Episode 63 | How to Crush Any Challenge You Face

with Spokeo CEO Harrison Tang

David Hassell interview David Hassell interview

Imagine this: you’re a young, bright student at the top of your class with dreams of attending a top university. Up to this point, you’ve been able to earn excellent grades and handle life’s challenges with relative ease.

Suddenly, at age thirteen, you’re thrust into a brand new culture. You don’t speak the language, your classmates make fun of you for reasons you don’t quite understand, and you’re back to square one academically. You still dream of gaining acceptance to a world-class college, but you have just five years until you start applying.

That’s exactly the challenge that lay before Harrison Tang, the CEO and co-founder of Spokeo and today’s Awesome Office guest.

Despite the deck stacked against him, Harrison was able to quickly master English, gain acceptance to Stanford University, and launch Spokeo with his college roommates upon graduation. Today Spokeo is the leading people search engine, with more than 18 million unique monthly visitor, and $78 million in revenue for 2015. Spokeo is also home to a unique company culture, one reflected in its numerous quirky conferences rooms – including the bacon-themed meeting space where Harrison recorded our interview.

According to Harrison, those early experiences after immigrating to the U.S. from Taiwan were hugely formative, and helped him develop a process to tackle any challenges that arise – one that he still uses to this day.

With his engaging stories, inspiring journey, and practical advice, Harrison was a delight to interview. Through it all, Harrison hasn’t lost his trademark optimism, sense of humor, and work ethic. We think you’ll enjoy this one as much as we did.

Key Takeaways

  • Harrison explains why he and his co-founders chose to set up shop in Pasadena rather than Silicon Valley. 3:25
  • Harrison delves into the hiring challenges – and benefits – of being located a little bit off tech’s beaten path. 5:30
  • Harrison takes us back to his upbringing, and shares his inspiring journey to Stanford University after coming to the U.S. at age 13 from Taiwan. 8:08
  • Harrison describes the unusual way he mastered English as a teenager. 8:54
  • Harrison tells us how this experience taught him to overcome the biggest challenges Spokeo faced as a business, and why optimism has been so important to his success. 11:03
  • Harrison explains why adversity is an asset, and what he means when he says, “When there’s a tiger chasing after you, you run for your life.” 14:26
  • Harrison tells us the greatest lesson he learned from his parents. 17:30
  • Harrison talks about the origins behind Spokeo, and walks us through the pivot that led to their massive success. 19:04
  • Harrison describes the advice he would give his younger self at the beginning of his entrepreneurial career. 26:02
  • Harrison breaks down his process for dealing with challenges and fears. 28:12
  • Harrison tells us the habits that help him optimize his work and be the best leader he can be. 32:56
  • Harrison explains why he insists on respecting people’s time and giving his own time to his employees and colleagues – even when it seems like he doesn’t have enough of it. 33:47
  • Harrison describes the impact that fatherhood has had on his leadership abilities. 39:22
  • Harrison tells us the origin of Spokeo’s infamous bacon room, and how it reflects the company’s unique culture. 40:53

Recommended Reading



How legit is your snack game?

It’s a pretty important question. How you snack will determine how you eat, and snacking well is essential to experiencing an awesome life.

Step up your snack game by visiting Shop.SnackNation.com. Use code AO25 for 25% off your entire order. Choose from a variety of today’s most innovative, delicious, and healthier snacks. You can even purchase just one unit at a time, rather than an entire box – or you can choose one of our curation boxes, where our SnackNation Snack Scientists do all the hard selection work for you. Check out Shop.SnackNation.com and use code AO25 to experience some snack magic and save 25% off your order.