Vizio’s William Wang on Succeeding in Business After a Near-Death Experience

William Wang, CEO of flat screen TV maker Vizio, told me yesterday that he is an optimistic guy and strong willed.

No kidding. In 2000, Wang was one of 179 passengers and crew aboard Singapore Airlines 747, destined for Los Angeles, which took off on the wrong runway in Taiwan during a typhoon, struck excavators and other equipment at a construction site, and then broke in two. Wang survived while 83 passengers and crew members perished. Despite a bout of carbon-monoxide poisoning, Wang walked away. He then flew home the next day.

“I wanted to get to my family, and I wasn’t going to walk or take a boat,” he said.

Soon after he landed, Wang closed his unprofitable business and two years later launched Vizio with about $600,000 in funding, raised mostly from friends and family, including Peter Liu, his friend and chairman of WI Harper.

“People ask me all the time if I started Vizio because I had emotional trauma following the plane crash, but no, it just coincided with my closing one career and starting a new business,” he said.

Today, Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio rakes in more than $2.5 billion in annual revenue, selling consumer electronics, mostly LCD TVs. In fact, the company is the largest seller of LCD TVs in North America.

If you’d like to hear more from Wang, head over to Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., today. I’ll be doing my best Charlie Rose imitation as I have a fireside chat with Wang. The event is part of an entrepreneur workshop that is being produced by the Asian American MultiTechnology Association (AAMA). I plan to to talk to Wang about his past entrepreneurial failures as well as his current success and how he manages a billion-dollar U.S.-based manufacturing operation with less than 100 employees. There will be ample time after our discussion for audience members to ask questions of their own.

Tomorrow, the AAMA is hosting a conference at the Computer History Museum called The Connected Consumer.

If you’re there for my chat with Wang today or at the conference on Friday, look me up.