What is it like being an Asian American entrepreneur? Before the age of 30, I started a company, played soccer for my university, met my wife, had two children, sold my company to Snapchat for $54 million, left all my belongings to start a travel show on YouTube and visited over 50 countries with my family.
Being Asian American wasn’t my weakness, it was my super power.
I meet and mentor many young Asian Americans who unfortunately feel their ethnicity will be an obstacle on their journey, that being Asian American makes them different in a world where they need to fit in with everyone else. The first thing I try to help them realize is just how valuable their background and ethnicity can be.
It sets them apart as unique which can be one of the most important, yet difficult things to accomplish for young entrepreneurs. Being Asian American isn’t their weakness, it’s their super power, too.
I don’t like stereotypes, but fortunately there are some awesome stereotypes surrounding Asian Americans. People stereotype Asian Americans to be smart, like next level smart, basically genius. People stereotype Asian Americans to be hard working, like crazy hard working, basically robots. And people stereotype Asian Americans to be good at dancing. Not sure what that has to do with entrepreneurship, but it’s quite true and it’s quite awesome.
One good example of my Asian American super power helping me along my entrepreneurial journey was during my efforts to grow my startup company by raising $7 million from venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Going in to these meetings I knew these VCs would have met with countless great entrepreneurs with great startups. I knew it would be important to stand out and rise above the rest. In my mind, I imagined each VC returning home and sitting at the dinner table with their spouse. “How was your day at work? Who stood out to you today?” I made it my goal to be that stand out. I wanted to be the entrepreneur that came to mind because my company was great, my pitch was memorable, and because I was different/special/unique/Asian American.
Raising $7 million was difficult. I was a new, young founder from a small town in Utah, USA. But I hustled up and down Silicon Valley leaving a memorable impression on every VC I met with. Soon enough, even those who hadn’t met with me in person had at least heard the buzz of some young Asian American who had way too much faith and confidence in his little startup. Not everyone decided to believe in me, but I’m forever grateful for those VCs who did. And it sure did pay off for them. Only three years later I sold my startup to Snapchat for $54 million, making it a home run investment for everyone involved. Just another win to prove to the world that there is something awesome and something special about being Asian American.
After selling my company I decided to push the reset button on my entrepreneurial life. Spending so much time on my business also meant spending a lot of time away from my wife and children. So, I decided to try something new. I now work as a family travel journalist. It’s a job title that I made up, but as long as people and companies are willing to pay me for it, then it’s a legit job. Together with my family, we travel the globe and seek out unique adventures, cultures, and service opportunities. We document our travels on Instagram and YouTube.
These travel adventures have led to another show called “Discovering Routes” where I was able to return to the land of my ancestors in the Philippines. For one month, I explored different cities, islands, and villages, learning more about my Filipino heritage by experiencing unique adventures, foods, and other traditions. It was a special adventure that taught me so much about myself, and I’ll forever be grateful for that.
So, what’s next? The great thing about an entrepreneurial life is the harder you work, the more each success can build on top of the last and bring about new bigger opportunities. I’m not really sure how these new ventures will turn out. I’m not sure how successful we can be as family travel journalists. But I’m confident and optimistic because I have a special super power to help me… I’m Asian American!
About the Author: Garrett Gee is a Filipino-American entrepreneur who manages the website The Bucket List Family. Gee is also the founder of Scan, a QR code-scanning app he sold to Snapchat in 2014 for $54 million.