Charles Michael Yim is a successful entrepreneur who has started three companies to date and sold two of them by the time he turned 28. His most recent startup, Breathometer, became the very first company on the hit TV show “Shark Tank” to get an investment from every single shark.
Yim, 33, has been able to attract top mentors including the “Paypal Mafia,” Virgin founder Richard Branson, and “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban. His Instagram account documents the fun-filled life he’s been able to create.
It wasn’t always like this for Yim, however, as he was raised by a single mother who immigrated from Hong Kong with only a couple hundred bucks in her pocket.
“My father was a compulsive gambler, alcoholic, not a good dad. I wanted to be the opposite of him.”
Far from being a good student when he was in school, Yim said he was “disgruntled” and made “subaverage” grades. However, he compensated for his academic weaknesses by working harder. His first business was a lemonade stand he set up outside his house when he was 3 years old, and he found other creative ways to make money throughout his school years.
“In 4th grade, my brother and I bought Marvel Comic cards like the X-Men. We’d cut up the characters and create a 3D version and put it in plastic sleeves, then sell them to my classmates. We made $4,000 that summer. I rewarded myself with the coolest backpacks and shoes back then”
In middle school, he collected $40,000 worth of basketball cards and would make a few hundred bucks every weekend selling them at events.
While he was attending college at the University of California, Riverside, he made quite a bit of money selling sound systems he revived on craigslist. He became a car fanatic shortly after and bought an NSX, RX-7, Porsche, Supra.
Yim first experienced the startup space when he sought job opportunities in Silicon Valley. He received a number of offers from big and small companies. However, he ultimately took a business development position at a small startup called Fortify Software.
“I joined Fortify Software mainly because of the small team backed by Kleiner Perkins; the board was made out of the Paypal Mafia. So I thought that if I proved myself I could impress the CEO and board and potentially acquire them as mentors, which is exactly what happened.”
A year later in 2010, Fortify Software was sold to Hewlett Packard for $250 million. From there, Yim went off on his own and launched two startups, one which was called Chatterfly, which sold for $15 million in 2011.
Yim has been working on his latest startup, Breathometer, for the last four years. Breathometer started off as a simple device that connected to a user’s smartphone to measure their blood alcohol content.
In 2013, he appeared on “Shark Tank” seeking an investment for his company. Mark Cuban made an offer, but the other sharks were also interested in the deal. This is when Yim sensed an opportunity.
“I thought that there’s something bigger here and that I could make history on the show by closing all five of the sharks.”
After some negotiation, Yim gave up 30 percent of his company for $1 million from all five sharks, making history.
“Even after we closed the deal, it took four months to do due-diligence. The sharks did more due-diligence than I’ve seen in the last three startups that I’ve been a part of that were backed by tier-1 VCs. They were extremely thorough down to the code. We passed with flying colors and the money was in the account a few days before the ‘Shark Tank’ episode aired.”
Most recently, he launched Mint, a device that measures oral health indicators like bacteria and hydration levels. Yim’s goal is to create a company that allows users to detect any sort of health issues by measuring their breath. His company is expected to reach profitability by the end of this year.
Having now attained financial freedom, Yim says that he doesn’t work for the money anymore.
“Ambition is temporary; purpose is what’s sustainable. The first two startups were all about ambition; this one is about purpose. I’ve achieved enough personal wealth that it’s not about ambition anymore. It’s about giving back and inspiring other entrepreneurs.”
For others who want to achieve the sort of success he has attained, Yim advised:
“Stay true to yourself, and let your passion guide you. It’s very easy in this world to get lost in the noise. I started back almost 15 years ago. It’s not like I chose to be an entrepreneur overnight. It was a process. I love the hustle at the end of the day. Find out what you’re good at and allow that to guide you. If you’re really passionate in what you do, trust me, you will get something out of it.”