Waylon Ian Chin is the CEO & Managing Partner at First Serve Partners, a Miami based venture capital firm made up of business leaders, pop-culture influencers and current/former professional athletes. The firm invests across sports, media and entertainment, and uses their unique perspective, strategic relationships and experience in engaging emerging generations – millennials and Gen-Zers – to capitalize on what’s new and what’s next.
After spending some of his youth in Singapore, attending the prestigious Raffles Institution, Chin was ranked as the #1 junior tennis player in the United States and represented the country in the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Grand Slam competition. He began playing professional tournaments at the age of 15, then continued his career at the University of Illinois and University of Miami (FL), where he was the #1 singles and doubles player.
Prior to First Serve Partners, Chin co-founded the GR8-Group, an innovative company that creates one-of-a-kind products in the high-end luxury travel and experiential industry. He helped grow the company into the leading business in its industry with corporate clients that include members of the Fortune/Global 500, such as American Express and UBS.
After GR8, Chin transitioned into the venture capital and real estate business full time, where he has completed transactions totaling more than $50 million. At First Serve Partners, Chin led an investment in Splyce, one of the world’s top eSports organizations. He currently serves on the board of directors of GR8 Group, Splyce, SnapLeads and the Miami Venture Capital Association.
Where did the idea for First Serve Partners come from?
My co-founder, Joey Brander, and I had both worked in sports, media, and entertainment throughout our lives and beginning at a very young age, both as athletes and in the business world. We wanted to find a way to bring all of the relationships we had formed with influential individuals in these industries together and be able to have a lasting impact on them. We thought that the venture capital world was a great way to leverage our collective relationships and experiences.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day varies quite a bit as we are often on the road visiting existing portfolio companies, meeting with prospective companies, attending conferences or meeting with our investors and advisors. We pride ourselves on being active, value-add investors and always ensure we are reachable and able to assist our portfolio company founders when needed.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We do so in two ways. The first of which is continuing to study, evolve and improve upon our own investment thesis on a daily basis, and applying our strategies and bringing them to life through our deals. The second is in our role as active investors, working alongside our portfolio founders to add value and assist them in bringing their ideas and products to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In our industries, the growth of eSports has been exciting and fascinating to watch. We invested early on in the transition of eSports going from niche industry to a large-scale global phenomenon, and have seen incredible viewership, attendance and the development of franchised leagues that are beginning to rival that of major traditional sports.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
At First Serve Partners, we often speak on “strategic patience” and the positive impact that can make for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Although there is a time to “move fast and break things” as the common axiom goes, we also place importance on not only the ability to be patient, but primarily knowing when it is in one’s best interest to sit back, analyze a situation, plan out their next couple of moves and then act.
What advice would you give your younger self?
As I look back on my journey as an athlete or entrepreneur, the one thing that has always remained the most important to me is that I should always trust my gut and intuition above all else. The only times I have ever felt regret in my life were not the times I tried and failed, but when I did not trust and follow my own intuition.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Elite eSports athletes are truly some of the premier athletes in the world when you factor in skill, dexterity and quick-twitch reactions.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Every single day, myself and my partners all spend a considerable amount of time reading, studying and being as prepared and informed as possible related to things happening in our industry. We always recommend that regardless of your profession, being exceptionally knowledgeable, well-read and aware is the first step to building a foundation to become one of the best in the world at what you do. As former athletes, we look at it as getting up for practice everyday, putting in those reps and miles, on and off the court, day in and day out. That’s how you build your edge.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
For us, our business grows by making good deals and reaching or surpassing our target returns for our investors. Over time, we have continued to strengthen our deal flow channels, grow our network, refine our thesis and put wins on the board. We have also put a focus on creating a clear and strong brand for ourselves, which requires a process of learning about yourself and your business, understanding how you can effectively position and compete in the industries we cover.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Some of the largest and earliest failures I had were not as an entrepreneur, but during my career as a highly ranked junior and subsequently professional tennis player. Tennis is the epitome of an individual sport and one that comes with highs, lows, successes, failures, milestones and setbacks. Tennis entails spending hours on the court training, traveling across the world for tournaments (mostly alone since it is not a team sport), winning and losing, and all of the positives and negatives falling on you afterward. If you lost early in the week, it meant having to process the loss quickly and picking yourself right back up the next day to get ready for the next tournament. This gave me a unique perspective on failure and allowed me to grow my own persistence and character to overcome challenges and setbacks. I do not think there could have been any better preparation for my future entrepreneurial endeavors than what the sport taught me from a very young age.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The best business ideas come from founders who are solving a problem within an industry they are knowledgeable and passionate about. I encourage all of your readers to analyze their daily lives, careers, hobbies or spaces they care about and ponder on whether there is a way to make their experience more efficient or add value to themselves and others.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I think that any $100 spent on one’s self to further their perspective, through experience or gaining knowledge, is money well spent. There is no better investment to make than in yourself! Personally, a recent purchase of a couple of business, finance, and industry-specific books gave me an opportunity to continue to study, learn and strengthen my viewpoints.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Pitchbook and Crunchbase Pro are always helpful tools for us as VCs.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William Thorndike. It’s an easy read and high-level overview of some great CEOs that were innovators in their own ways and may offer different perspectives to readers.
What is your favorite quote?
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” -Jennifer Lee, American screenwriter, film director, playwright, and chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
- In business, it is important to acknowledge when it is in one’s best interest to sit back, analyze a situation, plan out your next couple of moves and then act.
- Regardless of your profession, being exceptionally knowledgeable, well-read and aware is the first step to building a foundation to become one of the best in the world at what you do.
- The best business ideas come from founders who are solving a problem within an industry they are knowledgeable and passionate about.
- Read “The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success” to familiarize yourself with some great CEOs that were innovators in their own ways.