As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mikkoh Chen. Mikkoh Chen is a Taiwanese-American entrepreneur with a focus on the technology and wellness space. This Los Angeles native turned New Yorker has been instrumental in building multiple communities across wellness, co-working, and recruitment companies in order to shift societal norms.
His strong passion for health and wellness led him to spearhead marketplace operations at Trusted Health, a technology platform to optimize America’s healthcare workforce, and start a stealth venture aimed to help men center and enhance their lives by connecting them to new ways of healing and wellness solutions. He further advises other marketplace and recruiting agencies on strategic operations and technical implementation through Mikkoh LLC.
Outside of professional career, he is a diversity and inclusion champion co-leading Gold House’s accelerator for Asian-led businesses, Gold Rush, and is a passionate member of StartOut Community.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
As a teenager, I had always been fascinated with entrepreneurship and startups having seen my parents build their own technology company from the ground up — there was always something incredible about creating something that might change the world. On the other side, I also remember how hard and lonely it was for them as immigrant entrepreneurs. These memories stuck with me as I entered and fully immersed myself in the technology startup world focusing on recruiting tech and wellness. Through my time working and advising startups, I discovered the power of community and its pervasive impact on one’s mental, personal, and professional growth. When it came time for me to give my hand at entrepreneurship, I knew I had to either find a community or make one — I chose the latter and thus, the Gold Rush accelerator came to life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
During the initial days of Gold Rush, we had little to no idea how we wanted the Gold Rush website to function. I had changed my mind quite a bit even leading up to the day before the big launch of our inaugural sale. My original vision was too complicated and ultimately didn’t even give a clear path for users to convert. We graciously had an incredible website agency (Barrel Agency) that was patient and supportive through it all, and through countless long nights, we successfully hosted our inaugural sale.
It was a true lesson of the 5 Ps, poor planning promotes poor performance, and that simplicity is always better. I had gotten too caught up in the fancy bells and whistles that I forgot the original point, which was to simply drive sales to our brands. Though it wasn’t funny at the moment, I look back and laugh at how trying too hard was a clear road to failure.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable by Seth Godin is one of my favorite books. The book is a collection of essays written by 33 global thought leaders and their life principles. Reading it was a pivotal milestone in my life to realize that striving to be “perfect” was holding me back from being my optimal and authentic self. It drove me to understand that finding yourself and building strong principles would not only help me grow as a person, but also help me be a great leader.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I started the Gold Rush accelerator, I wanted to create a platform that told Asian entrepreneurs that “You are not alone” and aspiring entrepreneurs that “You can also do it.” My vision was to build the largest tribe of top Asian entrepreneurs who truly wanted to co-elevate together. My dream was not only to celebrate the current leaders paving the way in the diversity movement, but also inspire the next generation of change makers.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Gold Rush is a social impact venture. Doing well by doing good has always resonated with me, and given that Gold Rush was created to be of service to this world, this principle has kept me focused and invigorated to make a lasting impact through this network.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Whether it is your biological or your chosen family, family will be your savior during these times. The pandemic has caused many to be separated from their loved ones, including myself. My family has historically been fiercely independent, which has resulted in us living all over the globe ranging from California to New York to London to Taipei and to China.
When the outbreak surfaced in China, it left me constantly worried about my at-risk parents. When one of my siblings lost the sense of smell and taste, I felt helpless to be stuck in New York. Both of these instances reminded me of how grateful I am to have had the love that they’ve given me throughout the ages. It was a hard reminder of how important it is that we stay connected and build memories together through daily texts, video chats, and conference calls.
To close, I’ve found one of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes more relevant than ever, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The pandemic will end, but it is in these moments that gestures of love will mean the most. Know that it’s more important now to stop what you’re doing and give your parents that call. It’s more important now to send those gifts that you know will spark joy. It’s more important now to end a conversation with “I love you.” Know that it’ll be worth it.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The Gold Rush accelerator is a direct reflection of the companies that have gone through the program — if they are experiencing difficulties, we feel them too. Our founders have faced not only an economic impact, but also a mental health impact as a byproduct. Some of our founders have been negatively affected, ranging from temporary brick & mortar shop shutdowns to losses in large corporate orders due to the full remote work setting to even horrific vandalism of their stores.
Our objective is to unapologetically support our founders and accelerate their growth. To date, we’ve been able to harness the power of our network to create connections to investors, amplify brand exposure, and build a virtual and more pervasive community of entrepreneurs to rise together.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
The economic impact of the pandemic is tragic, but the mental health impact is nothing to brush under the rug. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and look for guidance. Below are three of my recommendations that I’ve shared and have done myself:
Find a Therapist or Coach
Having a safe space to talk about your feelings without any fear of being judged is important. Working with a professional will help you understand the root of these feelings and will allow you to control your reaction to those feelings. There’s power in knowledge and there’s no shame in seeking help. BetterUp and Headway are just two platforms that have made it easy to find your coach and/or therapist, respectively.
Find a Community
Finding a group of like-minded individuals can be life-changing. People tend to not put an emphasis on building your foundation until it’s too late. Though it’s difficult to meet these people in-person nowadays, many support organizations have gone virtual including EVRYMAN where they host regular men’s groups to talk about vulnerability. Just as you might have built your “mastermind group” for your career, I’d recommend one for your personal life.
Finding tools to grow your mind, body, and soul will keep you balanced and healthy. This is the perfect opportunity to make a dent in that readling list and expand your mind. I find it also energizing to regularly exercise 3–5 times a week with an outdoor activity like cycling. In addition, I’ve found breathwork and sound meditations by my friends at The Dojo Upstate incredibly impactful on mental health.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
It’s no surprise that the Post-Covid economy will have a strong focus on the internet, which will fuel industries ranging from delivery services to remote fitness to tele-health. With the surge of internet users, I also believe there will be a stronger emphasis on cyber security, privacy policies, and blockchain.
To that end, from an entrepreneur’s lens, I believe the pandemic is creating a new playground for startups. The pandemic has highlighted the problems that we’ve always had, but have brushed under the rug saying “because that’s the way it’s always been done.” It’s engendered new needs to solve for and rules to live by. It truly has forced us to evaluate every facet of life and think critically if this is how we want to continue proceeding forward. If not, the opportunities to innovate and build something to change that course will be big!
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
The new normal will be an environment where people will unrelentingly ask the question “why” — Why do I need this? Why spend the money here? Why will this matter to me in 20 years? My hypothesis is that society will be more intentional about their decisions.
People will have a stronger emphasis on building foundation and community having experienced a great fragile sense of security. This will give a push for companies focusing on storytelling and experience-building. People will evaluate if their current ways of living match what they want to have in the future, and as a result, will change how they spend in respect to their shifted needs and values. We will see a shift in how we want to live and interact with this world likely with the support of better data and analytics.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Gold Rush will still strive to build the largest network of Asian entrepreneurs — our focus on community will only grow stronger. With the pandemic, we’ve seen the pervasive positive impact of community on the growth of our founders and the commercial impact on their business. Post-Covid, we will be off to the races to help our brands be showcased throughout the nation and help our community engage with those brands in a more meaningful way. We encourage all to come along this journey and grow together!
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I’d encourage all businesses to be proactive in setting us all up for when things go back to normal. The economy is not going to jump back in an instant. If we forge the right strategic partnerships that will accelerate the rebuild of the economy, I believe we can get there twice as fast. Let’s work smarter and be part of the solution!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Rob Siltanen
People shouldn’t be afraid to be who they are and chase after what they want. People will try to always put you in a box and will always think that you’re going against the grain, but that is what will make you special. That is what will make you a remarkable leader. I’ve learned that the world is hungry for change and it’s looking for those misfits to take that chance to change the world. As a proud misfit, I believe we should all take ours.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You are welcome to send me a message via my website www.mikkohchen.com or connect with me on Linkedin!