Co-Founder Michelle Lu on designing and building with our customers
Michelle Lu is Co-Founder and CPO of Viralspace. She leads Product, Design, and Customer Success. Before Viralspace, she studied Product Design at Stanford and held several roles across design, product, growth, and marketing. Most recently, she was an Associate at BCG, Design Fellow at IDEO CoLab, and Entrepreneur in Residence at ZX Ventures.
What was your background before Viralspace?
My background is spread across design, product, and marketing, but one thing has stayed constant: my love for building products from the ground up.
Marketing was my first love. Since Stanford didn’t have a marketing major, I explored it outside of the classroom: I started the marketing team at an entrepreneurship organization called BASES, where I led a rebrand, got my first experience with social media advertising, and learned how to grow an organization. I also interned at General Motors on their global marketing team and worked on one-off marketing projects for small businesses and student clubs. Although I moved away from marketing roles during my time at Stanford, my passion for the space remains.
Instead, I decided to explore solutions to user needs through Product Design, my major at Stanford. Product Design exposed me to interdisciplinary projects: I worked on a UX research project for Snap, built a ballet barre and jumping robot, and designed websites, mobile apps, brands, and experiences. Outside of Stanford, I worked on UI/UX design projects for Stanford startups and became a Design Fellow at IDEO CoLab. All of these projects taught me one key thing: how to discover user needs and translate them into incredible products.
I worked on a UX research project for Snap, built a ballet barre and jumping robot, and designed websites, mobile apps, brands, and experiences. Outside of Stanford, I became a Design Fellow at IDEO CoLab. All of these projects taught me one key thing: how to discover user needs and translate them into incredible products.
I jumped into product management for the first time at ZX Ventures, when I worked as an entrepreneur in residence. I was one of three co-founders working to validate a health drink company. I led product, which meant everything from user research to testing prototypes to scoping out the roadmap for getting our product built and validated by demo day. I even ran around New York City in the rain, walking into grocery stores cold to sell our product. We ended the summer with AB-InBev agreeing to fund and pursue our idea!
Looking to round out my product skills with analytical and business experience, I went to Boston Consulting Group to work as an Associate. I worked on proposals for affordable housing, transportation, and education initiatives in Colorado. I also conducted a valuation of public assets in Denver that was presented to multiple CEO clients.
Why did you join Viralspace?
Joining Viralspace was a no-brainer: I was passionate about the marketing space, had experienced the guesswork problem, and was itching to build something. When Hiro and Apoorva approached me, I knew that our team would be a match. Hiro has a strong founding track-record and is great at relationship-building. Apoorva has a strong technical background and is constantly innovating new ways to approach engagement prediction. Jake, our full-stack engineer, is really smart, adaptable, and is able to translate my designs into reality flawlessly. Our skillsets fit well together, and in the early stages of problem discovery and prototyping, it was great to be able to design, build, and sell a product in one closed loop. That was over a year ago now, and the rest is history!
What do you work on at Viralspace?
I primarily focus on design and product management. In the early days, I reached out to marketers, learned about their problems, designed no-code prototypes, and scoped out solutions. We’ve come a long way from the general idea of engagement prediction: the live tools we have now are actually not prediction-based (yet)!
Now that we’ve settled on a product, my role is less about problem discovery and more about solution execution. I focus on designing our products alongside clients and prioritizing the roadmap for getting them built and launched. I also work closely with our clients to make sure they’re having a great experience and have worked on sales, recruiting, and other parts of strategy.
I’m passionate about designing for data: there’s so much opportunity to transform complex data into transparent, clear, and actionable visualizations. I’m also passionate about making sure that Viralspace is built in an explainable and ethical way: that we avoid propagating biases and someday even work to combat them. If we do our job right, we have the opportunity to change the way that the most influential companies in the world make marketing decisions, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
I’m passionate about designing for data… making sure that we avoid propagating biases and someday even work to combat them. If we do our job right, we have the opportunity to change the way that the most influential companies in the world make marketing decisions, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
What do you enjoy about building Viralspace? What have been some of the most exciting and challenging moments?
Viralspace has truly been a rocketship. I’ve learned so much — here are some highlights:
- Meeting with leaders in marketing (VPs/CMOs of awesome companies) and getting to build alongside them. It’s great to be able to get on quick calls and even send texts frequently — I love their passion for our product.
- Honing my design skills on new tools like Figma
- Working with advisors who believe in us and have so much knowledge to share: past founders, brilliant investors, marketing leaders, and more
- Developing a deeper understanding of our technology by working with our CTO and Full-Stack Engineer
- Endlessly workshopping our sales strategy until the cold calls got easier and response rates went up
- Closing our first paying client
- Seeing the delight in customers’ reactions (and in the numbers) when using Viralspace
… and there’s no other team that I’d rather be doing this with!
What do you love to do outside of work?
I’ve been a ballet dancer since I was four years old, and still try to get back into the studio whenever I can. I also like to cook, run, and travel, and I’m always working to improve my design skills even outside of work.
We’re hiring! Want to join Viralspace and work directly with Michelle and other Co-Founders on machine learning projects or back-end engineering? Check out our careers page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.