of Alan Watts are quite mind-opening. As an entrepreneur, I think it is important to understand that the end game is not only about accumulating the most cash, but also positively impacting as many lives as you can.


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