Min-Liang Tan is the co-founder and CEO of Razer, a technological company that designs, develops, and sells consumer electronics, financial services, and gaming hardware.
Tan was born and raised in Singapore, where his father worked as a real estate consultant and his mother stayed home to raise Tan and his three older siblings. After graduating from high school, he went on to attend the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, where he graduated in the top 20 of his class. He worked for a time as an intellectual property lawyer before becoming an advocate and solicitor for the Supreme Court of Singapore.
Having grown up in the 1980’s, Tan had been playing video games from an early age and throughout his childhood it grew from a hobby into a passion. By adulthood he had fully immersed himself in the gamer community and would often travel to South Korea to compete in the esports competitions that were quickly growing in popularity there. While observing his fellow competitors, he realized that just as in traditional sports such as tennis or golf the equipment a player had could make a huge impact in their performance, but there wasn’t much in the market at the time in terms of computer tools such as keyboards and mice that were tailored toward gamers.
Working with Robert Krakoff, one of the friends he had made online through gaming, Tan created a prototype for a computer mouse specifically optimized for gaming. When he and Krakoff tested the mouse for the first time during an online competition, they were kicked off of the server because they performed so well they were suspected of cheating. Afterward they co-founded Razer, establishing a dual headquarters for the company in Tan’s Singapore and Krakoff’s San Francisco.
Today, Tan prides Razer in being a company that is “for gamers, by gamers,” and over the past fifteen years has remained true to his original vision of enhancing the gaming experience for all players. In addition to continuing to improve and release their massively popular gaming mouses, he employed world-class thermal engineers and laptop designers to build the thinnest gaming laptop in the world, and more recently have begun to expand into software and services. They created the world’s first cloud-based storage for personalized game settings, and have even branched into fintech, with Tan stating that he believes cloud gaming and 5G will be one of the biggest game changers for the future.
When Razer went public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, it raised over $500 million and made Tan the youngest self-made Singaporean billionaire at 40 years old. In addition to being a gaming company, Razer is increasingly being seen as a lifestyle brand, with followers getting the company’s three-headed snake logo tattooed on their body and one particularly devoted fan even getting a tattoo of Tan himself. In spite of the massive success Tan has remained humble, taking every opportunity possible to interact with the gaming community, and of course always makes time for games.
Where did the idea for Razer from?
Since I was young, it has been very clear that I have always been super passionate about gaming. At any given moment, I was at my computer gaming. My parents would be screaming at me to get off the computer.
We started Razer on a hunch, by creating a better, more precise mouse that gamers would want in their arsenal – the first true gaming mouse ever. And the rest is history: Today, Razer offers the world’s largest gamer-focused ecosystem of hardware, software and services.
Even till now, I’m still playing games any chance I get.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My hours are pretty irregular as we’re a global company with offices in 17 locations.
I usually start my day by doing something that I am extremely passionate about – gaming. After which, I’ll meet with the different project teams and run through our latest launches or ventures.
If time permits, I like to speak casually with the various departments in the office throughout the day just to catch up with the team. It is important – especially during this unsettling period – that I remain accessible to my colleagues and show them that Razer cares for their wellbeing and that every team member is valued.
Once I’m done with work, I like to spend time with my family, chat with our Razer community on social media or unwind doing sports and gaming.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We are a company that prides itself in technological innovation and advancement, and Razer is fortunate to be able to hire the best and most passionate individuals. From start to end, all of Razer’s products are developed and designed in-house and I’m directly involved in all stages of product development.
From ideation to the moment the product is placed on shelf, we work with professional esports athletes and our fans to give feedback on new products. Before production for end consumers is triggered, I also do an out of box review from a gamer perspective to ensure the experience for our fans is phenomenal from day one.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Awareness of the environment. While I wouldn’t say that being environmentally friendly is a trend, it excites me that the public is becoming more and more conscious and aware of how our every action is affecting the earth. This was one reason why Razer decided to launch our Sneki Snake Plushie, in collaboration with Conservation International, and we have also started to make certified eco-friendly packaging – alongside other initiatives that show our commitment towards a more sustainable future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m constantly keeping up with the latest gadgets and game publications. Self-education is extremely important. It keeps me sharp and always on the ball.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The same advice that I would give to everyone else – follow your passion, believe in yourself, and surround yourself with those on the same mission as you. Oh, and: Don’t stop gaming!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always break down concepts and strategies into a single line. If it can’t be simplified to a singular focus, it has a very low chance of success.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Community engagement is our key strategy and we leverage on social media to achieve spontaneous engagement with our community. Razer has more than 11 million fans on Facebook and almost 7 million followers on Instagram. We aim to be close with our consumer base.
Even on my personal social media channels, I connect with fans on a day to day basis. We are part of the gaming community, and it is essential that I understand their needs and wants.
We are authentic, because gaming has been in our DNA from the very beginning, and our fans see and appreciate that.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I generally tend to keep looking forward and not backward – I’m sure I’ve had many failures but I rarely dwell on them to be able to remember them!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A toaster. What started as an off-hand April Fools’ joke a few years ago launched a fan-managed campaign. Our fans were so invested in a Razer toaster that they even started a Facebook page. They were so passionate that some even tattooed the toasters on themselves.
We consider ourselves lucky to have amassed such a strong and loyal following, so what can I say? The crowd has spoken and we’ll try to deliver the most requested product in the history of gaming.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The Razer Sneki Snek Plushie – I got a box of them to give to my family and close friends.
The chief gaming mascot is more than just a stuffed toy. We worked with Conservation International and have already saved more than 100,000 trees to protect endangered species and conserve our planet. Every Sneki Snek sold saves 10 trees, and we are very happy to see the community join us and contribute to a more sustainable future for all of us.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Messaging is incredibly important for us at Razer – it allows us to manage across continents and keep everyone updated and aligned.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi.
What is your favorite quote?
I enjoy following artists who create things – whether it’s artwork, designs or products.
- Start your day with something you’re passionate about.
- Self-education is incredibly important.
- Surround yourself with those on the same mission as you.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.