The DivInc Founder Fridays series spotlights DivInc’s portfolio founders and other diverse entrepreneurs making moves in the tech ecosystem. We are here to celebrate their journeys and share their expertise in the hopes that it adds new voices to the conversation and adds new faces to the leadership lineup in our industry.
Back in 2019, Berkley Luck and Pedro Silva were engaged and had just moved in together. Berkley was in the final stretch of her Ph.D. studies when she witnessed a colleague struggle to manage the demands of breastfeeding her new baby while working full time.
One day Berkley had a stroke of genius. She realized that a decades-old technology called lyophilization (freeze-drying) could be adapted to turn breast milk into a shelf-stable powder, and that this would make life much easier for moms who pump and store their milk for later use. Pedro came home from work to find Berkley assembling a large freeze-dryer in their spare bedroom.
After months of tinkering with the machine and talking to potential users, they both became convinced that the idea had real potential. Berkley graduated and turned down job offers to focus on the idea full-time. Soon after, Pedro left his job in private equity to become her co-founder - and Milkify was born.
The biggest challenge was learning how to overcome our internal mental barriers. Fear of failure, communication gaps, lack of focus - these are just a few examples of obstacles that we struggled with early on. We realized that we would both need to overcome certain mental patterns, or our business wouldn’t stand a chance of surviving. This is true of co-founders in general, but especially so of a wife-and-husband team. So we kept on moving forward, committing to being a little bit better every day.
Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” describes the most dangerous enemy one can face as one that is fighting on “death ground”. The idea is that people fight their hardest when they are backed into a corner, without the possibility of escape or surrender. This applies to entrepreneurs as well - to do your best work, at some point you have to commit fully to the journey and go “all in”. For us, that meant foregoing the security of steady income (even when our daughter was born earlier this year) and making plenty of personal sacrifices so that we could focus all of our energy on Milkify. This might seem crazy, but what we ultimately learned is this: the best way to guarantee success is to make it your only option.
It’s also incredibly important to find balance. Although it can be very demanding, the founder journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Ignoring things like sleep, diet, exercise, and personal relationships will impact the quality of your work and lead to burnout. The founder journey is hard enough as it is - so you just can’t afford to not be at your best. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.