By Ernabel Demillo, Host “Asian American Life”
Chieh Huang has come a long way from running his company out of his parent’s suburban New Jersey garage. He remembers when they were forced to move.
“The regular UPS delivery person thought our company had shut down,” he said.
But that’s not what happened. Huang and the co-founders of the company, Boxed Wholesale, needed more room – a lot of room. In just a few short months, their on-demand bulk goods delivery company moved into a massive warehouse, not too far away. Boxed now employs more than 100 people and distributes warehouse size goods out of three fulfillment centers nationwide.
Huang is one of a growing number of Asian American tech entrepreneurs who are bypassing the traditional route working for big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, and starting their own companies.
Asian Americans are thriving in the tech industry. AAPIs make up a large percentage of employees at tech giants in Silicon Valley (61% of Linkedin’s staff and 43% of Facebook’s). But when you move to the boardroom, you’ll see few AAPIs in leadership positions.
According to Ascend Leadership, a New York-based non-profit organization, at tech powerhouses White workers are two and half times more likely than Asian Americans to serve as executives.
Recently, several Asian American have been names to top positions. Notably, South Asians now head up Google (Sundar Pichai), Microsoft (Satya Narayana Nadella) and Adobe (Shantanu Narayen). And of course, there is Jerry Yang, founder of former CEO of Yahoo.
But according to recent diversity data released by tech companies, their key leaders are still mostly White. At Yahoo, for example, in 2015 Asians made up 61 percent of Yahoo’s workforce, with 19 percent in leadership positions. Meanwhile, Whites employees made up 31 percent of the workforce and hold 73 percent of the executive positions.
While Asian may find the boardroom hard to access, some have decided to run their own. There’s Jess Lee, CEO of Polyvore, Andrew Yang of Venture for American, and Huang.
Huang, a former gaming executive at Zynga, started Boxed in 2013, with three of his co-workers. The idea was to bring wholesale bulk goods right to people’s home, through a mobile app. It was an idea that took off. In just a little over two years, Boxed has grown from fulfilling orders in Huang’s parent’s garage to three warehouses and growing.
“It’s so interesting how technology has changed the world, in that, if you have a great idea, you execute well and it’s the right timing, then this could happen, in as little as two years, “ he said.
Boxed just received another $100 million in financing, which will help with the company’ rapid expansion. And Huang is doing more than just delivery bulk size detergent and paper towels. He recently made headlines when he announced that he would pay his employees’ childrens’ college tuition. Huang came from humble beginnings. His parents, Taiwanese immigrants, struggled to make ends meet when they first arrived to the U.S. But education was always an important pathway to success and that’s what Huang wants to pass on.
“I don’t want to be known, when all is said and done, for being a successful entrepreneur,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just want folks to say that that guy left the world or at least he tried to leave the world in a slightly better place than the one he entered into.”
To see more of Huang’s story watch this month’s Asian American Life. Our March shows features Asian American leaders and innovators in social media and technology.
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