Humble beginnings, coupled with dedication, often pave the path to success. Take, for instance, Joseph Lee, an entrepreneur whose journey began in Vancouver parking lots. He now heads one of the most exciting companies in the interactive software space, with hundreds of clients and thousands of active users.
Lee’s quest for innovation began at 15, wheeling and dealing in retail electronics. Lee “would go out and buy electronics in bulk... and flip them on Craigslist,” and complete the sales in parking lots across Vancouver.
Growing up, Lee found the idea of creating something from nothing and getting paid for it fascinating. “This interest led me to start my first business at 15. Ten years on, I'm proud to have never had a full-time job outside of internships in school. In my third year of university, I founded North America's first demand-driven seafood marketplace. We were fortunate to have the support of top investors, including Techstars, and scaled to seven-figure revenues.”
This early success not only helped Lee fund his first year at the university but also ignited the fire of entrepreneurship. After four years at the University of British Columbia, he made the brave choice to abandon his computer science and business studies for the world of startups.
He co-founded Coastline Market in 2016, a seafood marketplace that linked commercial harvesters with restaurants. Coastline's technology streamlined the logistics of seafood transportation, attracting investments from prominent names like Techstars and earning a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in 2018. During the pandemic, the company pivoted to become Freshline.io, a leading B2B e-commerce platform for wholesalers and distributors.
In 2023, he co-founded Supademo with Koushik Marka. In Lee’s words, Supademo “helps teams communicate products more effectively through beautiful, AI-powered interactive demos and guides”. Nearly 6,000 individuals in customer success, product, and marketing embed Supademo across support docs, onboarding, and websites to drive adoption and engagement.
Speaking on his and his company’s success mantra, Lee said, “I subscribe to the notion that you should focus all your energy on talking to users and building product until arriving at product-market-fit (PMF). It can be tempting to reach for media mentions or try to grow at all costs, but if you're not attracting your ideal customer profile or if you're unable to execute on the drawn interest, it can be a wasted effort. The other key lesson is to be a megaphone for your business, early and often. Founder-led sales are paramount and should not be offloaded until well past PMF. Immersing yourself in the sales process helps you build empathy for your customers, truly understand their pain points, and steer your product in the right direction.”
This has led to what he considers his most profound achievements: "The ability to positively impact the lives of people around me. Monetary success is secondary to me; what I really care about is amplifying the impact I can have on the world.” He finds it amazing when customers recommend the product/service or when employees and partners grow with the company.
Lee’s penchant for innovation and impact comes from seeing other companies make a lasting mark through value creation. He looks up to companies like Calendly, which prioritizes ease of use, simplicity and delivering value quickly and efficiently. He wants Supademo to become the standard way products are demonstrated, just as Calendly has in the scheduling space.
Beyond the world of entrepreneurship, Lee has a golden nugget of wisdom to share: the importance of regular exercise. “It's often overlooked and deprioritized by a lot of founders. But getting enough exercise and taking care of your body and mind is paramount to personal and company’s success,” he said. “It’s a high ROI activity - not only for yourself, but for your company’s creativity and velocity.”
Joseph Lee's entrepreneurial journey is a testament to resilience, adaptability, and an unwavering pursuit of innovation. You can read more about him here:
Personal Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jhylee/
Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/jhylee95