Maurice Ng (BBA, ’15) knows what it means to be a struggling entrepreneur without access to resources and capital. In 2008, when he was 17, he and his family immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong, speaking no English. His father’s jewelry and antiques shop had been ruined in the financial crisis and the loan sharks he had borrowed from to keep the business going were threatening him. The family of four moved in with a relative in Flushing, Queens, sharing cramped living quarters while the parents worked minimum wage jobs.
Maurice floundered for several years before finding his niche at the Zicklin School. He studied finance, worked in investment banking and private equity on Wall Street, and made his first million by age 27. Now, at age 30, he’s giving back, by investing in underrepresented entrepreneurs (people of color, women, LGBTQ, first-generation immigrants, and people with disabilities) through his venture capital firm, Tings Capital. He sat down for an interview with Zicklin News.
Zicklin News: How did you learn about the Zicklin School?
Maurice Ng: I started out at the Weissman School as a premed student. All I wanted to do was to help my parents, who had sacrificed so much to come to America, and the only way that I could think of doing that at the time was to study hard to get good grades, attend medical school, and become a doctor. But after a while I realized I probably couldn’t afford medical school, so I started taking introductory accounting and finance classes at Zicklin and they opened my eyes to new possibilities. Until that point, I hadn’t been exposed to finance. My parents weren’t as fortunate as I am to have a college education — they didn’t even finish high school.
ZN: Did you work while you were studying?
MN: Yes. I tried so many jobs — I worked at a publishing company, I tried working in a PR agency, I interned at an oncologist’s office, and I even tried acting. I was really struggling to find a purpose in life. But it was through that experience of working in different industries that I realized that finance was the common thread connecting them. When you work in mergers and acquisitions, which is how I started my career at JPMorgan, you encounter a variety of companies and industries, and your role/ responsibility is never static. The Zicklin School has taught me that diversified way of thinking.
ZN: Tell us more about your career.
MN: After working in investment banking at JPMorgan, I spent about four years working in private equity, focusing on North American middle-market buyouts and growth equity in investments. Then I left that job to take a leadership position in strategy and operations at SurveyMonkey in the Silicon Valley because I wanted to learn more about the day-to-day operation of running of a publicly traded company.
ZN: Then the pandemic hit . . .
MN: Yes. Suddenly I was stuck at home for consecutive days, and it provided a lot of time to reflect. I started asking myself what I should be doing with the rest of my life. In December 2020, I decided to leave my job at SurveyMonkey and launch Tings Capital. I have decided to bet on myself and align with my identified life mission of helping the underrepresented or underdogs in our ecosystem.
ZN: What was your inspiration for starting the company?
MN: It comes from my experience working in private equity investing, where the majority/85 percent of the investors are Caucasian male, while less than 2% of the investors are both women and people of color. The majority of investors have a cognitive bias investing toward people who are comparable to them — it’s not their fault, it’s just that many investors typically don’t feel comfortable investing in something they’re not culturally and socially familiar with. For example, I have no idea what it’s like to be a woman, an LGBTQ member, or a person with a disability. People often don’t have a full understanding of how other people think because they haven’t lived their lives through other people’s lenses.
That’s where Tings Capital comes in. I’m building a team of diverse, underrepresented investors, who can provide the empathy and capital that underrepresented founders can’t find in the current ecosystem. We’re investing in the underdogs or underrepresented entrepreneurs: women, people of color, first-generation immigrants, the disabled, and people who identify as LGBTQ.
ZN: How did you choose the name?
MN: It’s short for “tingliness.” When you’re on the verge of greatness as an entrepreneur, you get that tingly feeling in your fingertips — that “aha” moment that tells you this is what you’re meant to be doing. A lot of people assume it’s a family name or a Chinese word, but it has nothing to do with my heritage. It’s purely a coincidence, but it’s definitely a conversation starter.
ZN: What companies have you invested in so far?
MN: They’re struggling local mom-and-pop businesses throughout the New York City area. Some are niche business services companies, food distribution businesses, and restaurants owned by close relationships of mine who got hit hard during the pandemic. These entrepreneurs are people of color and first-generation immigrants. They don’t know where to find the necessary capital because the banks won’t talk to them. I want to help them to sustain their livelihood, because I care about them and I don’t want their beloved businesses to fail, but I also invest in these companies because their differentiated yet defensible business models and the deal economics make sense from a return on investment or “ROI” perspective. When the macroeconomy rebounds, their financial performances should technically be back to normal.
ZN: What’s next for Tings Capital?
MN: I’m currently raising a $100 million venture capital fund with my highly experienced team of investment partners and senior advisors. Ultimately, I’m dedicating my life to turning the concept or the terminology of diversity and inclusion obsolete. I want to provide the underdogs or underrepresented founders with the empathy, capital, and resources needed to build successful businesses so that eventually we won’t think of people or businesses in the color perspective anymore. We’ll just think about the value proposition that they’re creating and how we can collectively make the world a better place.