Editor’s note: KCultivators is a lighthearted profile series to highlight people who are meaningfully enriching Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by Plexpod, a progressive coworking platform offering next generation workspace for entrepreneurs, startups, and growth-stage companies of all sizes.
Startup challenges aren’t limited to products and processes, said Tin Ho.
“My parents are my inspiration,” the founder of Lean Start Lab revealed, detailing his parents’ entrepreneurial journey, which included surviving the Vietnam War.
“They went through some traumatic stuff … but, you know, they kept everything together, built their business, took care of their kids — and they even had the spare energy to treat everyone around them right.”
Putting people first, Ho’s parents built a 12-company organization that produces various materials and has worked alongside the likes of manufacturing giant Proctor & Gamble.
“I hope I can live a life as successful as theirs,” he said. “They are natural leaders and they’ve built an amazing company so me, my brother and my sister could have a better life than they did.”
With hopes of one day installing him as their successor, Ho’s parents sent him to the U.S. where he studied business at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — which unintentionally set him down his own path toward entrepreneurial freedom, he said.
“I want to carve my own route … go into new realms. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing in the industry,” he said of his role with Lean Start Lab — Ho’s third venture, a startup incubator that meets founders where they are and helps them develop their ideas into strategic visions that build companies.
“After you’ve built the tech, you’ve got to work on the human resources, accounting, finance, marketing, sales,” Ho said of ways Lean Start Lab has helped dozens of Kansas City-based startups find their footing in a growing tech ecosystem.
Click here to learn more about resources offered through Lean Start Lab.
“We can provide that help to founders and help them pull the best ideas out of their head and help them build this vision that they are heading toward,” he added, noting Lean Start Lab’s work with such area companies as the Lauren Lawrence-run Stenovate and Rhonda Dolan-led, Udo.
“I saw [my parents] struggle, but also their success and that really inspired me,” he said of ways his personal experience now lends a hand to budding founders in a similar spot.
“[Struggle] matured them to a point where they themselves didn’t imagine that it could.”
Startland News talked with Ho about “Breaking Bad,” beetle larvae and why he fell for life in a plains state. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by Plexpod, which reimagines a workspace model where businesses share resources and grow together.
Hometown: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon,) Vietnam
A historical figure you wish you could follow on social media and why? The
the Wright brothers because they literally helped the human race fly. The stories behind how they just kept persevering until they figured it out are really amazing. I want to know what kept them going with the limited resources they had.
Weirdest thing you’ve eaten: Where do I start at? I’ve eaten snakes, balut (fertilized duck egg), century eggs — but the weirdest thing is beetle larvae and they just literally skewer a bunch of them and put them on a wood fire and they roast them. There’s lots of exotic food in Vietnam.
Best thing you’ve eaten in Kansas City: I’d say Jack Stack. My girlfriend and I, we usually go there whenever there is a special occasion.
If you could go to any concert what would it be: I’m not much of a music guy, so the first concert that I’ve been to was actually last year with my girlfriend and it was Imagine Dragons. She pulled me into it, so I went with her and I enjoyed it … but I don’t actively go to concerts and I’m not much of a concert guy.
Why do you call Kansas City home: In Vietnam, I was lucky enough to be the valedictorian of my class, and my school and UMKC have a very good relationship and they give the valedictorian a full scholarship. People usually ask me, ‘Why are you in KC?’ … its kinda in the middle of nowhere, but when I came here I was extremely impressed. I came for school, but I stayed for the people. People here are very friendly. They always carve time out of their day to meet you, even though they’re extremely busy and very important, very successful. They will do that [for you] if you have the courage to just come up and ask them for a cup of coffee or something like that. That’s one of the reasons why I’m able to start my startups here.
What startup do you find most interesting right now: I’d say SpaceX because they are literally pushing boundaries. I have a cousin in California who gave me a tour and I was able to visit the headquarters of SpaceX and just got to see a little bit of their operations and things. I think it’s very interesting.
What you would do if you weren’t in your line of work: I’d be a teacher. I like teaching and when I was in college I was a writing consultant. I like language, I like using accurate words. I wouldn’t do well in a classroom setting or a one-on-one setting. I would want to teach through digital content [such as] blogs or videos and podcasts.
Biggest accomplishment: I’d say making my parents proud and continuing to do that, but in my own way.
Biggest failure: I don’t consider anything a failure. It’s more like I win or I learn. I’d say my biggest moments of learning would be how I failed in building my first and second startup. That gave me the inspiration to start my third and then for me, it’s like, third time’s the charm. Lean Start Lab is doing well, we’re at least surviving and that’s the mode that all startups are in. [Failure] was my foundation to launch into the next level.
Your mantra or motto: You never know which days going to be your last, so you better live.
Guilty pleasure TV show: “Breaking Bad.” I remember my first year in college — I think it was within the first two weeks too — I literally skipped out on most of the classes and the homework. I used those first two weeks just to binge “Breaking Bad.” nd yeah. I kind of “broke bad” a little bit, but it’s cool. I feel good about it.