How embracing identity helped Jason Ve land jobs at Google, Disney, and 88rising

From Disney to Google to 88rising, Jason Ve has an impressive background. We got to chat with him to learn about his path to success.

From Google to Disney, Jason Ve has grown a career in the tech and media industry, leading business functions for some of the industry’s most reputable companies. Today Ve works at 88rising, a breakthrough record label and media company that signs and manages leading Asian artists across a diverse array of genres in pop, R&B and hip-hop — work that is addressing the misrepresentation and lack of representation of Asian artists in the music industry.

Cold Tea Collective picked his brain to learn more about his personal journey, what inspires him, and how he navigated an illustrative career to find success across music, media, and tech.

EARLY BEGINNINGS

Born and raised in New York City, Ve was fascinated by his Gateway 2000 computer, the internet, and the beginnings of e-commerce at an early age at his home in Queens. At 13 years old he started an online business selling consumer electronics. Keeping inventory in his family’s garage of digital photo frames and Sharper Image mini-vacuums, Ve ran his middle- and high-school business for five years, and impressively made enough money to self-fund his entire college degree at the NYU Stern School of Business.

Parent’s Influence

Though he admits his early interest in business fueled his passion to continue in this field, he credits his strict, but loving, Chinese parents for instilling this drive in him. He said in an interview with Cold Tea Collective, “I would come home excited from school with a test score of 95 but my parents would ask, ‘Well, what did Rita get?’ When I revealed that she got a 100, they told me to do better next time.”

But it wasn’t just his parents’ words that drove him; he also witnessed first-hand the perseverance of his parents and their chase of the American Dream. Coming to the US without a penny in their pockets, his father worked midnight to 7 AM shifts at utility company Con Edison and his mother worked at a jewelry store in Chinatown, a shop that was eventually robbed bankrupt. “My parents’ selfless drive to always provide for our family, even when things were bleak, was a big source of inspiration. It grounded me to live with gratitude. They taught me that while I can have ambitious goals, I should also find happiness in the present moments, in the smaller things in life.”

MERGING PASSION INTO HIS CAREER

His passion for music, starting from singing in the shower to being the resident DJ in his Queens home, drove him to audition for the seventh season of American Idol. He mustered up the courage and fought his immense stage fright to sing an audition song in front of the producers. Although he didn’t get his big break as an American Idol star, it was this experience that inspired him to merge his passion for music and entertainment with his budding interest in business and entrepreneurship.

Disney and Nickelodeon

After that audition, he set to make his mark in music and entertainment, feeling a profound sense of purpose in the work. “Music is special in that it evokes every emotion. Music is the soundtrack to each of our individual lives, yet it transcends borders and has the ability to unite us,” says Ve. He got his break in the industry through Disney, in a role developing strategy for its Broadway shows — working on hit musicals The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and Newsies, and the Disney on Ice show franchise.

After a career in live entertainment on Broadway, he moved over to Viacom to learn from a cable television powerhouse. He joined the Nickelodeon team and worked on iconic TV shows SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and a reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though at a time when ratings on television were taking a nosedive.

Google

The world of traditional media was rapidly changing during Ve’s tenure; consumers were shifting their consumption from linear television to mobile. This mirrored into his path, where he decided to jump into a role at Google where he led music and entertainment partnerships. He worked in the New York and Shanghai offices at the tech giant. He shared, “Working at Google was a phenomenal experience, from the company’s products to its culture. I learned much from my experience that I continue to apply each day.” 

Deezer

In his quest to bring innovation into music, Ve worked with startups and eventually took on a leadership role at global music streaming service Deezer, a unicorn recently valued at $1.4 billion, where he served as their Head of Business Development. Deezer competes with Spotify and Apple Music as a streaming service leader in France and is one of the only global music streaming services that differentiates itself with a lossless high-fidelity tier. 

EMBRACING HIS ASIAN LGBTQ+ IDENTITY

Throughout Ve’s many career milestones, he wasn’t without adversity. Growing up as a gay Chinese-American put him on the receiving end of bullying and hate. He recalls getting called derogatory racial and homophobic names, and being teased for bringing ethnic dishes for lunch as a kid.

“I relate so much to that episode in Fresh Off the Boat where Eddie was made fun of for eating Chinese food that his mom made at school lunch,” Ve says. “That was me. I opened up my lunch box and out goes the strong smell of the black bean sauce and the noodles. Being made fun of for being Chinese made me question my identity. It was very isolating at times.” 

Gayglers

These early childhood experiences often caused him to doubt whether he could fully come to terms with his Asian and LGBTQ+ identity. But as he took on evolving roles in his career, Ve started to embrace his identity and integrate it into his work. During his time at Google, he joined the Gayglers in New York, Google’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, which then inspired him to launch the Gayglers group in the Google China office when he discovered its absence in Shanghai.

He co-founded Out in Tech Miami, the largest organization for LGBTQ professionals in tech, in a city he also calls home. Ve is also an investor and part of the Gaingels, an investment network that invests in startups with LGBTQ+ founders to increase representation in the leadership makeup of tomorrow’s companies.

Asian Representation

While Ve has made steps to bring his LGBTQ+ identity into his work, he often found himself to be the only Asian person in his teams within the music and entertainment industry. “Whether it was at Disney or Deezer, it was quite demoralizing to see virtually no Asian person in leadership roles, and I was more often than not the only Asian person in the room.”

“I want to change that,” he says. Asian artists have historically gotten little love and low visibility in the industry, even when accounting for the growth of K-pop over the years. K-pop is only one genre of what Asian artists represent, and the desire to advocate for representation for all types of Asian artists propelled him to take on a leadership role at 88rising, a company in the music industry that provides a platform to often-overlooked Asian artists.

CURRENT ROLE

As the company’s Head of Business Development Strategy, he helped launch Asia Rising Forever, a virtual festival live stream that took place during COVID-19 — one of the first live streams to bring together Asian voices in music during a time when racially-motivated attacks towards Asian people were on the rise.

The event showcased rising Asian artists around the world — Jackson Wang, Rich Brian, NIKI, CLC, Loona, alextbh and more — that was genre-diverse including pop, R&B, hip-hop and K-pop. The charity festival raised money for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a nonprofit on the forefront of combating the increase of racism toward the Asian community during COVID-19. Once the event went live, the event became the top trending topic on Twitter and the number one trending video on YouTube, and was streamed by millions of viewers.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Ve expressed that working to increase Asian representation in the music industry has provided him with tremendous purpose. 

“Joining a passionate, mission-driven team at 88rising, an Asian record label, was an acknowledgement that I wanted to do more,” he said. “I wanted to bring the community up, and be proud to be Asian. Be proud to be Chinese. And work towards a goal to have more faces that look like me in mainstream media.”

Embracing the parts of his identity that make him different from his peers in media and tech, is seemingly where he has found the most purpose in his journey.

“It took me a while to realize it, but the fact that I’m Asian and gay are actually my biggest assets. It makes me stronger in business because I’ve had all these life experiences than uniquely no one else has. Everyone is different in one way or another. 

Ve encourages others to embrace their differences as he reflects on his career. He shares, “Don’t be afraid to lean into what makes you different. This is your magic, your superpower.”

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