October 3, 2013
We’re excited to announce our September WNN Amber Grant Winner — Nancy Quan from San Francisco, California. Check out our interview below with Nancy. Our judges fell in love with her passion, drive and can-do spirit!
WNN: Congratulations on winning the September WNN Amber Grant. Please tell our readers a bit about your product and business.
NQ: We are shooting for the moon!… Our product is called Dsg.nr (“Designer”) and it is a collaborative platform for the rest of the interior design industry. In short, Dsg.nr is a low-cost way for small interior design businesses to collaborate with clients, vendors, specialists, CAD artists, and everyone else. Think of it as a cross between Pinterest, Houzz, and Polyvore for millions of independent designers, craftspeople, contractors, students, and individuals who are decorating on a budget.
Our startup is 3 months old and we are two people. I am a 28 year old female, born in San Francisco, studied mechanical engineering and product design at Stanford, worked as a product designer, interior designer, restaurateur, got my MBA at UCLA Anderson and just moved back to the Bay Area. I understand the design industry well and see opportunities to improve the way we work with technology.
WNN: You actually have two men working with you as well…
NQ: Yes, my partner and CTO is Oscar. He is 41, ex-Microsoft guy, originally from Mexico and a self-made man. He’s an expert programmer.
We both love what we’re doing and believe this is going to be a huge success.
We are hiring a part-time developer to help build out the search engine that we can tout to the investors we are meeting. His name is Misha, he’s a friend, and in addition to housing (I have an extra room in the house), I have offered him a small stipend for living expenses to get us through the next couple months until we can lock down a larger investment.
The WomensNet.net Amber Grant will cover most of Misha’s first month’s stipend!
WNN: What have been your biggest challenges so far?
NQ: The tech industry and Silicon Valley is 95% white male (if you’re looking just at the investors and founders). Every day I wake up, pretend I don’t notice it, get out there and pitch.
Despite the odds, I have managed to find a few interested investors and have been well-received by the Valley. But it is an uphill climb and every day is the most challenging day of my life.
I could return to my previous world, the interior design industry, a female-dominated space, but where would the fun be?!
WNN: How did you get into interior design?
NQ: I got into the interior design industry without any prior experience. It was post-recession (2009) and I had just moved to Los Angeles. My expenses were low, my hopes were high, and of course I feared that no one would hire me.
I contacted about 50 firms, and my selling points were: I have my own laptop, I will work for next to nothing, and I am willing to wear many hats and do whatever it takes to keep your company operating during these tough times. (2008 was devastating for most firms.)
Creative Resource Associates in Woodland Hills hired me. Over the next few years, I learned a lot about the industry. I got to meet with clients, lead design projects, and problem solve between different stakeholders. I loved it!
WNN: What makes “Designer” unique from the competition?
NQ: My idea, generally speaking, is to improve design communication and collaboration, for designers and consumers, with easy-to-use web-based tools. Design is moving from the office to the Internet, but software tools are lagging behind. The software we use to create “mood-boards,” for example, is expensive and complicated and a barrier for most designers.
Our product is a web-based application called Dsg.nr (dsgnr.com) and it will simplify the process of making design boards to improve the fluidity of conversation between designers, their clients, and their teams. The MVP, our design board editing tool, is currently under development and will be released very soon. It will be a free online tool that anyone can use.
After we release that product, we plan on building a collaboration platform and community centered around interior design. Not only will people be able to connect and interact, but they will also be able to hire teams, sell services, and find help for real-world projects. In the end, more people will have access to design services, and designers will have access to more projects.
WNN: We know you’re looking for investors. Should they contact you directly?
NQ: Yes, interested investors should absolutely contact me. (Nancy Quan: firstname.lastname@example.org, SF Bay Area.) We are about ready to launch our MVP and it’s going to be huge. We will use that traction to raise a $500,000 – $1 million seed round. Investors who believe in us and approach us early will get a much better deal.