Gene Ku – Founder and Chairman of Mobovida

I’d go into business with individuals who have skills and a work ethic that meet or exceed my own. Never compromise on this.

Gene Ku is the founder and chairman of Mobovida, a vertically integrated online retailer and a fashion-forward direct-to-consumer mobile accessory brand.

Since 2002, Gene has bootstrapped Mobovida and CellularOutfitter, the largest pure-play online retailer of mobile accessories, using agile product development and a sophisticated digital marketing model to propel 10-year compounded annual growth rates greater than Amazon’s.

Gene is also a venture partner at K5 Ventures in Orange County, Calif., and serves as a mentor and adviser to various startups.

Where did the idea for Mobovida come from?

As a longstanding online reseller of other brands’ accessories, Mobovida was long overdue in 2015 for its own mobile accessory brand. After spending more than 12 years learning which mobile products consumers crave, we debuted a unique line of products with a high likelihood of sell-through.

Our goal wasn’t just to make a bunch of “me too” products. We aimed to make iterative improvements to existing products based on customers’ feedback and current trends. By manufacturing the products ourselves, we’re able to pass savings on to the consumer, and we’ve made a name for ourselves as a fast-fashion retailer of limited-quantity products.

The Mobovida name came after canvassing the landscape of catchy, available domain names that would mesh well with the “mobilize your life” slogan we’d already chosen.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

I’ll first say that there’s no typical day at my office, but I’m a firm believer that you are your rituals, so I always start and end my day on the right notes.

After a solid seven or eight hours of sleep, I’ll get out of bed, freshen up a little, and do 20 minutes of meditation. After that, I enjoy a cup of tea and start going through my email to check business vitals. I’ll then get a quick workout in, take a shower, drink a protein shake, and head to the office.

Once I’m at the office, I always try to plan my day around the one thing — two at the most — that will contribute most to my company’s value. These priorities might be hiring, coaching team members, evaluating KPIs, or conducting business development calls. For me, the most important thing is to stay focused on the “critical few” (as opposed to the “trivial many”), so I skip to-do lists altogether.

At the end of my day, I spend at least an hour or two winding down at dinner with my family, perform a quick work check-in for an hour, and then wind down before bed. I’ll crack open a book, watch some television, or surf the internet a bit. Then, I do it all again!

How do you bring ideas to life?

For me, mental and physical states are inexplicably paired. When my body is moving, my mind is flowing. If you’ve heard the phrase “motion creates emotion,” you understand what I mean. For example, I’ll often take a morning jog on the treadmill or outside to let my mind wander and drum up ideas.

Once I’ve got an idea, the execution depends, obviously, on its size and scope. In business, I evaluate everything against two criteria: how meaningful the impact and how difficult the execution. Once I’ve assessed feasibility, I plot my course of action in as few steps as possible before attacking.

Running an agile organization has taught me that complexity is the enemy of execution. Everything is an educated hypothesis, and the outcome is arbitrary. The end game is always to learn and progress.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m stunned by the pace of digital marketing technologies. Big data is making marketing more personal, robust, and trackable than we ever thought possible. It’s a little scary, too — but mostly exciting.

What’s one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I always meditate in the morning and do a quick workout to help my mind and body operate at peak levels during the day. If you don’t have a morning routine yet, then read “Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod about how powerful a morning routine can be.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

My first job out of college was with a technology startup that was desperately trying to raise Series A venture capital. Unfortunately, the company and its founders weren’t able to produce a strong product, nor were they mature enough to lead the organization.

The job was miserable, but it taught me the importance of mentorship in accelerating one’s skills and development. Thankfully, I met a solid group of mentors at my next job, and I’ve continued to seek mentors ever since. There’s only so much that grind and effort can do for you: You can’t do it alone.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’d go into business with individuals who have skills and a work ethic that meet or exceed my own. Never compromise on this.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend that everyone else do?

Choose your business partners and stakeholders wisely, and be especially leery of going into business with friends or family. The odds are stacked against you: Most startups fail, and adding personal relationships to the mix can make things even tougher.

Work with people who add value and provide strength in areas where you can’t. That means doing an honest self-assessment to identify your strengths and weaknesses using a tool like Myers-Briggs, Kolbe, or StrengthsFinder. Organizations come down to people and their ability to work effectively as a cohesive unit.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I’m a fanatic about methodologies and adherence to processes. At Mobovida, we’re driven by a robust digital marketing plan that grows as we do. We’re always skating to where the puck is headed to keep ahead of the curve.

Combined with our near-religious devotion to its execution, this philosophy has helped us flourish in an industry in which the majority of our competitors are struggling to grow, consolidating out of necessity, or going under completely.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ll admit that I’ve made bad hiring decisions in the past, and I hung on to the wrong employees and partners for too long. I’m still learning to improve this process, but the reality is that the best time to fire team members is likely the first time it crosses your mind.

What is one book you recommend our community should read and why?

There are so many good books out there that it’s hard to choose one. Here’s my must-read list:

Miracle Morning
Crucial Conversations
The Way of the Superior Man
Today Matters
The Purpose Driven Life
Good to Great

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Much like the world of books, lots of people have great ideas:

Tony Robbins
Rick Warren
John Maxwell
Brian Tracy
Tim Ferriss
David Deida
Robert Kiyosaki


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