USC Student Tony Gao in Forbes Asia 30 under 30

A year ago, OIS sat down for an interview with award-winning entrepreneur and USC business student Tony Gao. In 2013, Tony co-founded Easy Transfer Limited, a company that offers payment solutions for Chinese students in the U.S. and their parents. At age 21, Tony had by then already been awarded a place in Bloomberg Business Week’s “25 under 25”, a list of 25 pioneer entrepreneurs from China under the age of 25. Just one year later, Tony has been awarded a place on the Forbes “30 under 30 Asia” for Finance and Venture Capital. High time for a follow up with OIS!

How did you come up with the idea to start Easy Transfer Limited?

During my first semester at USC, I had to pay my tuition for the first time. my mother asked me which information to provide to the bank in China. The cashier’s office gave me two numbers: the account number, and the routing number. When I sent these to my mom, she thought I was lying to her. She sent me the form she had received from the bank in China, which contained about twenty empty spaces that needed filling in. After verifying with the cashier’s office, I realized that there was a huge discrepancy in information between Universities in the U.S. and the Chinese banks. I saw the gap in the market and jumped in! This started a two-and-a-half year research and development which for me and my partner was one of the darkest periods of our lives. Once we got our first school on board though, the banks started to follow and the rest is history.

So, at age 15, you come up with the idea to start a company… How do you do that?

There’s a Silicon Valley proverb that I always like to quote: “CEO’s only need to be good at three things: (1) coming up with great ideas, (2) finding great people, and (3) finding the money. In the beginning, I was constantly trying to involve myself in the production process. Soon enough though, I discovered that this did not allow me sufficient time to work on growing the business. I learned very soon that I needed to focus on bringing the product onto the market, while simultaneously attracting the needed talent to perfect that product.

What are your plans for Easy Transfer Limited?

Our first step is to expand into markets with a higher frequency of payments, such as rent and car purchases. After that, we plan on influencing students’ daily spending habits, for example by making it easier for them to obtain a credit card. Currently, it is excessively complicated for Chinese students to obtain one, which is a pity since Chinese students oftentimes have a lot of money to spend. There is a huge gap in the market here and I want to create a system for those who suffer from it. Of course it is great to have a profitable business, but my primary motivation is creating solutions. To make a difference in Chinese students’ spending behavior in the U.S. and lives in general.

What would you like to say to your fellow Trojans?

Whatever you do, go all in. When I applied to schools, USC was my number one choice. I knew that USC would provide me with the tools and the network to really create something and change peoples’ lives. I now sleep about four hours a night on average, juggling cross-country business trips with exam preparations. USC makes it possible to do this, because there is true culture of respect for business and entrepreneurship here. I am proud and grateful to be a beneficiary of the Trojan experience!