Rags-to-Riches: a Chinese-American Story

by Sean Bryant on September 27, 2012

The value of hard work and persistence is ingrained early on in Chinese youth. Not surprisingly, this kind of preparation enables budding entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles including language barriers and financial hardship and turn them into golden opportunities. Triumph over adversity by dint of hard work is the secret behind every Chinese American Hero.

Victor and Janie Tsao: Founders of Linksys Corporation

Victor and Janie Tsao founded computer accessories manufacturer Linksys, now part of technology giant Cisco Systems, in the garage of their modest Irvine, California home. They immigrated to the Unites States from Taiwan in the ‘70s and worked their corporate jobs while starting their own business.

The Tsaos parlayed their connections in the Taiwanese technology manufacturing sector to profitable partnerships with American companies seeking lower-priced makers of computer peripherals. The first product that spelled major success for the Tsaos was a printer-to-personal computer connector that extended the reach of existing cables from 15 feet to 100 feet by using telephone line technology.

Linksys grew by leaps and bounds with new products that included Ethernet hubs, cables, and network cards and other peripherals that allowed households and small businesses to link their computers and peripherals to facilitate data sharing. The success of Linksys hinged on the Tsaos risk-taking strategy of popularizing existing technology by presenting less expensive alternatives ahead of the competition.

Linksys was among the first to launch a line of wireless routers and computer cards compatible with the 802.11b standard, now known as Wi-Fi technology.

They kept their operations lean, displaying their frugal lifestyle even while Linksys’ profits were already breaching $300 million. The Tsaos sold Linksys to Cisco Systems in 2003 when revenues were over $500 million. Victor and Janie Tsao continued to work with Cisco in different capacities for many years.

James Chu: Founder of ViewSonic Corporation

James Chu, founder of ViewSonic Corporation began his sales career as a salesman of Chinese-English dictionaries and English language instruction tapes. He came to the United States as an underpaid sales manager of a small Taiwanese keyboard maker. He was forced to leave this job and strike out on his own in the U.S. at a time when he spoke very little English. He founded Keypoint Technology in 1987, sold keyboards on consignment from his previous employer until he was cut off for being too successful. He found another source and never looked back.

In 1990, Chu launched the ViewSonic line of color monitors. Within a year, the brand became one of the highly-rated computer monitor manufacturers along with big names such as Sony, Panasonic and NEC. By 2000, ViewSonic became the largest manufacturer of computer monitors in the U.S. and Japan. The company acquired Nokia Display Products in 2000.

ViewSonic continues to grow as computer display technology evolves. It has received numerous awards over the years as the leading vendor of computer monitors in the U.S. Chu remains Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company, although he has relinquished much of the day-to-day management to professional managers.

Morgan Chu: Intellectual Property Lawyer

In the world of intellectual property litigation (IP), Morgan Chu is approaching legendary status. He is recognized as one of the country’s top trial attorneys and among the leading minds when it comes to IP litigation. He is an alumnus of Harvard, Yale and the University of California at Los Angeles. Chu is currently a partner at Irrell and Mannella LLP, one of the first Asian Americans to be at the helm of a major law firm. Morgan Chu was recently named one of California’s “Top 75 Intellectual Property Litigators,” the latest in a very long list of accolades earned throughout his stellar career.

These success stories are repeated many times over in the immigrant communities all over the U.S. The enterprising spirit of the Chinese American hero will continue to inspire the next generations of businesss leaders.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created OneSmartDollar.com in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.
  • I love stories like this… makes me realize that dreams can become reality with hard work and passion!

  • Really inspiring. I heard that when the Chinese get to the US, they get money from their community, quite a good amount, to start a new life. They are close-knit and will help you with anything, and once you are successful, you have to pass it forward, lend money to the newest additions and help them in return. There is a lot of pride involved, and people work hard to succeed.

  • holly

    That is awesome! It just goes to show that if you work hard enough, you can achieve almost anything!
    Great post! Have a great weekend!

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Great stories. Just goes to show you that hard work and passion really can payoff.

  • Pingback: Quick Hits and Weekend Reading | Young Adult Money()

  • in the usa right now, anti-chinese fever is at the peak you see back in the 19 century.
    i even see famous american journalist like diane sawyer and david muir at abc news making propaganda pieces about made in china products and how the chinese are destroying american economy.
    i used to live in a chinese neighborhood in vietnam. the chinese people i know are hard working and intelligent.
    i am not suprised to see the rise of china after they embrace the free market economy.
    your article is a rare piece of journalism rarely seen in today america.

Previous post:

Next post: