'Real sin' is not learning from mistakes, CEO says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am

This year's Young Entrepreneur Award winner Yat Siu believes Hong Kong's budding businesspeople need to be bold, start young, persist and control their fears. 'Chances are that you will fail - a lot,' said the founder and chief executive of Outblaze. 'Learn from your mistakes and your failures, and you'll be getting good value out of the time and effort you've invested - regardless of the outcome.'

Founded in 1998, Outblaze is a privately held company with offices in Hong Kong, the United States and Britain. It provides premium e-mail and social media services to service providers, telecommunications operators, corporations, universities, and media and publishing companies and portals.

According to Outblaze, it services 76 million users across 480,000 domains, with its suite of services also including online scheduling, file sharing, and protection against spam, viruses and phishing.

Yat believes that the awards are important to the city because they recognise 'notable achievements across several industries, and highlight the vibrancy of the business scene in one of the world's business and finance capitals'.

More poignantly, an important change in the local business scene that he has observed is that young leadership at companies 'is more readily accepted and promoted'.

As for hardware, he also believes that the adoption of new business technologies in Hong Kong 'has greatly improved as professionals in the city have become somewhat more youthful and international' post-handover.

'During most of the 1990s, Hong Kong was a laggard in technology, adopting late and only when necessary,' Yat said. 'Thanks in part to the efforts of overseas returnees, Hong Kong has become an early adopter of technology. Its view of technology has shifted from consumer fascination to actual business use.'

He believes the next step for the local information technology (IT) industry is to 'strengthen its technological resources' and increase the rate at which it exports ideas, services and talent. 'Today, this city is still very much a consumer of technology. I think the example of Outblaze proves that Hong Kong can be a technology leader that provides IT services to the rest of the world.'

While he believes Outblaze has 'many strengths', he stressed its success was attributable to the hard work of his staff and a company culture that valued internationalism, openness, speed and nimbleness.

'Outblaze has always been able to adapt to global competitors, so we view change as an opportunity to learn new things, which in turn enables us to innovate,' he said. 'New technology pops up all the time and we need to be ready and willing to adapt quickly. We also have a culture of learning from our mistakes. No one likes to fail, but the real sin is if you do not learn from it.'

Outblaze's company culture is one of 'inclusion and learning from failed attempts is quite different from the mainstream Hong Kong approach about doing business, where hierarchy and performance are strict commandments.'

Yat believes that too much fear of making mistakes stifles free thought and innovation, 'which rapidly turns a business into a dinosaur'. Yat touted his persistence and ability to listen to and evaluate the ideas and concerns of others as his principal strengths as an entrepreneur. 'I consider myself an open-minded free thinker, always willing to consider new ideas, open to change, and very accessible throughout all of Outblaze's history.

'I have always tried to foster a culture of inclusion and involvement rather than a strict top-down management approach ... More importantly, I am always ready to accept that I might be the one with a bad or wrong idea, and someone else's might be right.'

He believes that all of Outblaze's leaders possess a 'creative sense', significant experience, and strong opinions about the future of a particular business or product. 'It's my job to put this incredible talent to work in an effective way that can be channeled to the general benefit of the company,' he said. 'I have to be able to work well with opposing ideas and thoughts, because people don't always agree.'

Being at the helm of the company, he tries to 'foster the skills, talents, and ideas' of others and then uses his own abilities to turn them into a success. 'That, and my persistence at this kind of work, are what I consider my greatest strengths.'