AIA Singapore has partnered with Konica Minolta and Nest to run another digital health accelerator as a continued push to champion entrepreneurship. This will be the third initiative AIA has launched in the past year for startups. In an interview with Marcus Wong, a serial entrepreneur within AIA, we hear advice for aspiring founders.
Marcus has started up more than 10 companies and established himself as a successful investor while working as a Senior District Director for AIA Hong Kong.
Control freaks don’t survive
AIA: What is the most important lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur?
MW: While working at AIA I’ve started up 10 companies and many of my early attempts crashed and burned for one ironic reason – I protected my ideas too much. When I started out as an entrepreneur I was a one-man show. I was young, extremely confident and I wanted to earn all the money. So I appointed myself as the CFO, CEO and CMO. And sure, I had everything my way – but not the best way. I was ignoring one important fact: I’m not good at everything. So when things started to derail outside my true expertise, I was unable to get my business back on track.
Calm your ego
AIA: So are you saying that young entrepreneurs should be humble?
MW: Now don’t get me wrong, being confident and determined is vital for a young entrepreneur. If you take no for an answer easily, then you might as well shut your startup down today. But you’ll need to balance that confidence with the ability to listen and involve others in your decisions. After I realized that, my businesses flourished like never before.
Involving others might seem scary, it might hurt your ego, and it will definitely be provocative to hear someone tell you that your business plan is all wrong. But wouldn’t you rather hear it earlier rather than later, allowing you to change it for the better?
Strengthen your team for success
AIA: How do you choose the people to involve in your business?
MW: When building a powerful team, look for people that are experts at things that you are not strong at. This requires you to know yourself well: I’m not good at executing, administration or financial modeling. But I’m great at bringing in new ideas, recruiting talent and investors – that’s the expertise I focus on injecting into my businesses. I now have two to six partners from different industry backgrounds in each of my companies.
Every startup should, in my opinion, consist of the following key roles in order to develop a business idea:
Pay your dues
AIA: That sounds like a great team, but also an expensive one. What can you do if you can’t afford to pay people a salary?
MW: If you can’t afford to hire the perfect team to fill out key roles, give out shares to the people you’d like to involve. And don’t be afraid to sell your dream! A lot of people are willing to work for something they believe in if they become part of the bigger vision. Can’t persuade people to work for you for a dream and a decent piece of the pie? You likely won’t be able to persuade an investor either.
Expertise carries the business idea forward
AIA: With such a big team involved, aren’t you running a risk of losing control of your idea?
MW: Let go of the notion that involving bright people in your startup means losing control. Without the right amount of expertise to carry your idea forward and a healthy dose of feedback from others to make it stronger – you won’t find yourself among the top 10% of startups that actually make it.
This is the most fundamental lesson I have learned in the startup industry and something I advise every entrepreneur to learn fast. Calm your ego, split the workload and share your achievements for greater success.
Check out the Digital Health Accelerator by AIA and Konica Minolta, powered by Nest: www.aia-km-accelerator.com
Deadline to apply: January 31st 2016