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My Window Of Opportunity

With Dr. Limin Hu

|Published on: Jul 19, 2019

So much has changed since the time when people rely on papers for their finances. Now with new innovations coming in, everything has become digital. Ahead of his time, Dr. Limin Hu co-founded a FinTech company called Ellie Mae, Inc. in 1998 way back when the industry was still finding its way into popularity. Bringing the digital internet technology to the finance industry, Dr. Hu shares the origin story of his company and how they revolutionized the industry, most especially the US mortgage industry. Dr. Hu tackles the change in the meaning of leadership from then to now, highlighting the kind of leader who can put their passion in their work and their team. Moving deeper into his non-profit work, Dr. Hu talks about his fundraising effort called Friend of Children with Special Needs (FCSN) and what it means to him and how he found the window of opportunity.

My Window Of Opportunity with Dr. Limin Hu

Before we introduce our guest, I’d like to read a review, “Great podcast’’ by Pinhead99. “Thank you for the great podcast. This is more than just entertainment. With your mission, I’m hoping that the world will be more open-minded. There will be less conscious or unconscious bias against Asians. This is important since our abilities to advance our career are often impacted by other people’s perception.” Thank you for your encouraging words, Pinhead99. I believe that when all of us are aware of the unconscious bias against Asians and we have abilities to lead and step up in our roles, then America will welcome us. It is not just for Asians, but for other races as well. Please keep reading and sharing this podcast if you believe in our mission. If you want to know what I’m up to, please text AWOP to 64600. You will get a link to my virtual business card brought to you by EZcard.

Our guest is Dr. Limin Hu. He had extensive startup experiences for both profits and nonprofits. He Cofounded Ellie Mae, Inc. in 1998 and served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for almost twenty years. Ellie Mae went public in 2011 and was named the Best Performing IPO for the US technology company. In 2019, Ellie Mae was acquired to go private at the valuation of $3.7 billion. In 2002, Dr. Hu led a fundraising effort to raise $3 million to build a Friends of Children with Special Needs, FCSN Center, in San Francisco, California. He became the first chairman for six years. FCSN now has two centers in the Bay Area with more than 100 employees and serves hundreds of children and adults with autism, down syndrome, etc. He is recognized as Chairman Emeritus for both Ellie Mae and the Monte Jade West Science and Technology Association. Welcome, Dr. Limin Hu.

It’s an honor to come to this show and share my experience. I’m very excited.

Thank you for being here. Share with us your childhood. Who or what inspired you to choose engineering?

I remember, I did not choose. When I was back in Taiwan, I tried to take an examination because the better your exam, you can get to a better college and you can pick a better discipline. From a young age, I go where the money goes because the top-ranking ones are usually the ones with a good career. There are usually two. One is engineering and the other is to be a doctor. I did pretty well in the examination. I think I’m going to faint when I see the blood so I chose engineering. People like to follow the crowd but I’m so excited that I ended up okay.

You already knew that being a doctor is not your career. You said that if you see blood, you’re going to faint.

When I look at all these doctors doing the operation and surgeries, I say, “That’s too scary for me.”

You’d rather work with a machine rather than a human. Who was your role model growing up?

I was reading a lot of Chinese kung fu stories and some of the kung fu characters are my role models because they’re usually the underdogs. They’re being suppressed. They need to persevere and struggle. Eventually, things get better and they become successful. I learned that to be successful, you might suffer a lot. A life with struggle is a life that’s worth celebrating. Without the struggle, you won’t enjoy the fruit that much. I don’t have a particular role model but I do have several characters in the novels.

Which one?

I don’t know the English name. It’s some of the most famous and oldest in Hong Kong and Taiwan. They have epic stories that are very inspiring.

Is that a true story?

They’re novels. Because this is kung fu, they can fly.

Window Of Opportunity: Nowadays, if we can put the artificial intelligence behind every scene, you find that you can make American dreams possible.

Did you have two PhDs simultaneously, one in Electrical Engineering and the other in Computer Science Engineering?

Yes and no. When I was at Berkeley, we are in the EECS department, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Usually, when you get your PhD, you only get a PhD in one area. Most departments have different requirements. In the third year, my professor went to a Sabbatical so I got all the freedom. I figured, “Why don’t I get exposed in computer science? In the third year, I was in the Computer Science department. It’s in the same department. I met all the requirements in both electrical engineering and computer science. When I got a PhD, it’s in both areas. It’s still one PhD, but it’s like two because it’s in both areas. If you look at all the PhDs from UC Berkeley, very few have this double degree. I wasted one year learning all the stuff about computer science. At some point, I was in engineering, communication, IC and the internet. I figured that everything is controlled by software. There’s not a clear distinction between hardware and software. Eventually, everything would be controlled by software. Going to computer science provided me with a lot of experience.

My first job from Silicon Valley was joining a startup. I got a job from AT&T to work at their research center. I also got a job in computer science from IBM Research. They offered $3,000 so I picked computer science. In hindsight, I was following where the money goes because where they offer a higher salary, I figured there must be a good reason they offered a higher salary. This is the same advice I gave my kids. My son is 25 now. When he was ready to go to college, he was lucky to get admission into UC Berkeley. He asked me, “Dad, what should I pick?” I said, “What do you like?” He said, “I like architecture and business.” I said, “How about computer science?” He said, “I have no objection.” I said, “Why don’t you just take computer science? If you make enough money, you can do whatever you want.” My youngest son got autism. He’s lucky to get into the accounting area. He’s getting paid $20 an hour. Sometimes it’s a balance. If you make enough money, you can take care of yourself. A lot of the times, you’re much happier if you don’t need to worry about money. Money is not going to make you happy, but if you don’t have money, it’s painful.

Tell us about Ellie Mae. How did you come up with that idea?

It’s by chance. I went to IBM Research. After two years, there was a new CEO. His name was Louis Gerstner. IBM was going through some turbulence. IBM was struggling, so the new CEO took over. His first email to everyone in the research department started with the sentence, “Papers don’t count anymore.” He was asking all the research staff that we’re going to evaluate our success based on impact. The impact could be an impact on the bottom line for IBM. The impact could make life much greater. You change the word. Impact means that it’s going to be useful. It doesn’t need to be measured by money or revenue. That was an awakening for me because I was publishing papers and I thought that I could be a professor. I realized that if I wanted to make an impact, I should go to the industry. I should be an entrepreneur. I decided that I’m going to be an entrepreneur.

In a few years, I started my first company and then my second company. I have a lot of relationships. My partner was one of my clients in my first company. His company failed. He decided to launch something new. He said, “Why don’t we join forces? It’s a perfect combination. I have experience in the finance industry. I know what the market needs. You know technology. You’re going to build something better than anybody else. Together, we can build a great company.” It was a perfect combination. He’s still my best friend. It’s a perfect combination in several ways. I found that we have very different personalities and experience. He is Jewish and I’m Chinese. We have the same value system, but we have very different knowledge, connection and everything. We are best friends. It’s one plus one equals three. This is perfect.

Did you say he is very strong in finance?

He is very strong in finance. We were ten years ahead of our time. In my PhD study, I was doing the wireless internet. That was twenty years before it was popular. The idea we have for Ellie Mae is, “Why don’t we bring the digital internet technology to the finance industry especially on the mortgage side?” In a lot of the areas, it’s so backward. People were still using paper. Everything connected with digital, we’re going to revolutionize the industry. Whatever we were thinking, looking past, “That’s FinTech.” We built a FinTech company before the term was created. Later, people started to apply finance technology. It’s called FinTech. Right now it’s a pretty popular area for a startup, for a lot of the new innovations coming.

In twenty years, we always have the same mission. We always want to create a digital mortgage and change the process from 45 days to ten days much more efficient, productive and powerful. Nowadays, if we can put the artificial intelligence behind everything, then you find out that you can streamline the process so much. Our logo is, “Making the American dreams possible.” We’re going to make the process so easy that the Millennials will know how to find the right solution. We match them with the best solution. It’s very efficient. They get the best price. Everyone has a chance to get a house of their own.

Did you leave Ellie Mae?

I left Ellie May on April 1st, 2019. I was thinking about leaving a few years ago. I turned over the management already. In Chinese, we say, “Sometimes you want to quit while you are at the top.” I’m more entrepreneurial. When we had 1,500 people in the company, the management job became much more important than creating something new. I figured that at the start, we’re too hungry that we became multi-billion dollars. I thought, “I still like to be an entrepreneur,” and that was reason number one. Reason number two was the company was simply acquired. We were a public company. In April, we became a private company owned by a private equity. They made the company private. They only kept some of the active management team and they don’t need the founders but it’s perfect. They own other companies in this space. They might have a good opportunity to create something even bigger. My partner retired and I semi-retired but I can pursue a lot of the projects I want to do now.



Window Of Opportunity: The bigger the challenges you’re going to have, the more you run to progress.

Thank you.

Did you do anything to celebrate that?

Yes. I’ve been traveling a lot. I went to Europe, in five countries. I went to Las Vegas. I went to Asia, I went to Japan for a week. I was in China for a conference. I went to Beijing. I was in Taipei. I was stuck in Taipei because of the airline strike. Most of May and June 2019, I’ve been traveling. I also plan to travel around the world in the October timeframe. Then I’m going to settle down. I got a lot of projects. I have started already. I started a new company with partners to do more conservative in green technology to real estate area. I’ve been invited to join a company ball for a company raising $20 million already. I’ve been an adviser for a lot of the young startups. I do mentor. I’ve been helping a lot of different projects. It’s no different than what I’m doing right now.

I try to identify the young startup with potential. I try to identify people who have a desire to learn. I want to show them the way. My motto is I want everyone to get to their full potential. They could be an engineer, but they could be a great entrepreneur. They could be great leaders. Sometimes they don’t know what it’s like to be a leader. I usually ask, “What do you want to accomplish in your life?” Once you have an objective, a target and put down the strategy on how to get there. It was the same for me. I came to the United States with $3,000 in my pocket. I got my PhD. I wanted to do more for IBM and then decided I want to be an entrepreneur. I followed my plan. In a few years, I learned from different areas then I started my own company. I started two companies. Only until the third company that it became very successful. It’s a journey. If you understand and know what it takes, you can be much better prepared and successful.

I’m going to jump ahead to share some of the key findings. Number one is I usually tell people that the most important thing is leadership. The other one I always tell people is if you’re happy, you can make people happy, so take care of yourself. That’s the most important thing. If you’re not happy, you don’t have a positive attitude and you’re not going to be successful. The third one is I am an engineer turned entrepreneur. I always tell people that most of my successful friends in business or in startup all have very good people relationship. Your network is worth a lot and all these three elements are connected.

I always tell people that instead of hoping you bump into a boss who can treat you well and take you to fly with him or her, most likely, it’s not. You should think about how you can make a difference by learning to be a leader. In the good old days, I’m very strong. I can do things by myself. Nowadays, it’s an era of innovation and collaboration. You can be very successful only if you find all the right people to get to be a good team. If you want to build a team, then you want to develop your leadership. Once you have the leadership, it doesn’t matter whether you want to be a VP in a company or you want to start your own company or all you want to do is charity work because it’s all about leadership. That’s number one. To be a good leader, you want people to enjoy working with you.

Imagine if you’re depressed, grumpy and complain all the time. Everyone has too many headaches of their own already. Why do they need to sit down and spend time with some people giving them even more negative energy? If you’re happy, you take care of yourself. You have something I call the enthusiasm. When I first raised the venture money, both of us have no experience. They liked us and they liked our combination and they liked our enthusiasm. If you don’t have the passion, you don’t do something you like, you’re not going to be that successful. If you do something you don’t like, you hope that you’ll be successful, you make a lot of money so you don’t need to work anymore, all those people fail. The people who are successful enjoy doing the stellar company. They enjoy facing challenges and solving problems. They’re very positive. They have the passion.

I hope that everyone can turn their job into their passion, which is very difficult. Anything you do, after a while, you get tired. You got to find something that you have a purpose in life. You have something you’re working on so you can keep going. That’s entrepreneurship. Number one is you’re going to embrace failures. Everyone is going to fail. You learn from your mistakes. You’re going to pick it up and keep on doing it. That’s the spirit of Silicon Valley. That’s why you need to be happy. It’s all connected. Nowadays, most people understand business after I explained the leadership, the team effort and the importance to be positive. You get a lot of support from your friends and your network. You never know who’s going to help you. You’re going to find a lot of miracles through your network.

The people relationship is very important nowadays. It’s wonderful that everyone has a cell phone. It’s mobile. It’s wonderful. I usually go to dinner with my friend and I will suggest, “Why don’t we all leave the phone back home?” A lot of the people sit together and play with their phone and they don’t interact with each other. You’ll never learn enough from books or the internet but you learn a lot from your friends. You get a lot of energy. You get a lot of enthusiasm and passion by working with other people. I went into entrepreneurship and learned along the way. Once you realize that these are the important things and you follow this path, you have your target, you’ll find you get closer every day. You’re going to make progress. You can make mistakes but your chance of success is so much higher if you can follow that.

I taught a class with the Casper Organization about emotional intelligence. One of the five areas in emotional intelligence is about networking, your relationship with other people and how to manage all the people.

It starts with taking care of yourself and your family. The driving model for entrepreneurship is it’s not saying that, “Mr. and Mrs. Family, son, daughter, wife, I’m going to take on a startup. I’m going to disappear from the world for three years and I want to use up all the money. If I’m successful, I won’t go and we’ll have happiness. If not, everyone will be miserable.” This model never worked. The reason is that the startup is a journey of success. If you raise money, you’re going to have even bigger challenges. If you’re going to continue to run to more progress, you cannot throw yourself sacrificing the most important things in life, which is treating yourself well and taking care of your family. A good startup in the early days, we encourage all the family members to join. We have a lot of activities to help the community. We bring the family together. This is an important bond for a lot of employees because the company is their family as well. We all have a good time. We all exercise. We take care of ourselves. That’s why we have more energy to go longer. If you don’t take care of yourself and your family and you try to sacrifice everything for the startup, then you’re doing it wrong.

What led you to start the Friends of Children with Special Needs?


Window Of Opportunity: If a group of people is doing something together, it’s much easier and happier.

I wasn’t planning on that but when I started Ellie Mae, which is about 1997, my second son was one year old. In the second year, when my son was two, I found him to be autistic. My ex-wife was showing signs of depression. I’m the only one earning the bread for the family. It seems like I’m the only one who could help my son. I was faced with a tremendous challenge at that point. I wanted to make a lot of money and be successful so I have resources to help my son. The more I study, the scarier because autism is not curable. It’s for life. On the other hand, there’s something called the window of opportunity. It’s called early intervention.

Between two to five, if you train the brain of the autistic kid or any developmental delay type of the problem, they usually learn a lot. They adjust their pattern so they could be quite normal and improve a lot. I have the critical three years ahead of me. We raised money from venture capital. We have plenty of money and I have a son with autism. I was struggling a little bit. One day, I got very clear in my mind. I said, “I could start another company but my son cannot wait.” I decided to focus on my son. I went back to Ellie Mae. I told my partner, “I’m sorry. I’m going to try my best but I have more important stuff at home,” which is my son. I’m not going to give up on Ellie Mae, but I want to make sure that I do everything I could to help my son.

My model for my son is not about changing him to be normal because I know that’s impossible. My idea is, “This couple of years if I try my best and help him to achieve the full potential, then there’s no regret.” I try my best. That’s my spirit at that point. After two and a half years, my son started to talk. He called me baba, the first time when he was four and a half years old. I was so happy. I went back to Ellie Mae. I told my friends and my partner there, “My startup at home is so successful. It’s a miracle.” I’m so happy. I had the happiest moment in my life when my son opened his mouth called me Daddy. I told my partner and said, “Ellie Mae doesn’t matter to me anymore.” A lot of times, when you try so hard, you couldn’t get it. When you try to focus on what you think is right, you end up with the best. All my partners respect me very much. They need to adjust to my schedule and know I won’t have all the time.

People say, “I know how to use people. I know how to build a team. I know how to work smart.” We build a model that’s about how you need to focus and work smart. That’s the right way to do the startup. If you take care of your family, you can focus on your job and career. It’s not about how much time you spend on your job. It’s about how much progress, success and impact you’re making. Because of my experience, I realized that I’m so lucky. They say that one in 600 kids are born with autism. Now, they say it’s one in 60 or 80. There’s a huge jump. The government is not going to have resources to help every kid.

My partner at FCSN is very smart. He’s a doctor. It took us so much time to figure out how to take care of the kids. What’s the right way to do it? We should expand our experience. FCSN, at that point, have ten families. They’re doing a lot of family-style operation. I got a lot of help from them. I thought that I don’t want to give up on the autism side. Maybe I could continue to help them a little bit. I spend probably two to three years raising $3 million. In that timeframe, we built a center. I was the first chairman. We held FCSN to help a lot of people. We help people with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome or any developmental delay. It’s all the same, the early intervention. You need to use the right way they could learn. The learning curve could be much slower. If they learn it, they know how to do it.

My son graduated from San Jose University. He’s working in an accounting firm. Once he can walk, he has a full light ahead of him. I’m so happy. I got so much accomplishment from the progress of my son. We ran into all kinds of problems in the company. Every time I look at that, I say, “That’s nothing compared to having an autistic son.” There’s no hope, but I keep doing that and miracle happens. He made so much progress that I couldn’t imagine that was possible. He doesn’t talk at the age of four. The training was difficult. Once you crack open, he got a way to communicate. He’s very smart. He’s high functioning. If you can help more kids to be normal and to get better much early earlier in life and to have family joining the effort, that would be fabulous. It takes a village to raise a kid, especially autistic kids.

Most of the leadership I learned was not from men but from children with special needs. There are two things that are most difficult to do in life. One is to put your idea into other people’s mind. The other one is to take other people’s money into your own pocket. When you try to raise money for FCSN, you’re not going to promise them that the return of the money, it’s a donation. You raise money for no return, but it’s another return for them. These are the things you want to convince them. One is you have the idea and you believe that idea will work. You have the passion and they believe that you can make it happen. They believe that you’re going to help a lot of kids. They invest in you to help other kids to make an impact. Once you’ve gone through the effort to raise money for no potential financial return for those people, you learn how to raise money for your startup much easier. You find that a lot of good people are willing to make donations. These are wonderful friends. I built a network of friends. All those donors have been so helpful in my career. I bump into a lot of people who keep helping me.

When I was organizing any events, you realize that in the company, you pay people salary and you can fire people. You can, “If you don’t do it, you’re fired.” In a charity, you want people to help you. You don’t pay them money. You need to have leadership throughout the nonprofit. In my leadership, I realized that people are so willing to work for you, the mission and what they believe. They’re enthusiastic. I have parents who work until 2:00. They know it’s important. Everyone is doing things on their own. If I can have my company’s engineer doing half of that, we will be very successful. You realize that building a company is not about financial reward. If you don’t pay them enough, you’re not going to get them to support you.

You need them to be motivated. You need them to be autonomous and willing to do things on their own. You need them to believe in the mission. This is the most important experience for startups, especially coming from a nonprofit. Ellie Maine is my third company. I started several companies. When I worked on that charity, I realized that this helped shift my leadership so much. I learned so much from doing things from a different angle. The harder you try, you won’t get there because you’re using the wrong method, wrong mentality or wrong approach.

What was your role in the FCSN?

My first role was the chairman of the fundraising. I organize the activities. I’ll help to raise money. I was leading the fundraising in April. The ones we view the center, I was a chairman and now helping FCSN to move from family organizations into an established charity organization. We can survive and we will be much more successful in the long run. A lot of the things I learned from starting the company, I was the most qualified one to help FCSN with the structure. When you have a group of parents, they don’t have the experience. Right now, FCSN is at $15 million asset and more than 100 employees. You need the structure to grow. You need to shift the culture and define the mission. Those are the things I help FCSN. I’ve been serving as a chairman for the longest term. There was a term limit. They changed that for me. I served six terms. We want people to take terms to serve as chairman.

You mentioned that the asset for the FCSN is $15 million. What asset does this organization own?


Window Of Opportunity: As a leader, if you don’t work with other people, you won’t be able to accomplish anything.

We have two centers, one in San Jose and one in Vermont. We’ve been very profitable. We’ve been raising money to help us to grow. In terms of operation, we’ve been running the operation breaking even or profitable. As a charity or as a startup, you need to have resources. You need money to support your operation and growth. You need to figure out the model and pull the FCSN to a system and to survive and persist forever, you need to bring revenue. We became a vendor for the government. This government agency is called regional centers. We became the vendor. We help the government take care of a lot of the autistic kids and Down syndrome kids. We have many different programs that the government agencies are providing funding. That’s how we can outgrow more than 100 full-time employees.

FCSN is not a nonprofit.

Nonprofit can be huge. With a big organization, we’d raise some money and provide money back to the community. Along the way, we provide salaries to all of the 100 employees.

Who qualifies to get help from FCSN?

Everyone is qualified. We have several thousand programs. In some of the programs, we’ve got funding from the government. We’re open to everyone. You need to be qualified by the agency. For example, you need to identify with being autistic or the different other areas that qualify for a program. The challenges for us is for those formal programs, the waiting list probably is over a year. The demand is so strong out there. We are operating at full capacity nowadays. The second area is we have a program that’s more for the family. We have all kinds of programs. We do a sports camp and music camp. We provide a lot of programs that held the keys to grow and learn. Parents can participate. We have programs for different ages. The purpose of those programs is not therapeutic. It’s not educational to replace the school. Those programs’ purpose is teaching and bringing the parents together. We’re showing parents that learning music could help these kids to get better. If we get all the way to reach them and communicate with them is important. You also might take that exercise like dancing. That could be very helpful. It’s also doing arts and learning computers. Parents come in here as a volunteer.

Sometimes we call them the volunteer programs. We have parents coming in. We do a lot of activity in bringing the family together. If you imagine the family working together and being very positive and they go out hiking together and help they help each other, they’re not lonely. The number one problem is that a lot of people will feel, “Why me? How come it’s my son or my daughter?” They get depressed. They don’t have the energy to help the kids. On the other hand, if you have a group of people doing it together, it’s much easier and happier. My biggest contribution is not to raise some money. I want the organization to be positive-thinking. I want the organization to reach out and work with everyone in the community. Because we have this concept to bring the parents together, I say, “This is a smiling organization.” I want these kids to be smiling. It’s instead of holding them at very high academic standard, if they are very happy and learning, we’re very happy. Parents are happy. Everyone is making great progress here.

You are doing a wonderful job. Tell us about the Monte Jade West Science & Technology Association. What is it?

It’s a group of high-tech executives that got together and said, “Maybe we should do the organization to help with a lot of different things.” We have three major missions. Number one is we are serving as a bridge between the eastern ways. It’s mostly Asian business entrepreneurs and business executives. There’s a lot of manufacturing and development in Asia. Silicon Valley is a place of innovation. You bring them together. The flow of information and opportunities are what makes Silicon Valley successful in the electronic industry in Asia. That’s the first thing we do. The second thing we do is we found that the Asian community, especially Chinese, and it doesn’t matter if it’s from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan, the Chinese community is underrepresented in terms of the high-tech area or politicians. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the first generation or you’re born here. If you have the Asian heritage, somehow, we are not doing as well as we should be. What we try to do is build the bridge to the next generation.

We have a mentorship program. It’s sharing with the young people our struggle and success and open their mind. Sometimes you open their mind and they have ideas of what they could be and they go for it. They would be so much more successful. The third one is the Chinese are, in general, is so disorganized and anti-team spirit. A lot of Chinese people build a lot of organizations. They started a lot of companies. They don’t help each other that much. This is the other reason why we are underrepresented. If you look at companies’ executives, Chinese are lacking behind. We built this platform to bring all the organization, all the Chinese and all the Asian together. We’re happy to reach out to India. We try to reach out to everyone so they are working together, helping each other and building the platform for high-tech people and exchange ideas to help each other. It’s all coming back to my third item, which is networking. If you have good networking and everyone is doing together, it will be very successful. If you look at TSMC, the media, they’re super micro. A lot of successful Chinese-related companies are all founding members of Monte Jade. It is now spreading out to different areas. There is Monte Jade in Los Angeles, New England, DC, Canada, Taiwan and a few in China. We’re building a global network that will keep the information flowing through our network, which helps everyone to be much more successful.

Is the Monte Jade West the original one?

Yes. After a few years, we realized that to be successful, you build a platform and you need everyone to join you. From Monte Jade, we changed our name to Monte Jade West. There’s a Monte Jade New England, Monte Jade Canada and Monte Jade Hong Kong. We have fourteen organizations now.

Are all of the members Asian? Are they all in high-tech?


Window Of Opportunity: The most important thing in life is having a goal and making progress.

Yes, it’s predominantly Asian and high-tech.

What if somebody who is no longer working in high-tech, can they be a member?

The membership is open to everyone. We are the vehicle to share all the seminars, all the other technology organization. We give information to our members. When you look at our ball, the majority are high-tech people. Most are high-tech in management. However, we know that you cannot just have high-tech people now. We have lawyers, bankers and accountants. We have a healthy combination of different professionals. When you build a team, when you have a diverse team, you’re much more likely to be successful. It’s the part of the Silicon Valley spirit. We have people from everywhere in the world. Everyone is different and that’s why we are very successful.

In Silicon Valley, all this technology company, the more women in the team, the more productive and successful those teams are. Women have different stress and different way of thinking. Once you have a diverse group of people in the team, you will be much more successful because of brainstorming and you have strengths in different areas. That’s why we don’t try to make everyone the same. We respect everyone to be different but it’s important to bring all these people working together. That’s the secret for a company to be successful.

How is this organization different from other Asian associations?

There are so many different organizations out there. We have a relationship with a lot of them. Some of them are several big ones from Taiwan. One is the Chinese Institute of Engineers, CIE. Their focus is more on engineering. Our focus is more on the business idea exchange. We’re not focusing that much on the technology achievement itself. There’s the Caspian. They are focusing on semiconductors. It’s an organization to bring all the semiconductor companies together. It’s very powerful, useful and important. Monte Jade is more of a high-level connection. We’re building the bridges, building the connection to the next generation and building up to be a platform. We are one of the most respectful. People feel that we have leadership because we’re trying to bring them together. We’ll call you to join our future activities. We do a lot of seminars and a lot of different stuff.


What is your role in this organization? Are you a founder also?

No. This organization is almost 30 years old. I joined the organization a few years ago. In the first four years, I was a board member. I retired from this organization as a chairman. I served as a chairman for two years. I’d be helping push their missions and building the bridges. Now, it’s an honor for me to be recognized and the chairman before me, as a chairman emeritus.

As an accomplished businessman and philanthropist, what would you recommend Asian-American professionals who are in their 20s and 30s to invest their time and focus on?

The first thing for everyone to focus on is what you want to be. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur. You could be very happy working at a big company or as an architect working on your own. You could be very happy being a professional manager or managing other people’s money. Whenever you could have a goal in life and you have focus, you have a much better chance of success. The second thing is that leadership is universal. In this environment, it doesn’t matter. In our company, drug technologies, you have to pass the goal. You could go through the management ladder. You need to be a good leader because you’re going to manage other people and communicate outside. You’re going to communicate with people so they know what they need to do. You need to manage people. You need to have very good people skills. You need to be a good leader.

On the other track, it could be a senior engineer. You could be an architect and you could keep doing that. For anyone to be an architect and a senior leader in the technical organization, you usually need to work with everyone. You need to know the product. You still need to work with different organizations to know what you’re going to do. If you don’t work with other people, you won’t be able to accomplish that label by burying your head in the computer and looking all day long. You’re not going to be successful in that track either. It doesn’t matter where you go. The leadership, building the network, learning from people and working with other people are the things that they need to remember to invest their time and focus.

It’s all about emotional intelligence. No matter what track you want to go to, either the management track or specialized professional track, you still have to work with other people to get your idea across. What are your top three priorities in life?

It doesn’t change that much, but this changes a little bit. My top three priority in life is, number one, I want to stay healthy. I want to take care of myself. The technology and medical area have improved so much. I want to stay young, be happy and enjoy life, so I want to be healthy. That’s number one. Number two is I have two sons and their mother is not functioning in life. I want to maintain a good relationship with them. I have three brothers and three sisters. The family is like a fire burning that needs to be hot all the time. The family is important.

The third one is I have a lot of dreams that I want to do. I enjoy wine. I love travels and I want to do that with a lot of friends. I want to enjoy my circle of friends and enjoy many of my hobbies. I play lousy golf but I enjoy playing golf because it’s like climbing mountains. You never get to the Himalayas. I enjoy sports like skiing. At this moment, I retired. I want to enjoy that a little bit. I probably would pick off some other projects very soon. My priority might change. Has it changed as you grow older? I don’t think that changed much, except one area. The family structure changed because I’m divorced twice. I enjoyed family life in a different setting. I enjoy this setting for the time being.

My priority changes as I grow older. I’m in the same boat as you. Health is the most important thing for me. That’s number one priority. I learned how to take care of myself. I exercise and watch what I eat. If I am not healthy, I become a burden for my family. Relationships are important to me. Human is all about relationships. Without family, without relationships, we are not human.

I’m going to summarize the third one. It’s what I call happiness. Happiness is not about how much money you have. Happiness is about having a purpose in life. You feel that you’re making progress and doing something meaningful and you have a hobby that you could enjoy. Happiness would be a whole different topic for another section. That would take a very long time to explain. The major changes when we grow older is a lot of times, when we’re younger, we compare too much. My colleagues are getting promotions. Someone is making more money and someone has got a beautiful girlfriend. Someone has three kids. His kids are going to Stanford. You’re comparing all those things. In the end, you realize that it’s not as important as you think. My youngest son, I just want him to be happy. I don’t need any of my sons to go to the top school and make a lot of money, being Mark Zuckerberg, being a billionaire. I want them to be happy. They have a meaningful life and a family. It’s coming back to the three things at the end. We’re healthy, we have a good relationship and we’re happy. Those other things are the most important in life.

If there is a magic wand and you have a wish, would you do anything differently if you could repeat your life again?

If I could repeat my life again and I have the magic wand, I want to be born a millionaire.


If you were born as a millionaire, you wouldn’t learn anything. You wouldn’t have learned the lesson that you have to learn.

If I would repeat my life again, I don’t think I would do much different. We are who we are because of the mistakes we made. It’s meaningless to say, “If I marry the other girl, life would be better.” The most important thing is that we’re looking forward to. Don’t look back. When you look back, you say, “If I started the company differently, if I made a choice differently, maybe my life would be different.” You could make more money, but you may not be happier. You could be happier but you may not be that healthy.

One of the secrets of happiness is you don’t need to go back to regret. You need to look forward to saying, “Tomorrow could be better.” Whatever I have, I enjoy what I have. I value what I have, my friends my family and my health. You don’t need to go back to try to make things better. When you struggle a lot and success come, it would be much sweeter. If you don’t make any mistakes that changed your life, got you into big trouble and you say you want to change, I wouldn’t change anything. I would say, “We open a box of chocolate. We try whatever is there. We just try a new one.” Don’t spend too much time going backward.

That was my answer before too. A young girl, she’s 28 and Chinese, asked me if I would do anything differently if I can repeat my life again. I told her I would not change anything. Whatever happened to me, the mistakes I made, has to lead me to here. She was so surprised. How did you balance your work, family, contribution and life?

I figured that out when I was in the most difficult period of my life. It’s when you just started a company and you’ve got a son that’s autistic. I realized at that moment that I should prioritize my family over my work. I could always start another company, but I could not miss the time with my son to help him to get better. It’s called early intervention. There’s a window of opportunity. Once I realized that, I found that if you take care of yourself, you have a better chance to take care of your family. If you can take care of your family, you have a better chance to be productive at work. Imagine that you have a partner in the Silicon Valley. You spend more time with your partner than with your family and your wife. You need to find the right environment, the right path. You need to find the right company to start or the right company to work for.

How do you want people to reach out to you?

LinkedIn is a good idea. You can find Limin Hu. If someone wants to reach me, they can send an email to me, [email protected].

Thank you for being here in the show, Dr. Limin. To our audience, what are your takeaways? We want to hear from you. Until next time, live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes

 "A life with struggle is a life worth celebrating."
"Money does not make you happy, but if you don't have money, you can feel the pain."
"Papers don't count anymore; you are evaluated by your impact."
"I could start another company, but my son can't wait."
"To be a good leader, you want people to enjoy working with you."
"When you have a diverse team, you're much more likely to be successful."
"Without family and relationship, we are not human."

About Dr. Limin Hu

Dr. Hu has extensive start-up experience for both profits and non-profits. He co-founded a FinTech company Ellie Mae, Inc. in 1998, focusing on a SaaS and cloud solution to automate the US mortgage industry. He served as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for almost 20 years. Ellie Mae went public in 2011 (NYSE: ELLI) and was named the best performing IPO of a US technology company since the financial crisis by the Wall Street Journal in 2016. Ellie Mae was acquired to go private in 2019 at a valuation of $3.7B.

In 2002, Dr. Hu led a fundraising effort to raise $3M to build an FCSN (Friends of Children with Special Needs) Center in San Francisco Bay Area and became the first Chairman for six years when it started operation. FCSN now has two centers in the Bay Area with more than 100 employees and serves hundreds of children and adults with Autism, Down syndrome, etc.

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