Check out our story below to learn more about Byppo Founder Victoria Liu and how she gives back to GNV.
Victoria Liu is passionate about food, restaurants, and Gainesville, but more than anything, she loves helping others.
She graduated from UF in 2019 with a Master's degree in Accounting, and has dedicated her time post-graduation towards building Byppo, an app for discovering new local eats. Byppo partners with local restaurants and provides users with a seamless food ordering experience.
While the app has seen impressive growth and success since its inception in 2019, Victoria’s decision to pause her accounting career to create and build her own business didn’t come easily. Through the pandemic, Victoria has leveraged her app to help local restaurants connect with local customers and stay afloat, and she continually seeks ways to give back to the innovation ecosystem the same support she received as a budding entrepreneur.
Check out our story below to learn more about Byppo Founder Victoria Liu and how she gives back to GNV.
Guest writer: Kaitlyn McGowan
Tell us about your background and how you eventually came to start Byppo?
I was pursuing my Masters degree in Accounting two years ago at UF, with a full time job secured right out of college. Then a few months before graduation, I started thinking about starting a company, and was on the fence about pursuing that or sticking with Accounting.
The thing about Gainesville is that I had so many resources, and I have to give so much credit to the entrepreneurship center. I took an entrepreneurship course as an elective, because it fit with my course schedule. I was so inspired by that class and heard from so many great guest speakers. Colin Austin [the founder of New scooters 4 Less] came to talk to my class, and his story about starting his own company resonated with me. I ran into him months later, and we talked about how I was thinking about starting my own company too, and he offered to meet up with me to talk more about it. At one point, I had 5 mentors in Gainesville, because so many people were willing to help me.
At one point, I had 5 mentors in Gainesville, because so many people were willing to help me.
On a personal side, I didn’t have the support of my family, and my mom and dad were furious when I decided not to do accounting. On top of figuring out how to start a business, which is hard enough, now I have my parents on the side who aren't supportive of my business. Now that I reflect, I understand they were trying to encourage me to do what they thought was the right thing. I didn’t look to my parents for help; I came to the local community to ask for help and guidance. Without the support locally, I don’t think I would have gone as far as I have.
I came to the local community to ask for help and guidance. Without the support locally, I don’t think I would have gone as far as I have.
How did you decide to start your own company?
It was hard. It wasn’t just a pros-and-cons thing, it was an emotional battle. I was a stellar accounting student, graduated with a 4.0, and was the only student in the program to receive the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board scholarship. I was known for being an accounting student and was so involved that jumping immediately to entrepreneurship blew everyone’s minds.
This was something that took me two to three months to decide, with a lot of back-and-forth of whether I could do this now or do it later. My parents advised me to do my accounting profession and get real-word experience first, save up some money, then start my business. My perspective is that nowadays, starting a business is so different than before-- there’s a lot of VCs, you can raise money quickly, you don’t need the capital that you would need before. On top of that, I knew I needed real-word experience, but what better real-word experience am I going to get than by starting a business?
I was raised by my grandmother, who worked as a farmer in rice fields in China, and she always cooked these amazing Asian dishes. My grandfather had his own bakery. Growing up raised by my grandparents, I was very food-oriented and loved exploring the different dishes my grandmother made.... This is what I see in local restaurants-- a lot of them are family-operated, trying to make a living for their family, and use their own family recipes. I really connect with that.
Tell us more about Byppo.
Byppo started out as a stadium app, and has always been an online food-ordering platform. It was more geared towards the niche of stadiums, sports, and entertainment, where there’s an enclosed geographic location where people can order food. I realized there was a problem in the market where people would have to leave their seat, get a drink, stand in line, and miss whatever it is they paid to see. The concept was to be able to order food and have it delivered to your seat, so you don’t miss your favorite song at a Taylor Swift concert.
Because of Covid, we had to pivot. I hired a developer to help me, and we were just launching the app at the time. The two of us worked day and night until two or three in the morning creating this app. Little did I know, I actually created an app for restaurants, and we were one of the first ones to release curbside pickup.
When Covid had shut everything down, we had the app ready to go. Slowly, more and more people started reaching out wanting to sign up. As a small business, we had such a high demand, and I was doing everything myself from sales to putting in menus. It was very hectic. At one point, we had to put people on a waiting list. I also didn’t want to take advantage of the restaurant's needs during the pandemic, so I chose not to charge the businesses or consumers, to help encourage more people to order from the restaurants.
How did you come up with the name Byppo? What’s the story there?
Everyone asks me about that! The name comes from the original idea with Byppo being a stadium app. I went to my first football game, and I wasn't used to that environment. I started thinking about what those football players are like when they’re hungry-- they’re like hungry hippos!
When I was first talking to my parents about starting this business, I wasn’t sure what to call it. There was a lot of brainstorming that went into it. I could do something generic and to the point, or do something like “Apple” that has nothing to do with the product. I randomly searched online for the deadliest mammal on earth, and hippos came up. I love hippos, and I think they’re adorable. Now that I knew they're the deadliest mammal, I wanted to name my company something related to hippos and make sure my logo had a hippo. I thought hippos might be too scary and fierce, so I made it a Baby Hippo, which is where the “By” in Byppo comes from.
My family calls me “Baby” as my nickname, because no one in my family speaks English really, so for them to call me “Victoria” is too elaborate. Since I’m the baby of the family, they would say “Oh, the baby’s crying” or “Oh, the baby’s hungry.” It became my nickname, and I incorporated it into the name.
What was your inspiration for Byppo? Do you have an admiration for food or the restaurant industry?
It was a little bit of everything. I was raised by my grandmother, who worked as a farmer in rice fields in China, and she always cooked these amazing Asian dishes. My grandfather had his own bakery. Growing up raised by my grandparents, I was very food-oriented and loved exploring the different dishes my grandmother made.
Going to local restaurants reminds me of my grandmother. Making rice is so detailed; if you mess up a part of the process, you have to start from scratch, and it takes months of work before you even see a sprout. This is what I see in local restaurants-- a lot of them are family-operated, trying to make a living for their family, and use their own family recipes. I really connect with that.
I was at Cilantro Tacos just before Covid, and I knew I needed help testing my app. I saw a business card sitting on the counter with the owner’s name on it. It turned out, the owner was standing right behind the counter. Before I knew it, I was telling him about my app and offered to let him use it for free to test it out. This is a thing about Gainesville-- if I ask a restaurant to help, they’re so willing to help. And that’s how I got started with the restaurant industry.
What’s a favorite or fond memory from when you were just starting out with Byppo?
The first day I launched my app was at a softball game. I was so sick but knew I had to launch my app, because this was the day of the game. Someone was ordering fries for his daughter at the concession stand, and he didn’t have any cash so he had to pay with a credit card. Fortunately, the concession stand had Byppo to be able to take his credit card. I saw him setting it up, so I was teaching him to walk through the app.
I thought, “Wow, I created this!” I put together this whole thing, and this was my first real customer, and here I am meeting him. He had no idea who I was, I just walked up to him and showed him the app. The moment he placed the order, and it went through-- I was like “Yes!” It was amazing.
You could run Byppo out of anywhere, so why GNV? Do you think you’ll stay in Gainesville long term?
When I was first getting started, the mentors I had offered to help me, as long as I promised to stay in Gainesville.
We could totally be remote, but we have an office. As a startup company in the community, an office location does establish permanence, and the resources through the Innovation Hub are endless-- Just being a part of the network, lots of programs, and mentorship opportunities.
My company has expanded to Miami and Texas, so we are growing. I always wanted to stay in Gainesville, because I’m a part of this ecosystem and I want to give back and encourage entrepreneurs. I’m a part of the Entrepreneurship Collective Club at UF, and I was invited to speak to students. I tell them about the resources, because when I received all this help, I wanted to give it back.
What are your hopes and dreams for what you want to see in Gainesville in 2021?
My encouragement is for more students to stay in Gainesville. I don’t know why people don’t see the potential in Gainesville with professional career opportunities. They feel like Gainesville is a small community, and there’s no jobs to grow as a professional. How do you grow that opportunity? You have to be a part of that growth and do your part.
My company has expanded to Miami and Texas, so we are growing. I always wanted to stay in Gainesville, because I’m a part of this ecosystem and I want to give back and encourage entrepreneurs.
Do you have advice for someone getting started with a new business or thinking about starting a new business?
The advice I told myself was: If you have that small feeling inside of you that you want to start a business, just do it. Stop thinking about it and just do it. I know I spent a lot of time thinking about starting a business, and I didn’t need to think that much. If you know you want to start a business, then you want to start a business. You’ll learn so much more than working a job.
What’s your favorite thing about Gainesville, and why should other people move here?
I’m the best person to ask about this! I always tell my friends about how amazing Gainesville is. I have a lot of friends in Miami, and I’m trying to get them to move here.
First, if you’re comparing it to a big city like Miami, there’s no traffic in Gainesville. Cheaper cost of living. You can easily feel at home, it’s safe, you can make friends easily, and the entrepreneurship ecosystem here is so accessible. People are so welcoming!
The food in Gainesville- ugh! It’s great food, and even getting better! The growth and development of the city and potential is a great thing to be a part of.
What's the best thing your peers can do to help build the innovation ecosystem and why should they do it? What's the benefit for all?
It goes back to your purpose. I feel like we all come into this world with a purpose to make a difference, and to help the ecosystem is to make a change and difference in the community in a positive light. What better purpose than to make a difference?
I could have taken a job for financial reasons or I could have done this business where I don’t get paid. But the reward that comes from it is way more than what I would have gotten paid financially. I would give it up any day just to hear from a restaurant that I’m making a difference in their family. Even something so small as saying “I can pay my employee this month because of your app.”
What better purpose than to make a difference?
I saw Byppo expanded to Texas last year-- What’s next for Byppo?
Byppos’ coming to campus! We have an upcoming partnership with UF Gator Dining to be the exclusive on-demand delivery service on campus. It’s going to be a peer-to-peer delivery platform. Rather than making it just a delivery platform, we’re trying to make it into a networking opportunity with students. So students can earn some extra cash, deliver food and meet another student.
Stay tuned! We’re going to different cities, and we have a brand new app releasing soon.