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Chinese-American Tech Entrepreneur Becomes Victim Of Hate Crime

But Justin Kan sees the silver lining: "Last time I checked I’m still balling."

Posted on August 17, 2015, at 3:40 p.m. ET

Anthony Harvey / Getty Images

Justin Kan, 32, is a prominent tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

Last year, he sold Twitch, a live-streaming platform for video game sessions that he co-founded, to Amazon for $970 million — one of Amazon's biggest acquisitions ever. Kan previously founded and sold off three other companies: web calendaring service Kiko, video-sharing platform Socialcam, and on-demand errand service Exec. He's now a partner at the incubator Y Combinator.

A Chinese-American and Seattle native who has lived in San Francisco for nine years, Kan told BuzzFeed News he's never encountered racism in the Bay Area — until this past weekend.

Around 3:30 a.m. Saturday, a man walked up to Kan’s home in the posh Duboce Triangle neighborhood and scrawled a hateful message on the garage door: “Fuck you Gook!”

"Gook" is a derogatory epithet against Asians that traces back to the early 20th century.

Justin Kan / Via

Kan, who has lived in the house with his fiancée and two brothers for eight months, was asleep at the time.

"A friend of mine text[ed] me a photo of my garage in the morning, so a racist message was the first thing I woke up to," he told BuzzFeed News in an email.

Duboce Triangle is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in San Francisco, where housing prices increased 52% from 2004 to 2014. Kan isn't sure, however, whether class played a role in the incident. "The vandal was a super hipster and didn't really look like a long term resident of the neighborhood," he noted of the suspect, who wore a hoodie and a baseball cap and was caught on a security camera.


A third of San Francisco’s 805,000 residents identify as Asian (the vast majority are Chinese-American).

Still, Kan is something of a rarity in his industry. A May report found that Asians are well-represented in tech, composing 27% of the professional workforce at Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn, and Yahoo. But they're underrepresented higher up the ranks; in 2013, just 14% of executives at these companies identified as Asian-American.

Kan told BuzzFeed News that he believes he was clearly targeted "since the slur was addressed against Asians, and my fiancée and my brothers and I are all Asian." But he's maintained a sense of humor about the situation. A neighbor painted over the epithet — in the wrong color — without asking him, and a TV station misspelled his last name. Kan joked on Facebook that he'd been the "victim of a hate crime, a help crime, and now a name crime."

Justin Kan

For the record, I don't remember rejecting this guy from Y Combinator

"While clearly I'm not a fan of being targeted with a racist message, it doesn't define me or my experience in San Francisco," he told BuzzFeed News. "It didn't make me self-conscious or invalidate my accomplishments. I was balling on Friday before it happened and last time I checked I'm still balling."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.