Triton 5: Nick Jiang ’07

Name: Nick Jiang
College: Revelle College
Grad year: 2007
Major: Electrical Engineering
Current city: San Francisco

What do you do?

I’m the Founder and CEO of Birdnest, a San Francisco based startup backed by Alchemist Accelerator (Platinum Ranked Accelerator in the U.S.). Birdnest is a visual place for companies to find their dream office.

Why do you do it?

For me, my main motivation for starting Birdnest is to solve a huge real estate problem that affects so many startups and small businesses. It’s almost 2020, yet companies are still searching for offices on Craigslist. Our mission is to help enterprises, entrepreneurs, and business owners easily find their private office spaces, or “nests.”

I also enjoy the journey and love the challenges and the grind, therefore being the co-founder of a startup fits me perfectly.

What have you done?

Prior to Birdnest, I was the Head of Growth at a venture-funded startup called Shots. I helped grow the user base from 500K to 10M+ active users, ultimately leading to our $15M Series-A round. In addition to my BS from UCSD, I have an MBA from Duke University and a Masters from Princeton University.

What did you learn at UC San Diego?

The most valuable things I learned at UCSD are outside the classroom, from the important people I met in my life to impactful projects I did. For example, I got my first taste of entrepreneurship by working with a cross-functional team to design a pendant to help detect falls for seniors through the Global TIES program. Through that program, I met other entrepreneurial-minded people who helped me think differently and pursue my dream of being my own boss.

What have you learned since?

Life is too short to play it safe. When I was younger, I feared that I won’t get a job, or get a good job, or get a prestigious job. Those fears limit us. Will Smith said it best, “The best things in life are on the other side of fear.” Let me give you a personal example.

In 2010, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime: hiking along an ancient and remote footpath, on a five-day backpacking trip to Machu Picchu. I’d dreamed of exploring this mysterious city for years. My hiking group included mostly seasoned hikers. At the end of the first day, after climbing 14 miles up the “Savage Mountain” carrying a 50-pound backpack, I was already exhausted. That night, at 12,000 feet above sea level and temperatures below freezing, I could barely sleep. I was not only in pain from the hike, but also had headaches, nausea, and altitude sickness.

I wasn’t sure I could hold up much longer. The safe thing would be to quit and return to our starting point at Cusco City. But I felt that I wouldn’t be able to face myself if I quit. I reasoned that “if the Incans were able to carry huge rocks up to the mountains, why can’t I could go up there too?” The second day of our hike was even more difficult, but my will power pulled me through. After hiking over thirty miles in four days, many hikers were content and elected to take a bus to the destination. But I and four others chose to hike the last eight miles. When we finally reached Machu Picchu, I felt triumphant: the hidden beauty of this ancient city, I had discovered, is the long, hard path that leads to it.