The moment you decide that you no longer need to learn, someone else will inevitably surpass you in your endeavors.
Di Huang is a serial entrepreneur from San Francisco. He is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of cloudcade, a tablet-first mobile games developer aimed at creating fun, original and deeply engaging free-to-play games for a global market. Prior to founding cloudcade, Di founded two other startups leveraging technology to improve consumer lifestyle, SoWink & CosmeTrend. Coming from a diverse consumer app and finance background, Di is always looking for the next BIG thing, and sees that in the emerging mobile gaming market.
Where did the idea for cloudcade come from?
Following my last exit, I was looking for a market with huge growth potential and room for innovation. Gaming was interesting to me from purely a monetization perspective as it’s something that I have a bit of expertise and knowledge in. It was clear to me that tablets were the ideal device to play mobile games and that it would be the future platform of choice for players. However, the market had only began shifting towards this paradigm—with the lines between mobile phones and tablets slowly blurring to become one and the same. As such, there presented a huge opportunity to expand on the already explosive market through creating cross platform, tablet optimized mobile games that would effectively serve a globally connected market.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are typically divided between biz dev, product, operations and marketing. Since a large part of my role is communicating with external organizations and individuals, a good portion of my day is devoted to keeping my inbox and calendars up to date. I spend about 50% of my time in the office and the other 50% out between meetings, conferences and networking events.
The most productive thing that I could do is to listen—listen to my team, my stakeholders and my customers, so that I could support them to create the best product possible.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Given my analytical background, I always start with extensive due diligence to validate the concept at hand. Once there is enough data or a proof of concept to support the idea, the framework for execution then gets laid down. This leads to building the mvp, which typically begins with testing segmented cohorts to ensure that I am making something that people will actually want. Once the product is launched, live data can be interpreted to facilitate the continuous deployment of new content, reiteration of features and A/B testing to find the optimal solution to every problem.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The emergence of strategic marketing using games as a medium is quite exciting! Traditional media advertising has become very stagnant and expensive over time, demonstrating low conversion rates and little to no interactivity between brand and consumer. This is largely in part due to the lack of engagement between commercials and consumers—I mean why would any teenager watching cartoons care for a shampoo or cleaning solution for the bathroom? With the ability to reach the exact target demographic through games, we’ll slowly find advertisers looking towards game developers to get the best bang for their buck.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Listening. Keeping your ears to the ground internally and externally is the absolute best way to stay in tune with what works. As an entrepreneur, it is your responsibility to make sure that you have assembled the best possible team given your resources, to keep them happy and motivated, and to make sure that the product they bring to life is one of which that is desired. By listening and responding to your team, your customers and stakeholders, you can quickly identify the issues and alleviate them before they pose a real problem.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I had was selling newspapers on the New York subway as the only way to earn an income at the age of 13. At this time, I spoke essentially no English, as it was right after I immigrated to the United States. Although it was physically exhausting, the amount of money I was able to earn was almost double what one can expect working full time for minimum wage at the time. This experience taught me a valuable lesson: always work for yourself, for you shall reap the fruits of your labor.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
We spent quite some time getting our studio set up in the Greater Montreal area, largely due to the renovations needed before we could occupy the space. As a result, we were forced to work remotely for almost 7 weeks which inevitably hindered our productivity from being at full efficiency. In hindsight, we would of been better off finding a more suitable space that we could move in immediately.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The most important thing as an entrepreneur is to always keep a student’s mentality. The moment you decide that you no longer need to learn, someone else will inevitably surpass you in your endeavors.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Hiring only the best of the best and settling for nothing less. As a founder, you have to channel your energy on many aspects of the business, making it nearly impossible for you to really excel at any one task without sacrificing another. This is why it is pivotal to hire and empower specialized individuals who are experts in their relative fields, allowing you to focus on your relative strength and leveraging a competitive advantage instead of stretching yourself thin.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My first stab at entrepreneurship was essentially a failure. We scaled the team too quickly, were not hyper-focused on the product, did not raise enough funding and were too early for the market, the list goes on and on. However, each of these failures were very valuable lessons in themselves and taught me so much more than any successes ever could. The important thing is to see the path of entrepreneurship as a journey and not each venture as a destination—this will allow you to take some winding path and run into various obstacles while concurrently moving forward in your journey.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A subscription based service that curates fun recipes, delivers proportioned ingredients and necessary seasonings to allow anyone to quickly prepare a home cooked meal in under 15minutes. This would be a great solution for busy young people, like entrepreneurs, and serve as a great alternative to take out or frozen food.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
Whenever I have a free moment, which is very rarely, I enjoy playing poker with friends or at the local casino. It’s a great way for me to wind down from work, sharpen my mind by outplaying my opponents and network with like-minded individuals who also have a love for the game. I’ve met many angel investors, vcs, reporters, entrepreneurs and even celebrities through playing poker over the years.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Amazon EC2 – cost effective and scalable solution for hosting.
Unity Engine – expensive but easy way to build for cross platform.
Adobe CC – necessity for art, design and video production.
Google Apps – best solution on the market for everyday biz needs.
Dropbox – simple to use and quick to sync for effective collaboration.
Pivotal Tracker – developer friendly product management/tracking tool.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It dissects the qualities you need to be an inspirational leader, a respected manager and a great friend in both your personal and professional lives. It’s also interesting to note that this was the same book that changed Warren Buffett’s life.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
@kenblanchard – for being a great motivational speaker.
@mcuban – for helping keep the American dream real.
@warrenbuffett – for being a role model in humility.
@bchesky – for showing the world resilience in failure.
@sishen – for proving what determination can accomplish.
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cloudcade on Twitter: @cloudcadegames
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.