Career Forum highlights: 9GAG CEO Ray Chan says hard work beats passion
Hong Kong website founder advises young entrepreneurs to be wary of following trends
Following your passion or chasing trends can harm your chances of success as an entrepreneur, says Ray Chan, the CEO and founder of online humour community 9GAG.
Speaking at the Career Forum, Chan said it is more rewarding to focus on your positive traits, work hard and find clever solutions. Rather than having a grand mission, his venture simply started in 2008 from a side project aimed at bringing happiness to people. "This is especially needed in developing countries, where it is not easy to share happiness and connect different people," Chan said.
9GAG is an online platform and social media website where users upload self-generated humorous images. The name 9GAG comes from the Cantonese term gaau gag, which means making fun.
It received funding in 2011 from 500 Startups, an accelerator programme based in Silicon Valley. Some of its investors were also early backers of Facebook and Twitter.
Chan advised aspiring entrepreneurs against simply following their passion, which others might not share. "Most people's passions are not linked to a career. When you are looking at something so obscure, your future will be dim."
Rather than chasing dreams, Chan, a law graduate, has his own slogan: "Follow your effort".
"When you have spent more time on something, you will have created some good results and have a sense of achievement. When you become better and better, you will naturally like it. Passion is the result," he said.
Chan added it is important to be wary of trends. By the time you have read about a trend, "it is already too late. When the government starts to build up a fund [to support an industry], it is also too late."
Consider people's needs and whether the company will dominate the market in 10 years' time, he said. "Successful people are good at doing something that contributes to the community. A website needs to solve people's problems. It needs to be very easy to use so users will come back again."
Asked why his fundraising exercise started in the US, he said most of Hong Kong's rag-to-riches stories are irrelevant to the internet. "We did not think that Hong Kong was not good, but we wanted to focus on the internet business."
For those wanting to join 9GAG, he said they need to truly identify with their mission. "If you want to join 9GAG, you need to believe in our vision in making this world a better place and in advancing your career," he said.
When asked about when would be the best time to quit a job to start up your own business, Chan said he first started setting up 9GAG in 2008, while still working full time. It officially started working as a company in 2012.
"It was not a quick decision as my family often needs my support," he said. "You need to assess your opportunity cost and see whether you have confidence that you can earn back that level of salary again."