Words of Wisdom and A Look At Company Culture With Spokeo CEO Harrison Tang

Published : Saturday, October 5, 2019 | 1:01 PM

Spokeo CEO and Co-Founder Harrison Tang’s story is similar to that of, say, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and other successful tech company leaders who emerged after the dot com boom and took an idea created inside a dorm room, cultivated it to new heights, and eventually catapulted to success some years later as a tech giant.

However, unlike putting roots down in northern California along with what seems like every tech company imaginable, Tang traded-in Silicon Valley for the San Gabriel Valley and calls Pasadena home — for both work and play.

Spokeo is a people search engine that helps you search, connect, and know who you are dealing with online. Every month, 18 million people come to Spokeo to find out more about the people around them.

The company organizes over 12 billion records from publicly available data sources into easy-to-understand reports that include available contact info, location history, photos, social media accounts, family members, court records, work information, and much more.

Pasadena Now sat down with Spokeo’s Tang to learn a little more about company culture and to get some business advice from someone whose company posted $78 million in revenue for 2015.


Tell us about your relationship with Pasadena. Out of all cities imaginable in the world, you chose to root your business in Pasadena. Why?

We started Spokeo in the Bay Area and moved to Pasadena in 2010. We chose Pasadena because it’s at the intersection of great academic and cultural institutions such as Caltech, JPL the Norton Simon Museum, and Huntington Library & Gardens. The core asset at Spokeo is our talent capital, so being in a community where there is a diverse set of talents, including technical and academic, is really important to us. The talent in Pasadena has a lot of business smarts and cross-industry experience. Equally important, you can’t beat the weather!


What advice would you give a young entrepreneur about how to attain success. Can it be measured and if so, how do YOU measure it?

As an entrepreneur, your attitude is the most important thing you have. There’s an old saying, usually attributed to Confucius, that goes something like “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” In that analogy, the solution would be the fish, while the fishing pole is the attitude. Finding a solution to a single problem is short-term, but having the right attitude will set you up for long-term success.

At Spokeo, the right attitudes are inscribed into our core values: (1) Listen With Empathy, (2) Ask the Why, (3) Clarify With Data, (4) Innovate to Learn, (5) Collaborate to Achieve, and (6) Insist on Quality. We live these values to attain success.

Lastly, success for me has been providing an important service to our customers by offering a product that helps them search for information about people online, whether it’s verifying the identity of an online date or reconnecting with an old college roommate. The metrics for measuring such success include customer retention rate, engagement numbers, and complaint rate. We constantly monitor these metrics to measure our progress in making trust a little easier for people.


How has having children changed your perspective or philosophy on running your Company?

There’s a Chinese saying that you can find success in any kind of career, any kind of path. And I think, ultimately, to have success in anything, you’ve got to have persistence. I think about how we had to push through when the business almost went bankrupt in 2008, and I think about the things that my dad taught me about work and life such as perseverance and loyalty to your company and family — these are important lessons that I hope to pass on to my sons.

Kids follow their parents’ example. I want my children to pick a path that they’re passionate about. I want to teach them about the same thing my Dad taught me: not to give up and keep going, and try your best.


How do you think your career, company, and life would differ if you hadn’t relocated to Pasadena? What does it have to offer that you can’t get anywhere else?

I think situating my business in Pasadena has helped Spokeo remain humble. If we had stayed in Silicon Valley, we would be living in the “quick ROI” mentality of VCs who are looking for short-term gains. It’s easy to forget that IPOs are meant to be funding events, not just easy exits for investors to recoup their money.

We’re focused on building a business that provides long term, sustainable value. We value having our company in Pasadena because it provides us with a stimulating business environment combined within a vibrant academic and technical community that includes Caltech and JPL.

Silicon Valley values short term financial gains, while the Pasadena business community values science, engineering and technical expertise. Overall, we believe that Pasadena aligns better with our corporate values and our long term vision for the company.


Map out a perfect Pasadena day from sunrise to sunset…

Where do you go to grab that morning cup of coffee and a bite to eat?
I usually grab coffee in the office. Otherwise, a coffee and croissant at Copa Vida is a great way to start off the morning on a weekend.

What’s the special restaurant you would take your co-workers to mid-day to celebrate a workplace achievement?
We typically have lunch catered at Spokeo, which is especially convenient when running between meetings. For a special occasion, I like to take my team out to the Terrace restaurant at the Langham Hotel. The grounds are so beautiful that you feel like you’ve stepped outside the city and landed on an English country estate.

What about clothing? Where do you find your perfect shirt?
Luckily for us, we have really soft company-branded T-shirts. In fact, it was really important for us to represent the brand by designing cool T-shirts that were comfortable and that our teammates would really want to wear in the “real world.” If you drop by our office on any given day, you’ll see a range of T-shirts representing our brand progression over the years.

We tend to go to family-friendly restaurants such as the Cheesecake Factory in Old Town [Pasadena].

Nightlife, etc.?
With three sons under the age of 6, my wife and I don’t have much of a nightlife. For family-friendly venues, we like visiting the Kidspace Museum near the Rose Bowl.

To learn more, go to https://www.spokeo.com/

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