Who is Yishan Wong?

Yishan Wong is an entrepreneur, engineer, and manager known primarily as a member of the PayPal Mafia and for quitting his job as CEO of Reddit in 2014. Wong founded Terraformation, a company dedicated to reforesting man-made deserts, in 2017 and is currently its CEO.

Early Life

Not much is known about Yishan Wong’s early life. Wong spent most of his childhood in Minnesota. Wong mentions having been on the math team in middle and high school, where according to YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim, he was incredibly smart and a high scorer. His Twitter profile describes him as having worked at Burger King, presumably during high school or university. According to his LinkedIn profile, Wong attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania from 1997 to 2001, graduating with a Bachelor in Computer Science. Assuming Wong’s age at the time he started attending Carnegie Mellon was 18, he was likely born in late 1979 or early 1980. However, Wong’s exact birthdate, birthplace, and age are not publicly available.

Quick Facts

Full Name
Yishan Wong
Net Worth
$5 million
Nationality
American
Fields of Expertise
  • Engineering
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Management
Institutions
Carnegie Mellon University
Contributions
Terraformation
A person with a credit card in hand looking at a brand new Apple iPad Air with Paypal website on a screen. Paypal is the worldwide e-commerce business service allowing payments and money transfers via the internet, founded in June 1998. Image: iStock

Career

Software Engineering Institute (2000-2001)

While still receiving his Bachelor in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, Wong assisted with research on compilers for the CERT division of the Software Engineering Institute.

PayPal (2001-2005)

Wong was a senior engineering manager at PayPal. According to Wong, he was recruited to the position by future YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim, as the two had been friends for some time due to their parents knowing one another.

Facebook (2005-2010)

Wong was director of engineering at Facebook from 2005 to 2010, where he worked on crowd translation and other projects. Wong filed or co-filed a number of patents on behalf of Facebook, including the social networking site’s “sponsored stories” functionality, the personalization of advertising, and the ability of Facebook to gather information about its users from external websites. These functions are core to Facebook‘s platform today.

Sunfire Offices (2010-current)

In 2010, Yishan Wong Co-founded Sunfire Offices, a co-working space for Silicon Valley engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs. Wong’s other co-founder was Niniane Wang, a former engineering manager from Google. The two wanted Sunfire Offices to be different from existing co-working spaces through its focus on what they described as “top-tier talent.” The working space is invite-only and is not intended to serve as a technical incubator. Although the company’s website no longer exists, Sunfire Offices is still active according to the profiles of Wong and Wang on LinkedIn.

Square (2011-2012)

Yishan Wong worked briefly as a consultant for the payment company Square in 2011. Although specific details of what Wong consulted on at Square are not available, his LinkedIn profiles note that he provided advice and guidance on engineering management and payments, things he would certainly have significant experience with from his time as an engineering manager at PayPal and engineering director at Facebook.

Reddit (2012-2014)

Wong was offered the position of Reddit CEO in 2012 and worked as Reddit’s CEO until 2014 when he stepped down after a proposal to move the company’s offices to Daly City was declined by the board. After stepping down, Wong said he had been considering leaving for some time already due to extreme stress. Wong highlights his efforts to reduce technical infrastructure costs and a significant expansion of Reddit’s userbase as things he accomplished while with the company. Some people suggest that Wong’s relatively young age was part of the reason that he stepped down.

Quora

Wong serves as an advisor to the board for crowd-sourced question and answer website Quora. It is unclear when he started this position or what he does as an advisor, as it is not listed in his LinkedIn profile or in other official sources, but it still appears as something Wong is involved in within many bio statements about him.

Terraformation (2017-current)

Wong founded Terraformation in 2017. According to Wong’s LinkedIn profile, the company’s mission is to “execute a full solution to climate change in under 30 years” using solar technology and other resources to sequester carbon dioxide. The company focuses on reforestation using solar power to create fresh water out of saltwater and then uses this to irrigate formerly forested areas that have been turned into deserts due to human activity, with an ultimate goal of replanting trees to return the area to a self-sustaining forest using native trees. Currently, Terraformation is working to irrigate and reforest an area of North Kohala, Hawaii with sandalwood trees.

What is Yishan Wong known for?

As a member of the PayPal Mafia

One of the reasons Yishan Wong is mentioned is as one of the men in the so-called PayPal Mafia, a group of people who worked at PayPal during its early days and who each went on to be successful or influential in Silicon Valley. Wong’s net worth at $5 million is not as high as some other members, and he did not work in as many high-profile CEO or venture capitalist jobs, either. However, Wong did briefly attain a level of notoriety during his time at Reddit, and his work with his current company Terraformation is arguably even more forward-thinking and influential than that of high-profile PayPal Mafia members like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk.

As the former CEO of Reddit

Yishan Wong was CEO of Reddit from 2011 to 2014. During this time, he drew some public attention for his tendency to write public posts about his experiences, including one explaining why he fired an employee. Wong resigned as CEO of Reddit in 2014 due to the board’s refusal to move the company offices to a more affordable area. Wong is also on record as saying that the high stress and exhausting schedule of a CEO were too much for him and citing that as part of his real reason for stepping down from the post.

Terraformation Founder and CEO Yishan Wong give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at their Hawaiʻi headquarters, from the seed banks to the nurseries to the solar desalination system.

Yishan Wong: Marriage and Personal Life

Net Worth

Although there is no public information about Yishan Wong’s net worth, it is usually estimated by wealth sites at around $5 million.

Marriage

Yishan Wong is married. His wife is Kimberly Algeri-Wong, a screenwriter who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. Wong has mentioned his wife’s education and influence on his ideas several times, such as in his series of blog posts titled “things I learned from my wife’s screenwriting education.”

Personal Life

As befitting someone who is the CEO and founder of a company to reforest desertified areas of the globe using technology, Yishan Wong is notable for his interest in futuristic art and fiction. One example was a contest Wong ran in 2021 for “solarpunk art,” a subgenre of science fiction and art devoted to showing how solar power can create a better, more optimistic future than nonrenewable resources such as fossil fuels. Wong provided $19,000 worth of prizes for the contest.

Yishan Wong is also known to be fairly active on Twitter.

Yishan Wong Quotes

  • “I think that building any product that has a lot of user loyalty is a bit like making a sequel to a great movie or video game. People generally want more of the same thing, except better and different.”
  • “One hundred years ago, people were faced with the choice of learning to read or remaining illiterate laborers who would be left behind as have-nots in a rapidly modernizing world. In the coming century, being able to command a world that will be thoroughly computerized will set apart those who can live successfully in the future from those who will be utterly left behind.”
  • “Everything ultimately becomes the CEO’s problem, no matter where it starts.”

Yishan Wong – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Who is Yishan Wong?

Yishan Wong is an entrepreneur, manager, and engineer. Wong is the CEO and founder of Terraformation, a reforestation startup, and a former CEO of Reddit. Wong is known for being a member of the PayPal Mafia and for quitting his position at Reddit after two years due to stress and the board’s refusal to consider his proposal to move the company’s offices to a cheaper location.

What businesses did Yishan Wong found?

Yishan Wong founded startup Terraformation in 2017. Unlike many technology startups, Terraformation’s goal is ecological, rather than the repayment of investors. The company, located in Kawaihae, Hawaii, is exploring ways to reforest areas of the planet that have undergone desertification as a result of human interference.

Why did Yishan Wong resign from Reddit?

According to a post Wong made to Quora in 2014, he resigned from Reddit after the board refused to consider a proposal he made that would have moved the company’s offices. Additionally, Wong shared that working as the CEO of a company exhausted him and was a considerable source of stress. He said that, as this was his first job as a CEO, he had no idea of the amount of work that would be required and just couldn’t handle any more of it. Some think Wong’s young age was why he resigned, but he does not mention this as a factor.

Where does Yishan Wong live?

Yishan Wong and his family live in Kawaihae, Hawaii, where he runs his reforestation startup, Terraformation. The Wongs have lived in Hawaii since 2019. Prior to that time, Wong and his wife lived in San Francisco.

What happened to Yishan Wong?

After stepping down as CEO of Reddit in 2014, Wong served as an advisor to crowd-sourced question site Quora. In 2017, he founded Terraformation, a startup dedicated to reforestation in deserts caused by the human destruction of forests. Wong and his family moved to Hawaii in 2019 to continue work on the startup.

What is Yishan Wong's net worth?

As of January 2022, Yishan Wong’s net worth is estimated to be around $5 million. This number reflects his success as a member of the PayPal Mafia and his continued interest in new technologies, such as reforestation and online communication platforms.

What age is Yishan Wong?

Yishan Wong’s exact age and birthdate are not known. However, he was likely born in 1979 or 1980, based on his admission to Carnegie Mellon University as a freshman in 1997.

Is Yishan Wong an Immigrant?

Yishan Wong is Chinese-American, but he is probably not an immigrant. In a post on Quora explaining how he got his job at PayPal, Wong mentions that both his father and Jawed Karim’s father worked at 3M in Minnesota. It seems likely that Wong was born in Minnesota, although his father may have been an immigrant.

About the Author

More from History-Computer

  • Justia Patents Available here: https://patents.justia.com/inventor/yishan-wong
  • Quora Available here: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Yishan-Wong-get-recruited-to-PayPal
  • County of Hawaii Available here: https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/Home/Components/Topic/Topic/11399/2258
  • Fast Company Available here: https://www.fastcompany.com/90593687/reddits-former-ceo-is-now-in-the-forest-planting-business
  • LinkedIn Available here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yishan-wong
  • Tech Crunch Available here: https://techcrunch.com/2010/08/28/sunfire-offices/#:~:text=A%20unique%20spin%20on%20the,Facebook%20engineering%20manager%20Yishan%20Wong.
  • Twitter Available here: https://twitter.com/sunfireoffices
  • Forbes Available here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2014/11/14/yishan-wong-explains-the-deeper-reasons-behind-his-resignation-as-reddit-ceo/?sh=763c474e6b01
  • Medium Available here: https://medium.com/@yishan/solarpunk-art-contest-2021-winners-d935df357c84