Asian Americans have always had to fight for their place in this country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Japanese American internment camps in the 1940s to the recent increase in anti-Asian violence, this diverse group of people has kept pushing forward despite intense racism and discrimination.
Asian American professionals often speak about the difficulty of breaking through the “bamboo ceiling” to win promotions, access capital, and achieve success in industries such as technology and financial services.
Today, we want to spotlight 6 Asian American founders who are smashing stereotypes and leading groundbreaking banking, investment, and fintech companies. Their stories are an inspiring reminder of what’s possible.
Founder & Managing Partner at Hyphen Capital
Dave Lu’s mission is to support Asian American entrepreneurs who are bold enough to take the risk of forging their own path and building something new. Lu says he wasted years playing it safe in the corporate world before taking the leap to start his first company.
Fifteen years after starting his journey as an entrepreneur, Lu founded VC fund Hyphen Capital in 2020. Hyphen Capital is a community of successful Asian American founders and executives dedicated to providing early-stage funding to Asian American founders setting out to solve big problems.
Co-Founder & CEO at Cheese
As a Chinese immigrant to the United States, Ken Lian found himself paying high banking fees and facing multiple rejections when he tried to set up basic checking and savings accounts.
In 2020 he founded the digital banking platform Cheese to make it easier for Asian Americans, immigrants, and international students to find a bank that understands their needs.
Cheese offers features such as debit cards to customers with no credit history, virtual banking, generous referral bonuses, and up to 10% cash back on purchases from a long list of brands. Lian has also pledged to donate $100,000 to support Asian American businesses and neighborhoods through his Cheese Giveback Fund.
Co-founder, President & CTO at Patreon
Patreon got started when Sam Yam agreed to help his college roommate Jack Conte figure out how to make a living from his YouTube music videos. Today, Sam has built Patreon into a platform that allows fans of musicians, writers, podcasters, and other creators to pay their favorites a monthly amount of their choice in exchange for access to exclusive content.
Patreon has allowed over 200,000 creators to earn over $2 billion since 2013. Yam and Conte have recently expanded their business with the launch of Patreon Capital, a new service that offers microloans to Patreon customers who need help launching big creative projects.
Co-founder & CEO at Fractional
Meet Stella Han — the woman making real estate investing available to everyone. Stella’s family owned several rental properties when she was growing up. While working as an engineer at Affirm, she and a co-worker started investigating buying properties of their own to generate passive income.
Frustrated by the difficulties of finding, buying, and managing properties, they decided to build a better way to invest in real estate. The result is Fractional, a startup that allows everyday people to directly purchase and own fractions of investment properties.
Fractional decreases the time and money required to get started with real estate investing while promising investors more control, better tax benefits, and 40% more income than REITs or crowdfunding platforms.
Co-founder & CEO at Runway
Runway isn’t Siqi Chen’s first startup, but it’s one of his most exciting and has sparked some intense competition among would-be investors.
With Runway, Chen aims to disrupt the traditional business financial model by leveraging financial data and sharing it in ways that help teams and founders get a clearer picture of the financial health of the business. Runway helps take the pain out of managing company finances with a modern redesign of the entire process that’s fast, integrated, and intuitive.
Founder & CEO at Propel
Jimmy Chen grew up in a hardworking but low-income family in Kansas City. He eventually graduated from Stanford and worked at LinkedIn and Facebook, but he never forgot his parents’ struggles to put food on the table.
In 2014, Jimmy founded Propel to help low-income families improve their financial health. The company’s free FreshEBT app allows millions of families receiving food stamps to access their benefits and clip coupons online. Families can also use the app to search for jobs and connect with government and non-profit services.
One More Thing Before You Go
These 6 Asian American founders have achieved amazing things. Their hard work and creativity are helping more people and businesses than ever access financial services and improve their financial health. We look forward to seeing what they do next as they continue to work toward a world where the bamboo ceiling no longer exists.