David Ly, Chairman & CEO – His Story
David Ly was 3 years old when he escaped the Communist regime of his native Vietnam. He was just old enough to understand the need to be quiet as he hid in the jungle with his aunt, Nancy Ly.
“Ideally, you get rescued, or you die,” he said. “Technically, I was a boat baby.” Ly remembers his feet being bitten by sand crabs as they hid waiting to escape during the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1970.His grandfather bought them passageon a fishing vessel to escape. Ly saidroughly 70 people huddled inside thehull as the Vietnamese captain steeredthem away from Communist boats seekingescapees.
Once they had been ferried into the Pacific Ocean, they transferred onto a ship from Holland, one of a group ofhumanitarian crafts anticipating refugees.Ly said he climbed a rope ladderonto that ship, which was headíng to Osaka, Japan. Ly and his aunt enteredthat country and lived in a refugee campfor two years.
“The Japanese took care of us, fed and educated us,” Ly remembers fondly. Another of his aunts, Susan Ly, already lived in the U. S. She sponsored the pair to come to the U.S., and they were granted immigration rights fairly quickly to move to San Jose, California, when Ly was 5.
His life there became much more Americanized as he started kindergarten. It helped that his teacher was Japanese, so he was able to talk with her.
“It was just luck and destiny,” he said. “I didn’t know English, and so I had to learn it in kindergarten.”
Ly’s father, who was in the South Vietnamese military, also avoided arrest and came to the U.S. when Ly was almost 7. His mother stayed in Vietnam to take care of a younger brother and wasn’t able to come to the U.S. until Ly was 16. Stricter immigration policies made it more difficult.
“I was fortunate my family stayed intact and no one died,” he said. “My whole family had to start over. I’ve never expected anything for free. If you really want it, wake up and get it yourself.” Ly learned to be independent at an early age as both of his aunts worked, so he traveled to and from school by bus with a house key around his neck. “I have perseverance,” he said. “You got to keep pushing. No one else is going to do it for you.”Although he was in the U.S., his family’s traditional Vietnamese culture remained intact. As such, he had three career options his family would approve: doctor, lawyer or engineer.
He was scared of blood and didn’t like reading, so he fell into engineering. Ly put himself through college, getting loans and grants and working – first at RadioShack, then at a telemarketing firm and finally at Metricom, selling the Ricochet wireless Internet modem before the advent of Wi-Fi. He was a tech sales rep, selling the product to universities.
“I knew from high school watching American movies, especially ‘Wall Street,’ I wanted to be a businessman,” Ly said. “I envied the suit environment and wanted to be in charge. I was intrigued on how to become that, although I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.”
He graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in civil engineering, then was offered a fulltimejob at Metricom. He was promoted to an applications engineering positionas a sales engineer, and he moved toArizona. That’s where he found his firstreal opportunity to get into the corporatearena.
“I was always very passionate about technology,” he said. “I traveled the country doing technical training and testing the product. It was fun, but lonely. I thought: This is great, but it sucks.”
While Ly was ready to move forward, Metricom wasn’t. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001. He stayed in the wireless communications industry, working with T-Mobile and Nextel.
While working at T-Mobile, Ly started a Mesa company called IntelaSight in 2003 at age 28. He changed the company name to Iveda Solutions Inc. in 2007.