Ex-Barclays employee YC Ng is a young entrepreneur who founded the world’s first eyewear subscription service Scarlett of Soho. He is the subject of our latest 60 second interview.
Q - How long have you been in the industry, and what is your current job title ?
I am the co-founder and CEO of Scarlett of Soho - the first company in the world to offer designer eyewear as a subscription service. Prior to that, I spent 3 years in Barclays Capital as a fixed income syndicate manager. I went through a phase when I realised that glasses were exorbitantly expensive and subsequently traded in my suits for a ride through the eyewear industry.
Q - Did you have a mentor and, if so, who ?
When I first started out, most of my immediate network were made up of those within the finance industry - not directly relevant. What really helped was a serendipitous phone call with a 2nd-degree connection that led to an investment offer from UK’s top seed accelerator - Ignite. That opened up a network of entrepreneurs and angels who have been there, done that to really help us on the journey.
Q - Are you by nature an optimist or a pessimist ?
I am quite the optimist by nature, and have always been through school and work. That has really done a lot for me, and has given me the courage to take steps forward (no matter how foolish it may seem). I think it helps to have a long-term focus so as to justify every action taken and to manage one’s risk on a broader level; and if so, then it really is calculated risk, no?
Q - Which business leader do you most admire and why ?
Richard Branson, definitely. It was inspiring enough to read about his journey from his early days, but to meet the man in person was a different experience altogether, when we won a Virgin Startup competition. To actually witness his charisma, outlook, and to break bread (rather, sandwiches on the train!) with the man firmed up a lot of beliefs / assumptions that were merely words from before. He has built an amazing culture from within, and surrounded himself with such amazing talent, that I can only hope to emulate such steps at some point.
Q - What's the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date ?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve picked up on is that, no one really knows the answer. Most of the time, there’s a textbook, or a manual, or Google…but the truth is, until you actual test your assumption, you’ve really got no idea! I think an entrepreneur has to be comfortable with the unknown, and be willing to try out 'stuff' while managing risk, measuring results, and picking out the winners from the pack. I’m still working on that (and will probably be doing so for a long time).
Q - What's your favourite business quotation or life motto ?
I quite like the 'move fast, break things' adage. I fully appreciate it evolves into 'move fast, build infrastructure' at some point, but as a young startup with little idea of market, business model and revenue streams, you just need to push extremes to find your place. We are constantly reminded by our mentors to be 'trying to fail'; counter-intuitive initially but it makes sense if it leads to more decisive outcomes quicker, when time is primarily the currency of value.
Q - What's the best business book you've ever read ?
Definitely The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I found it very informative yet honest and can only wish that I had read it way earlier in my journey. I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in venturing into business.