Y Combinator
Shruti Shah
Founder of Move Loot (YC W14)

Move Loot

Move Loot is the first curated, full-service online marketplace for secondhand home goods. We not only make buying high-quality, stylish used goods easier, but we also reduce the amount of furniture that goes into U.S. landfills (currently, 10.8M tons annually). We take the burden off sellers by picking up their goods and selling them on their behalf and include professional photography, storage and next-day delivery to the buyer.

Q: What did you do before starting Move Loot?

I was a public school teacher in an inner-city school in Baltimore, Maryland. Teaching was an incredibly challenging experience and, in retrospect, helped me develop a lot of the persistence and diligence that keeps me going as we continue to build Move Loot. As a teacher, you're constantly iterating and working to improve your teaching in real time, in the same way that you often have to as an entrepreneur.

Q: What's your origin story?

My family is from two different worlds– on one side my Eastern European grandparents fought in World War II and escaped the Holocaust, while the other set of grandparents spent most of their lives in Mumbai. I was born in India and was adopted by my parents when I was 11 months old. My mom is a Jewish New Yorker from the Bronx and my dad is an Indian immigrant. I was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and graduated from the University of North Carolina where I studied political science and minored in entrepreneurship. Immediately after college I joined Teach for America in Baltimore, then moved to Silicon Valley to pursue a career in education technology. Once my cofounders and I began developing the idea for Move Loot, we all decided to leave our jobs and give it a shot.

Q: How did you meet your cofounders?

Bill and I are friends from college and Ryan and Jenny are friends from high school. We all became good friends through our mutual friend, Conor. We made the switch to being cofounders after we all converged in San Francisco and commiserated about the difficulty of buying and selling furniture during our respective moves. We quickly started working on developing the idea for Move Loot, and the rest is history.

Q: Tell us about your experience at YC.

YC was a really interesting experience for us because we were already operational in SF, so we spent a lot of time commuting back and forth between SF and Mountain View. I think the best thing about our YC experience was the dual pressure to focus on growth while also being open to experimentation. We spent a lot of time testing during YC, and I think that's something that we've carried over to present day. There were definitely weeks where we were exhausted and hadn't slept much, but we wanted to be able to show week-over-week growth, so we pulled out all the stops to try to make things happen. It was a great focusing force.

Q: What is the atmosphere like at YC with Demo Day approaching?

The atmosphere was honestly quite exciting and encouraging, with a hefty dose of realism that was often brought on after office hours with partners, or the founders' talks that occurred every Tuesday night. While YC is definitely a pressure-filled environment, it's also an incredibly supportive one. YC founders in our batch and in past batches were always willing to help us think through challenges, and that was a powerful piece of the YC experience.

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

Physically speaking, it was actually a disadvantage in the beginning since Ryan, Jenny, Bill, and I often did the moves ourselves. We lifted couches and dressers down multiple flights of stairs in San Francisco! While Jenny and I can definitely lift a couch, we didn't exactly have the same upper body strength as our male cofounders. But we quickly learned how to be efficient movers.

For me personally, though, it hasn't really been either. I, like any startup founder, have had to work through challenges in learning how to manage a large team, while also continuing to improve our delivery and warehouse operations.

Q: What was the toughest thing you went through as a founder?

By far the toughest thing I've gone through as a founder is feeling comfortable in my own skin and learning to trust myself and have confidence in my ability. As the COO, I manage the warehouse operation as well as business development– working on everything from customer service and partnerships to creating a warehouse organization plan and managing a team of drivers. I am definitely still learning as I go, and I've made mistakes. I've had to learn to be ok with not having all the answers and feel confident in my ability to figure things out, especially when so much is uncertain. It isn't always easy, but so far the experience has been incredibly rewarding.

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

I wish someone had told me to work on being comfortable with uncertainty. As a kid, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home with a lot of resources. I was able to get a great education and travel and learn a lot, and I was on a somewhat clearly defined path. During my senior year of college, I can remember the fear of not knowing what was next, and as a result choosing opportunities that provided structure.

As a startup founder, I've had to become comfortable with not always knowing what's next. My focus is directed on helping us grow, but that can even sometimes seem nebulous– particularly when it comes to figuring how. Ultimately, the excitement of solving new problems and not always knowing what is next far outweighs the desire for the structure and direction that a traditional career might provide.

However, I certainly didn't feel that way overnight, and dealing with uncertainty can sometimes feel daunting. As a 15 year old, a healthy dose of realism about the uncertainty that we all face would perhaps have helped me more successfully deal with the some of the challenges that I face now.