The Startup Diet: Quinoa and Kale

Protein-conscious Cheryl Yeoh

Here’s a slice of schadenfreude for struggling boot-strappers. Glowing tech press doesn’t necessarily mean the startup life is as glamorous behind-the-scenes. Take fledgling New York coupon aggregator CityPockets. Back in March, Forbes crowed, “Not to sound too cliché or fluffy, but CityPockets is the solution,” to the deluge of daily deals sites. A few paragraphs later, they piled it on with:

“To quote Andrew Mason from an email exchange we had in 2009, “[Groupon’s] goal is to make Groupon feel ‘too good to be true’ from beginning to end,” and frankly CityPockets succeeds in bringing an entire industry under that mantra.”

With that kind of review 28-year-old CEO Cheryl Yeoh must have been living the Silicon Alley high-life, right? Yeah, not so much.

According to Xconomy, this is what day-to-day life actually looked like back then:

But around the time when these articles were coming out, both Cheryl Yeoh, the 28-year-old CEO of the fledgling tech startup, and co-founder Jhony Fung, 27, were nearly broke. They had burned through most of the savings they brought to the venture, after leaving high-end consulting jobs. Yeoh was down to budgeting $35 per week for food, eating mostly kale and quinoa. (“It’s the grain with the most protein, and the vegetable with the most protein,” she explained.) Yeoh had for months been sleeping on the Stuyvesant Town couch of her newest hire, David Guthu, with only a small curtain, Velcro-ed to the ceiling, for privacy.

Hey, at least it’s more nutritious than coffee, ramen, and whatever you can find in the vending machine.

The Startup Diet: Quinoa and Kale