Alex Wan, 29
CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR
Life Story: Since growing up as the “token Asian guy” in Tsawwassen, Alex Wan has capitalized on his knowledge of East and West: “I always found myself enjoying educating my friends on Chinese culture, which is a natural precursor to what I do now.”
Wan, whose family immigrated to B.C. from Taiwan when he was five, never planned to be an entrepreneur. After earning a BA in communications from SFU, he did stints at a couple of e-commerce companies but didn’t like working for someone else. When he and some friends tried to start a business bringing Western goods to China, they ran into regulatory roadblocks. To make money, the group picked up contracts marketing real estate to Chinese buyers.
Those efforts spawned Periphery Digital, which launched in late 2016. Besides Wan, the sole remaining co-founder is director of operations Marjo Ruokamo. The Vancouver-based agency, which creates campaigns that help Western-branded businesses reach the diverse Chinese-speaking community, also offers insights into how those consumers think and behave. Knowing where they communicate online is important; for example, most Lower Mainland residents from mainland China use WeChat rather than Facebook or Instagram.
Thanks to Ottawa’s current spat with Beijing, Wan has seen social media platforms in China pull back on promoting Canadian tourism. “But everything else, I’d say, from real estate and brands, it’s business as usual.”
Bottom Line: Periphery now has 10 staff, and in its second year, revenue was well over $1 million. A few of its clients: FlyOver Canada, Rennie Marketing Systems, Tourism New Brunswick and Uber Eats. Within three and five years, respectively, the company hopes to have offices in Toronto and China.