Wayne Chang Lux Exposé Exclusive Interview

LUX EXPOSÉ: What is your background?

WAYNE CHANG: I was born in Taiwan. What most people don’t realize about me is that I came from a very modest background and that I am an immigrant. When I was six years old, I left my parents and came to the US to live with my extended family. Growing up under these circumstances were difficult but I was a curious and resilient kid. I had an interest in computers and I was lucky enough to be given an Apple IIe by my Godmother who probably wanted to keep me out of trouble.

I wasn’t always sure of myself as a kid being so new to this country but when I taught myself programming, I knew I could create things that worked and this gave me a lot of confidence. I took to it really fast and by the time I was 7, I had already built my first computer program. By the time I was 11, I had started my first company, which ended up being one of the top sites in the world. Later, I went to college at UMASS Amherst where I started i2hub and also managed to almost get expelled for breaking into the university servers. Luckily, I did not get expelled – but did end up dropping out and focused my startup. I have been lucky to be a part of several technology startups including Crashlytics, Napster, Dropbox, and JetSmarter.

I finally redeemed myself for being a college dropout this past year when I received an honorary doctorate from UMASS Amherst. And, if you can believe it, they asked me to be the commencement speaker! Imagine that, giving the commencement speech at the university that I dropped out of when I was a freshmen – it was surreal.

LUX EXPOSÉ: What are the most memorable moments of your childhood that you feel shaped who you are today?

WAYNE CHANG: Childhood shapes all of us, and the role of “play” when it comes to learning cannot be overstated. My childhood was probably a bit unique in that I was playing with computer programming languages when most kids were playing hockey or video games. I have to credit my godmother for this, because she gifted me my first computer. This clunky green-screened “toy” enabled me to develop skills early on that were the genesis for my entire career. It may have seemed like a strange thing for many kids to play with, and my family didn’t quite “get it”; but to me it was nothing less than magic. Sometimes now I imagine if she had given me a more normal gift like a baseball bat or painting supplies if it would’ve completely changed the trajectory of my life. Who knows, without that Apple IIe, I might not be the tech entrepreneur I am today. Some of the most memorable moments of my childhood were spent in front of a DOS screen trying to figure out how to program as funny as that may sound.

Wayne Chang
Photo: Courtesy of Wayne Chang

Lux Exposé:  If you could, what would you tell your younger self?

WAYNE CHANG: When we are young, it’s hard to grasp how quickly time passes. Like most young entrepreneurs I often found myself so focused on my next goal or milestone that I didn’t always give myself permission to enjoy the stage I was in. All we have is now; and if I could somehow talk to my younger-self, I would probably tell myself to enjoy the journey, embrace uncertainty and not get so preoccupied with the destination. Life is about enjoying the journey. Now that I am older, I make an effort to enjoy each day- and to be fully immersed in whatever I am doing. I have a much present mindset now than I did when I was younger.

LUX EXPOSÉ:  Who or what has been your main source of gaining knowledge and wisdom along the way?

WAYNE CHANG:  A wonderful thing about being in my industry has been the proximity I’ve had to really incredible people who have taught me so much and inspired me. People in general tend to be where I gain the most wisdom and knowledge. Everybody can teach you something if you know how to listen, and everybody can show you something if you know how to observe. I have been fascinated my whole life by what drives people, what inspires them and what makes them tick. I also read a lot growing up- and was always drawn to the writing and philosophies of Warren Buffett. He taught me about both humility and investment theory. I also took a lot from reading Dale Carnegie, whose core idea was that the only way you could change other people’s behaviors was by changing your own. I would encourage people to find someone they want to emulate, and find a way to learn from them whether by speaking with them, or by reading their books. It’s a strategy that has always worked for me.

LUX EXPOSÉ:  What inspired your interest in becoming an angel investor?

WAYNE CHANG: Being an angel investor was a natural progression for me as a creator and entrepreneur. Building and creating things is what I do, what I love and what I am good at. Angel investing has given me an incredible opportunity to support like-minded, up-and-coming creators and entrepreneurs who remind me of myself. When I was starting out I didn’t have access to programs like these, so at this stage in my career it feels great to be able to give back and share the knowledge I have gained along the way. Being an angel investor means I have a front row seat to incredible innovations that are changing the world at their earliest stages. It’s definitely exciting.

Wayne Chang
Photo: Courtesy of Wayne Chang

LUX EXPOSÉ: What is your favorite part of the work you do?

WAYNE CHANG: As cool as making a profitable business is; nothing surpasses the feeling of making a positive impact on someone’s life. Whenever I get an email or letter of appreciation- it reminds me what I am doing is worthwhile. That is so empowering and rewarding. It is without doubt the best part of what I do. My underlying goal in any endeavor or company I am a part of  is to help others. When I get confirmations that I have done that, well- it doesn’t get much better than that.

LUX EXPOSÉ: What challenges have you faced?

WAYNE CHANG: I don’t know that I would necessarily call this a challenge- but something I’ve learned the hard way is that time is my most valuable resource. Spreading myself too thin means that I can’t give anything my full attention. There are so many great companies and ideas. My challenge is really more an embarrassment of riches when it comes to projects I am interested in. I just don’t have enough bandwidth to get involved with all of them. I have to be very selective and say no a lot. That’s only challenging because I don’t like to miss out. Luckily I’ve become better and better at forecasting which opportunities are the best for me.

LUX EXPOSE: What has motivated you to keep moving forward during more challenging times?

WAYNE CHANG:  When I was younger I was the so-called Black Sheep in my family. People in school, and even my family, rarely believed in my ideas. I had to learn to believe in myself, and be self-reliant. Looking back, not having the support I once craved ended up being a tremendous asset- because it taught me to rely on myself during challenging times. I went through life for a while with a chip on my shoulder. I always felt like I had to prove everyone wrong and excel at everything I did. Now my motivations are less about proving people wrong, and more about helping others succeed. Because of my “black sheep” background, it’s important to me to let people in similar situations know that they can’t give up. If people in your life doubt you- use that as motivation to show them, and more importantly to show yourself that you have what it takes to keep pushing forward. Self doubt has killed more endeavors than a lack of support ever has. Determination and grit are the qualities that separates the wheat from the chaff.

LUX EXPOSÉ:  What is your favorite project to date?

WAYNE CHANG:  I have been a part of so many great companies, but I have to say my favorite is Crashlytics. When Jeff Seibert and I created Crashlytics in 2011, we had this huge, crazy idea. We sold Crashlytics within the first year to Twitter which was incredible. More incredible though, was the impact the app had all around the globe. It became the number one in mobile performance and lives in over 2.7 billion devices — including the one in your hand right now. Crashlytics was also the foundation from which we built Answers, which became number one in mobile analytics tools within the first 10 months – surpassing Google’s own Google Analytics. It’s been one hell of a ride.

LUX EXPOSÉ: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

WAYNE CHANG: On Mars (kidding…)
In ten years I would like to be doing what I am doing now- but on a larger scale. I have already been involved in companies that have changed the world. It is my hope to continue and expand on that legacy. I also see myself starting another company and getting more involved in films which have become hobby projects of mine.

LUX EXPOSÉ: What is the best piece of advice you can give future entrepreneurs?

WAYNE CHANG:  There’s an analogy I often use and that is that success depends on an idea but there is an ocean of ideas. Being an entrepreneur requires the ability to determine what ideas are worth following. There is a bit of a dichotomy here because on one hand it’s important to persevere and not give up, and on the other it’s important to know when to shift gears and put something down that isn’t working. We have overused the word “pivot” to an almost nauseating degree- but I would advise future entrepreneurs to be open to pivoting. Adaptability is required for survival, it’s tech Darwinism. Let go of your tightly held preconceived ideas, they are probably holding you back more than they are helping you.

LUX EXPOSÉ: How important is giving back to the community to you and are you involved in any philanthropy?

WAYNE CHANG: Community is very important in the startup world, and giving back to it is the majority of what drives what I do now. A wise man once told me that there are three stage of life. 1) Learn 2) Earn and 3) Return. I just happened to reach the return phase early on in my life so now I’m focusing on that stage and trying to help as many people as I can. Giving back comes in many forms. Of course I am a philanthropist, but I also dedicate a lot of my time to the startups I invest in and to the startup ecosystem as a whole. It’s hugely important to me to support the next generation of entrepreneurs because they are going to be the ones driving major change in the world. We are seeing incredible advances in medicine, transportation, energy, biometrics and so many other areas that will vastly improve human life. I want to do my part to make sure those advances occur in this lifetime.

LUX EXPOSÉ: What are your favorite hobbies and ways to spend your free time?

WAYNE CHANG: I consider “work” to be what you are doing when you’d rather be doing something else. My definition of true success is having the freedom to choose what you do with your time, and by that definition I am very successful because I am always doing something I feel passionately about and genuinely want to be doing. My free time is spent mostly with family and friends. I also enjoy reading, music, film and travelling. My goal is to fill up my passport this coming year and I am already well on my way.

LUX EXPOSÉ: What is your definition of luxury?

WAYNE CHANG: Luxury is anything that makes life more efficient or comfortable or both. Time is the only non renewable resource, so when something gives me more time- that is a true luxury. In the more traditional sense of the word- I consider luxury to be the comforts of home, even when I am not at home. For someone who travels as much as I do- this has become important.

LUX EXPOSÉ: What piece of luxury would you hate to live without?

WAYNE CHANG:  Options. At one point in my life I didn’t have that many options, so it is something I do not take for granted. If you look back at where I come from, the environment I was born into, you probably would never have guessed that I would be where I am today. Now I have an abundance of options, and therefore I’m able to make better decisions about my life and my businesses and ultimately gain better results. Having options is the same as having freedom. Freedom is a luxury I could not live without.

LUX EXPOSÉ: Where is your absolute favorite place to live?

WAYNE CHANG:  I love living in LA because it’s no longer just the epicenter of entertainment and Hollywood, it’s also a burgeoning tech hub. The LA tech scene is getting a lot of buzz now, and it’s exciting because I get to help shape what that is. Bringing my tech background to the entertainment industry has been a really cool new chapter of my career. I am looking forward to seeing what these business relationships I am making in the entertainment world will bring in the future. There are so many opportunities these two industries can join in very interesting ways. Being from Boston I also have to admit, I am really loving LA weather as well.

I still spend a lot of time out in Boston, which is where I grew up. Boston is great for academia and research, and hard science. LA is more consumer focused, fashion forward and entertainment based. At this point in my career I am interested more and more in the intersection between tech and entertainment, so LA is the best place for me. I’m able to take all my knowledge from the east coast, and give life to my ideas on the west coast. I am still a Red Sox fan.

LUX EXPOSÉ: Do you like to fly private and if so what do you like most about it?

WAYNE CHANG:  Of course! Flying private is an amazing experience. I highly recommend it. Having a car there right when you walk off the plane is such a valuable thing for people like me who are trying to achieve the greatest number of tasks in the shortest amount of time. That’s why when I was pitched the idea for JetSmarter I knew it was going to be huge even though most other investors turned it down. Everybody wants to fly private, but it’s out of reach for most people. JetSmarter makes it way more accessible.

Wayne Chang
Photo: Courtesy of Wayne Chang

LUX EXPOSÉ:  What is your favorite travel destination to date and why?

WAYNE CHANG: I went to visit Saint Tropez once and was simply blown away by the beauty and ambiance. But (don’t laugh!), a nice cup of Dunkachino from the local Dunkin Donuts when I visit home — there’s just something about that which is way more comforting than popping bottles all night long and champagne showers at L’Opera.

LUX EXPOSÉ:  Where would you like to travel next?

I’ve always found Cuba to be fascinating. This is a very unique time because the travel ban has been lifted, but Cuba is still very much culturally and technologically siloed from the rest of the world. It is one of the most unique places on earth with the most need for innovation. Politically the climate is changing, and the infrastructure for technology has yet to be built which presents a great need- and therefore a great opportunity. To be able to bring modern infrastructure to somewhere so culturally diverse and rich in history is any entrepreneur’s dream.

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