The Making of an Entrepreneur
By Clarice Cho
Han Jin is a member of the inaugural MEng cohort. He graduated in May of 2012, and now he’s back on campus assisting a MEng course on optimization analytics. I had the chance to sit down with Han and hear what he has been up to; turns out Han has been working hard to pursue his dream of building a successful startup.
Han is the founder and CEO of Lucid VR, a virtual reality startup that is about to launch the world’s first 180° 3D camera that captures the world as one sees and hears it. The camera mimics our eyes to give a true 3D immersion experience through dual, wide-angle lenses. They launched their product on Indiegogo this Monday, October 26, and Han is absolutely thrilled!
When I inquired about his start-up dreams, he took me on a walk down memory lane and introduced me to the significant influence his mother had on the person he is today. The two of them immigrated to Germany from China when he was a child, and it was her own entrepreneurial attitude that inspired Han’s dreams. She worked as a Chinese medicine doctor and built her own practice from the ground up when she moved to Germany. He recounted:
“I think I’m inspired by her because she was a single mom working three jobs to be able to feed me. At that time I was so young and did not know what was happening, but in retrospect she created her own practice, [just] like a startup, while still working the three jobs to feed her own son. I think that’s very impressive.”
Han also shared with me an incident that had a big impact on shaping his aspirations, and his entire life. As a young boy his goal was to be a professional men’s tennis player. At age 18, he was making the transition to a professional career when a devastating injury forced him to rethink his plans. He broke his knee, and his doctors told him that he had to give up his plans to go pro.
Though it was undoubtedly one of the most insurmountable obstacles of his life, it fortunately led him to realize his desire to become an entrepreneur. He studied business engineering at KIT in Germany, and then found the MEng program at Berkeley, the perfect fit due to its short-term time frame and support for entrepreneurship. For Han, the decision was a no-brainer.
Han excelled in the program, and upon graduating got hired at SanDisk. It was an important experience where he learned to drive teams, collaborate with others, and experiment in various projects without being pre-occupied with the risk of failure. He reveals that he made some less optimal decisions during his time at SanDisk, but those led to important insights on how to handle situations in his startup now. In his words:
“To be honest, if I had gone right into a startup after the MEng program, I probably would not have been ready to handle the stress that I do now. The experience of going through rough times at SanDisk helps me to handle it all better. Working for your own startup is very challenging, because you are facing business, tech, and personal stress, while you always running out of cash and working 24 hours…there are just so many different kinds of stresses!”
It is clear that as the CEO of a startup, Han faces loads of pressure everyday, but he knows how to relax and clear his mind when he needs to. Aside from physical activity, Han is also an avid reader. He indulges himself in biographies of inspirational thinkers and entrepreneurs, as well as self-improvement books. He’s currently working on Elon Musk’s new biography, which he says is “amazing” and a “must-read.” Han’s entrepreneurial spirit drives him to never stop learning and growing:
“[Startups] push you to the next level. Everyday you look in the mirror and say hey can I be faster or stronger than the other day. You wake up, and you don’t necessarily compete with what’s in the market…but you’re really competing with yourself. Can you get better?”
When I asked him about any advice to give to the current MEng students, he admitted that upon graduating, his biggest concern was money. However, he came to realize that the true focus should be to build products that people love using, and to build experiences that people love having. It is all about the objective:
“I’m working on a product that can change people’s lives, so it gives me purpose.”
Concluding our conversation, he left me with this advice:
Don’t chase money; if you do a good job, it will chase you. Don’t let the environment define you. Dream big and keep the dream in front of you. Even if you go the long or short way to get there, you’re always going in the right direction.
Want to make a pledge? Visit the LucidCam Indiegogo page and help Han and his team further their progress in bringing VR to everyone!