Launching a business and taking it public is a huge accomplishment. For many people, doing it multiple times is unheard of.
Kin Wai Lau has. The tech entrepreneur has taken four tech companies public.
Starting young, when he founded is first company at age 23, Kin was called by the media as one of the youngest-ever managing directors of a publicly traded firm in Southeast Asia when he IPO’d his first company at age 28.
Recently, Lau founded the Fatfish Internet Group, a Singapore-based regional venture builder and accelerator that focusses on building Internet businesses in Southeast Asia and Australia.
Here, Lau discusses the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and success, and shares his biggest lessons taking four companies public.
What is the most important thing you have learned when launching new businesses?
Lau: Building a great founding/core team is the most important. I like to think that the first five people you hire into a new business will determine the make or break of the business.
Are there particular skills, knowledge or expertise that you think have helped with your success?
Lau: When I started out in the tech industry, little did I realize that the skills and knowledge I learned in my first few jobs will largely help define my career path. In addition, a good business education will give you the perspective and skills that help you navigate the challenges in business.
Mid-way through my career I decided to go to business school at Oxford University to take up the Executive MBA course. I wish I could have done it much earlier in my career. It was a catalyst for personal and career growth.
You started your first business at age 23. Has starting out so young had an impact on your life?
Lau: Yes, it means spending a lot of time working hard from a young age when some of my contemporaries were living a more carefree and relaxing lifestyle.
Of course, after some initial successes, I was vindicated with the satisfaction and rewards I enjoyed. I have no regrets – becoming an entrepreneur was the best decision of my life.
What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
Lau: Definitely the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. I was days away from completing a large Series B round for my company when the global market meltdown affected the whole world. The Series B investors pulled out. I have downsized my company and learned how to conserve cash flow. Fortunately we persevered and eventually rode out of the gloom.
You have launched several businesses. Aare the challenges always the same or do you find there are new ones each time?
Lau: No two businesses are the same. Every business I founded has its unique propositions and challenges. The global market is evolving rapidly as well – hence the environment the businesses operate in today would be very different from even just a few years ago. We live in a world where the environmental factors are changing faster according to shorter cyclical trends. The challenges are changing constantly!
What’s next for your career?
Lau: I am currently building an umbrella of fintech companies. Fintech will be an area that could bring major disruption to the way businesses work today. I am looking forward to the journey of some these very interesting companies – this could be my best work yet.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Lau: Plan with your head, but when you are ready, follow your heart to take risks.
Kin Wai Lau is an alumnus of the Oxford Executive MBA, a 21 month part-time program designed to revolutionize the way you think about business.