From $60,000 in credit card debt, to raising about $70 million; from 2 founders to 362 employees, then back to 14 staff; from debt to $40 million in Revenues per year to zero revenue – these are snapshots of Castek founder Yung Wu’s last 15 years.
Yesterday he spoke at Marsdd. A great speaker and candid visionary, Yung shared some pearls of wisdom with the CEOs of 40 Toronto start-ups. Here is my take on what he said.
1. Core values are everything. Whether chosen to discover theses are the essence of your company in good times, but especially in bad. [This really echoes Jim Collins’ Built to Last. Your core values are your touch stones when the dark clouds in roll in. A great read if you haven’t read it already].
2. Great companies overcome capital issues (i.e. debt, no credit, no money, you name it!).
3. Customers are your best backers (in Yung’s case, they helped to finance development).
4. Capital (i.e. investors) follow low risk [especially in Canada].
5. Other people’s money means you make different decisions. Basically it’s not yours to gamble with and you should:
A – preserve the capital
B – grow the capital
6. Raise capital when you can, NOT where you need to.
7. Investors are a relationship so DON’T GET STUCK ON THE DEAL, get stuck on the people.
8. Be fair in your relationships, because someday you WILL need a break.
9. Align your goals from the top (i.e. investors and your board) ALL the way down (employees, customers).
10. Think about the world in cycles. Yung’s industry went from hundreds of millions to zero revenue year over year [insurance]. Markets are cyclical.
11. In tough times, over communicate.
12. Know your 90 day priority – don’t look too much further ahead.
13. Investments are RELATIONSHIPS, NOT TRANSACTIONS so work for the a good fit in your investment partner – someone with like minded exit strategies.
14. When hiring management, find someone to help, not someone who wants to replace you.
15. Don’t hire someone like yourself. They’ll want to replace you and the fact is you need other skill sets to flesh out your mix.
Above all, foster:
TRUST | LOYALTY | HONESTY all the way up and down, inside and outside your organization.