By Assunta Ng
What sets Yale Wong, co-founder and CEO of General Biodiesel, Inc., apart from his competitors?
Biodiesel is an alternative energy source made of recycled cooking oil. When Wong started his company in 2006, it was the ninth biodiesel company in Washington state. Today, his competitors are ancient history. Only one remains, and it’s for sale.
General Biodiesel is the last one standing. It is also profitable and growing strong.
“I am not afraid.” Wong said as one of the panelists for a green energy panel organized by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce held on July 30. His answer might be a simple phrase, but it conveys a powerful side of Wong’s character. Not many people dare to say that out loud, clearly and quickly with confidence and conviction. It tells you a lot about Wong, the defiant entrepreneur and risk-taking visionary.
Notice he didn’t talk about what his competitors did wrong and what he did right. One of his competitors had a fire at their plant, and the CEO resigned. Others were sold, filed for bankruptcy, or switched to something else.
Wong’s fearless philosophy is in his DNA. He was gutsy when he first started Compass Communications, a successful Internet provider company, without knowing exactly what he was getting into. It didn’t matter that he didn’t have a college education. The only thing he knew was that the Internet was going to get big. He convinced his partners to go with him in 1994, and Compass became the third-largest co-location broadband management servers in the state. When Compass was sold in 2004, it paid all the partners handsomely. Although Wong was only 37 years old at the time, he had won financial freedom for the rest of his life.
Wong was no energy expert when he began General Biodiesel. Wong’s wife, Laura, knew that it would be too early for Wong to retire. So, “We drove around the country to look for the next big thing,” said Wong. He also took a class in clean energy, and that’s how General Biodiesel was founded.
Wong, Laura, and Clarence Pascua, a Filipino American, became cofounders of the company.
Today, Wong’s knowledge in green energy is invaluable. He can give you statistics and numbers on other energy trends in addition to biodiesel fuels.
But that’s not the impressive part. He, a chemist, and his people developed a new technology that perfects the biodiesel process. He is proud that it is only one of the few technologies available in the United States and that his company received certification for its technology. Imagine if he exports his technology to other parts of the country, or even Asia and Europe. General Biodiesel could be the next Starbucks or Microsoft.
Traditionally, restaurants and bakeries wanted to pay someone to get rid of their excessive grease. But after learning that GB can make money out of their oils, they give it away for free. Fish factories now even charge a small fee for their oil.
Asked why he is successful while other biodiesel companies fail? He gave credit to his team of 30 people.
“I am the wild thinker,” he said. “My wife is the boss, she is focused and organized. Clarence manages fuel and does all the fabrication.”
“People have doubts,” said Wong. “They follow stereotypes. No one has guts to get into new ventures; no one wants to risk everything. They are scared of moving forward.”
“Just do it.” (end)