Pook-Ping Yao

Forty Under 40 Winner 2015: CEO, Optigo Networks, Age 38

Pook-Ping Yao was one of those dot-com era wunderkinds who was offered a job with a Vancouver tech company six months before he even graduated from university.

The company, semiconductor maker PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq:PMCS), treated him well, sending him to Israel to work with a new startup it had acquired and allowing him to move up the corporate ladder.

But in 2012, after 12 years with the company, he decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge and strike out on his own, co-founding a startup focused on a space that still hasn’t fully evolved yet: the Internet of Things.

“I always had in me the desire to be my own boss, to have my own company,” Yao said.

Born in Belgium, Yao grew up speaking Flemish, French and Chinese. His family immigrated to Canada when he was five, and he grew up in Montreal.

He owes his fascination and facility with technology to his uncle, who was a whiz with electronics.

“I saw the magic of technology at a young age while watching my uncle fix TVs, radios and remote controls.”

While still at PMC-Sierra, Yao saw that the machine-to-machine space would eventually hit a wall, as high-tech systems turned buildings into smart buildings. With friends-and-family seed financing, he and co-founders Daniel Ronald and Byron Thom founded Optigo Networks, with the idea of developing networking and security management systems for smart buildings. They entered a New Ventures BC competition, which gave them a crash course in running a startup.

“We did not do well,” Yao admitted. But one of the judges, Jim Derbyshire, saw the company’s potential, became a mentor and is now Optigo’s chairman.

Yao said his company is a bit early out of the gate, because the machine-to-machine space is still in its infancy.

“We are a little bit ahead of the curve, which is a blessing and curse at the same time,” he said. “Not everyone in the industry wants to buy it just yet.”

With 12 full-time employees, the company generates some revenue, mostly doing the networking security systems in buildings for a large real estate developer.

Yao said he owes a lot to PMC-Sierra, with which he still has a good relationship.

“Optigo is a PMC customer. We create a system out of PMC products.”

Join us to celebrate the 2015 Forty under under 40 Awards January 27, 2016 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.