I did a company in the sales lead generation and qualification space using Artificial Intelligence back in 1998. We were very, very early. It’s exciting to see the movements in the space, and how EverString is succeeding almost 20 years later.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were your born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Vincent Yang: I was originally born and raised in China. I was born in Shanghai. I went to college in China. When I was studying in high school, I was very interested in mathematics. I was one of the few students in high school who didn’t go to any class for help in mathematics and computer science. Obviously, right after high school, I selected mathematics as my undergraduate. I went to one of the top universities in China and studied mathematics.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you finish university?
Vincent Yang: 2005.
Sramana Mitra: What’s the next move after graduating university in 2005?
Vincent Yang: After university, I decided to become an entrepreneur. I started a data mining business in my last year of college. We were helping telecom companies to analyze their internal data and help them to predict, among their consumer user base, who is the loyal customer and who is going to turn. This is what I’ve been doing for two and a half years right after college.
Sramana Mitra: What happened to that company?
Vincent Yang: That company gradually became a consulting business. My partner and I had no work experience. We do a lot of projects, but when we tried to raise money, we were not able to secure funding. That was also back in 2006 where there were not too many VCs in China. Also, nobody understood Big Data. It was too early. It was about 10 years ago.
I would tell people that we were analyzing massive volumes of data and we were trying to gain insights into that. Not too many people saw the value that Big Data analytics can provide. It was quite painful. If you look at what we are doing, it’s actually no different from what we were doing 10 years ago. Now, the market is mature and the technology is mature. We chose a different place to start the company. That gave us the early foundation.
Sramana Mitra: Timing is everything, isn’t it?
Vincent Yang: Yes, exactly. You don’t want to be too early.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after two years of winding down the first company?
Vincent Yang: Around 2007, we were thinking about where to go next. I was asking around about what the quickest way to make money was. They said, “Beyond robbing a bank, one of the ways to earn money is to work in investment banking.” 2007 was really a good time.
However, most investment banks don’t hire people from China. I was very fortunate because JP Morgan hired their first two employees from China. First, they sent me to New York for training because I had no Finance background. Then they sent me to Hong Kong. I spent the next two and a half years in Hong Kong working in investment banking.