Alum’s on-demand delivery service takes off
Co-founder and CEO, GoGoVan
Hong Kong, PRC
Steven Lam doesn’t discourage easily. In fact, he enjoys a good challenge. Because of his perseverance, his Hong Kong-based, on-demand delivery and transportation company, GoGoVan, is a successful venture, with 350 employees and service in China, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and India, as well as Hong Kong.
“It’s easy to start a business, but sustaining it is another story,” Lam says. “Haas helped me develop that ability to just keep going, even when things don’t seem to be working out right away.”
Lam grew up in government housing in Hong Kong. His parents assumed he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a construction worker, but after a visit to his uncle in 2005, Lam wasn’t so sure.
“My uncle sent us all tickets to visit him in Los Angeles,” Lam says. “My parents were talking about how they didn’t have the money to send me to the U.S., but my uncle said, ‘I came to the States with $20 in my pocket—why does he need a bunch of money to come here?’ I realized he was right and decided to take a chance.”
In October of that year, Lam came to California on his own and enrolled in Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill—because of its reputation for a high transfer rate to Berkeley, he says. His uncle helped him find work at a Chinese restaurant owned by a family friend, but Lam also put together a variety of small business ventures, including repairing bikes and computers and reselling first-generation iPhones on eBay. The money he earned covered his two years of community college, and, once he transferred to UC Berkeley, it covered his tuition there as well.
The idea for GoGoVan came from a business Lam launched when he returned to Hong Kong after graduation. Working for the restaurant in the U.S., he’d delivered countless orders, all packaged in cardboard takeout boxes printed with the restaurant’s information. But in Hong Kong, restaurants used Styrofoam containers that wouldn’t take printing. So Lam bought a bunch of the boxes and offered delivery services to restaurants, using stickers to customize the containers for them.
Since he didn’t have the money to buy his own delivery truck, he had to use a call center to arrange deliveries—an inefficient system vulnerable to delays. So Lam and two friends founded GoGoVan in 2013. A mobile app matches customers with a van and driver for deliveries or transportation. Drivers can set their own fees and schedules.
Lam’s takeaway? What he learned at Haas consolidated his conviction that entrepreneurship demands perseverance—and daring, he says.
“Our defining principle Question the Status Quo really means dare to venture,” he says. “Berkeley gave me the tools to start a company that disrupts business as usual—and solves a real-world problem.” —Kate Madden Yee