From Trinidad And Tobago To California

We're taking a, shall we say, laid-back look at the California lifestyle with the help of our sponsor Hangar 1 Vodka.  This series, #Influencers, dives into conversations with people who embody the California lifestyle – that is to say a life that is filled with passion, chilling, freedom, creativity and enjoyment. These are likely best read with Hangar 1  cocktail in hand – may we suggest a cocktail recipe from our Grilling It Up Series?

Meet Mark Chu-Cheong, co-founder of nā, the San Francisco-based digital media company that unites leading brands with innovative start-ups for bold, value-added relationships.

How would you sum up the mission of nā in one sentence?

We catalyze a start-up's monetization capabilities by helping them develop advertising products.

What inspires you about your job?

It's always new. I'm the type of person who when I figure something out, I get bored, and when I get bored, I get lazy. This job is consistently challenging. It's inspiring to see people taking that risk of the unknown and testing their creativity. They are taking a leap and not falling in line with the status quo.

It seems like nā is just another expression of the California lifestyle, then?

Yes. We started the company around the premise of work to live. I think it's progressive. I wanted the flexibility, so I didn't have to report in to someone every day. There's ability to work with new companies and new ideas and not be constricted.

How would you describe your entrepreneurial life?

A consistent 'first day of school'-type excitement with an underlying feeling that things will turn out alright if you just go for it and work your tail off. California business isn't about conforming; it's about the hope that you can build things on your own terms. 

You went to college in Colorado and then returned to California. What compels you to stay here?

I moved to Santa Monica from Trinidad and Tobago when I was nine. California has a climate I'm familiar with. What I liked about Santa Monica in particular was the diversity at school. There was every walk of life there– it reminded me of Clueless, but grittier.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy San Francisco?

I love music and used to go to a lot of different shows at the Fillmore and the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, but now I have a one-year-old, so that's changed. Now it's more like checking out new restaurants, or the simple pleasure of going to Dolores Park and leading him around the mix of different cultures. And for some "me-time," on cold, foggy San Fran evenings, I like to enjoy a martini– certainly with Hangar 1– and on warmer days, I'll opt for the Moscow Mule.

When you need a break from the home office, where can we find you?

Playing tennis or basketball. I'm a traditional sports guy, not a hipster snowboarder, even though I lived in Boulder. I'm taking boxing classes, too. I just enjoy a healthy California lifestyle. Especially now, with the kid, I've made it a point to exercise.

Where do you and your family like to escape to nearby?

The Central Coast is underrated. I love Paso Robles and quaint, slower-paced San Luis Obispo. Healdsburg is a cool town, too. A lot of Northern California people aren't in love with LA, but I have to say, I love Venice. And San Diego has grown on me. The weather is just perfect.

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