Legendary tech entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist Wayne Chang visited Harvard last week to talk startups, investing and the big business behind it all.
Offering free burritos and a fancy space for conversation, Harvard showed us they really know how to host their visitors. At the March 28 event, Chang answered interview questions, as well as audience inquiries, in response to the buzz around his success in the startup and entrepreneurial world.
From his relaxed tone and on-point sense of humor, you’d never guess Chang’s journey was all that difficult. But hearing from this ‘serial entrepreneur’ proved just how hard he had to work to get where he is today. Coming from an Asian background, Chang always felt (and sometimes continues to feel) the pressure of becoming a lawyer, doctor, or the like. But despite his non traditional entrepreneurial route, Chang is most definitely deemed a societal success.
Chang has been involved in various reputable startups, from JetSmarter to Dropbox, Napster and more. He has contributed to many notable operations, currently valued at over $10 billion. His latest company, Crashlytics, was acquired by Twitter in its largest acquisition at the time.
And on Thursday, Chang made it clear that all he ever wanted growing up was to “make it.” But now that he’s here he said, “I never even thought about what would happen when I made it. Now I’m asking myself why I’m even going to work.” So the burning question for us aspiring entrepreneurs is how did Chang “make it”?
Build an ‘A’ team.
According to Chang, starting a solid company begins with a solid team. “Founders don’t build great products. Founders build great teams that build great products,” said Chang, as he suggested considering a recruiter for this valuable process in beginning.
Raise capital, the non-traditional way.
“Never go into a board room, ever, when you’re pitching.” Chang suggests meeting somewhere else, like a coffee shop, to level the playing field a bit and equalize the dynamic. “Dating and raising capital are the exact same thing,” said Chang.
Be subtle in your approach.
Chang advises against cold emailing, which is “our currency now.” He said before asking for capital, “you have to first make yourself look amazing.” He also pointed out that you, as well, are an asset, not just the potential capital on the line. “Capital is their hammer,” but make it a point to ask your potential investor questions as well. For example, try: “Can you tell us when one of your startups was struggling and how you helped them?” Interview them, too.
Practice quality assurance.
When asked what qualities Chang looks for in a potential startup investment, he pointed to dependability. “Do what you say,” he said. “Form a track record. Show you are surrounding yourself with amazing people. Then, establish your competitors and define how you are going to set yourself apart.” For Chang, red flags in investing come in the form of unbalanced teams. When a team is too heavy-sided, in sales, engineers, etc., Chang says it’s time for a new look at team composition.
Monitor the trends.
When considering trends to keep an eye on, Chang pointed to “the Internet of things.” He said soon there will be sensors on everything, making objects – like desks, chairs and chalkboards – totally responsive. “For me, these are exciting times. All this stuff still needs to be built.”
And now that Chang has “made it,” he’s focused on his impact and giving to others. He referenced the three stages of life – learn, earn and return – in regard to his current and future objectives and his love for investing in startups. “If I share in your dreams and your journey, that’s rewarding for me personally.”