Fixel Interviews: Chau Nguyen

Q&A with the people we learn from

Focus. In the early stages there’s always a long list of things to do and not enough time to do it. You have to decide what is the #1 and #2 most important goal at hand and then rigorously prioritize. There are a lot of distractions and tasks that can be done but may not move the needle. Stay focused and don’t chase every shiny object along the way.

– Chau Nguyen

Our guest this week is TechStars mentor and seasoned entrepreneur, Chau Nguyen. Chau has been an entrepreneur for over 10 years. In 2005, Chau co-founded Campus Special, which was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US for four consecutive years. He has been named one of the Highest Rated CEOs of 2014 among small to mid-sized companies by Glassdoor and voted to the annual list of Most Loved CEOs in America 2014 by Inc. Magazine. Chau launched Hirewire in 2015, where he serves as CEO. 

Who influenced you most in your career? Why?

My dad was a major influence in my career. He came to the US on a scholarship, spoke zero English, and graduated USC with an engineering degree. He woke up at 5 am every morning and worked hard to provide for our family. He was an entrepreneur and I watched him go through the startup phase from logo creation to building a team and servicing clients. Because of him, I was exposed to entrepreneurship at a very young age.

What was the base profession you started out with? How did it serve you later in your career?

My first career was in sales. Sales is the backbone to business. The ability to sell a product or a service can make or break a company. As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly using my sales skills to win clients, recruit team members, raise money, etc.

What’s it like being a TechStars Mentor? Why did you decide to follow this path?

I really enjoy being a TechStars Mentor. I enjoy being involved in the early stage when there are more questions than answers. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and if I’m able to help other startups avoid those same mistakes I’m all for it.

Where do you see the market in 2020? Will Facebook and Google continue to dominate? Will we see new players in the field?

I think there is always an underserved market or new problem to solve so we’ll always see new companies and new categories emerge.

How does a small startup, trying to sell a product, attract the attention of Fortune 500 companies?

I think it all boils down to a startups ability to solve a big pain point. If it’s a small pain point, companies can live without it. If it’s a big pain point, companies are likely already searching for ways to solve that problem. Startups that have great products coupled with the ability to sell and market just need to start small, build up a client list, case studies, and work their way up the ladder.

In terms of “Fit in or Stand out”, when in the process cycle is it a good time to surprise and go against the unwritten rules?

Sometimes you have to stand out. Other times you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s hard to say without seeing a specific example. Startups are a series of tests, sometimes you don’t know until you try it, then decide if you should continue or pivot.

What is the one growth hacking tip you would give a startup to boost their sales cycle?

This is less of a growth hack and more of a general rule. Focus. In the early stages, there’s always a long list of things to do and not enough time to do it. You have to decide what is the #1 and #2 most important goal at hand and then rigorously prioritize. There are a lot of distractions and tasks that can be done but may not move the needle. Stay focused and don’t chase every shiny object along the way— there are a lot of them.

What are the key sales cycle metrics a startup should be monitoring?

The number of leads in the pipeline and conversion rate.

What’s a memorable campaign you led and that our blog readers can learn from?

At Hirewire we positioned ourselves as “Tinder for Jobs” to our job seekers. We tried a lot of different messages and found that in those 3 words were able to convey what we did in a casual way that made a lot of sense to our millennial user base. It was a huge hit and although we have evolved a lot from swiping right on jobs the message still resonates with them.

What be your one word of advice to young entrepreneurs starting out in the startup ecosystem?

Fail fast. You’re going to be wrong a lot of the time. Do it quickly, don’t dwell on it. Learn from it and move on and keep iterating until you find the right formula. Every business has at least one permutation where it can be wildly successful, you’ll need to try a bunch of different times before you nail it.

How would you describe Fixel to a colleague?

Fixel — your pixel is broken, we can fix it. Most traffic will not convert. Fixel removes prospects who are unlikely to buy allowing you to double down on the segment of users who are most likely to buy. Trim the fat, and increase conversion rates.

Lev Kerzhner

Lev Kerzhner does Partnerships and Customer Success for Fixel, a multidisciplinary fellow with a background ranging from government to technology and art.
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