Peter Qu is the CEO and head of vehicle engineering at Zebra, an e-bike company working hard to make personal transportation clean, affordable and fun through the innovative design. “We are out there to challenge the car-centric transportation paradigm and bring more e-bikes to the street of California.” Learn about Peter Qu…
Hometown: Hacienda Heights, CA
First job: My first job was making pizzas and sandwiches at our family restaurant. I was 14 at that time and got a first taste of what it’s like to multi-task; when my parents were both busy with pizza delivery, I was responsible for taking phone orders and rotating the pizzas in the oven at the same time. A nice bonus from the job is that my kids think I make a pretty awesome pizza today.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in CA: I enjoy hiking and photography in my free time. One of my favorite aspects about living in California is the beautiful nature surrounding us. My partner and I take our two kids on weekly hiking trips exploring parks and nature preserves around the bay area. I like to bring my camera gears on the hiking trails. It’s fun to capture both the scenery and sometimes we make interesting discoveries along the way.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: One recent accomplishment that I am very proud of is making the Zebra e-bike ownership accessible through partnering with companies that offer inclusive financing solutions. I was struck by a study from Harvard showing that commute time was the single strongest factor predicting social mobility. The longer the average commute time in a county, the less likely for low-income families living there to escape poverty. When we first launched the product, I heard from many disappointed prospective customers that they would like to purchase a Zebra for commute, yet they didn’t have the credit to do so. This gave us inspiration and a sense of urgency to find alternative financing options for them and we did it.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Surviving middle school. I immigrated to the U.S. from China with my parents when I was 12 and didn’t speak any English at that time. It was a bit of a shock in many ways to attend a large public middle school where I didn’t know the people, the language or the culture. I was lucky to have teachers and classmates who took me in.
Someone who inspires you and why: My mother is my biggest inspiration. Like many new immigrants, she had an accomplished career back at home, but had to start from ground zero when she came to the U.S. because she didn’t have an American diploma or speak English fluently. She worked many jobs to support our family, from being a garment worker in a jeans factory to being a front desk clerk in a motel. She never stopped learning or pursuing new opportunities, and now she is a successful sales executive at a medical supply company. One thing I learned from her is to always be responsive to your customer: she replies most emails within five minutes after receiving them, which I still find hard to compete with.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: It helps to be a generalist and have a broad range of knowledge when it comes to entrepreneurship. You should aim at knowing a subject at a level that allows you to ask the right questions and learn from the subject experts around you.
Favorite quote: “The power of imagination makes us infinite.” –John Muir
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I designed the semiconductor memory chip that went into the iPod Nano in 2007.
What makes someone fabulous: Being a creative problem solver and thinking outside the box.