Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business background.
“My parents were Vietnamese immigrant boat people. I was born and raised in Orange County, California and I’m now living between Miami Beach and Huntington Beach with my Frenchie. I founded my first business with my wife Veronica called InHouse, an appraisal management software company, from an apartment in Santa Ana that’s grown to over 1,000 contractors nationwide and have since exited that company.”
You call yourself a “social entrepreneur.” How is that different from a typical entrepreneur?
“My wife and I left InHouse a few years back, leaving the day to day management of the business. We wanted more than just money; we felt unfulfilled. A soul search led us to great people/organizations like Newman’s Own and Ben & Jerry’s which led us to the concept of a social entrepreneur. The industry has another definition for social entrepreneurship, but for us it’s about providing goods and services in a way that’s not only good for consumers, but it makes you accountable to your employees, vendors, customers, community and environment. We take the concept a step further by giving away 100% of our profits back to the world. For us, it’s about making money so we can give it all back. We call this a for-profit non-profit model.”
Tell us about your current project BeSmartee.
“The BeSmartee Foundation is a social enterprise using the power of business to solve the world’s largest problems. Our mission is to create a family of companies which generate hundreds of billions in profits annually where 100% of those profits are used to fund solutions to social, environmental, economic and business problems. Imagine a future eco-system where the money you spend not only pays for goods and services, but goes on to work to eliminate hunger, end poverty, cure cancer, extend life, explore new planets and eventually take us to different galaxies. Where you spend your money matters. To this end we startup, invest in, buy and run companies that can help BeSmartee change the world and make it a better place.
BeSmartee is our first startup and is an idea that came from the mortgage and housing crisis we experienced recently. It’s a revolutionary new way for consumers to get a home loan online, easy and transparently, all in about ten minutes. The team has been working hard on this project since January and expects to launch by the end of the year.”
You seem to have a deep passion in doing projects that drive social change. Did you ever only do it for just the money at any point in your life?
“If you asked me three years ago what I wanted to do, it was just to be filthy rich, but not anymore. It doesn’t fulfill your soul. Social change has always been a part of my DNA; I come from a family of social activists and it still lives within me. Three years ago my wife and I woke up and realized it just wasn’t worth it. When you ask yourself a question you will be given an answer, you just need to listen. My mom had breast cancer, we were working too much, we were stressed out, and for what? Money and power? We didn’t want to wake up one day and wonder what the hell happened to the last three years of our lives, so we decided to make a change and start pursuing what made us happy, and more importantly, what made a difference.”
You and your friend recently put up a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to buy the Clippers, how did you guys come up with the idea?
“I was juicing, a new habit the wife and I picked up, and the idea came to me. At first I said its too crazy. Later that night I just woke up and said, “Why the hell not?” If you dont do it, then you’ll never know what may have been. If you fail, then who cares? If you succeed, then awesome! I sent the idea to some friends and we built on it and just dived in head first. This campaign is BeSmartee’s third project that we put money into. The second is a goal planning software, Masterplan.”
Tell us why you love the Clippers so much. Where is the Lakers love?!
“I grew up an underdog. When we were growing up, we were already expected to fail even before we could have a chance to try. The Clippers just resonated with me. During those days it was Danny Manning and Ron Harper. I root for the Lakers too, unless they’re playing the Clips.”
How confident are you in that you will raise all the money?
“I never work on anything with any doubt whatsoever. Of course I believe we can do it, and if we don’t, then who cares? We already win just by trying. There are people volunteering their time, their money and their hearts to this cause. This is for the people. If the best thing we can do is make a statement, then maybe in ten years someone else can pull it off because we tried- that’s what it’s all about!”
Tell us a memorably mistake you made in the past and how that influenced who you are today?
“I think it’s important to know who you are, your strengths, and your weaknesses. When I was younger (I’m only 34, entrepreneurs grow quickly), I would let my aggression and ego get the best of me. Sometimes it would be an amazing success, and sometimes it was an utter failure. When you know yourself, everything will flow from the truth about you.”
What do you think is the key to success?
“Success is knowing who you are and why you fight so hard everyday. If it’s just for money, that passion will fizz out. But if its for something you’re willing to die for, you will never lose.”
What is your ultimate goal in life?
“Personally, I just want a happy and healthy family. Professionally, I want to set up BeSmartee for the next generation to build upon for a thousand years.”