Benny Luo // Ep 72 // Connecting Asian Americans Through News and Media

Welcome to Episode 72 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Benny Luo on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

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Benny Luo is the founder of, the largest media destination for Asian Americans reaching 15 million per week on social media. Previously, he was the founder of, a leading media company covering digital entertainment that was acquired in 2013. In 2018, Luo was inducted into the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Media.

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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. His name is Benny law. Benny is the founder and CEO of next shark and a member of the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Next shark gets as American digital media and entertainment company whose content is focused mainly on Asian American and Asian news. Benny graduated from UC Irvine, where he earned his BA in psychology and cognitive sciences. Benny, welcome to the show.

Benny: (00:00:50)  Thank you so much for having you guys big fan.


Bryan: (00:00:52) Yeah, we’re a huge fan of you, Benny, you know, we’ve been following you for years and years now, and you want to let our audience learn more about you, you know, like what was your upbringing like and how did you develop such a strong hustle mentality?


Benny: (00:01:07) That’s such a good question. So, um, I grew up, I was born and raised in the Bay area, um, you know, to China, to Chinese parents that, uh, you know, immigrated from Southern China in the 1980s. Uh, you know, even though the Bay area was so quite diverse at the time, um, I still went through, you know, racism and discrimination growing up Uh, you know, the story that I always use is one of the. One of my earliest experiences with like racism was, uh, you know, in middle school actually, you know, be out in public or going to a movie theaters with some friends. And what, at the time, walking by a nice couple who I thought wasn’t a nice couple at the time. Uh, and I remember like me not saying it. Single words of this couple, it was literally just like, you know, made eye contact. And, you know, I actually, I think I even said, excuse me, I was, I was like walking, walking past them to, you know, go to my seat. And, uh, and, and I, I remember a hearing in the back of me as I’m walking by the, the old gentlemen going like effing China, men to me. And I was just like, wow, like, you know, this was, this was kind of crazy. And I think even at the time, I didn’t, I didn’t even really know fully that yeah. You know, China, men was like a derogatory term, you know, uh, and you know, also, uh, you know, going through school, I mean, you know, people called me dog eater, you know, they, they would call me Chinatown and, and everything Um, and, and some of the fights that I had, uh, you know, in school was, you know, racially motivated. So I definitely had, uh, you know, a personal affinity to Asian-American identity and my own experiences growing up. Um, and I, I was definitely, you know, into that whole like Asian pride phase. I mean, I don’t know if anybody’s from the Bay area. I think you both live from the Bay area too. Yeah, I am, but he’s not, I don’t know if you remember Maggie. I mean, there was a time like in the early life yeah. In life. Yup. Yeah. Asian. Yeah. Asian prior to me, I think it was a very West coast century campaign. I think when I talked to East coasters, they don’t really know about it, but, you know, I was very, I was very into that. Um, Didn’t think that I would really ever, you know, form a company that, that allowed me to kind of be in that community too. So, you know, to, to be able to kind of have a small business and a small startup on my own while also, you know, giving back and activating, you know, a community that’s very dear to me as it’s pretty, like, it’s pretty gratifying to be honest. And, uh, I mean, in terms of answering your question of hustle mentality, I mean, you know, I, I have the typical immigrant story with my parents. You know, we, uh, that story of coming in with like, you know what I think my dad said he had like $50 in his pocket. My mom said she had like a hundred dollars or something. I, you know, and for a good, like, I think my one, my first, like, you know, one to two years I went out when I was born. I mean, we were living, I think we piled up eight to 10 people, you know, at a, at a, at a, at an apartment, not just an apartment. It was like at a basement of, you know, of where we were renting from a family above. Um, and, uh, you know, I would say that my, my family story is a natural American dream where, you know, they worked at the restaurants, uh, in the daytime and then they would, uh, you know, study English at night. You know, get back home after like, you know, uh, going through transportation by 12:00 AM, sleeping and doing it all over again the next day. And so I think that that sort of lifestyle and seeing my parents like work so hard, uh, and, you know, as we went older, kind of like, you know, made me understand early on, but you really got to work for, you know, what, what you want really. Um, and kind of seeing that process and seeing how much my parents struggled.

I mean, they, they, um, they were barely home because they were working so hard. So my grandma practically raised me. Um, and so basically after I entered college, I really wanted to kind of put myself on that path to financial independence. And so naturally my freshman year at UC Irvine, I was working up to four jobs at once. I mean, I can still count it. You know, I worked as a, I worked at the UCI computer store where I would drive this big, an eater truck around like delivering computers to faculty members. Um, I that’s funny because I actually like. I nearly learned to drive on that car because I had just gotten my license. I didn’t even own a car. I mean, I was legally allowed to drive. It’s just that, you know, I didn’t have a car at the time and, you know, I was still kind of learning even though I pass and stuff. And so it’s, so I always, I always joked that, you know, I’m very, I’m so used to driving a big truck now to this day over a small car, because it’s like what I’m kind of familiar with. Um, And yeah, I mean, so you said computer store. I was working as a Dell computer campus reps. I was marketing Dell computers, the UCI students. Um, I was also a campus note taker for people that had disabilities on campus and, you know, so it gave me the opportunity to attend class. It motivated me to attend class while I was still making money at the same time Uh, and, uh, my fourth one, I guess you could say my most interesting one in this context is that actually a work at the Manhattan GMAT as a campus rep and my boss at the time was Andrew gang.


Bryan: (00:05:48) Oh, that is incredible. Yeah, I know right before the podcast, we’re wondering if we ever met. I think, I think I, I think I know how we met already. I used to work at the campus bookstore.


Benny: (00:05:57) Oh, my God, really?


Bryan: (00:05:59) Yeah. For almost all four years of college and I was stacking books almost every day. So I’m pretty sure we both shoulders like 10 or 11 to 12 years ago. That’s when we would have a hard time connecting, but adding a back to you back in, back in campus.


Benny: (00:06:14)  Yeah. I mean, if you weren’t the computer store, then you might’ve seen me. Cause I also. Because I would try to find like any way to like any hour to make money until even though if I wasn’t downstairs, I started doing hours, like at, you know, at the use of computers store too. So I’ll be helping students

Bryan: (00:06:28) swiping cars in the morning. Exactly. Yeah. I know Betty from college. I can’t remember where and what


Benny: (00:06:36) were the name tags that we asked you? We used to wear to those. Those are the good old days,


Bryan: (00:06:41) the great days. All of that. It’s like a big flashback for you. Okay.


Benny: (00:06:47) So for the listeners listening, Brian and I actually went some context. We actually went to, went to UC Irvine together. We graduated at the same time, but we haven’t, we never really connected like this until like now. So it’s, it’s so interesting how this full circle moment.


Bryan: (00:07:02)  That’s also the main person you should be seeing next chart and seeing you come on UC Irvine, I’ve always kept my eyes on years in the very beginning And I know that I mentioned TSP before. Like I think I was literally like, you’re a hun emitting a hundred, 201st followers on Instagram recently, as I was following you the whole time during the entire journey could also inspire to see people come out at UC Irvine. And do something with themselves, you know? Cause you don’t see a lot of that, unfortunately. So super inspiring. And I know that you also started companies before NextEra that got acquired. What was that process like? And what was that like creating a company in the midst of a recession of all things.


Benny: (00:07:41) Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because, you know, I was always, I mean, I knew that there was a recession going on. I mean, I read the news, I read like, you know, the housing market crashes and everything like that. But I honestly wasn’t that deep educated in myself. And I always had this mentality where it’s like, You know, I don’t know what, I don’t care what’s going, I mean, at least early on. Right. Um, you know, it was just really head down and don’t, don’t care what’s going on around you. Like, you just gotta hustle. You just gotta work. And, you know, just looking back, I mean, you know, my again, immigrant parents, right? Like they always kind of embedded in my head. Hey, I came here with like barely anything. I had to work, you know, a lot to get to where I am today. And so, you know, I, I didn’t, I would say that for lack of a better word. Maybe I, I didn’t pay no mind to that as much. I would say. I just kind of like. You know, I always kind of look that, you know, the people around me, because in the midst of all this chaos and stuff, there was people around me that were still succeeding and still finding ways to, you know, make a living. And I think that I just had that no nonsense approach where it’s like, I just have to get, I just have to make it work. And I don’t know how I’m going to do it. And granted, I mean, I, you know, I, I wasn’t necessarily the smartest person and honestly, I mean, I struggled throughout school, like all my life. Um, I was in, you know, I was, uh, you know, tested very early on to have ADHD dyslexia and, um, you know, so it was hard for me to really focus in class. And I think, um, for every, I remember every single year up until like middle school at Garren parent-teacher conference, it would be something along the lines of like, you know, me almost getting held back a grade and. For some reason, I would always like find a way to barely get by. Um, so, you know, that’s kind the S the school of thought where I come from. I mean, I felt like I came from almost like the bottom of the barrel compared to all my other peers that were around me. And so my decision for, you know, wanting to, um, You know, work so much was just that I, number one, I just, I had to figure out a way to like, not get ahead, but kind of catch up to all the peers around me. Right. You know? And so that, that, that was a, that was definitely kind of tough, but I think, you know, um, Overall. Um, I think I still have that same mentality even today. I mean, as you guys know, I mean, next shark is still a bootstrap startup and we we’ve been around for seven years. I’ve never raised a single round of funding, uh, loans or anything within this company. And so, um, I think that, uh, I, I still have that sort of hustle mentality, you know, with me, but I think nowadays, and now that we’re kind of getting bigger and everything now, I, my, my struggle is trying to take myself away. From everything that’s going on because like, at some, I remember at some point, uh, I think one of my, you know, people that advise me, I think they said it greatly, they were like, Hey, are you working for your company? Are you working on your, on your business? Right. And because at some point you have to find, you have to make that distinction. And it’s hard for somebody like me. That’s so hands-on and. You know, I’m the type of guy where it’s like, if I’m, if I’m just sitting down and not really doing much, or if like, or if I spend most of my day answering emails, like, I feel like I’m not doing enough work, if that makes sense then. So I’m trying to get better at taking myself away from certain situations and actually being a CEO.


Maggie: (00:10:51) Yeah. Yeah. Thanks so much for sharing that. I love how you talk about how, you know, you, you struggled a little bit in school because I think especially in Asian culture, we tie so much of like our academics to how successful we are. Right. And I think a lot of people will kind of go back and forth on whether or not college or academics has any meaning to whether we will do well in entrepreneurship. Right. And so what did your parents think of that as you were kind of graduating from UC Irvine and kind of thinking about what you wanted to do and, you know, going into starting all these businesses What was your parents’ reaction


Bryan: (00:11:19) for that? I wanted to appreciate the chip on your shoulder and that hunger and that drive, you know, because I, I personally feel the same way a lot. And when you talk that I’m like, man, like, this is the reason why I look what the Benny says. So I, I have a huge chip on my shoulder too. And I feel like all these other always ahead of me or whatever. So I have to work extra hard because I appreciate it. Feel like I’m not that smart. You know, I personally feel like I need to work harder because unfortunately I don’t see myself as an equal yet. You know, and it’s crazy to hear enough from you too. Like, we look up to you bending play, we see your successes. We see your connections, your impact, your, your, the way you positively like grow your community. And then it’s crazy to hear Benny has a chip on his shoulder, you know?


Maggie: (00:12:02) Yeah, definitely. I think you, before we started Asian hustle network, we looked up to you and we were just so inspired by next shark, you know, and just to hear you, you know, being so humble and saying, you know, may, maybe school is not everything and, you know, because you struggle with school and, you know, I also struggle with school as well. And it’s. Um, it means a lot to me to, you know, just see your success with next shark and to see where you are at. Yeah,


Benny: (00:12:25) yeah, no, I appreciate that. And honestly, give you guys some more credit too seriously. I mean, you guys have done such good work and, you know, activating, you know, our community of, you know, different leaders within our community and. You know, just bringing our community closer together in the context of, you know, business, small businesses and also supporting each other on top of that. And I always said too, is like, man, like, that’s so humbling to hear that you guys follow my work before Asian hustle network. And you know, one of the things that I always like to pass and I do mean this. I mean, there’s a side of me where it’s like, yeah, I, I definitely, you know, want to win as an entrepreneur. I want to, I’m a capitalist. I want to grow this company and everything. But you know, as like, as I keep doing this work, I mean, You know, at the end of the day, I mean, if, if, if this work helps inspire, like, you know, current and future generations to, you know, even, you know, to do it differently or even bigger and better than me, I mean, I think that’s all, you know, even for us, and that’s all we can really hope for Right. You know, what’s, what’s that destination, right. If it’s not that, then at least we can hope, hopefully inspire the next generation to, you know, to do a better. Right. Um, and I guess in the context of, uh, you know, what you were talking about about my parents and everything, I mean, dude, I mean, Think of it this way. I mean, when I was born, I mean, they had high hopes for me. I remember my mom telling me, yeah. I mean, they, they, you know, doctor lawyer was the one that was caffeine thrown around me at, at, at that time. And, um, I think that, I mean, I, I don’t know if, uh, I don’t know if I hate to admit this, but I think that, you know, for some time I felt that my parents have kind of given up on me in some ways, because they had such high hopes for me of like, you know, being really good in academics or being really good at, you know, uh, uh, or doing something that will really make them proud in their context. And, um, growing up, I mean, you know, when, when you talk about the stereotypes of Asian parents, you know, comparing you to other kids, I mean, that was so true for me. I mean, I think that, you know, I would, I, I heard a lot of stuff about, Oh yeah, this is. This, this parent got into, you know, you know, Oh, this person got into an Ivy league. Oh, this person got like all A’s and everything. I even distinctively remember one thing, I think my dad pulled me aside and when I got into UC Irvine and everything, I, you know, I, I remember, and I I’m paraphrasing here, but I think that there was either some sort of a gathering of some sort amongst like my mom and you know, her friends or something. And they were all like, talking about how. You know, they’re so proud that they’re their kids that got into Ivy leagues. And, you know, my mom was the only person that didn’t have a son that get it, didn’t get into an Ivy league. Right. Um, And that sort of thought, you know, kind of just, you know, that, that, that happened well, even after I graduated college and, you know, for the most part, I think they’ve kind of accepted that I wasn’t an academic. Um, and they kind of just accepted that, you know, I would just do what I would want with my life, but I think that it really wasn’t until like in recent years, like, you know, that they started really kind of seeing my work and acknowledging what I’ve done. And I think, uh, it’s funny because like I got on the Forbes 30, under 30 list in 2018. So I think that even for them, they didn’t know how big of a. A big deal. That was, and for a lot of people that they, how they market that list is that, Hey, it’s harder to get into that list then even to an Ivy league school, like a Harvard Princeton or whatever it is. And, um, and so I think that when I told my mom that I think she didn’t really know how big that big of a deal was until her friend started telling her about it. And so, and then suddenly when her friends are telling her about it, Then the next thing was two weeks later. Um, I got featured on, you know, Chinese local news. So obviously that’s when you know, it all kind of comes together. Right. And so I think that for the most part now, I think that they kind of get an idea of what I’m doing. They, um, I think that on some level, like they, they are definitely proud of me. Um, but it was a grind, honestly, it was definitely a grind. And I think that, um, maybe you guys could relate, maybe the listeners could relate on some levels. I mean, you know, uh, the, you know, tensions between us and our family are, are definitely, you know, no joke And it’s definitely something that I’ve experienced before. And even at my level of quote unquote success at the moment, you know, there, there’s still some things that, to unpack, you know, there too, right?


Bryan: (00:16:25) Yeah. Thanks for sharing that with us. It’s so vulnerable and it’s so relatable. To a lot of many different levels in terms of our lives and our communities lives too. You know, there’s always that conflict of like, what is the right thing to do? And what is the traditional path? What is the educational pathway it’s definitely would look like, you know, like we have such a different perception of what success looks like, because. You know, our parents struggle really hard and you’re like, okay, for you to have to be happy. You have to do this, this and this because in their mind that guarantees a Fest, but we’re living in a new world now where it’s like, just so many different possibilities who can go in any different directions. And the biggest thing that recognizing where now it’s like, Is my kid happy. And can they be financially stable has to be, we care about, you know,


Maggie: (00:17:05)   I think like the top thing that we want is for us to make our parents happy and proud, which is so hard in the Asian culture, but also because of the generational gap, it’s hard for them to know, you know, like what are viable options as a career. Right. And so, yeah. I can see how, you know, your parents, they didn’t actually like, you know, be fully powered until they saw you in the Chinese news article. And that was so similar to how, like Brian and I were like two, I think we’d got into like the Vietnamese channel. Yeah.


Bryan: (00:17:32) So my parents, what are you doing? Always asking me that, but kind of curious too, like throughout your journey, one next chart, you know, because you have been remarkably consistent since year one, this is like year seven or eight, right? Well, it was that entire journey. Like, and how many, like, how’d you pivot into like Asian, new scrappy? I read a small in your arguments very early on it. Wasn’t focused on Asian news yet. And you made your pivot] over there. I want to understand, like, what was that whole entire journey like?


Maggie: (00:18:04) Yeah. And me about what you focus on before. Like I think it was like entrepreneurship focused, right?


Benny: (00:18:09) Yeah. Yeah. Um, so, um, after I sold my first company, uh, new media rockstars, it was basically a digital publication, uh, covering the rise of like digital celebrities, you know, like YouTubers, um, you know, the rise of online streaming and everything. Um, so I ended up selling that company 2013 and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. And, um, I remembered that I really liked entrepreneurship. I hadn’t met a lot of like, you know, great entrepreneurs. And I was seeing this, uh, rise of like young entrepreneurs, uh, doing their side hustles and starting companies. Um, and there was that culture of, you know, the startup space and, and everything. And, uh, I wanted to create a site that, um, kind of spoke out to that generation. So, um, that’s so I took like, you know, $3,000 of my own money and, um, you know, I started it. Um, I re I distinctly remember that I was doing, uh, you know, I was still like pretty much the only writer on the site at the time. Um, you know, my girlfriend at the time now, wife, um, you know, she was finishing her degree at UCLA and I was like still writing articles, uh, at the cafeteria. So of UCLA at that time, um, And mean, it, it it’s it. Okay. Um, you know, I did it for about two years, but, um, we were kind of at a, at a crossroads where, um, we weren’t necessarily reaching a certain scale where I thought that I could really raise funding. And secondly, um, you know, I was meeting a lot of great figures and everything, but something I felt was still missing in my life. And I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. And, um, I would say maybe about two years in, um, naturally we noticed that a lot of our Asian centric content was doing well. So naturally a lot of the startup people that we covered, a lot of business leaders that we covered us, all of them happened to be Asian American or have an Asian face. And I remember when I, whenever I showed it on Facebook and, you know, uh, it would get shared a lot within the Asian American community. Um, it seemed like a lot of people like, you know, watching successful Asian faces. And, um, we saw that we were kind of fulfilling a need and I knew that there was like, you know, there were issues with like representation and everything. And I, and obviously for me like that, that that’s hit close to my heart. I mean, even right, right after college, I had a small side project that I, that I had that I did with two friends. Um, it was a blog called the other and that was focused on, you know, covering, uh, you know, Asian-Americans and non-steroid stereotypical careers, but, you know, that was just a fun project. Never was a, we never saw it as a money-making project. It was something that, you know, we wanted to do for us back to the community. Um, so it kind of fizzled out as time went on. So to, for us to focus on our lives. But, um, but yeah, I mean, you know, two years in, we just, we, we noticed, um, you know, that increase in, you know, interest for Asian American content And we started doing more of it. And as we started growing that audience, People started recommending us to, you know, cover different aspects of the Asian-American experience. Um, during the 2016 Olympics, people were gambling us going, Hey, you guys should, you know, cover, uh, uh, highlight, um, athletes, um, because we, they don’t really get that much press. Uh, usually, um, so we were a little bit apprehensive at first, because again, we were business focused. Right. Um, but we decided to give it a shot. And I remember that even writing small write-ups like Vietnam winning the first Olympic gold medal, which is not a story that we broke. It was just something that we saw and thought was relevant. And we wrote it. I mean, you know, that post, like, you know, went viral within the Asian-American community. And, and, and that was such a big deal for, I guess, like, you know, site owned by Asian people to feature, um, you know, big news like that happening. Um, so we noticed that. Yeah. Yeah. It looks like we’re filling like a pretty big void. So the, the Genesis of the next shark that you see today, I mean, yeah. I mean, I. I definitely give a lot of credit to our current team and, you know, the team before that built this. But, um, we also have to give huge credits back to the community too, because it was us just really listening to the feedback that we were getting and the types of, you know, stories that they felt were needed. And I think that, um, it was definitely a natural calling for us in a sense where, um, I felt a lot more fulfilled in the types of content that we were producing. Don’t get me wrong. The downside to all of this is that it’s not as lucrative as, as you would, you know, as people would think. But I would say that, um, this is probably one of the most like, you know, gratifying and, you know, gratifying times of my life. And so I wouldn’t trade it really for anything. Um, and. Yeah, I guess that’s all I have to say about that.


Bryan: (00:22:37) I love that two and I love your persistency consistency in making this happen, you know? Cause I, I mean, I was following you for a while. I just remember for a while, your page was not growing. Um, and all of a sudden you went to exponential growth. You know, and like it comes to show for everyone listening here that, you know, success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of time, a lot of iteration, a lot of belief. And I do want to dive deep into that too. It hasn’t been any time where you almost shut NexTraq down. Cause you’re just like, this is not working. Or


Benny: (00:23:11) I, I feel that like if you’re running a startup or a small business, like. You know, like if you’re, if you’re not thinking if like, you don’t feel like shutting down, or if you, if you don’t feel like you’re on the breakup shutting down, like every, like what, three to six months or something like you might be not working hard enough or, you know, doing something wrong. I mean, you know, building a startup is tough. I mean, what do they say? Like back then? I mean, when I was covering startups and business, I mean, I I’ve read figures from, like, if you start a startup, even if you raise funding, you have a 75. Percent chance or up to 95% chance of failure. And when you start to understand that and you start to really understand that the path to success is never linear. The path to what you’re trying to do is never linear. And, you know, we know this on a, on a basic law, you know, basic logical wisdom, right? Like things rarely really go to plan. And oftentimes, you know, you. How I look at startups is that you have a feeling of where you want to be at, but you don’t really know where to go. So you kind of just pick a path and you go, but you also have to be okay enough to turn back when you, and cognizant enough to know if it’s the right or wrong decision and be okay with turning back and be okay with cutting those losses of where you’re going. And I think that, um, You know, on, on our side. Yeah. I mean, we, we always have those conversations. We had that conversation last year when you know, COVID happened and, you know, no one was really doing advertising and, um, you know, our advertising revenues disappear by 80% almost overnight. You know, that was, that was really, that was hard for us. And the reason why we were able to survive is because, you know, we’ve always been really smart and frugal with the money. I mean, I, even me, for myself, I live a very, very frugal lifestyle. I mean, I, you know, um, Even, you know, at, at this company, if there’s any sort of, uh, if we get any sort of, um, you know, any sort of growth or anything like that, um, You know, from a revenue standpoint, like I always look at, you know, seeing what we can do for our workers first. Um, even most recently, I mean, I’m getting more speaking gigs now, corporate speaking gigs to asking you for speaking fees. And you know, you know, what I’m telling them to do is, you know, just if anything just donates or a news fund or something, because it’s going to go back directly through our writers. And I don’t really, they need the money more than I do right now. Um, and so my approach has always been, I kind of have an idea of where I’m going and, but I also have this really big focus on making sure the team’s okay, too. So I’m very involved with our team. I’m constantly in contact with them asking them if they’re okay. If there certain things that I could do to make the situation better in any case, because how I look at it is at the end, like we’re driving somewhere. We don’t know where we’re going and it’s going to be, it will be a shit show, you know, moving forward. And so I. So, um, I have this sort of culture where, you know, we’re never afraid to pivot. We’re never afraid of, you know, you know, you know, cha you know, changing and doing a one 80 thing the next day. And you know, that, that just comes with that school of thought of, you know, how do you survive? You know, how do you stand the test of time as you, you know, hustle and, you know, go down this crazy road.


Maggie: (00:26:10) Yeah. I love that. I love how transparent you are. And when Brian asked, how many times do you often think about shutting it? Benny answered that so fast all the time. And that just goes to show how waiting all the time, you know, really hard. And it’s exactly like you said, we have a vision of like, where we want to go, but like, how do we get there? That’s something that we constantly have to think about all the time and, you know, just like you said, it shows that you’re not afraid to pivot, you know, just knowing that. Next year, I started off as, not as a media company that focused on Asian news. And now you guys pivoted to something that was more along the lines of Asian news, just goes to show that, you know, a lot of companies don’t really start off the way they are today. Right there. There’s always a lot of changes that go along the way. And so thank you for sharing that.


Benny: (00:26:56) Sorry to cut you off Brian, by the way. No, but I really like what a, you know, Maggie side is like, if you look at even history, right? Um, yeah. Like, let’s say Lamborghini, it started off as a tractor company. And then now, like it makes, uh, it makes luxury cars. And if you look at history for a lot of companies that you see today, you know, they didn’t really start off the way you think it, it, and, and a lot of, and sometimes like they had to adapt to, to go with the times. And I think that, um, for anybody that wants to build something, you have to understand like, You know, the world is moving faster and faster. The world is changing faster and faster. And so whatever you decide to build, you have to build it with the intention that you are welcoming change and pivots with open arms at any point in time. And that has to, and that culture has to trickle down to your team as well.


Bryan: (00:27:42) Yeah. I love that analogy with Lamborghinis too, because you know, Lamborghinis that we see today, it’s a super car prestige. We started as tractors and they wouldn’t for forbid. And then they got bought out and got reinvented into a super car. So, you know, the entrepreneurial journey it’s, you never know what’s going to happen, but you just have to kind of stick with it. And B be very open to change. You know, I feel as soon as you close your eyes and ears to cut your customers, you’re going to fail because you’re not, you’re not aware of what to do next. And I’m kind of curious to Benny, you know, we see your articles, you see all the DMZ you’ve been getting. How do you, how do you deal with mental health stuff? It’s like, you’re always dealing positivity and negativity and, and like the constant feed for the community and your team as well. Yeah. Like how do you take care of yourself and your team?


Maggie:  (00:28:31) Because for our Asian hustle network, we get those inquiries all the time and it gets very stressful, you know? And you’re definitely at the forefront. I think people are coming to you first because you are the leading source for Asian news. So it must be, you know, very heavy on your shoulders for that.


Benny: (00:28:44) Yeah, no, it’s a it’s. Uh, thanks for acknowledging that. I mean, I think that, um, it it’s interesting cause I even prior, you know, when, when we were doing like our pre-talk me, I had mentioned that, you know, you know, a lot of people are angry and frustrated in our community right now. And clearly, so I mean the rightfully so because of the rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and also the rise in hate crimes targeting our community. I mean, it sucks to kind of see that. Of course it’s very personal and of course like it makes, uh, you know, it. It hits you on a personal level and frustrations and anger and emotion builds up. Right. Um, and I think it’s interesting because, um, a lot of the times, like, you know, my friends, when they’re messaging me, friends and acquaintance, they, they, they share to express that anger with me. And sometimes I feel like I need to be angrier when I, when I respond back. But. You know, looking back, I’m like, man, like, I guess like it’s just that my me, myself and our whole tot team, we’ve been doing this for like over a year now. And you know, we have been covering, we have covered hate crimes before in the past, prior to the pandemic and you know, but you know, from, you know, 20 20th, well now to see that it’s still happening. I mean, you know, right now I feel like our entire team just feels a little bit numb about everything. Um, it’s, it’s been tough for us. I mean, um, because. On one hand, right? You can kind of, you, you can kind of make an argument where it’s like, okay, well, you know, at least like next shark’s profile is growing and more and more people are knowing your brand and everything like that. And you guys are probably getting more traffic and more viewership, which is great. And in my mind, I’m like, yeah, like in some aspects, yes. But you know, this is not fun for us, like writing, like, you know, because you have to look at it this way. I mean, you know, Prior to the pandemic. I always said we had, like, we were getting only like maybe one to two new steps a week, you know, on an alleged hate crime, uh, targeting an Asian-American and you know, after the pandemic, you know, we were getting up to 50 a day at some point. Right. Um, And oftentimes as like reporters and mites and you know, with my team, they have to, you know, of course they have to vet a lot of these stories. You have to talk to sources. And a lot of the times, if there’s subjective viewing a lot of distressing content and I’ll tell you, like, people have sent us like really horrific videos that have nothing to do with it, they just wanted to send to troll or to do certain things and it’s not, and it hits us. It hurts. Uh, and, um, it really, you know, hits us on a emotional and mental level. And, um, oftentimes for me, I, I constantly check up on my team. We constantly check up on each other. I even, you know, had like mental health therapy sessions. My team I’ve also give, given our team, uh, mental health breaks paid time off, paid time off for mental health too. Um, because like, You know, it’s, it’s, it’s hard doing these things and something I even questioned is that enough, you know, because none of us are really trained for this. I don’t know if reporters that go to school or train for, you know, the aspect of that, you know, because covering such personal news, a hipster community, It’s, it can be very daunting. And, uh, and for us, we’re also still trying to figure out, you know, yeah. Media has been around for a while, but you know, how do we evolve as a media company to kind of stand the test of time? Because at the end of the day, our, our workers are also humans too. And I worry for them every single day because, um, you know, it’s, uh, because. These cases are still happening and they’re required to still, uh, report on these incidences that are happening. So, you know, uh, we’re still trying to figure it out, but it’s something that I remained condoms enough. And I think that I make a, I make a big effort to try to catch up and do all one-on-ones with every single member of my team, regardless of you know, their position in this company.


Maggie:  (00:32:27) Yeah. Yeah, I appreciate it. Such an honest answer. I think, you know, at the end of the day, we’re still figuring it out and it’s not going to be an easy answer, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re still going through, you know, the racism and the attacks. And I don’t think it’s gonna end, um, anytime soon, but you know, as long as we have each other, I think that’s like the first step Right. And for you to be at the forefront, Just educating and raising awareness. It helps so much.


Bryan: (00:32:53) Yeah. Thank you to your, your team and you Benny and next chart, you know, because you guys represent the source that we go to for first for unity. You know, like the, the events that you guys put together, including yesterday and Daniel, Dae, Kim, Daniel, Wu, you know, those are important to mobilize your community and that’s, that’s coming from you Benny. And I appreciate that day because we need more leaders like yourself. And unfortunately, when you look around our community, we don’t see a lot of them, you know, and it’s not an easy world to assume it’s really not. You know, we were getting a taste of every now creation hustle network, or like not Torres Benny level,


Benny: (00:33:32) you guys, I mean, here’s how I see it. I think, I think that, you know, we all have to kind of grow together and I think that oftentimes, like I see this not just with like, you know, Asian community, see where like other, other communities as well. I mean, I think that the, the, you know, how I always look at it as I prefer to try to. You know, build up as high as we can amongst each other, as opposed to trying to tear down each other and try to, because like, you know, we, if we use that sort of approach, it’s, you know, nobody is going to rise up, you know? And so I think that, um, I think that the Asian house will never, what you guys have built is just as important and, you know, to kind of see, um, you know, such a healthy community that has kind of like that, that has kind of sprung up. I mean, come on. I see, like, you know, um, You know, uh, aspiring young entrepreneurs getting on. And so many people like helping out. Um, I see, uh, you know, older generation Asian-Americans, you know, helping people. And I even seen like, you know, you know, people potentially raising funding within that platform too. I mean, so many cool opportunities that have sprawled out of it. And man, I mean, I remember when I was just first starting off as an entrepreneur, it was so difficult. Just trying to find that list of Asian American business owners to, to kind of see, to kind of get advice, to see like what that’s like and the fact that you guys offer that platform. Like that’s huge, man. Seriously. So I, I wouldn’t discount what you guys have built to and you know, so seriously hats off to you guys.


Maggie:  (00:34:52) Thank you very much. That means a lot to us.


Bryan: (00:34:54) Yeah. Appreciate that. And we understand that you are becoming your dad pretty soon. Congratulations.


Benny: (00:34:59) Yeah, I know my first kid, I don’t, you know, I’m, I’m very excited. Uh, I have no idea like what I’m getting myself into, but you know, I’m going to do the best I can. And. You know, often and, you know, it’s, it’s interesting. Like when, when things, especially when you’re going through tough times, like these, like you, you really wonder, it’s like, you know, when you bring children into the world, like what do you know, how do you want to, you know, bring them in and you know, how do you want to give them, you know, uh, A good, like kind of break down of how the world works and you know, their function, you know, and how should they function. And also when you’re raising a kid, that’s also might go through the same challenges, you know, as a person of color, you know, in this country too. I mean, I’m, I’m thinking about all those things and it’s, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s been. It it’s, uh, I’m definitely very like humbled by the responsibility and everything. And I’m definitely, you know, looking forward to being a dad.


Maggie:  (00:35:49) Congratulations.


Bryan: (00:35:50) I asked that question too, because we understand that, you know, it’s a big response to becoming a new parent, like out of curiosity, like what kind of legacy do you want to leave for a loan through next chart to make their world a better place than it was ours?


Benny: (00:36:07) That’s a good question. I mean, I think that, um, You know, it’s interesting because, and I don’t know if this, this relates in any way, but you know, I don’t know, I still don’t exactly know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I actually, I, you know, I think that I’m a marketer by trade. I’m a content creator by trade. And, you know, there, there has been some level of successful next shark. I also advise and, you know, have like other side businesses too, in different industries. And, you know, I think that I’m still trying to really figure out, uh, you know, where that sort of legacy quote unquote is going to be. But I think that, you know, overall I’ve always had this, uh, Deep need to want to help people. Um, I think that, uh, you know, I don’t know if it’s because maybe my upbringing or something, but I think that, um, in the context of next shark, right, I’ve always been asked, um, you know, what I want to do with this? This is something I want to sell or is this something that, you know, I want to go public or something like that and don’t get me wrong. I’m a, um, I’m, I’m a capitalist, I’m an entrepreneur. Um, you know, if, if like some big, big, crazy opportunity. You know, as given to us on the table, like I’m happy to consider as long as it benefits, you know, the people below me too, that have like, you know, worked so hard to build this company. Right. But honestly, at the end of the day and I, and I do mean this and I played this conversation ahead with me, like over and over again. And I’m like, okay, Even if like it’s too early, like if next shark, if it’s too early for next shark to kind of be that, you know, big voice, that big network for Asian-Americans. And if I, if the story of how this story, the story, how our story ends is that we at least help inspire the next generation of Asian Americans to bigger and better than us. I mean, that’s all we could hope for. And I think that, and I think that that goes along too for, you know, for. Anybody, that’s trying to build something in the context of, you know, the Asian American community. Because if you look in the past, I mean, a lot of sacrifices have to be made by, by people before us. Right. And they probably wanted to, you know, you know, there’s been media companies, like prior to next shark that tried to do that, try to do at that scale. Like maybe it was too early, maybe, you know, uh, the. Their voices weren’t being heard at the time. And, you know, and those people have to be acknowledged because without people like angry Asian man, without people like, you know, yolk magazine, Eric Nakamura from, you know, giant robot or Jeff Yang who had like a magazine. I mean, without those people, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t be here today, you know? And so if my story is paving the way paving the way forward for everyone else, then dude, like, you know, why not? I will leave this world a grateful man. And I hope that that is the, that is the one legacy that I can leave.


Maggie:  (00:38:38) That’s very powerful. Um, we feel the same way about Asian hustle network. I think, you know, just the older generations kind of paving the way for us. Um, Asian Avenue, they like really set that foundation. And if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think that Asian hustle network would be as strong, you know? And so we hope that we could set that foundation for the next generation to come as well.


Benny: (00:39:02) Yeah. Exactly. So, you know, I it’s, uh, it’s, it’s just collaborations all around and, you know, we just want to, you know, we just want to build a good community at the end of the day. Right. And leave at least leave the world better than when we found it.


Maggie:  (00:39:15) Yeah, exactly. Do you have any specific ultimate goal for next week or is it more of like, because when I first read next to our articles, I was just so inspired to see that there was a media outlet for Asian specifically. You know, if you go to like the major news outlets. They won’t focus on those, like, you know, smaller stories that may or may not make it on national television. And so for me, you know, just personally reading those articles, seeing like Asian excellent stories, you know, Asian entrepreneurship, it was just so inspiring to me. And so. Do you have like that ultimate goal for next shark that, you know, and game for next shark? Or is it more of like, I, you know, you just want to inspire the younger generation of Asians to be able to see people like them on media outlets


Bryan: (00:39:58) out of curiosity too. Like how do you continue hiring the right talent to continue building out that vision that you ultimately want for next chart?


Benny: (00:40:05) Oh man, those, those are all really good questions because like the way I run my company is so unorthodox. It’s very unorthodox. And, um, because I think that. There really, isn’t like a perfect linear path to creating a company, you know? Um, I’ll tell you, I mean, this is funny, like, you know, that most, like I would say that 90% of.The of my team members. I found them on Craigslist a long time ago. And, and a lot of my team members they’ve been around for a long time. I mean, you know, uh, one, you know what, my managing editor, he’s been with us for five years. Uh, my second in command in this company and editor in chief, he’s been with me for seven years now. He, this was his first job out of college and he stayed with me until then. And I think that for me is that, and I don’t want to be all cliche and just be like, Oh yeah, we’re trying to be a family here or what have you. Um, I think that, um, You know, for me, it’s that I think that when I’m building a team, like, I, I really try to look at, um, who they are as a person. Um,  I don’t, I don’t really look at too much, like, you know, how much experience you have. I look more about like, you know, how driven you are and you know, how open-minded you are with, you know, what the, how the world is. And, and, um, and I think that I make an effort to, um, How do I make an effort to really get to know everybody and my company on a, on a very, like, you know, an honest people of a level as I can, because I think that ultimately, like they’re going to be, you know, driving this boat forward, you know, if I’m, if I’m not around, um, I think that the way I run my company is like, I try to have as much open communication as possible. I don’t come off as I don’t come off as someone that, uh, I’m not the type of CEO where. Um, I’m I, I go like, Oh yeah, you know, we’re doing this crazy, we’re on this crazy path to success. We’re going to be a multi-billion dollar company, seven years down the line. And I think that that’s a rhetoric that a lot of you know, that we see a lot. Right. And, and it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just that, because when we’re dealing with VCs and you’re dealing with investors, you have to sell that vision moving forward. And oftentimes that vision translate back to the company right now in the context of next shark and where we’re going. I mean, again, I still don’t necessarily know yet. I mean, all I can say is I enjoy what we’re doing and yeah. I, and one thing is for sure is that I want to make sure that I keep my team team together in the best way possible. I try to make sure that, you know, I am putting them in an environment where they can continue to, you know, not only grow this company, but. But to hopefully grow themselves as individuals. You know, I have this thing, I have this personal sort of mantra in my mind that, you know, whoever I have, or like, I don’t care if they want to stay here for a year. I don’t care if like they, you know, if they want to stay for the long-term, I don’t care if they see us as a potential stepping stone for a bigger thing. I just want to leave them better than when we found them. And I think that, you know, as, as if we can, you know, Use that as what our goals are, I think that we will be moving towards the right direction. Um, I understand that that’s not really a linear way to answer it, but again, I mean, I, I, yeah, I’m a business owner. I’ve been doing this for a while, but I’m still trying to figure it out. And so you guys take away from any of this is that, you know, you might still be trying to figure it out even after 10, 15 years down the line. And that should be perfectly okay.


Bryan: (00:43:13) Yeah. I love that. I love that a lot. And we know we have a lot of entrepreneurs come into our podcast as well. And. That line too. It’s like, You just kind of figure it out as you go along, it doesn’t matter how successful you are. Are you still gonna face with that area where you’re like, what am I doing? And also sometimes leaves down imposter syndrome. Like, what am I really doing? Yeah. So normal part of the entrepreneurial journey for everyone. Listen to me, it doesn’t matter how successful you are and where you are in your journey. You’re going to feel that way always.

Maggie:  (00:43:45) Oh, definitely. Yeah. I mean, Ryan and I have talked to so many entrepreneurs and even as established as they are, they still go through imposter syndrome.


Bryan: (00:43:54) It’s just crazy to us to hear. It’s like, bro,


Benny: (00:43:56) we always act like we have as Asian-Americans too, because of our upbringing. We always like approach things as if, if we have something to prove no matter what it’s like.


Maggie:  (00:44:06) So Benny, I would love to ask, you know, we know you have like a lot of hobbies. I know you used to be a poker player. You use, you’re a partner at a fish market. Want to know, like, what are your kind of like routines and like things that you like to do outside of work.


Benny: (00:44:21) Yeah. Um, it’s uh, so, uh, I’m, I’m a big foodie, so I love to cook at home. Um, I’m always like finding different ways, you know, I, I just cook Yaki, Yaki Tori at my backyard for my wife, like last week. Um, you know, obviously. And I’m a part owner at a fish market in LA, too. So I’m really big on, you know, we’re really big on sustainability and everything. And, um, there’s a community there too. I mean, I, I, I love stuff like that. And then another thing that I think it’s, it’s funny, I’m going to mention this. So, uh, I’m a big like badminton fan. I play, I play a lot of Atkinson. Um, so, uh, I, the first is come with the sport in high school and I got really, really into it to the point where at one point when I was in high school, I was actually ranked 16th in the nation, uh, you know, in, in boys thing under 19 boys singles. And, uh, I was actually sponsored by a Japanese company as a junior for, I think about, for about two years, I was playing a tournament. Slinger nationals and everything. Um, when COVID started, I mean, I, I kinda got back into it. I mean, granted, I couldn’t go to a gym to play, but I was able to, you know, kind of like, you know, start, start working out a little bit and, you know, I would just like play with my wife for fun a little bit. And so when the, when the Jen started opening back up, I started playing with some friends again. And so, um, you know, I, I still try to find time to, you know, play with my friends if I, if I have to, you know, if I, if I can. And so that’s something that I like to do on my spare time. Um, my life is pretty simple. I mean, You know, if it’s daytime, I’m usually working. If it’s not, I’m either, you know, spending time with my wife and family. If it’s not that, then I’m probably playing badminton somewhere with my friends.


Maggie:  (00:45:54) Wow. Very interesting. Yeah. Love it. And so we have one last question for you, Benny, and that is what one advice could you give to an aspiring entrepreneur


Bryan: (00:46:05) or back when you first started? Was it, what advice would you have given yourself right out of college?


Benny: (00:46:11) Hmm. You are going to be in for one hell of a ride. So what I will say is that, you know, whatever you’re doing, right? Like, you know, it’s, it’s a ride, you know, building it and building a company as a ride and there’s going to be ups and downs. And I think that, um, a lot of the times we, we, we laser thin we, we, we, we go in, uh, laser focused on those particular moments, like down moments, your laser, you know, you’re like, Oh my God, like, this is horrible. This is like not going to work out. And your high moments, you’re like, Oh my God, this is amazing. Right. And so what I would recommend is to try to take. Take a look at it from a bird’s eye view and to see the averages, because, you know, at the end of the day, this is a, it’s a journey, right? And I think that learn to try to enjoy that ride of those ups and downs, because like, you know, when you’re going down and when things are not working, that’s actually the best time for you to grow. That’s actually the best time for you to really look inside of yourself and to figure out like, you know, to, to find that moment, uh, that sort of like an epiphany. Right. Like, that’s where most, when you’re kind of backed into that corner of this, where like, you know, most of your creative juices, you know, start, start to flow and yeah. When all of a sudden done. I mean, even for me, um, the first thing I did the day that I made the Forbes 30 under 30 lists, right. I remember it was like maybe 10 minutes of crazy celebrations, but you know, really the next hour and the rest of the day was really thinking about damn, like, you know, just to see, just to see like where I’ve come from up until now seeing all those, like sleepless nights, seeing those, like, you know, times when. You know, you you’re, when you were a nobody, no one really, you know, would answer your phones and, you know, when, uh, and your parents, you know, seemingly disappointed in your work too, you know, wondering, you know, crap, like, you know, is this right for me? Should I just, am I better off working somewhere else? Like, you know, am I, am I just going to be like a nobody, you know, forever or whatever, whatever it is. I mean, those are the things that journey was what I really, really remember. So I would say as a long-winded answer. Yeah, you’re in for a hell of a ride. So please just enjoy it.


Bryan: (00:48:21) Yeah. I love that advice too. And, you know, enjoy the ride, enjoy the journey. All the ups and downs. Everything offers an opportunity to grow, get better, grow, learn. And one more thing too, from my personal experience, never underestimate how much it happened one year, you know, like keep on preparing yourself mentally. Yeah. Every day is all the investing compound together where you’re going to look back and be like, Oh, I was so glad I did that, even though I failed because you’re going to draw on that experience to make the next one.


Maggie:  (00:48:49) Yes. I trust the process. Enjoy the process. Yes, absolutely. And so Benny, where can our listeners find out more about you and extra work online?


Benny: (00:48:58) Uh, I mean, my, my social media handles are just Benny Lou at Benny Lou everywhere. My full name, uh, next shark is also at next shark at everywhere. So, you know, feel free to connect with us there. Um, and yeah, I mean, that’s about it. I mean, I really appreciate you guys bringing me on seriously. I mean, you know, I I’ve been a fan I’ve equally just been a fan of you guys. Um, you know, I still remember when you guys still had only like what, like a couple hundred or couple thousand people or something. Yeah. Yeah. It’s just so cool. Honestly, like every, I mean, I actually look forward to seeing your guys’ posts on my Facebook feed, because like, I feel like every day I’m seeing like a new, like, you know, entrepreneurial or like talking about like what, they’re the cool things they’re working on and I’m learning more and more about our industry. So, you know, I feel like your platform is just as equally important. And so I’m just so happy that you guys exist. And I look forward to seeing, you know, what you guys, uh, what else you guys have in store?


Bryan: (00:49:49) Offer. Thank you, Betty so much to us. And you know


Maggie:  (00:49:52)  I know Brian and Benny connected before, but you know, this is the first time I’m like getting to know you on this level. Benny, and I just wanted to say thank you for all that you do. Thank you for shining light on, you know, news for Asians and Asian Americans. And you’re, you’re just truly incredible. So thank you. Thank you, Betty.


Benny: (00:48:58) Thank you guys. Appreciate you both.


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