|Bachelors in Biomedical Engineering||Duke University||2007-2011|
|Cofounder||NeuEve||2012 - Present|
|Cofounder||Recoveralls||2020 - 2022|
|Recoveralls was an innovative reusable personal protective equipment startup. We sourced cleanroom fabric and found factories to manufacture washable, reusable PPE for frontline workers, which we donated and sold.|
|Senior Software Engineer||CancerIQ||2015 - 2018|
|I developed and implemented cancer risk algorithms, which help women discover if they were at high risk of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer.|
People are often surprised when they meet me and learn that I co-founded NeuEve. People are confused, because things don't quite add up from their first impressions about me.
Some perceive me as a spoiled child who has never known hardship. Some perceive me as just a man, with nothing to contribute to solving women's issues. Some perceive me as just another cookie-cutter Asian nerdy tech guy. Others see me as "too nice" and therefore weak.
These first impressions couldn't be further from the truth.
The truth is that my life's struggles made me who I am, and I have made NeuEve the way it is.
As a child, I was shaped by two complete opposite goals and struggles. 1. I wanted to be extraordinary and change the world. 2. Deep down, all I really wanted was to be normal and accepted.
Let me you a paint a picture.
A shy, sensitive, bright Asian kid growing up fast like a beanstalk, in a middle class town in Kansas. The only Asian family for miles and miles around. I was blessed and cursed with a gift. The gift of being extremely smart.
When I was 6, I had a huge crush on my next door neighbor named Natalie. We walked to school together a few times and I was head-over-heels.
I wanted to be liked, I wanted to have friends, I wanted my crush to like me back.
My mom, Dr. Renjie Chang, also desperately wanted me to be liked (as she was once very popular, back in China). Her advice to me was that people like you more when you get better grades.
So I did my duty. I completely demolished every single quiz and test. 100's all across the board.
As a result, I was pulled out of class and bussed to a separate gifted program. The better I did in school, the more the other kids disliked me. "Teacher's Pet!" "Smart Aleck!" I felt more isolated and less accepted.
My childhood was like being a fly stuck in a spider web. I had a goal: to be liked and accepted. And the harder I tried, the farther from that goal I got.
I remember feeling angry and confused often. The more others attacked me, the more hardened I felt in my identity.
At age 12, I remember watching Pay It Forward for the first time. This movie inspired me and it gave me a hope and a vision for a way out of my dilemma.
In the movie, this optimistic boy decides to invent an idea to change the world. It's simple: do 3 big things for 3 people. And after you do these big things, ask them to do 3 big things for 3 other people! It's basically a pyramid scheme or chain-letter of kindness. In the movie, the boy successfully changes the world and becomes a timeless hero.
I started believing that, maybe if I could change the world, people would finally like me and accept me.
How exactly does a person change the world? At that time, I believed that there were 3 ways for me to change the world.
1. Become a scientist/inventor and invent something with technology
2. Become a business person, and use money to change the world
3. Become a politician, and use law and policies to change the world
When I was 17, my mom started working on a bacteria that had the potential to truly save millions of lives from HIV.
Her idea was to use lactobacilli to bind onto HIV, which would immobilize the viruses.
Her lab was in the basement, so I saw the rings forming around her eyes from staring into the microscope too long. I saw the stacks of petri dishes. I heard the whirs of the machines running.
I remember the day I learned that the research had to be shut down, due to lack of funding for the next stage: monkey / animal studies. She was exhausted and heartbroken.
The amount of funding she needed to continue was $3 million dollars.
If I could come up with $3 million dollars, maybe I could rescue the study, and have a shot at saving tens of millions of lives, per year, forever.
"How does a kid come up with $3 million dollars?"
If you've ever heard of the trolley problem, it's a question in ethics and morality about whether you would sacrifice one life to save many others. I read Crime and Punishment a few times. It's about Nietzche's philosophy, and the central idea is that Raskolnikov wanted to help society by being a "Superman", and that Raskolnikov could accomplish positive results in society by doing distasteful actions.
I struggled with these questions.
Here was where I was starting: a nerdy, nice, shy, compliant Asian boy. And my vision was to change the world.
My idea of business people and politicians was that they are impactful, and also cold-blooded. Liars, cheats and thieves. Ice in their veins.
So in the name of personal growth, I pushed myself to test my moral boundaries and capabilities.
My very first job as an 18-year-old was as a door-to-door salesman for a local newspaper. I chose this job to teach me 3 skills. 1. The bravery to talk to strangers, 2. The art of storytelling and sales and 3. The capacity to lie.
This job was a complete scam. I was taught to lie and pretend I was someone I wasn't, raising money for a cause I didn't believe and wasn't involved with, to sell newspapers. The whole time I was doing this job, I told myself that I was merely borrowing the money and that one day I would give it back.
8 years later, my feelings of guilt caught up to me and I donated all my earnings for this summer to the charity it was originally intended for.
For my very first job out of college, I was torn between joining the Peace Corps and a highly lucrative job for a Chicago trading firm. I remembered my mom's research project to fight HIV.
If I sacrifice my happiness and sell my soul to make $3 million as fast as possible, I could give it to my mom to finish her research. I decided even if it's only a 10% chance of success, if it worked that would save 10 million lives per year.
Based on the Trolley Problem, all I had to do was sacrifice my one life and my one soul, and in exchange the world could get a 10% chance at 10 million extra lives per year forever.
Mathematically and morally, a good trade.
Therefore, I signed the offer to become a trading company developer. In exchange for large amounts of money, I would dedicate all my brainpower and time to helping some extremely rich people get more profit.
In general, all these moral-sacrifice choices I made started to weigh on me. Like Raskolnikov, I started to dislike the person I was becoming.
To act as a moral counterbalance, I started dating and aiding a woman, who said she wanted to help the world. She was beautiful and deeply sad. She came from a country where her entire race and culture was harshly persecuted.
When I was 24, she needed a visa to stay in the United States. I didn't want to be married. But I had a choice: I could sign a piece of paper and save her life. Out of a sense of duty, responsibility and guilt, I decided a sacrifice of my happiness and freedom was worth it for the greater good. Signing a single piece of paper to save a life. This was another Trolley Problem.
It was around this time that my Mom and I founded NeuEve.
I watched my own marriage fall apart, as we helped save so many others' marriages.
I think a single decision point to sacrifice is pretty easy. However, after the decision to make a sacrifice you have to continue and maintain things. As my self-image fell lower and lower, I poured my focus and energy into building our company.
I did everything. I packed boxes, wrote ads, responded to customer service. I built systems for customer service and finance and marketing and manufacturing. We will always make and pack every box of NeuEve ourselves.
There's nothing like a long day of hard physical work to bring a sense of pride.
Being a male cofounder of a menopausal women's health company has been a struggle for my identity and my self-esteem.
I lost count of the number of times people who I thought were my friends laughed at me. Me, and my business, was the punchline to every joke.
I stayed working for a job where everyone laughed at me, for the sake of "keeping friendships" for an entire year longer than I should. I was afraid of the judgment of others, I thought being a "programmer" was a much better title than being a "cofounder and vaginal expert".
Today, after growing this business for 10 years, I still struggle with exactly who I am and what I do. It still stings when people laugh at me, or judge me for who I serve. It hurts when people take my kindness for granted, as a sign of weakness.
I have learned many lessons in life and business the hard way. I no longer believe in the Trolley Problem, because the damage to a person's self-image is just too much. I no longer wish to be a cold-blooded business person.
My hope for NeuEve is that we can expand our impact to help many more people, and also for us to create a pride in ourselves.
I might not ever be normal or accepted, but I believe I can still make a large impact and change the world.
I feel pride in the huge community of women that we've built, and that we serve. I feel pride in the careers and callings we have made for our workers.
I am Dr. Chang's only son, and it's my duty to carry the family business into the future, and to serve the many people who depend on us.