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Featured on Oct 12, 2011

Rebecca Zhou

"Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Apple"


I was working at Deutsche Bank, while studying Economics and Computer Science at NYU, until Larry Lenihan of FirstMark Capital changed my life with his Entrepreneurship class. There he introduced me to the world of startups/tech in New York and instantly I fell in love. I started by interning with JIBE (then Local Bacon), then spent a summer with Local Response (then Buzzd) and in the fall moved over to Hard Candy Shell. At each place I was helping with a mix of design, community, PR, and user research.

From January - April, I had the fortunate experience of being a part of the Techstars's Hackstar Program, where I was an in-house design resource. I worked with around 6 of the 11 companies in the Techstars program --- most closely with Onswipe, and ToVieFor.

Post-Techstars, I have been putting together the Raise Cache for hackNY event, doing the design for Today's Kicks,working with various NY startups on design & product strategy and as always, wearing and collecting high heels

  • Title: Producer of Raise Cache / Designer / Collector of High Heels
  • Age: 21
  • Location: East Village
  • Contact: @rbeccazhou,

You are the founder of Raise Cache, a fashion show fundraiser to raise money for hackNY.  How did you come up with the concept for Raise Cache and how did you end up choosing to hackNY as the recipient?

By going to a lot of NY Tech events earlier this year, like Music Hack Day, New York Tech Meeup and Techstars Demo Day, I witnessed and took note of two things, (1) the remarkably talented people and breadth of disruptive companies that exist in New York right now and (2) the power of bringing together a large group of people who are all passionate about the same thing. With Raise Cache, we wanted do an event that would bring together everyone in our community (who doesn't love an open bar?), and give the NY Tech ecosystem a big stage and a loud speaker to show off all that is happening.

And because New York and I both have a philosophy of go big or go home, we made Raise Cache into the event of all events, with a mixer, a fashion show, a party and gift bags, raffle prizes, auction, open bar, photobooths, DJ tournament and the lofty goal of raising $100,000 in one night. What I am so excited about is that Raise Cache will showcase all the New York startups in their own element ... for example, runway looks from Rent the Runway, Bonobos, Bauble Bar, Warby Parker, chloe + isabel and more, wine by Lot18, DJs by, art to decorate from Artsicle, staffing by TaskRabbit, silent auction powered by Twilio, etc.

Another thing that I know from working in NY Tech, that I think everyone can agree on, is that there is a huge scarcity of talented developers and designers, and I believe its mostly an information problem ... a lot of developers and designers still don't know about all the great opportunities that are available here. When I was working at Deutsche Bank, I really had no idea that I could work in technology outside of Google, the banks and SF, until I took that class with Larry Lenihan. Many of my peers from the Computer Science program at NYU were heavily recruited by the big banks, thought that was their only option after graduation, and are now stuck as a cog at a big company. It pains me to see the types of boring projects they work on and the passion in their eyes slowly fade. Naturally, hackNY's mission to keep kids off "the Streets" really resonated with me. I think hackNY's approach of exposing students early to New York Tech early on is the most promising way to recruit and seed the next generation of innovators for New York. This summer, through their summer Fellows program, they engaged and converted 35 of the most rockstar students as ambassadors of NY Tech ... all of whom I guarantee went back to school in September and couldn't stop telling their friends about the incredible summer they had living and working New York with hackNY.

What makes you happy?

Wow, what a question. Honestly, this is going to sound so cheesy, but nothing makes me happier then seeing the people around me and those I care about happy and doing what they love.

This is probably the reason I am very drawn to planning events, whether it's my best friends surprise birthday party or Raise Cache. My dear friend Tal Safran and I started hosting these "3 bit" dinners parties, where each of us invites 3 people that don't know each other and we collaborate on cooking a meal for everyone. At our last dinner, it was so great to look around the room and see everyone having a great time over tacos, mango salsa, mojitos and good conversation.

Also, probably the reason I love working with startups so much as everyone is extremely passionate about what they are doing and loves their job. My best friend Megan Fillip, who studied English at NYU and one of the smartest and most eloquent people I know, but was working at a fashion publication and not loving it. I played a little matchmaker and introduced to Onswipe in late April and now she is a core member of their business development team ...  a few short months ago the whole world of startups and technology was completely foreign to her and now she is closing publishers left and right, using words like pagination, caching and Javascript, can't go anywhere without checking in on foursquare and happier then ever.

Oh ... and shoes, mostly really really high heels > 3 inches, make me really happy.

What are some of your favorite memories from Techstars? Have you been watching the episodes on Bloomberg?  Do you think the show adequately portrays the program?

Being a Hackstar for the inaugural Techstars NY program was probably one the best thing I have ever done with 3 months of my life, and perhaps the best 3 months of my life. I learned so much by being able to sit in on mentor meetings, speaker events and pitch practices, while really expanding my skill set as a designer, as the work I did ranged from branding + logo concept to tablet design to demo day pitch decks. As someone who eventually wants to be a founder, it was incredibly insightful and inspiring to be able to witness 11 companies rapidly grow, iterate, recruit, pitch and even pivot. However, the BEST thing was meeting and becoming friends with people in the Techstars family and community. Somehow they are able to pick and gather the most amazing individuals, and I am so lucky to have been able to work with a lot of them and call many of them my close friends. I talk with my friends from Techstars all the time about how much we miss the program and all being at Pivotal Labs together.

I have seen some of the earlier few episodes of the TV show on Bloomberg, but not the most recent ones. I think it is very hard for me to objectively watch the TV show, as it lets me re-live those amazing 3 months and I get very nostalgic .... when I watch it my reactions are "oh I remember that, that day was so fun " or "wow, I really miss seeing so and so". I think viewers should definitely note that everyone in the Techstars program was being filmed all hours of the day and what has made it into the TV show is probably .0000003% of what they filmed and .0000000000001% of what happened. Most of the story lines are pretty accurate, for example, yes, Jason Baptiste constantly talks in sound bites, always ... besides the representation of ToVieFor and my dear friend Melanie Moore.

I started working with Melanie and Toviefor even before Techstars as a freelance designer, for around 8 months total, and I can say from experience that the way Toviefor's story is portrayed on the TV show is far from accurate. Toviefor was a great idea in theory, using economic principles (the auction mechanics) to sell and find a market price for items of scarcity (in-season luxury accessories) and actually was getting great reception from brands, but the way that Toviefor needed their customers to interact with the site just didn't catch on. Also, I know first hand how talented and incredibly sharp Melanie is and she is very misrepresented on the TV show ....all I will say is try having someone film you 24 hours a day, many of those days where you are running on little or no sleep, while trying to deal with the roller coaster that it is to run a company and being a part of the ultra intensive Techstars program ... just saying.

Web Designer, Founder, Producer, Designer