JOHN SHEN (né Zhong Shen) is the founder and Chairman of the Board of four currently operating companies headquartered in Irvine, CA. A visionary thinker about innovation and entrepreneurship, John has coined the term “parallel entrepreneur,” referring to entrepreneurs who, like himself, choose to launch and operate multiple companies simultaneously.
John grew up in China and earned his undergraduate degree from Peking University Law School in 1992. Emigrating to the US in 1993 as a foreign student, he earned a master’s degree in Statistics and Decision Sciences from Duke University in 1996. Then, he changed his name to John Z. Shen when he became a US citizen in 2009. His wife, Stella Zhang, is his business partner. John has two sons, Ryan Shen and Leo Shen.
JOHN SHEN (né Zhong Shen) is the founder and Chairman of the Board of four currently operating companies headquartered in Irvine, CA. He is a visionary thinker about innovation and entrepreneuring. He has coined the term “parallel entrepreneur,” referring to entrepreneurs who, like himself, choose to launch and operate multiple companies simultaneously. John grew up in China and earned his undergraduate degree from Peking University Law School in 1992.
He emigrated to the US in 1993 as a foreign student and earned a master’s degree in Statistics and Decision Sciences from Duke University in 1996. He changed his name to John Z. Shen when he became a US citizen in 2009. His wife, Stella Zhang, is his business partner. John has two sons, Ryan Shen and Leo Shen.
John views his career as an entrepreneur as being divided into three phases: Entrepreneurship 1.0. (2004–2009) in which he founded and ran real estate brokerage, mortgage brokerage, and property management companies in Orlando, Florida; Entrepreneurship 2.0 (2010 – 2017) in which he founded and ran three companies, two in the private lending and investment industry and one in the hotel/resort industry; and Entrepreneurship 3.0 (2017–present) in which he became a true “parallel entrepreneur” by launching two more companies—a licensed trust company and a ghost/virtual kitchen company.
John’s path to being a parallel entrepreneur began in 2010, when he founded American Lending Center (ALC) in 2009, a small startup that he conceived, led, and transformed into one of the most successful nonbank small business lending institutions in the US. ALC represents an innovation in financial engineering, by merging the federal government’s EB-5 program that seeks to attract foreign investment into the US, with the Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 program, which co-funds loans with banks to assist small businesses and create jobs. ALC has become a leading nonbank entity in the EB-5 space, operating nationwide throughout all fifty states of the US to funnel foreign investment into US small businesses. ALC was one of the most productive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders during the Covid-19 pandemic and is an approved lender for the SBA 7(a) program and the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) program in California.
In 2012, John and his partners purchased 360 acres of raw land and developed a lakefront hotel and vineyards, Eritage Resort, in Walla Walla, Washington. After a five-year development and construction period, Eritage opened in 2017 and helped Walla Walla rank as one of “The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2018” by Travel + Leisure magazine.
Since 2015, John has founded three other dynamic startups—a diversified investment firm, Sunstone Management (SMI), a “TrustTech” company, Sunstone Trust Company (STC), and a “virtual kitchen/food hall” developer and operator, Partake Collective (Partake), all reflecting John’s innovative business thinking. His entrepreneurial vision and leadership helped propel his companies on a fast track to success. Both ALC and Sunstone Management were listed among “America’s Fastest Growing Companies” by Financial Times in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Both companies were also included in the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Private Companies” for three years in a row (2020 to 2022).
John possesses a great passion for encouraging and sponsoring startups and small businesses. He is one of the three co-founders of the Long Beach Accelerator™. This is the first startup accelerator built on a public-private-education partnership. John served on the inaugural board and has been an honorary board member since November 2021. John is widely recognized by many professional networks for his support of entrepreneurs startups and is respected in his communities as a financial engineer, a visionary, and a leader in business operation and virtual kitchen development, among other fields.
Among the notable awards and accolades he has received are: Man of the Year in the field of finance by Top 100 Registry (2023), Distinguished Leader in Wealth Management by the Orange County Business Journal (2022), Orange County Visionary by the Los Angeles Times (2022), the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who (2021), and Coleman’s SBA 504 Lender of the Year Award (2017). John has been a passionate volunteer for Duke University’s Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee (AAAC) in China since 2013. He earned the Forever Duke Award in 2015, and in 2016 he established a unique endowment fund to help the international recruitment of students to Duke University. He is not just an entrepreneur but a parallel entrepreneur.