Who are you and what is your job?
My name is Brian Park and I’m the co-founder and CEO of hank, a digital platform that connects adults over 55 with people and activities in their community. We sponsor group activities and support member-led activities such as pickle ball, coffee meetups, art workshops, table tennis, skydiving, and most things that fall in between. Our goal is to build Hank to be the ideal technology solution for this generation to create and maintain the social connections we know make us all live longer and healthier lives.
What inspired you to create this business?
Hank’s upbringing stemmed from a kind of confusion between two different parts of my life: professional and personal.
By the time I started thinking about Hank, I had spent more than a decade working in the tech industry, where the general rule is to “design for yourself” — anyone under 40. There is an inherent misconception in technology that older generations do not understand or want new technology, so we rarely design solutions with older people in mind.
The personal part of my aha moment came as my parents became empty colonialists. As my brother and I moved out of the house, I watched my parents struggle to find new social circles and activities. This viewpoint began to overlap with my experience in the tech industry, and the two together began to give shape to Hank. My mom and dad eventually found social outlets through church institutions and alumni, but it was a long and disjointed process for them. Seeing my family members have a hard time transitioning into this new phase of life and coming home to me and my co-founder Andrew (we’ve been close friends since 6th grade!) how social bonds and new activities were essential to our parents’ happiness, which was the solid block that started Hank.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your work and how did you overcome it?
In my experience, one of the biggest challenges we face as entrepreneurs is staying focused on your vision – and being honest with it.
Hank’s first iteration was actually a very different business: We were basically trying to provide assisted living services like transportation and high-quality meal delivery to individual seniors’ homes. We discovered very quickly that building this specific business would require a real shift away from our original vision of community building and socialization.
The challenge was that our first version of Hank would have likely been viable, if it had a shorter cap – we were seeing early wins! But we just knew it wouldn’t actually do what we decided to do for ourselves or the 55-plus demographic. So, we’re basically back to brass rivets: We paused everything for about two months while we talked with our customers, put new models on the whiteboard, and rebuilt the brand and product with our team.
Those months were really exciting and very challenging – it was hard for us and our team to break away from the early signs of growth and short-term viability and start over. But, we’ll be doing it again in a second – it has led us to build a business that we are extremely proud of and is better positioned to deliver value to our Hank community.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking for funding?
There are three things I always think about about going for an increase of any size: being organized, running it as a process, and telling a story.
The first two are really about implementation. First-time entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that financing will somehow magically appear if your idea is good enough, when in fact there is a structure and timeline for investor deals and relationships, and you have to be familiar with those details to make the increase go smoothly.
And the third – telling a story and getting investors to buy into your vision – is the single most important thing. You want investors who really understand where you’re trying to go, which means that You are You must understand and be able to express where you are trying to go. Spend some time articulating your vision and use it as an anchor for your story. Funding is only a small part of what you need to be after: You also want your investors to be partners who align with your vision, so they can advise you on how to get there and can help you think about what it will take to get there. The next milestone for growth.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Perseverance and consistency above all else.
For every moment of glory as an entrepreneur—a great launch, a beautiful product, a category-defining idea—a million other people are stressed, difficult and unpredictable. The best entrepreneurs are the ones who come back every day, whether the business is thriving or still struggling to fit the product to the market, bringing determination and perseverance to learn, improve and discover a way to solve problems.
It is also worth noting that these same qualities are essential in your team in general; It is not enough for the founder or founders to operate in this way. I’ve found this to be especially true in the early stages where there is a lot of pivoting and figuring out what needs to happen across the company.
What is something that many aspiring business owners think they need and don’t really need?
I think it’s common for new founders to feel they need all the answers before they get started, so they’ll delay product work, fundraising talks, or other important activities until they’ve got everything “right”.
But one of the principles that Andrew and I live by as founders is the idea of small steps rather than nothing. We’ve relaunched Hank’s new site into the MVP stage after just a few weeks spent visualizing the show and redesigning the site. Since then, we’ve been building it piece by piece, week after week, based on our customers’ feedback. It is much more important to go out, talk to customers, and start iterating your product rather than trying to develop it in a silo until it is perfect. there he is It’s not perfect, and the sooner the founders get comfortable with it, the faster you’ll move, your team will feel more powerful, and you’ll end up with a better product.