Co-Founder of Ladder (now Nova)

Andrew Tan

Andrew Tan on founding Ladder, a Gen Z career platform, blending community with career growth, supported by top investors and mentors.

Andrew Tan is the co-founder and CEO of Ladder, a platform for Gen Z's to exchange career resources and form professional connections (think: a cross between LinkedIn and Reddit). Ladder has raised $3.7mm in seed funding with investors such as 7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian’s fund), Pear VC, Forerunner Capital, and top angels including Harry Stebbings, Elizabeth Weil, Tony Xu, Josh Buckley, and Josh Elman. Last year, Andrew was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the Social Media category.

Andrew spoke with us about his experience dropping out of grad school at Stanford to run a startup. Here it is in his words:

🪜 What is Ladder? Ladder is a professional community platform for people in Gen Z that’s shared over 100,000 conversations, posts, and threads. On Ladder, members can join interest-based communities, consume high-quality career content, engage in fun discussions, land their dream job, and form meaningful relationships with peers and mentors.

💡 Becoming an entrepreneur: I grew up in the Bay Area surrounded by tech startups and created my first business in fourth grade doing magic shows. In high school, I began an eco-friendly apparel accessories brand. Then in undergrad, I built a platform to connect students with experts in specific areas to provide feedback.

🧑‍💻 Starting Ladder: I got inspired to start Ladder after seeing friends and millions of other college students lose jobs and internships at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no sense of community or support for young professionals like us. I mean, existing platforms like LinkedIn weren’t exactly built with our generation in mind.

🌲 Taking the leap of faith and dropping out of Stanford: At this point, Ladder had already grown to thousands of community members and gotten into Pear VC’s Summer Accelerator which gave us funding. School being remote at the time made that decision a lot easier because the opportunity cost was low.

☀️ Day in the life: 25% recruiting, 25% internal meetings on product and strategy, 25% external meetings with stakeholders, partnerships, and investors, 25% building and coding.

👨‍🏫 His mentor: The founder of a Series A startup who was nice enough to give me an internship after cold emailing a bunch of places.

🤝 Tips on meeting new people: Find that person who's super loud, go meet them, see who they think you would vibe with, and branch out from there.

🛶 On being Asian-American: A lot of our parents got to the U.S. because they did really well academically or were ambitious enough to pursue something in America. It’s a huge advantage to grow up with that kind of parental guidance. However, one of the biggest disadvantages for Asian Americans is not being taught to be super confident from a young age or feel like you deserve something.

💡 Best advice on becoming an entrepreneur? Don't be afraid. No one's going to  give you permission to go start something. Don't let fear, don't let what people think stop you from trying whatever it is you want to try.

Future plans: Continuing to build, learning more about crypto

tl;dr: Experience and failure is often a precedent for success, so start early. Make friends with people who will connect you. Don’t be afraid of what other people think.

Check out Ladder here:

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