Q&A with Tin Ho about his Bloch School experience
Get to know our students, and you’ll know what UMKC is all about.
Tin Ho is the 2016 Student Entrepreneur of the Year and this fall, he and other UMKC students and alumni were named to Ink’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2017.
Why did you choose UMKC?
I chose UMKC for several reasons: I got a full scholarship to come here because I graduated as valedictorian from my high school in Vietnam, and UMKC had a deal with my high school that whoever was the valedictorian would receive a full ride. Many of my friends from high school go here. It is an urban university and a very active area. When I first came here, I was very impressed with the Bloch School and how active the city was entrepreneurially. The year I came was 2013, and that was when the Bloch Executive Hall had just finished being built and I thought it was so cool.
How has your college program inspired you?
A list of things come to mind — being around other ambitious, talented students and getting to know faculty and staff, listening to their stories and past professional careers before coming to UMKC. Attending entrepreneurship events at the Bloch School and meeting local entrepreneurs, civic leaders, business professionals and getting mentorship from them. Going through courses while juggling personal life and building my business has definitely helped me hone my discipline and time management skills. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. I’m hungry for knowledge.
Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?
I’m extremely passionate about entrepreneurship, and determined to be a serial entrepreneur. It’s hard to imagine myself doing anything else.
I’m pretty good at writing, I like doing it, I used to work as a writing consultant at UMKC Writing Studio, I really enjoyed my time there and the skills I learned there apply extremely well to what I’m currently doing to build my business. I’m pretty good at public speaking, and like doing it as well. Overcoming my fear to successfully give a speech at the Entrepreneur of the Year Gala to 500 of the most influential people in Kansas City was a huge accomplishment for me.
That said, I’m too lazy sometimes and bad at time management. I’m getting better, but I definitely still have a lot of room for improvement.
What makes you unique?
I have a strong drive to do entrepreneurial stuff. It comes naturally to me partly because of my upbringing. My parents are entrepreneurs and I grew up observing them building our family businesses from the ground up. The entrepreneurial drive comes really naturally to me. I love the freedom and the thrill of uncertainty. It’s hard for me to imagine myself working for someone else.
What do you feel you contribute to UMKC?
Since I’m so passionate about entrepreneurship, I want to foster that in new UMKC students. I really want to help students discover the resources available to them and engage in opportunities. This is why I started SEGA (Student Entrepreneur Group Action). It’s an organization where student entrepreneurs get together to share resources, bounce ideas off each other, and help each other start, build and grow their ventures.
My business itself is another resource for entrepreneurs looking to start a venture. I call it Lean Start Lab. We work with early stage entrepreneurs and help them think through their ideas, and then we help them build their technology prototypes and minimal, viable products. We help them build early versions of products that capture the ideas of their ventures.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?
“Go out there and do stuff.”
This advice aligns perfectly with the way I approach entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is all about execution, making mistakes, learning fast, making adjustments and to just keep going. Sitting at the desk all day whiteboarding, strategizing and putting together a 40-page business plan is a waste of time for early-stage entrepreneurs. There’s too much unknown and uncertainty involved in building a startup.
“Move fast. Break things.”
Who do you admire most at UMKC?
Riddhiman Das, an alumnus of UMKC. He built his own companies before he graduated from UMKC and they’re quite successful. He’s young, but he has held high-titled and executive positions in successful startups. He’s currently working as a product architect of EyeVerify, which was acquired by Alibaba for over $100 million in 2016 and is now headquartered in China at the Alibaba campus.
Are you a first-generation college student? If so, what does that mean to you?
I’m not a first-generation college student, but I’m a first-generation college student who studies abroad in a university in the U.S. It means a lot to me because I’m the oldest in the family and my little brother and sister look up to me as an example. My parents always knew and believed my potential would be best realized in the U.S, which has one of the most developed educational systems, is an English speaking country and boasts the No. 1 economy in the world.
Being so far away from home —8,477 miles to be exact—definitely helps me hone my independence; taking care of myself, thinking on my feet and resisting temptations forces me to grow as a person.
What are your lifelong goals?
My lifelong goal is to be a serial entrepreneur. Naturally as a human being, I have a lot of interests and I want to be involved in a lot of things. I want to build a lot of cool start-ups that are within different industries that solve pressing problems. I just want to make people’s lives easier, better and happier.
What motto do you live by?
Just be bold! You have to struggle to learn, so be courageous. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’d be amazed what can come out of a simple conversation when you ask for help.