Scale, Tech and Dictatorships — The Key to a Successful Startup

Keith Tan
August 1, 2016


“A company isn’t a democracy; it’s a benevolent dictatorship,” admits Ivan Chang, as we continue picking the Wonderlabs co-founder’s brain on entrepreneurship, strategy and success. “Remembering this is key for aspiring entrepreneurs as you’ll need to be able to manage your resources and people — who each have very different ideas and visions.”

(Further reading):


Scale, Tech and Dictatorships — The Key to a Successful Startup

But to Ivan, there are no more than two things that make or break a startup: the idea generation and the scaling up.

“The first is really finding that product-market fit. You’ve got to find something big enough to support a multi-million dollar business. Many entrepreneurs find the product-market fit but it’s often too small,” he says.

But what should aspiring startups do if it’s too small? Ivan suggests that they accept it and move on. “Sometimes a niche really is just a niche, and it’s too small to build a huge and scalable business — persistence in these cases might do more harm than good.” (see also Persistence is for Pussies!)

Once you’ve found a business that can be scaled accordingly, Ivan advises shifting your focus towards actually scaling it up, dealing with operational issues and fighting off competition. “This is the part that entrepreneurs tend to be less good at,” admits Ivan. “Scaling our tech team at Start Now was a clear example. We had absolutely no idea it would be that difficult to hire people in Singapore to write software. They were either inexperienced, or were just too darn expensive!”

Scale, Tech and Dictatorships — The Key to a Successful Startup

“This time, we know a lot better. And it shows: we've scaled up more than 100 times faster,” he says, describing Wonderlabs’ move to hire tech talent solely from Indonesia.

Is this exponential growth success to him, then? He pauses for a minute before admitting that he isn’t sure. “I am always thinking about where I've come from and the blessings that have helped me get here. That’s very important, to always look at what has been achieved as a success, and celebrate those successes.”

“But at the same time, I look at the successes that others have achieved, and I am hungry to achieve more.”

Scale, Tech and Dictatorships — The Key to a Successful Startup

But while his sights are set on future successes, Ivan is also deeply aware of the importance of giving back to the entrepreneurship community. He spearheaded SMUPreneurs, a group that promotes the business interests of SMU Alumni. “Going forward, we can expect bigger, better networking events in Singapore and around the world through the initiative. Our recent event in Hong Kong was an absolute blast and we had many of our alumni there join us for the event. It's amazing how far and wide our alumni goes!”


Last Word: If you want to know how you can access talent from Indonesia, find out more about our operating model:

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