Jay Kim is a full time investor, entrepreneur and host of The Jay Kim Show, Hong Kong’s first dedicated podcast on entrepreneurship and investing in Asia. Inc. Magazine has named The Jay Kim Show one of the top 3 podcasts from Asia which are inspirational and useful to entrepreneurs. Jay has been living in Hong Kong for over 12 years and is an active supporter of the start-up ecosystem in Asia. Jay frequently consults with leaders in local government on topics related to technology, entrepreneurship, investing and startups. Jay is also the founder and author of Hack Your Fitness the complete fitness & lifestyle solution for busy professionals and entrepreneurs. He works with world-class athletes and other high performers to help them achieve fitness results that are sustainable for life. Originally from the Bay Area, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a minor in Technology. Reach out to him directly on Twitter @jaykimmer.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted financial freedom. I didn’t even know what that term meant when I was younger but it translated into me wanting to make money. I discovered my very first arbitrage opportunity at the age of 7. I was living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia at the time (my father was an engineer for the oil company Saudi Aramco). Once a year my father’s company would send us back to the states for a “mandatory” month long vacation where we were able to visit with relatives, catch up on American culture and remember what the Western world was like. Just like any young kid all I cared about was video games and candy. It became routine for me to load up on American candy (Reese's Peanut Butter cups were my favorite) and stockpile a year’s supply in my suitcase before returning back to the desert.
It wasn’t long before I realized how highly in demand this American candy was. Nerds, Gobstoppers, Butterfingers, Reese’s...they were all the rage. After the first trip back my friends quickly depleted my stash in a mere 2 weeks and I immediately recognized both my mistake and the golden opportunity ahead. The next year I loaded up with twice as much and came back and offloaded it all in half the time. In retrospect the ROI on this very first trade was astonishing. A cool 300% in a matter of days. Not bad for an 8 year old, the only problem was I had limited access to my supplier (once a year) and my warehouse space (suitcase) was limited. My parents ended up shutting down the operation a year later.
My thirst for wealth creation didn’t stop there. I continued on to high school and college always trying to make a few bucks on the side whether it was via traditional means (working 30 hours a week as an assistant for a local bank manager while still in college) or unconventional and borderline controversial methods (signing up to be a guinea pig for new drug trials). I read books like the The Millionaire Next Door, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad and dreamt of being financially independent but never quite understood how to get there.
IF I CAN MAKE IT THERE, I’LL MAKE IT ANYWHERE
After graduating from college and still not having a clue about how to start my own business, I decided that if I was going to learn how to make money I’d have to do if from the best and the brightest in the world. I targeted all my job hunting efforts to land a job on Wall Street and moved straight up to New York when I was offered a job to work at Lehman Brothers, one of the oldest and most prestigious investment banks on Wall Street.
Four years later I had seen and learned a lot about the inner workings of an investment bank but I still wasn’t getting any richer. Sure, give me access to a huge balance sheet and I could generate returns for you but that still didn't help me get from point A to B. Deep down inside I still knew that the quickest path to riches for me was to be involved in a business that I had ownership in so I convinced one my best friends to let me relocate to Hong Kong and help him set up his family office.
I LIKE HOT ASIAN COMPANIES
That’s exactly what I said when I first landed in Hong Kong over 12 years ago, eager to put my money to work and find the next out-sized return on my investment. I’d spent the first part of my career on Wall Street and learned how to trade stocks. How hard could it be over in Asia?
The next phase of my life represented what ended up being a very costly MBA program in wealth creation. I was young, hungry and was making a bit of cash. My attitude was “you gotta be in it to win it” and “you gotta pay to play”. A few years and tens of thousands of dollars later I realized that I didn’t have a clue of what I was doing. Asia plays by a different set of rules and for all intents and purposes I was just another greedy outsider looking to come in and make a quick buck. I heard about all these great deals all the time but why wasn’t I being shown them?
It wasn’t until I took a step back to truly observe how the system worked that I realized I was going about it all wrong. Investing in Asia is a closed insider’s game and I was stuck on the outside.
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