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Addiction Is the Mother of Invention: The Boba Guys Find a Business Opportunity

The Boba Guys on the importance of mastering your product and figuring out the vision of your business.

Welcome to the second chapter of the Boba Guys' story. The Boba Guys will be joining us from San Francisco twice a week to report on their efforts to build a business from the ground up. Make friends and follow along.

We want to address the question on everyone’s mind, including our Taiwanese mothers. Why did we decide to start a boba tea business?

Malcolm Gladwell famously suggested in his book Outliers that the key to success in any field is practice—10,000 hours of it. Though boba tea originated in Taiwan and we grew up in boba-scarce geographies (Bin in Texas, Andrew in New Jersey), we drank our fair share of milk tea. By the time we finished college, it was in our veins.

That 10,000 hours of consumption is the foundation of our business. We both know boba like many people know cheese, coffee, or wine. We can tell by taste when an establishment uses a particular sweetener and identify a grade of tapioca by its texture. In our minds, our obsession is perfectly normal, even if tapioca pearls are not everyone’s cup of tea. *rimshot*

The inspiration to make our own tea occurred purely by happenstance. Our local boba tea shop closed for renovation and eventually changed ownership. When it re-opened, the drink formula had changed, raising a red flag in our well-trained palates. Some people get “caffeine headaches” from withdrawal—we get the “milk tea shakes.” If we wanted to keep our three-cup-a-week addiction going, we would have to make our own boba tea.

We were both plugged into the startup world and familiar with a simple framework to assess business opportunities. We looked at the opportunity through the lens of identifying the “white space”—the need we could fill with our business. We asked ourselves, “If we created a boba shop, who would want our boba? What would make us different? Is there another way to look at boba?”

Despite all this deliberation, we could not articulate our respective visions. We only knew what we didn’t want, which happened to be a long list of boba boo-boos. Then it dawned upon us: What we didn’t want was the dark space; what was leftover was white space. Our pickiness led us to a singular vision.

But identifying the white space only helps to gauge the validity of an idea, not justify it. The decision to pursue a startup is rooted in our passion for boba and personal convictions on how businesses should run. We understand that boba tea may still seem arbitrary—after all, our skills are often applied to much bigger projects—but a successful business is often just an extension of the people behind it.

In our next post, we’ll pick up where we left off and talk about partnering with the right people. See you Monday!

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