CREATE-X Alumnus Co-founds Supercopy AI After Trial and Error
After five attempts and a corporate career stint, Richard Lee finally founded his own startup. He took advantage of the CREATE-X summer startup incubator, Startup Launch, as a student and can now call himself a successful entrepreneur.
His first company that came out of Startup Launch produced his pants-fitting software. That lasted four months. Then, he co-founded a company that was Google Photos before Google Photos was a thing. Then it became a thing.
Taking his failures as an opportunity to go another route, Lee co-founded a local travel guide app, a college community software for hackathons, and solo-preneur software. With each company, he learned a little more, following the Startup Launch spirit of producing quickly, risking failure, and then iterating until he built a startup that worked.
Together with fellow Georgia Tech graduate Timothy Min and former co-worker William King from the design firm Maven, Lee co-founded Supercopy. He said the idea came up as he and his fellow co-founders struggled with marketing. They weren't able to tailor their messaging effectively to specific audiences.
“If the messaging doesn’t resonate, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We’re also guilty of this. We also write emails that nobody opens.”
The group has run Supercopy for the past eight months. Last year, they started using the OpenAI language model GPT-3 to prove out concepts. Doing so helped the team learn quickly about what works and doesn’t. One thing they learned was that AI would provide the answer you’re looking for, not necessarily what your audience is looking for.
“AI solves a lot of problems, but it also creates a lot of its own problems,” Lee said. “A majority of the market thinks that marketing is just creating content. If [people] don’t like you and you keep on sending them stuff, and it’s more stuff that they don’t like, you’re just creating a negative feedback loop.”
Now Lee and his co-founders are using their company to help marketers sit down and think deeply about who their audience is, then craft copy.
“We want to make content that makes sense for your audience,” he said. “We want 100% personalized content, so that when people read it, they feel listened to.”
At Georgia Tech, Lee studied electrical and computer engineering but spent his free time in the entrepreneurship spaces on campus. He got involved in GT Startup Exchange and the Student Innovation Design Collaborative. He took Startup Lab to learn more about creating a business and Idea to Prototype to create a product. He also attended CREATE-X workshops. Then, in the summer of 2015, Lee became part of the second cohort of Startup Launch.
“I think everyone came with the same focus,” Lee said. “How do startups work? Do I see a future in it? If things didn’t work, then what can I improve?”
In the program, Lee said he built confidence. The fact that CREATE-X invested actual dollars was a big factor, since it helped them buy things they needed. In the program, teams create viable startups during 12 weeks in the summer. They receive $5,000 in seed funding and $30,000 of in-kind services such as legal support and credits between Stripe, Notion, and AWS. In addition, he and his team members had coaches who guided them to think deeply in the process.
Lee found the experience so inspiring that he applied for a second time, participated in it for the 2021 cohort, and then came back to coach in the 2022 program after he graduated. Talking to other founders also kept his passion ignited, as they pursued startups even when their livelihoods were secure.
“I think that was a big incentive for me,” said Lee “The more value I give, the more I feel like I’m getting out of it.”
Lee keeps in contact with his cohort.They give each other advice and swap stories, commiserating on the struggles and celebrating the successes of the startup journey. Some are even his fellow coaches in Startup Launch.
“It’s interesting to see how we evolved as startup founders over the last few years. Later on, those are essentially your friends in the community, people you can talk to about difficult things,” Lee said.
So far, things are looking good for Supercopy. Auburn University became its first enterprise customer and CREATE-X will also use Supercopy software. The company is continuing to expand, with more opportunities coming in the future.
Looking back on his CREATE-X experience, Lee wishes he’d mocked up his product more quickly and started selling earlier but also thinks it was great to start in college. There were fewer obligations, he learned the landscape of creating startups, and he became a part of a community of founders. Ultimately, he says, CREATE-X gave him the support to try.
Rahul Saxena, director of CREATE-X, said that the organization was happy to support Lee in his journey of trial and error.
“Richard and his team exemplify what we encourage students to do in Launch,” said Saxena. “They kept trying. They found a problem to solve, went out to ask people about it, and made a product that serves customers what they need. I’m happy Richard came back to coach new cohorts in doing the same.”