Leon Xue poses with an InvisOutlet and packaging in the Carlson School atrium.

Start-up Obsession Drives Student Entrepreneur

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Leon Xue, ’26 BSB, describes himself as “super, super obsessed with start-ups.” 

“I think there's something that's deeply embedded within a subset of the population where people want to build things, and that's me. To envision the path to success and envision all the obstacles along the way and build something because of your own effort is the most rewarding idea on this planet,” he said.

During his first year at the Carlson School, he started talking to student entrepreneurs and learning about the resources available here. It became all he could think about. He was introduced to Y Combinator, a network for founders, and started connecting with other young entrepreneurs.

Xue started by contributing to a few projects, helping small companies obtain grants and funding. He built up a foundation in early-stage start-ups, and kept looking for something that he could really dig his teeth into. One day, he ran across Intecular.

Founded by a computer engineer in September 2021, Intecular’s first product is a smart outlet called InvisOutlet. The outlet replaces a standard wall outlet, and has built-in air quality monitoring, temperature sensors, intruder detection, and more, all while fully integrating with other smart-home products. At the time, founder Lawrence Ko was the only employee. Xue was fascinated immediately.

“I was obsessed with InvisOutlet right away,” he recalled. “I sent emails to his investor relations email, to his personal email, to his sales email, to his media email - I needed to make sure that we could connect.”

They turned out to be a perfect pair. As the two talked, Xue learned that the founder, Lawrence Ko, was a technical expert but not a “business guy.” Xue started taking on projects, proving himself and his worth over the course of months before Ko asked to bring him on as a co-founder last fall.

As a full-time student, Xue has to manage his time carefully, but has found that his two roles support each other. “I was in Gold I Core last semester, where I learned a ton about finance, supply chain, HR - being able to contextualize those through Intecular helps me do better in class, and being able to apply them right away helps Intecular be more successful,” he said.

Right now, he’s working on a major project: raising a seed round of $1 million. InvisOutlet successfully raised $160,000 on Kickstarter over the summer, but they need more to be able to fulfill large orders from major retailers, which are in the works. That’s meant 19-year-old Xue has had to prove himself in the room with far more experienced venture capitalists. He’s thought a lot about overcoming imposter syndrome and being perceived as an equal in these conversations.

“You should have that chip on your shoulder,” Xue said. “If you're 19, you're young, that means you need to be more prepared, you need to really do the work. If they see that you really know what you're talking about, which is a testament to just being prepared, you can differentiate yourself as a leader and overcome that obstacle.”

Xue knows that he has experienced years’ worth of professional growth in the time he’s been with Intecular, and is eager to share that with his fellow students. He’s brought on his roommate and friend, Michael Chen, ‘26 BSB, as a consultant for the company.

“The Carlson School has a really strong internship culture, which is great,” Xue said. “But I’ve found that working for a start-up lets you take on bigger challenges and bigger responsibilities right away, and it’s really gratifying for students to take on that opportunity.”  

Xue hopes to continue to scale Intecular, and work for the company full time after graduation. Long term? He’s not one to settle down - “I think 20 years from now, I’ll still be building something.”