Harrison Tang and the other founders of Pasadena’s Spokeo built their company while sleeping in his parents’ basement. A decade later, the company has grown from six employees to 190 and draws 18 million unique visitors a month. In between, Tang, a native of Taiwan and a 2005 graduate of Stanford University, spoke with the Business Journal about his work, raising a young son and the importance of never giving up.
Describe your morning routine.
I’ve got a 22-month-old son, and he wakes me up around 7 or 8 a.m. every single day. I don’t need an alarm clock. He just wakes up and wakes me up as well. Then, obviously, I feed him milk and do all the things that a new Dad would do. Then, he wants me to play with him before I go to work. I go to work around 9:30 to 10. Here at Spokeo, we have flexible hours, so everyone comes in at different times.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I read about 300 blogs every single day, for the past decade actually. One funny joke that people say about me is I have accounts on every single social network and service out there, so I try out different services to really get a sense of what our competitors are doing and what the general industry is doing. There’s a saying: “Keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer.” So you want to always know about what your competitors are doing and where the industry is heading. I have about five to six meetings a day. Some of them are standing meetings. Most are biweekly. For example, meetings with the finance team, the tech team, the marketing team and things like that. Then, I have a lot of one-off meetings, a lot of business calls.
How do you maintain work/life balance?
I think it boils down to one word: respect. I respect my teammates. They work very, very hard. Some of them work overtime just to get to the team’s goals, and it’s mutual. I want to pay respect to them. So that’s why I work very, very hard as well because I know a lot of people respect me. On the family side, it’s the same thing. I know that to make sure that my son has a good upbringing and actually has a good education and things like that, at the end of the day, you have to spend some time with him. You can’t just write him a letter and expect him to learn. Kids follow their parents’ example, so you have to spend some time. Respect the family time, and that’s exactly what I do.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
That’s my little guy. I’ve loved building things since I was a kid. I loved Legos. I loved robots. I love the concept of artificial intelligence. I was studying applied physics and electrical engineering, and the moment I had my little guy about two years ago, I realized that the human race still has a far way to go to really understand how human intelligence works. It is a beautiful thing how they learn how to talk and how to walk, and how they have personalities and those things. Something that only parents will understand. I think it is an amazing experience. There’s a Chinese saying that you can find success in any kind of career, any kind of path. And I think, ultimately, to have success in anything, you’ve got to have persistence. I want my son to pick a path that he’s passionate about. I want to teach him about the same thing my Dad taught me: not to give up and keep going, and try your best.