Orchard (orchardinfo.com), a startup connecting personable technicians with older adults to alleviate frustrations with technology, was the Community Choice Winner of a $10k grant from the American Family Institute for Corporate and Social Impact during Startup Runway Showcase 8.
We had a chat with Ming Yang, co-founder and CEO of Orchard about her experience at Startup Runway. A recorded video of this interview is included at the bottom of the page.
What did Startup Runway do for you, and if you’d recommend it to other founders, why?
I’m telling all my friends to apply for the next Startup Runway. It’s definitely different from anything we’ve experienced—the connection, support, mentors, and investors. The mock board meeting was not something I’ve ever thought a competition would ever do or offer, but that was so incredibly invaluable. For early-stage startup founders, these are things that we have no idea what to do or how to even get started with. We lack resources and access to mentorship, and I think Startup Runway really nailed providing us with these resources we really wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
When I got the email for the mock board interview, I had to ask all of these questions: what do I do, what do you mean, and I felt so incredibly comfortable asking these kinds of “stupid” questions that every single startup founder has the first time because we really don’t know what to do. I feel like the community was there to answer every single question that I had and I never felt like they were stupid questions. And I think that’s the most powerful thing that it did for me, that community.
Did you get a chance to interact with investors?
Yes, and what was most interesting was I hadn’t even gotten a chance to reach out to them, and immediately after the event they reached out and said congratulations. I think one of the beauties of Startup Runway is that it’s not only that there are chances for founders to interact with investors, but the investors at Startup Runway are so passionate about providing resources for underrepresented founders that they reached out themselves; there was no barrier there.
Do you think having this event virtually made this a different experience, any better or worse?
I think ideally it would have been nice to see and meet people in person, but I wouldn’t say that it’s any worse—it is very different but it is what it is at a time like this and the best we can do. I think I experienced maybe 75-80 percent of what I probably would be experiencing at a normal event, just because I could be walking to different people and visually observing the event, but I think it’s really phenomenal how great it was for a virtual event.
What kind of customers are you looking for?
We are looking for older adults, anyone over the age of 65, and that is always going to be the case, but we are also looking at partnerships with senior living communities. We have reached out to many and have a whole bunch on board. We are always continuing that hunt. Also, partnerships with senior engagement media such as AARP, and electronics companies/retailers that are trying to push their products to an older consumer market. We will teach them how to use them, and that makes it a lot easier to sell for any company trying to sell a 75-year-old grandma a cell phone.
What drives you to build Orchard?
This entire time I’ve been designing this service to help my mom and my grandma because that’s what inspired me in the first place. I was trying to help them from afar for so long, and I realized that knowing how to use technology in the 21st century is knowing how to operate in life and the day-to-day, and because of them, I realized there are a lot of other people that lack that knowledge. So I built this business to help them, so they were the initial driving force, and now I can say it’s both them and the customers that we serve.
Every single day, we get customers that tell us how grateful they are and how much we changed their lives. I sometimes wonder if I am being a little egotistic for saying this, but we aren’t just saying “we are a business that builds software that does ‘__’ and maybe we change your experience or we change lives”, but we literally are changing their lives every single day. And we unlock the moral possibilities of the digital world for them and we take away the stress and make it therapeutic and friendly for them—hearing their feedback and what we were able to do for them definitely drives us every single day.
How can people reach out to you to be customers?
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.