The 2010 Inc. 5000: Top 10 Asian Entrepreneurs
Lee Chen, CEO and FounderTri Nguyen, CEO and Founder
Chun Kim, CEOHiroyuki Fujita, CEO and PresidentIvan Koon, CEOWilliam "Bill" Woodhouse, CEOMing Chan, CEO and FounderChristine Do, CEOKevin Feng, CEO and Co-founder, and Ken Mark, Co-founderPaul Lin, CEO
San Jose, CA
2009 Revenue: $20.4 million
Three-Year Growth: 4,927.63%
When Chen was young, his parents fled from China to Taiwan amidst the fallout between the communists and the nationalists. Chen, the middle child of eight siblings, always had a nose for opportunity setting up tutoring and catering businesses in high school. At 25, he came to the United States to take a job at an IT company without speaking a lick of English. His first two start-ups raked in hefty IPOs, and at the second one, Foundry Networks, the CEO inspired him to go it alone. The CEO told Chen that "'in the technology world there's no way you can start a company with one person,'" Chen recalls, "so I took [that as a] challenge." Now his solo efforts have turned into A10 Networks, a $20.4 million server appliances company.
2009 Revenue: $2.8 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,746.71%
When Nguyen was 15, his family moved to the U.S. from Saigon. After graduating from the University of Portland with a major in computer engineering and a minor in entrepreneurship, he took a job at a nearby software development company before launching Virtualosity Solutions, an IT consulting company, the following year. Nguyen credits his inspiration to go into business to his parents who "were able to use their entrepreneurship skills to create jobs, to contribute to society, and help people."
2009 Revenue: $3 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,569.73%
Kim came to America in 1975 just after getting married and she recalls, "I had no idea what America was about." She began working in the IT space and in 1995, she founded her first in a series of IT companies. Her interest in entrepreneurship stems from her childhood. "I saw the struggles and suffering my parents had to go through to make ends meet," she says. "That drove me to want to become a successful entrepreneur so that I can support them and help them." Now her Los Angeles-based company I.T. Source is pulling in $3 million a year.
Mayfield Village, OH
2009 Revenue: $11.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,498.39%
Fujita first came to the U.S. from Japan during his freshman year of college at Japan's Waseda University to take some courses at the University of California, San Diego. He fell head over heels for the country and ultimatley returned to get his Ph.D. in physics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. After a career specializing in MRI technology, Fujita launched Quality Electrodynamics, which makes radiofrequency coils for clinical and diagnostic imaging. He says that the best advice his parents gave him is to tackle challenges gradually. "No matter how big your dream may be, you always have to take one step at a time; you cannot climb the mountain over night."
2009 Revenue: $15.5 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,414.58%
In Hong Kong, where Koon grew up, he felt that the school system, which was based on the British model, valued getting the right answer over learning and growing. When he went to the University of Texas for college, in 1978, he came to appreciate the American education system for "encouraging people to try things and not to be afraid of making mistakes and to keep learning by trying." His environment back home had also been a powerful influence on his decision to go into business. In the 70's and 80's he watched the rise of an entrepreneurial class of manufacturers and restaurateurs in Hong Kong. Koon took the helm of YouSendIt, a service for sharing large digital files, after heading up Adobe's Acrobat business, and on his watch the company has reached $15.5 million in annual revenue.
2009 Revenue: $3.4 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,306.13%
When Woodhouse was in school he was on track to become a doctor. "I think I'm the only non-doctor in my family," he jokes. When his sister died when he was 23, he moved from the Philippines to the U.S. where he still had some family members. After enlisting in the Air Force and graduating from Texas Tech he rose through the ranks at Oracle Consulting before deciding to do some consulting of his own. In 2005, he founded eSolution Architects, which consults on network security infrastructure for the Air Force as well as educational institutions.
2009 Revenue: $2.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,077.2%
Though Chan runs a successful ad agency he doesn't see himself in any of the Mad Men characters and that's partly because he's a new breed of ad man. Chan's pedigree is in Silicon Valley working as a software engineer and Web developer at a string of start-ups before striking out on his own. What sets his agency, The1stMovement, apart from many of its competitors is that they put as much focus on the technology as on the creative side of the equation. Chan was born in New York but grew up in Hong Kong where his father moved for work when he was four. His father worked in finance, but ironically rather than encouraging him to start a business, it gave him tremendous pause. "I never really got into financial [things] because I saw how hard [my father] worked and his lifestyle and it wasn't something that I wanted to do," he says.
Soft Tech Consulting
2009 Revenue: $4.6 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,050.5%
When Do was 17, the Vietnam war ended with the fall of Saigon and her family was forced to flee with a mere two hours' notice. While Do's family had been wealthy in Vietnam, because of their haste to escape with their lives they had to start over from scratch financially. "I think coming to the U.S. and leaving everything behind was actually the best thing that could happen to our family," Do says. They moved to Phelps, a small town in upstate New York where they received a great deal of support with, among other things college applications. Do had always been a logical thinker so it was little surprise when she entered the IT field. After working in IT for a large corporation, she set out on her own and founded Soft Tech Consulting in 1996.
New York City
2009 Revenue: $3.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,015.93%
Feng had found the stability he was looking for. He had a good education under his belt and a full-time IT job that paid the bills; which is what his parents had hoped for him when they left Guangzhou, China when he was one year old. However it was not quite enough. He admired his uncle's business of selling laundry machinery and thought he would like going into business for himself. So he and his cousin, Ken Mark, each poured $50,000 into CheckOutStore.com, a site that sells jewel cases and other storage media for CDs and DVDs. They initially had trouble finding additional funding from a bank but soon the business was growing at a rapid clip despite the setbacks.
2009 Revenue: $10.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 918.02%
For Lin, piano lessons were two years of pure agony. The instrument didn't strike his fancy and as a result he never practiced. The lessons were part of a broader campaign by his parents, who moved from Taiwan to L.A. when Paul was two years old, to expose him and his brother to as much as possible. Fortunately, the USC grad student who came to tutor Lin in the nascent field of computers had greater appeal than the piano teacher. As early as 12 he was working as a computer consultant, and after college he decided to use his tech know-how to launch the Web start-up DrillSpot.com. The company sells home improvement, which it sources from the nearest possible locations. Lin says the trickiest thing about getting the company off the ground was "making sure we hire slow and fire fast."
US Lighting Tech
2009 Revenue: $14.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 871.35%
Ham has entrepreneurship in his blood. After coming to Georgia from Korea in 1974, his parents started their own lighting business, which they ran successfully until Ham, recently graduated from an MBA program and working at HP doing marketing for their e-commerce store, offered to take the reins. The CEO of US Lighting Tech sees advantages to both his parent's homegrown style of running a business as well as his more formal b-school approach; he excels at planning while they excel at persistence. "When you grow up in corporate America, you have to learn to be nice, and respect your employees. You tippy toe around people," Ham says. His parents however, "tend to be a lot more like a bulldog or much more pushy to get what they want."
2009 Revenue: $7 million
Three-Year Growth: 865.22%
Fung received an early, if tragic, testament to the potential power of a business' legacy. "My dad passed away when I was 13 and I saw the business that he had created, a restaurant, carry my family through" and send me and my sister to college. In addition to helping out at the restaurant before his mother sold it, Fung dabbled in entrepreneurship through a newspaper delivery route and a small venture selling baseball cards. Now, as the head of Catapult Consultants, he and about 50 employees provide financial management services to government agencies. He credits his parents' influence on his business sense; they taught him the importance of not accumulating debt and the value of hard work. "You generally make your own luck," he says. "And if you run into bad luck you can turn those things around."