10 Entrepreneurship Lessons Venture Capitalist Nicholas Chan Taught Me [Part 1]

by Wayne Liew

in Biz Brains Exchange

After a long break, the weekly Entrepreneur Interviews is back again and this time, I have a great lineup of interviewees that each and every one of you entrepreneurs and small business owners will be interested in reading.

Nicholas Chan

A few weeks ago, I met up with Nicholas Chan, a venture capitalist from Singapore who is also the Executive Director of Azione Capital Pte. Ltd., a venture capital firm and startup business incubator. He has had numerous success with his startups and is now on a mission to help entrepreneurs in the Asia region to turn their startup ideas into reality.

Nicholas Chan is not a guy where you will get a lot of wishful inspiration from. However, he is the go-to guy if you want a reality check on your startup idea. In this two-part interview summary, you will see how Nicholas debunk the ongoing myths in the entrepreneurship world and some of the serious mistakes that aspiring entrepreneurs make.

I assure that you will definitely learn something or two from this interview summary and be sure to leave a comment to voice your opinion. Now, let’s get started.

Forget about the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Buzzword

Entrepreneurship is slowly being labeled as a fancy term, where academics twist the meaning to suit their image. Passion, hard work and sweat is really what the term is all about. Anyone and everyone can proclaim themselves as entrepreneurs, even MLMers. Forget about the hype. Start spending time acquiring the right knowledge, know-how and blend into the right network of entrepreneurs.

Far too often, aspiring entrepreneurs want to be in good company and end up in "entrepreneur groups and networks" that are either 1.) MLMers/Ponzi-ers, 2.) entrepreneur event addicts or 3.) Networking Name Card Ninjas that keep thrusting their name cards into your face before you even get to speak to them.

Instead, look to go to professional organizations where real entrepreneurs gather, like Lions, Rotary or projectsenso.com. Birds of a feather flock together, and quality people will always attract similar individuals.

Learn from Entrepreneurs, Not Noisemakers

Stop attending events, talk shows or seminars that only feature so-called “entrepreneurs” that are only good in talking, but have not much of a proven track record in the area of enterprise. Rehashed mediocre content is all you are going to get, not to mention a serious waste of your precious time.

Nicholas lamented the fact that people often equates vocal, hollow people as being experts in their fields.

Another more cunning form of "entrepreneurs" are those that talk about "the next wave of business", "trillion dollar industry", "personal franchising", "make money by network" and other such incredible "easy money" ideas. These people very often are merely greedy and lazy individuals that have no idea on the basis of entrepreneurship, which is about creating real value for their clients and themselves. Stay far far away from them.

The only way to obtain authentic, true knowledge about running a startup or a business is to learn from an entrepreneur that has actually "done it" and been in the trenches rather than merely talking about entrepreneurship. Would you believe that you can swim better than Michael Phelps by simply reading a book titled "Learn to swim as fast as Michael Phelps in 10 days!" written by some unknown author that probably only knows how to write and never jumped into a pool his entire life?

Information Overload

Find Credible, Relevant Mentors to Guide You

If you have no prior experience with an upcoming venture idea that you are interested in doing, get yourself relevant mentors that have "been there, done that" with the backing of real-world knowledge and experience. Again, avoid “entrepreneurship talkers” as they are going to pump you with inspirational stuffs without any useful practical know-how.

A real mentor will never hesitate to tell you off "as it is". Don’t expect to be "pampered" or have sugar coated words like those you hear at "entrepreneurship talks". Your mentor will always provide critical feedback and will always refer to quantifiable facts and occasionally make reference to his experience in relation to your situation at hand.

Additionally, your mentor is not your ATM. Don’t expect to ask for free money and expect to get it just because "he is successful, so why can’t he spare me some cash?" Always remember the entrepreneurs mantra of "Givers gain – give before you get".

Never focus on asking the mentor what he can give to you. You clearly know he has the knowledge, wisdom, connections and experience that can greatly help you in your journey. In fact, you should focus first on what you can do to help your mentor and in growing his business.

Common Sense in the Business World

Keeping in mind the old saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”, Nicholas voiced his frustration over how naive people can be when they are presented with “Make $3000 in One Day” type of "business opportunities" which are nothing more than thinly disguised ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing and other such dubious businesses with new named tacked over them (ie. Personal franchising, family marketing).

There is no overnight success when it comes to running a successful business and successful people know this by heart. Always make sure you do your homework and don’t get conned by smooth talking individuals. An example of a famous and high profile smooth individual in Malaysia with a somewhat questionable history can be seen in the article: Clinton gets flak for speaking on behalf of Vinod Sekhar.

Nicholas emphasized on the fact that nothing good and worthwhile comes in life without a lot of hard work. Only fools are easily misled by the temporary success achieved by taking short cuts. Successful entrepreneurs are successful only because they have gained wisdom through failure, learnt from their mistakes and more importantly, stood up and tried again.

DON’T Start Up just because "I Want to"

Start up with a solid reason. Whether it is to solve a pressing problem that you have been noticing and solving on a regular basis, or perhaps out of desperation when finding a job becomes nearly impossible.

When you make a conscious decision to seriously take on entrepreneurship as a career, you will not be holding back, nor would you think of starting up as an "Extra Curricular Activity" that you would do just because 1.) you have spare money sitting idle in your bank account or 2.) you have spare time because you have no real goals in life.

Forget the rubbish mantra that clueless people keep saying about "escaping the cubicle", "financial freedom" and "next generation business" in order to be successful, Nicholas freely mentioned about his friends who decided to take the path of striving in the corporate world and whom today are very successful and making loads of money working just 5 days a week, 9 to 5 and frequently travels the world. Who says climbing the corporate ladder won’t lead you to riches and success?

The key word to success is in excellence in everything that you do, be it choosing a career path in the corporate world, as an entrepreneur or even as an artist. It cannot be denied that only those that goes that extra mile, gives their 100% in all their endeavors and never gives up are the ones that will truly become successful.

Contact Nicholas Chan

Stay Tuned for the Second Part

Did you learn something from the interview summary above?

Leave a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts on Nicholas Chan’s opinion. We would love to have your feedback.

The second part will be coming up next week and it contains 5 more lessons that every aspiring entrepreneurs should know and keep in mind when starting out.

If you want to get a notification when I publish the second part, be sure to subscribe to Wayne Liew Dot Com Newsletter by submitting your first name and email address using the form below.


Photo Credits: Biology Big Brother

{ 14 comments }

David King July 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Great Post Wayne! great insight!

I agree that success come’s from hard work and determination…

although i don’t see anything wrong with MLM…

a lot of ppl look at mlm as a pyramid scheme because they simply just do not know how to build that type of business because it is 100% sales and most people aren’t great salesmen.

with time and experience anything can be learned and mastered.

Great insight from Nicholas Chan! Thanks so much 🙂

David

Wayne Liew July 18, 2009 at 1:40 am

Personally, I haven’t done a lot of research into MLM and what I can say is that it is kinda different from pyramid schemes because it involves selling products to others. Not sure how to put it but there you go, insight from Nicholas Chan, a venture capitalist. 😉

David King July 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

Great Post Wayne! great insight!

I agree that success come’s from hard work and determination…

although i don’t see anything wrong with MLM…

a lot of ppl look at mlm as a pyramid scheme because they simply just do not know how to build that type of business because it is 100% sales and most people aren’t great salesmen.

with time and experience anything can be learned and mastered.

Great insight from Nicholas Chan! Thanks so much 🙂

David

Wayne Liew July 18, 2009 at 9:40 am

Personally, I haven’t done a lot of research into MLM and what I can say is that it is kinda different from pyramid schemes because it involves selling products to others. Not sure how to put it but there you go, insight from Nicholas Chan, a venture capitalist. 😉

April Kearney July 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I enjoyed reading, and completely agree. Nothing replaces hard work and dedication to your venture.

April Kearney July 18, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I enjoyed reading, and completely agree. Nothing replaces hard work and dedication to your venture.

Matt July 22, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Insightful tips from Nicholas Chan. Dedication and taking criticism are both extremely important, for sure. People need to try the newest things for marketing these days, staying on top of social media with sites like YouTube and AdWido.

Wayne Liew July 22, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I would say finding the balance between jumping onto new things as well as keeping the current efforts going is crucial. Sometimes, people pays too much attention to the latest new shiny object and swayed away from the definite major purpose of their startup.

Matt July 23, 2009 at 3:44 am

Insightful tips from Nicholas Chan. Dedication and taking criticism are both extremely important, for sure. People need to try the newest things for marketing these days, staying on top of social media with sites like YouTube and AdWido.

Wayne Liew July 23, 2009 at 7:53 am

I would say finding the balance between jumping onto new things as well as keeping the current efforts going is crucial. Sometimes, people pays too much attention to the latest new shiny object and swayed away from the definite major purpose of their startup.

Tolu August 4, 2009 at 5:01 am

Great post Wayne. I still find it almost impossible however for new entrepreneurs to secure any sort of funding from VCs as they are always more focused or inclined as the case may be to investing in “more established/less risky” ventures. what’s your opinion? Personally I have been bootstrapping my startup and keep doing it until I need the external funds.

Wayne Liew August 4, 2009 at 9:41 am

So far I have been bootstrapping since what I do currently doesn’t require a lot of capital. Never went out and start pitching potential investors yet. However, for my latest startup idea, I have plans to do so. I think it’s all about suiting your idea to their risk appetite. If you want to really have their money, then solve the problems and find answers to their questions. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have more to share after going through it myself. 🙂

Tolu August 4, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Great post Wayne. I still find it almost impossible however for new entrepreneurs to secure any sort of funding from VCs as they are always more focused or inclined as the case may be to investing in “more established/less risky” ventures. what’s your opinion? Personally I have been bootstrapping my startup and keep doing it until I need the external funds.

Wayne Liew August 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

So far I have been bootstrapping since what I do currently doesn’t require a lot of capital. Never went out and start pitching potential investors yet. However, for my latest startup idea, I have plans to do so. I think it’s all about suiting your idea to their risk appetite. If you want to really have their money, then solve the problems and find answers to their questions. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have more to share after going through it myself. 🙂

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