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Power to the Transformers

Photo of Brian Zhan in China.
The area I grew up in has changed drastically due to rapid growth fueled by tech.

I grew up in China, just outside of Beijing, in what was once considered the suburbs.

I watched the area we lived in, which was originally farmlands, drastically morph and then integrate into the sleek, modern cityscape that today is Beijing proper.

What was once our sleepy, even keel neck of the woods rapidly transformed into a gateway for the tech revolution.

I loved the speed and energy of it all.

At a young age, I knew I wanted to be a part of the fast paced tech world.

It isn’t just tech I’ve always been interested in… more specifically it’s usable tech that improves peoples’ lives and positively impacts the way we live.
Photo of an Autonomous Wheelchair.
An Autonomous Wheelchair Prototype at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

My foray into tech began at Northwestern University.

While at Northwestern, I worked on an autonomous wheelchair for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Watching hospital patients using the autonomous wheelchair that was once a wild idea was very rewarding.

It made me realize how integral tech can be in terms of positively impacting peoples’ lives.

My professional career kicked into high gear when I joined Facebook (now Meta) as a full time product manager for Trino (formerly known as Presto) after graduation.

Photo of Brian Zhan and other Facebook Product Managers in London.
Meeting customers is an integral part of any successful project. As a product manager at Facebook, I’d often organize trips like this one in London, for our infrastructure leads to focus on solving customer problems.

To grow the Trino community, we spent countless hours with our users. Our focus was on easing the onboarding process, simplifying the user flow for many different use cases and solving customer pain points

I’ve seen how tackling a technically challenging domain with a customer-focused mindset can lead to a successful product and it’s a lesson I love sharing with energetic entrepreneurs.

One of the experiences I’m most proud of happened after leaving Facebook. I left the stable mothership in order to join forces with the Trino creators at Starburst, a company that delivers fully managed Trino. We set our sights on building a fully managed Trino at Starburst that we could sell. It took a lot of effort. There were so many early calls I scheduled where customers just did not show up.

Here I am at the dbt Coalesce conference on Starburst
...and on a community broadcast with the creators of Trino.

The first time we presented at a conference, it was to a crowd of just five people, but we never gave up. We continued going to conferences, continued asking customers to give talks or write blogs about our product despite many rejections and kept on building. The reality is that finding product market fit, creating product led growth and building an open source community all takes time.

Because I’ve gone through the ups and downs of building a company, I’ll be an ally throughout your startup journey. I’ll do everything I can to enable you to be successful, and will be in the trenches with you - even if the going gets tough.

I enjoy partnering with founders who are ambitious. I love partnering on ideas, even if pre-revenue, that tackle hard technical problems. Just like we did with Trino, if you bring a customer focused lens to a hard problem, you can disrupt an industry, even as a small team.

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Gesha Village consistently issues flavor compositions I enjoy. In my spare time I'm a coffee aficionado. I like finding common ground with other people who enjoy beanology.

In my spare time I’m a coffee aficionado. I like finding common ground with other people who enjoy discussing beanology.

I get deep into the whole process, including bean cultivation. When I buy coffee, it’s often from specific farms, the way a wine lover might be passionate about a certain terroir.

I appreciate advances in coffee processing technology. I look forward to the different flavor profiles that Gesha Village produces every year

If you’re working on an early stage infrastructure software company, message me and let’s grab a cup of coffee. Whether you’re just getting started finding your product market fit, looking to hire your early team members or on the hunt for your first early customers, feel free to reach out. My goal is to help founders avoid making mistakes and to provide you with the resources that will make you successful.