TenCube, 99.co and the mindset of an entrepreneur

Darius Cheung of tenCube and 99.co visited NUS today (19th October 2016) to give a talk and gave a heartfelt sharing on the psychology of an entrepreneur. He opened with a round of thanks for the audience in attendance and went on with a story about three masons.

A man met three masons. One seemed bored with his work, one seemed content, and one seemed very passionate. He asked the first mason what he was doing and the mason replied, “I’m laying a brick”. Then, he asked the second mason what he was doing and the second mason replied, “I’m earning a living”. At last he came to the last mason and again he asked what are you doing. This time the mason replied, “I am building a cathedral”.

I thought this analogy was revealing of the thoughts of Darius. Why would he share this analogy over so many others? I hazard a guess here. Perhaps he finds this analogy inspiring, and perhaps he uses this story as a reminder for his work at 99.co to focus on the vision of how his work will change lives.

He also goes on to talk about the importance of runways and getting things done in a short amount of time, as well as his view on risk, “I hate taking risks — but I prepare well and take them anyway”.

He talks about hardwork, comparing startups with banking and consulting and 80 hour work weeks, while simultaneously embracing a zero lives remaining attitude — everything you do in your startup determines its survival.

He then shares about focusing on the highest order bits — a homage to his roots from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of NUS, about focusing your efforts on the things that matter most, while still maintaining a culture of taking pride in your work. Just because you focus on the important things, does not in any way make for the excuse of neglecting the other areas.

He drops another analogy about bombers in World War II to illustrate how important it is to follow the data, in work and in startups. Engineers were required to put a piece of armour on bombers in order to increase their survival rates (only one additional piece could be added else the bombers would not be able to make trip back — insufficient fuel due to the extra weight). Initially they added the armour to the places with the most bullet holes. It didn’t work.

They then hypothesized that planes with the most bullet holes still managed to survive, so the armour should be placed on parts without bullet holes. Survival rates went up. They were right.

I could go on, but what really struck me was how humble the man was, patiently answering every question, and staying back after to answer more. Not just focusing on previous successes, but looking ahead to see how best to contribute to the future.

On a side note, if this post has got you interested, I do believe 99.co is hiring! Check them out at the links at the start, and here! (:

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