Taking a break from serving as a firm-but-fair judge of our Startup Arena contenders here in Jakarta, Daniel Saito (pictured above) now sits down with our own blogger, Charlie, to discuss his entrepreneurial life and journey. Daniel is director of sales at SkySQL, the database solutions company which was spun off from MySQL.
#16:09: “Most of my career is checkered with startups, whether they succeeded or failed,” begins Daniel. One of his first grew to be Netscape browser, and with that one of tech’s first IPOs. Then moving to Japan, he helped kick into life the Japanese web business. “There was no such thing as venture capital back then,” and so it was tough to persuade banks to provide financial backing.
#16:11: On his FBI run-in, Daniel admits that he was a hacker as a 15-year old, and was caught and slapped “with a heavy fine … but no jail time.” He points out he did no harm.
#16:12: So what’s a hacker? He says it’s someone “with a passion” and that these hacks – but not “cracks” in the illegal sense – are innovative and now, finally, embraced by startups of all sizes, right up to Facebook.
#16:13: He sold his Japanese ISP for $50 million back then, just before the first tech bubble burst. And that’s when he lost a lot, having taken shares as his exit booty. “And so it was back to work,” Daniel says.
#16:14: On selling MySQL for a billion dollars to Sun Microsystems in 2008, he says that was the point – in 2008 – where he was asked to bring his spin-off company, SkySQL, to Asia. But the exit to Sun caused a lot of people to leave, some of whom went on to form MariaDB. Daniel stayed on for eight months after the Sun takeover, but then took the core team “to replicate the core business literally overmight” in then forming SkySQL.
#16:17: MySQL’s success was, in large part, due to its basis on open source server infrastructure. He says that the Japanese social network Mixi was his first customer in the nation, as well as a great believer in the company and open source.
#16:19: Should a billion dollars be the goal for startups now? “Building a good product should be the priority … a product that people find value in it.”
#16:20: Any mistakes on his entrepreneurial journey? He says that hiring is key, and to keep a good corporate culture, one where the team can believe in themselves and have good communication. Often, he says, startups that lack all that tend to fail.
“It’s a lot about the interaction” between teammates, relying on one another for things to get done, “Hackathons build great culture. Facebook does this well, and Google with its 80/20 system – not sure if they still do that.”
#16:22: The term serial entrepreneur “is overplayed,” says Daniel. “You don’t call an artist a ‘serial artist’” because entrepreneurs always want to create things, especially if it’s in their blood.
#16:23: SkySQL has a team of 13 in Indonesia, and he finds the country “is a great place for innovation,” and there are “significant downloads of our binaries” because they want to download things for free and put it to use. It’s helpful, he says, that it’s bilingual – well, among the tech community as a whole.
#16:25: How about pitches? He’s going to be hearing a lot more when the second part of our Arena continues later this afternoon. He says that a startup must be disruptive and innovative – and that’s really the only way to stand out and grab the attention of investors. Plus, passion is noticeable and attractive to investors among founders – someone who ploughs in their own money, can pivot or do anything so as to ensure a launch.
This is a part of our coverage of Startup Asia Jakarta 2012, our startup event running on June 7 and 8. You can follow along on Twitter at @startupasia, on our Facebook page, on Google Plus, or via RSS.
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