Early Facebook Employees Launch Foundation To Promote Asian American Artists

By Justin Lafferty 

After helping Facebook become one of the most popular destinations on the Internet, three of the social network’s early employees now have a more benevolent mission in mind. Phil Fung, Julia Lam, and Franklyn Chien launched the A3 Foundation (Asian American Artists), which is focused on promoting and supporting the talents of Asian Americans in television, film, and online digital media. This week, the A3 Foundation partnered with the Sundance Institute to give their vision a new stage.

Fung was recruited to Facebook while he was a graduate student at Stanford University. He still works for the company as an engineering manager on Facebook’s mobile team. Fung walked out of class one day to find Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg holding a sign that said, “Work for Facebook.” Not long after, Fung got an interview and left school to start working for Facebook.

Lam joined Facebook after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles. She worked on many high-impact developer marketing initiatives such as fbFund, the Facebook Developer Garage program, Facebook Presence, and the f8 Developer Conference. Currently, Lam is the co-founder of Optimistic Labs, a startup integrating social good through mobile, as well as an advisor at her alma mater.

Chien joined Facebook after working as a government IT consultant for Deloitte. He spent four years at Facebook as a product manager, working on ads, deals, and internal tools before moving on to co-found LearnSprout, an education startup.

The A3 Foundation, a culmination of the efforts of Fung, Lam, and Chien, points out that Asian Americans represent fewer than 3 percent of total characters on television. They’ve noticed that more Asian American artists are gaining prominence through social media, especially on YouTube.

The A3 Foundation earlier this week partnered with the Sundance Institute to form the A3 Sundance Institute Director/Screenwriting Fellowship, which will support a talented artist who has created an Asian American themed project.

Fung, the foundation’s CEO, described the group’s efforts in a press release:

Our goal with this fellowship is to invest in our own artists and help them to build their talent and creative skill set. By partnering with Sundance Institute, we hope to increase the number of writers who can create a diverse range of characters, influence casting directors who will be open to Asian American actors in non-explicitly Asian American roles, and support experienced Asian American actors who are ready to take the roles. The time to change the perceptions of Asian Americans in the media has never been more culturally relevant than it is now.

Readers: What do you think about the work being done by these early Facebook employees?