Y Combinator
Aarthi Ramamurthy
Founder of Lumoid (YC S13)


Lumoid is a try before you buy service for gadgets and consumer electronics. Instead of going to a physical retailer or paying the full price for a gadget online and then dealing with the hassle of returns and restocking, we make it possible to test drive gear and buy them if you like them. We help people choose access to gadgets over ownership.

Q: Tell us about your background.

I come from Chennai, India, and am an engineer by education. I was recruited by Microsoft a year before I graduated from college. I've had the chance to work on XBox and Visual Studio, and then on Netflix's movie streaming software before starting my own company.

Q: How did Lumoid get started?

I had previously co-founded a company before joining YC, so my experience was a little different than most people I guess. The second time around, YC made it incredibly easy to get started with building the basics of the company (incorporation, bank account setup etc.) and having an initial amount to build the business was very helpful. We were in YC exactly a year ago last summer, and I call it "the summer of stress testing." The program was intense, and really tested every aspect of starting a company, like finding product-market fit, fundraising, working with early employees and setting the right culture, thinking about traction and growth etc.

The highs are really high and the lows are pretty heartbreaking. Overall, I'm definitely better off going through YC. It was useful, and continues to be helpful as we build and scale the company.

Q: You had a longer road than some when it came to fundraising. Tell us about your experience.

I think we started raising prematurely, and for a business model like ours– which is a consumer marketplace startup– investors expect a lot more traction than what we had to show right after Demo Day. I've spoken to over 200 investors and it was a difficult process, especially because I was a single founder focusing on product design, writing the code, recruiting as well as fundraising. That was really hard.

Whenever I heard "We really like you and the idea, but I need to see more traction," I kept in touch with the investor, refused to take no for an answer, and went back to them once we had started showing good growth. I approached one angel investor 3 times over the course of 6 months, and finally got him on board as an investor. He's now one of our most supportive investors.

Q: Was being female either an advantage or disadvantage in working on your startup?

I don't think gender played a role in working on Lumoid. It didn't matter one way or another. I had prior ecommerce and consumer electronics background, and I was going to make this work.

Q: What is the hardest part about being a female founder?

The hardest part is constantly having to convince people in first meetings that you know what you're doing. I think men starting companies get fewer skeptical looks and have less trouble convincing people of what they build and why. I understand why I have to do it, but it's just exhausting.

Q: Why do you think there are fewer startups with female founders than male ones?

I like and agree with Hadi Partovi's take on the topic. The article focuses on women in computer science and in tech, but I think the patterns apply for founding companies too. I think it's due to a variety of reasons, including that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's an existing perception that startups are built by men, or by women teaming up with men. This stereotype, enforced by mainstream tech press and media, leads to an implied bias when it comes to fundraising or recruiting. It then makes building the startup that much harder, and the cycle continues.

Q: What do you wish someone had told you when you were 15?

I wish someone had told me to look at what you spend time doing for fun, and that that might be what you want to actually end up working on. I love computers and math and it was entirely by accident that I picked the right course at school and learned CS (I hated the biology teacher and you could only pick between biology and computer science). I'm thankful for that. It's a very different education system in India compared to here, at least at that time, and few people look at what they really want to do, instead of what everyone else thinks is the fashionable/appropriate thing to do.