CEO of Exabytes: What differentiates an entrepreneur?

BLOCK71 Yogyakarta X Exabytes – Interview with CEO & Indonesia’s Country Manager

21 June 2019, Friday

In the first episode of our monthly Founder’s Interview series, we have invited Exabyte’s CEO, Chan Kee Siak, and Country Manager, Indra, from one of the largest web hosting companies in South East Asia, to join us for an interview session. Chan happened to be in Yogyakarta to visit the team residing in BLOCK71, to ensure the functionality of operations and to also reaffirm the direction of the team.

In this series, we will be focusing on two important driving points of entrepreneurship, which Chan puts forth succinctly. Having almost two decades worth of experience as a successful entrepreneur, Chan has much to share with us. He stresses that focus and purpose are two very important elements that every entrepreneur need to excel in their various endeavours. But right before we dwell into the elaborate aspects of entrepreneurship, we got Chan to share with us how he started Exabyte.

Meet Kee Siak

Starting humbly as a helper at his father’s hawker store in Penang, Chan enrolled into a local college at 18 years old, selling PC hardware on a part time basis to earn his tuition fees. One day, he discovered the potential of web hosting while building a website for his customer. Coupled with the knowledge that there was a lack of web hosting providers in Malaysia’s market, he decided to set up his first web hosting reseller business that was 100% online based. He realised his business was performing well, and at the age of 19, he decided to drop out of college and founded Exabytes, in 2001.

Having a purpose

What one can learn from this is the fact that problems are everywhere, it is just a matter of whether you have the courage to try and seize the right opportunity. As the pilot of Exabytes, Chan stresses that purpose is paramount and relatable to almost anybody, be it a start-up or an individual. Purpose creates a sense of direction and envisions future goals, which may in turn help prevent unnecessary confusion and misalignment between departments. He also stresses that budding entrepreneurs should not start a company just because they have friends who are doing so as well. It is important to understand what the problem is and why they are trying to solve it, before they dive deep into a start-up.

Focusing on objectives

Focusing isn’t as easy as it sounds, as we are often affected by distractions and procrastinations. An entrepreneur must be self-motivated, clear minded and ready to face challenges. Chan puts in subtly that running a business has its own perks, such as being able to travel and being able to work from home and seeing his business grow. But not being able to pick yourself up after failing is ultimately the most common reason why start-ups fail as well. He speaks of this from experience.

Learning from failure

As an experienced web developer, Chan spent his first 7 years in Exabytes growing the front end and unknowingly neglected the backend of his business, where they failed to establish a proper management of accounts. Although they managed to grasp the interests of investors over their business offering and success, they still lost the investment opportunity as they didn’t comply to a proper accounting standard. As an accounting major, I agree with Chan’s statement of “without proper accounting, a company has no proper management”.  Ever since he decided to pick himself up and implement a proper accounting system, his company has been extremely successful. Under the leadership of Chan, today the Exabytes Group consists of 12 subsidiaries, with businesses ranging from web hosting to eCommerce and e-Deliveries, serving over 200,000 customers in 121 countries.

Fun facts

To summarise, there should be a purpose for starting a company, and it should always serve as a guiding star should there be any doubts on the direction of the company. Once purpose has been established and agreed upon, can one then choose to focus their energy on working for the company.

Some fun facts:

  1. Chan has only been to Yogyakarta twice and he likes the freshness of the air, the abundance of young and talented people as well as the culture rich vibes.
  2. Chan says that Yogyakarta is quite like Penang, and he prefers to term the city as “work life balance”.

Find out more about our Exabytes team here in BLOCK71 Yogyakarta!