Hi, I'm Bob Wu. I'm the Founder and CEO of Teleport, and what we do is leverage UBER’s API in order to allow businesses to send cars to anyone. So what that means is, if you're a hospital, if you're a car dealership, if you are a small business, you can send literally thousands of cars to your customers, your clients, your patients; it makes it very easy for you to have access to on-demand vehicles.
Outside of that, I'm very involved in the community. I'm the founder and a former President of TAP New York, which is Taiwanese American Professionals. It's probably one of the largest Asian American professional organizations in New York. So right now it has about 5,000 members and they do about 70 events a year. So I've been involved in that organization starting in 2010 and now it's on to new leadership. But outside of that I'm also very involved in the community; I created an organization called Asian-American Tech Entrepreneurs or AATE – for all the foodies out there – and we bring together all the VCs, all the founders in the city that are doing great things. Just to have a network, relationships that maybe will help them personally or professionally, but just to have that community. So I've been involved in a lot of different things involving community, bringing people together, and clearly my company right now is literally bringing people together. Bringing customers to businesses but also bringing people to other people.
Tell us about your career journey.
I grew up in Texas. I grew up in Houston, Texas and left to go to USC. And after that I graduated with a degree in international relations and global business, and then I went to Shanghai and I worked there for two years, and then after that I moved to New York and started working in a place called Ziff Brothers Investments, which was a hedge fund private equity. So I ran their fund to funds group, and I worked on private equity deals, public equity, and strategy. From there I worked at a place called Social Starts and became a partner at a VC fund. And so we did investments in places like Mashable, Elite Daily, a company called Boxed – so a lot of New York-based tech companies. And then from there I decided to take on more risk, because I thought you know, ‘Why not?’ And I started my tech company Teleport.
You ask me how it is to be a tech founder but not have a technical background. And for me that's an interesting question, primarily because I've been asked that when I was in finance, as well. My degree is not in finance and I have never taken one finance class in my life. Actually, I don't even know what they teach there. I literally happened to go into finance because at the time it was a very good place to be. My family was really excited about it, so I decided to go into it. Almost all of my investment experience and knowledge comes from being on the job. They say that in school, you don't get this great education; what you do get is a great network and a filtering process. So what that means is they actually choose the best people to come in the school and you're able to mingle with future leaders and people that will be your co-founders and things like that. But the education part is still behind and I think there's some truth to that – which is that if you want to learn you've got to be on the ground in a company, doing cutting-edge. And so I learned most of my finance experience on the job and so I was really lucky to get a great place to learn that.
I'm a non-technical founder but I was very lucky to be on the VC side so I could see lot of the technologies that are coming up. I could meet a lot of people involved in industry and I could understand generally what it took to create a technology company. Would I recommend, if you have zero experience at technology, to go into a technology company? No. You want to go into something that you really understand and that you have a really good feel for. I think that if I did have a technical background that it would probably very helpful, but because I actually understand some of the languages, some of the frameworks, it actually has helped me a lot. So if you have zero, I would get really smart on that area before you jump into it because when something happens you want to be able to explain what happened and how to fix it. And if you have zero experience it's really hard.
So what is it about failure?
Thank you for asking me about failure and how that has changed my life. I'll give you two examples. One is when I started investing in startup companies and technology. I will say that I probably failed a lot. I made a lot of bad investments. And there's an investor who said, ‘How do you make good investments? Well, you have to have a lot of experience. Well, how do you have a lot of experience? Well, you make a lot of bad investments.’ And so that's sort of the reality, which is you have to make a lot of bad investments before you know what to see - before you get the pattern recognition, as they say in venture capital.
So I made a lot of bad investments. And it's very sad because you are so invested in these companies, in these founders. You have money, or the LPs or the people that back you have agreed with you, and then they fail – and you're part of the reason why because you didn't see the vision, you didn't know how to help them, there's a lot of reasons. I remember that very clearly because people always ask me, ‘So Bob, how did you get all these great investments?’ ‘Well, I've made a lot of bad investments first before I realized what a good investment was.’ But to be more specific, I've actually had a lot of failure. It's just that failure and success are the same thing to me in a lot of ways and that failure actually helps you grow. Success sort of makes you – I don't want to say it dulls the edge, because you're not as hungry sometimes when you succeed. When everything comes so easily you're not that hungry. But when you fail, you want that much harder. You're willing to do so much more to make sure that you never feel that again. So in some ways you sort of want to fail a little throughout your life and that means you're actually trying really hard – one. And two, that you're actually doing things that are uncomfortable. If you're doing things that you only succeed at, it's not going to be an interesting life. But you have to be ok with that.
So for me, another example is actually when I was in China. I was working for a Chinese company and it was really difficult because all my colleagues for Chinese, I was working on translating documents from English to Chinese, and then doing financial models. And so my voice is breaking a little because it's very painful because it was so difficult. My first language is not Chinese, it's English, and I learned Chinese speaking with my family. But when you're in an environment where it's business, and it's a financial company, and all these things are online, it was so difficult to get really smart really quickly on something so esoteric. To say the least, I actually got fired from that job. I actually got fired because I wasn't going fast enough, I wasn't thinking about all these things that the company really wanted me to do. And that was really difficult, because it was one of my first jobs out of college. I thought, ‘this was it.’ You know, I was a failure in life. And not only that, but what was I going to do with my life at this point. I got fired. I was in China. I have to go against all these other people who are smart, who are willing to work for less than me. It was really hard.
But one of the things I figured out was what do I want to do with my life. And it really helped focus me on the things I didn't want to do with my life. And so in some ways it was a learning experience rather than a failure, but it was really difficult. Like I said, I've gone through all those issues where people have been at the lowest of lows, and then I came back. So afterwards I did get another job in China, it did work out, but then I decided to move back to the US. And one of the hardest things was trying to find a job as a young adult in New York. I was off cycle. My background in Chinese finance wasn't that respected. And there was a host of reasons why no one should have hired me, and a lot of people didn't hire me. I went through so many ‘No’s.
But I got lucky. I literally say, ‘I got lucky.’ In that one of the companies that I applied for actually came through a recommendation from a friend. So going back to network, literally it was a network from a friend at school that said, ‘Hey, this recruiter is great. You should chat with him.’ I chatted with him, he walked me through how to think about finance interviews, worked with me to be a better candidate. It worked out for both the company and myself, because I worked there for seven years, and it was a great experience for me and he was the right person to sort of bridge that gap. But I got lucky. And now that recruiter is actually a good friend of mine, and we talk all the time. So it worked out in the end, but it took a lot to get there. It’s staying optimistic but seeing failure as a learning tool rather than a mark on your life that makes you seem like a worse person.
What are your top accomplishments?
What are my top accomplishments? When I think about this, I think that it's hard to say because for me my top accomplishment has not been done yet. It's a benchmark that I'm still trying to achieve. So I'm still looking forward to the next top accomplishment. And it's really hard to answer, because I think that every year I should have a new top accomplishment. It shouldn't just be, here are my accomplishments and I'm excited about that. So that's me personally I think it's you know going back to being self-effacing; but also trying to challenge myself constantly. But I don't want to say, ‘Oh, there's no accomplishments in my life,’ and be boring.
I think the things that I've accomplished in my life that I'm really excited about – one is starting Taiwanese American Professionals – TAP NY. When you can talk about accomplishments that give back; even if I don't get any recognition, if I don't get any platitudes or anything that says good job, I would still be really excited. Because today leaders are being built, leaders are being born, people are getting the chance to lead. And so one of the biggest things is, ‘Do Asian Americans join nonprofit boards?’ And the stats say that they don't. But are they getting the opportunity to develop those skill sets and to be a leader? And I would say they don't as well. And so having TAP NY be a professional nonprofit organization that's active gives a lot of young people the chance to be a nonprofit leader, and that's really exciting to me. Even if they screw it up, it's better than them not having the opportunity to develop those skills and eventually join other larger nonprofit boards and for-profit boards. So I would say that's really an exciting accomplishment in my life because it’s helping others.
The second accomplishment would be that I was able to become a partner at a venture capital firm. And I think this is more personal, primarily because everyone dreams of being able to select technology investments and to vote on the future, invest in the future, pick winners that will someday succeed. And that to me was a very exciting opportunity that I never thought I would be able to have. So when I was graduating from school, I never thought I would be in New York. I never thought I would be in investing. I never thought I would be doing venture capital, ever in my life. That probably seemed so far away. So for me to be able to do that was really exciting.
For me, the accomplishment that I'm really excited about, that's really changing my life – and this probably goes back to career and background – is I actually had a really bad snowboarding accident in college. And so it's weird to talk about an accomplishment all the way back in college, but it's also weird to talk about it in a sense that it was a really bad accident that I still see as a positive. What happened was I went off a jump when I was snowboarding; I landed awkwardly and I literally hit the ground so hard that my kidneys shattered. And so I was in the hospital, in the ICU for about a month. So I had to take leave from school, and I literally was stuck inside of a bed for a month. So it's really sad, but it helped me reflect on a lot of things in terms of what I want to do with my life, what was important, why I was alive, and what I should do with my life. So without that moment I might not be the person I am today.
So we talked about accomplishments. Do these things change you in your life, do they change the way you think about yourself? Muhammad Ali says, ‘Every 10 years, if you haven't changed your perspective, then you've wasted that decade.’ And I think that hopefully every year it's like that – where you're changing your mind and something fundamental that you believe in is different, because someone has challenged you, you've gone through an experience, so now you see this issue completely different. That to me is really growth and accomplishment. So those are probably the three accomplishments that I'm probably the most proud of. But like I said, I really don't see those as accomplishments, it's more things that have happened in the past. What I want to do is accomplish more. And set my sights higher. Bruce Lee says there are no plateaus, right? So the moment you feel like there's a plateau you want to just go higher.
How has your background influenced your success?
So regarding my background, I think you have to go back to the story of my family and how they came to the US. I think that's where really it all started. Culturally, my dad and my mom came from Taiwan; they moved to Texas because my dad went to Texas A&M and he was doing a Master's and PhD in sports science – kinesiology. And so when he did that he actually accidentally got my mom pregnant. He finished his Master's but now he has a daughter on the way and he needed to make money. So he decided to start selling kung-fu gear in a flea market – this is when Bruce Lee was getting popular – and so he literally sold things in a flea market. And from there he obviously had to quit school, and he couldn't finish his PhD.
He met a nice wonderful partner named Joe – literally Joe from Texas – and then from there he decided to go into selling pins – hat tack pins, American Flag pins that the President wears. So he became one of the largest distributors in the south. And this is really interesting because this is what I grew up with: a guy that was an entrepreneur, a guy that was a hard worker, a guy that was working with other people in the community to raise his family. And so that sort of grit, that sort of hard work, that sort of optimism that was in my dad is the background that I have. And I guess that's sort of how I lead my life in a lot of ways, when you reflect on it. You are the child of your parents.
My dad, from there, decided to go into real estate and then he basically said, ‘I wish I had done that earlier, because I'm really good at real estate. And it's so much easier to invest in real estate than it is to sell one hat tack at a time.’ And he was a wholesaler, so he sold hundreds of thousands, probably millions in order to make a few pennies. So for me it was to focus on what you really want to do in your life – because what you don't want to do is spend 30 years doing something that's really hard in order to make a little money. So there's a lot of business acumen that he taught me. And then finally, his relationships with other people taught me a lot about sort of thinking much further ahead. Because my dad was really business oriented and he wanted to bring me into a lot of conversations with his friends and my uncles; basically I learned to think two steps ahead, to think about things that your peers are not thinking about, to think outside of yourself. And so this is sort of more of a holistic view that is really hard to get, and I still think it's really hard to see for a lot of people. But yeah so that's my background – starting from my dad coming to the US.
In my journey – outside of the professional stuff that I’ve done – a lot of what builds me as person was actually spending a lot of time abroad. I spent time in Mexico and Paraguay during my summers in high school and college doing community development. And then I also spent a summer in Vietnam working with the State Department. So pretty much a lot of my time was actually spent abroad working in developing countries; that actually gave me a different point of view on a lot of issues because I was actually immersed in the culture, immersed with people that are not in the city. That viewpoint is very unique and very thoughtful and makes me think of things very differently, even in my tech company today. So one of the examples is – people build a lot of technology for what they call the ‘Seinfeld problem’, which is that everyone amongst you is a 30-year old Caucasian male in a big city. And so you build products for that group. The problem is that population is actually really small and those people actually need the least amount of technology. The people that need the most technology are people that are underserved. And so a lot of my background actually helps me try to work on problems, to fix issues that are much bigger than the ones that I'm seeing myself. So, in my career and what I've done, a lot of that background actually helps me do what I do today.
Tell us about your thoughts on the P.O.L.I.N.G.® Principles.
I love the P.O.L.I.N.G.® Principles and it really resonates with me. I was reviewing it last night, looking through it, and I'm just like, ‘All of this is really well done.’ This framework is well done and well thought-out. The P.O.L.I.N.G.® framework really applies in a lot of areas, in terms of growth, perseverance, passion, inspiration, leadership; it is, like I said, a great framework. The place that I see most as a great example is TAP NY. When I created that organization, what I wanted to do is basically use the P.O.L.I.N.G.® framework; in terms of how do I find people with passion that will persevere, how will I help others lead, how will I help people grow as individuals, basically all the things that P.O.L.I.N.G.® stands for.
And I want to give you specific example. What we did was, we asked people not only for what they wanted to do for TAP NY, but what they wanted to do with their lives. So we had everyone come present that every year, so that everyone in the group would know exactly who they are and what that meant. I ask that a lot, because when you're in a lot of organizations, do you know what your fellow board member, do you know what your fellow colleague actually wants to do with their life? You sit in these meetings with all these people every day, yet you have no idea that they want to become an opera singer. You have no idea that they want to start a winery one day. You have no idea that what they care about is that their family's health is number one this year. And so the P.O.L.I.N.G.® framework – if you look at it in a lot of ways and you apply it to your organizations – can actually bring those questions out. Because it's about how do you help others, and how do you grow as individuals. Because it's not just growing in your career but also growing personally. This framework is literally what we did. We asked each other how we can help each other, because if only TAP NY does well, and we don't do well, then this organization won't last. Because you're going to be burnt out; you're not going to want to work with each other, so what's the point? If you are not friends at the end of this experience, if you have not grown as a human being, none of this is important.
‘P’ is for perseverance, passion. ‘O’ is for others. ‘L’ is for lead. ‘I’ is for inspire. ‘N’ is for network. And ‘G’ is for grow. And I think what we did was all of those. We encompassed all those. Going back to what I said – the networking part – it's literally what we're trying to do. Create a network of people that weren't friends before. How do you create people that will actually be at each other's weddings when they've never met for the first time? That's really hard. How do you inspire each other to do more than what they used to think was possible? And so seeing others’ goals and seeing what other people wanted to do inspired others to do even more. And lead – that was what the whole organization was about. How do you help others see their leadership potential, and how do you get other people to want to lead. And I think that's a really interesting question for people – do you want to be a leader in the community? Are you willing to be a leader in the community? And I think a lot of people don't know if they want to yet, but if you use the P.O.L.I.N.G.® framework and you think about it holistically, everyone should want to be a leader in the community, everyone should want to give back, because all of those things are really going to help someone personally and professionally.
When has your background presented a challenge?
I grew up in Texas, and Texas is a very multicultural state, but there's a lot of Caucasians and Asians are definitely a minority. In my life, I've dealt with a lot of racism and it's because of my background, my family's background. And so for obvious reasons, it's hard. What I learned though is that there are a lot of great people in this world, there's a lot of wonderful human beings. And so for the small number of people that have issues with my family's background, for the few people that are upset because of their personal circumstances – that doesn't mean that everyone is a bad person and it shouldn't affect what you do.
What my family dealt with in Texas and what I've seen in my life personally; it has affected me, but it only made me see things in a much broader light, and that I shouldn't be upset. I shouldn't take offense, because there are other things I want to do with my life. You know, rather than just change one person's life – change one person's mind and try to fight them on that one issue – it's more of, how do we become better people, how do we look at this in a broader scope.
To give a specific example, I've seen my dad deal with racism in Texas, and he basically has always been the bigger man. Does he stand up for himself? Absolutely. But he's not willing to get into a fight over issues like this primarily because it's not worth it. Is he afraid of people? No, my dad is a black belt in Kendo. He's got a lot of years of experience and he's not afraid. But the issue is not that. He just sees it in a much broader light that there are all these people that he's done business with, he's been very successful with, and they've been great. And the few people that are upset at him; they’re not going to change how he feels about everyone else. I feel like that's the same way that I see the world as well. Yes, there will be some people that will challenge me because of my background, because of my ethnicity, my family, but that that doesn't mean anything. Just the same way that an Asian American could be upset at me, you don't look at it that way – it’s just another person, rather than them looking at you because of your race.
Who has influenced you?
I was thinking about what has really changed the core of who I am. And it's really my dad, and the uncles that I had, who really challenged me when I was a lot younger. Because when you're in high school, you're not thinking about these things. You don't think they're important. But then much later in life when you're an adult you're like, ‘Wow, they were right.’ So one of the examples is that one of them said, ‘Bob, when you start a business, make sure you find people that have money. Because if you go to people that don't have money, then you're not going to get paid for all the work you're going to do.’ Really obvious, but if you talk to any technology startup today they always start off in consumer – and what that means is they’re going out for retail. After that, they realize consumers don't actually like to pay a lot of money. So what you do is you go after small businesses. The problem with small businesses is that it's really difficult, because each small business is a client that needs a lot of work, and a lot of help, and a lot of customer service. And they’re not willing to pay a lot, because their margins are really low. So what happens? You have to go to corporations.
I sort of had to learn that on my own, but that advice really triggered something. Because he said, ‘Hey Bob, if you go after businesses, don't do consumer first. Because if you do, you're going to realize that there's no money there.’ Now, are there businesses where you can actually go out to consumer? Absolutely. But the framework that he told me was: just start at the top so that your life is much easier. It’s not very obvious when you're in high school, but it's obvious later on when you do your own business.
Other things in life that stuck with me, advice that they had, it was just basically – how do I see the world? How do I think about it? And so another example was, my dad used to have a restaurant. It's not the traditional Chinese restaurant; it was a luxury French restaurant. And they were talking about how do you make the food appealing? How do you make the business really appealing, because margins in the food industry, in the restaurant business, are very low. So he said, ‘Well, think about when you go to Chili's, when you go to Sizzlers, what is it that really matters? It's not only the taste, but also the smell and also the sound.’ And think about it. When that sizzling Fajita plate is coming, you're getting hungry because you smell it, and then you're also getting really excited because you hear it. And then finally when you eat it, it's sort of really easy to fall in love with fajitas. Now when I tell you that it seems so obvious, but a lot of restaurants are only thinking about the taste. But what about all other things that lead up to that taste? And so that's an example of something I didn't think of before but is really obvious now - in terms of how you look at strategy, how you look at business, how do you actually create a business that makes sense for people?
But outside of that, the other advisors or people that I actually look for mentorship is Ben Sun, who was one of the first VCs in New York who's Asian American. He actually started a company called Asian Avenue, and it was part of a bunch of companies called Community Connect – so BlackPlanet was part of that, MiGente was part of that. He worked with all the different ethnic groups for the first social networking sites. So in terms of how cool that is, it's really high for me primarily because I was trying to create something in relationships; he had already tried that and then from there he sold that business and then went into investing.
Another mentor of mine is a Chieh Huang from Boxed – he is what they call the Zen CEO. People love working with him, primarily because he's very calm. He makes decisions rationally and he's just a really smart guy. But if you do a Google search, the number one thing that pops up is that he's willing to pay for his employees’ children's education. He's willing to pay for his employees’ weddings. He's invested in the future of the employees of the company with his own shares. And it's incredible because it sounds so obvious – why would a CEO not want to see the people that work in the factories, the people are packing all the boxes, the people are doing all these things to build a foundation of company, be happy in life? That just seems so obvious, but he was literally probably one of the only tech CEOs that is willing to do that, and so you see a lot of publicity about this. So he's a big mentor of mine because, how can you think of things in a much broader way? It's not always about the money, but how do you make people that work for your company people that work with you happier individuals? That that to me is so inspiring – going back to the P.O.L.I.N.G.® framework.
The last person is Albert Lee. He's a mentor of ours. He is a design partner at NEA, but he's basically been an advisor to us in so many ways, in terms of how we think about our strategy, what we want to do professionally, and how to structure the company.
Those three people have probably played a big impact in my life.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
What advice would I give to my younger self? Actually, this is another one of those questions where I was reviewing the information chart and thinking about what I would tell if I could go back in time. And the reality is, I don't know if I would want to change anything that I did; primarily because what I did – those mistakes I made – were what brought me here today. It's the way I've learned. For everyone, you have to go through failure, you have to go through hardship, in order to get stronger. So would I change anything? Probably not. Do I want to go through all that pain again? Probably not as well. But if I had to give advice to myself and say ‘Bob, this will help you make a better decision.’ What I would tell myself is – make sure that you know what you want to do and then do it immediately. Don't wait. Don't try to find that perfect opportunity, primarily because if you do it sooner and you fail, at least you'll be that much smarter. And if you're in the other scenario where you're waiting for that perfect opportunity, that other person who failed first is already so far ahead of you. They know exactly what they need to do to improve, and they're going to accomplish what they want to do in life faster. So that's probably the only thing I would tell myself, which is, ‘Make sure you do the things you want to do faster.’ Go full on, don't think too much, because when you think too much – you're trying to find that perfect opportunity – you may never get there. You may never actually find the confidence. There are better times than others, but there's no perfect time. And so that's what I would probably tell myself, career wise. I mean, I could tell myself – ‘Don't go on that snowboarding trip and get injured.’ But then I probably would not have that thought process in my head now. But, like I said, I would probably want to tell myself to make the changes that I want to do my life faster, and don't be hesitant. It's okay to deal with the failure and the embarrassment of not succeeding, but you'll get to where you want to go faster.
What’s your call to action?
What is the call-to-action for Inspiring Diversity? I'd like to take another direction on this, which is – I created a presentation and the title was literally ‘Community.’ And your community is not just all people you know, but all people around you. The people that you work, with the people that you know the least about. Everyone is in your community. So you have to get everyone involved in order to be successful. The first thing is, if you look at it from a corporation, how do we get to be a successful corporation? If the people that are making leadership decisions are inclusive, if it includes all the people – not just Caucasian males but women and minorities – that's the only way where you get the best decisions, because you're getting all the viewpoints. That's a real community. If you don't build that community, then there's something that will be fundamentally flawed – that you will not be getting the viewpoints that you need, you're not going to get the best ideas. And this is actually science, which is that when you have different viewpoints, the solution is always that much better. Because it takes into account so many different people's thoughts and strengths. When you don't do that you literally are not giving yourself the chance for the highest success possible. So the call to action is literally – how do you make your leadership council, how do you make your decision-making body really diverse and inclusive of the entire community. Because it affects everyone in that community. I think that's from the corporate angle.
But from my community, it’s – ‘How do we become leaders in our community if we are not willing to take on leadership positions?’ If we are not willing to build up our community, no one will. It is literally something that everyone that's watching this has to do. They have to be willing to step up into a leadership role in order to drive the community forward. It is not something where you can hang out and someone else will do it, because there are all these leaders that are running around that are hoping to have these leadership positions. The reality is that, when I first started TAP, one of the things people asked me was, ‘Bob why did you start TAP? What was the inspiration?’ And I said, ‘I looked up, I literally Googled ‘Taiwanese American New York’ and the only thing that popped up was a Meetup group that was older gentlemen trying to get young people to come to their happy hour.’ That was it. That was our entire community when you Googled it. And it was so easy for me to say, ‘Well it's a big problem, but I'm busy with my career. Someone else should take on this challenge.’ That would have been so easy for me to do, and the reality is – if I didn't do anything, it would still be that. Today, you would still Google it, and it would still be a Meetup group and it would not have anything to do with our community.
And it's so sad, in a lot of ways, but the call to action is literally – ‘If you want to build a community, you have to be part of that.’ You have to be a leader. You have to be willing to go out there, start an organization like Inspiring Diversity so that people will have the conversations. So people get the opportunity to lead. So for me, the call to action is, ‘Yes, if you're in the Asian American community, you want to get involved. Because it doesn't move forward without the best people. And it's crazy, because when you think about our community in terms of ‘Asian American’; you have the highest education, you have some of the highest earners, you have brilliant people, yet they're not willing to put time into building a community. They're not willing to put time into working with others that are disadvantaged. They're not willing to do all these things that make so much sense for building a stronger community for everyone.
The call to action is to get involved. The call to action is to think about what it is that you really care about and to really go do that. Which is, at the end of the day, it won't be about yourself. It has to be about others. The call to action is to do something immediately and to do it soon. And then on the corporate side, it's to build this diverse pool of people to make decisions; to have a conversation. That'll actually better for the bottom line, because you're having stronger decisions that are inclusive, so that you're not making mistakes that you're seeing a lot of corporations make today. That's just literally from not having a diverse body of people to make decisions from.
What is something that no one would guess about you?
So I'm from Texas. I grew up in Houston but I spent a lot of my time in summer camps; and actually became a camp counselor for these summer camps. Now these summer camps were not your traditional summer camps – they were in the middle of nowhere Texas, where I'd be the only Asian American for a five hundred mile radius. And so one of the things that I actually became was a camp counselor in archery and I taught classes during an all guys summer camp for multiple years. So I think most people probably wouldn't guess that I'm a pretty good archer.
On Fun and iD
I think that one of the most important things for me is creating this idea of fun. A lot of times when people talk about ‘fun’, they're like, ‘Oh, that is not important. How does that help you achieve your goal?’ And what I've discovered is that when you make things fun, you actually make things really interesting. One of the great examples I have is, when you have a meeting, what do you think the point of a meeting is? Is the point of a meeting to go through all your agenda items? That's probably what people will say is a typical goal of a meeting – is to get through all those agenda items.
For me, the goal of a meeting is actually to get everyone to come back for my next meeting. Because that's the most important thing. If people are dreading coming into a meeting, that's not helpful for anything. So what you want to do is make sure that people are really excited to come back to your meetings – and for me that means making everything fun. And that doesn't mean wasting time, but that means building relationships, that means networking; and the only way to do that is for people to be themselves. One of the best stories that I have is, when we did our meetings we actually tried to create an icebreaker before everything we did. It could be literally a pop quiz, where everyone split up in teams and they would do a random pop quiz, or they would actually have to do a game where we would take everyone's faces and then mismatch them. And then everyone would have to guess each other's faces based on one ear, one eye, one nose and guess whose nose was that. And so what this did was create this environment where people were thinking about, ‘Oh, do I really know Bob? I think that's his ear. Or do I really know Betty? I think that's her mouth.’ But not really sure, because you haven't really looked that closely. But now you're thinking about these things. That's just an example of ways in which you can actually create this environment, which is fun, but still get a lot of things done.
So one of the things I would say about Inspiring Diversity and elevating leadership is that there are ways to do this which makes a lot of sense for a lot of people and to make it interesting. Because what you don't want to do is have this conversation about diversity and make it boring. What you don't want to do is talk about leadership and it be curriculum. What you want to do is literally make it something that people want to come to, and make it something that people want to come back to. And I would say ‘make it fun.’ Have fun doing it. It's got to be something that people want to come back to in order for this conversation to continue.
What would you like your legacy to be?
What do I want my legacy to be? This unconscious bias of my mom says, ‘Hey you know be self effacing, be humble and don't speak too loud.’ So it's hard because, even for me – and I think I'm you know sort of younger but still trying to bridge the gap between the Millennials and my generation – but even being in the middle I’m still having this unconscious bias from the cultural upbringing. And so when you say ‘legacy’ – lot of what you want to do is be loud, and be number one, and accomplish all this stuff. But another part of me is saying that what we want to do is be a good torchbearer for the next generation, or for the next person. So be a good bridge. Don't screw it up too much.
It’s this individualism versus this community aspect that is tearing at me constantly. I think a lot of people are probably going through it which is – ‘How do you stand out, but how do you also do something that's better than yourself.’ And it's hard, because you have selfie culture. You have this Snapchat generation. And then you have this old-school cultural mentality which is ‘Be self effacing, be humble.’ And so what I want my legacy to be is - I don't actually want a lot of attention, but what I really care about is making sure that I'm doing everything I can so that the next generation could benefit. I really mean that, in that I want to do as much as I can to look back and say, ‘Wow, we created organizations. We created institutions that are still here in 50 years.’ That not just my children are benefiting from, but my children's children. And it doesn't matter if they remember me or not. It doesn't really matter if my name is on a building. None of that is important, because it's just irrelevant. What really matters is that we are making the right decisions for the future. It's hard to get outside of that short-termism, because it's so embedded in American culture. But I think for me, it's really about – how do we create a long-term thought process where we're really thinking about what our actions do for future generations. The ‘legacy’ is irrelevant. What I really care about is making the right decisions right now, for not myself but for future generations.