In this segment of Lessons Learned, Bambi Francisco interviews Dennis Fong, founder of Raptr, a social platform where people can play games. Fong also started gaming company Xfire, which was sold to Viacom for $102 million in 2006.
BF: You've been an entrepreneur since you were 18 years old. You've started four companies that are venture backed and three out of the four are gaming companies. So please give us three pieces of advice to our entrepreneurial community.
DF: Number one would be speed is everything. I have a golden rule where every day when a deal or partnership does not close, there's a 10% less chance that it will get done. We follow this religiously especially when it comes to hiring. When we try to hire someone, we schedule them to meet the whole team and if they don't make it through the engineering candidates, we just stop the interview. If they make it through the whole day, we sit down and have a pow wow. And if they really qualify, I will try to close them. After they give me references, I will call the references that same night and make them an offer and give them until the next morning for an answer. We're about a 30-person company and we have a 100% acceptance rate at our company. So speed is everything. You can apply that to a business deal or anything else. Tip number two would be ideas are a dime a dozen. I don't think I've thought of a unique idea for a very very long time. Most ideas have already been talked about.
BF: There's nothing new under the sun.
DF: It always makes me laugh when people try to protect the idea and say their ideas are in stealth mode or they say they thought of eBay a while back. But what makes an entrepreneur are the ones that actually go and do it. This leads me to my third tip which is really about the team and execution. Because ideas are a dime a dozen and because speed is everything, you want to be able to put an idea out in the market quickly and if you have a great team, you can execute quickly. The Xfire idea from idea to launch took us four months. When you're seeing if you're failing or succeeding, then you continue to iterate. Keep iterating until you see success in your hands. You really need a killer team in order to execute on that.
BF: What about a failure? Can you give me specifics regarding a failure?
DR: I don't have a specific failure in mind. But I will say that I do fail everyday. But as a startup, if you're not failing in some capacity every single day, then you're not taking enough risks. It's the big companies that are afraid to take risks. It's up to us as startups to innovate and try crazy ideas that will work. If you're not constantly failing, then you're actually probably doing something wrong. So don't be afraid to fail.
BF: Living through the boom and the bust, what would be the one piece of advice that you would give startups during these tough times?
DF: I actually started two companies in the downturn kind of nuclear winter market. Xfire we started in 2003 and Lithium in 2001. We were fortunate to get funding because we had a great team. But it's really about watching the bottom line. In times like these, it's really about survival. You cannot just prove yourself but you need to prove yourself in a big way. Don't get too aggressive; just be conservative.
BF: All great pieces of advice. Thanks so much, Dennis.