When I was 7 or 8, I used to say I wanted to be an inventor,
and people in Taiwan, where I’m from, were like, “What
do you mean? You don’t want to be an accountant or an
attorney?” I always had ideas. I wanted to make a dog
feeder that had a timer so food would come out [when
it was time for] a puppy [to eat], which they make today.
We immigrated to the States when I was 11, and I ended
up studying political science at UCLA with plans to go to
law school. My girlfriend, who is now my wife, used to
listen to my ideas and suggested I look into industrial
design—I had no idea what it was.
Even though I’m the CEO of Simplehuman, I spend
about 60% of my time on R&D, because that’s what I
love—I think about it all day. I also have to take care of
all the other things that keep the business going. Our
factories are in Taiwan, but I’m based in California, so
I’m always double-checking emails and making sure
I’m available on Skype, often very early or late because of
the time difference. I’m on all the time. People joke that
I’m the fastest in the company at returning [emails] or
looking at Slack.
I always take an hour for lunch to eat in our general
café area and talk to my colleagues. I try not to talk about
work stuff because if I do that, nobody wants to sit next
to me. I want to hear about their vacations or hobbies, or
talk about the NBA.
I really believe that my mind and body work together.
We have a basketball court in the office, and if there’s a
problem my team and I can’t solve, we’ll go there and
shoot around. We also have Krav Maga and yoga classes,
so I take those too. Sometimes when you take your mind
in a different direction, you can come up with a solution
to your problems. I love cycling. I have three bikes in my
office, and when I need a break, I ride around the parking
lot for 15 minutes. I get this sense of freedom when I ride,
but I also love the mechanical aspect of bikes, the way the
gears shift, the way the frame is made, the geometry of the
design. That inspires me. —As told to YG
Founder and CEO,
I HAVE THREE