Andrew Chau, Deuki Hong, Rosa Li: “Heritage & Startups” | Talks at Google

Andrew Chau, Deuki Hong, Rosa Li: “Heritage & Startups” | Talks at Google


[AUDIENCE APPLAUDING] SPEAKER 1: Thanks, Eric. We have Andrew Chau here. Andrew is the
co-founder of Boba Guys. Andrew founded Boba Guys in
2011 with his friend, Ben, which we met, when they
were working at Timbuk2. And then we have Rosa
in the center here. Rosa is the founder
and CEO of Tea Crush, a tea-based functional
beverage brand. Before starting her
company, she was in private equity and a venture
investor at Warburg Pincus. And Rosa also holds an MBA
from Stanford Graduate School of Business. And then, at the end,
we have Deuki Hong. Deuki is a Korean-American chef. In 2017 he launched the
Sunday Hospitality Group, which includes concepts
like Sunday Bird and Sunday at the Museum inside the Asian
Art Museum in San Francisco. He’s been recognized on the
Forbes 30 Under 30 list. And I know this embarrasses
you, but I’m still going to call it out. Deuki was also on People
Magazine’s Top 10 Hottest Chefs in America. [AUDIENCE APPLAUDS
ENERGETICALLY] DEUKI HONG: Thank
you, I’m out of here. SPEAKER 1: So I’m really
excited to have you guys here. Thank you all for coming. The audience got to
sample some of the food from your businesses. How was it? Did you guys like it? [AUDIENCE REACTS POSITIVELY] DEUKI HONG: Boba. Boba. SPEAKER 1: So why
don’t we get started. Each of you guys kind
of took a leap of faith to start your business
and your career, and we kind of want to
talk about that journey. So why don’t we
start with you, Rosa? We talked about you
were in venture capital and it seems like you had
a successful career there. What made you decide to start
your own business in tea? ROSA LI: Food has always
been a big part of my life and a big part of our culture. So I spent my
childhood in China. My grandma used to brew
these herbal tonics for me, for my immunity and
various health benefits, that were really nasty. I don’t think I’ve ever threw
up drinking these herbal tonics, but they are really
hard to swallow. And they stink up
an entire room. But they’re really
good for you, so I wanted to make a lot of
these functional herbs and teas accessible
to the masses, which means making them delicious. So that’s really
what inspired it. It’s kind of going
back to the root. But I actually did not
plan to be an entrepreneur. I actually applied
to business school, thinking that I would
actually go into investing in emerging markets. I had done some investing saying
in China before, just thinking, hey, I want to go to Asia. So after business school,
I did actually go to Asia. And I worked with a
bunch of consumer product start-ups on the side
while just exploring. And I ended up just touring
a lot of tea shops and tea farms on my own,
just out of interest. And decided, hey, instead
of investing I should just bring some of this tea back. That’s how I started, from
private equity to food. SPEAKER 1: Cool. And Deuki, I know at 15 you
started off as a line cook in some restaurants in New York. At such a young
age, did you know that this was kind of
the career you wanted? And how did you kind
of navigate that? And maybe talk
about your parents, how did they feel about you
working at a restaurant at 15? DEUKI HONG: Yeah,
I think– oh, hi. I think mine’s less
of a leap of faith, because I think it was somewhat
of a natural progression. Yeah, I started
cooking pretty young. I kind of dug one hole
for a really long time, for half my life now. And for me I just had
an opportunity, I think, my whole kind of testimony as a
whole is that I just meet maybe at the right place
at the right time, say yes more than I say no. f my baseball coach, I was,
like, really into baseball because I thought I could
play baseball for a career. I can’t, but my baseball coach
was this famous restaurateur, and he got me my start. And was like, dude if
you want to cook, great. If you don’t, great, you
can come to my restaurant. And I kind of fell in love. So yeah, when I was in
high school my after school and all my breaks were spent
in restaurant kitchens. And then I went to
culinary school, and then worked in some
awesome restaurants, fine-dining restaurants. Got to open up my own
kind of Korean barbecue restaurant in New
York, and that’s kind of where I
guess a lot of people started caring about
what I was doing. That was great, that was an
incredible time in my life. It was a really hard time in
my life, but it was awesome. And then I came out
here a couple of years ago to start Sunday
Hospitality, which was, I think, after 13 years
I just kind of wanted to start my own thing. But I’m pretty young and I
don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what
I’m doing here. [LAUGHTER] But we’ll go with it. Yeah, we’ll go with it
and hopefully it’ll be OK. ANDREW CHAU: He hasn’t
been on a tech campus, so you should see him in
the cafeteria this morning. DEUKI HONG: Dude, you
all have it so legit. I didn’t go to a real college
like half of you guys, or all. Is that a prerequisite to be a– I don’t know, you guys
are smarter than I am is what I’m trying to o say. You got, like, Berkeley
here, you got Stanford here. I went to a cooking
school, sorry. [LAUGHTER] Like, why you guys
brought me here to impart any type of
anything is laughable. ANDREW CHAU: So all
this food is free? [LAUGHTER] DEUKI HONG: You can come again? You can refill? SPEAKER 1: He’s going to be
back here tomorrow, I hear. DEUKI HONG: You’ll see me. You’ll just see me around
going, hey, it’s free. SPEAKER 1: And so why
don’t we turn to you. So you actually came from tech. You had a career here in the
Bay Area and Silicon Valley. And I know you kind of developed
the concept for Boba Guys when you were at Timbuk2. So how did you make
that transition from being in tech, like all
of us to in the audience, and then creating your own
business with Boba Guys? ANDREW CHAU: Yeah, It’s crazy. I think it’s probably a
blend of Rosa and Deuki’s. And I’ve known
them both, I mean, I’m one of Deuki’s
business partners and Rosa I’ve seen
from the beginning. ROSA LI: For a while. ANDREW CHAU: We used to
watch each other’s startup. We’re in the same kind
of founder network. And I would just say, a
lot of Boba Guys’ story, and a lot of it’s
already been out there, so I don’t want to
rehash kind of the lore of it, is that we started as a pop-up. So I just want to say
it, right off the bat, it doesn’t mean that Boba Guys
was not, like, a sure thing. People are always like, oh,
you started the next, like, the Asian Starbucks. And you guys are like this
thing, and I’m like, no. I didn’t know what I was doing
for the first three stores. I didn’t quit my full-time
job until the third store. People don’t know that, or
maybe now everybody knows that. And so it means I shaved
five years off my life, I bet, working those 100-hour
weeks in the first three years. But how it even began was, I
was just kind of frustrated. And, actually, this month
is always a reminder of why we started Boba Guys. I went to another school– and, go Bears. [LAUGHTER] I went through
undergrad and grad, so just how much you
know how foolish I am to go to public school twice. And so when I was coming out
of grad school, I did my MBA. I was actually supposed
to do venture capital, and I remember spending a summer
with my uncle in Shanghai. And there’s this expat
area, called [INAUDIBLE],, which is this expat. And there’s a
Haagen-Dazs at the time, and my uncle lives
up kind of above it. And we’re looking down
and I’m like, oh, I thought Asian people can’t
eat ice cream because they’re lactose intolerant, or whatever. And I kind of knew, but I
didn’t know it was so popular, and it was killing it. And then he goes, he calls
me [NON-ENGLISH],, he goes, [NON-ENGLISH],, Andrew, you
should learn a little more. Americans know very
little about Asia, and we know a lot about America. You should bring back culture. And I said what do you
mean bring back culture? And he was saying how
Starbucks was really killing it and emerging
in Japan and in China. And he goes, bring your
stuff, our stuff, back home. And I was like,
what do you mean? And I thought about
that for years. And when I was
with my co-founder, Ben, at Timbuk2,
we thought we were going to do an apparel
line, because we come from more of an
apparel fashion background. And before that I
ran CRM at Walmart, so I was at a tech CRM
predictive modeling background, super nerdy Asian stuff. And then I did more,
like, apparel clothing, and then so maybe I was going
to go toward consumer product goods. So long story short,
we were drinking, we don’t drink alcohol really,
so we were, like, drinking boba every single time. Like, I wonder what
the idea should be– [LAUGHTER] Should we do like– like, you know, which our
friend started Dsptch. If you know your fashion,
Dsptch accessories and bags, our friend, Rich, started that. And we’re like, maybe
it would be like, his. What he was doing. But long story short, we’re
like, why don’t we do boba? And we saw Blue Bottle and
Phil’s doing really well. This is 2011, when
Boba Guys came out. And we’re like, why
don’t we just make– you know, we hear that
we’re hipster boba, we get that we’re bougie boba. But we were just
like, why don’t we just do boba, but for everyone? And that was really
the premise of it. And we said, you
know, if Haagen-Dazs, if Starbucks can go to
Asia, we can go backwards. We can go the other way. And why don’t we make
boba less about– people think Asian people are
like, stealthy, and shady, and don’t pay well,
and not clean. I was like, let’s
blow that all up. And that was the
beginning of Boba Guys. Now we’re 15 stores later,
at the end of the year it’ll be 20 stores, homegrown. You know, we have our friends
and family, that’s all we got. And never been done, actually. In-N-Out is probably–
but that’s 40 years. Everybody else,
Phil, Blue Bottle, everybody’s taken venture
money, and we haven’t. And so a lot of the stuff
I’ll talk about probably today is it’s purely passion. We never did it for this
cash exit or anything. SPEAKER 1: Cool. So you mentioned about
family and their support. So, May is Asian-American
Pacific Islander Heritage Month. So [INAUDIBLE] has
held a lot of events throughout the month,
kind of celebrating some of the accomplishments
of Asian-Americans in the industry, well as putting
on programming to support the community here at Google. So, can you share a little
bit about your background, your upbringing? How that’s impacted
you and your careers, how has your family
impacted your business? We’d love to hear
more about that. [INTERPOSING VOICES] [LAUGHTER] DEUKI HONG: Is it like in order? ANDREW CHAU: You
start, you start. SPEAKER 1: Let’s go with Deuki. DEUKI HONG: Like,
I cook for a living so my parents aren’t, like– maybe some of your successful–
like, they’re not that strict. I tell everybody,
it’s not a joke, I moved out to San Francisco
and my mom found out I think three months after? She just called me and is
like, Deu, where you been? [LAUGHTER] Like, I moved to San Francisco. Oh OK, take care. I think it– and
I say it again, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m
doing if my parents weren’t who they were. They were not– my dad
didn’t graduate high school. My mom thinks she
graduated high school. [LAUGHTER] Suspect, we got
to check that out. They’re not academics,
they just work hard and they just wanted good
stuff for me and my sister. And they were very hands off. They couldn’t not be hands off,
they’re always working, right? So I never saw them in morning,
I never saw them at night. I just saw them on the
weekends here and there. But I got to cook and I
found a lot of my outlet through being with
a kitchen, a team. I really like the people
element of a kitchen. If you guys have ever–
don’t ever work in a kitchen, but if you just look
from outside in, there’s a lot of camaraderie
and it’s like a family, right? So I think I kind
of sought my family with, like, kind of other
dudes and rough people. And I just felt at home, I
felt like their younger brother and whatnot. My parents, my dad, I shared
this with you like another talk prior, but I shared– my dad only taught
me two things, told me to do two things. Was that whatever you do, just
try to be really good at it, just try to be the best at it. And then number two, don’t
hurt people in the process. And that was it. He– we barely talk. Like, but we love each other! [LAUGHTER] When people hear it– ANDREW CHAU: Asian love. Like oh, what’s
your sister up to? Oh my gosh, I have no clue. But we all love each
other in a very Asian way. [LAUGHTER] But yeah, I would not be able to
do what I do if I didn’t– if I had to do it all over again,
I would want the same moms and dad. My sister is up in the air. She doesn’t really
have a– but yeah. SPEAKER 1: So you probably
shouldn’t share this recording with her after this? DEUKI HONG: My mom only
speaks Korean, so it’s OK. SPEAKER 1: OK. [LAUGHTER] DEUKI HONG: As long as you guys
don’t subtitle it, we’re good. [LAUGHTER] ANDREW CHAU: OK, I
feel like, man, we’re talking about family. I feel like we’re
talking about it, we should actually take
our shoes off right now and make it a little
more comfortable. DEUKI HONG: So comfy. ANDREW CHAU: Has that
ever been done in a talk? SPEAKER 1: I don’t think
it has, but you can start. [LAUGHTER] ANDREW CHAU: I might,
actually, right after this. I think for me–
both my co-founder and I have a very
similar immigrant story. So probably a lot of
people in the room, no matter even
what ethnicity you are, the immigrant
story for our parents, like many other people
in that generation, was fleeing a war-torn
country, right? So my parents were– my dad
is from Guangzhou, which is this this Southern China. If you speak Cantonese,
it’s that area. And he was one of
the Freedom Swimmers. He swam from South China to
Hong Kong, which at the time was a British colony. And then he came
to US as a refugee. There’s about
60,000 people, they say, that are Freedom Swimmers. So he was one of them, a lot
of them are in San Francisco, by the way, if you want
to do your Asian history. And he just was very
stoic, like Deuki’s dad. And when I was– ROSA LI: All Asian parents. [LAUGHING] ANDREW CHAU: Asian
parents in general, yeah. We can just have a
group therapy session. [LAUGHTER] Asian parents, they don’t
talk, never say I love you, but they do acts of service
as their love language. So when I entertained the
idea of doing food business, I actually grew up
in the food business. When I was a kid in
Jersey, we had a restaurant called Hunan Palace. We had different
restaurants, but I grew up in the restaurant industry. And so I always was
told not to do food. That’s actually one
thing from my parents, was like, don’t ever do food! It’s why we can make
a living, but you should be better than that,
and all that kind of stuff. Which was not the case
because I obviously end up in your industry. But ultimately, they just
wanted me to not work as hard, and me to focus
maybe using my brain instead of my lack of brawn. And so when Boba
Guys started, they were actually really upset. And then my mom, who’s
Taiwanese, got mad because if you know– who’s
Taiwanese in the room? Taiwan number one? OK. [LAUGHTER] Taiwan, the country of Taiwan– I’m going to get
political on the camera. [LAUGHTER] They are a country, because
they are the first country to legalize LGBT, right? [AUDIENCE RESPONDS POSITIVELY] So there you go. So what my mom said, you know
you call yourself boba guy. Do you know what
that means, Andrew? And I’m like, what? And for those who don’t
know, to bridge cultures, it means breasts. It means boobs. And I really didn’t
know, that’s a true story I did not know
until we named it. I was like mom, I already
bought the domain name. [LAUGHTER] So she goes, oh Andrew,
you’re so stupid or whatever. And then I actually
asked Ben, my co-founder, I said, hey, my mom says
that in Taiwanese slang boba means boobs. And then he goes, yeah, I know. [LAUGHTER] I’m like, why wouldn’t
you say anything. And he’s full Taiwanese,
and so that was the least of her disappointment. [LAUGHTER] And then, so she was like, why
would you go into the industry? And then, you know, I’ll save
the drama, we had a long talk. And ultimately it came down to
my dad said, you know, I swam and fled to America
for a reason. And it was about what you
would call freedom out here. And ultimately if I
forced you what to do, and I went to Berkeley
as an MCB major, and he thought I was flunking
when I changed majors. I was like no, I just
don’t like chemistry. My GPA was fine, I just like
business and sociology, which is what I studied at Berkeley. And they basically said,
just do what you love, on me. I came here for what you
would want call freedom. So just be free. If I stayed in China,
then I would tell you exactly what to do. But that’s not what
we do here in America. So my dad, of all
people, said that to me and now we call it the
new American dream where I think most of these
immigrant parents prefer that you– that’s why
you have the John M. Chu’s, and the Allen Yang’s, and
these amazing artists. And Deuki Hong’s is because
you have the parents– [LAUGHTER] Get that top chef, People. He’s modest about his accolades,
but a lot of these emerging generation people are
there because their parents actually endorsed and
supported their dreams. Which for them was very
foreign, but they understand in America that to trap us into
kind of like this path is not what they came here for. So I think all of us in
this room, a lot of us are within that
second generation. And I think we owe it to our
parents to kind of, like, make the best of
their sacrifices. SPEAKER 1: Rosa, how about you? Did you have a similar– [INTERPOSING VOICES] ROSA LI: Story in terms of
having immigrant parents. And, obviously, a lot
of immigrant families, they really value
financial stability. And you know, it’s like
with my parents at least, there’s usually a hierarchy of
jobs that they view as, like, what’s best for you. And if you’re not smart enough
to be a doctor or engineer, then you go to finance,
which is what I did. I didn’t actually grow
up with my parents, I grew up with my grandparents. So growing up I’ve always
been very independent, so I’ve made all my decisions. My grandparents didn’t
really go to school, so they didn’t really
care about what I wanted to do with my time. And, to them, it’s more
like, hey, you’re not sick? Great. And then, you’re well fed? Great. That’s all they care about. [LAUGHTER] Which was great for
me because I basically chose whatever I wanted to do. So I’ve always been
very independent and somewhat stubborn. And after business school,
I decided to kind of figure out what I want to do. Not go back finance. And my parents, up until this
day, it’s been five years, they still send me emails
every once in a while be like, this person’s managing
Warren Buffet’s money. Maybe you should think
about vault management. [LAUGHTER] Just passive-aggressively,
you know. But I mean, I know that they
obviously do it all with care. It’s just a very different
way of viewing the world and doing what’s best for you. But I think by this
time they’ve realized I’m stubborn enough
to not listen and just go with my own decisions. So they’re, like,
calling me, being like, so if you’re super
busy, maybe we can help you deliver some teas. [AUDIENCE RESPONDS ADORINGLY] Yeah, so that was cute. But I do think
that, you know, it is hard for a lot of
Asian-American kids to venture into the food world. Just because when
you think of, like, a lucrative career, food doesn’t
exactly come to mind first. But, you know, I think
it is such a big part of our heritage, of our culture. And people start to
appreciate more of that now. SPEAKER 1: So this
is the first time that we’ve put together a
panel like this of AAPIs kind of in the food
industry in the Bay Area. What do you think are the
biggest obstacles of why we don’t see more
people like you starting their own businesses? Maybe there’s some
of us in the crowd that want to quit Google
and join you guys. What do you guys think? DEUKI HONG: You guys
have it so good here. [LAUGHTER] ANDREW CHAU: I
think it’s because of the free food, that’s why. DEUKI HONG: What’s
wrong with y’all? ANDREW CHAU: You
got massage places. [LAUGHTER] DEUKI HONG: That’s
where I’m going after. ANDREW CHAU: I
would say I might– I agree a little
bit, but I might challenge that a little bit. I think it depends
on the industry. We were talking
about this earlier at lunch, where it depends
on what industry you’re in. So in the food industry, and in
the fashion, and possibly tech, you actually see very
strong representation for AAPIs in those
industries, right? We all kind of see that. And in entertainment,
we’re literally starting to see
the wave right now. As we see after “Crazy Rich
Asians,” and a bunch of us saw “Always Be My
Maybe” last night. And that’s kind of,
like, the next wave. And then left behind,
I would argue still, finance, like top of the
finance, and politics. And I think– so I would
say the food is actually probably leading the
representation wave. Watch “Chef’s Table,” watch
“Street Food,” watch all the– we happen to share the
same editor in our book, like Francis Lamb. Like, we’re all
Penguin Randomhouse. And look at who’s writing books,
Chrissy Teigen. Like everybody is Asian a part
Asian, or something like there’s something– The food is very on
trend, right now. So I would say
you’re going to see a lot of the entrepreneurs,
all the top chefs that are like Deuki. They are– [LAUGHTER] DEUKI HONG: Thank you. ANDREW CHAU: There’s a love
fest up here, I dig that. We all go way back. I think there is kind of a wave. Now the question is, is why
aren’t there still more? And I do think it has to do
with your opportunity costs. I mean, you guys in
the room, you guys are going to have to cut
your salaries by a third, like I did, when I
went from a full time– I was a director
at a corporate job, into a full-time Boba Guys. And I think that’s cutting
my salary into a third. And I think that is
a really hard choice for people in Silicon Valley. But if you look out
across the nation, you see food
entrepreneurs everywhere. Watch “Food Truck Race,” you
know, watch any of those shows. It’s all these Asian-Americans
leading those shows now. So I do think it’s coming. What we need to fight
for, I would argue, is likely the representation
maybe in media content. And then, arguably,
our friend joining– I’m not going to get
political, but like, we have an Asian-American
friend who’s running for president right now. So that’s kind of where
the world where we need to drag them over to the
fashion culture side. A lot of culture right now in
Asian-American representation is really strong. [INTERPOSING VOICES] ROSA LI: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] DEUKI HONG: I think
for me, in terms of why– well first of all,
don’t come into the food industry, please. [LAUGHTER] I’m looking at
everyone, and, like, eye-to-eye be, like, guys. No, seriously though. [LAUGHTER] I think also what Chau
may not have mentioned, or why they don’t– I don’t understand
what the question was, but I think, for me, what I
appreciate from our industry and maybe not so Asians– like,
Asians are super competitive. I’m not one that believes
in competing with food, but what I really
appreciated, like this guy is like my big brother. You know, he’s, like, my mentor. So it’s kind of weird
sitting on the same. Trying to impart the same, and
we did one, like, last week. I think the whole
mentorship kind of is not– maybe it is in Asian culture. But maybe also it’s not,
because our parents’ generation was so busy just
surviving and kind of providing for their own. So they’re not looking at,
like, all right this young kid and trying to impart
any type of wisdom, or trying to help
him out, right? I think now, maybe we’re
at the generation where we have to kind of be the
opportunity just look up and see who we can inspire. Like inspiring the
next was not a thing that I even cared about. You know, I’ll say I
want to do cool concepts. I want to serve
people, and that’s it. It wasn’t like let’s go help. And he does, like,
he really does. And Ben, too. I’ve really– what
I gained the most, I’m actually from New York. I moved here two years ago, and
what I think I gained the most is definitely, like, older– not even age-wise, just
more wise mentorship. And for me, I think
getting Asians kind of normalizing
mentorship, and people like– honestly a lot of the
Jewish people in New York, they do it so well. Like, they always have
their little circle, and they’re kind of like,
oh, meet my son that– and then they have their thing. And I think, for
me, if we kind of normalize and make that
a part of our culture, whether in food or tech. Or you guys all made right
decisions in your life. Like, having mentors or seeking
mentors, so it goes both ways. Being a mentor, but
also when you’re kind of in a position
to be hungry to learn and seeking mentors, right? I go to people that I
respect and I’m just, like, can I be your friend? [LAUGHTER] Be my friend? And I do it pretty shamelessly. Shamefully? Shame– however way
you want to look at it. So, for me, I think that you
grow within whatever industry. But especially food it’s great,
because it’s great that Sunday, and I’m so glad that
Sunday Hospitality started in San Francisco, which when I
started cooking I was always, like, it’s going to start in New
York, I’m a New York City chef. But I love it that I get to
see Chau run his company. And Ben run his company. And it really is
something that to me, I notice how invaluable it is. I have people call
me to talk to him, and for him, he’s
just a text away. He’s just a call away. So for me, the last
two years, I think, I’ve grown just as much
as in the 13 years prior. So hopefully normalizing
or making mentorship a part of our culture. ANDREW CHAU: I think
that’s just super profound. Can I add something? I think for this audience,
I think a lot of people don’t realize,
there’s a little bit of Inside Baseball here, or
Inside Food Talk in “Kitchen Confidential” stuff. But what I don’t think
maybe the committee realizes that, like,
the big three everybody talks about in the food
world is, like, the big bros. They’re like the godfathers. It’s Roy Choi, Eddie
Huang, and David Chang. And you came out of Momofuku. And a bunch of us, we all grew
up, we all know each other. And then through them,
they kind of for me– I just openly tell people
a lot of Boba Guys’ eats, those came out of
Eddie, Eddie Huang. And if you’ve noticed
our social justice spin, I got that from Eddie. And Eddie’s been like my
daga, like my big bro. And I think, whether
it’s me to Deuki, or the guy who owns Humphrey
Slocum, who you know. as well. He’s an Asian guy. His name is Hanson Lee. He is the behind the scenes. He’s the guy who runs all of
Atelier Ten, the Crenn Group. Dominque Crenn’s person who runs
everything, is an Asian guy. Hanson Lee, who’s our mentor. He is the one who
kind of lifted me up and allowed me
to kind of bring other people under our wing. And I think what the
community doesn’t see is, and I want you guys to
be very encouraged, is that that’s actually
happening every day now. And I would say five, 10
years ago, it was not. And now people are like,
how come– you even see our Instagram’s
everybody knows each other It’s because
there is this kind of, like, good momentum. This cycle, that’s actually
feeding each other, that allows us to be
like supporting Rosa. And Rosa sells this in the
Sunday at the Museum right now. And Boba Guys is sold in
some of the tech offices that have friends that were
executives at the tech offices. Because I grew– I grew up in roughly
Silicon Valley, and I went to college
with these people. And it’s crazy, and I
think that’s what I want you guys to be encouraged in. That’s actually what’s
making the food world work, and it’s just
promoting this idea of, we call it abundance mindset,
which is like, there’s so much to go around. And in the AAPI
community, historically, was we were always
fighting each other. And there was what you call
scarcity mindset, where there’s not enough to go around. And I think this whole
abundance mindset is allowing us to look
at from the top where Chang, Troy, Huang, they’re
creating these proteges. And the proteges are
now creating more, and it’s creating a cycle, which
is why it’s dominating content, it’s dominating the
food scene, and I really think it belongs to kind
of, like, the leaders who started this all. SPEAKER 1: You guys have spoken
a lot about kind of mentorship, and there’s been
people in your lives who’ve kind of helped you today. Can you talk a little bit– I know from some of
our conversations, you guys are involved in
some community organizations in the Bay Area. Can you talk about
how you guys are kind of giving
back, whether it’s in the food community
or even outside of that? [GUESTS WHISPER QUIETLY] [LAUGHTER] DEUKI HONG: Your turn. ROSA LI: OK. I do think– so, I guess
back to mentorship, I was going to say that
in food in general, I do think people are a
lot more collaborative. People who are in
food are definitely passionate about food,
because otherwise he wouldn’t choose to be in this industry. So I actually do
find that there’s a lot more collaboration going
on in this industry than, like, where I come
from, which is finance. So people are just
generally more cutthroat. It’s kind of like you’re
competing for the pie, in other words. Here, I don’t have–
like, we as Tea Crush, we actually work with
various organizations. So when I first
started, I worked with actually one of Andrew
and my mutual friends, Alan. He started a nonprofit that
helps to employ single moms, and we worked together
to employ the moms and provide skills for them. And we also donate our products
to food banks around the Bay area, especially around
the holiday season. So we’ve actually
doing a lot of– I can’t remember the count,
but it’s probably, like, close to even 10,000
bottles of products to various communities in need. So that’s just how
we spread the word, and also support the
community around us. ANDREW CHAU: Well,
I guess maybe for– Deuki and I, because we have
one of our business entities together, we do a lot in
different ways under, like, Boba Guys’ inked umbrella group. We’re vertically integrated. If you guys don’t
know, the boba you’re having is made in Hayward. So we actually have a
manufacturing company called US Boba
Company, where we make the boba in the United States. First ever, never been done. And then, we have a tea
company called Tea People, where we source our own teas. And then we have Boba
Guys, the retail, which is what most people know. And under that group, we open a
Boba Guys, everybody knows this by now, we have 15 stores
with four more coming. Every single one, the
opening weekend profits has been going to a nonprofit. So whether with North Bay Fire
Relief, usually do something called Little Brothers, which is
a friends of the elderly, which is in San Francisco. We did something with
some environmental stuff, because a lot of people know
us or hate us for the straw ban thing that we did, where we
helped lead the whole straw ban, I guess, revolution on
getting rid of plastic straws. So I think, for us, we’re at
the the point where financially, yes, we can help a lot. And we’re food people. In food you don’t have
a lot of great margins. I can tell you it’s not
capital, like financial capital that we use. Our currency is the
actual food itself. So we do a ton of in kind. I mean, when I do
the write-offs, I think we’re in
the, like, probably 50s, I would say almost
100K in write-offs nowadays to AAPI events
that we generally do. And I think if you guys– another encouragement
to the AAPI community, as you guys, maybe– not encouraging
you guys to start something outside of Google. But if you guys do leave
Google or do your own thing, and you guys create your own
company, the one thing that I wish the AAPI
community did more, aside from mentorship,
or in addition to, is kind of, like, the
charitability piece. And that’s not
generally something you see in Eastern culture, right? You see that in Western culture. You don’t see that
in Asian culture. In Asian culture, it’s
more about the family. And I think it’d be
great because it’ll create this larger,
better perception of what Asian businesses do
for the community. So people know at Boba Guys,
I’m really involved in politics, so I do a lot of
stuff with Access to Capital, Representation
Immigration. I was just in D.C. two
weeks ago, lobbying. And then a lot of
people know that we support the arts, a lot. So we have some movie directors,
like Chris, in the room. And we support a lot
of the Arts Committee. And we know a lot of the
arts, because they actually have even less money
than food people. So we– [LAUGHTER] They’re always like, free food? I’ll come! And I was, like, wow. I can get an A-lister,
just for free food. That’s kind of interesting. So I think– again,
I think the theme– maybe if there was one thing
I wanted to get across, is that the community
is really rich, and it’s just all about
this positive cycle that we’re trying to get going. SPEAKER 1: So, we have
a few minutes left. So with that I wanted to open up
to questions from the audience. If there’s any other questions? We have mic runner. ANDREW CHAU: Do I
have good socks on? OK, good. [LAUGHTER] SPEAKER 1: OK, So– we’re getting comfy. AUDIENCE: Hey, guys. So this is for the whole panel. One of the things I’m sure many
of the people in this room, I also went to Cal. ANDREW CHAU: Go Bears! AUDIENCE: You kind of came from
a place where career was, like, your big focus all
through school. You go out of school, trying
to be a doctor, engineer, and there’s always
focus on career success. And it seems like for
all of you on the panel, that you kind of took
a different route. So I want to know, in
terms of motivation, why decide to do what you guys– like, what motivated
you to, like, OK, I’m not going to stay
in finance or investing, and I actually want to do this. What was that
motivation for you guys? ROSA LI: For me, it was just
doing something I’m personally passionate about. I worked with a few product
start-ups on the side during business school. And, to me, it was
fascinating working on a tangible product,
especially something– you know, starting something
is really hard. And I think a lot people
only see one side of it, is whatever is in the press. And what you don’t see is
all hard work behind that. So you end up giving up on
a lot of the personal life and social life. So I do think you have to
think very hard about, like, what’s something that you’re
really passionate about? And it’s funny, because my uncle
actually after business school, I was having this debate in
my mind should I go back, you know, just do whatever
I’ve been doing really well in. And, you know, I gave
up a lot of money. I know, just to do this. It’s actually been seven
years since I drew a salary. So I have not been paying
myself, which is kind of crazy. But I do think that
my uncle was actually a researcher on
finding one’s passion. That’s literally– he’s one
of the top people in academia researching passion, and he
basically said, you know, with passion, it’s not something
you just sit here and think about, and you find it. Passion is kind of
one of those things where you’re going to have
to do things on the side. And you can be passionate about
something that you’re bad at. So it’s OK to try different
things along the way. And eventually,
you’ll figure out what you’re good at, what
you’re really passionate about. And so for me, it was
kind of just, you know, I’ve done well in finance. To me, that’s not something I’m
personally passionate about. I wanted to do something
that has a root cause to it, and food is something I love. Yeah, so it’s kind
of just figuring out, you know, how do I really
want to spend my time? DEUKI HONG: I think for me,
I’m not a chef that, like– like my mom’s a horrible cook. [LAUGHTER] Sorry, she’s not
going to see this. Like, I didn’t have that
food– like, I don’t go crazy over heirloom tomatoes. My first love is restaurants. Ultimately the core of it is
that I love serving people. I think concepts and food. And to have an
awesome restaurant, you need to serve good food,
henceforth I am into food. But if it was like– if
I figured out drinks, like I think this is the
smartest guy in the room. He’s like wait, you sell water. Essentially you’re
selling water. [LAUGHTER] [ANDREW SHUSHES DEUKI] Somebody told me
if you really want to do well in the business,
you got to sell water. I was, like, oh my
gosh, that’s Chau. It’s so annoying, you know? So for me, like,
it’s the fact that I get to do that in
many different ways. Sunday, smaller companies–
you have, like, what? 300-plus people now
in your company? ANDREW CHAU: I
think we have 350. DEUKI HONG: Yeah,
it’s a huge company. Hate them. Love them. [LAUGHTER] But boba– Sunday Boba–
or Sunday at the– Sunday Group. [LAUGHTER] Sorry, that’s our,
like, company name. ANDREW CHAU: The company
LLC is Sunday Boba. DEUKI HONG: We, we have
a LLC with Sunday Boba. So it’s 15 people, right? And I love that I get to go
and just, like, serve them, you know? And I realized at a
certain point it’s not to make the best next dish. I can do it, but my thing
is teaching somebody to do it better than me
and do it consistently. So when your role
changes, my motivation is that 15 people
becomes 30 people. And then it becomes 100 people. I would love to just
have a company– a month ago, our mentor Hanson
said don’t build a restaurant. Because I was
complaining to him. He was, like, don’t build a
restaurant, build a company. And I never thought
about it that way, because I didn’t, like,
go to college and stuff. Like, you know, I went
to– any Culinary Institute of America people here? No? Go, Bears! We’re not bears. [LAUGHTER] ANDREW CHAU: Do
they have a mascot? DEUKI HONG: Yeah, the Steels. OK done, we’re not
talking about it. You know the– yeah. I don’t want to talk about
it, really embarrassing. ANDREW CHAU: It’s
cooler than bears. DEUKI HONG: But for
me, motivating, I think ultimately it’s people. We serve people at
the end of the day. Yes, we make awesome
product, but the core of it in whatever shape or form,
whatever concept it comes in, I believe I’m in the people
business moreso than the food business. SPEAKER 1: Did we have
any questions on the Dory? Oh, OK. AUDIENCE: A lot of
Asians living in America feel the need to balance
between embracing their and their parents’
culture, versus fitting in with the American culture. Is that something that
any of you struggle with? And, if so, how do
you deal with it? ANDREW CHAU: I’ll
say right away if you look at my personal Instagram,
I literally just wrote about it. Where we’re part of this
campaign with our friends, because they’re a big amplifier
as a Panda Express group. So a lot of people
are like, what Boba Guys and Panda Express? Well, we do get along. [LAUGHTER] For the record, especially
if it’s recorded. Go panda. [LAUGHTER] You’re like a bear, right? Is that their campaign
is the hyphen, I’m technically one
of the ambassadors. And I’ve actually read a
lot, it’s just really funny. When we did the
campaign, a lot people were like, especially
everywhere else in America, you know, you shouldn’t
have a hyphen, you’re not Asian-American. We’re all Americans. And I’ve heard
that, argument and I didn’t know how crazy it was. If you read the comments,
that’s literally what’s going on in Panda
Express’ comment page. And I’m reading these articles
that are about the campaign. And I didn’t realize there
was an anti-hyphen thing. I was like, wow! That’s, like, hard
to like, I didn’t know it’s that offensive. And I think about
now, I actually think we should embrace
living in the hyphen. I used to be like, hey,
if I was just Asian– I’m too Asian, and
obviously I’m kind of assertive I talk
like I’m Italian, because I grew up in Jersey. So, like, I know, Jersey kids. So I didn’t feel fully Asian. Because my Asian
friends were like, man, you too crazy for me. And for my white friends,
because of the way I look, obviously
I’m like, I don’t know what clam chowder is. And so– [LAUGHTER] I have to think about– I really did. We have a whole chapter
about this in our book. I didn’t know there was
two types of clam chowder, and I had my grandpa make me
the wrong ones all the time. There’s a red and a
white, I didn’t know that. And so, I think at
the end of the day, we should embrace
being the hyphen. Because you can be
Asian and American. Why can’t we be both, right? And why can’t we be
African and American? Hispanic and American? Indian and American? I don’t get– you don’t say
the same about student-athlete. Are you a student or an athlete? Well, you’re both. [LAUGHTER] Actor, writer,
director, you know? Like, are you actor,
or writer, or director? I’m like, how about
you be all of them. You could just change your
mindset in any given moment. And I think that’s
actually how I feel like we should
think about assimilation and all that kind of stuff. And when I look
back at my life, I was always ashamed
of the hyphen. And I think now, I’m like, the
hyphen is what the world needs. The hyphen, all of us in
this room, a lot of us are probably hyphens. We’re the ones
holding it together. If there was World
War III and all of a sudden it’s between the
US and China, I’m like, dude, it’s a person who
speaks both languages. [LAUGHTER] And I help with trade policies. I’ll actually know,
because I do tariff trades and stuff like that. I actually live
between two worlds. Now we should embrace that. So the whole assimilation
thing, I’d rather see it as not like
a this or that, just it’s OK to be in the
middle of everything. And the middle is its
own group, anyways. We’re like the third culture,
what people call it, right? AUDIENCE: Thank you all
for being here today. I have a question
about pan-Asianism. So being East-Asian, I
think, and being Chinese, food is something that I think
the Chinese community, where I grew up, finds a lot
of solidarity around. I’m curious of the ways
you’ve seen food and beverage through the work that you do. Be a rallying point for
all, I guess, Asians in the United States. Because for better,
or for worse, oftentimes we are
lumped together with people who look
like us, or just end up using the
same word, Asian, that don’t even look like us. And I know there’s a lot
of, like, people make jokes about fusion food all the time. But, like, in all
seriousness, I’m curious if there’s something
there that you’ve experienced. Thanks. DEUKI HONG: I didn’t
understand the question. [LAUGHTER] I’m not going to lie. I heard pan-Asian. Like, food? And– [LAUGHTER] ANDREW CHAU: I’ll say the start,
I’ll make it really short. I think food is a
gateway to culture. That’s what I’ll say. ROSA LI: And I do see,
actually, a lot of fusion. I personally love fusion food. Like Asian fusion, or other. There’s also like
fusion of, like, Asian food and Mexican food. I think that’s
great, I think we see a convergence of various types
of cuisines and cultures coming together, especially
[INAUDIBLE].. There’s just so many, so
much diversity going on. Yeah, I do think that
I agree with Andrew, and food brings communities
together, right? I used to love– I mean, I still do love hosting
these dinner parties where we’re bringing people together. I just don’t really have too
much time for that anymore. But I think food is a way
to connect people, and bring people with different
backgrounds together. Because that’s, like, the one
thing that’s a very basic need. And it’s, like, the one thing we
all have in different cultures. DEUKI HONG: Food to me is,
I said it with the whole– I don’t like to look up recipes. I haven’t seen any
other food content like the “Beautiful
Food,” like “Chef’s Table” and stuff like that. It’s more intriguing,
like, the people behind it is what gets to me. And I said that a lot of
the people that we know, food is an excuse, right? So I talk about food, and
everyone’s somewhat interested or has an opinion about food,
so I get to talk to X person. Or I get to build a
relationship with these people that I normally
would not have if I wasn’t doing what I was doing. And I fully recognize that. But I love that I can
use food, or the fact that I’m a chef, to
engage other conversations or build a friendship. So for me, in my head, food
is very important, yes. But I use it almost as an
excuse to, or the gateway, like you said, to
culture, to friendships, to meaningful relationships. SPEAKER 1: Thank you. Just wanted to
again, thank you so much for coming over to our
Google campus in Mountain View. It was wonderful
having you guys. Thank you so much for
sharing your thoughts. I’m really excited to have
you guys to kind of close out AAPI Heritage Month with us. OK, thank you. ANDREW CHAU: Thanks
for having us. DEUKI HONG: Thank you, goodbye. [APPLAUSE]

7 thoughts on “Andrew Chau, Deuki Hong, Rosa Li: “Heritage & Startups” | Talks at Google

  1. I don't believe a word from Goo**lie.

  2. Google sucks!!! Go screw yourselves Google. Nobody elected you guys kings you asses.

  3. It's beautiful the connection the Asians have with one another. I just hope that once Europeans become a minority they can once again identify with each other without it being viewed as malicious. It's ridiculous that something so essential to the human experience has been so demonized.

  4. What is API? I don't think they were talking about an "application programming interface".

  5. Bye bye google….time to be broken up

  6. Google The political fascist machine disabling comments.

  7. Cool talk!

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