At BCG Digital Ventures, product managers are responsible for creating a compelling vision for product delivery that strategically aligns with the needs of our corporate partners.
When Hans Yang graduated from MIT with a materials engineering degree, he probably didn’t expect he’d end up building digital products at BCG Digital Ventures. But Hans has always followed a winding and varied career path—and that’s exactly how he likes it.
“From measuring liquid eggs to running a mobile gaming studio, the broad trend is that I meander. I like to take on a challenge and see where it leads me because my taste and preferences are constantly evolving.”
After graduating from the UCLA Anderson School of Business, Hans joined Taco Bell’s marketing team, where he helped launch the breakfast menu and learned the ins and outs of operating a business–which often meant learning how to ask the right questions.
“This may sound ridiculous, but we made a 60 page deck just to outline the pros and cons of offering additional sizes of orange juice. Questions like: Do you have enough space to store the orange juice? How much extra product do you need if you offer small and medium versus a large? What do the margins look like? These are the little things that can not only change customer experience, but also the bottom line.”
Hans’ next career move was to Yahoo Sports, where he worked as a product manager responsible for building websites for the various sports products. During his time there, his team filed three patents and Yahoo passed ESPN as the largest sports channel.
“Working in sports was amazing, but media consumption is a one-way industry. When I got the opportunity to work in games, it was much more interactive. More than just entertainment, games are a study of consumer behavior.”
Around the time Hans was considering a move to Zynga, the game Café World was in its prime, having acquired eight million users in just seven days. To prepare for the interview, Hans and his wife downloaded the game, and quickly got addicted. The fact that Zynga was able to create games that appealed to even non-traditional players proved they were doing something right.
In the coming years, Hans went on to grow Zynga’s LA office from six people to over 60, all while navigating the transition from web to mobile. The key learning from Zynga: test everything.
“At Zynga, it was all about balancing creativity with math. We used data not to make our decisions, but inform them.”
The final piece of the puzzle that led Hans to DV, was his role at Disney’s mobile studio, where he became involved with Techstars’ Disney Accelerator. When he realized that the two hours he spent coaching were his favorite hours of the week, he knew he needed to do something more entrepreneurial. When a former colleague at Zynga started Luxe, an on-demand valet parking service, Hans joined the team. Initially, he was drawn to the opportunity because there was both a heavy tech component (predictive algorithms and the like), along with a major human component.
At DV, Hans has been able leverage this wide range of experience, working on ventures in mobility, materials, healthcare, ops/logistics and big data analytics. “Every time someone new comes in our door, my job is to become an expert in it.”
While Hans has spent time working in different startup ecosystems, he’s called LA home for the past 15 years. Aside from the great weather, Hans has found that, overall, LA’s Silicon Beach easier to access than Silicon Valley. Perhaps this is because there’s still a great sense of community (#LongLA), as well as a desire to build up the ecosystem.
And while Silicon Valley has many advantages, such as the sheer amount of talent in the pool, LA is unique because of its rich history of companies that aren’t stereotypically ‘technology’ companies. And when Techstars came in, it really unearthed top tier entrepreneurs in the area to work with these major companies.
When asked what he does outside of work, Hans had a simple answer: “I surf and I hang out with my kids.” Surfing allows Hans some much-needed whitespace–time for his mind to wander–something that Hans thinks is very important.
“As the ‘startup generation’ grows up and wants families, companies and investors will need to realize that it’s not about running through walls all the time. We need to create a sustainable and family-friendly way to build companies. Southern California offers that because of weather, mindset, and how people prioritize their lives.”
Hans’ advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
“When you stop competing against your competitors and start competing against the market, it will unlock things for you.”