Maurice Ng and his family were in serious financial trouble when they immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 2008. That struggle spurred Ng to help his family, though he didn't speak English and had no idea how to succeed in the U.S.
Thirteen years later, Ng, 30, is a self-made millionaire in Queens, New York, who has worked on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. And he wants to give back. He quit a lucrative corporate career at the height of the pandemic in December 2020 to pursue his calling: "Investing into the community where I came from."
"It's scary because ... you have no corporate cushion," Ng says. "Once you become an entrepreneur, it's all you now. Every decision you make can have either a positive or negative correlation to the success of your business going forward. No one's going to check your work. No one's going to tell you what to do.
"Ultimately no one cares about you as much as you care about yourself. You have to be extra self-aware, extra cautious about everything you do, every step you take. There's no safety. But the safety I have is the financial safety I have."
Ng left a six-figure job as a strategic finance partner at SurveyMonkey to start Tings Capital, a venture capital fund that will invest in minority entrepreneurs: people of color, first generation immigrants, women, and those who identify as LGBTQ.
"We're using our personal wealth to take a bet on ourselves," he says.
Ng's father owned a jewelry and antique shop in Hong Kong that suffered during the financial crisis. He had to resort to loan sharks to keep the business afloat. "I think the loan sharks were getting to him to the point that we were in danger," Ng says. "That, you know, he just couldn't do it. We had to move."
The family of four relocated to Flushing, New York, in 2008, where Ng's parents initially picked up minimum-wage jobs. They shared a bedroom and a bunk bed at the home of Ng's uncle.
"I couldn't sleep because like, it was just so traumatizing," Ng says. "And I also saw the eyes on my parents' face, you know. Like, I saw how sad they were, how crushed he is. You know, he used to be a business owner. Now he has to start over in this country, completely brand new for the first time."
Ng sought financial success in order to help his family. "I am their way out, right?" he says. "So I put on my shoulder to work for them. I wanted to help them."
Ng studied finance in college, with a goal of working on Wall Street. He eventually landed his first job as an investment banking analyst at J.P. Morgan, and then worked as a private equity associate at Farol Asset Management.
At his earnings peak, he made close to $500,000 a year, including his base salary, bonus, and carried interest, which is a share of his firm's profits. But he wasn't relying on just his paycheck to build wealth. Ng was putting his own money into the stock market.
"Over time, I realized that there's a specific way to invest, right?" Ng says. "And then I started deploying my personal capital on the side, right, while at the same time being frugal." Ng says he uses a five-factor methodology when evaluating investments:
- Invest in a growing industry
- Invest in companies with strong management and a solid business model
- Invest in companies that are steadily and sustainably growing revenue and profits
- Check the stock's valuation. Are you buying at a discount or a premium?
- Have a plan for when to sell
Ng wasn't surprised when the balance in his brokerage account surpassed $1 million in his late 20s. "If you know how to invest thoughtfully and logically, there's always a path for you to get there," he says.
In September 2019, Ng left private equity investing to work in business operations at SurveyMonkey, in order to understand what it's like to run a company from the inside. Despite his success, he wondered during the pandemic lockdowns, "What is the real thing that I want to be doing?"
That's when Ng decided to quit his corporate career to focus on building Tings Capital, a VC fund that will invest in start-ups founded by minority entrepreneurs, whom he calls "the underdog in the ecosystem." The fund has yet to make its first investment.
Ng says investors have verbally committed $700,000 so far, and he is putting in $1 million of his own money. He plans to spend the next couple years meeting with potential investors around the U.S. and abroad to raise enough for a $100 million fund.
"I'm more alive than ever, I will say," Ng says. "When you are fully pursuing your mission, your life mission, you are completely aligned with everything you do. You're no longer exchanging your time for money to pursue someone else's dream. You're doing exactly what you're destined to do."
Ng's goal is to "turn diversity and inclusion — the terminology — to be an obsolete concept going forward."
There's a long way to go. As things stand, venture capital firms are notorious for lacking diversity, which experts say exacerbates the lack of diversity among start up founders. In the U.S., the industry is 70% white and 80% male, while 40% hail from Stanford or Harvard, according to a 2018 analysis by Equal Ventures' Richard Kerby.
"The people that are writing the checks usually look very similar, if not the same, to the people receiving the checks," says Mark Crawford, managing director at VC firm Stanley Ventures, who is an advisor to Ng.
"Within five years ago, I would rarely bump into another African-American venture capitalist, much less a woman," Crawford says. "I'm starting to see that more. Maurice is one of those that's representing that next generation of people that aren't white and male."
The importance of investing with a diversity and inclusion lens has become much more apparent since the death of George Floyd, Crawford says. He tells his mentees, like Ng, "Capture that moment. This is one of the few times, if not the only time, in your life that your gender or your diversity or the color of your skin will actually work for you. There are [investors] out there looking for you."
While quitting a lucrative corporate career was "scary," Ng feels ready to help those who started in the U.S. like he did: disadvantaged and ambitious but lost about how to succeed. "We have that empathy, because we came from those backgrounds. We understand where you're coming from," Ng says.
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