From one month runway to 300% growth - the US/Taiwan startup story of Han Jin & Lucid
Han Jin, emigrated to Germany from China at age 6. He grew up in Hamburg, and received his BSc in Management Science & General Engineering from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He then finished his Masters in Engineering from the University of California in Berkeley in 2012.
After working as a program manager at SanDisk for three years, Han began his dream of being an entrepreneur, founding Lucid in 2015, an computer vision company in California. He was recognized for his accomplishments in Forbes 30 under 30 and Inc 30 Under 30 for consumer technology in 2018.
Han first came to Taiwan as part of the Garage+ program, joining their first batch of oversea entrepreneurs, and fell in love with Taiwan. He now spends his time managing Lucid’s cross-border teams in Taipei, Taiwan and San Jose, USA. Here is his story.
How did you hear about Taiwan?
Back in Silicon Valley, I had heard about some Taiwan startup programs through outreach project managers (which were sponsored by the Ministry of Science & Technology). So in 2015, I joined the first batch from Garage+, and then also joined the Sparklabs Taipei program at Taiwan Tech Arena in 2018. Through these programs I was able to find hardware manufacturing partners such as Wistron who produced Lucid’s first 3D camera, and develop products which were in partnership with RED in their Hydrogen One smartphone.
At the time, I was still spending most of my time with the team in San Jose, but being brought up in a Chinese family, the language and food in Taiwan was familiar. I did have some culture shock coming from the US though. There were just so many rules, where in the US we were taught to question rules and find arbitrage, in Taiwan, people follow the rules to the T, and sometimes that stands in the way of finding innovation outside the box.
But over time I figured out how to work within the system. I enjoyed the lifestyle here, transportation was so convenient, the people were friendly, and with the company’s needs for a strong hardware partner, I decided to set up a subsidiary of the US Lucid here. The low cost of living in addition to the excellent standard of living is key to the success of startup teams without much funding.
When did you hear about the gold card?
I heard about the Gold Card through a friend, and received my card in July 2018. I’m now on my second card (renewed in April 2020) and it’s been a lifesaver! It has allowed me to settle here completely, work, and most importantly, I’m treated basically like a citizen. During Covid last year, I even received facemasks from the government.
I’ve since met my Taiwanese fiancé here, bought a house in Xindian, and besides business trips to manage the team in the US, I will be based here.
How has it been running a startup? Especially during Covid?
It’s extremely difficult! Lucid almost died three times over the past years, the worst was when we only had one month of cash left. But somehow, and always during Christmas, I’ve been able to either find an investor, land a large corporate contract, or somehow manage to find customer growth. That’s the nature of startups, one winter I’m having to let people go, and then all of a sudden, we are experiencing 300% month on month growth! We call it the “Christmas wonders.”
During Covid, we have had to pivot into more software-based services focusing on video content. Taiwan has been crucial for this, as it was safe enough for me to meet with my team in the office and hire more talents here, when the US was on lockdown.
How has it been setting up and managing teams in two countries? How are the two teams different?
I started the Taiwan team with just 2 people, growing it to 10 and now have about 20 people in total. We are now also hiring!
Two-thirds of the company is actually in Taiwan now, and more than 80% of the company are engineers. There’s a balance of people in both teams, and I believe in combining the strengths of the Taiwan team with the US team for achieving the best results.
In general, the culture in Taiwan focuses on linear execution, delivering products, developing features within tight schedules. They are exceptional in building technology and deep in their own crafts, but often people don’t strive to standout. The team spirit is also very strong, probably due to the cultural emphasis on family. In the US, the team has other priorities and often they want to be different and creative with their solutions. Therefore, they focus more on research and strategy.
How has it been hiring in Taiwan compared to the US?
The interview process is really different. In the US, Silicon Valley encourages big thinking, but also deep dive very quickly on a specific use case. Interviews usually include creative questions that challenges your abilities to solve a unknown problem on the spot. In Taiwan, the interviews are more generic, there is a lot of focus on standardized testing and technical abilities.
Language can also still be a barrier though, if candidates are not comfortable in English, they cannot present themselves, making it difficult to be attractive for US recruiters.
Finding talent in Taiwan is very different than in the US, as people follow a sort of herd mentality here. You have to tap into certain engineering circles for hiring. I brought over the previous GM of a mobile tech company, and relied heavily on him to bring over his previous peers.
Thank you for sharing your experiences, Han. Any last thoughts?
In a startup, I had to try so many things that failed, and to this day I still fail every day. However, I never regret quitting my well-paid stable corporate job to jump into this adventure. At the end of the day, you will realize that a big salary does not define happiness, but what you do with your limited amount of time in life. Even though to most people, quitting my well-paid corporate job was the most stupid decision and yet, I feel it was the best decision, because sometimes you have to just take a risk on yourself as life is too short.
We are currently looking to expand and need to hire a lot of engineers. There are some exciting news coming for Lucid soon that I can’t announce yet. So, if there are any engineers and developers looking to join our adventure, please contact me!
If you are interested in working for Lucid, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org