SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME GO "AWW": Seeing my queer friends begin to have kids. SOMETHING PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT: I absolutely hate horror movies. IF I WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND AND COULD TAKE 3 THINGS: 1) Replicator from Star Trek; 2) Robot chef; 3) Authentic Japanese snacks!
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BRIDGING CULTURAL GAPS WITH SNACKS. Danny Taing knows that the best way to build bridges to other cultures is with food. “In college, I studied psychology and Japanese. A few years after graduating and working in marketing, I decided to pick up my entire life and move to Tokyo for what wound up being four years,” Danny explains.
As a fan of Japanese food, language, and culture, his move was more than just exciting—it was transformative. “I got a job at a Japanese tech company, which allowed me to travel throughout the country. Along the way, I was able to appreciate and consume so many amazing, regionally-limited products that I haven’t been able to find again since being back in America. And frankly, I missed them.”
In 2016, Danny opened a Shopify site, packed boxes in his living room, and launched the early form of Bokksu—a snack discovery box delivery company—by mailing authentic Japanese snacks nationwide. “At launch, I had about 40 excited subscribers, but most of those were friends and family supporting me; as of late 2021, we’ve surpassed over 40,000 subscribers in 100 countries who love this company, this experience, and are able to enjoy a little bit of Japanese culture month to month.”
FEEDING PEOPLE, SUSTAINING ECONOMIES. Danny wasn’t just building a business; he was pursuing a dream. “I worked at Google in California, and I worked at Rakuten in Japan. Jobs like those gave me so much perspective about how success was measured, and how organizations were designed—and Bokksu was about solving a different kind of problem,” Danny explains. One small problem remained true: many of the delicious, authentic snacks were local specialties made by family businesses that didn’t sell overseas or have English translations—so Danny decided to change that.
"I knew this might generate a new kind of local economy for these Japanese businesses, some of them fairly small, if I was smart about things. So we made a commitment to building lasting partnerships with local makers, and creating resources to allow consumers to learn about each product—it’s ingredients, history, origin, and manufacturer or family.” Consequently, Bokksu’s fanbase and subscribers felt immediately connected to a world of new snacks and treats from thousands of miles away.
Danny’s position has sometimes felt daunting. “Investors and venture capitalists don’t always understand Bokksu, unfortunately,” he explains. “I’m an Asian man with an Asian company, and some people view my company as a passion project and not a viable business model, which is frustrating because I’ve continually grown Bokksu past their expectations. And then, when people learn I’m also gay, it sometimes becomes even more complex—but not always.”
As an LGBTQ founder and entrepreneur, Danny believes his gay identity has helped him find tightly-knit peers and support. “Though being a double minority founder has its tough moments, it has also helped me create close friendships with other founders with shared backgrounds. I thankfully now have a strong support network I can rely on for investor intros, startup advice, and general founder therapy.”