The Startup Magazine Our Interview With Richard Burry, International E-Commerce Entrepreneur

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Global e-commerce entrepreneur and investor Richard Burry followed a unique path to the pinnacle of Internet success.

At 18, he was laboring in the oil fields of Alberta, and later worked for years as a construction worker. After serving in the Canadian Coast Guard, he enrolled in college and began studying data processing. It was his window onto accounting, financial systems, programming and IT.

By the time businesses began to take notice of the unfolding promise of Internet technologies, he was perfectly positioned to take the leap into this exciting new industry. He knew the Internet would change the world and revolutionize commerce. He resolved to lead the way.

Across more than three decades, he has sharpened all the essential skills of online success, from the process by which new companies are created, to the ways new innovations are refined and worldwide relationships are forged. As the founder of Smartvu Ltd., he remains at the leading edge of Internet innovation and achievement.

Recently we visited Richard Burry in his seaside base of operations in Cascais, Portugal for an intriguing conversation about the keys to online success.

Q: How important is it to understand what motivates the consumer?

Richard Burry: To me the consumer is the most important part of the business. This is why I like to include customers in product development and testing. I also like to be close with customer service finding out how the product is working and what problems the customers have. This helps build a great product but it’s not the best product that wins. You must sell the most product. To do that you must determine what motivates them to buy. This isn’t necessarily a product. It may be distribution, advertising, cost, or other reasons. You need to figure them all out.

Q: How do you go about identifying a need in the marketplace?

Richard Burry: Asking your customers doesn’t work because they don’t know. Making something and asking them to try it is a good way to identify a good product. 

Try a lot of things. If you are not failing a lot, then you are probably not trying enough things. Change things, combine things, try new things.

Q: What advice would you give young entrepreneurs starting their careers?

Richard Burry: Find where the greatest innovation is happening. Seek out the newest transformative technologies and learn as much as you can. Meet the people who are at the center of these new industries, and become an integral part of their team. Whether they are working out of their garage or a C-suite, be there at the beginning and experience the whole process, from dream to startup to successful business. When you are ready, start your own venture based on your own unique product or service.

Q: Why do you think so many business people are overly cautious at times in the way they approach opportunities?

Richard Burry: Everyone has a different appetite for risk and this may make some people overly cautious. Some people are generally more pessimistic. These are not necessarily bad things. Being too optimistic and risky can be dangerous as well. There is a middle ground, a practical perspective. One way to frame it is that In business, there are sunny glass-is-half-full outlooks, glass-is-half-empty views, but also innovative thinkers who look beyond the conventional perspective and wonder if the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Q: How daunting is the task of keeping up with technology, and finding new ways to apply it to your businesses?

Richard Burry: I love to read and discuss business and technology, so I spend most of my time doing that. I find keeping up pleasurable, not daunting.

Q: What role does luck play in entrepreneurial success?

Richard Burry: When I’m not working, two of my favorite pursuits are poker and board games. Each provides a useful perspective in answering your question.  With poker you must make quick decisions with limited information. This is also true in business. You must determine the risk and make a value call. The good thing is that not saying yes is a valid call. In fact, in most cases saying no or doing nothing, is the right thing to do.

Board games are usually more luck-based, but there is also an element of strategy. If you play recklessly, making decisions without information, you will likely lose, no matter how you roll the dice.

Whether it’s poker, Risk or Monopoly, you’ve got to have the proper timing, and the ability to recognize an opportunity. This is true in life as well. There are only a few key moments when you make a critical decision in your life. Your choice of education, choice of a mate, or choice of a job, for example. Each can have a huge impact on your future. Take care and put thought into these choices. You may not realize how transformative these decisions are until well into the future. 

Global e-commerce

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