Meet another one of our Nurture Change Business Retreat speakers: Dan Khan.
Dan is a guru in the tech and start-up areas, and an awesome TED talker. At our Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji he’ll be sharing “Super-smart business lessons all businesses can learn from savvy start-ups”. We asked Dan some questions for this week’s Sunday Star Times (interview in full below, or click HERE to read them at Stuff). If you want to know even more about the man who is so passionate about start-ups in NZ, read his background HERE.
And if you’re keen to come to the amazing Nurture Change Business Retreat in November, book now to get the early-bird price. We can’t wait to hear you speak in November, Dan!
Dan Khan is something of a poster-boy for start-ups and entrepreneurs.
He’s passionate about building a sustainable, early-stage tech start-up and innovation ‘ecosystem’ in New Zealand to create more entrepreneurs. As a result, he runs a consultancy that helps funded technology companies get offshore and get plugged into high-growth networks and investment.
In 2012, Dan designed and led start-up accelerator Lightning Lab, helping develop leadership capability, business models, products and pitches that ultimately led to over $4.4M of public and private investment in 19 companies.
Khan is speaking at the upcoming Nurture Change Business Retreat in November. Sunday Business and Stuff.co.nz readers have a chance to win a place on the luxury retreat.
In the meantime, we asked him a few questions about his insights into business and the best lessons he has learnt.
Who is the leader you learnt something valuable from and what was the lesson?
The biggest lesson was learned from my old boss, Richard Prout. I helped him build Europe’s largest pre-Facebook social network, SmartGroups.com, which was later sold. Richard only sold that company on the condition all staff shared in that success. So 15 per cent of the sale proceeds were distributed to everyone – including administrative staff and people who joined the company three months earlier. It was amazing to see such a give-back attitude and the respect he had for people he’d worked with. As a result, giving back and helping others has been at the core of my personal and entrepreneurial values ever since.
What lesson in business do you try to pass on to others?
It is to use the workplace as a learning experience for how to run your own company one day. Many people bumble through work, not realising what a fantastic place it is to gain the skills you need to be a business owner yourself. I always chose smaller companies with flatter hierarchies early on in my career to gain insights into how strategic decisions were made, to get more responsbility and to push myself outside my comfort zone (that’s where all the learning happens).
If you think about all of the skills you need to start your own company, they’re all waiting for you in the workplace: building close working relationships with people who’ll be your future co-founders; finding experienced future mentors and working with others to learn skills outside your core skillset.
Who do you think is a great innovator and why?
The brightest light for me is Elon Musk. Apart from having great entrepreneurial success with a small start-up he founded called PayPal, he’s since gone on to disrupt the status quo with his extraordinary vision.
Yes, having a bunch of money behind you helps a lot, but I love how he’s not looking at incremental steps of progress, but exponential progress – from space exploration, to transport, to reinventing energy. And he embodies the give-back/pay-it-forward mentality. As entrepreneurs it’s our job to invent the future so we need to ask the bigger “what-if” questions more often. What does the future look like in 10 years’ time? What if that was today? How what I make that happen now?
What has been your biggest learning in business to date and why?
The power of the network. I grew up as the introverted, geeky brother to two sportier ones. I loved technology and building things: electronics, software, games, virtual worlds. But talking to people, that was too hard! The turning point came when I emigrated to NZ and started running my own business. It forced me to think about something other than my core programming skills. I had to talk to others, sell myself, and build friendships and relationships on more than just that skill. As I did this and built up the network of people I knew, the power of what’s possible, and with whom it was possible, began to widen. Helping others and asking for help becomes so much easier, whether that’s finding co-founders and partners, or looking for investors and entering new markets – all of it relies on a network of trusted people you can call on.
If you were 21 years old again, and could do any career you wanted, what would you be and why?
I honestly wouldn’t change a thing! I think the journey is what is most important, not the destination. Every lesson we learn along the way makes us who we are.
What are you most excited about in attending the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji?
Many entrepreneurs spend so much time close to the day-to-day operational side of their businesses that they lose the ability to step back and really understand why they’re doing it and where they want to go next. We often find ourselves accidentally being drawn into just making incremental change in our work.
Dan Khan will be speaking on “Super-smart business lessons from savvy start-ups” at the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji, November 11-15. See www.nurturechange.com for a full list of speakers and further information on the business retreat.