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The wisdom of Bill Tai

September 17, 2012

bill tai SydStart 2012

Bill Tai was someone I was definitely looking forward to at SydStart 2012 and he didn’t disappoint.

There is just something nice about understated honesty and you have to respect a guy who compares business to the thrill and adrenalin of kite surfing.

According to Bill, a startup business is like a wave- you can only ever be in front, behind or on the wave itself.  Too early and even the best idea will just end up not quite getting to shore, too late and you’ll miss the ride in, and the ideal position of course is on the wave taking the journey from dizzying heights to safely land on the shore. As a result, the smart people get their product out there when they think the wave is coming.

The key to success is to make your work frictionless- make sure your consumers and the people who tell your products story don’t have to encounter barriers and run into rough experience patches as they initially engage with your product.

Whilst a lot of people talk about the entrepreneur and what makes them, Bill Tai again nails it. First was the description of startup entrepreneurs being passionate, flexible and strategic thinkers.

He also cited why he financially backed a fellow kite surfer in his first venture.

Basically, Bill had seen the guy in action and knew he was brave and didn’t quit when things got hard whilst kite surfing. It wasn’t a hard leap to think the same would be possible in the business realm. Nice!

Luck just isn’t luck as we know it.

Luck is a word for hard work and strategic because it means you are continually putting yourself in front of opportunities. As I deal more and more with startups and attend events, read more and more and meet more people involved, I can truly see it.

Founders and startup teams who have gone the extra mile to build connections and keep learning as they go gain traction.

Other startups waiting for opportunities to magically materialise or are not in touch with the level of work required (or appear to be play acting the startup role as opposed to be actually committing to it) are not as lucky.

Startup culture is important

It isn’t just about the way employees are treated or the intended audience – it’s the whole kit and caboodle. You build your own distinct mark and people will attract to it. Within that, you need to trust your team and your CEO because trust is important when you work your butt off and challenges erupt daily.

Testing early adoption with crowdfunding 

Kickstarter (and I assume other crowdfunding models such as Australia’s own Pozible) are fantastic opportunities for startups to define the desire for a new product. You can gain the critical first paid for orders, measuring the size of the audience and the interest in the product. All while being able to ship directly to people through using a platform of engagement, where people are happy to wait for things to be created. Wow!

Finally, one last piece of advice jumped out at me for anyone who is looking to rock the boat a little bit and is worried about how everyone (customers, reviewers, investors etc) will take it:

“You can only make money in a market if you are controversial”.

Seeing Bill Tai at Sydstart 2012 was a definite highlight.

 

 

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