Meet Alex Poon, Co-founder of Startup NorthShore.ai

Alex Poon

Alex is a three-time entrepreneur. He is the co-founder & CEO of NorthShore.ai, a startup that helps teams create dedicated spaces for their source of truth on top of tools they already use. He was the COO and Founder of x.ai, an AI-powered personal assistant. Prior to that, he was the VP of Engineering at Outbrain after it acquired the company he co-founded, Visual Revenue. Earlier in his career, as an engineer at Lockheed Martin, he built software for military drones. Alex received his MBA from Columbia Business School. He also holds a MS and BS degree in Electrical Engineering.

Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is NorthShore.ai all about?

NorthShore.ai helps companies create dedicated spaces to house their source of truth, built within tools they already use. We create a practical path to move tribal knowledge into a system that is usable for everyone and ensure that important knowledge like product info, FAQs, case studies are kept up to date. Access or capture these information directly in Slack and keep them stored in your favorite knowledge bases like Notion. 

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?

I started my career as a software engineer 20 years ago, building software for military drones. I founded my first startup in 2010 and have been in the NY startup space ever since. NorthShore.ai is my 3rd startup. My co-founder and I decided to start NorthShore.ai to solve challenges we dealt with while managing knowledge at our last startup as we scaled.

How do you separate yourself from your competitors?

Our biggest competitor is status quo. There are plenty of tools that help teams manage knowledge. We focus on the small subset of knowledge that is important to the day-to-day operations of the team and implement unique workflows that keep these knowledge updated and accessible to people who need it.

What is one thing that you do daily to grow as an entrepreneur?

I learn from others through reading and listening to podcasts. I follow the writings of various entrepreneurs, technologists, business leaders and investors. Last I checked, I am subscribed to 14 business/tech related podcasts and 30+ RSS feeds.

What are three books or courses you recommend for new entrepreneurs?

What is the one thing you wish you knew before starting your business?

You can only plan so much in the beginning. Before starting my first company, I seeked to have everything figured out. I wanted to have a perfect product idea, team, market, execution plan, etc. It is important to start the journey toward a promising direction but as you execute, things will change and you’ll have to iterate to accommodate those changes. Don’t get into analysis paralysis. Just start.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

In my last startup, before launch, we put together a waiting list. We allow you to perform a set of actions like sharing on social media to increase your standing in the waitlist. We were able to gather tens of thousands of people on the waitlist before launch.

If you only had $1000 dollars to start a new business, knowing everything you know now, how would you spend it?

Use the money to create content that matters to the segment of users you are targeting. That could include search and social ads not to drive traffic but to understand the search terms or materials that resonate with your audience. Then use the rest to create compelling content that stands out. The narrower the user segment you can define, the more likely you are to be able to create something new that matters to them.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Don’t do it for the money. Entrepreneurship is certainly a possible way to build wealth. Though statistically speaking, doing an awesome job at an awesome company will yield higher returns on average. For the right person, starting companies can be incredibly fulfilling and exciting but it is also extremely frustrating and painful.

What is your favorite quote?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

How can we get in touch with you?

You can visit my startup website NorthShore.ai, find me on social media via Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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