The high-tech industry is so dynamic, you always have something you want to fix before you go, and it drags on and on. It never ends. I planned to retire a long time ago, in 1999.
I wanted to retire by the time I was 50. I failed. I wanted to retire before 55. I failed. But I'm glad I still achieved it at 55, so I don't have to change another number.
In the last 20 years I owe my family too much. I spent 99% of my time on ATI, ATI and ATI, and the other 1% on my kids and life. Right now, I should spend some time with my family, take care of them, but also take care of a lot of other interests.
A lot of things need to be fixed yesterday, not today, so the family can be put off until tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow has another tomorrow. It never ends. It's been tomorrow for 20 years. Now, tomorrow is today.
The OSC hearing dragged on too long. From Day 1, I wanted to finish it, clear my name and go. It helped me make the final decision. Enough is enough.
Truth is truth; facts are facts. That's why I never considered settling with the OSC. I wanted to fight to the end. I am an entrepreneur; I believe what I think, and I believe what I do.
I remember 28 or 29 years ago when I was working with a semiconductor company building a digital watch. At that time, I believed in PPT: product, pricing, timing. Since I started ATI, I see things the other way: TPP–timing, product and pricing. Timing is the most critical, and if you have the right product, pricing is not that critical.
This is my secret: I make our customers feel comfortable and happy. A lot of big names were using our products, but a lot of our success was definitely in the negotiation, and convincing them to feel comfortable with their choice.
A lot of people don't understand that everything is a human-to-human relationship. It's not who knows who, it's how you build the relationship. Everybody knows everyone, but how you deal with them is the difference.
I never based what I was doing on a book. You need to continue to change and modify to grow, or else you are out. You create a lot of your philosophy as you grow.
I can be very demanding, but I always demand more of myself than I do from other people.
I tease myself by saying I am a non-technical engineer. A lot of people think my degree is in commerce, not engineering. There are a lot of things that don't depend on what you study.
I chose a graphics card company because it could be a small capital start-up. To be more straightforward, I didn't have the money. People say, “Why did you start a company?” Because I don't have a job.
If you don't start, you will always be late.
It was tough growing up in China, but tough and not tough are only comparables. Compared with my life and my kids' lives today, then, yes, my life then was a lot more tough. But compared to other people then, maybe I was a lot better off.
When I was nine or 10 years old, I grew vegetables. A lot of people liked to buy from me at the market because I was a kid. One time, a lady showed up wanting to buy veggies, and I looked at her and it was my mum. So she bought veggies and also got the money.
I'm not concerned about the money. I'm not that concerned about my compensation. I'm always concerned with what I can learn, how much I can learn, because that is my asset. Nobody can take that away from me.
I started doing handicrafts when I was seven. I made hats, and I was using the whip thing to make the hats.
I made a comparably small amount of money, but it was important to our family. Especially when I started to grow vegetables, sweet corn, yams. I think at that time my income was very good.
When I was at university, I was involved in an awful lot of activity that turned me a lot toward becoming a businessman. But my family was so poor that there was no way to make a dream to become a businessman, so that's why I wanted to be an engineer.
I like to do a lot of things face-to-face, meet with people and talk with them. I spent a half-hour to talk with the bank and I got a $1.5-million credit line. In the old days, that kind of credit was very big.
Some people may say they want to go to the U.S. because there are opportunities and there aren't in Canada. Or they go to Canada because there are opportunities, and there aren't in the U.S. They don't understand. Everywhere has opportunities.
Most IT companies in Canada are entrepreneurial, and they were formed by immigrants. The pioneers, like Terry Matthews and Michael Cowpland at Mitel, and later Newbridge and Corel, ATI, Hummingbird, Delrina–now they are gone–were all formed by immigrants.
The year before I came to Canada I was general manager of a turnkey OEM manufacturer, so I was working in the computer field. But in those days if you wanted to build a computer you needed a lot of capital. Today, the capital to become a graphics chip manufacturer is a lot bigger than being a computer manufacturer.
We used money that we had saved up, but we used all that in the first three months. Fortunately, I negotiated a credit line and I had a very good customer, Kaypro, who paid me a lot. They paid me more than our capital.
In the last 20 years Canada has become much better for entrepreneurs. Twenty years ago it was extremely difficult because there was no venture capital in Canada, and the banks would never lend you money. At ATI we used an overseas bank, not a Canadian bank.
When you're poor, you're always looking to get wealthy, to get money. Why do I do charity? Because in the early days when you don't have money, you definitely want to work hard to make money, but after you get money you should remember how you suffered and have a chance to share your fortune with other people.
Kwok Yuen (K. Y.) Ho
Born Dec. 27, 1950, in Xinhui, China
Technology entrepreneur; philanthropist
1974: After an impoverished childhood, earns an electrical engineering degree from National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan.
1984: Emigrates to Canada, but has trouble finding work, despite a decade of technology work experience in Hong Kong.
1985: Ho and two other Hong Kong immigrants sink $300,000 into forming their own company, then Array Technology Inc.
2004: After building ATI into the world's largest graphics chip maker, Ho steps down as company CEO, but remains chairman.
2005: Retires as chairman of ATI after being cleared of insider trading allegations by the Ontario Securities Commission.