Stay persistent, optimistic, and don’t make the same mistakes again. Every entrepreneur needs to stay persistent and optimistic to stay being an entrepreneur. Want-to-be-entrepreneurs make excuses for themselves.
A serial entrepreneur and technologist, Erik Chan previously co-founded social and online game companies 28wins and Bottomless Pit Games, and payments company MicroPay Technology. Prior to Erik’s entrepreneur experiences, he spent time at Activision Blizzard and Midway Games first as a system engineer and then as a producer. Previously, Erik was awarded 1st prize at Intel’s best multi-threaded game competition and is also a recipient of the James F. Lincoln Arc Welded Engineering Design Award.
Erik holds a MSc in Management science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a MBA from Tsinghua University, and a BSc in biomedical engineering with computer science from Johns Hopkins University. Erik Chan also spent time doing research at the Center of Bits and Atoms and the Software Agents group at the MIT Media lab.
Where did the idea for Angelbacker come from?
The idea for Angelbacker came from my own problem or desire to have such a solution. I wanted a solution where I could incentivize my community with real equity stake ownership in its outcome. I wanted a solution where my startup can be connected with those who wanted or believed what I offered. The world is a big place, and the key is being able to connect those who matter with each other.
To give everyone some background on what Angelbacker is:
Its a website where anyone can discover cool startups and get company stock for adopting & evangelizing products early. Startups run campaigns seeking product champions, aka angelbackers, for a percentage of the company. And angelbackers spread the word and give feedback to shape the success of products they love and believe in.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are usually some combination of meetings and creation. Meetings help me bring in more partnerships, collaborations, customers, and ideas. Creation is usually something more tangible such as coming up with documentation, code, graphics, strategies, hiring, and analytics. Blocking out specific days or chunks of time for meetings or work keeps me in the mindset for those jobs at hand.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I get started by making. I’ll pull out tools like Sublime, Xcode, Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop, Illustrator, Outlook or whatever I need to get the ball rolling. Until then, ideas stay as ideas.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Many trends excite me. I’m very forward looking. I’m excited that the Internet is continuing to democratize the world -giving people who previously did not have access to something access to it now. Whether its education, video, commerce, social media, or what we’re doing at Angelbacker, real ownership in the products we use and love.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I don’t procrastinate. I’m consistently working towards a zero todo list (similar to a zero inbox) and am constantly cleaning out todos on my list. It keeps me productive, actionable, and helps me plan ahead.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I used to have the job of clean the dining hall at boarding school. I guess I learned that getting a good education (e.g learning to learn) will allow me to remove myself from a job as such forever.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start again, I would have tried harder at a younger age to seek mentors or find more experienced entrepreneurs to learn from. There’s a lot to say for apprenticing or learning from those who are great at their jobs. Its much easier than falling into all the traps on your own.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Stay persistent, optimistic, and don’t make the same mistakes again. Every entrepreneur needs to stay persistent and optimistic to stay being an entrepreneur. Want-to-be-entrepreneurs make excuses for themselves. If someone can stay being an entrepreneur, and continue to learn from mistakes, I surely believe they will become successful. At some point, the 10,000 or 100,000 hours you put in will add up.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Talk to everybody about your business or ideas. People are much more likely to provide insight, ideas, connections, and/or historical reference that can benefit my business if I talk about it. I won’t push what I’m working on down someones throat, but if they are willing to listen, I will tell them every detail about it. Its very likely they can help in ways I didn’t expect.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t find help when I first started out. Advice and suggestions from mentors and other people who have done it before is the key to overcoming challenges of every kind. Your network is much stronger than you are and you need to actively seek out help from those who can help with various aspects of running a business. I make a point to keep in touch and build relationships with those I trust and respect all the time.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Ideas aren’t really worth much, but here goes… I believe there are still many more opportunities in live video. Helping live video makers, such as those on Twitch, make even more money via brand partnerships, Or looking at other verticals besides gaming.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)
I recently spent $29 on Videoscribe and $5 on Fiverr for video voice over. I made an angelbacker explainer video in an afternoon using those tools. I wrote a blog post explaining how it was done and my process: http://blog.angelbacker.co/2014/11/startup-explainer-video-diy-in-4-hours-and-34-dollars
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Outlook on iPhone (used to be Accompli) is my favorite app right now. My mailbox is my todo list, and Outlook makes it easy for me to take action on every incoming email or send myself todos for myself. Outlook also syncs to both gmail and google calendar. So that basically keeps me in time, on schedule, and my tasks actionable.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I read a lot of non-fiction and biographies. Its difficult to recommend just one book. But if I had to choose one, I would choose ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini. Ultimately, entrepreneurship is about selling, whether selling to partners, employees, venture capitalists, or customers, understanding how to become a more effective salesman is really important.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
A few years back, I attended a series of lectures by Harvard tenure professor Clayton Christensen best known for the book ‘The Innovators Dilemma/Solution’. The last lecture, ‘How will you measure your life?’ had a huge impact on me. It wasn’t about strategizing your business, it was a series of guidelines based on his own experiences and methodologies used in his own research to understand what brings us meaning and happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvos4nORf_Y