In honour of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, here are 15 famous companies you may not have known were founded by Asian entrepreneurs.
The road to entrepreneurship is not easy, it’s risky, and about 22.5% of small businesses fail within the first year. However, there are still 582 million entrepreneurs innovating in the world, with 1.9 million of these businesses owned by Asian Americans, and there are new businesses being created each day. Despite growing numbers, many Asian Americans have to overcome various challenges like language barriers and financial uncertainty. However, even with all these obstacles, they are continuously contributing to and often dominating and shaping the business world in many markets. From IT companies to beauty products, to social media sites, here are 15 inspiring Asian entrepreneurs who started famous and well-known businesses around the world.
1. Bitcoin – Satoshi Nakamoto
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency created by an anonymous group that goes by the Japanese alias Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. Based on the foundations of blockchain, a decentralised network, Bitcoin became more popular after users on the internet realised its value. As of now, Bitcoin is worth over US$54 billion.
2. Bose – Amar Bose
Known for their home audio speakers and noise-cancelling headphones, Bose is a US$4 billion revenue company founded by Indian-American, Amar Bose, in 1964. After feeling dissatisfied with speaker systems on the market, Amar decided to create his own speakers to enjoy music as if he were at a live concert.
3. Canva – Melanie Perkins
Now with over 1,500 employees, Canva was co-founded by Filipino-Australian Melanie Perkins and her husband Cliff Obrecht in 2013. With the goal of making design accessible, Canva has served as a simple and free graphic design platform for anyone. Many businesses use this tool to custom design content posts for their business’ social media page and to create marketing and promotional materials. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a 25% increase in users who created a new design, causing Canva to double its growth and revenue to US$6 billion.
4. Casetify – Wesley Ng
A customisable phone case brand with 2.3 million followers on Instagram, Casetify (originally named Casetagram) has quickly become one the top leading phone case companies. Founded by Hong Kong-native Wesley Ng, after scrolling through Instagram and recognising an opportunity for the tech gadget and accessory market, Casetify has collaborated with many mainstream brands including NBA, Line Friends, and Fortnite.
5. Clubhouse – Rohan Seth
Newly launched in 2020, Clubhouse is an audio-based social networking app created for individuals to connect and share stories, advice, and talent with each other. Created by both Rohan Seth, who is of Indian-origin, and Paul Davison, Clubhouse plays on the FOMO (fear of missing out) aspect of networking, as it is an invite-only app and is available only for iPhone users.
6. Dang Food- Vincent Kitirattragarn
After receiving compliments from his college roommates about his coconut chips, Thai-American Vincent Kitirattragarn decided to create his own snack foods company, Dang. Bringing back the nostalgic taste of Thai street snacks, their snacks include Thai rice chips, keto-friendly bars, and of course, Vincent’s famous coconut chips.
7. Fitbit – James Park
Before the Apple Watch, there was Fitbit, a wearable HealthTech tool used for monitoring a person’s steps and other health metrics. Fitbit was co-founded by Korean-American entrepreneur James Park, and Eric Friedman in 2007. Working to make HealthTech accessible for the public, the company has raised over US$1.42 billion in revenue.
8. Flappy Bird – Dong Nguyen
An irritating but addictive game, Flappy Bird was made by Vietnam-based developer Dong Nguyen in May 2013. The game reached 50 million downloads within the year and earned US$50,000 a day in advertising revenue. However, in 2014, the game was taken down due to an overwhelming amount of negative press towards Dong.
9. Glamnetic – Ann McFerran
Ann McFerran is a Thai-American who went from being a struggling artist to being on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Wanting to change the false eyelash game and recognising the struggle of trying to put them on, Ann decided to pivot to magnetic lashes. After thorough research, Ann developed a magnetic eyeliner which false eyelashes can be attached to, consequently creating the Glametic empire.
10. Glow Recipe – Sarah Lee & Christine Chang
Glow Recipe is dubbed as a cult K-Beauty brand- and its Korean-American founders Sarah Lee and Christine Chang actually appeared in the US business TV series Shark Tank. After bonding over their passion for having clear skin, Sarah and Christine collaborated together to create a natural, fruit powered and scented skin care product line. Their mission is to promote clear and glowy skin, which is why they have formulated a perfect product, hence the name glow recipe.
11. LinkedIn – Eric Ly
Labelled as the “Facebook of Business,” Linkedln is a social network for professionals to connect, share, and learn. Co-founded by Eric Ly, a Vietnamese-American entrepreneur, and Reid Hoffman in 2002, LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for US$26.2 billion, and now has more than 400 million users worldwide. Besides Linkedln, Eric Ly is also the co-founder of AI background check platform KarmaCheck and Hub, a blockchain protocol company.
12. Razer – Min-Liang Tan
The popular gamer brand, with its trademark light-up keyboards that can light up in multiple colours, Razer, is a software platform that has reached over 125 million users. Founded by Singapore-American Min-Liang Tan, a law graduate from the National University of Singapore, he created this brand with a mission to design high-quality gaming products. Currently, Min-Liang is working on developing a virtual reality headset for medical, gaming, and educational purposes. In addition to expanding to virtual reality, Razer is going green and moving their company in a more sustainable direction by making recyclable products and designs.
13. Shi International – Thai Lee
Shi International is an IT provider for over 20,000 companies including Boeing and the mobile company AT&T. Thai Lee is a Thai-born Korean American who is also the co-owner and CEO of Shi International, the largest women-owned business in the US. Shi International is also one of the companies developing a new DaaS, PCaaS, and SaaS system to allow their clients to optimise their potential.
14. YouTube – Steven Chen
Did you know that the world’s most popular video platform was actually co-founded by a Taiwanese-American? Steven Chen, Jawed Karim, and Chad Hurley built YouTube in 2005 with the original intent of sharing a dinner party video with their friends. It was then acquired by Google in 2006 for US$1.65 billion. Jawed Karim was the world’s first YouTuber after posting a video of him at the zoo, and now in 2021, there are 2.3 billion users worldwide watching for entertainment, educational, and business purposes.
15. Zoom – Eric S. Yuan
Zoom has become a must-have since the pandemic, whether for online classes, meetings, or catch up with family and friends, it became the most popular video communication platform. Created by Chinese-American Eric Yuan in 2012 as a way to connect with his long-distance girlfriend. Eric was formerly a manager at WebEx at Cisco, another platform for video conferencing, prior to founding Zoom. Currently, Zoom’s total revenue has increased by 369% since 2019, with over 485 million downloads.