How to Start-up in Adelaide, and End Up in Silicon Valley
Jindou Lee is the co-founder of Happy Inspector, a tech startup developing iPad apps for property managers. They take traditional pen and paper inspections and make them digital on tablet devices. He’s also the previous co-founder of mobile app development outfit Mighty Kingdom.
In the past, he has been a designer for websites, a user interface designer for PlayStation/Xbox games, avid property investor, passionate soccer player, he started a company selling fashion accessories and created a web development agency.
Jindou leads a team of a talented staff to develop mobile and digitally driven businesses. He brings a unique mix of talents integrating technological solutions with a business minded, entrepreneurial background. For over 11 years, Jindou has been a leader in digital strategy, online consulting and new business ventures.
In the following interview we wanted to find out how a former Adelaide resident, now successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur got started, kept going and about his career highlights.
Adelaide Tweet: How did you get the confidence to start in business?
Jindou Lee: I think there are 2 emotional drivers for any decision. 1) To avoid pain or 2) To seek pleasure. Getting into business stemmed from both. My first job working for a local web development agency was the catalyst of my “WHY.” It was the worse experience I have ever had. Working for people who you do not respect you and bully others made me very angry and bitter. It brought me to a very dark place in my life but it let me question a lot of things about life. It made me understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to run a company. My other job working at Ratbag Games gave me another perspective… I worked with people who gave me confidence to grow and express myself – it was tough but fair. Those experiences helped to shape why I went into business. I wanted to shape my own destiny and run a business the way I thought it should be done. Of course there is the usual “I can make more money/better decisions than my current situation” stuff as well.
Adelaide Tweet: Once you started, what keeps you going?
Jindou Lee: Running a business pushes you in every direction. You learn everything on the job. No two days are the same. When you smell success, it’s like a drug, you want more and more, not because you are greedy, but because of the whole idea that you are improving each day. When I have shit days (trust me… I always do!), I always think of the times when I was at that local web development agency and hated my life. Then, I realise that I have the best job in the world, working with amazing people at Happy Inspector.
Adelaide Tweet: Why is entrepreneurship right for you?
Jindou Lee: I’m not sure if it’s “right”. But if I had to summarise, I’d say it’s something that challenges me, pushes me and lets me grow every day. In turn, I get to work with my team to push them, support them and challenge them to become better people. We get to change/improve the lives of our customers – we get “thank you” letters all the time. Imagine if you went to work and did something you like, then at 9 am everyday, you get an email saying how happy a customer was and how our product has improved their life. That’s almost as rewarding as being a doctor!
Adelaide Tweet: To succeed, who do you need to avoid and what personality traits do you need or need to work on?
Jindou Lee: You need to work on yourself ALL the time. Always be humble, listen to others, discern what is right and wrong, then improve. First work on your mind, and then your emotions. There is a lot of internal dialogue that happens, and if you are not strong and positive, it gets to you. You end up making bad decisions, form bad relationships and then get karma catches up! Surround yourself with people who inspire you and keep you going. This may mean moving away from old friends, parents, a home, city, etc. For traits, you need to have balance. You need to passionate yet detached, stubborn yet flexible, crazy yet logical (I think this needs its own book!) Some things that annoy me are when I hear people saying “you are your own boss? That awesome cos you can do whatever you want!” This is plain ignorance. Don’t confuse entrepreneurship with laziness. If you want to be lazy, go on the dole.
Adelaide Tweet: Why is entrepreneurship important?
Jindou Lee: It’s important because it’s about constant improvement. Improvement of society, of people and of a process. It’s basic human instinct to be in constant evolution and in an ongoing state of finding oneself. Let me clarify that entrepreneurship is not a title, it’s a way of life. The best kind of workplace would be one that allows employees the liberty to be entrepreneurial in every aspect of their job. If we can achieve that, then that means, people don’t need to be “your own boss” to be an entrepreneur. And that is what we are trying to build at Happy Inspector.
Adelaide Tweet: Why should someone consider entrepreneurship over the perception of “stable employment?”
Jindou Lee: There is no such thing as stable employment unless you work for government. But really, working for government in a cushy job is just a slow death in my opinion. So the choice is not entrepreneurship vs stable employment. It’s really a question of giving enough of a shit to want to change something vs I’m comfortable and happy where I’m at. If someone has to ask the question, then they are not ready to make this life defining shift. When you are ready, you WILL be ready. It then becomes a matter of “when.”
Adelaide Tweet: What is the best way to get involved with entrepreneurship?
Jindou Lee: Just do it. Or work for someone who encourages an entrepreneurial environment.
Adelaide Tweet: If you started your entrepreneurial journey again, what would you have done differently?
Jindou Lee: A million things; I would have moved to Silicon Valley earlier, I would have started younger, I would have stood up for myself (and my co-workers) when I was working at that web development agency. I would have… lots of things but the point is to try everything quickly, fail early, and then learn. It’s the same saying: Shoot first, then aim, and then shoot again.
Adelaide Tweet: What are the highlights of being involved with Happy Inspector?
Jindou Lee: Meeting amazing people that inspire me every day: from working with the team, our list of awesome investors and advisors and with our amazing customers who remind us why we do what we do.
Adelaide Tweet: What “successes” have you had with Happy Inspector?
Jindou Lee: The biggest success is when we have new customers use Happy Inspector. This is the validation that it’s a worthwhile journey. I also get to see my team grow as people, get smarter and enjoy their work and life. That gives me immense pleasure.
Other highlights include being accepted in Startmate’s class of 2012, being part of the previous batch and portfolio company of Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, being a finalist at Australia’s premiere tech event Tech 23 ’12 and selected as the “New kids on the block” at Inman’s Real Estate Connect 2012.
Yes there is. Jindou is a mentor (remotely) at Venture Dorm, a practical startup entrepreneur’s education course coming out of Flinders Partners, the commercialisation company of Flinders University. The course includes a field trip to the startup hub of Austin, Texas in 2013. You can learn more here: http://www.venturedorm.com and by following @venturedorm on Twitter
Have questions for Jindou? Post them in the comments below!