The Time is Now

Roelof Botha, Partner at Sequoia Capital and famed for talent-spotting social media superstars like YouTube, Tumblr and Instagram, touches on what entrepreneurs need when growing a startup - hint, it's more than just a great idea.


Author: DBS BusinessClass, Administrator of DBS

Sequoia's Roelof Botha, feels that Singapore has come a long way and it's our obligation to uphold the standards of Singapore's forefathers. So says a man who repeatedly finds himself in the top 30 on Forbes' annual Midas List, which ranks the top individual investors at the major venture capital firms.

Botha, famed for talent-spotting social media superstars like YouTube, Tumblr and Instagram (while they were still in their infancy) goes on to caution us against trying to create a carbon copy of Silicon Valley in Singapore. What we ought to be doing instead, he says, is learning from its lessons.

What are some traits that all founders have in common? They tend to be non conformists and problem solvers. None of them asked for permission before trying something new and none of them played by the rules. 

When growing a startup, you need more than just a great idea. You need repeated founding moments - a potent yet elusive combination of talent, synergy and raw determination that seems to gradually erode away as the company grows, acquires more wealth and gets more successful.  It's these repeated founding moments that makes all the difference between an organisation that's merely good and one that's undeniably great.

What are some characteristics of enduring companies? One is frugality, as exemplified by tech startup, which earlier on, raised $196 million in investor financing to buy over a competitor - and just five years later got itself acquired for $1.8 billion. Another is tenacity. When AirBnB first started, it was met with a tidal wave of skepticism but it kept going and today, merely six years after launching, stands at a valuation of $10 billion.

The opportunity to build tech companies in Singapore and Asia is now better than ever. What will you do with this opportunity? By breaking rules, being unconventional and having no fear of failure. Simple truths that are surprisingly hard to follow. It helps to keep in mind that most founders failed once or multiple times before they achieved success.

Harness whatever springboards you have available. Find all the pieces of unfair advantage you have to give yourself an edge over the competition. What natural abilities do you possess that others don't?

Roelof Botha challenges us to envision ourselves in 2020 and ask ourselves what it's going to take to get there? Grow and nurture an ecosystem for entrepreneurship because the time is now. It's now easier than ever to build a tech company in Singapore and the region. ‘Think about how far you've come in the past few decades and where you could be in the next few,' he concludes to the sound of resounding applause.

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