Complete Podcast Interview Transcript:
Welcome to the Purpose Nation Podcast. Inspiring conversations with Christians in science, technology and industries of the future. For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, visit PurposeNation.org.
Brad Cooper: 00:16
This is Brad Cooper with a Purpose Nation Podcast and today we're shifting back into geeking out a little bit in technology and high tech in Silicon Valley. We've been the last few podcasts talking to scientists and physicists and chemists and biologists and now we're going back into high tech so I'm really looking forward today for a great talk with the CEO of a technology company called Five Stars, Victor Ho.
Brad Cooper: 00:40
Victor, welcome type representation podcast. How are things up in the Bay Area today?
Victor Ho: 00:42
They're great. After a very rainy last couple days it's sunny and beautiful. Great to be here Brad.
Brad Cooper: 00:48
Great! Well thank you very much for joining. Looking forward to discussing your work and your company and how God's been working in your career and in your life. So many of the things you have going on. First if it's ok, though, I would like to give a quick summary of your background. Victor Co-founded Five Stars. Following his work at McKinsey so was in the consulting area for a while. He helped cause a lot of big companies so he built out some cutting edge loyalty and customer engagement strategies for really top Fortune 500 companies. And he started his career as an investment banker. Be interesting to hear how we went from that to where you're at now and he also actually has three degrees so not just one you couldn't stop at one you had to do the three degrees there from University of California Berkeley. So he triple majored in industrial engineering, rhetoric, and business administration. So a very interesting combination there. And I love this on your bio on your site at least it says that you have an insatiable love for sour candy. Any particular, it says tasty green apple things but any particular type of candy?
Victor Ho: 01:46
I don't know the name but they actually are a little green apples. Those are my favorite, I guess the part of my bio is trying to make sure we're not taking those too seriously.
Brad Cooper: 02:00
Yes, that's good. I don't know what your family or you are doing on Halloween. I don't know if you got any extra candy or not. My kids actually got too much candy here most recently and we still I think have like a bucket of it left. I don't know if we have any tasty green apple things. On top of all this Victor is also a dedicated Christian which is pretty rare for high tech CEOs in Silicon Valley. And Victor has been actively sharing his faith. And I was very blessed that I was able to meet Victor up in San Francisco at the headquarters of Five Stars. Great conversation, talking about small businesses and technology. He and I share a passion for local small businesses and helping them and helping them with technology. So on those lines, Victor if you would mind giving us a brief overview of your company, Five Stars. So what is the company? what do you do? What problems do you help solve?
Victor Ho: 02:43
Yes. The biggest problem we help solve is helping small businesses bring their customers back. So if you look at the market of products today basically everything has been focused on an acquisition you were just selling before. This is the promise of hey you do this and we'll send you more customers whether that's running Groupon or Yellowpages or Yelp or even open table. All of that is just about showing new customers through the door with my prior work and that could be what we saw was that the opportunity by far is actually not bringing in new customers. It's more that the vast majority of customers for small business they may be taken out once or twice but they don't actually come back. So you have this revolving door tons of people. So what we wanted to do was build a product to actually address that. So how it works is very simple. It's a rewards program the business owner sets up so you get points every time you send money there and you can then redeem those points for things like free coffee or other goods and services that that business. But what we're able to do is take that behavioral data of all these people put it through some algorithms and use that to figure out how best to get those people to come back. So if we detach that year you might be leaving this coffee shop for another coffee shop we might send you a message saying Hey we miss you, Brad. You know come in for a coffee in the house or if you really love it and we feel like you might be handed it to bring in friends we might say something like chambering bring in a friend and we'll give both of you a coffee on the House floor whatever that might look like. There are many different scenarios but the general idea is simple rewards program. Checking is the consumer. And then we figure out ways to bring you back in more often for that business.
Brad Cooper: 04:11
And for our audience. They can either find the Five Stars tablet at the checkout counter at their local restaurant or retailer or they can download the app from their phone and their app store. Is that right?
Victor Ho: 04:21
Yes. Either you can download the app on both app stores or if you don't, there is a tablet in the store so you may have seen in the wild where Five Stars was branded and you type in your phone number to check it.
Brad Cooper: 04:32
So for the app we'll have a link on our podcast page if you'd like to download it. I would definitely recommend checking it out, downloading the app and then for your local business your favorite restaurant you know or whether it's your hairdresser or a dry cleaning place or any local business if you have somebody who's a family member who has a small business or your favorite local business. Look for the Five Star tablet there, right? Or you know a lot of times. Yes but you can just use your phone number. If they don't have it then you know do the I want my MTV and talk to them and say Hey you guys should just sign up for Five Stars. It's a great program for a consumer. You know you can get lots of surprises and nice discounts and rewards and it's just a way to connect with that local small business kind of lost a little bit these days right with technologies is that little connection you can have with this local small business because these small businesses are being really impacted by things like technology. So Amazon is a big obviously influence and then just keeping up with the technology in addition to having to keep all the things you need to do to run your business you're not usually very an expert in marketing or expert in technology. So Victor's company is just awesome in that respect that they are both helping the small business connect with their customers and keep a connection with them. And then for the customers you know to be able to come back and so it's awesome. So please do check out the Five Stars app or you know ask your local small business if they don't have it or if you have a family member please encourage them to check it out. So with your company, what do what has been the result of many small businesses do you have. It seems like it's been very well received and adopted and been very successful today.
Victor Ho: 06:04
Yeah, I mean it's a lot of work successes been in inspired lessons and God has been really good and bail this out at many, many, many different points. You know I was wondering I guess I'll say as we seen as a knee jerk especially in Silicon Valley describe success as sort of the world there a sort of tech crunch puts it and that a lot of times that success is defined by you know numbers that has revenue failures or Stork's how they're using Gaiter figures. One of the things I found most important but most trying in running this company as a believer is making sure that we just find success from a Kingdom perspective. And that really could be anything you know got guys to be working in many ways through this company. And one of the things that I strive to keep in mind is there could be very small companies for where it could be a stay at home mom that makes more Kingdom impact than this entire my entire company. You know and really I have no idea what role that were to play and so I can really only define success as how well we've been obedient to God's direction over the years. You know I am confident that one day soon when I'm with Christ I'm looking back on the full experience I'm going to see miraculous thing an incredible things that I never realized and I'm going to see other things that I thought were such a big impact that really weren't. In terms of just a sense of scale of the company we are around 250 employees. We have 12,000 small businesses in the U.S. and 25 million consumers and we raise around 90 million dollars in venture funding to date. So the things I'm most proud of though are ways we've been able to integrate the community and positive impact into sort of our day to day business operations. So he successes that I'm really proud of are things like instead of using a typical third party logistics provider to shift our boxes to our merchants. We've been able to engage organizations like Hope services where they are able to parcel out really simple jobs for the mentally disabled who otherwise would not be able to work. And now on a daily basis we staff 60 mentally disabled folks. So these organizations that are are working on all aspects of our product that we sort of simplified and parceled out. There are a few examples like that that I would say I'm most proud of from a success perspective. !
Brad Cooper: 08:15
Wow that's great. And Amen! to what you said earlier. Don't often hear that from anybody in business let alone in high tech let alone from a CEO of a company that you know has millions of dollars from outside investors and yet you don't hear that too often on an earnings announcement call you know if the company's terms of their Kingdom impact that's not really something that goes into the stock price very often. But so that's very refreshing. Awesome to hear. OK so taking a step now a little bit. So just reeling it back to see how you got to where you're at today. What was childhood like for you? What was it like growing up? What were you like as a kid?
Victor Ho: 08:47
I was a handful to say the least. Probably very difficult childhood as you know one of one of those where my mom always said since I was young I hope you have a kid just like you one day you'll understand that. But you know they're very impetuous very typical entrepreneurial personality where I really didn't see boundaries and my boundaries really were just you know how far I could push things always testing the line. Very argumentative for a lot of my child growing up I was told by teachers and otherwise that really I should be a litigator or some sort of a trial attorney when I grow up because I love to debate so much so I consider that for a while as well. Yeah I would say it was you know a very outgoing sort of entrepreneurial and maybe a little reckless type of personality.
Brad Cooper: 09:33
So and also I read your dad I think I entered as I understand it was an engineer and it sound like he might have worked on something like the space shuttle or something which is pretty, pretty interesting pretty cool. And your mom was an artist so seems like a very polar opposite types of personality so opposites attract or something like that. Did those two different aspects somehow play into your development as well?
Victor Ho: 09:55
Yeah, I definitely think so. I do think a byproduct of that was I was always curious about a lot different things I always took a very bold disciplinary view like there was never sort of specific subject or area. I was exceptionally interested and I always thought that there was a lot to be learned everywhere. The curiosity is something that's still a hallmark for me today I just compulsively need to know things. But yeah my parents met at Rockwell on a shuttle program. My mom at that time was a drafter. So you know they were sending their shuttles out without much help of computers so they needed people to physically draw out architectural plans and many other things. So that's what my mom did. That's where they met. Then after my mom had me, she stayed at home for a while and then it sort of became a teacher was always as an artist you know through a lot of paintings and things like that on the side. Yeah, I mean I think some of the key memories I have taking away from my dad's personality. I was always very exacting. You know it was when I was a kid I would only draw with protractors and rulers for instance and I would never dare think about coloring outside the lines. It was almost compulsive and I would you know line up all of my shoes that are perfect line I would collect different things and put them in orderly places. And so my dad really instilled in me this idea like rigorous attention to detail whereas my mom was one of the lessons I most remember from her was from our perspective always telling me when I messed up and I was I was beating myself up or I've said that I messed up this picture or something else. This view. There's no such thing as mistake. And you can take any errant light and turn it into another clever creative product just you just need the imagination for it. And so I have lots of memories of me messing up a drawing but her taking those lines and turning them into something even more. And then really learning that.
Brad Cooper: 11:42
That's cool! So you mentioned the attorney potential path. Was there other paths for you that you thought growing up that you wanted to be. You know that maybe your father rubbed off on you to be an astronaut. Was there any other types of careers that you thought you would have or did you even know at that time. You haven't anything set in terms of a career path?
Victor Ho: 11:42
No, I mean I think I definitely thought about entrepreneurship. Business was something that was always very interesting to me. But I think the only thing I ever seriously wanted to be growing up was a video game tester. So I don't think I ever I know I wasn't I wasn't the type of personality that liked dreamt forward about what I could or wanted to be often. I'm more often lived in the present and was you know just sort of trying to soak in life in a lot of different ways.
Brad Cooper: 12:25
Do you mention video games though so it seemed like there is some at least interest in technology albeit games at that age as well?
Victor Ho: 12:33
I've been interested in technology since a young, young age. Yeah whatever is new, whatever is interesting, whatever can save my curiosity. Technology being sort of an obvious for that I was sort of taking apart computers from a very young age.
Brad Cooper: 12:46
OK. And what about the faith background?
Victor Ho: 12:50
Grew up in the church. Went from a very young age. My mom is always sort of a strong believer in that entire side of my family identifies Christ. My dad less so and that side of the family I would say there probably that if I'm Buddhist anything at all really. And so I grew up though going to Sunday school probably went more out of routine or out of compulsion under compulsion for my mom till maybe fifth or sixth grade. And after I got old enough to sort of be rebellious, I basically stopped going altogether until really senior year of high school was kind of when I really came to faith on my own.
Victor Ho: 13:26
So as I understand it I think you got a perfect score on your S.A.T. is that right. Sixteen hundred. That's right. So a perfect SAT score. But you almost didn't go to college is that right. So, what happened there?
Victor Ho: 13:38
Yeah I mean right. Actually that's the core of my testimonial on how I came to Christ in the first place. But yeah I had perfect SAT scores I had know a number of other sort of perfect scores and I ended up getting rejected from basically every school I applied to including my back of school. The slightly longer version of that was I started going back to church and in 11th grade the beginning of senior year with some friends. And as I was going back to church, one for the clear things I knew was that if I were to ever be able to develop relationship with Jesus, I needed to be massively humbled that I was a very prideful person. I put a lot of stock in my own intelligence and ability and I needed sort of that figurative Tower of Babel my heart just to be like crushed the pieces that would rebuild from that foundation. For some reason I knew that if I prayed to be humbled that God would actually do it and it would not be comfortable. And so it was irrational but I was incredibly afraid to say this prayer to be humbled and to for six months. Every morning I just sort of said hey God I'm praying for the courage to pray to be humbled and one day. Finally I remember I was in my school parking lot. I just sort of thought it's time to stack up and just do this. And so there was a very short prayer that All right, humble me and basically from that moment for my entire life fell apart. You know I put a lot of stock in education academic performance and my intelligence. And yet in spite of a lot of my coalitions I got rejected from everywhere at my core the core hobby I sort of worked a lot of side jobs for a lot of time and who was around my car's road fixing it up upgrading and stuff like that and I ended up totaling my car. And then I also had a certain group that I thought was my friend group where I found out that actually they weren't necessarily good friends of mine at all. And when I needed you know rides and things like that because of my car situation sort of no one came forward and no one would help. Sort of through that experience of massive humbling that I really came to know Christ. I have I have a lot of memories of it. It's 2:00 a.m. in the middle of the night, I'm just outside in the middle of the street just sort of weeping with you know my hands and knees on the asphalt. The warmth of the street still I at the same time I just felt God so palpable and so close. It's almost like a warm blanket. Does wrapping me up like I can still feel and see that. And through that as I got to know I got to know God. And after that experience everything in my life sort of just miraculously came back together after I was broken down by the state of California revise certain decisions or education budget. And it turned out I was sort of I had just missed the cut off and because the reversals budget decision like I let into a UC Berkeley and I was able to go to college my car which was totaled got fixed and my insurance premiums never even went up a dollar. And some real friends from a different group really came out of the woodwork to support me in those times and I found out who my real friends are. That's sort of how I came to faith and how that ties to hear your question around S.A.T. scores and college.
Brad Cooper: 16:47
That's amazing story. Difficult for all of us to pray to be humbled because we know potentially what the impact of that might be. And it's also one of the prayers I guess that you would probably hope doesn't come true. And it looks like it did. So it's a prayer that was answered pretty enough to be answered. Usually when prayers are answered it's awesome and to jump up and thank you Lord. But that one sounds like was a tough one I'm glad you made it through that and obviously seems like a positive so you got into Berkeley. People around the country might assume you know Berkeley to be a little more liberal and maybe not as accepting of Christians or have a big Christian robust Christian faith background. We've actually talked to a couple of folks on the podcast who went to Berkeley and actually like you they sort of actually found God there are reinforced God. What was that like for you at Berkeley?
Victor Ho: 17:29
Yeah I never I never necessarily felt that when I was there from that prior experience that does describe my faith certainly grew and it really challenge me to decide whether I was really going to live out my faith or not. And I definitely find that a lot of college kids it sort of happens where you grow up going to church and their compulsion of your parents and when you're finally in college you got to decide on your own. Do you really believe this stuff or not. And either people become much more fervent for their faith or they fall away. I definitely believe though that you know I guess the scriptures promises adversity right if we actually are going to be salty are we actually going to not be lukewarm. We are going to find conflicts throughout the world because this world is not our home and not the Kingdom. And I often use that as a barometer if I'm not having a hard time ever. If I if if I don't ever have conflict then there's probably something wrong with the way I'm living out my faith. And I sort of really appreciate places like San Francisco or Berkeley where you're really confronted with the world and push to figure out what you actually believe or not. And I sort of juxtapose that with sort of this week sleepy cultural Christianity where you live in a suburb in a comfortable house. You don't have much real friction with the world. And you know I mean it makes you kind of wonder well are you really believe you know you actually live out your faith you know or do you just sort of do it as a spectator.
Brad Cooper: 18:53
That's a great point. Amen to that. Putting yourself in those situations that you might come into contact with people who maybe don't share your faith don't share your culture or your background. This day and age that's more and more needed it seems like it went through Berkeley you got the three degrees and then on graduation I think he went and went to New York has that right to work in management consulting or in banking. I guess as investment banking.
Victor Ho: 19:12
So I don't remember internships in finance and so I was I first went to New York in an internship with Goldman Sachs. I went to New York just because it seemed like the place to be if you're going to work in finance. And then after I went over to McKinsey. Also the New York office. At that point in time my career goal was in finance to go to a top tier private equity firm hedge fund. And so I sort of had architected my career accordingly you know to try to go to a bank first and then a consultancy to set myself up for some of those later roles.
Brad Cooper: 19:41
Was that the track that you thought Iran was sort of management consulting or what was your thought at that point in terms of the career that you were going to be pursuing?
Victor Ho: 19:47
There were a number of specific private equity firms that I knew I wanted to work out right on I wanted to work out. And so I was plotting a path to a multi-year path to that starting you know probably sophomore year of college.
Brad Cooper: 20:00
You were working though on some loyalty programs for bigger companies. So there was at least some spark there and then tell us how you ultimately came to the idea that led to your company?
Victor Ho: 20:10
So I did work on a number of clients in sort of the customer engagement phase when I was at McKinsey and that certainly did spark a number of ideas actually. Me and my co-founder another friend we kept a running list of like 40 some odd startup ideas that we would we came up with over time and we would brainstorm regularly and work together and start regularly even when we were at McKinsey. But you know ultimately I knew God was calling me to start a company. You know I thought a lot about Okay well if I really put my faith in practice should I go to Uganda and be a missionary. And I felt him directly pretty clearly. Business is your mission field. Golden McKinsey at these places are probably even more under represented by believers as anywhere else. And so I need you to boldly go into these places and live your faith and the nice stuff that was a startup but nonetheless you know had this multi-year plan of going into private equity. Headhunters started calling it was very tempting and I definitely fell into that trap or that temptation of thinking well taking a couple interviews wouldn't hurt. Just learning a bit wouldn't hurt. Bankrolling myself maybe for a startup in the future is that a bad idea maybe even responsible or wise. You know I would use for a pseudo Christian contest like that almost justify not necessarily listening to him. And basically what happened was out in San Francisco for a final round interview. And on my way back after the interview my flight got delayed for an hour and all I could hear in my heart sitting there at the airport was the voice say Victor you're being a huge tower. You know exactly where you're supposed to go but you won't do it because you're so busy chasing that next resume line item. And I was very convicted and basically from there at the airport I called all the places I was interviewing yet and said hey really sorry to pull you guys through all this trouble that I need to withdraw. And then I called Matt and another buddy and we started I decided to start Five Stars.
Brad Cooper: 22:04
That's definitely a big leap of faith and a big left turn and change of direction. You're in New York and then you decided to move to San Francisco to start the company?
Victor Ho: 22:12
Yeah. So we didn't know anything about tech and tech was not nearly as accessible at that time as it is now. We had no friends that were engineers or anything like that. So we figured San Francisco was the Bay Area was the place to be. It's the place where we had to build a network. We certainly had no connections in New York and so we decided to move here.
Brad Cooper: 22:30
And you packed up your bags and moved there and then also taught yourself to code. Is that right?
Victor Ho: 22:34
Yeah. So we really went with pretty much nothing so actually that we haven't even chosen the idea yet you just knew we were dedicating the next years of our life to a startup though we were now unemployed they didn't have much in savings either and so moved here to the Bay Area and rented a room from a friend's parents on the cheap. So we were living there. And so we were sitting there in that house in San Jose and thinking OK now what? well in order to build a company I guess we need to code and we don't have that ability we're just business people so basically we ended up shelling ourselves for three months just coating night and day until we sort of learned. And then from there we also brainstormed a number of ideas. Ended up landing on two ideas actually that both failed very quickly. Five Stars was sort of the third idea. And at that time we have learned just enough to build the software required for the first version of five stars. We were the developers of the product basically for the first period until we were able to raise capital and finally hire somebody who knew what they were doing.
Brad Cooper: 23:35
And how did you raise the capital that seems also very unlikely that new guys to Silicon Valley in the Bay Area just knew newly learned into how to code. And here we are getting all this investment from the big companies. How did that happen?
Victor Ho: 23:47
Well I mean we ended up applying this organization called Y Combinator which provided us with a very good badge and also the brand names are transferable in terms of coming from Goldman or because the people recognize that we at least came from a high achieving background and I think actually that worked favorably for us was that a lot of venture capitalists are consultants or bankers background. And so we were able to speak their language that certainly was hard not having the engineers on our team are that served me with something that was pointed out over and over again. Why see especially very engineer leading as though we were kind of always the black sheep of the group but fortunately everything worked out.
Brad Cooper: 24:26
What challenges though did you face before you sort of made it to that point where you felt like you were on the right track and you know that this was going to be it was going to keep going and it wasn't going to fail there is probably some point where I'm guessing where you were maybe wondering whether it was the right move or whether it was going to work out. Were there are some challenges there are really early on?
Victor Ho: 24:43
I mean frankly I think we're at that point now where I'm sorry we're not going to fail. I think this is inherently a very risky venture. Yeah you know I honestly I don't think I ever doubted like I it was so clear to me that God was dead he'd be on this path and I just bred a lot of conflict. And also I think the other thing kind of refers to the definition of successful. Will be mentioned later earlier. When I made that jump and I turned down those job offers to me that I was really putting the world the definition of successful across you know like when and when I had no expectation that this start of when it actually worked out and I would be where I am right now talking to you on this podcast. You know I really thought well I've poured years of my life into this resume into this career path. And you know like God it's yours. And you know what my if my resume is probably going to look really bad now. I'm probably giving up on the earning potential that I was that I had on that path where you know they're offering me salaries you know that will amount to millions of dollars. By that time we were working on Five Stars. It actually wasn't that nerve racking because the idea of failing in at least a world he said you know God was already actively addressing that fear in my heart and more you know repurposing me at least in terms of redefining my work as being more focused on obedience rather than on pursuits of those line items and so you've infused you know a lot of that thought into your company.
Brad Cooper: 26:06
And you know all companies say they have great culture right. But you see you have some pretty unique values and culture statements on your site. And you know that you use your company. So I'd love to hear more a little bit more about those and whether there is some faith you know aspects and then I think I also read somewhere that at least in the early days you actually used to pray before company meetings. Is that right?
Victor Ho: 26:26
Yeah. So basically we started five stars with the view that this was so-called value with our mission field and building this company was our mission. And when I think about what exactly you know what exactly that meant. There are naturally frustrating frustratingly few resources on that I very acutely became aware of how poorly equipped we often are to in terms of merging her faith with our work. You know we usually go to churches where the pastor has never been in the workforce. When we hear sermons that give you examples every which way except for coming from the workplace in terms of how you apply the local contests. And whereas you know congregations spend more time at work than anywhere else but they're given examples that maybe do relate to family, relate friends and other relationships relate to the church but never really to workplace. So starting five stars and trying to figure out how I actually apply my faith in this thing was basically a very scary theories of experience. You know so we started with I started thinking OK so I started this company. This company is not a Christian company. You know not starting a church. But it is I do want it to be run by Christians. And then what does that even mean? You know what does that look like. I certainly can't just hire only Christian. That's not what I'm trying to do. But then what does it mean to be a company run by Christians. And so one of the sort of things I started with is I thought well I guess Christians pray what if what if I pray over the company during their town halls. And so we do we did after a while until there were a number of Christians who were starting to feel really uncomfortable and kind of pulled me aside and said Hey that makes us really uncomfortable when you do that. And then I thought OK well I guess my goal is to make people uncomfortable. Force behind my faith on them either. You know how can we forget how we live it out. And so then there was sort of direct and indirect things that we did. So the types of direct we faith related things we started as an open door small group where anybody who wanted to go could go and you didn't have to. We just did a tour of work hours and we did things that were approachable everyone liked. We started a thing where every quarter or the whole company would take time off to go volunteer at some organization. Feeding homeless, painting schools whatever that might be. And then the indirect ways, I realized that I was actually a lot of Christian principles are just generally solid business principles and also a lot of these principles are things that really resonate with every human heart. If you believe every person is made in the image of God you can be a non-believer and all the principles will still resonate equally with them. You know it just it just needs to be put in a sort of language that everyone can understand and so through a lot of prayer reading we came up with our company's values and those values our shared humility, authentic relationships warrior's spirit, and joy everyday. And those and those are values that I can talk about broadly with believers and nonbelievers alike but really be able to hopefully you know get more of a lived apologetic at least in terms of our goals of this community. Can this community reflect a number of these values that in my personal life I believe would point to Christ.
Brad Cooper: 29:28
Yeah those are great. So just to once again shared humility. So we talked about humility earlier just individually but the shared humility part is great because that sort of pulls everyone together to say hey you know you can't we can't have any prima donnas or rock stars here. We're all a team and we need to be you know humble together as well as individually where your spirit one is awesome as well. It's a joy every day. And then an authentic relationship as good those are just great. That has been received by by employees?
Victor Ho: 29:53
You know I think it's interesting. So I think it causes a self- selection to I'm a strong believer that the best cultures are very salty or they are they're either hot or cold meaning to say that there will be people who hear the values and love them and it will be a core reason why they join you over Google or Facebook. They're going to pay them a lot more money or you're going to hear them and think Oh man that sounds like a fluffy waste of time when you're in a self-blacked out. I really believe that over the years in terms of attracting strong talents and pushing away frankly the wrong type of talent from our values that are mission statement to have played a core role.
Brad Cooper: 30:30
How has that been in terms of recruiting. You know in high tech somewhat materialistic culture and the hard driving and as you said earlier you know on that next rung on the ladder and increasing the pay and there's all kinds of statistics that show the Bay Area as we know it has the least percentage of donations and volunteer time and all of those things. How has that been as far as being able to recruit the people that you need for your company?
Victor Ho: 30:53
I think it's been huge. There are people who don't fit that and we lose those candidates or they self left out or actually it was even more difficult just making sure we reject those candidates where on paper they are or they are extremely strong, extremely talented. But it's clear to me that their primary motivating factor is monetary and actually saying no to people like that is probably the hardest part. And then what do you say yes to the people that really fit that they join a community that reflects the values they believe in and that they want to fiercely protect. So an example of the practice for us is for in terms of compensation. We believe very much in the transparent process. And staying at the 58 percentile rate. And so we don't pay above market. We don't pay below market pay exactly the fiftieth percentile. And you know if you get promoted you get a raise. The next percentile of the idea is what we know we want the people here to be paid fairly but at the same time we also don't want people who are here just for the money. We want people who are here who really believe in the mission of the company and the values of the company. And so oftentimes you know yeah you can go to another company that's going to pay the 75th percentile and if you're trying to maximize your income then you should do that. But if you're okay with the fair pay and you really want. You really believe in what we're doing here. Then you know people will come and they'll stick around.
Brad Cooper: 32:07
For people who are considering a role in high tech or maybe moving to Silicon Valley to join a company. What are some of the things that you'd recommend to them.
Victor Ho: 32:14
I think the most important thing is really understanding having clarity in your heart in terms of what you want your work to stand for. You know what is it when you're 65 and you have your grandkids around and you're explaining to them you're telling the story of your career that you want to be proud, proudly able to say. And I guess I believe that clarity of that often will drive so much in terms of helping you figure out where to go, what types of companies pursue, what types of roles to pursue. And essentially in Silicon Valley today most of at least purports to have some sort of broader mission that they want to accomplish. You know the very missional place that we're at but how many you know what do you really want to support. For instance there's a lot of mobile game makers where the majority of their revenue comes from creating addictive experiences for middle aged women who will then spend a bunch of money. Is that what you want your career to further and for some people actually might be yes. I'm sure there are redemptive components of that too. But for many others it might be no. I think the main thing I've found is that the vast majority of people nonbelievers and the like I've come across take a very unintentional view of their career and if they are intentional about something it's about maximizing their trajectory or their resume versus what type of impact they actually hope to be. Beyond that which I think will actually provide a lot of direction I think practically the thing most important is just getting your foot in the door somewhere any way you can whether it's doing a free internship you know whether it's already you know applying and talking to a lot of companies. Tech is a very buried place and a very different place. You know working for a startup especially is a very high risk. They can often come with long hours. It's certainly not stable. You know when you're building a company from scratch fighting against big players the probability that you fail is larger than the probability of heart failure. And so those odds are things will work out that the best way you can get a sense of what you're really signing up for or maybe even the only way to actually see it from the inside. And so I think it's the internships you know meet us anything you can to get a sense of what a startup actually mean and whether that's what you're really looking for if it's just a glamorized version you've seen in movies or articles that you are looking for.
Brad Cooper: 34:25
That's great advice. So we're in the holiday season just had Thanksgiving have Christmas and the new year coming up in your career and maybe in your personal life what are some things you're thankful for?
Victor Ho: 34:38
I am thankful for God not giving up on me. You know and I think about how much he's providing for me and showed me at how often I'm unfaithful or driven by other temptations. How many days I even just neglect to do my quiet time as I should or pray as I should. How often I let you know sort of like worldly goals impede my vision and through it all God has always been there and has pursued me regardless and I can't even fathom the depths of the grace and mercy he showed me. So I I guess I'm just incredibly grateful for that. And you know I guess I am I'm so hopeful and grateful for how you extend that to my wife. She's pregnant right now with their first child. You know how I hope you know that you are our child you know and I sort of you intellectually I know that God will be faithful to them also and that God will be as devoted to them as he has been to me. But you know there are three that are nervous and worried or doubt him. Hey God you're going to be like my kid right here. My wife is going to draw her close as relentlessly as you pursued me, right? And I guess it's kind of a question of prayer and they are all left in one.
Brad Cooper: 35:49
Oh that's awesome. Well congratulations to you and your wife. In terms of Five Stars your company. Anything coming up there that we can pray for with your company.
Victor Ho: 35:57
I think that the main things are one god is continuing to provide member leadership team direction over what we're really building here. You know both from a product perspective and also a culture perspective. What Kingdom work is Five Stars meant to accomplish at this next phase and giving us credit on that on that and also encouraged to actually execute against it. I think that the next thing is really just for the culture of the company in general that we actually be appraises as we grow things like inertia takes you to places where it feels for corporate and more political or maybe people see it more the job where they clock in or clock out. To actually really pursue those values which you know we talked about. The care as much or even more now as we did when we were small. And for us to be able to build environment where the people that joined the company really are committed to the value and mission of the company. Yeah I think those two are the two biggest requests I would give first direction for the leadership over what we're building so we can be faithful to that. And second from the culture to really be salty and not just you know not just wash out over time.
Brad Cooper: 37:04
Amen to that! Thank you again I'm speaking with Victor Ho the CEO of a great company called Five Stars. You can use five stars at your local restaurant or retail business. Just look for the Five Stars tablet at the checkout desk in your local retailer or you can get the app and download it to your phone from your app store. So please do check it out tell family and friends get Five Stars also tell any friends and family who own a local small business to get five stars as well because it's a great tool. It will definitely help them out help them manage their group business and grow their business. So thank you so much Victor Ho the CEO of Five Stars. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.
Victor Ho: 37:37
Yeah absolutely. Thank you. Thank you very much for the time. It's good catching up with you.
Brad Cooper: 37:45
Yes, God bless you and hopefully newly expanded family here. So you and your wife have lots of prayers your way.
Victor Ho: 37:45
Thanks a lot, Brad.
Brad Cooper: 37:51
All right. Thank you. Talk to you soon Victor.
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