Hi. I'm Saujin Yi. I'm the founder and CEO of Liquid. We are building the operating system for agile businesses.
We launched Liquid later than we expected. With COVID and things shutting down, We actually took a step back to rethink about [00:00:30] what actually was important. We ended up focusing a lot more on product and thinking about what people were asking for. One of the things we did was actually, uh, spent that time adding a payment processing, uh, capabilities with JP Morgan, which is something that, you know, we weren't expecting to do until much later. The silver lining is that the delay allowed us to add in these capabilities, which is the foundation to our workflow software and everything else built on top of that. In some ways, the delay was, [00:01:00] you know, a blessing for us.
I'm a product founder at heart, and which means that I'm much more comfortable with the internal side of the company, which includes product, operations, finance, things like that, much more than the external part of the company, which is sales and marketing. To me, at first it was very intimidating to think about sales and marketing as well as fundraising, and I think all of that has become, uh, something that I really embrace now.
Obviously, I'm a Asian woman founder, uh, working in the Fintech, SaaS, and Future war. I get asked many times, do you feel disadvantaged? How do you feel about being a woman in a male dominated world? Uh, when I left my previous full-time job, uh, I was investing, uh, in, you know, angel investing in women founders with my friends, um, because I really started to see the discrepancies. I tried to do everything in my power to help other women. If you just reframe disadvantage into an advantage, you can actually stand out, you can actually do things in a different way and build a business. I really do believe that if we can just sort of help each other, be a- uh, aware of it, it's gonna, it's gonna make a big difference for, for, uh, other female founders that are coming up behind us.
Saujin Yi was planning to launch Liquid, a freelancer and vendor management platform for small and midsized businesses, in the spring of 2020. But when the pandemic brought the world to a halt, she was forced to pause her plans.
At first, it was a frustrating delay. After all, speed to market is a critical factor for startup success. But Yi turned an obstacle into an opportunity. Liquid aims to make it easy to create agile business models that leverage core teams as well as flexible work. Yi reframed this setback, using it as a chance to listen to her users and build a more market-ready product.
“We took a step back to rethink about what was important,” she said. “We ended up focusing a lot more on product and thinking about what people were asking for.”
The Liquid team decided to incorporate payment processing, a functionality that had originally been further out in their roadmap, into their platform before launch.
Yi wanted a payment-processing solution that allowed Liquid users to move money quickly, efficiently and securely—but her team didn’t have the background to bring the vision to life. That’s when they were put in contact with J.P. Morgan.
“My initial instinct was that a large bank would probably not work with small startups, but that was not true at all with J.P. Morgan,” she said. “They have really embraced innovation.”
Yi used the six-month postponement as a retooling period, and it fueled Liquid’s success.
"The delay allowed us to add in the capabilities that became the foundation of our workflow software." - Saujin Yi, Founder and CEO of Liquid
As an Asian woman founder in fintech SaaS, Yi is frequently asked how it feels to work in a male-dominated world.
“If you just reframe it into an advantage, you can actually stand out—you can do things in a different way and build a business with a different culture,” Yi said.
Before Liquid, Yi founded FlexTeam, a company that recruited women for business consulting projects. While there, she was blown away by the talent and creativity of the women who had each chosen to step away from the full-time, in-person workplace for various reasons.
The women had different demographics, workstyles and priorities—and the business world was overlooking them, Yi said. But she saw those differences as advantages and decided to tap into their potential.
The idea of worker flexibility has always been important to Yi. Having immigrated to the U.S. with her family as a 9-year-old, she saw neighbors piece together opportunities to design new lives while taking care of their families. “They built their own businesses however they wanted to build them,” she said. That entrepreneurial spirit stuck with her, from childhood to graduate school and beyond. Fast-forward to today. Liquid now enables vendor contracting, work and purchase order creation, and it provides secure invoice payments for agile businesses in 175 countries.
Yi calls herself a product founder at heart.
“I’m much more comfortable with product, operations, finance and the internal part of the company than the external part,” she said. “That includes sales and marketing.”
Selling her idea to investors and her product to customers didn’t come naturally to Yi. But she has always loved learning, and she saw that sales and marketing weren’t one-way streets. “At first, it was very daunting, but at the same time, I realized sales and marketing were a way to get quick feedback about what people think about your business,” she said.
Investors, who had heard plenty of pitches and worked closely with other fintech startups, provided Liquid with a wealth of valuable input early on. Customers, too, shared what they liked and disliked about her product, which allowed her to rethink, retool and improve over time.
“One of the most important things that we talk about at Liquid is how to be iterative in a smart way—and to always learn and use that learning to drive the outcomes we’re looking for,” Yi said.