Bamboo Chats is breaking the Bamboo Ceiling by simplifying networking for Asian professionals and college students through an automated matching platform.
Tell us more about your venture.
Bamboo Chats connects students and professionals in the Asian American community together by matching and scheduling one time calls during which students can learn more about the industry they are interested in and professionals share their experience navigating careers as an Asian American. Matches are made based on a variety of factors, including industry, ethnicity, conversation topics, and location.
What inspired you to start Bamboo Chats?
As college students, we knew that networking and career chats were something we were always told we “should” do – yet rarely ever did. Despite the CareerLab emails we received every so often to take advantage of BrownConnect and LinkedIn, the process of actually cold emailing or connecting with someone seemed too intimidating and lengthy of a process to actually do. After surveying other college students across the country, we found that this was a widespread problem – many students wanted to chat with professionals but figuring out who to talk to, how to reach them, and what to talk about were barriers to actually carrying out these chats. Christine, Justin, and Sandra have been actively working to break the Bamboo Ceiling for the past three years through Asian Diversity Initiative, which offers leadership and soft skills training for Asian American high school students. We decided we could kill two birds with one stone by connecting professionals and students together for not only networking purposes but also to discuss topics relevant to the Asian American experience and thereby increase exposure to Asian role models in different industries .
Why is this problem important?
Asian Americans are the least likely group in the U.S. in the U.S. to be promoted to management. Despite making up 12% of the workforce, only 2.6% of leadership in Fortune 500 companies are Asian American. This barrier is referred to as the Bamboo Ceiling and is present across the corporate world, entertainment industry, media, and sports, among other fields. However, this problem is still relatively unfamiliar to many people, even among Asian Americans, adding to the invisibility and exclusion many problems Asians face are subject to.
As the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” implies, networking has the potential to open up many new opportunities. And yet, many students find it intimidating and rarely go through with it. For Asian American students who have immigrant parents, networking may be even more difficult because they can’t rely on parental connections as a launching off point. Therefore, Bamboo Chats can be an easy way for students to meet role models and learn about the Bamboo Ceiling, allowing us to prepare the incoming workforce to break the Bamboo Ceiling.
Who is your target market?
Our target market is Asian undergraduate students attending university in America who plan to work in America, and Asian professionals who currently work in America.
How is B-Lab helping your venture develop?
B-Lab has been a great opportunity to focus on Bamboo Chats and particularly valuable in introducing us to great mentors and professionals. In addition, B-Lab’s workshops and speakers have taught us a lot about how to navigate building and growing our startup.
What is something surprising that has happened thus far?
We’ve done a lot of cold emailing and a surprising number of people are very willing to answer the requests of a bunch of college students they have no connection with. People are much more generous than we thought – we just had to ask.
Who is your role model and why?
My parents. They are the most hardworking people I know and the reason why I really believe I can do anything if I put my mind to it. If I can be as smart and selfless as my dad and as caring and patient as my mom I think at that point I can say I’ve succeeded in life.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Bamboo Chats recently released our alpha platform, so if you are an Asian American student or professional interested in chatting with the other party, feel free to sign up below! https://bamboo-chats-db219.web.app/
Christine Han (Founder and CEO) is a rising junior at Brown University concentrating in East Asian Studies. As a Korean American, Christine is passionate about empowering the Asian American community through entrepreneurship. In the past she has worked with Anecdote, an audio storytelling app, and Cakery, a custom cake marketplace. On campus, Christine is involved in Brown Taekwondo, Korean American Student Association, Daebak Dance Association, and the Social Innovation Fellowship.
Christine is the only member participating in the Breakthrough Lab 2021 program. These are some other members of her ventures:
Justin Chai (Operations) is a Chinese American rising sophomore at Swarthmore College double majoring in Engineering and Economics. As an active member of the Southern California Asian community, he’s worked as a past intern and activity coordinator for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in LA. Otherwise, Justin is currently active on campus as a part of the First-Gen Administration student council and an underclassmen team member of Swarthmore’s tech entrepreneurial club, Launchdeck.
Sandra Tang (Front End Developer) is a rising junior at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) majoring in Computer Science, minoring in Design, and concentrating in Chinese. Outside the classroom, Sandra has served as an executive student board member for Asian Diversity Initiative which empowers Asian youth through soft skill education and cultural awareness. In her spare time, Sandra enjoys broadening her horizons through travel, working on her college’s cookbook magazine Chop Stir Hack, and developing original games at hackathons.
David Inho Lee (Backend Developer) is a rising junior at Brown University concentrating in Computational Biology. David likes to give back to the Korean-American community by being a mentor in the Korean Adoptee Mentorship Program at Brown. David is also involved in the Hands of Providence Christian Fellowship, Brown Crosswording Club, and research on campus.