Feb 23, 2019 Elsa Snellman
Yat Siu is the founder and CEO of Outblaze , an award-winning digital services company specializing in things such as gaming, cloud, AI, and smartphone software. He sold Outblaze’s services to IBM ten years ago, pivoting the company to digital entertainment services. Siu is a bit of a tech legend, according to many: the online pioneer knowing for putting Hong Kong online is also a classically trained musician and a member of BAFTA advisory board. Yat Siu took the stage, interviewed by former Slush Tokyo CEO Antti Sonninen, to share his playbook for success in tech.
And it goes like this.
Whatever business idea you thought you have now, will change. Your purpose for everything you do might remain, but the way you get there will certainly be different than what you thought it would be. This is true with everything Siu has done. Fast-developing spaces, such as technology, are uncertain by nature. As they should be. How was the world five years ago? Would the business idea you had back then still be relevant? Keep an agile mindset.
Think design. Remember empathy. When thinking of how something will work, design-thinking is the way to go. Siu’s strength has been to able to have impeccable design thinking skills at the time when they were uncommon. Design thinking is an important approach when thinking of ways to make something work. Understanding the world of your target customer and being to empathise with their daily needs is important in order to have a broad appeal. What is the context of the person? Do you understand your customer? What does “understanding your customer” even mean? A good example, pointed out by SIu, is the gaming industry. Founders tend to be gamers themselves, which means that they don’t have to go that deep in the user research, as they firmly belong within their own target group.
Blockchain is the new Internet. Siu perceives the significance of blockchain like he perceived that of the early-days Internet in 1996, when Yahoo and Alibaba were just about to kick off and the Internet had only 36 million users worldwide. The web back then surely was still terrible, but Siu saw the immense potential in it and the interconnected future it could bring to life. As we all know, things haven’t been all that smooth. The Internet of today is filled with walled gardens. Blockchain can change that while creating an unforeseen layer of trust, scaling the trust that doesn’t currently exist.
Startup accelerators are the new MBAs. What one can learn at a good startup accelerator in 3 months is effectively as useful as 2-3 years of MBA program. It doesn’t make sense to become a fast mathematician in the times when AI can calculate faster than we ever could. Let computers do that for you, Siu advises, and concentrate on the human skills: collaboration, business concepts, and design thinking. According to Siu, the way Bachelor’s degree is designed is fundamentally outdated. In the 4 years you spend in college, the world will have changed irreversibly. Bachelor’s level education is designed to train its students for the past. But PhD is an exception, Siu says – when conducting research, you focus on the future possibilities.
Being passionate is, well… sort of bullshit. Siu is a keen tennis player. But he’s not that good, he gets his ass kicked every time. Founding a company is not about passion, but having a steady purpose. What is a good purpose, then? It ought to be about something you think needs to change. In your life, in your community, in the society. Got purpose? Great. Then it’s all about getting there. Be it 5 years or 10 years, be it through the left door or the back door, you’ll find a way. Greatness matures within struggle, and if your purpose isn’t clear, you won’t be able to tolerate the struggles of the life of an entrepreneur, either.
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