Kai has wanted to start his own company since adolescence, inspired by his father who had already started many businesses. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Kai planned to pursue an MBA before building his first startup. However, with the rise of the internet and the many opportunities that came along with it, Kai decided to take advantage of the timing and build his first company four years after college.
Several exits and hundreds of Angel investments later, Kai shares his story and what he looks for in a startup founder. He looks for intelligence, quick learning and adaptability, and receptiveness to feedback in startup founders. He also finds that successful startup founders are consistently good storytellers.
One of Kai's main goals is to help build a sustainable ecosystem of startups (like Silicon Valley) in Taiwan, with successful founders continuously giving back to the community.
886: Why were you motivated to start your own company?
Kai: “I’ve always wanted to start my own company, probably since junior high school or high school. I credit a lot of that to my dad; he started several businesses and would say things like ‘at some point in your you should start thinking about starting your own business so that you can do something for yourself and have better control over what you do.’”
886: What was your path?
Kai: “I graduated college, and since I wanted to go back and get my MBA, I decided to do consulting, thinking that I would do it for a couple years and then go back to business school. This was the late 90’s, it was the age of the internet 1.0 and there was just so much activity, so I said I could always go back and get my MBA if I want, but this is an interesting opportunity from a timing perspective to start my own company. My first startup was with my brother and two other cofounders and focused on server appliance software. After we sold it, we started to think about starting another company.
“The idea my brother and I had was renting video games online - think Netflix but for video games. At the time, it was a billion dollar industry, many VCs were interested, but there were no real video game rental companies, only movie rental companies. We thought that if we could make things more convenient for the average video game consumer, we could take advantage of the huge rental industry and grow the whole pie, which was how we started on what later became RedOctane (acquired by Activision for $99.9M in 2006).”
886: What pivots did you make? Why did you decide to make those pivots?
Kai: “At one point, we were renting Dance Dance Revolution, and many customers were asking us if we also rented or sold the dance pads. For months we told them no, we don’t touch hardware, all we do is rent games online, but when the market collapsed and we needed to generate revenue, we thought maybe there was an opportunity short term to earn money on the side.
“The dance pads start to sell well, and after about 4 months of selling dance pads that we got from a distributor, we got a lot of feedback and ideas from customers, and after another six months we decided to make our own dance pads. In retail, sometimes pricing can give a perception of quality, and it’s very easy to take the price down than to take the price up. So we decided to go up in price. We launched our first product, it did really well, we built a really good reputation for ourselves, and we realized the high end market was a major area we could focus on.”
886: How do you manage decision-making?
Kai: “I rarely go all in. I look at it as if you’re cooking and you’re juggling pans on a stove, and there are always three or four pans at a time, and it depends on which pan is in the front, which one is in the back, on the side… sometimes tasks have to be moved to the front, sometimes others are moved to the back burner or killed… it’s very rare that I say ‘everything dies, just focus on one pan.’ You just have to figure out how to manage it - focus is important. You need to understand how to have focus but also keep things alive on the back burner.”
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