I stood in front of over 200 Australians in October 1999. I have a 12 slides PowerPoint presentation of an idea that I have. It was in Perth a relatively laid back city and it was at the tail end of a seminar that Gerry R, my partner did. I was supposed to speak for 20 minutes but with the onrush of questions; I took 40 minutes instead. When I finished my presentation; close to 100 Australians lined up to pay USD250 each to be involved with the Idea. It was simply magical and all the concepts that I learnt from my mentor Robert Kiyosaki, just came alive.
This is the beginning of “a new new thing’ that went into 22 countries and make RM6 million in the first year. This new business that I started with Richard T just exploded and close to 50, 000 people got involved in this new exciting venture. It won us a second prize for the best ICT business in a competition in Singapore in 2001. And our capital …….zero.
Looking back on how we started a RM6 million company with NO Money Down and from the experience I gain since; I am able to boil it down to my 6 learning points.
To get to very beginning, I have to go back to the day when Raymond called me and ask me if I have seen a new technology where by someone speaking in front of a computer miles away, can talk to you and been seen by each other .(No. There was no Skype then) This is 1999 not 2010 and in 1999 that is a WOW! He went on to demonstrate the technology to me and it just knocks me off my feet. I know nothing about internet technology but I immediately recognise the opportunity and the potentials.
Learning No 1: Opportunity comes from Change
In mid 90’s I had an opportunity to be trained by another mentor of mine, Alan Weiss. He taught me that opportunity comes from Change; echoing what Peter Drucker wrote earlier in his book,”Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” Alan mapped out 10 major change areas and one of them is “convergence of technology”. What I saw in 1999 is the convergence of learning technology and computer technology; giving rise to the new BUZZ; E-learning. The potential for people to learn from a distance and the ability to upscale numbers from the traditional classroom of 20 to a virtual class of thousands simply becomes mind blogging. The idea was born.
Learning No. 2: Everything starts with an idea
The idea is to start an e-learning portal that delivers valuable learning content worldwide. Sounds simple since I now have access to the technology but I need a business model and I need content. I realised that if I am going to do this really well, I can’t do everything by myself. I need to do what Robert Kiyosaki taught me; I need to leverage.
Learning No 3: Leverage, you can’t do everything by yourself
I told Richard T about this idea and got him to see a demonstration. Richard runs a very successful training business which organise huge events and he brings world class speakers into Asia. He caught onto the idea immediately and we begin to jointly see a vision of what is possible. We want to broadcast live presentations’ of top gurus over the internet worldwide. We are going to create a global organization.
Learning No 4: Think Big but start small.
We have no idea how to do this. We only know that the technology is available. We believe we can get some gurus to do this with us. We have not built any business beyond Asia. But there is one thing common with both of us; we are die-hards positive thinkers. We decided to do that presentation in Perth just to test out whether people will buy our idea. Up to that point we don’t have any sales channel and we don’t have a single content. Amazingly we DON’T even have the domain name registered; let alone the website. Just the idea. What happened in Perth and the positive response is like injecting ourselves with huge shots of adrenaline. We started running………really fast. We immediately did a similar presentation in Singapore and then Malaysia. We had earlier explored the possibility of putting the business on a network business model. We decided to go ahead with it. That decision is a brave and unprecedented one. Nobody in the world has put a virtual internet-based product on that kind of business model in 1999.
Learning No 5: Choose the right business model
Had we done it any other way we would not have achieved the kind of success we got. The momentum that was built in the subsequent months after the launch was the reason for its success. But the six months before the launch ion March 2000 was the most intense six months of my business life. We travelled thousands of miles to seek out all the pieces required to make it work. The most interesting experience for me was flying to Florida to work with the software developer to do up the back engine and flying back with the server (which I hand carried)……..plug it on and the engine started running.
Learning No. 6; Make a lot of friends
More phenomenal was what happened after the launch. It was an amazing journey made possible by friends, friends of friends and friends of friends of friends (you get the picture?).We went to Korea to find enhancement to that technology, to the United States to meet with a large entrepreneur group to discuss strategic alliances, to Japan to speak to hundreds of Japanese who does not really understand what I am talking about but still buy the idea. And to Taiwan (I speak no Mandarin), to New Zealand to be greeted by a group of friendly Kiwis stranger in the airport who thought that I am some kind of an Asian Steve Jobs. Not forgetting the Indonesians, the Hongkies and the Thais. Oh yes and speaking in London is a blast.
Note: All mention of time, place and people is based on my memory and as you get older they get blurred.