Social Media entrepreneur Raymond Ahn interviews BEZALEL CEO, Frank Wu on "Social Media Podcast: SocialRay"
In our interview, Frank shares how his motivation for his business comes not from money but from a desire to help people and make a positive impact in the world.
Where did you grow up? What was your background in entrepreneurship and how did you first get started into that?
I'm originally from Taiwan. I grew up in Taiwan and have no background in entrepreneurship. I graduated in Mechanical Engineering from USC and never had plans to be an entrepreneur.
I got started by working on a wireless charging prototype and put it up on Kickstarter. The story is I was at a Starbucks with my friend, and we both lost battery power on our cellphones. He had a charging device but it required cords.
I thought, how great would it be if we had wireless charging? So I built my own version of a wireless charger in my kitchen, put it up on Kickstarter, and USC Viterbi Startup accepted me into their program. USC saw the potential, and I just kept going.
What did you raise on Kickstarter?
$130,000. But our goal at that time was just $5000.
Did you go into production right away?
How fast did this grow?
How many units did you sell?
How did you go about expanding? There's a lot of business that go on Kickstarter, but not a lot can sustain or grow.
We sold our products immediately and we sold and developed more products. And we raised money.
As an immigrant from Taiwan, how was it to tackle the world of business in America?
It was and is not easy. As immigrants, we don't have enough connections here in the U.S. So it's hard to start a company. Also the culture is different. There's a kind of culture shock. As immigrants, we need to think about what the U.S. customer wants. But the reason to start a company in the U.S. is that if you can establish a business here, you can know how to sell globally. If you can dominate the U.S. market, you have the ability to sell to other countries.
How were you able to do that? What are some things you learned that are important?
First is that we sold products, and second USC provided some very good resources and connection. Connection is more important than investment. We need customers to talk about our products and get customer feedback for modification. So our goal is to make the perfect product for the customer.
What does it take to succeed? Were there any obstacles that were hard to overcome? What mindset or things helped you overcome that?
We have problems & obstacles to overcome everyday. It can be the technology part, design, finance, finding the right people for the team, or even legal things.
With BEZALEL, we created this company not for money, but to make a better life for people. My mission is really to make the world better and I'll talk more about that a little later. But because my mindset is not on making money the goal, it helps me overcome obstacles.
And I believe, especially as young professionals, we should be passionate about what we're doing right now--and passionate almost to the point of being a little crazy.
Where did "BEZALEL" the word come from and why did you name it that? How has the success of BEZALEL been?
It comes from the Bible. He was a character in the Old Testament who built the first temple for God. He was gifted in craftsmanship and design and was a genius. "Bezalel" also means the protection of God.
Right now BEZALEL has been successful ever since it began 4 years ago. Every year, we grow and we grow fast.
Our wireless chargers go beyond in comparison to other suppliers because they are the most exquisite wireless chargers. If you try our charging pad, the Futura X, you will immediately understand that. If you try it yourself, you can know why we make the best wireless charger in the world.
We also stand out becase we have them for different uses. We have them for inside the car, on the go, at the office, or home.
How long has it been and how big is BEZALEL now?
4 years, and we have 15 full-time employees. We sell in U.S., China, Taiwan. This February we just distribute our product to 700 stores in Taiwan. Japan 300 stories, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, all of asia; Korea.
That was all because of the connections you made?
What enabled you to make all these connections? How were you able to make those connections?
Sometimes those connections, I would say investors, sometimes they come to you by themselves (via email, or call you) because they see the potential in the company. Of course you want to know more about them too. Because some media feature our story and products, like in Taiwan, almost all Taiwanese know about our company. That's why some companies just want your product sold in their stores.
So you're the face of wireless charging in Taiwan?
Yes, but for other countries like Japan, if you just show your product to distributers, they just want it. They want to give more options to their customers. The feedback from Thailand; amongst Belkin, Mophie, and BEZALEL, most of the customers pick our product.
What makes your product stand out?
Fast charging, thinnest, and most exquisite. We are not plastic. Most of make plastic wireless chargers but we use metal and are more exquisite. We don't only have the basic wireless charger but a car charger, and one for on-the-go.
So you had no experience running a business before?
No, before I was just a student.
It seems a lot of people had a history of being an entrepreneur. Is there anything you'd say to those people who say 'it's not for me because I don't have the experience'?
I never thought of being an entrepreneur. But once it started happening, I realized that being an entrepreneur can really help others.
If a very rich business owner has a lot of money and a lot of resources, he can help others and benefit the world. He can help people avoid poverty and create jobs. He can help people escape poverty and change their lives. This is what keeps me going.
I know you said you're not doing this for the money, which is kind of surprising, what keeps you going? What makes you do what you do?
I want to have more resources and money and help people; create more jobs for them in the future. That's what keeps me going.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
Technology in the future is hardware integrated with software. BEZALEL isn't just a wireless charging company but a tech company that includes everything. And wireless charging will be the platform for smart devices and A.I. So I see myself very much being part of all that.
A lot of people are afraid taking that first step. Especially Asians. Asians have that sense that we need to be certain, we need a degree, you need to be a doctor, because they want that certainty. It seems scary but people are missing out if they're not taking a chance on themselves.
If you could go back in time, what's one piece of advice you'd give to yourself?
I would say, "Imperfect is perfect." Someone will have a different skill that's better than another person's skill; so we can all cover each other as a team. If we put ourselves together we can be stronger.
To your younger self you'd say, even if it's not perfect, just get started.