‘We were just being authentic’: Berkeley Forum hosts Boba Guys co-founder, UC Berkeley alumnus

Two people sit on chairs on a stage as one of them speaks into a microphone.
Stephanie Li /Staff

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The Berkeley Forum and imagiCal, two registered student organizations on campus, hosted an event Thursday with co-founder of Boba Guys and UC Berkeley double alumnus Andrew Chau, who also formerly worked for The Daily Californian and served on its board of directors.

Chau spoke to an audience about his experiences growing up as a child of immigrants, his time at UC Berkeley and Boba Guys, a boba company that Chau started with his business partner, Bin Chen, which now has 15 locations.

“You are going to hear a random guy talk about a boba shop,” Chau said jokingly.

According to Michael Chien, the current president of the Berkeley Forum, Chau was asked to speak because of the popularity of boba tea, his affiliation with the campus and the “cultural relevance” of Chau’s business.

People attended the talk for a variety of reasons. Some had little to no interest in business or entrepreneurship itself. Sophomore Yuyang Zhong attended the event because he has been following the company’s progress.

“For me, this is more of a curiosity and personal thing,” Zhong said.

Others, however, used the opportunity to learn and gain insight into how to possibly found their own startups in the future. Senior May Wu said she was excited to learn more about the personality of the brand’s leadership.

“I think (the event) is a very good way to get close to the leader of the team,” Wu said. “Hopefully, one day I can build up my own business as well.”

Chau’s talk ranged from how he developed the idea of marketing boba tea to a wider audience, specifically Americans, to how he started a pop-up shop and created a successful corporation that still exists today. He openly admitted that he and Chen were not fully prepared or aware of what they were doing. According to Chau, they even developed their popular milk tea recipes through trial and error with help from recipes from YouTube videos.

“We were just being authentic from the very beginning,” Chau said. “We were actually just playing ‘moneyball’ the whole time.”

Chau credits his and Chen’s “grit” for Boba Guys’ success. He is also aware, however, that his company’s ethics also played a role in its success — an aspect he believes is missing from the entrepreneurial conversation today.

“You guys are taught how to be the alpha in the room. But, I don’t think there’s a balance. I don’t think you guys are taught how to be good people,” Chau said.

Chau also described his desire to increase representation and success of Asian Americans in society. For some audience members, this was very inspiring.

“(Chau) brought a lot of wisdom and reassurance,” said campus junior Hansol Jung, who serves as president of imagiCal. Jung said he can relate to Chau a lot, being an Asian American student and an imagiCal member.

Chau gives a lot of credit to UC Berkeley for shaping his character and career. He still uses the slogan “fiat lux” to motivate his everyday actions. He has developed the slogan to have a bigger meaning than its simple translation of “let there be light.”

“I see it more as, can you light up the world so that everyone around you can see? Can you make everyone around you better? Can you make everyone around you more aware?” Chau said.

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC ‏.