Sonny Tosco

CEO, Limelight

Product: Limelight
A social platform that allows users to crowdsource real-time images from anywhere in the world
Vertical: Social Media
Tags: Mobile apps, Photography, Maps, Search
Stage: Launched
Co-founders: John Tobin and Jeff Reiss
Location: Berkeley, California

Born in east San Jose to an immigrant family. Graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Worked in DJ, nightclub, and sports apparel industries. After three deployments overseas, worked for yearbook-maker Jostens. Started Limelight in April 2014 with no network or tech background.
If you’re working 80 hours a week while everyone works 40, you’ll get there in half the time.
— Elon Musk
“The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born, and the day you find out why.”
— Mark Twain

“One hand washes the other”

Oladayo Olagunju & Nobu Nakaguchi

General Mattis, General Patton, Ben Horowitz, Mark Cuban

Go to 3 or 4 networking events a week to test your idea on people. Everyone you meet is an opportunity for you to practice your pitch. Make sure you follow up with people by adding them to LinkedIn and sending them an email, to add a more personal touch.

MY STORY


If I had to describe my life in two words it would be heart and hustle.

I was born in east San Jose to a Filipino family. As the oldest of four children, I often had a sleep for dinner — there just wasn’t enough food to go round — so naturally I became an entrepreneur at an early age. In fact my earliest venture was doing people’s homework for money. Despite the obstacles, in 2006 I achieved my goal of graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Joining the army

I became an officer in the U.S. Army. I was the COO of a 300 person element that was preparing to deploy to Bahrain during the Arab Spring. At that time, Fox News and CNN were the only media sources to give us insight into events in the country, and we prepared as though to enter the powder keg at the beginning of World War III.

When we arrived in Bahrain, we found that the media had misrepresented the situation on the ground. The protests were in secluded areas of the country where we didn’t conduct operations. The areas that we operated in still had American families taking their kids to the mall or water park, going out to eat. I felt that overall the media presented a skewed view of reality.

If Limelight had existed back then, things would have been different. We would have been able to reach out to anyone on the map and ask them to send a photo of their location. Had we been better informed, we would have been able to adjust our training schedule, allowing our soldiers to spend more time with their families prior to deploying.

Jack of all trades

While I served as an Army Captain, I continued honing my entrepreneurship skills by getting into the DJ, nightclub, and sports apparel business. After three deployments — Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — I decided to get out of the military and come back home to the San Francisco Bay Area.

My transition out of the army into the civilian world was rough to say the least. I took a corporate job because of the allure of a greater salary in my second year, but in reality I was paid far less than promised. The only thing that kept me from walking away was that my son was only a month old at the time. Although I I forced myself to try to embrace the job, I feel like it changed me into the most negative version of myself.

Deciding “I’m a hustler”

On April 8th 2014, I hit rock bottom and made a commitment to myself to, from that night on, only do meaningful work. I decided that in my heart I’m a hustler. I decided to leave corporate America and forego a paycheck to start Limelight. My family was very skeptical as this was my fifth venture. This time it would be my full time job and having a baby made it look like a reckless decision. My wife wasn’t as comfortable with the unknown as I was, and it almost broke us. But I could tell I was starting to win my in-laws over when they saw our progress and decided to invest in our friends and family round.

I didn’t have a tech background or network so I essentially started with nothing. I was able to grow our team to 8 full-time team members while bootstrapped. We overcame many obstacles to launch on May 15th, 2015 and have 700 users to date. 22 journalism schools will be piloting Limelight later this year. I’m the poorest I’ve been but the richest at heart. And we have some influential fans, including Jason Calacanis.

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