As a startup, speed above all—move fast with intention.
Steven Zhou is the co-founder and CEO of Moov, a data-fueled marketplace for used manufacturing equipment. Having spent almost 10 years in senior management roles overseeing deal cycles at two asset trading firms, Steven saw how the industry was plagued with inaccurate and outdated listings, along with the overwhelming amount of manual, pen-and-paper work that went into making multi-million dollar deals happen. Moov’s platform digitizes and automates that process by matching buyers and sellers of pre-owned manufacturing equipment. The company recently announced the close of $2.4 million in funding led by NFX, along with investments from Tencent co-founder Jason Zeng’s Decent Capital, David Adelman’s Darco Capital, Great Oaks Venture Capital, and other notable angel investors.
Where did the idea for Moov come from?
My co-founder and I spent the past decade navigating used manufacturing equipment sales, a hidden economy that, while massive and lucrative, was plagued with inefficient processes, inaccurate information and bad actors. In late 2017, after hearing the same few pain points from customers, we came up with the idea to create the world’s first platform that automates and digitally streamlines much of the antiquated equipment buy/sell process, and thus Moov was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m a night-owl who somehow never gets a full night’s rest, so the day usually begins with a double espresso shot, several pushups, and then proceeding to read up on tech and industry news while getting ready for the day. I feel that food slows me down, so I try to knock out all the execution-intensive tasks or deadlines early on, leaving the creative or strategic thinking sessions for after my first meal, which is usually in the afternoon. Other than my personal tasks, I spend much of the day switching between departments, making sure everyone is running efficiently and removing any blockers to their success. I also spend time daily speaking to other founders, investors, thought leaders or successful folks in roles that I am trying to learn about or hire into. I make sure to exercise around 8 pm each day, and then have a light dinner while finishing any other work or research needed before winding down for bed.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a big believer in quick iterations. Once research is done and conviction remains, we’ve developed a “hot potato” internal process to move from idea to brainstorm to task defining to execution to review very quickly. At each stage, we tag all relevant stakeholders involved, and pass tasks between each other quickly with clear expectations of timelines and desired outcomes. All of this is transparent in a master Asana board that everyone at the company has access to.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Increasing global awareness and action around sustainability. Manufacturing waste contributes to 20% of carbon emissions in the world, so we are very excited to be able to help repurpose millions of pounds of machines per year that would otherwise end up in landfills.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Exercise. Sounds cliche, but I am extreme about adhering to this. Meaning it does not get canceled, rescheduled, pushed back, no matter what. My main hobby is rock climbing which I do several times a week, and supplement with yoga and swimming on off days. Nothing rejuvenates me and clears out stress or brain fog faster than a hardcore hour or two of focused exercise.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Just get started and trust the process. Everything else will fall into place.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The startup CEO role is actually the lowest position in a company. Our sole purpose is to serve and cheerlead every single teammate while taking away as much burden from others as possible. Additionally, any and all problems that can’t be solved become our problem to deal with and find a solution to.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Get an executive coach as soon as you can. After we closed our second round, I got a coach who I see biweekly. Founder life is often perceived as glamorous to outsiders, yet in reality, it’s quite a scary and lonely journey. We’re conditioned to always smile and forge ahead, even if we are hurting or struggling on the inside. My coach has worked with me to clarify, validate or debunk difficult thought patterns, as well as offer invaluable insights in a non-prescriptive yet guiding manner. Sometimes, he’s just a shoulder to lean on when times are tough, who I can unload stress onto without fear of judgment. My co-founder also has his own coach who he sees every week, and he shares the same sentiments as me. It’s changed our lives!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Move fast with intention. Internally, we strive to take 10 steps in the time it takes our competition to take 1. Even if 2-3 decisions are wrong, but 7-8 are right, you still come out several steps ahead.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The first company I helped start was chaotic. Even though we made the Inc500’s fastest-growing private companies list at one point, we made so many mistakes along the way that ultimately ended with a mass exodus and my departure from the company. Things are going much smoother and quicker this time around, but it’s still never easy. However, we have yet to make the same mistake twice.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I feel that Esports is really blowing up and the numbers prove it. Yet, the industry lacks so much infrastructure needed to set participants up for success. Someone should look into a more mature tangential industry (such as Sports in general), and bring ideas that work into Esports, such as scouting networks, training facilities, physical therapy and performance management software.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Purchased a Gravity Blanket over the holidays. Trust me on this one.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Google Calendar. As much as I hate to admit this, I run my life through my calendar. There’s a common misconception that only actual events or meetings can make it to the calendar. However, I find noticeable benefits in blocking off “thinking time” and leveraging your calendar to show others that you are unavailable to be pulled away during those times.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
If the community is interested in learning more about founder and startup life, there is no better book than “Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days” by Jessica Livingston. Whether you are thinking about entrepreneurship, already run a small business, or are hustling to take your VC-backed business to the moon, this book will be both highly entertaining and insightful. At the core, founders and startups exist to solve problems and pain points, so every founder has a very similar yet very different story to tell. It’s an absolutely fun and memorable read, filled with secrets and gems of knowledge.
What is your favorite quote?
“No pressure, no diamonds.” As daunting as it is, I’m a believer that almost all progress and growth in life is created outside of the comfort zone.
- The world is waking up to how inefficient traditional B2B purchasing is
- As a startup, speed above all—move fast with intention
- Don’t be afraid to seek the guidance of a coach or therapist
- Welcome pressure and challenges with open arms
- Exercise and weighted blankets work wonders for promoting recovery