Score Another for Team Tsao
President, Miven Venture Partners
Using their garage as a makeshift workshop, Victor Tsao and his wife created Linksys, which they turned into a global wireless computer network leader.Victor Tsao (M.S. C.S. ’81)
The basketball hoop affixed to the Irvine, Calif. garage of Victor Tsao (M.S. CS ’81) and his wife, Janie, was just one of many in an area dominated by Los Angeles Lakers fans. But this one was emblematic of the slam-dunk its owners scored in 1988 when, using the garage as a makeshift workshop, they created the multimillion-dollar wireless computer network company Linksys.
While the couple later sold both their Irvine property and their company, a Spalding in-ground basketball pole is in place in the backyard of their home today, in Newport Coast, Calif., not far from the residence of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. Tsao says that basketball has been his passion since he was a kid, when he played on his junior high team in Taipei, Taiwan. He has not only derived physical benefits from the sport but also has gleaned some practical applications as well, centered on the concept of the team.
“Basketball is a highly intensive team sport,” says Tsao from Florence, Italy, consulting through Miven Venture Partners, LLC, which he and Janie co-run. “I’ve played with many different kinds of people throughout my life and have admired many of my teammates. From them I’ve learned more about working together, tolerance, and making adjustments. In business, you plan and execute with the team, but also spend time doing your homework; you have to play the defense and offense with all you’ve got.”
The Tsaos have comprised their own team of two since first meeting as students at Taiwan’s Tamkang University, and married after they came to the United States. In 1977, the couple moved to Chicago, where they attended graduate school, then settled in California. Over the next decade, they gained both academic knowledge and corporate experience, holding a variety of positions in companies such as TRW, Inc., where Janie served as a systems manager, and Taco Bell Corp., where Tsao was director of MIS strategic systems development. All the while, they discussed their vision for a line of computer peripherals based around the concept of connectivity, and began development during their free time.
“After two years, we had our product line ready and had enough customers to pay our bills,” says Tsao, noting that it was a family affair, with sons Michael, now 27, and Steven, now 25, helping to package the products.