Dianna Liu, SOM '18 shares her journey from MBA student to President and Founder of ARIX Technologies, Inc.
Tell me more about how the idea for ARIX Technologies came about – was this something you came to Yale SOM with a passion for or did your time in the MBA program help you to create the basis for your company?
While the technology behind ARIX Technologies was inspired by past experiences, Yale SOM helped create the basis for the company. As an engineer from the oil & gas industry, I had personal experience with the customer problem, but little knowledge of how to build a company around any technology we developed.
How did the Program on Entrepreneurship help you throughout this process?
The SOM Program on Entrepreneurship (and SOM) helped me significantly in understanding how to formally start a company, how to structure it, how to be a good leader, how to raise money, and how to take a product from idea to commercialization. The instructors in the program are so intimately dedicated to their students and not only offer helpful lessons in class, but also devoted and individualized mentorship outside of class. They were great advisors and sounding boards, and especially since many of them had been entrepreneurs before, they truly understood what we were going through and were able to help with specific and actionable guidance, not vague advice. They also were very involved in bringing in outside mentors and speakers so we could not only get a breadth of insight, but significantly expand our network. Finally, the Entrepreneurship “Bunker” was an amazing location to work in and was so helpful in building a close entrepreneurship community so that even though entrepreneurship is a somewhat lonely journey, you could see that you weren’t alone in the process.
What were some of your biggest struggles in launching ARIX? Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in the beginning stages?
Some of the biggest struggles for us were around funding. As a dual hardware and software product, it was expensive to conduct R&D without much initial money. As a result, we were very scrappy and frugal at the beginning, which resulted in more time spent on certain aspects that weren’t true value adds (such as machining each component by hand). While it was difficult to justify spending more back then, now reflecting, it could have expedited us to our first funding round faster if we had just invested the money upfront to get to certain technical milestones faster.
I know you have begun the process of hiring additional individuals to be a part of the team. Tell me more about the people you have selected to join ARIX.
Our team is currently composed of myself, four hardware engineers in Houston, and two software developers/data scientists in Europe. We’ve been very fortunate to have such a wonderful, brilliant, and dedicated team, and ARIX is very extremely grateful to them all. The team was built not only on technical skills, but more importantly, personality and strength of character. As an engineer myself, I also knew that what would make ARIX successful was not just technical expertise, but an innate curiosity and drive to develop something new and better than what currently exists… a tinkerer mentality, essentially. We’ve been very blessed to have found such a team.
You’ve recently won a Most Promising Energy and Clean Tech Company award at the Rice Alliance Energy & Clean Tech Venture Forum this past September. What was that experience like and how has it impacted the company’s future plans?
We’re very grateful to the Rice Alliance for such an honor. The Venture Forum was filled with energy industry members, both corporations and energy VCs, and it was a great experience meeting with and learning from all of them. We’ve been able to develop relationships with some wonderful groups from that event and look forward to continued collaboration and engagement with them.
The House Chronicle article can be found here.
Dianna Liu is the recipient of the Henry F. McCance Entrepreneurial Award (2017 & 2018), Conley Brooks ’44 B.A. Family Scholarship (2017 & 2018), and Entrepreneurship Fellowship (2018).