Superpower on the Side is a series that features WeWork team members and how they spend their time when they’re not at work.
Growing up in a predominately Asian-American community in Diamond Bar, California, Elton Kwok—like many children of immigrants—had a preordained plan mapped out for him: Pursue a degree in a safe and sound career, and go on to a stable job. The plan didn’t include discovering the vocation that spoke to his heart—or, in the words he often utters on “Fish Sauce,” his influential podcast, letting his “secret sauce” shine.
His transformative moment happened one night on a New York City street, as he was walking past WeWork’s Chelsea HQ. Kwok, who had a degree in engineering and a job in finance, struck up a conversation with an employee leaving the building—and before he knew it he was throwing caution to the wind, joining WeWork when it was still essentially in startup mode, much to his parents’ initial dismay.
“When I was studying civil engineering, I wanted to build hotels; the hospitality industry and things related to it always interested me,” says Kwok, now a general manager at WeWork, where he ensures the health of the business in Northern California. “It felt like WeWork might be the perfect company to join because it was workspace tied with community, hospitality paired with technology.”
The idea of joining a company built around shared workspaces spoke to Kwok’s own secret sauce: curiosity. “I’ve always been curious as to how I can help others, how can I learn from others,” he says. “There are so many intricacies and differences in the world that you only become a better version of yourself if you’re able to learn from everything that’s around you.”
It wasn’t enough for Kwok to pursue his own passion—with his “Fish Sauce” podcast, co-hosted by his friend Wilson Kyi (also a child of Asian immigrants), he’s inspiring others to pursue their dreams. “Growing up as an Asian-American, people lean more toward the conservative side versus risk-taking,” explains Kwok. “We wanted to inspire our peers to find out what their secret sauce was—what was special to them—and take that risk so they can do what they love on a day-to-day basis.”
Kwok and Kyi clock long hours after work and on weekends to secure the most compelling guests they can think of. One recent guest was Justin Kan, the founder of Justin.tv and Twitch.tv, which were acquired by Amazon in 2014 for nearly $1 billion. “The title of that podcast episode is called ‘The World’s Greatest Hype Man.’ [Kan] thinks about everything he does in terms of: How do we hype it and get traction?” Kwok says. “He shared a lot about making an impact as an entrepreneur, as well as being a person who can build relationships and sell anything. That was definitely helpful for me, and for a lot of our listeners.”
Another guest whose story moved Kwok was Lisa Fetterman, who created the Wi-Fi-enabled Nomiku sous vide machine. “Through the telling of her story on the podcast we heard the number of ‘nos’ she got,” Kwok says. “She overcame all of these situations and now she has a best seller on Amazon, and she got a deal on ‘Fish Tank’—[laughs] that’s ‘Shark Tank,’ not ‘Fish Tank’!”
After just over two years, “Fish Sauce” has an impressive 10,000 monthly subscribers. “The most rewarding thing has been developing a community of thought partners,” Kwok says. “We’ve been able to build a community within a community, which is amazing. Through the ‘Fish Sauce’ network, we’ve been introduced to a platform of other successful entrepreneurs, investors, and operators that have a reason to talk to one another. It’s more than a podcast—it’s become a movement.”
Currently, this movement is a labor of love done “purely for the fun of it,” notes Kwok. But looking forward, he wants his baby to grow. “We definitely hope to get other brand partners involved, to scale the podcast even further, and to eventually sell merchandise,” he says. “These are all long-term plans that hopefully we’ll be able to integrate into the platform.”
Who knows? Maybe they’ll even have that “Fish Tank” in the end.