Playing to his own tune

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 August, 2010, 12:00am

Born and raised in Vienna, Yat Siu is a music major turned computer geek. The founder and CEO of Outblaze, a developer of cloud computing services for digital media and entertainment, started the first free Web hosting and e-mail provider in Asia. He is also a Web services pioneer in Hong Kong. His journey started by playing computer games.

Why did you switch from piano to computer?

I got my music degree for my musician parents. But after getting my first computer in the mid-1980s, I started playing computer games, writing codes and teaching myself programming. It's an area that truly interests me and gives me instant satisfaction.

How did you become an entrepreneur?

When I went to the United States to get formal training in computer science, the company I worked for declared bankruptcy and a bunch of laid-off programmers, including me, started a company which was later acquired.

How did your career develop in Hong Kong?

When my company sent me to Hong Kong in 1993, I found it difficult to get internet access, so I started internet service provider Hong Kong Online in an industrial building in Cheung Sha Wan. It was a disaster. It was expensive to run, and I found myself explaining to businessmen why e-mail was convenient and secure. Maybe I was too young, and my long hair didn't help convince them.

[Then] I created the first free webpage and e-mail provider in Asia, Hong Kong Cybercity, in 1996, to get people to start using the internet. That became a hit, but I was not making money. In 1998, I set up Outblaze.

Is it hard to set up a company?

That is the easy part. For a small firm, I have full control of its vision and direction. But when it gets bigger, there will be management, equipment and expansion problems. I will have to be more strategic with each step.

How do you spot trends?

Rather than creating something I think people would like, I create what I like and need. For example, we adopted an open-source Linux system in our enterprise services because it's cheap and we love it. However, it was hard to sell because it wasn't the trend. Now everyone goes open-source.

What is the secret of your success?

I tend not to give up. It's not good to dwell on mistakes, or be afraid of trying again. Commitment is also important.

Any tips for young people who want to be the next Bill Gates?

For both digital media and entrepreneurship, do it when you are young. You have nothing to lose and plenty of time to learn. You won't get business experience from school.


Career highlights

Named Global Leader of Tomorrow in 2002, and Young Global Leader in 2006 by the World Economic Forum

Young Entrepreneur of the Year, DHL/SCMP 2009 Business Awards

Director, Asian Youth Orchestra