OPINION: Why Tony Lim Left a Corporate Executive Position to Help Start Carma Project…

This was written by Tony Lim, co-founder and president of Carma Project, which alerts owners of vehicles that have had airbag recalls. See related article on Carma Project here.

“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”

I never knew that the phrase was first used by NHL legend Wayne Gretzky. In fact, I first came across that phrase two years ago, while reading an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, hosted by Shark Tank investor Daymond John.

Daymond was responding to a question from a “Redditor,” who happened to be sitting on a plane with Daymond the prior year, but the Redditor did not engage in a conversation with him. The Redditor asked, “Should I have just talked to you, or do you prefer privacy when traveling?”

Daymond’s response was short, but inspiring. “Thank you, but I remember that flight and was feeling talkative. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

The decision to take that shot and start my entrepreneurial journey after spending over 15 years in the corporate world was not easy. I spent some time hopping from aerospace, to finance, and then the energy industry, before I found what felt like home to me, working in the automotive industry. I spent nine years working for a great automotive company with a phenomenal team and had exciting responsibilities and a promising career. I was happy.

When you combine all of the great things that were going on for me in the corporate world, with my young and amazing family at home, why would I want to disrupt any of this?

The truth is, deep down inside, I felt like there was something missing.

My Roots

My family tree is comprised of hard-working entrepreneurs that immigrated to the U.S. over 40 years ago. At an early age, I spent my nights and weekends working at their restaurants, waiting and bussing tables, and washing dishes. I witnessed, first-hand, how hard my parents, aunts, and uncles worked to make ends meet.

I felt that this gave me a unique perspective into how entrepreneurs worked. This is why I believe that they are a very unique breed of people. Entrepreneurs think differently. They’re resourceful. They truly know what hard work feels like. Their day doesn’t end when their customers leave. In fact, that’s when their day begins.

Taking That Shot

In Q2 of 2018, I decided to take my shot and put in my resignation.

I think that a lot of people were surprised by my decision. To be completely honest, a little bit of me was surprised too. I decided to turn my back on what was considered to be “comfortable” and “safe” by leaving the corporate world to embark on a journey to build a company focused on automotive safety recalls, a type of company that has never existed in the automotive industry. Moreover, the type of recall that I needed to first help address was considered to be the largest and most complex recall in U.S. history – the Takata airbag recall.

Vehicles affected by the Takata recall have already killed or injured hundreds of people, and the count is expected to continue to grow over time.

In hindsight, of the thousands of different businesses that people could start, I never really thought of how odd it sounded when I would tell people that I wanted to build solutions, out of the gate, that could help multi-billion dollar organizations including Honda, FCA, GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and 10 other manufacturers, with their safety recalls.

But, with the help of my team, we did.

Betting on Myself

After months of research and development, in December of 2018, I co-founded Carma Project.

I was lucky to be paired up with my co-founder. He’s a visionary, an astute businessman, and a great mentor. From time-to-time, he would tell me these engaging stories about the challenges he faced with other companies he co-founded, and how he would successfully overcome those challenges. The common takeaway across all of his stories was to always bet on yourself. And I did.

To date, Carma Project has built industry solutions that are helping Toyota and other brands. The first is an online community of over 25,000 safety ambassadors that uses social media to help raise awareness about safety recalls. The second is a fleet of camera-equipped vehicles that we have on the road that check cars for recalls.

The solutions that we’ve built are seeing fantastic consumer response rates, which means Carma Project is helping to keep car owners safe. I truly feel that there’s nothing more rewarding knowing that the work we do at Carma Project has meaning and value.

It all started with taking that shot and betting on myself.

Keep Taking Those Shots

There is a lot of buzz around our company. I never thought that a year after starting Carma Project, we would see so much interest from the industry and the media.

Throughout this journey there has certainly been a lot of ups and downs. Any entrepreneur will tell you that this is normal.

That said, there has not been a single day that has gone by where I regretted my decision to start Carma Project. In fact, I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been. I have a great business partner, mission-driven team, and a great personal support network.

Anytime I talk to people about my journey as an entrepreneur, and I see them leaning-in to my story, I use it as an opportunity to encourage them to take a chance on themselves and start their own business. After all, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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