Carlos is a very sincere and generous person. It’s been a while since I last chat with a Taiwanese and he definitely demonstrated very well how a Taiwanese behaves. This is the first interview that was conducted in mandarin (Carlos speaks English, but we love to chat in mandarin anyway), also the first with a few colleagues joining. One of them is an intern and just on-boarded for 2 months. Nice! This team is very well bonded and very transparent!
Carlos Wang, 31
Founder, Saihu & Slasify
| Star Profile
| Skills and Passion
|| Life Quote
Carlos grew up in Taiwan, a very beautiful country. When he was young he didn’t think about running a business at all; like most people he went to Fu Jen University and studied Computer Science. When he was studying there, he knew that business is the direction for him. However upon graduation he had no connection, no experience and no money; he thought to pick up a job first. When he was doing his master program with the same university, he freed up day time and arranged for courses at night. Carlos took up a day job with Tech company Vpon and completed 2 startup projects. The first job wasn’t paying very well (about SGD1000), but Carlos learned a lot. He stayed in the same company for 3 years, helped the company grew from 5-6 staff to over 100 people by the time he left.
Carlos was a team lead for ~20 members, when he left Vpon he was just 27-28 years old. He was very young, over confident, thought if he could manage a team with over 20 people he should be able to run his own business. With full confidence, Carlos did his own startup in the areas of e-payment, home intelligence and online-ticketing agent. However, except home-intelligence project the others failed miserably. Maybe it was because of lack of corporate experience, he thought. Just nice IBM head-hunted Carlos, he took the offer and went back to corporate again.
Journey to Entrepreneurship
It was quite a nice job at IBM, but Carlos got bored quickly. It wasn’t satisfying, Carlos continued for ~1 year as he was also getting married at the same year. Carlos still wanted to run his own company, he had an idea about building a C-2-C platform to connect experts. Saihu (means experts / 师父 in Hokkien dialect) is a marketplace for users to teach each other new skills, it can be anything. He started to build a MVP (minimal viable product) and tested it out in Taiwan.
When Carlos broke the news of quitting from IBM to his family, his parents were really unhappy. Why leaving such a comfortable job to do startup? His dad was so angry that they didn’t even talk for two days. Eventually his parents accepted and turned out to be really supportive of him.
Moved to China
Two of his best friends from high school was convinced to join Carlos, however the market is too small and Saihu wasn’t growing fast. Carlos knew he had to make adjustment otherwise it might just fail. He saw the opportunity of China market, decided to move his team from Taiwan to Xiamen. Usually a new C-2-C platform would not be perceived a must-have, it’s more like a nice-to-have. The unit price for each expert session was not very high (a lower profit margin), it’s not easy to survive.
However through Saihu Carlos saw the pattern for future work. Our current 9-5 kind of work model was built back in industrial age, it wouldn’t be suitable anymore in this information age. We have transited to an era which most people can work remotely and with flexible working hours. That’s how Carlos got the idea of building Slasify, a platform for virtual enterprise.
Virtual Enterprise as the Future Work Model
Slasify is a C-2-B platform to build virtual teams for corporate. Companies can just post their project requirements, in-house or freelance project managers from Slasify would assemble their own team to deliver the projects. The idea was brilliant, but at initial stage many things didn’t work out as planned. Fortunately they met someone who had great experience in HR (human resource) field, he gave them a lot of useful feedback.
Moved to Singapore
After serious consideration, Carlos thought to move his business to serve South East Asia market. This is a much less competitive market compared to China, Slasify might be able to grow better here. Business in China wasn’t doing very well anyway, Carlos then suggested to his team to have a self-sponsor company trip. Surprisingly the team was happy to! They decided to come to Singapore, half of the agenda was to relax and travel, the other half was really to survey the local market here. They went to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia too, but figured out that Singapore is a more strategic place to be with its highly dense population and business.
For Taiwanese, English is the biggest barrier to run business in Singapore. Carlos often felt embarrassed to speak English too. When the team first moved to Singapore they knew almost nobody, very fortunate they had two friends who helped them out a lot. Things were not smooth at all. After few months in Singapore Carlos was really frustrated, Saihu had stalled, Slasify wasn’t taking off, he couldn’t see the future. However no matter what happened he didn’t show frustration in front of his team. The hardest time was to break the news to his team that business might not be able to continue, but his team didn’t leave him. After those days in China and now in Singapore which they spent almost 24/7 together, stayed / worked / suffer together; they are as close as family.
The light finally came! Slowly Carlos and his team started to close deals with corporate, things finally turned better. Almost 1 year now since Slasify was incorporated, their freelancers are now from everywhere in the world and delivering a lot more projects than what Carlos would have expected. “As long as you work hard enough, eventually you will get some results.” – Carlos
- Be generous while doing business
- Many startups fail because they lack of focus / the team not stable (high turnover rate); or simply the product is not powerful enough
- There are other people doing the same thing too, aim for being #1 or #2 in the industry
- 格局决定布局，布局决定结局 (the circumstance determines strategy, the strategy determines the outcome)
- We cannot succeed if we work behind closed doors (闭门造车不能成功)
- Sometimes CEO leaves for a few days is a good thing, many things will surface
- There is no need to be the first mover, only 1% are real pioneers, the rest all failed
- Must not judge a book by its cover
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