Ike Lee’s eight tips for aspiring entrepreneurs


Serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and angel investor Ike Lee recently joined NUS Business School as an adjunct professor. Here are Ike’s top eight tips for aspiring entrepreneurs eager to bring their game-changing business idea into reality:

Focus on the customer

“Successful businesses are always built around the customer and the customer experience. Give total attention to meeting your customers’ needs and develop your idea and product from there. Every decision and every feature of your product should be assessed and framed according to how it improves the customer experience.”

Target the small but significant

“Most entrepreneurs want to change the world, to come up with something completely new. In fact most of the biggest successes come from making small changes, reinventing something that is used every day. Home automation start-up Nest, which was bought by Google in 2014, took a boring and neglected piece of technology – the everyday thermostat – and turned it into a multi-billion dollar business.”

Soak up advice

“Networking is crucial and it is important to meet as many people as possible, absorbing as much advice as you can. Learn to process and sort that advice, see through the noise, and think clearly how you apply it to your business.”

Practice your pitch, and practice again

“Elevator pitches have become something of a Business School cliché but are very useful for a variety of reasons. There is no set format to a successful pitch, but learn to tell your story in 10 seconds or less. It not only grabs the attention of a potential investor or mentor, it also helps focus your mind.”

Have a plan

“Do your market research thoroughly, know your potential customers inside out, and build a plan with short-term and mid-term projections. Put down on paper a process that show your concept works, and that the risks will pay off.”

Trust your instincts

“If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. This is especially true when choosing a business partner, mentor or investor. Often I hear people say ‘I felt something wasn’t right about it, but I went ahead anyway’ – 99.99 per cent of the time, that’s when everything starts falling apart.”

Avoid talk of failure

“The start-up industry is driven by results and track record. Mistakes happen, yes, but failures – especially avoidable failures – will be held against you. Many people think there is a lot of money going around looking for new businesses to start and it doesn’t matter if you fail. But that is someone’s money. And it does matter.”

Don’t be discouraged

“Knockbacks are inevitable and some people will underestimate or look down on you. Take this as a challenge. Entrepreneurship is about believing in yourself and constantly pushing forward. I actually came to enjoy it when people looked down on me; it made me more determined to work harder and prove myself.”

  • Author Profile

    Serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and angel investor Ike Lee is a Silicon Valley veteran, helping to launch hundreds of successful start-ups and spearheading deals and IPOs worth several billion US dollars. He recently joined NUS Business School as an adjunct professor to advise and mentor Singaporean entrepreneurs.

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