Episode 99 -Alex Qi: Building A Business From Your Core Passions

Alex Qi was brought up in an entrepreneurial family and environment, growing up in one of the biggest tech hub in north America. One could say that he had the support, the background and the means to be successful early in life. But having a good background wasn’t the only reason of his success, but a lot of it is a result of his hard-work, building meaningful relationships and discovering his innate passion allowing him to explore things that he can do business about.

 

In this episode, Alex shared his valuable insights on how to start a business, how to form an idea by the help of networking, and what you need to possess to be able to be a valuable asset to a company. Learning about how his company, Mercku, was founded and became successful will also give us an idea on how a company’s culture plays a great role in its success.

 

Here’s What You Missed

 

  • How your environment will impact you, but more so the mindset that you live with
  • How luck plays a role in your success, but more so the hard-work and sacrifice that you put into it
  • How you could start a business without foregoing your main job at the beginning
  • How building meaningful relationships and keeping in touch will help you in building or being a part of a business
  • How to discover your core passion and find opportunities around it

 

 

Knowledge Nuggets

 

 

[3:02] When you are surrounded with people with great ideas, it will shape your entrepreneurial dreams. People around you and the environment that you are brought up with will have an impact on you, one way or the other. You cannot choose in which place or community you are born in, but later in life, you will have the power to decide what kind of ideas, of culture and what kind of people you will let to influence you.

 

[7:16] Enjoy experiences early on life. There is a saying that experience is the best teacher. If you are going through apprenticeship right now, or you are taking roles that you know you may not find yourself doing in the next few years, do not take for it granted. Embrace the experience, learn from it, and build meaningful relationships with the people you work with.

 

[11:34] Luck may play factor in a success, but hard-work plays the most part. Hard-work is a drive that you learn over time, from your mentor, from your colleagues or from the results that you get from your work. Success will look flashy front-end but it will take a lot sacrifice on the back-end.

 

[16:37] If you are starting a business, it does not necessarily mean you have to forego everything. Some started their business as a side hustle. Just like how we spend a lot of time with our hobbies, we can spend the hours after our main job to work on our business at the beginning.

 

[22:15] Building a team or being a part of one is about networking. Talk to people and start networking, get involved in local agencies, be active in a community you are a part of. Good opportunities may arise of you’ve networked for it in a while.

 

[29:02] More than the experience, companies look at the candidates’ characteristics if they align with the company’s culture. Because the experiences, roles, and tasks can be learned over time, if you have the right attributes.

 

[33:03] Find what your are passionate about at the core and explore things around it. This is one way of discovering an idea, an avenue and entrepreneurial aspirations that you could dive into. If you understand your passion, it’s not hard to go after it.

 

Important Reads and Links

 

Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen

 

https://www.mercku.com/

 

Connect with our guest

 

[email protected]

 

Alex Qi LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/alexqi

 

 

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Click Here for a full transcript of this episode:

This is an automated transcript done through Descript.

DN99 – Alex Qi Recording

Casanova Brooks: [00:00:00] What’s up Dream Nation back again with another episode for you. And I’m hoping that right now, for the last two, three weeks, we’ve all been quarantined. We’ve all been trapped up in the house, but I’m hoping that you have found a way to go after your dreams, go after your goals, and to just take action.

Which is what we talk about every single day. And so today on the line, we have someone who has been able to do just that. And I’m very fascinated by what he’s been able to build in with this company, and I’m excited to learn more about it. So without further ado, please help me welcome mr Alex squee to the dream nation podcast.

Alex, is it quick? Is that the right way to say it?

Alex Qi: [00:00:42] It’s a, it’s pronounced Chi like Tai Chi. G.

Casanova Brooks: [00:00:44] Okay. Mr Alex Chi to the podcast. So without further ado, please help me welcome Alex. Alex, do you want to go ahead and say what’s up to dream nation?

Alex Qi: [00:00:55] Yeah. I’m really excited to talk to you guys. I’m really excited to talk to you as well.

And, you know, I think there’s a lot of really cool content that you guys have put online and, you know, I’m excited to be a part of that. that story that you’re building and really looking forward to giving back to, to the audience and sharing some of the insights from, from my side.

Casanova Brooks: [00:01:13] Yeah, well, we’re excited as well.

One thing that I always like to do is I like to start off with the proper introduction, and so I always think of us as entrepreneurs just like superheroes, and what do I mean by that? I mean, we’re constantly putting on a Cape. We’re flying around and we’re trying to solve different problems for different people in the world.

And so I’d like to think before, Your company has been featured in everything from Business Insider to Market Watch and all of these big, big, major publications showing how much value that you’ve been able to bring to the market before all of that, if we can even take it a step back. So when you were just a young boy, tell me, who is Alex Qi?

Alex Qi: [00:01:54] Well, I think I’m still a young boy. I don’t think I’m, I’m not old yet. as something like that, but, but I think, yeah, so, you know, growing up, you know, in Waterloo, Ontario, which was a, about an hour from Toronto and, you know, growing up, well, the biggest company in Canada was based here, Blackberry. And there was a lot of really great technology coming out of it.

And you can kind of, you know, are growing up in that mindset and in that bubble where you’re hearing all these stories all the time. You know, it’s what I imagined, you know, New York city and what I imagined kind of, you know, London, Silicon Valley, all these tech hubs in the world. What that feels like as well, where you’re kind of immersed in this culture and the culture is always around.

I mean, you know, you, you know this Casanova as well, right? I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, the culture is always around. You can do anything that you’re putting your mind into it. And I think that type of mindset growing up is really. Inspiring in a lot of ways. And you know, Waterlo is definitely a small bubble. I think 2007 or 2008, one of those years, it was, we’re rated the most intelligent city in the world.

So you’re surrounded by all these people who have a really, you know, sharp minds and really big ideas. And, you know, that’s ultimately, A really. A really good, you know, sculpting, a sculpting method to shape kind of your entrepreneurial dreams as well. I would have never thought this was possible, but I didn’t surround myself with a lot of people who’ve already been there and done not and done a lot of bigger things as well.

So. I think that was, that was a really cool experience.

Casanova Brooks: [00:03:26] Got it. And I love it. So for you, when you first got in, to deciding that you wanted to do your own thing, cause did you ever work for anyone else or have you always been somebody that’s kind of been, I’m a start my own thing. I’m gonna start my own company.

Maybe this is your third or fourth company. Talk to me about what was that like when you first got started? Did you start a job or did you already have a company.

Alex Qi: [00:03:48] Yeah, that’s a great, that’s a great question. you know, back in school, we had, we’ve got these core programs and we got a chance to work with, you know, companies as an experience.

I think that was something that the good that a university of Waterloo did, where, you know, well, you’re in school all the time, right? And so instead of, instead of going home and playing video games all summer, not that I didn’t do that, but you know, we, we got a chance to work in companies and do these types of terms as well.

I believe it was my third term that I worked for. you know, this guy named Fred and he, he’s all, you know, he’s based on Waterloo. He Does these, you know, pre-compliance testing chambers? It sounds really technical, but when I think about it is, it’s like a, it’s like a practice exam for the final exam, right?

So. You know, every device that goes to market, it has to pass through these final compliance testing, processes. But you want to make sure that your device or your cell phone or your tablet or GPS device is ready. you know, before he goes to these compliance testing processes. So he got a company that did the, he had the kind of build these big chambers that, you know, that, that, that test of these devices and, you know, they were so, they were so powerful that he built one in his garage out of it.

Basically balsa wood and pink Panther drywall, styrofoam that, you know, that performed better. Then, you know, the, the, the aluminum and steel boxes in the industry, like he was the best performing chamber in the industry, despite of the fact that it’s made out of balsa wood. It would be like, Casanova, You and I built a car over the weekend that had better fuel efficiency than a BMW.

Right. It was crazy what he was doing. And, and, I’ve always a lot of those technologies. It’s around, you know, creating more accurate, better, faster, you know, better and faster testing processes. So, yeah, I mean, I, w I worked with, in my third year at university, I stuck around, you know, part time as well during school.

And. you know, worked with them in China for about a year and it was a really great experience. And when I left that company, you know, they, they just sold their first, you know, 10 chambers, I believe at that point. And these are big chambers. I mean, these are like these, you know, you can see those like torture chambers, some of those movies.

It’s not, not so horrific, but it’s definitely that size. We get a couple of people in there. So, you know, at that time, you know, sold about 10, and you know, it was, it was really kind of growing company at that point. But then I was like 21-22 right. I like the part, like a lot of the listeners here, I think it was at a point where I’m like, okay, let’s, let’s find an actual job, whatever that means.

Right? So I did go into consulting for about four years. And, you know, left that the company and that company today, I mean, they’re making hundreds of millions every year and they’re going about to IPO and a couple of years they’re doing very well for, for where they are. So as you can probably tell, I left at the perfect time.

I left, right, right. When they’re about to take off. And, you know, there’s no obvious, there’s all resentment towards any of that stuff because Fred and I are working together today on Mercku. And he’s, you know, the one that’s, our primary investor in the company. So, you know, I have a chance to connect with them over the years.

And, you know, he’s definitely a smart and sharp guy. But when you’re asking about the first experiences, that’s a really cool thing for a, you know, for a third year university student to get involved with, right. A company that’s doing some crazy stuff in engineering, and, you know, it was. I’m monologuing a little bit, but it’s definitely cool.

Casanova Brooks: [00:07:15] So you always knew that you wanted to be a creator or engineer, I mean here or did you get forced into it? Do you feel like,

Alex Qi: [00:07:23] No, I don’t think anybody is forced into it. I mean, maybe there are some people that’s forced into it, but I think most people I think are generally, you know, at a player life where they’re like, okay, I have this stable job I’m making, you know, a stable salary.

I can see my future for the next four or five years. But. There’s always like this itch that you want it to scratch, right? There’s always this thing that you’re like, okay, what if I can build, you know, a big company, whatever. Not even for financial purposes, but what if I can just, you know, have an impact on other people’s lives.

And I think as any entrepreneur will say, like their products that they’re putting out there, you know, we have Mercku who had the same type of mindset as well, like it’s nice to sell your product, but the nicest thing about that process is hearing the customer’s feedback. And, you know, we sell wifi, right? So we do a lot of other things as well.

the wifi is definitely one of the main things that we focus on. And  you wouldn’t believe like the, the internal gratification of, you know, of talking to a customer where they’re like, okay, before we were barely getting, you know, we’re barely getting even a Skype call across and now we’re streaming like, you know, multiple 4k.

You know, video streams in our house. And that’s just been a big change. And I think growing up, we’ve all dealt with conductivity issues. We all dealt with different issues. So the real kind of, you know, positive energy from it is from the fact that your customers are giving you that feedback. And I think that’s where, you know, Casanova you, you asked, okay.

If this was something that we’re forced into or what kind of, we kind of brought about it. It’s, it’s really about the environment as well. And I think growing up, you know, my family is very entrepreneurial and, and I think, you know, the environment was very entrepreneurial. I remember, you know, as like even a, a 16 year old kid, you know, going to, going to Niagara falls, which is near Buffalo with my, with my uncle for a trip.

Yeah. And just, you know, being in the, being in the hotel room with them and he’s saying, you know, which university are you going to? And I was like, the University of Waterloo. And I’m really excited. He’s like, why are you going to university just drop out, go do a business.

Right? It’s just, it’s just like everybody around you is, has that mindset. And I think that’s where, you know, you’re, you’re kind of brought up in that mindset where, you know, nothing’s really, you know, out of nothing’s really impossible. And I think you yourself are a really great story, right. I think, you know, you have.

It’s an inspiring story, yourself in a sense that you kind of started Dream Nation. and, and you have all these followers, you have all these followings and, and you’re doing quite well. And I think, you know, I’m sure you have an equal kind of support around you where you’re like, okay, nothing’s really impossible. If I really put my mind to it.

Casanova Brooks: [00:10:03] Yeah. No, and I love that you brought that up when people always ask me, you know, with all of the tragedy and you know, big adversity, things that I’ve went through, I think it was instilled in me at a young age, even though I never had resources or financial literacy. My mom and grandma always told me that, listen, you can do anything that you want to do if you put your mind to it, which is just like what you said.

Now, of course, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it came a lot of trial and error. And then I think throughout that process, everyone learns, more importantly what they don’t like, but of course they’re going to learn what they do like. But I think in life, so much of the time we are struggling to figure out.

What we do like, but we’re still doing the things that we don’t like. And I think that’s where most of our frustration came, comes in at. And I think that it’s cool that early on you found that you liked engineering, and then on top of that you had a mentor that allowed you in your third year to really go off and explore that.

And then it just seemed like it was off to the races for you. So I always say that there’s a little bit of luck in everything, and it sounds like, you know, you had some good luck on your side. Absolutely. I think that’s a big part of it. And I think, you know, I think people, sometimes don’t discount how much of a factor luck plays into it, but I think a lot of it is also hard work.

Alex Qi: [00:11:23] I mean, you know, I wasn’t an engineering, Oh, I didn’t have an engineering background. And, you know, still today I’m learning a lot from my team and their engineering expertise. You know, I’ve, I have more of a business background. I’m more of a marketing background.

But, with that project, I was just this, the scrappy intern.

And I remember Fred at that time, the company wasn’t very big, right? We’re talking and we’ve only sold 10 chambers. We’re making probably like, you know, not even half a million a year. And, and he, he’s employing like, you know, 10 to 15 people. At that time, it was a very small company still. I remember this guy used to work until four or 5:00 AM, and I think that.

And then I remember driving home with him because I mean, as that’s, you know, basically I was his intern and I was his assistant and you know, driving home and it was, you know, you can see the sun coming up and there’s no cars on the road because it’s literally 4:00 AM. And then he goes to me, he’s like, okay, so tomorrow we’ll go to the office at nine.

And I’m like, dude, like I’m tired. He’s like, how about this? He’s like, you can get extra a few hours of sleep and. You know, I’ll go, I’ll go to the office first. So it’s just that drive that you learn over time. And you know, that was probably the last time that I, yeah, that took an extra couple hours. I, I’ve been with them ever since, but I think that it’s a whole thing about, sometimes, you know, it’s not about a workaholic culture, but I think it’s like a wave.

 

Replacing the 9-5 as an Entrepreneur

 

There’s low points of that wave where you can have a little bit more free time. You can have a little bit more time to spend your friends family and do different things. But then there’s also these high points where it’s a little bit more crazy of a deadline. I’m sure. You know, w with the Dream Nation podcast and your company Casanova, there’s a lot of moments of, of, of high tide and low tide as well, where you’re not really working nine to five.

Sometimes you’re working like a nine to three, right? But sometimes you’re working like a nine, nine to five, but it’s like 5:00 AM so I think it really is. yeah. It’s lucky to be able to work with them for sure. But it’s also very inspiring to see that, you know, he has a lot of expertise. He’s a very skilled engineer, but really, you know, what made them special was the, was the fact that he could work harder when you needed to work hard or work smart, winning to work smart.

And then that’s really, you know, lucky to have that experience. I think not a lot of people get to have that experience.

Casanova Brooks: [00:13:41] Yeah. I think that’s a great point that you bring up as well, because when we all decide that we want to start our businesses, right, and anybody listening to this, if you’re thinking about you’re going to start a business and now is obviously a great time because there has been so much funding and relief that you could probably get ahold of of now that you, you couldn’t have.

You know, six months, 12 months ago, or even previously. But for anybody that’s thinking about starting a business, most of the time you get in and you’re only thinking, Oh, I can’t wait to my business hit six figures or seven figures or eight figures. But it’s hard once you first get in and you’re starting to see that hey, it requires so much sacrifice.

And if you’ve not had someone like a Fredd or a mentor in your life that’s expose you to those 14-16-18 hour days, then you’re like, man, like no one ever said this part, right? Because the Instagram and the flash and the social media, that all looks great, but there’s. Work that has to be done on the back end.

And if you do not have a team of nine, 12-15 people and important, more importantly, if you do not have the right systems and delegation and process, you essentially become the assistant. You become the everything, and now you burn yourself out way faster than you should have. So it’s great that you had that exposure.

and that’s what I’m hearing you say. So I appreciate you bringing that up because for somebody, they need to hear that to saying like, Hey, maybe I need to go find some mentor, somebody who’s in a space that I would love to be in.

Alex Qi: [00:15:07] Yeah. And I think also, you know, to your point as well though, yeah, the listeners here in Dream Nation as a, as a whole, and you know, a lot of people need to start.

A new venture or they start not even a company, but they start a new project or whatever they may be working on something else. And I think you know, you, you, yourself and your listeners, I’m sure are familiar with John legend story. The guy was working, you know, before he was a, he’s got an ego and he’s a, he’s a Grammy winning artists.

You know, he was a consultant at BCG and he’s there for a little bit and okay. In consulting myself for a little bit. I know that the hours sometimes could be a little bit tough, right? You’re looking at probably not your average nine to five either. but you know, he would go home and he would work on his music, you know, after work.

And it was his passion and it was something that he really, you know, love to do. And you know, for him. I think, you know, he had a business, he had like a, a main kind of earning, you know, a job that earned the money. But he also had this passion for music and he ended up being really successful, obviously, and he’s done really well.

But if you’re starting a business, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to, you know, forego everything in your life to do it. You could, you know, do it as your hobby. And, you know, we spend a lot of time on our hobbies, you know, a lot. You spend a lot of time on their hobbies. And I think if you really kind of love what you’re doing.

It doesn’t necessarily turn it into a job. Even with Mercku these days, you know, we, we still have moments where we’re about to, you know, pitch a client or, you know, go somewhere and do something. And, you know, the night before we can’t, we can’t sleep. We’re just too excited. So even a couple of weeks ago, during this quarantine, we had a couple of calls that we needed to be on and a couple of things that we needed to get done and we just couldn’t sleep.

Even if we had some downtime, we couldn’t sleep because. You know, it doesn’t feel like it necessarily always work. You’re working, you know you’re working, so to speak, in a team. Yeah. These guys are your teammates, so you guys are just there to accomplish a goal. I don’t think that’s very different than any other team, right?

If you’re, if you’re on a baseball team, a football team, basketball team, which has a bunch of people together working hard to achieve a goal, think about it like that in mindset. It doesn’t really feel like work. Right? And it feels like that you’re doing something together. I love it. I love it. And talk to me about Mercku because this right here is something that is highly, highly needed as we’ve already discussed.

But how did you come up with this idea? How did you, where did this problem arise from that you felt the need to solve. Yeah. So, so I, I really can’t take credit for, for coming up with a lot of technologies. I would love to say that I did. but really the truth is that we have a really strong founding team that, that had a lot more experience than me on the engineering side of things.

But we basically saw a need in the industry, and you know, in today’s time, in 2020. You know, 75% of people have connectivity issues in the home on a weekly basis. Right. And about one third of the U S population has connectivity issues on a daily basis. So people are having a lot of continuity issues. I’m sure a lot of your listeners are hearing this and they’re like, Oh, you know, yeah, that basement, you know, that basement on the office that I have or that you know, upstairs bedroom corner, I just can’t get wifi there.

Like it’s 2020 we’re still having a lot of these issues. And you can imagine back in 2018. It was even more prevalent of a, of a problem. So, you know, when we looked at it, we were like, okay, so there’s this problem, obviously. Yeah. You know, what causes conductivity issues? What causes a lot of these, you know, problems in the household?

Is it because the devices are not, are not powerful enough? maybe, but in a lot of cases it’s because every house is like a snow, like, right. If you’re, and that, and that’s a lot of the challenges with engineering, is that right? You’re getting something that needs a fit, everybody, right? That’s why for anybody listening who’s developed like an app, for example, the iOS platform, your development just for, for Apple products, which is, you know, and a finite number of products.

We’ve been developing Android, you gotta look at all these different, you know, screen size of the phone size in generations. And you know. Everybody’s got that everybody, right. So, you know, a home and wifi is not that much difference. Every home is different and every home has different structures. And that’s why things don’t always work out the way they work out.

So when we looked at this problem, like, okay, let’s, let’s look at this, but let’s make like a modular solution so that it’s, it can be more like a glove. It doesn’t need to have just one access point or two access points. It can have 10 access points. I think it fit a lot of our homes. But then again, we’re always like, okay, people don’t have a lot of money to spend on wifi.

You know, like, it’s not a, it’s not a product where, you know, especially given the current situation, right, with unemployment, with, you know, financial pressure, that a lot of are facing, you know, we, we want to make sure that we have a product that’s, you know, really modular, really powerful, but at the same time that it could be more ubiquitous.

So we had a lot of those kind of, you know. Things to overcome, things to think about. And, and then, like I said at the F, you know, at the beginning, like we had a strong team. Like we have a team, like our founding team has, between all of them, you know, 480 patents in telecommunications. Like, I think most companies in the world don’t have 480 patents.

And these are big patents too. Like some of them are, like, for example, you know, one of the, one of the main founders on the team, he invented the modern smartphone antenna. So every smartphone in the world uses some iteration of his design. So we had a good, we had a really good, engineering team. We had a need in the market, and I think that’s a lot easier.

and, and, and to your previous one Casanova, that’s probably a lot of luck as well. Right. So just to get into that situation. Yeah. So I definitely can’t take credit for, for the engineering power that we did as a team. I will, I will say is that we’re a very cohesive team. we have a lot of people who doesn’t mind doing a lot of the administrative work or a lot of the dirty work to get things done.

You know, no matter, no matter the title that they have on their business card.

 

Casanova Brooks: [00:21:07] Got it. I love it now for somebody who’s listening right now and they say, Oh man, that’s great Alex, but if I wanted to to be a part of a team like this, or be a part or even start a team like this, like where do I start? Did you, did the idea, was the idea brought to you?

Did you bring the idea to someone else? Like how did you even start to form this team? Was it you who formed the team or you just got lucky enough that they gave you a call because of your business and marketing mindset?

Alex Qi: [00:21:34] Yeah. So I think for, for Mercku’s perspective. You know, we were, we already had something that we were working on, on the software side.

And we, it’s all about networking, right? So we got to know Fred over the, I mean, I’ve known this guy since 2005. It’s not even earlier. So this was like 15 years ago. I started working with them 2007 so that’s 13 years ago. So, It’s a lot of networking as well. But what I will say is a lot of companies lack talent and they’re still looking for talent.

I wouldn’t say lack an as in, they don’t have talent, but lack talent has, they could really use more talent. Right. And I think Mercku, who is in the exact same stage right now, like we’re also trying to hire for many different roles. And. We would love to find really eager, you know, hardworking, wanttrepreneurs or want to be entrepreneurs to work with us.

And it’s really just a matter of, you know, talking to people or, or getting involved with a lot of, you know, local agencies. I know in Toronto there’s a lot of resources because Toronto is more of a tech hub. but I know that, you know, a lot of places in the U S and the world have their own tech. So, you know, if you’re interested in getting into this space, really go and start networking, talking to people, because everybody needs every company, no matter how big or small, always needs really good talent, right?

And so, and really good towns, hard to find. So I think, you know, in our case, you know, we were, we were, we’re already working on a few different things and we’ve known Fred for a while and Fred was working on a project that he wanted to kind of combine with what we were working on, on our side. Because in 2014, you know, I, I was supposed to do my MBA. I was accepted. I was supposed to be shipped off to there. And I am taking that time to start a business instead. Maybe I thought it was my uncle’s advice to me at 17 and Niagara falls. what I was doing that, but, but I really think that, you know, from our side, we had that opportunity because we’ve networked for, for a while.

And I would say that’s a really important part of it. And, you know, even with Dream Nation, you know, you guys have so many, followers, subscribers and stuff, it would be really great. There is a community among them. Right? Hey, you know, I’m a Dream Nation podcast listener, you’re a Dream Nation podcast listener.

Tell me about your business idea, right? And maybe I’m, maybe I can help you. Maybe I can in, you know, do different things. I mean, that’s how communities form. And I think communities is really at the heart of, you know, the entrepreneurial mindset.

 

Casanova Brooks: [00:23:57] Yeah. No, I love that you said that. It’s all about the relationships.

It’s all about the networking because it’s so is, and when people ask me, you know, how have I been able to get these guests? How have I been able to get high level guests just like you on the show, right? It’s first about the outreach, but then it’s about building a relationship while you’re present in that moment.

And then it’s about staying connected. And if I heard you correctly, you said you first met Fred in 2005 you guys built a relationship and then you started working with him in 2007. So again, it was just that time of forming that relationship. And so I love that you brought that part up.

As far as when you say so many companies are looking for talent, because this is all about finding opportunities, right?

And going after our dreams and living a life by our design. Right? But we got to take action. So when you say that, I’m sure myself included, we’re always looking like, well, what are the, what are companies looking for? You said young talent. What is some of the areas or fields that may be, if somebody is listening right now that they could try to capitalize on that?

Is there a specific one that you would say, Hey, if you can find talent in this, like maybe it’s marketing, maybe it’s you know, engineers solely, or something like that, and you can bring that to companies like ours. You’re going to have a very lucrative career. Is there any one area that you would think of.

Alex Qi: [00:25:17] I wouldn’t say there’s one area. I think that’s the, the war on talent. It’s, it’s so difficult to do, right? Especially when you’re a startup. So for a company, so for startup companies, it’s a challenge. And for people looking for that, it’s also challenged. I wish there was a better way out there, so maybe I’m throwing a business idea out there for everybody, but that’s what we’re trying to uncover.

But I think that’s honestly a big issue. Like if you look at Airbnb, like those guys didn’t hire their first employee for like eight months or something, right? Because the, because when you have a thousand people and you bring on someone on board, and maybe they’re not the best fit for the culture you make of hiring mistake, everybody does that.

But if you’ve got a thousand people, it’s not going to be a big issue. But if you have five people right, or you have 10 people, then it’s a giant issue because that person has it as a significant impact on the, on the company. So, you know, hiring at a very early stage, it is very challenging, the fact that you had to find the right person.

And you know, we always, you know, say internally, and I actually thought it was kind to some of my mentors and then in the space as well, and they’re giving the same feedback. Is that. You never regret. passing on a candidate. And I think that’s kind of weird to hear because in sports, you definitely don’t have that same mindset.

I’m sure you know the Portland trailblazers, we’ll go back in time and you know, draft, Michael Jordan, right? But they didn’t do that. Right. They would regret doing that. That was the company. You will never really have that regret. I mean, you have some talent that you’re like, Oh damn, I wish we’d gotten this person, or this person’s great.

We should, we should have brought her on board. But you know, there’s. A lot of different reasons why you didn’t do that. And I think a lot of times as a company, you know, I don’t think you’d go on those regrets. The people that we’ve, that we brought on board that are ultimately, you know, leaders in this company.

When we brought them on board, there was not any issues with them. Not anythings that we felt like it was misaligned with the culture. And that’s our view, of course, right? They go to another company. There might be cultural misalignments. it doesn’t mean that we’re always, you know, we’re, our culture is always the same as other companies.

But to your point about on the other side, if I’m a job seeker, right? If I’m trying to fine, I’m trying to find, you know, a position either in a startup or in a growing company. I just really think about bringing it down to basics. I think a lot of times with startups, you’re not doing one specific function.

especially in, in the early stage, you’re not going into a company where you’re like, okay, I’m going to be a digital marketer and only do Facebook advertisements, and that’s going to be my job. Like, you’re probably just doing that, but you’re going to be doing a bunch of other things. Right. And I think, you know, it’s really about, so we have Mercku who has three cultural pillars that we always emphasize, and it’s different for every company.

And you know, the cultural pillars for us is. You know, hard work, persistence. the second one is teamwork, collaboration. And the third one is critical thinking. And it’s, it’s very easy to obviously say those things, but it’s very hard to put those things into practice, as any entrepreneur would attest.

So I think. From our view. Those are the things that we really look for. I don’t really care personally. If you have like 10 years of experience in digital marketing, if you’re a smart, hardworking, and collaborative person, you know, we love to have you on board. I think that’s a mindset for most companies because these things you’ll, you know, you’ll learn over time.

But if you’re an engineer, obviously is a little bit different because you have to be able to develop these things. And of course, you know, you learn through those things. So for engineer, for our engineering hirings, we do do a little bit more of a technical assessment on top of these three things. but to your point, I mean, you know, I’m sure you know, with, with the, you Casanova, you guys have brought on a lot of really talented and collaborative people to your team at Dream Nation.

And you know when they joined, they may not have been that  experienced. Or they might have been, I don’t know. I don’t want to speak for you. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Casanova Brooks: [00:29:12] So I have multiple companies, but talking about just Dream Nation, it did start out like a family that, you know, there wasn’t a lot of experience and part, partly because just like any other startup, you don’t have a lot of capital.

This is kinda like a passion project, but you know that you’re trying to run a business here. So we started as more like a family. but then quickly we understood that, Hey, we really have. An opportunity to grow this thing. So we got to focus on systems and we got to focus on just like you said, collaboration and culture.

And so I’ve been very fortunate that my team has just, they bought into the vision early on and, and we all are working towards the same goal, to empower and inspire people to, you know, go after their dreams. But at the end of the day, they have to take action. And so that’s what I love that I’m hearing from you and, and, seeing from you and Mercku, that’s kind of a tongue twister, but luckily I got it.

But, yeah, this is, this is phenomenal, man. the one thing. That I want to kind of wrap up and ask is for somebody out there that’s very inspired, maybe they’re a up and coming entrepreneur. maybe they’re actually just an engineer, but they’re thinking that they, you know, are ready to exit that company because they don’t know that that company is going to go on and do all these other things.

They’re just thinking about where they are right now, but they have this little voice in their head that maybe tells them that they’re not smart enough. They don’t have the Fred mentor. They’re not strong enough. What’s the one thing that you say to that person to get them to just take action?

Alex Qi: [00:30:41] It’s a very good question and I love to ask, you know.

The people that we have at Mercku. Who about that question as well? I think I’m going to pose in the next team meeting here. It’s going to steal your, I’m gonna steal your question, but it’s fantastic. And the way that that is, like what does that first step look like? Like why did you take that first step?

So for the entrepreneurs that that’s already kind of done that, like what was there reasoning for that first step? Right. And I think, I think it’s a, it’s a very. Difficult question because it does vary person by person. I think there was something that came out a while ago, where they did a little bit of a study around, you know, successful entrepreneurs that we see in our lives, right?

So, you know, like Bill Gates or. You know, they threw some names that like, you know, Larry Ellison and Michael Dell and all these different things. Steve jobs, people that we think about, you know, back in the eighties and nineties, that ultimately became the biggest company today. you know, how they got their start, they found that they actually have a lot of safety nets and these guys didn’t come from backgrounds where, you know, they were kind of struggling.

They’re kind of, you know, you know, you know, living day by day, they’ve already have like a strong kind of family kind of connection and stuff like that. So for them to take that first step, it wasn’t actually that much risk. Because if they didn’t do well, they can always go back to whatever they were doing before.

Right? So I do think that this question probably varies very differently, person by person. And especially in Covid-19 situation where everybody’s kind of losing their jobs and everybody’s kind of like Jim crusher, from many different avenues. But what I would say about, you know, the entrepreneurship journey as, as if I can give like a.

Give one answer for this is just find something you’re passionate about. I think also delve into what you’re really passionate about at the core, right? So I could be, so I can say to you, for example, this is not true. I could say like, I love carpentry. Like I really like making like these, you know, you know, sculptures out of wood and things like that.

And you know. But maybe my passion isn’t around that. My passion is really, really around creating, creating art or creating something that, that has, you know, has a realistic material to it. And if I love doing that, then it doesn’t have to be just wood. It could be something else as well. It could be, you know, it could be, Sculptures. It could be marble, it could be, you know, whatever it is. I know it’s a really bad example, but if you delve deep into, you know, what your passions are, then maybe there’s, there’s more of a, an Avenue about what, what job or what role were, what entrepreneurial, you know, aspirations that could, that could slow into.

So for me, personally, you know, I like, you know, I like business, like marketing and business development, things like that. But at the core, it’s just like connecting with people. They just like having conversations, right? And I’m sure you know Casanova, you’re doing a podcast, I’m sure that that’s your passion as well.

So if you’re like doing that, you don’t have to do, you just do marketing. You could do business development, you could do, you know, product management, right? You can do a lot of these other things. That’s,a parallel to it. So I think that’s kind of what I would think about. And there’s a book out there, I don’t have the exact book name. I do apologize that maybe your team can find it afterwards, but it’s the whole concept of jobs to be done. it’s a Clayton Christiansen, you know, a Harvard professor who recently passed away, you know, he wrote, he wrote, quite a few books, including the innovator’s dilemma and various solution, all these, you know, core business books.

But, you know, one of the things that he championed later in his life was his concept of jobs to be done. Like, for example, you’re not really. Well, you go to a store, you’re buying, you know you’re buying nails and you’re buying like, you know, like a nail gun. If you’re not really buying or a drill, rather, you’re not really buying a drill, right?

You’re buying your four inch hole. You’re not really buying a forge drill and you’re buying a four inch hole. You’re not really buying for and show, you’re buying the, the feeling of, I can put up my own painting, but I can put on my own. I can put my own picture frames. So buying more of a self accomplishment or DIY kind of mindset.

So understanding. You know, what you really want to do at the core will allow them you to explore other things. That’s a parallel or tangent to these things.

Casanova Brooks: [00:34:45] I love it. I love it. man, well there you have it. People, if you just understand your passion, it’s hard to not go after that. It’s not ha. It’s hard to not really ask yourself, what’s that.

Thing that I really want in life and why am I not applying it at my highest potential? So this has been great, Alex. I’m super honored and grateful that you gave us some of your time here in Dream Nation. for anybody who is inspired, who wants to stay connected with you, who wants to learn more about Mercku and how they can be a part of that, how they can support the business, where can they find you?

Alex Qi: [00:35:22] Yeah. So. you know what, just you can find us at  Mercku.com But because, yeah. We always want to connect with, you know, entrepreneurs, we always want to connect with, you know, the, the better part of the, you know, the entrepreneurial community. my personal address is [email protected], shoot me an email. I think that’s probably the best way to do it. Let’s just do it personally. Why, why go through all the little layers, right. and also the, the book that, that was mentioned earlier. Let’s start. I was interested, it’s called Competing Against Luck. it’s by Clayton Christianson.

It’s a great book that I would recommend anybody to read to better understand, you know, their, their jobs and their life.

Casanova Brooks: [00:36:06] Love it. We’ll definitely drop that into the show notes. We’ll also drop the email in the show notes as well, but again, thank you, Alex. This has been a pleasure to have you on the show and we look forward to having you back again and seeing all the new things that you’ve decided to to solve the new problems that you decided to solve and and watching your growth.

So thanks again and remember Dream Nation in the dream we trust, but we must take action. Otherwise it will only merely be a fantasy. We’ll see you on the next one.

 

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