Episode 126

Dave Lu ·  Investing Into AAPI Founders With Hyphen Capital

“If they had the early stage capital, that first check is life-changing because someone believed in, you can give you the chance to take a risk and see if there's something there. ”

Dave Lu is a veteran in the technology industry, having worked for over two decades at big tech companies including Yahoo!, Apple Cisco and eBay and founding two startups. In 2005, he bootstrapped his first company Fanpop, a user-generated community site for entertainment fans, to over 40 million monthly users. After Fanpop, he ran marketing for Luxe, a two-sided marketplace for on-demand valets. He leveraged his experience to launch his second startup, Pared, a restaurant enterprise software business. In 2011, Dave created a community called Asian American Founders Circle which has grown to over 300 founders including Tony Xu (DoorDash), Steve Chen (YouTube), Kevin Lin (Twitch) and many others. AAFC inspired the launch of Hyphen Capital, a syndicate focused on investing in AAPI founders that has invested in over 50 startups since launching in fall of 2020. He most recently started a movement with a letter condemning hate crimes against Asians which he wrote that was signed by over 1,000 prominent business leaders and was published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. Now with over 8,000 signatures it has led to the launch of Stand with Asian Americans. Dave received his bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Maggie Chui: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. His name is Dave Lu. Dave is a veteran in the technology industry, having worked for over two decades at big tech companies, including Yahoo!, Apple, Cisco, and eBay, and founding two startups. In 2005, he bootstrapped his first company, Fanpop, a user-generated community site for entertainment fans with over 40 million monthly users.

[00:00:25] After Fanpop, he ran marketing for Luxe, a two-sided marketplace for on-demand valets. He leveraged that experience to launch his second startup, Pared, a restaurant enterprise software business. In 2011, Dave created a community called Asian American Founders Circle, which has grown to over 300 founders, including Tony Xu of DoorDash, Steve Chen of YouTube, Kevin Lin of Twitch, and many others. AAFC inspired the launch of Hyphen Capital, a syndicate focused on investing in AAPI founders that have invested in over 50 startups since launching in the fall of 2020.

[00:00:58] He most recently started a movement with a letter condemning hate crimes against Asians, which he wrote that was signed by over 1000 prominent business leaders and was published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. Now with over 8,000 signatures, it has led to the launch of Stand with Asian Americans.

[00:01:15] Dave received his bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Dave, welcome to the show. 

[00:01:25] Dave Lu: Thanks. Good to be here. 

[00:01:26] Bryan Pham: That is quite an introduction, Dave. You have done so much already. 

[00:01:29] Dave Lu: That’s a long introduction. I’m old. That’s just me. I’m old. 

[00:01:32] Bryan Pham: Not at all. Thank you for what you do for the community, especially organizing the Stand with Asian Americans during the time that we needed people to stand up and speak up. That means a lot. When we look at you, it’s like you’ve been organizing Asian Americans for so long now and are one of the pioneers in this space. Before we dive deep into that, let’s dive deep into why you do things the way you do and I want to talk a little bit more about your childhood. What was your upbringing like? 

[00:01:57] Dave Lu: So my parents moved and immigrated from Taiwan in the 60s and they went to Graduate School.

[00:02:02] I was born in Queens, New York, so I’m an East Coast boy, and then grew up in New Jersey. My parents moved to New Jersey and we moved around a couple of times. I grew up in I wouldn’t say a rough part of town when I was little, but I did and it was the school.

[00:02:17] I was the only Asian kid in the school until another kid moved in. Another Taiwanese kid. We were best friends because we had to survive. But most of the kids were predominantly black and there were some white kids. I learned very early that I had to be very quick-witted and fight back in order to survive. Otherwise, people saw weakness. Growing up, I gained trust and a kind of friendship. If people would insult me with “your mama” jokes and if I could go insult them even worse and earn their respect, that’s how I survive. They all basically respect me after that. They were afraid of getting into any arguments with me. It taught me a lot. 

[00:02:49] But then, my parents moved us to a better school district in Princeton, New Jersey, where it was about 30% Asian, South Asian, and East Asian. That’s where I grew into my identity of being more proud of being Asian American. Before, it was actually kind of almost a weakness because I was the only Asian in that school that I was at before, and it brought attention to me. Then it became one where I could actually be proud of my heritage and find others like me and to celebrate the things that we had in common. I was very fortunate to have that.

[00:03:17] My dad, whenever there were any disagreements or any racist things said to him, or injustice, people cutting us in line, or people disrespecting us, he never backed down. He would always cause a ruckus and we’d be embarrassed, but now I see why. I’m the one probably embarrassing my family sometimes because I’m not going to let anyone push me around. I learned to put up that fight from him. He passed away when I was 25, so he’s no longer with us.

[00:03:40] I learned a lot growing up about fighting. Just fighting back and never backing down. That kind of led me to the letter, the journal, and other things that I do. It’s especially for those who are disadvantaged or less fortunate or don’t have the same benefits or privileges as others, I think it’s important to stand up for others.

[00:03:56] That’s how I was raised and that’s why I have been doing what I’ve been doing. 

[00:04:00] Bryan Pham: I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I’m pretty sure he’s looking down right now, so proud of what you’ve done and what you stand for.

[00:04:06] Dave Lu: I appreciate that.

[00:04:07] Bryan Pham: I love that. I love making a ruckus. I’m also the type to make some ruckuses myself. In case people haven’t noticed yet, less people like yourself, Dave, that really lays the foundation for other people because we don’t question things unless there’s some emotion behind it. Unless there’s the reason why and then we realize that, “Hey. What? Wait a minute. What’s going on here? That’s wrong” 

[00:04:26] Dave Lu: Yeah.

[00:04:27] Bryan Pham: You need people to make ruckuses and I really appreciate that you’re still aware of your identity, right? Your Asian American identity. Because some people can go one or two ways. They can put that under the rug and be like, “I don’t wanna be Asian American. I don’t have any Asian friends. I’m just going to reject my culture completely.” But you want the opposite. You’re like, “I want to accept my culture.” and “It’s cool to be Asian, right?” 

[00:04:47] Dave Lu: Yes. I would say I used to think that about a lot of people too, the ones who I’m like, “Oh, they’re self-hating.” or “They’re not proud of their Asian heritage.” They’re trying to ignore it. For self-preservation reasons, they just deny it. At my age, I’ve realized we don’t know other people’s situations. We don’t know why they are the way they are. We shouldn’t assume anything about them or the experience for all we know. Maybe they just went through a lot of trauma because they’re Asian. The only Asian person in their school like I was, and they wanted to hide it, so it was a way to survive. It is a survival instinct and it is what it is.

[00:05:17] There are people, for whatever reason, that don’t want to embrace their heritage. But through this whole experience and learning and meeting people, I’ve met some of those people and they’ve recently come around because of what happened this year and the recent rise in hate crimes.

[00:05:32] Those people couldn’t deny who they were because they can’t walk on the street and feel safe. They aren’t white. Even though some of them were Hapa, they could not just become chameleons and become full white. They’re like, “No.” They also had to think about their parents, the Asian mom or Asian dad that could have been attacked. They realize that they’re like, “Oh, I’m vulnerable. Even though I have been okay by not embracing my Asian heritage and whatnot, but my mom or my dad can’t do that. They have no luxury in walking down the streets in their hometown and not being accosted by someone who hates them because of their skin color.”

[00:06:04] Everyone goes through their journey no matter what their history is. I don’t want to assume anything, because a lot of people are seeing and learning and embracing who they are and their identity. Even if it’s later in life, it’s their journey. The only thing I can do is speak words of truth to power. And hopefully, they resonate with it and they see that that makes a lot of sense. That’s all I can do. 

[00:06:23] Maggie Chui: Yeah. I love that you shared that and I absolutely agree with you. Everyone has their own journey. At the same time, like throughout the pandemic, what the Asian community had to go through, we couldn’t deny who we are. We couldn’t deny how we look. I think that forced us to look deeper into the cultural heritage. Even if some of us may not have been affected being Asian, we did experience our parents or our grandparents go through very traumatic experiences and I think that’s what caused us to be like, “You know what? I want to learn more about my culture so that I can educate other people about it.” The more we educate other people about it, maybe other people will have more empathy for our community.

[00:06:57] I love that you mentioned about your father not backing down and I’m so sorry to hear about his passing as well. That actually really reminds me of my father as well. He’s actually very petite. He’s like five foot two, but he will yell at anyone who disrespects him. I think that’s just the funniest thing and just the most inspiring thing to me because we need people like that.

[00:07:17] I think in the Asian culture, we’re so accustomed to just shying away and not saying anything, but we need people to show us. We need to speak up because we have a voice and we can’t just accept all of the discrimination that goes on in our lives. 

[00:07:30] Dave Lu: Yeah. I think honestly, a lot of folks I notice on LinkedIn all the time, a lot of us are in self-preservation mode where we don’t say anything because we can hide and we can just blend in and not talk. Again, keep our heads down. But when it came to this, people just could not do that anymore. A lot of us, my non-Asian friends, didn’t even know stuff was happening. They were clueless about any of these stuff, but we saw it in our feeds, on our Instagram feeds and Facebook all the time. And if you follow Dion’s feed or any of these other feeds, you see the stuff that’s happening and you can’t deny it. I think them seeing people who look like their mom or dad or their friends or sisters, that was scary for them.

[00:08:05] I think that made them realize,” Oh no. I can’t deny my identity. This is who I am.” For better or worse, our dads being fighters, I don’t think I’ve shared this before, but I got suspended in high school because someone said something to me and I pulled out a knife and then I beat him up. That was probably not a good thing, but I got suspended from high school too because I was pretty stupid. I should have backed down. Someone pulls out a knife. I should not try to get in a fight. But sometimes, that just comes out. I think it’s an instinct to survive.

[00:08:29] For good or bad, I think it’s good that we have the confidence to stand out, but I think it’s about encouraging others to do the same. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. 

[00:08:38] Bryan Pham: That’s awesome. I’m learning so much about you already, and I never told anyone this too. I too also got suspended in high school for getting into a fight over racial slurs. I’m glad we’re sharing this as a way to prove ourselves. 

[00:08:49] Dave Lu: Going back to high school, I’ll say I probably ran to the bathroom and vomited cause I thought, “Oh, I’m not getting in Harvard now.” but that was for different reasons. The thing is, there’s just too many times where people think they can push us and walk over us and we won’t push back and I’m not okay with that. That’s not me and I don’t think that’s most of us. The immigrants that came here, the refugees, all the different people that have come here, they fought tooth and nail. They survived so much to be here and they still survive. They move into neighborhoods.

[00:09:19] One of my black friends told me this, they said I have so much respect for Asian immigrants because they come in and move into neighborhoods that they’re not wanted in. That the community there, they don’t like them. And they think that they can’t even speak the language.

[00:09:29] They come in there. They open a business. They try to deal with all the stuff they deal with. They go through so much and they’re like the toughest nails. He said, as a black entrepreneur, he respects that hustle. And he’s like, “That is true grit to be able to do that. No one does that. That’s crazy.”

[00:09:41] Maggie Chui: Absolutely.

[00:09:42] Dave Lu: Again, all the people in AHN, this resonates with them because everyone’s trying to make it and I think it shows that we’re fighters because you know, we’re all trying to get somewhere. 

[00:09:52] Maggie Chui: Absolutely. I definitely agree. I mean on top of us, having no one like us, no one ever liked Asian immigrants taking over jobs as I say, but we also were given jobs that no one wanted to do. 

[00:10:03] Dave Lu: Yes. That’s right.

[00:10:03] Maggie Chui: So that’s another thing and we still did them. We worked so hard doing jobs that none of the Americans wanted to do. That goes to show the hustle and the grind that we have inside of us. 

[00:10:13] Dave Lu: And I think it’s like we talk about the jobs, it’s not just like the laundromats or the cleaning jobs or this or that. All of the I.T. Jobs and other jobs that are white collar. Some of these folks hope that they get promoted someday, but they don’t because of bamboo stealing.

[00:10:29] I always liken it to railroad labor when a Chinese person comes in. I learned more and more about the railroad workers and the coolie labor. 90%, 15,000 of those folks were Chinese that built the railroads. If you look at a picture of the day that Leland Stanford celebrated, connecting the Central Pacific railroad. It was a picture of all white men feeling like there, honoring the day. There was not a single Chinese person in that picture. And it’s like, we’re good enough to be the railroad laborers, or the engineers, or the investment banking analysts, or consultants, analysts, whatever. But we’re not good enough to be promoted to anything above a certain level. That’s unacceptable.

[00:11:04] When you start digging deeper and saying, “Wait a second. Has this been like this the whole time?” And it has, that’s when I start trying to encourage people to build their own houses and build their own railroads and not do it for other people who are taking advantage of their labor. Because again, some of them might not speak up for themselves or they’re just fine with whatever scraps they’re given.

[00:11:23] And they’re like, “Hey. If I pay you this much, you’ll just keep your mouth shut and keep working.” Meanwhile, they’re making a hundred times more off the back of their labor. It happened for years when they fought over people for PhDs and all the graduate students from Asia and they worked at the bell labs and all the research facilities.

[00:11:41] Those people did not make any of the money or equity or any of the upside of that. It was the people that ran the companies that didn’t contribute to any of that research, that didn’t come up with those breakthroughs and they made all the money. Again, everyone was profiting off of the work that a lot of us or our parents did.

[00:11:56] And that’s not okay. The more we realized that we should be building our own houses. The more we can help other folks in the community too. 

[00:12:02] Bryan Pham: I really like the fact that you brought that up too because that’s something that I realized probably at least nine years ago about the same realization.

[00:12:09] It’s, ” Wait a minute. There’s so much history erased in American history.” Lots of things, Asian Americans have been there for a long time, but we’re never included in history books. It’s the same thing with our parents and exactly what you mentioned too with bringing over PhDs and whatnot.

[00:12:22] I came to the same realization as you. And I was like, “Whoa.” as you’re putting it into words, I’m like, “Wait a minute.” Like “You’re sparking stuff in my memory.” I just wanna start questioning everything. “Why not us?” That’s the main thing that comes to my mind. Why not us? Why can’t it be us? Why are we continuously blocked? We’re not passive anymore. We’re not weak. We’re not whatever. We’re not dumb. We’re here to be heard and be seen and play a game correctly for a lack of a better word. 

[00:12:45] Dave Lu: Yeah. Look, there are people out there that are always going to help themselves. And the one thing I am, I want to encourage people in our community to do. I hear all the time during all the anti-Asian hate discussions like, “Oh. Most of the people attacking people are black. It’s all black people against us.” And I’m like, “One’s not completely true. Two, it’s not all black people.” Let’s not take things to a level that doesn’t exist and understand the same way I have to understand my history. I have to understand their history. And I understand the more I learn about how black people have been oppressed in this country from not even being able to buy homes. Most of our parents have risen up because they bought property. Real estate.

[00:13:18] We were never blocked from blind property. Black people haven’t been able to build wealth because they couldn’t buy property. They were not allowed to. Understanding the underlying issues that this country has oppressed people with and why we’re not in the positions we are in because other people are keeping us from places, I’m not a victim, I’m not like being a playing victim. I just understand the game. If you want to play it, know what’s really going on because other people are pushing a kind of narrative and propaganda our way to make us think, “Oh yeah, they’re bad people they’re coming after us.” or, “Oh, these people are no good either.” I’m like, “No, this has all been set up for us.” If we look at the underlying systems and issues, we’ll see how everything is played. That’s how you have to navigate this world. I feel like this is like my dad. This is when I was like arguing.

[00:14:01] My dad was a little like, “Oh man. I do see it now. The bigger picture is so important.” I encourage, and I know a lot of young people are super like all of you guys have been so active and vocal. And I think, you guys are fighting for the next generation and I’m doing what I can too but we just got newer histories. 

[00:14:17] Bryan Pham: Yeah. I agree. I just want to pivot the conversation a bit to talk about and jump into “Dave Going Out of Stanford MBA Program.” I want to jump into that day.

[00:14:27] Dave Lu: Long time ago. 

[00:14:28] Bryan Pham: Yeah. There are quite a few pieces of the different podcasts that Mag and I listened to. The Fish Sauce podcast that you mentioned that you hopped at Stanford, but then you didn’t feel like you had enough confidence to start your own company yet, right?

[00:14:40] And you said that your dad was an engineer and supported your mom, then became an entrepreneur. So I want to understand, “How did Dave, the MBA student from Stanford, continuously work for someone until he formed enough confidence to start his own company?” 

[00:14:51] Dave Lu: It’s funny. I don’t know if it was confidence or if I was raised by my parents to believe. Certainly, a lot of us have been, right? I played a safe route. They gave up. They worked their butts off and spent all their money to get me through college, to get a good job, and to get my resume built up. So I could go to Stanford to go to business school.

[00:15:09] That was my dream. And I went and then I think I realized after that, looking back on my life, how many hoops I jumped through. So I got into the Ivy League School. They wanted me to get into it, or I. Eventually, I felt like I wanted to get into it. That should’ve given me the opportunities I wanted.

[00:15:22] I was working for a consulting company. Then I worked for a big tech company. That name brand after name brand. I created a resume that every parent would want, but I wasn’t happy because I knew that there was going to be another hoop I would have to jump through.

[00:15:32] What was that going to be? Was it on the other end of every one of these hoops I jumped through? I wasn’t necessarily happy or more fulfilled. It wasn’t like I was doing what I wanted to do. I was doing what I was told or programmed to do. And fortunately, I didn’t go down the doctor route because all my friends who went down that route, they’re trapped. They feel trapped because they can’t do anything else. I jumped through all these hoops and I wasn’t happy. And I realized, this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life, jumping these hoops.

[00:15:55] And to what end? At eBay, I lasted four months. I started trying to do some stuff that wasn’t okay there. I was trying to rock the boat a little bit and my directors are like, “It’s not worth it. This place will blow up tomorrow. This company was still making millions of dollars.”

[00:16:06] Why am I coming here? It’s a waste of my time. I decided it was time to do my own thing. And I think a lot of that was that fear. It was this confidence, but it was also fear of failure because everything, all those hoops, I knew what the test could be. I know how to jump through those things. If I can get a job, I will get a job. Everything’s safe. Starting your own company is jumping off a cliff. I have no idea. I’ve written about this. When Indiana Jones last said, when he had to step across to get the holy grail, there was like a big, cavernous pit that he was gonna cross. It was an abyss that he would’ve stepped out onto if there was nothing there, but he did. And there was like a walking bridge that was there. He couldn’t see, but that’s all the people that come out of the woodwork to help you, support you, invest in you, give you advice, and open doors for you.

[00:16:44] But I had that and everyone does have that. They just don’t know until they step off and do it themselves. You just have to take that risk. I don’t know. I’ve always been confident in my abilities. But when you do that, it’s not even about Once. It’s like I’m going to jump off a cliff.

[00:16:57] Nobody’s that confident jumping off a cliff because you’re like, “I have no idea what’s on the other side.” Or how I’m gonna get there. But I think it was something about me coming out of school that made me realize I want to do bigger things than just be a cog at a company or just work for someone else. That’s what my dad did his whole life and he regretted it and then he died young and I was like, “Dude, I don’t want to be that guy.” That changed. 

[00:17:16] I told him I was going to go to Stanford for business school when I was 10 or 11. We were looking at a magazine, US news, together. He’s like, “Oh, do you want to be a doctor?” and I was like, “Nope, can’t stand blood.” I was like, “Should I go into engineering?” He’s like, “Oh, don’t do that. You’ll just be working for a man the whole time.” And then we saw law schools and I was like, “Oh, should I be a lawyer?” And he’s like, “Nah, they all lied too much.” And then we saw the business school and I was like, “Oh, I can do business.” he’s like, “Oh yeah. You talk a lot. So you should do this.” And so we saw Stanford was number one, and this was like in the eighties or something. I said, “Okay, I’m going to go there. And I did, but he wasn’t around to see that. I think that was when I realized I wanted more for myself after that because he passed away young enough and had gone through so much to work for me. I don’t want to be that. He didn’t want that for me either. It was scary, but I think it’s always worth it. So anyone listening to this podcast that isn’t doing their own thing, I always encourage you to. It’s scary, but it’s worth the risk. 

[00:18:03] Maggie Chui: I love your dad’s reasoning. I’m just so glad that you were able to get inspiration from your dad in that way. He was able to be your soundboard and just tell you it’s okay to do whatever you want. Oftentimes, we tend to overthink. Even if the confidence is there, we overthink and think, ” Okay, if I start this job, I still probably have to stay there for a year because I don’t wanna let that corporation down.” 

[00:18:26] Dave Lu: We rationalize it. 

[00:18:27] Maggie Chui: We rationalize. But honestly, it is all in our minds. We’re not confined to anything and we can do whatever we want. It’s not like we owe our lives to that corporation.

[00:18:36] Dave Lu: They don’t honestly care about you either. Me, I kept telling myself, “If I’m going to start a company, I need to get to this level at a big company so I could learn what I need to do when I start my own.” But honestly, if you move up to a big level in a big company, you don’t learn anything you need to do a startup because none of it’s relevant. You have all the staff and other people to help you get there. It’s a different mentality. Most of those people at those levels of big companies, they’re so comfortable that they couldn’t start their own business if they wanted to.

[00:19:00] It’s a very different mentality. I wish I had learned that earlier. I pay a lot of money to go to Stanford for business school, but I think sales is probably the most important skill that they don’t give founders. Listen to this, like studying sales, because sales are not just selling a product, but selling people. Selling, getting convincing. It’s storytelling. It’s convincing investors. It’s convincing new hires to join you to take the risk. It’s convincing partners to work with you. It’s about storytelling and it’s about selling, but no one ever told us like that. I paid for a fancy degree and I didn’t learn about selling until I was doing it. And when you’re trying to convince people to join you on a journey, you have to be able to tell a good story because they have a lot of different places they can go and ways they can go, but you have to convince them to come with you. 

[00:19:38] Maggie Chui: Absolutely. I, 100% agree. What was going through your mind at the time when you started your first company, Fanpop? 

[00:19:46] Bryan Pham: As you’re falling off the cliff, what was going through your mind? 

[00:19:52] Dave Lu: That was around the time when all my friends were getting married. I’m invited to weddings in Brazil and Israel and all over Europe and to my friends I was like, “Oh man, I’m too broke. I can’t go into any of these things. I’m eating tuna fish sandwiches and ramen.” It sucked because all my friends were making big money out of Stanford and I was like, “I gave up my money. I’m trying to do this thing on my own. And I’m paying myself like $10,000-$20,000 and burning through my savings.”

[00:20:13] It was rough. I didn’t think I was going to make it. But things turned around. When you’re forced to figure out how to survive on your own, you find a way. It turned around and it got better. Things started going well.

[00:20:22] It is scary and I’m not gonna lie. It’s dark when you’re a founder and all the people listening to this know this, when you start something on your own, the highs are high. The lows are so low. It’s very depressing. They’re dark. No one understands except for other people who do this.

[00:20:34] If you talk to friends who have six-figure jobs and are safe and like, “Oh yeah, you’ll be okay.” You don’t know. You don’t know that. And I think when you talk to other founders, they’ll remind you like, “Hey, I know this is a tough time. Let’s think about how you can navigate this. How to get through this.”

[00:20:47] Things get pretty grim when you own a company. But then, things get well. You’ll be flying high. The next thing, you’ll get some lawsuit for some random thing. Someone’s coming after you because they see you’re doing well. And they’re like, “Oh man, I feel sick to my stomach.” then you’re flying high again like, “Oh, we just sold a big deal.” Next thing you know, “Oh man, our servers just crashed and we lost all this money from sales. Now we can’t raise money.” It just keeps going up and down. This line’s not for everyone. I said it before.

[00:21:09] Going through the corporate ladder sucked for me, but that’s me. I think we need people to do that. I have so many friends who are successful in playing, going through that track. I think we need those people because those folks have influenced the big companies, big brands, and big names that we need. If we didn’t have them, we couldn’t do a lot of the things for the community that we do. So, for everyone who’s starting a business, there are folks who are good at navigating, company politics, and corporate culture. I think we need those folks to be influencers as well because they’re the ones who bring up others with them.

[00:21:39] My friend, Debby Soo, is the CEO of OpenTable. She has promoted I think three other Asian women to the exec. ranks in the C-level suite. She gets crap all the time like, “Oh, I guess you have to be Asian to be in a C-suite here or you’re never going to be an executive here.” I guess we say that to about white males for all the buddies, but she’s bringing them along with her.

[00:21:58] Some people just go up and get into the VIP room and they don’t bring their friends with them. She brought them along and she’s helping them because once they have that title, they can go to other companies and become COOs, CFOs, and CEOs, and then they will be able to help other people there too. It’s about bringing up people along with you and not just helping yourself. 

[00:22:15] Bryan Pham: Yeah. I like that. I feel like the way you look at the world, so encompassing of everything. It’ll be pretty bad if everyone had a founder mindset because no one wants to do the work.

[00:22:23] Dave Lu: Yes. That’s true. 

[00:22:24] Bryan Pham: There needs to be a mixture of both. We need to realize that there’s no reason for us to talk down to each other like, “Oh, you’re a founder” or “You’re not a founder.” or W2. We need each other. It’s funny too because earlier I had a conversation with someone that wants to leave his job. I’m like, ” You’re doing so well. Are you sure you should navigate this field?” Because it’s not as glamorous as those Netflix shows, whatever movies that we see. It’s not that high and it’s super freaking low. 

[00:22:48] Dave Lu: It sucks. I mean, it’s lonely and you feel like you’re marginalized because when you go to dinner parties, especially in places like New York in the bay area, everyone and their mothers’ trying to start something. In places like New York, they probably think you’re unemployed because you can’t get a job, so you say you’re starting a company and it sucks. You don’t want to feel like that, but if it’s not the norm and that’s not the culture, people think it’s weird like, “What are you doing? What?” It can be very isolating. You need family and friends who support you. But look, it’s even harder for Asian kids to do it.

[00:23:18] The companies I’ve founded, the companies I’ve invested in, I have so many founders that have the same story. Their parents paid for them to go to some fancy school and get some fancy job at Google, Goldman Sachs, or McKinzie. Then they quit starting a company. Their parents aren’t talking to them anymore. They don’t know that their parents are like, “I don’t know you.” I’m like “They’re just owned.” They’re literally. And so these folks have no trust fund. They don’t have anything to fall back on a rich uncle that’s going to help them. Their parents don’t talk to them anymore.

[00:23:43] These young, talented kids literally can’t afford to start a company without people investing in them. Look, when I started Hyphen, I thought I would get canceled because people can say, “Oh, Asians make a ton of money. They’re doing great. They raise money all the time. They’re successful. They work in tech.” Honestly, I’m like, “That’s not the point.” Most of the money’s not going to us. Even if it is, a lot of us don’t have anything to fall back on to take the risk to try because our parents aren’t supportive.

[00:24:05] We don’t have money in the bank. We’re paying our school debt still or paying our rent or paying whatever to survive. And so we need the money more than certain people do. If the gatekeepers are all white males and you’re an Asian woman or an Asian guy, with an accent who’s an immigrant, you’re most likely not going to get that money. Eric Yuan from Zoom, others. That’s what happened to them. If it weren’t for Asian investors to give them money, we would’ve had some of these companies say. 

[00:24:30] Bryan Pham: I agree. I was one of those kids where, when I quit my job, my mom and my dad didn’t talk to me for a long time.

[00:24:36] They’re like, “You left your cushy job.”

[00:24:38] Dave Lu: Because they’d worked their butts off so that we would have security. We leave that behind. I don’t know how long, probably 10 years my mom was asking me when I go back and work for Google or something like that. I was like, “I’m not going to Google.” I was like, “That’s not going to happen.” But I think there’s the hope in her mind that after everything that they did for me, I would just go and get a nice sensible job and just coast for the rest of my life or whatever. I’m like, “No, that’s not how it worked for me.”

[00:25:01] Maggie Chui: I think you bring up a great point too because yes, there are a lot of people who say, “Asians. They get great grades. They get well-paying jobs. Why do we need so many resources?” But you’re right. Like a lot of us, whether it be ourselves or our parents or our grandparents being immigrants, coming here with nothing on our back, a lot of us don’t even have a backup plan or a second plan that we can fall back on. I think a lot of people don’t recognize that. A lot of people don’t realize that we don’t have a backup plan and that we need these resources as much as any other minority group or immigrant because, a lot of these minorities, including Asian Americans, need these resources. We don’t have backup plans. That’s why I think what you’re doing, advocating for Asian Americans, getting these resources is so important.

[00:25:44] Bryan Pham: I want to add up to Maggie’s point too. It’s when people are like, “Oh, to start your company easy, go raise money from friends and family.” I’m just like, “Dude, my parents don’t even have more than like $20k in their savings at the time.” I’m not going to ask for life savings so I can mess it up. 

[00:25:58] Dave Lu: They’re already ashamed of us as it is for quitting. So that’s not gonna happen. But look, at the end of the day, there were more people and people of color and women standing at the New York stock exchange in NASDAQ ringing the bell if they had the early-stage capital. That first check is life-changing because someone believes in you, gives you the chance to take a risk, and see if there’s something there. If you keep going, you just approve it. But if you can’t afford it, you can never take their risk.

[00:26:22] If certain people have money saved up in their accounts because their parents gave them a trust fund or their rich uncle can always back them up or they got a job because they can just call their dad and their dad can get them a job somewhere else, of course, they can take a risk because they had nothing to lose.

[00:26:34] Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, their parents had money. They didn’t know what to worry about, or what they’re gonna do next if it didn’t work out. And so for a lot of us, we don’t have that option. Hopefully, our resumes are good enough that we can brush, dust them off, and go get a job. But sometimes, that’s not the case if we’ve been out too long. 

[00:26:48] Maggie Chui: Great. And just to add to Brian’s point about friends and family, the Asian community, we’re frugal in a sense. We like to save as much money as possible. It’s very hard to find friends and family like that.

[00:26:58] Dave Lu: And they’re very risk-averse. That’s why they’ll invest in real estate because it’s the safest thing out there, but they’re not going to give it to a startup. 

[00:27:05] Bryan Pham: That’s true. I think it’s a good segue to talk a little bit more about Hyphen Capital. And again, thank you for Hyphen Capital. I just want to talk to our listeners quickly because we got so many from Asian Hustle Network messages me and Maggie about Hyphen Capital. Can you tell us more about it? We were like the vetting source and the spokesperson for Hyphen Capital. 

[00:27:23] Dave Lu: I appreciate that. And I appreciate the listeners and folks in the interested community. Look, I started as an Asian founder longer than 10 years ago. I found that I see other communities like the Jewish community founders, the Black community founders, and the Latino community founders, they were all south Asian community founders. They were all tight. East Asians and Southeast Asians, we didn’t have any of that. We didn’t have that same kind of community. Because when you go to school, when you go to college, you see, “Oh, there’s a Vietnamese association. There’s a Korean student association. There’s a Japanese association.” All these different groups were all separated. We all segregate into our book groups, but we weren’t very good about actually coming together. I think that was something that I seem to notice. I wanted to get us together. Just get a few of my friends together who started companies.

[00:28:05] I got eight people together for our dinner and we got together on a mission ten years ago. It was Eric Wu from Opendoor and Kevin Chu from the band and a few other friends. That kind of grew and grew over the years to now. It’s the Asian American Founder Circle that has over 300 people in it.

[00:28:20] I originally started Hyphen because last year during the pandemic, I saw how hard it was for people to raise capital because all the kinds of circles and networks closed. If you weren’t part of the networks to raise money, you weren’t gonna get money and some of these folks needed money to get to the capital and get through. They couldn’t find it. The thing I saw about our community, everyone was so humble. Everyone was so down to earth. You could have the founders of DoorDash, Gusto, Zoom, and others in a room with people who are just getting started and you wouldn’t know the difference.

[00:28:47] That’s the beauty of our community. No one has any, there’s very little ego. Everyone knows where they came from and they want to help each other out. I saw people mentoring, advising, and investing in young founders, and I thought maybe through the pandemic, I could help a few of these founders who are struggling and caught up by what I was seeing in the community and create a syndicate. That essay I wrote for just our group was shared publicly.

[00:29:08] Thank you to Tracy Chu for doing that. She kicked me in the butt because I was like, “Oh no, this was supposed to be private.” I thought, “Oh man, I’m getting canceled now for writing this thing.” Everyone just came out of the woodwork. I wrote a LinkedIn post and a Twitter thread. I got 400,000 views on my LinkedIn post. And, of course, I knew founders would be interested, but all these people who wanted to invest came out of the woodwork. From hedge fund managers to doctors to lawyers, to engineers, to product managers.

[00:29:35] I think everyone saw that this resonated with them and this mission of supporting these young founders. It’s been amazing to see all the folks I’ve talked to and look, I find myself, people are like, “Oh, you’re a VC now.” I’m like, “No. I lead a community of people who are angel investors that support and want to invest in AAPI Founders.” I’m not a VC. I help them find the companies and I bet them for them. But a lot of these founders, luckily I’ve been very blessed to be able to mentor some of them but to do it from the perspective of another founder. I try to encourage them and talk to them about the issues that they are struggling with and stuff that they haven’t seen yet.

[00:30:08] They always tell me, “Oh wow, this is so refreshing to talk to someone that looks like me but also has gone through what I’ve gone through during the fundraising process.” They’re like, “Oh.” I’ll talk to them like, “Hey, you’re going to probably be pitching in a room full of straight white guys. Some of them might be pretty mediocre.” And they shouldn’t be. They’re asking the wrong questions and it feels like on the phone being dismissive and it’s probably overwhelming. It makes you feel small. But remember, it’s more about them than it’s about you. So things like that where it’s kind of reminding them, you shouldn’t feel small because someone’s making you small.

[00:30:38] Remember, it’s not about you in a room that looks just like yourself. It would be very different, but it’s not. This is not the case. They have to make it through and keep pushing through. Don’t take these things personally. It’s very easy. Your journey and everyone’s journey is to take things personally but oftentimes it’s not. They might be slammed with deals and they just don’t have time to even listen properly or they’re just jerks and they just want to make people feel belittled if it’s for their egos or whatnot. But for whatever reason, don’t take it personally. It’s really hard not to take it personally. 

[00:31:05] Maggie Chui: Wow. I love it. I love that story. It reminds me of what the early days of Asian Hustle Network kind of looked like. We thought we would get canceled as well because it was someone who said, “Why don’t you guys name it Hustle Network and why did you have to put the word Asian in front of it?” Anytime Asian or any ethnicity is involved, people are always going to talk about their opinions and say things like, “Why do you have to put in an ethnicity or a race involved?” So I see where you’re coming from.

[00:31:32] There is a problem, right? That’s why we put the word Asian in front of it. We wanted Asians to be the main focus because we recognize that Asians were underrepresented and we needed more Asians to have more representation and to speak up. That was the reason why we put Asians in front of it. It’s just amazing to see that this whole thing came from you, just starting a community and not even knowing what would come out of it. 

[00:31:53] Dave Lu: Yes. What you guys have done too, right? It’s like you’ve built a community and all these things have come out of it. Like I mentioned before when we were talking earlier, we don’t know all the conversations and things that are happening beyond what we’ve done.

[00:32:05] We’ve created this space for people. We created connections. We’ve put it out there in the world the same way as the Wall Street Journal letter was put out in the world and the ripple effects of those things. You may never know or meet the people that you’ve impacted with what you’re doing, but I think it’s important for people to just put it out there in the world and see what it does because I think that’s the only way big change happens. If you don’t even try, then for a fact, nothing’s gonna happen. But if you give it a shot and build a community or put the words out there, call it Asian Hustle Network, because people see there is a community for people like me.

[00:32:37] It’s not just Hustle Network because of the hustle, all these different people we are talking about like that. The hustle culture out there, the rock, that kind of push hard. That’s different. We’re trying. We do it differently.

[00:32:48] There are cultural aspects of our hustle. There’s the baggage that we have with our parents and our heritage that others won’t understand. There’s something that connects us. And look, my Taiwanese culture is very different from Vietnamese culture, very different from Japanese culture, and different from Filipino so we all bring different things to the table. I think without the large community coming together, all the Asian hate crimes are the first. Fighting against Asian hate crimes is the first time I’ve seen all our communities come together at once because, in the end, we have a common enemy that sees all this one monolith. That’s the case. We have to fight back as a monolith because they’re stronger in numbers. Even seeing all my South Asian friends who are supportive of it, like they’re not being attacked because they’re not being blamed for the virus, they support us too because they know that we’re one community even though we’re all so different.

[00:33:30] South Asian culture is even more different from ours. I think we’ve been through so much together because they forced us into this model minority method, one big number. We’ve all struggled with the same stuff, we all struggle together, we fight together, we rise together.

[00:33:42] This Unforgettable words thing I went to on Saturday, seeing all that being celebrated among the community and everyone there together. It was the most amazing thing to see so many people, so proud of what we’ve done together as a community. 

[00:33:54] Bryan Pham: Yeah. Unforgettable Gala, we’re going to be there next year and attend and show up. I want to bring back to Hyphen Capital too because Maggie and I just closed out our pre-seed round or seed round or whatever that is and fundraising is incredibly difficult. It hurts your self-esteem because you get a lot of people that reject you and ask questions that just don’t understand your mission. I’m glad you’re making that. Not so much easier, but you’re making it more accessible for founders to get started because that is the first hurdle. It’s like, “Will I convince other people to believe in the mission that I’m trying to build? And we were having the commonality that, “Look, it’s Asian supporting Asians and providing valuable mentorship and advice to these new founders that can help them along their career.” Thank you so much for that, coming from a place where we just literally fundraise I’m like, “Thank you, Dave.” 

[00:34:40] Dave Lu: I know. It’s hard for everyone and it’s never easy. I will put it out there that I can’t invest in everyone. We can’t invest in every company, but knowing that there is a community that is out there and that there are people out there that support Asian founders specifically, I think is encouraging to a lot of folks because even if I can just talk to them and just give them words of encouragement that, “Hey, this might not be right for us, but I’ll give you access to a community of people that might be right for it if they can connect doors might open through the network.” One thing, everyone in Asian Hustle not still knows, is about the network. It’s about relationships. It’s about people helping people out and along the way, you never know who’s going to help you out. 

[00:35:15] The one thing I’ve learned, was interesting. I just got research on the glass ceiling and bamboo ceilings from a professor at MIT Sloan. I believe he’s Chinese American. He said the research found that the reason why South Asian people are more successful in corporate, that becoming CEO is that you could see how many, Microsoft, Google, now Twitter, like why they’ve done so much better is two things he discovered is one, it says assertiveness was one. So again, we can blame the system for a lot, but we also have to take ownership of our own culture. We have the superpowers of both Asia, East, and west. We need to know what our weaknesses are and what our strengths are. Yes, humility and everything are fantastic, but if you want to play the game, you still have to be aggressive and assertive. It says nothing about being humble. You can still be humble and not be a jerk, but you can be assertive too. South Asians are more assertive in the workplace.

[00:36:02] Two was this interesting thing I had never realized before, but that East Asians and Southeast Asians stick with their own more so than South Asians do. They stay with their ethnic kind of groups. When I’ve seen in my past, that these South Asians, socialize with people of other groups. I don’t only because of safety. We feel comfortable and safe in our communities of people that look like us. But of course, that’s not gonna get us anywhere either. So we have to build our networks not just amongst ourselves, but across other groups. That’s the only way we’re going to open doors because again, we don’t live in Asia in America. We live as Asians that live among Americans and we’re Americans too. We can’t isolate ourselves. I think it’s important to realize that a network is what leads to our success, all this stuff that our parents told us about effort, leading to outcomes, and success is not true at all.

[00:36:48] You can work your butt off and get nowhere because you’re not gonna get recognized. No one’s going to promote you like you have to be a squeaky wheel. You have to make noise. You have to just let people know what you’ve accomplished, and get credit for it because someone else is gonna take the credit for you.

[00:36:59] The same thing that I was talking about before the railroad workers. Some people are going to take the people in the photo at the end of the day after the railroads are all white. None of them helped build it. 90% were all Chinese people that built the railroads and they’re the ones that should have gotten some credit, but they didn’t because they were written out of the story. 

[00:37:14] You have to write yourself into the story and make it known. I think that’s the only way that we’re going to make it. That’s why I’ve become more vocal about it because I want people to acknowledge what we’ve done. During the Asian hate crime stuff and the Wall Street Journal letter that we did, one of the things I mentioned in the Bloomberg interview with Emily Chang was Asians got us through the pandemic. They got us through lockdown because Asians created Zoom that you used to do your work with, DoorDash that fed you, Peloton that you worked out with, and YouTube that entertained you. Those kinds of people didn’t even know that Asians created those things. I created a blog post and wrote out all the companies that were created by Asians and most Asians didn’t know that they started most of these companies. I think that visibility, that transparency, and those stories need to be told.

[00:37:59] I went and bought the domain, like started by dot org, so I could do the same thing for black founders, for Latino founders, for other people because if I’m a Haitian kid living in Queens and I can Google something and say, “Oh, were there any companies started by Haitian Americans?” and if I find nothing, that sucks. If I find something on Google and I see others, and then I get inspired because I see others, that makes a big difference. I was lucky enough to go. My first job after consulting was to work at Yahoo! and Jerry Yang sat around the corner for me. Seeing Taiwanese Americans build a company like that that was impacting the world was amazing and inspiring.

[00:38:33] I was lucky I had that. Some kids, they don’t have that. If they can’t even Google and see someone that looks like that doing it, how can they believe that they’re going to be the first one? Now that Jeremy Lin’s done it, there are gonna be other Asian kids out there who think they can make the NBA. You need someone to be there. 

[00:38:45] Maggie Chui: Yes. That is so important and I’m so glad that you brought that up. Brian and I talk about this all the time. How kids nowadays in the Asian community or whatever minority they are, need to see people who look like them and sound like them on screen, or else they’re not going to believe that there are heroes that look like them and sound like them. It’s so important to have Shang-Chi or all of these new movies that are coming out with Asian lead roles. And you’re right, a lot of us don’t even know that a lot of these big corporations are co-founded by Asians. Founders like LinkedIn or Rotten Tomatoes, not a lot of people know that it’s co-founded by Asians.

[00:39:20] Another point that you brought up which I thought was interesting is my parents have always told me to stay in my lane and the fact that you brought up the fact that a lot of us are taught to just stick with our community. South Asians, venture out and talk with other people who are not the same minority, or of the same ethnicity as they are. That makes me think because my parents have always just hung out with Chinese people and I’ve grown up only seeing Chinese people and hanging out with Chinese people like my parents’ friends and stuff like that but networking is the key.

[00:39:50] We have to network and go out of our comfort zone and network with other people who are not the same as us. Just like how to Stop Asian Hate Movement. If only Asians knew about the Stop Asian Hate Movement, then we’re not sharing the word out there. We’re not making any change unless non-Asian people know about the movement. That’s really when we start to make a change. 

[00:40:09] Dave Lu: Exactly. I think it’s about bridging those cultures and the influence that we have. If we don’t build influence in other spheres, we’re not going to get anywhere. 

[00:40:16] One of my reasons for starting Hyphen and my vision for starting Hyphen is again, the bigger picture, longer-term. I want the people who found, who invest in these companies, if they get returns for it, that’s great. If the founders make money, that’s great. That’s wonderful, but I want all of them to reinvest in the next generation, but also invest in making more. Like mayors, like Michelle Wu for Boston or finding more people to put in boards and C-suites for companies, in investing in movies and TV shows. The money doesn’t come from those things, but they influence people and culture.

[00:40:50] And so I want everyone to be wildly successful, make money, but put that money back into reinvesting in the whole community. If we can’t see our stories be told on TV and a big screen, or see people running major cities, look like us, or be in Congress, or see more people in the C-suite or on boards, on the New York Stock Exchange on CNBC, then, of course, we’re going to be invisible because we don’t even see ourselves.

[00:41:12] As I said with Jeremy Lin, you have to see it to want to be it. That’s what I want Hyphen to become. That’s what we all should work towards. We need to be better about reinvesting the document menu. 

[00:41:20] Bryan Pham: I love that a lot. I keep saying this over in this broadcast, but everything you say, Dave, we have a lot in common. I kept saying that too, because I guess our vision for Asian Hustle Network is to become the ecosystem ourselves, right? Because the reason why we have those conferences is that we want people on stage to inspire the next generation. We haven’t announced this yet, but we’re coming on the accelerator program pretty soon so we can invest back into the new people in our network. I want the people who made it to come on stage and speak and share their stories because we were once in their position. We were once struggling. Why not invest back into the future generation because guess what? That’s what’s been lacking all these years.

[00:41:54] That’s why every 10, 15, 20 years, it starts over again. The Asian community starts over again from square one. You look at Hyphen Capital, you hear AHN, Goldhouse. We’ve only been around for two years, each of us. So it starts over again. I’m trying to break that trend and I love how you have to see the mindset as well.

[00:42:11] Dave Lu: If I was younger now and seeing like what Goldhouse is doing, AHN, Subtle Asian Traits, whatever stuff that’s happening in pop culture with Squid Game or BTS, and all the things that I see with more people that look like me like I’m doing this for my kids. I want them to be able to, when they get to graduate from school and they see the opportunities out there, I want them to see not just the doctors and lawyers out there. I want to see the actors. I want to see the chefs out there. I want them to see the people, running companies, starting companies, and being whatever they want to be because they need more options.

[00:42:47] I went to see Hasan Minhaj here in San Francisco two weeks ago and one of the things he said at the end of the show is that his daughter will not grow up like him because she will have options. He didn’t have options. He was told to be a doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer, and he became a comedian. He’s not going to make that mistake with his daughter.

[00:43:03] He’s going to let his daughter choose whatever she wants to be and to do that, I want my kids to be wherever they want to be too. To want to be something, you have to know and see people that look like that. I want to plant the seeds to be able to encourage and support and invest in people that are doing things that they can see down the road.

[00:43:21] Maggie Chui: I love it. Thank you for all that you’re doing, Dave. I’m sure that your kids will find a lot of inspiration just from everything that you’re doing and it compels them and encourages them to do work. That is very admirable as well. 

[00:43:36] Bryan Pham: We try to build a world for our kids too, even though we don’t have kids. My imaginary kids. 

[00:43:41] Dave Lu: You still got to build it though, before they get here. 

[00:43:42] Bryan Pham: Yeah. Go ahead, Maggie. Sorry about that. 

[00:43:45] Maggie Chui: I do want to allow Dave to talk about Stand with Asian Americans, as well. I’m very curious to know, what compelled you to write a letter? For anyone who hasn’t seen the letter, I recommend and encourage everyone to go Google that letter. You can find it online. How did the Wall Street Journal get its hands on it? How did you ultimately get 8,000 signatures leading up to the launch of Stand with Americans? 

[00:44:09] Dave Lu: They could find the letter at standwithasianamericans.com. It was something that most people don’t realize, but I was in Taiwan for seven months during the pandemic. I would say from all the stuff that was happening here, I was seeing it before I left for Taiwan, reading and seeing all the news and attacks from Brooklyn to San Francisco, getting attacked here at sunset. I was seeing all that happen, and then I went to Asia and I didn’t have to think about it. I was happy and safe. No COVID. No racist attacks. It was amazing. I was around all these other incredible Asian Americans that had fled there too. Patrick Lee from Rotten Tomatoes, Kevin Lin from Twitch. I got to know Archie Kao, CSI actor, and violinist.

[00:44:49] There are so many amazing people there and it was inspiring to see the diaspora of Asian Americans that were there. I thought, “Wow, we’ve done so many amazing things. We have so many amazing leaders and people here.” And then contrast that with the attacks happening back home. Ultimately, the murders in Atlanta, I think that just broke me and they just made me realize, “Wow, it doesn’t matter what we do. People still see us as foreigners and this is what we’re dealing with.” And so I decided to write a letter and just see if I can get some of my friends. I’m fortunate to have friends that I do that are way more important than me, that their names mean something. So I wanted them to sign the letter.

[00:45:22] I just worked with some friends on this. We wrote a few drafts of it and then someone had the idea to anyone who I work with and Justin Zhu. Wendy wanted to get us published and suggested we get it ” Let’s do a New York Times or Wall Street Journals, somewhere big.”

[00:45:38] Because we had a lot of big names sign it, I put it on my medium. I got all these people to sign it. I was like manually transcribing their signatures and it grew and grew. We had a lot of big names. Soon, the names I started seeing, we saw President George Bush sign the letter and like, “What? Is that real?” So we had to go verify it, but George Bush signed it. Andre Iguodala signed it. The Sesame street CEO signed it and all these others. The Google CEO signed it solely, but surely it didn’t matter if they were Asian. This is when we saw all these people from the CEO of Foot Locker to the biggest law firms and the biggest ad agencies, all signing it.

[00:46:09] It was incredible to see the support from everyone for this. I think it grew from a thousand to 2000 to over 8,000 people signing it. To me, it was about the letter as my way of expressing my anger, my frustration, my fear, all in one way of being an American, feeling like I’m being treated like I’m not an American, and people questioning my being American. I think it all. We worked on it so that it could express a lot of our feelings and rage and anger, but also disappointment and just frustration with the whole thing. I think that resonated with a lot of people, the messages I got after that, even if it did nothing more than give strength to people who didn’t want to fight. The message I got from people saying, “Hey, someone called me for some reason. I’m 38 weeks pregnant.” I was at a grocery store and I was like, “Why am I here? Why don’t I just go back to Asia and give up? Not deal with this cause why do I need to put up with this?” And then she read the letter and she cried. She said, “No. This is my country too. I deserve to stay and fight.”

[00:47:02] But just reading words like that, meant the world to me because it meant that this letter was a symbol to so many people and it gave them a voice and words that they had in their hearts, but they couldn’t say out loud. They saw it being sent out loud in the Wall Street Journal and getting covered in the news.

[00:47:18] And then also the people signing it being like, “Oh, we’re not alone. The biggest CEOs in the world are signing this. Not just Asians, but people of all different races and ethnicities. They were all assigned in support.” Just the feeling of knowing you’re not alone in so many different ways and capacities can make a big difference in how confident or strong you feel. Whether you are isolated in a place with no other Asians or you’re in a place with a lot of Asians, just hearing those words and knowing that there are others with you makes you feel stronger and that you’re not alone. 

[00:47:47] Maggie Chui: Amazing. I just got chilled hearing you say that. I agree with you. Not every time, we have to fight back. We don’t have to fight back every time. I think a lot of us, just want to feel like we belong here and I think that’s exactly what your letter did. I think you made a lot of people in the Asian community recognize that, “You know what? We belong here and we have a voice here.” And that shifts their mindset. It changes their mindset and sometimes, that’s all it takes to make a difference in their lives and they can relay that same information and mindset to their kids and then on and on. Your letter itself has made such a huge impact and change in our community and I just wanted to say, thank you so much for doing that.

[00:48:30] I didn’t know that George Bush had signed that letter as well. That’s so amazing. Just seeing that happen, hearing about that happening, gives inspiration and hope to so many people. Just recognizing that there are people who are not of Asian descent and who are not in the Asian community have our support and who are supporting us, as well.

[00:48:48] Dave Lu: I think that’s the thing. For whatever reason, I feel like seeing people that aren’t Asian support you are, even more, affirming or reaffirming maybe because we feel like, “Yes, we demand to be recognized as we’re not foreigners.” The recognition from others maybe validates it.

[00:49:04] We don’t need to have validation, but somehow it does. I think that was important to see because we’re not outsiders. These are people who believe that we’re part of the communities and we contributed to the communities. That was for me the most powerful thing.

[00:49:15] Just hearing from individuals who are reaching out and just thankful for the words and if nothing else, giving them the words to say that they didn’t know that they had to say.

[00:49:22] Bryan Pham: Absolutely. I remember reading your letter late at night amid my frustration obviously with the community. What happened, what’s happening in their community and I just remember saying, “Wow, I haven’t talked to Dave Lu, but this guy sounds awesome.”

[00:49:36] Dave Lu: I lived up to the hype, but yes, thank you. 

[00:49:38] Bryan Pham: Honestly, it made me think of the Founding Fathers in some ways. It’s like the Declaration of Independence, right? Because you’re putting it into words. The frustration that we felt like what’s happened in your community. I do agree with what you guys do, that it does feel good to have allyship, especially in this country because we tend to feel like we’re in our subgroup, right? We’re perpetually foreigners that want to be expelled from this country. That does matter a lot to me, at least. 

[00:50:03] Dave Lu: For another reason, it galvanizes the community and it gives people conviction and strength to stand up for themselves like that in itself is huge. You know what we need to know more than I. I say it today. It was a letter that got published in the newspaper. It could have been anything. If we hadn’t done that, if it hadn’t been put out there like this, none of this would’ve happened. I encourage people to just throw the pebble in the water and the ripple effects will be huge. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you do it. So many of us, I feel like we’re passive, we’re scared. We don’t have the confidence. We think it’s going to fail. We’ve been raised with a culture to be afraid to fail. We need to get rid of that because there are so many things beyond just making money or succeeding in school or in your career that is a success.

[00:50:44] some outcomes are much more important and the stakes are much higher to succeed. Just try to build that community in your town. Try to build that community in your school. Try to write that letter. Try to sign up for that. Create that petition. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you try it. I think too many of us are afraid to try and we need to do that. 

[00:51:00] Maggie Chui: Absolutely. I agree with you, Dave. You’re setting that foundation and inspiration for other people to do the same thing. So thank you. Dave, what is next for you, and what do you see happening for you in the next five years or so?

[00:51:14] Dave Lu: I couldn’t even see this year. I planned everything that happened this year, much less five years from now. But look, I’m going to keep doing what I do. I’ve always wanted to build community and I think now I see what I want my legacy to be.

[00:51:25] If in these ways I can impact and open doors and bridge cultures and help other communities of color get to a place and women get to places. It’s no different than what my dad taught me as a kid to fight. I’m going to continue doing that and whatever I do, whether it’s connecting people to raise money for good causes or donating money, or investing their money to create opportunities.

[00:51:44] There are different projects I’m involved in. I’m helping to produce a movie about Jeremy Lin’s 10th anniversary, Linsanity, coming up. I’m working with two black producers to do that and I think it’s amazing. I’m trying to raise money for the Smithsonian Asian American Museum on the National Mall because we need a museum there and it takes some time. Trying to connect people to that, there are just a lot of big picture things that are in the works that I just want to be able to help. Again, I think like anyone else. I don’t need my name to be on any of this stuff.

[00:52:10] If you can connect people who can make something happen, do it because paying for a forward thing is no joke when you think about how you can help without trying to get something for it. It all comes back. No matter what happens, if people end up introducing themselves to other people and are referring people to this and that, it all comes back. If you put good down in the world, people will come back. I firmly believe that. The more we use the gifts that we’ve been given to help other people, the more rewarding it is. When I mentor founders and I see people succeed or I see these projects happen, it’s so much more rewarding than doing it myself.

[00:52:40] All the jumping through hoops that I’m like, “Oh, sweet! I got into Stanford for business school. Yay me.” That didn’t help anybody but myself. But if it’s continuing to help other people, then you can keep rooting for them and be happy for them. They can help someone else and it keeps going. I guess it sounds cheesy if you think about it. For me, it’s been a reality. I’ve been blessed by being able to work with people, help people, and touch people’s lives and ways that I don’t see. I hear people saying, “Oh, thanks so much for adding me to this group because I connected with so and so and they introduced me to so and so, and then I raised money from this, and then we sold to that.” I’m like, “Great! I didn’t do anything but bring you into the fold. That’s fantastic.” To me, that means more than anything. If you can create those kinds of connections and kind of those collisions, then you’re doing a good thing. My encouragement to people is, ” Do what you can to help other people because it’ll make you feel really good.”

[00:53:27] If there’s a mission behind it, even better. My goal is to leave a legacy behind for my boys and hopefully, I’ll be able to do that in the next five years and longer. 

[00:53:35] Maggie Chui: We’re very excited about everything that you have coming up. I feel like we just resonate with you so much and with Asian Hustle Network and what you’re doing with staying with Asian Americans and all the communities that you’ve been building. It’s very inspiring.

[00:53:48] It’s much needed. So Dave, where can our listeners find more about you and everything that you’re running? 

[00:53:56] Dave Lu: I’m very noisy on LinkedIn. You can read about my stuff on LinkedIn and I post a lot of mediums. My medium, hyphencap.com, is a website. Standwithasianamericans.com is the website that signs a pledge and gets involved with chapters in the community.

[00:54:07] I got nothing to plug in other than go out there and help other people. Encourage other people to invest in other people in the investment in the community. We’re all stronger when we work together. When you guys have built the Asian Hustle Network is exactly the venue for so many people to help others out. The stories that you guys, as I said, the stories that you guys don’t even know that are happening on the sides and not on Facebook and whatnot. A lot of people are helping each other out and if it weren’t for you guys starting it, that wouldn’t have happened. The stories that are posted that people tell inspire other people, the comments that start conversations that start partnerships, and who knows what they do.

[00:54:42] Those are the things that you guys created. For all the other folks listening, you can create a Hyphen. You can create an Asian Hustle Network. You can go out and do that too in your community or wherever you might be, but plant the seed. Don’t think about what’s in it for you. Think about what could be in it for everyone else. It just takes one pebble to throw in that water and it starts to ripple. 

[00:55:00] Maggie Chui: Awesome. Thank you so much, Dave. It was amazing having you on our podcast today. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

[00:55:07] Bryan Pham: Thank you so much, Dave. 

[00:55:09] Dave Lu: All right, guys.