Erica Lee is a Korean American entrepreneur with a passion for advancing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve global problems. Erica is the CEO & Founder of DeepFarm, an AI Agriculture Tech, Angel-Funded Startup using Deep Learning & Aerial Imaging (via satellites, drones) for early detection of crop issues. She is the former CEO & Founder of AstrX, an SaaS automation consulting firm specializing in automated Marketing and Sales campaigns she bootstrapped & scaled to six-figures within a year.
Before entrepreneurship, Erica worked as a Program Manager of an 8-Figure Ecommerce Startup where she managed the development and launch of 30+ amazing products and saw 2-3X in company revenue growth, Stem Cell Researcher at Harvard School of Public Health & Johns Hopkins, and Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley. She’s a college dropout from Johns Hopkins University in Applied Math & Chemical Engineering.
Erica is the 1st Place Winner of the BMW TechCrunch “Hot Lap” Startup Competition 17', the Verizon Winner of TechCrunch Disrupt NY 17’ Hackathon (Computer Vision car collision motion tracking system) & Winner of XTech's Brain Computer Interface Hackathon (EEG tracking system for patient seizures).
She’s a Graduate of Singularity University GSP 16' ($50k Google sponsorship, final project was in Artificial Intelligence), Graduate of MIT Entrepreneurship Program 16' ($10k private sponsorship, final project in Augmented Reality), and a Thiel Fellow Finalist 16' (Peter Thiel’s $100k grant for college dropout founders),
Erica has been a Speaker at Harvard University, SRI International, Santa Clara Convention Center, TechCode China, and various AI Silicon Valley Meetups. Erica has been featured in TechCrunch, Quartz, Forbes, MSNBC Your Business, PSFK, BMW USA, Jared Kleinert’s “3 Billion Under 30” (book) and The Ella Project (“Ella” the Engineer comic book coming 2018).
With groups creating programs to encourage females to consider STEM, what is the biggest barrier to entry that is still prevalent today?
The biggest barrier of females engaging with STEM is a scarce, fearful mindset that needs to be transformed into an abundance, growth-oriented mindset. We need to increase access and integration of open communities that encourage women (as well as anyone else) to identify their needs, their goals, their assets, and then pursue their dreams in full pursuit.
The issues women face in STEM fields are psychological at first - discrimination, and unconscious bias - that lead to issues such as negative behavior - sexual harassment, negative self-confidence tactics - and ultimately - lost opportunities in life.
The reality is, men have history on their side - hundreds of years and centuries of precedence in dominating & leading the workforce - as well as the present on their side - there are countless books, media, events, movies, and visible, tangible assets that spotlight the achievements of men, and an extremely low disproportion of highlighted achievements and assets dedicated to women in power & leadership.
This has created an unconscious bias and stereotypes, especially in the workforce, and in STEM industries. Even in 2017, women still make 79 cents to every dollar men make, even some sources say it’s .57 cents to every dollar (“The average pay for women in 2017 was $12,000, compared with $21,000 for men.”
Some sources like World Economic Forum even think “Women will wait 217 years for pay gap to close.”
Even though more women are going to college, there is still not much change in the % of women entering STEM fields. Source
… but computers are cool too!... Sorry, distracted :)
The biggest barrier is the fact that (1) women don’t feel safe/empowered to chase their dreams, and be leaders in fields where history, school, and their communities only empower them to diminish themselves, and as a result, do not strongly communicate their desires and goals in life. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing a bright, young, ambitious, but insecure girl who feels trapped by her own ideas and talents. And (2) men have created and continued to enable an environment of toxic masculinity and dominance in the workforce, especially in STEM fields, which has discouraged women to want to work side-by-side men.
People are scared instinctively by change because it threatens them down to a primitive level of shelter, safety, connection and belonging. We need to change our old ways and replace and reinforce new ones that create more value for the entire world, and ensure a stronger human race that is aligned and unified.
We need people to let go of the fearful mindset that associates change to chaos.
To Make The Great Migration/Delta:
We need people to create environments that support growth, professionally and personally. If your work force, friends, family, and self can create more access - whether it’s jobs, funding, infrastructure, technical talent, business leaders, school/educational programs, community settings - then make it your responsibility, now, to make the change to a more inclusive, integrated and higher evolved & conscious world with your thoughts & behavior towards women.
The reason I emphasize “create environments” (more natural, pull direction) over “get someone X to do Y” (more forceful, unnatural change, push direction) is because I have had a life-long belief in individual personal transformation, and the power of “freewill” (which I first discovered the concept in Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” via the phrase “timshel” - my favorite book since 9th grade.
I believe force is not the way to make large-scale change, and it has high probabilities in creating more trauma for a person than long-term positive change. I have this belief from my own life experiences, personally with mentors as a kid trying to put me into roles I did not fit or love, and professionally with work where I realized “inbound” leads were more ready for adoption of a new product or service, instead of forceful “outbound” requests.
If you need to convince someone into change, then every decision associated with it, will be a struggle.
If you lead a life of example and inspiration of change, and open up someone else’s possibility to change and they willingly want to “embrace the delta,” then those executing decisions afterwards to reinforce the behavior come more naturally, effortlessly and in sync with them.
I’m a positive, solutions-oriented person and focus my efforts on bringing about change, accepting risk, and leaning into the adventure of positive impact.
I believe it is the responsibilities of men, women, adults, children, etc. to engage in positive change they want to see in this world.
Women may have difficulties in seeing these opportunities for change because there is a severe deficit in the awareness of women leaders of the past, today and tomorrow.
I believe one solution to create more awareness - and we can do that by encouraging women to engage in the public spotlight to highlight their passion, mission and talents of this world, so they can lead by example & inspire younger women.
Some of my female leadership role models are Marissa Mayer (former Yahoo CEO), Ariana Huffington (Founder of Huffington Post), Fei Fei Li (Chief Scientist of AI at Google, Stanford Deep Learning Professor), Aileen Lee (Managing Partner VC at Cowboy Ventures), Jessica Alba (Founder of The Honest Company), Elizabeth Holmes (Self-made under 30 billionaire and Founder/CEO of Theranos), and Ada Lovelace (first female Computer Scientist).
My goal and ambition in life is to empower people with AI, and to build transformative AI-enabled products that integrate with, and add value to, our world.
I feel grateful to have found my life’s passion and I deeply encourage other women to recognize their greatness, and tackle big, audacious goals in life.
What Or Who Inspires you?
I live to learn, empower others & solve complex problems at scale. I’ve had a life-long interest in how people can benefit from information/data - and my greatest inspiration in life has been from changes seen at the intersection of people, data, technology and business.
I grew up with no friends and always felt like I was a stranger on this Earth - no value, no connection, no meaning. I felt misunderstood, and ashamed of having big dreams while having a big heart.
The only thing I could find joy and peace in was with my relationship to technology.
I had a Palm Pilot when I was 7 and dreamed of color touch screens, voice-to-text input instead of the tricky Graffiti stylus method. I fell in love with the Apple 2 and spent every school lunch and recess, my portal into the world of knowledge, random ideas and chaos. I felt I could understand how to communicate in mathematical variables before I did with teenage boys. I used to read more books during class by disguising the first-gen Kindle inside of my textbooks.
Technology empowered me to learn how to think for myself, make decisions, see and generate ideas, connect with people, communicate and share information.
Technology taught me, at the heart of it, how to relate to people.
Technology was my life force. Technology was my strength. Technology was my connection to the world, but more important, my connection to other people. I could relate, connect, understand and learn from other people through using technology.
My current largest inspiration is in seeing how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is positively transforming the lives of humanity and this world as we know it. I believe AI can empower people and solve some of the world’s grandest, and daunting problems.
I also believe it’s our responsibility (my generation) to tackle these global challenges and prevent them happening in the future. I also believe that today’s problems cannot be solved with yesterday’s solutions - and it is our responsibility to innovate and build tomorrow’s solutions.
Our current views of the world can be reinforced by AI & Data. I want to increase more positivity, encouragement, support, love and knowledge in this world for all of humanity to thrive off of. I know it’s my responsibility to make AI doesn’t negatively self-perpetuate and disempower people, but rather empower people to be at their greatest potential.
I am inspired by AI and its power to increase access to relevant information and valuable insights from one’s surroundings.
I want to leave behind in this world meaningful positive change w/ transformative AI-enabled products & services.
Click here for a book list of female titans.
What is your proudest moment/accomplishment?
My most proudest moment was when I woke up one day - at 23 years old - and looked into the mirror, literally, metaphorically, energetically - saw myself. Truly saw myself for who I was, inside and out, and now what I thought the world needed/wanted me to be.
This sounds odd, but the hard, daring, painful truth was that I have had spent over two decades just lost and broken internally.
I felt either on a “pedestal” - pressured to succeed because I had raw high IQ and brain smarts, but it created chronic “Imposter Syndrome” and a painful need to feel my intelligence validated by others.
Or I felt inside of a dump of a “dark hole” - chronically feeling misunderstood and undervalued in society, and that my drives & dreams in this world are not recognized or enabled into helping real people for real problems, alienated by my own “drive.”
It has taken over two decades of personal and professional transformations….
- unproductive behavior & habits, and lack of applying my potential as a child
- dropping out of college and feeling chronically lost and intellectually insecure
- starting (and failing) three companies,
- successfully running one but hating myself every moment
- still not feeling ever “good enough” with each award, win, check, sales, title I brought in
- being broke so many times over 5 years and moving 15+ times
- getting physically ill from so much stress I lost my hair, got acne and hypothyroidism and so broke I couldn’t afford health insurance at one point
- breaking my arm and neglecting self-care, only to lose my right arm’s function after intense coding and spending 1 year in physical therapy, personal training, and chiro to reintegrate my body with myself
- joining my first company (soon to lead Product at an AI Enterprise company - official announcement Jan 2018 :)
- traveling the world alone with nothing but a smartphone and my curiosity, and more.
But with my close friends, mentors, family and loved ones - they have created the environment that has allowed me to grow to the person I love and respect today - and I a forever grateful.
My mission to to help empower the lives of others, and I hope this comic book is one of those assets that transcends time and space, and can influence women into their potential as leaders in STEM fields.
Now that I have learned to care, love and give to myself, I am ready and enabled to do it for the lives of others, with the focus on scale and large impact for the rest of my life.
Also, if you feel moved by this, and want to connect - you can “follow” me on Facebook @dimepiecenerd.