Fibocom co-founder LingPeng “Tiger” Ying helped transform his company from a distributor to an original design manufacturer of wireless modules and IoT equipment. That meant adapting to a new business model on the way to a public listing earlier this year on the ChiNext board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
This “Founder Q&A” with Ying was previously published by Intel Capital on the firm’s website. It is republished here with the permission of Intel Capital.
Q: You co-founded Fibocom right after your university training. What made you want to work in a startup instead of an established company or a state-owned enterprise?
A: The late 1990s was a very hot period for Internet startups in China. A number of Internet companies that are publicly traded today, like Tencent, Sina and Sohu, all got started during the period. Seeing all the really interesting things these other companies were doing, and recognizing the opportunities within our sector, I co-founded Fibocom in November 1999.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge for growth at Fibocom? How did you overcome it?
A: In 2008, we changed strategy and transitioned from being a distributor to an in-house ODM company. Because distribution and ODM are completely different business models, we faced two distinct challenges.
First, and most importantly, we had to find the right team. As a result of our business model shift, we lost a number of high performing staff. We needed to refresh the team by adding new talent that knew the design business, and we had to retrain and improve the skills of our existing employees.
Second, we had to quickly learn about and understand what were the biggest needs related to this new market and customer base. We spent a lot of time with customers and potential customers to figure out the gap between us and the market, assess risks, and identify the potential opportunities that we could fill in order to survive. Based on our learnings, we reached a consensus at the executive level, and then we focused our organizational growth path to match market demand.
Q: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs who might be considering or going through the IPO process?
A: To have the highest chance for success, you want to become or strive to be one of the leading 5 percent of companies in your industry. Most of your energy and time should be spent focusing on the business and on ways to continue delivering growth for the company. To avoid distraction, bring in professional experts, who can help ensure that your IPO process runs smoothly, that your financials are within proper audit guidelines, and that you are following the rules and adhering to best practices.
Q: Looking ahead, what is the next big opportunity in your industry and how are you approaching it?
A: We see the Internet of things as the biggest opportunity globally right now. In recent years, technology breakthroughs have allowed machines and devices to communicate with each other more easily, ushering in a new era of data generation and analysis. As a result, traditional industries are accelerating to capitalize on this newly connected world, and new business models are being established in areas like cloud and big data, analytics, communications technology, and digital and mobile payments. At the same time, rapid development in mobile communications technology, from NB-IoT to 5G, is covering all mobile internet applications. Our products are helping to enable secure communications between machines, equipment, vehicles and assets over wireless networks.
To make sure our solutions can be quickly delivered to the market, and so that we can quickly understand the local demands for our local product planning, Fibocom is expanding its business and market coverage from mainland China to Taiwan, the the United States, Germany, India, and other markets. We are insourcing our technical support team to make sure our products can be more quickly and better integrated into customer design. We are making bigger investments in our R&D capabilities and enlarging our R&D team to make sure we have a broader product portfolio that fits into the increasing number of categories that are being formed as a result of new technology developments.
Q: As you expand into international markets, how do you connect with potential customers to understand what they want or need?
A: We have found that the most efficient and quick way to get an understanding of new markets is to scout and hire into our team local talent with a deep understanding of their local markets and the potential customers within those markets. We believe this is important for any company looking to expand globally.
Q: Do you have any keys to success for running a successful business?
A: First, culture is critical. If you want your team to follow you and to have them fully trust you, you have to lead by example. Be a role model that everyone will follow and study from. Try to be very open and straightforward when making challenging decisions or confronting new issues.
Second, I believe that companies, especially startup and high growth companies, should keep investing in their own development instead of giving cash returns to their investors on a regular basis.
Q: If you could meet any entrepreneur or business leader from history, who would it be and why?
A: I would really like to meet the late Intel leader Andy Grove. When I was young I read his book, “Only the Paranoid Survive.” That book encouraged a whole generation of people, and it had a really big impact on my career development.
Q: What is the best business advice you have received?
A: Never trust a “winning formula.” What this means is that there’s no such thing as a winning formula that everyone can follow. You should never believe you are destined to succeed.
Photo of LingPeng “Tiger” Ying is co-founder and CEO of Fibocom, courtesy of Intel Capital.
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