Free Exclusive Video Interview - Meet The $360-Million Dollar Man
Robert Hacker

Transcript of Interview with Robert Hacker


Dan: Welcome to another episode of Shoulders of Titans.  This is Dan Lok, and today, I’m excited to have the privilege of bringing you a true business titan, a business strategist, financial consultant, college professor and blogger, someone who’s built a massive empire overseas.  Bob, welcome to the show.

Bob:  Thank you, Dan.  That’s a very nice introduction.

Dan: Before we dive into business strategies, tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into what you do today.


Bob: I came out of university with a philosophy degree, and somehow, miraculously, I was selected for the Chase Manhattan Bank Global Training Program, which was designed to make you a banker at the caliber of Chase Manhattan.  That was probably the best finance and accounting training I ever got. I worked at Chase for 5 years and lent money in Latin America.  Then, I went to business school, and when I left business school, I joined a consulting company in New York, one of the big consulting firms.  I split my time between Peru and Japan.  While I was working in Japan, I realized that Japan was about to boom.  This was in the early 80’s.  Two other guys and I left the consulting firm and started our own consulting practice.  We consulted to large Japanese retail companies and consumer goods companies, and we did technology licensing.

I did that for about 10 years, and during that time, one of my clients was approached by a man in Indonesia who was looking for help to grow what he described as “the Walmart of Indonesia.”  The Japanese retailers weren’t really in the consulting business, but I was.  So I went to Indonesia to see if I could help this man, and 7 years later, he and I built a billion-dollar publicly-traded retail company.  That was in the middle-to-late 90’s.  We had the largest retail company outside of Japan in all of Asia, because back then, not even the Koreans were at a billion dollars with their retail companies.  That was my first exposure to building something big.  Obviously, it worked out pretty well.


Dan: What is it like doing business overseas?  How is it different from business in the States?

Bob: First, if you talk to people around the world, their first problem is they can’t access capital.  You talk to American entrepreneurs, and they say the same thing: “We can’t access capital.”  But when you’re in a place like Indonesia, it’s much, much more severe than any entrepreneur’s problem in the United States. In fact, we built our company in Indonesia on our ability to access capital better than our competition.  There’s actually quite a good story about how we got our first outside capital.

Dan: Can you share that story with  us?


Bob: Sure.  A man came in from Hong Kong to talk to us about outside capital.  He said that he wanted to be an equity investor in our company, and there were 5 people in the room. Three of them immediately said, ” I’m so sorry; you can’t invest in the equity of our company because retailers cannot be owned by foreign shareholders.”  You could see the whole room kind of deflate.  I turned to the man, and I said, “Will you do a convertible bond?”  And he said, “Yes.”  It was just that simple financial engineering to get away from the legal requirement in Indonesia that enabled us to raise our first $20 million in external capital.  We went public a year later, and those investors exited in less than a year.

Dan: For our listeners, who may be entrepreneurs who aren’t familiar with finance, what is a convertible bond?

Bob: A convertible bond is a debt instrument which, at the option of the holder, converts into a predetermined number of shares of common stock.

Dan:  At the time, were you already thinking of taking the company public?  Was that the plan?

Bob: No, but we knew that when we brought in this external capital, we had to commit to a public exit, because there was no way at that time in Indonesia that we could have refinanced the $20 million that we borrowed from this man.  The discussion between the founder of the company and me was all about, “Are you really prepared to go public?” We couldn’t change our mind after we took this bond, because there’d be no way to ever pay it back.

Dan: What do you think changed when the company went public?

Bob:  You have to be much more committed to specific growth rates for revenue and profitability, because the investors are basically buying your stock for that forecasted growth.  In addition to being committed to your forecast, you have to manage a lot harder to make sure that you actually achieve the forecast.  Some companies wrestle with learning to do good forecasts.  We didn’t have that problem, but everybody has the problem of meeting the forecasts.


Dan:  Can you give a little bit of detail as to how you took the company from $0 to $1 billion?  During that time, I’m sure there were some ups and downs.  In retail, it’s tough.  Back then, was it still as tough as today?

Bob: It was maybe tougher.  The reason is that at that time in Indonesia, a middle class was starting to emerge.  So we were sort of riding this wave of the emerging middle class.  Since there wasn’t a middle class before, there was no history, no data, no customers, even, to look at to try and understand where this customer is going.  It’s very challenging figuring out how to merchandise to the needs of this new customer.  We got it right, and that was a big part of the reason that we were able to grow so fast.

Dan:  So it’s a little bit like a ready-fire-aim kind of approach.

Bob:  Yeah, a little bit.  It’s the same kinds of changes that you could see in parts of China now—that emerging middle class that never existed before, and of course, it’s huge.


Dan: Within that period of time, did you have any challenges, and what did you to overcome those?

Bob:  Dan, I have to stop laughing.  “Challenges.”  I have a whole story about challenges.  My bank lines were canceled twice.  7 stores burned to the ground in about 3 years. I came to the conclusion that maybe somebody was trying to burn me out of business, so I had to hire Crowell to try and figure out whether somebody was trying to burn me out of business.  Then, Walmart showed up, so that was the third kiss on the cheek.  Most people would think that that was pretty bad.  But the fact is that it got bad after Walmart, because after Walmart, we had the 1997 financial crisis where the Indonesian rupee dropped 80% against the dollar in 2 months.  Then, because of the foreign exchange issues, they did 30 billion dollars of riot damage in one week in Jakarta. Across Indonesia, there were other riots.  Then the dictator Suharto, who had been in power for 35 years, was pushed out in favor of a democratic government.  All of that happened in about 7 years.  So there were no challenges, Dan.  No challenges at all.

Dan:  That’s actually a great point.  Because some entrepreneurs might say, “Business is tough in the States.”  But listening to your story, whatever challenges they have are nothing.  How did you perform at a high level under so much stress and pressure?  What was going through your mind, and how did you stay calm and get to work?

Bob:  The two keys are, you raise your capital well in advance so you don’t have to slow your plan down when there’s a momentary hiccup.  You wouldn’t want to slow your plan down because somebody was burning down your stores.  You wouldn’t want to slow your plan down because Walmart showed up.  But if you have money, you can just keep moving.  The second thing is, I think in an environment as volatile as Indonesia was in the 90’s, if you can eliminate a risk, you eliminate it.  For example, you never borrow floating-rate money.  You always either borrow fixed-rate money, or you swap it into fixed-rate because it eliminates a risk.  Yes, there’s a cost to it, but it’s more valuable not to have an unmanaged risk.  You eliminate risks wherever you can.  It’s only a function of your imagination how you can find ways to eliminate risks.  But in volatile environments, every opportunity eliminates a risk.


Dan: Could you share with us the 3 stages in the life of a business, the proof of concept, commercialization, and scaling the business, and why that’s important to know?

Bob: It’s important for two reasons.  I can tell you that most of the money I’ve lost investing, I’ve lost because I invested too early.  So the proof of concept stage is really important to confirm the timing and to confirm the product market fit.  The commercialization stage is stress-testing your business model.  It’s a situation where your grandmother is not your only customer.  You’re out in the market, you’re interacting, you’ve got to deliver.  You’re stress-testing.  Then, the scaling is what it’s all about.  Nobody should go into business with the idea that they’re going to build a $10 million company.  You should go into business with the idea that you’re going to pick an opportunity which is large enough to build a large company.  Then, after you’ve confirmed that opportunity, in your proof of concept and in your second phase, the management of the business becomes the scaling.  Pick the right opportunity and then figure out how to scale.

Dan: How would you define proof of concept?  I know in your book, it’s $0-$1 million.  That’s proof of concept.

Bob:  Right.

Dan: For commercialization, it’s $1-3 million in revenue. Scaling the business phase, $3-10 million.

Bob:  Yes, but the fact is, you’re scaling from $3 million on.  You’re scaling to $30 million, $100 million, $1 billion, whatever your opportunity represents.

Dan:  Nowadays, I meet a lot of entrepreneurs whom I call “lifestyle entrepreneurs,” and they’re not thinking of building a large business.  They want to work from home, and if they make six figures a year, maybe even seven, they’re pretty happy.  It’s a self-employed kind of mentality.  What’s your view on that?

Bob: I would say that they’re actually not entrepreneurs.  They’re small businessmen.  That’s a fine way to live.  I have no problem with people electing to be small business operators.  I just don’t understand it.  You’re going to put in all that energy and all that time and work so hard, why not pick an opportunity that can be bigger?

Dan:  How would an entrepreneur know if their opportunities? I’m sure people come to you and say, “Hey, Bob, I’ve got this idea.” How would you analyze it?  How would you know if this idea is big enough, if the market is big enough, if you’re solving a big enough problem in the world?

Bob:  One very easy way to do that is to pick a problem that’s already been solved and then bring a better solution.  Think back to the early days of search engines.  Google already knew how big the market was.  The market was yahoo’s revenue.  And then they said, “We can do this better,” and in fact, they did do it better, and it turned out that not only did they take away yahoo’s market, but they created a much bigger market by having a better product.  That’s one very easy way.  The two risks in investing are the technology risk, and a lot of investors don’t want to take the risk on a particular technology that’s new.  Most VC’s, in fact, don’t invest in new technology.  The second risk that you really don’t want to take is that you don’t want to be solving a problem nobody’s solved before, because you have no idea if there’s a market.

Dan:  Sometimes, people look at Elon Musk, the space project, and Tesla.  He’s one of a kind.  Most entrepreneurs solve people’s problems at a profit.  It’s much better to go with something proven. What’s the saying, Bob?  “Pioneers usually lie on the ground with arrows on their back.”

Bob: It’s like Elon Musk with his space project that proves my point that you don’t want to take the technology risk.  He’s saying to bring him a big idea, and the first thing he will do is confirm that the science and technology exist to provide a solution.  Even Elon Musk isn’t taking the technology risk.


Dan: Basically, what you’re saying is, if they want to be a true entrepreneur, they’re not thinking big enough, or they think they are filling a niche that just can’t scale to their kind of volume and level.  What are some other mistakes you can see that hold entrepreneurs back?

Bob: A lot of entrepreneurs don’t recognize that as the company grows, the management style has to change, and that they, themselves are frequently the biggest impediment to the management style changing.  When you see somebody who’s got a successful business of $1 million, and they can’t it past that level, my experience is that the reason is that they can’t share.  They can’t trust other people.  I see that all the time.  It almost always comes back to some feature of the personality of the entrepreneur.

Dan: Entrepreneurs are control freaks.  They want to control the business.  They don’t want to share the wealth.  They want to be the sole shareholder. What if someone comes to you and says, “Hey, Bob, I’ve got this business, I’m doing a couple million dollars a year”?  How would you help them?  What advice would you give them?

Bob: I would probably just ask a very simple question: If I said to you, “You have to double sales in one year, go from $2 million to $4 million by the end of next year,” what would you do?  What I find is that there’s a tendency, particularly among small business operators, not to set ambitious enough goals.  When you ask the person, “Can you double sales in one year?” the people that immediately say, “No, I can’t do it,” or “I don’t have enough employees,” that’s when I say, “Thank you very much for coming by,” and I move on.  When you ask that question and somebody says, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got a plan to get to $4 million next year and $8 million the year after, and I can even see $16 million in 3 years, but the problem is capital,” those are the kinds of people that I want to talk to.  Solving the capital problem is relatively easy.  Being somebody with a vision and a plan to double sales for the next three years, that’s what makes you special.

Dan: Entrepreneurs sometimes have a limited belief: “It’s very difficult to get access to capital. It’s very difficult to find investors.”  Why do we have that limited belief?

Bob: A lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t actually understand their own financial statements.  They’re afraid they’re going to be embarrassed when some guy from a hedge fund asks them a question and they don’t know the answer.  Also, for some reason, when it comes to finance, people think they’re going to be taken advantage of more than if they’re sourcing product in Korea.  That’s part of the reason why people can’t perform so well on raising money.  The really simple question that I ask people when they’re looking at doing financing deals, particularly for equity, is, “How much of the company will you own after the next round?”  If you’re raising A money, how much will you own after B round?  You don’t know how to do that?  Let me help you.  You’re going to own “this much” of the company.  Then for the C round, you’re going to own this much of the company.

At that point, when the C round closes, and you own this percentage of the company, are you gonna be happy with the paper value of your shareholdings?  If you’re happy, then the deals are good deals.  If somebody says on the first round of financing, “I want 90% of your company,” you know by the time you get to the C round, you’re gonna own 1% of the company, and 1% of almost any valuation doesn’t make it worthwhile to put 5-10 years of your life in it.


Dan:  Let’s say someone comes to you, a $2 million company, and has a plan.  Let’s say it’s a software company, it’s internet-based, it’s a proven model, and the person is acquiring customers at a reasonable cost, and it’s a recurring software.  The person says, “I want to raise capital.” How could someone determine what percentage to give away?  What if I raise too much, or if I give away too much equity in the beginning?  What would you advise them?

Bob:  In terms of valuation, we’re fortunate now that there’s quite a lot of public information when you go to places like TechCrunch and the CrunchBase database. The good news is, you’re in a business that’s well-documented in software, and you find comparables, and you can figure out what’s a fair valuation.

The notion that you raise money to get to the next significant milestone is a very good rule.  Your first milestone is, say, to get to a million dollars of revenue, because that’s a magic number that opens up all the capital sources.  You have to get to a million dollars.  How much does it take to get there? Maybe the next milestone could be something geographic.  “I want to be in 3 markets instead of 1. How much money does it take to get there?  Therefore, that’s how much I raise.” Tie it into the milestones for your business.  That’s the simple rule.

Dan: What if, like you said, what if they’re afraid of losing control?  “Oh, my God, by the time third round I’ll only now own 20% or 30% of my company.  But it’s a much bigger pie, versus just a small pie by myself.”  What do you have to say to that?

Bob: For most people, there’s no difference between being worth $100 million or being worth $500 million.  In either case, they’re probably quite content.  I wouldn’t worry too much about the percentage ownership, as long as the dollar number you think you’re going to have is satisfactory.

Dan: I can imagine the questions they might have.  Where would they go to find these investors?  Do they just go on the internet?  Where are the investors?  Who are they?  Are they private investors?  Are they hedge funds?  Whom should we talk to?

Bob: In my university classes, I have a lot of foreign students.  What I tell my university students is, first of all, go home, because the competition in the U.S. is so fierce.  Go home, because there’s less competition.  The one thing you want to take back from the United States to your home country is a network of people that will provide financing to you in your home country.  I’m in Miami, and there are lots of people in Miami, for example, that will finance businesses in Central America.  So if you’re from a country in Central America, you better meet all those people in Miami while you do your 2-year master’s in electrical engineering or an MBA, and have that network in place to finance your business.  Capital raising is getting to be more and more about the networking.  The reason is that there are so many more people raising money, it’s harder to differentiate yourself, and the way to differentiate yourself is by who introduces you.  The only way you get really good people to introduce you is to network.  The one other thought on this theme is that lawyers have equally good access to venture capitalists, compared to almost any other profession.  Looking at lawyers that work in the venture space and the startup space and the intellectual property space, they can be a good source of contacts into the investment community for early-stage companies.

Dan:  And the lawyers probably  know which of their clients are looking to put some money out to invest it, or invest it in whatever industry, right?

Bob: I think you’re right, Dan.

Dan: Bob, I love your quote: “Business is a conflict between revenue growth and cash flow,” which I think is very true.  Can you expand on that a bit?


Bob: One way to think about that quote is to basically say there are only two important questions in business.  Does this issue affect the customer?  Otherwise known as, Is it going to have an effect on revenue?  Or does this question affect my cash flow?  Is this question going to put me out of business?  If it doesn’t affect the customer in revenue, and it’s not going to put you out of business, it’s not an important question, and you can delegate it to somebody else.  When you start to develop this mindset between revenue and cash flow, what you realize is that you can grow as fast as you can manage your cash flow.  At that point, you’re focused on customer revenue and capital raising, and those are the important things that you spend all your time on.  Everything else gets delegated.

Dan: So as an entrepreneur, basically as the business grows in the beginning, the entrepreneur is the driver of the business.  They’re managing everything, they’re driving the business, they’re meeting with the clients, to a point where now the scaling—are you saying that maybe it’s time for them to step down a bit, put a team in place, and have someone actually manage the business so they could go be out there raising money?

Bob: They could be out there raising money, although I would also like them to be out interacting with the customers.  We don’t want to lose the founder’s insightful understanding of the customers.  And customers are constantly changing.  so that founder with the insight needs to be connected to the customers so the company can move and pivot and do whatever it needs to stay with that customer base that it’s building.


Dan: Nowadays, with the internet, with technology, is it easier to start a business today than it was 20-30 years ago?

Bob: I think I have to say it’s easier today, because the technology, especially when you start looking at open-sourced technology, is so cheap that you can be in business in a matter of a couple of weeks if you have a good product that you can secure.  I’m going with the current environment.

Dan: So it’s easier to start.  Do you think it’s easier or more difficult to grow and become successful?

Bob: I think it’s probably more difficult to be successful.  It’s probably easier to start.  It’s probably more difficult to be successful, because there are so many more competitors, and equally important, there’s so much better information for the consumer to understand what’s out there, what’s available, and at what price. These are the features, these are the review.  This is what my best friend said about it.  All of that information makes the market much more competitive.

Dan: Do you think the consumer is more educated, more sophisticated, more demanding?

Bob: Absolutely, Dan.  There was a very interesting graphic that I saw where somebody had done customer mapping of how the customer interacted with his product.  The thing that stood out was, after the customer bought the product, the customer expected to interact with the company after the product was sold.  That is a largely new phenomenon, where people want to interact after the purchase.  That tells me that there’s a lot more at stake here to get a customer and to keep a customer.

Dan: In the past, it was more transactional.  You make a sale, that’s it, good-bye.  But now, I think Paul Mitchell said it many years ago, he doesn’t want to be in the sales business, he wants to be in the reordering business.  I think that’s pretty profound.  You wrote a book called Billion-Dollar Company: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Models for High-Growth Companies.  Could you share with us why business models are critical, and maybe give us some examples of the various business models?


Bob: Let’s start with the first question, which is, why are business models important?  If you think about entrepreneurship or managing any company, it breaks down into two activities: creating value for the customer, and then capturing that value, otherwise known as generating your cash flow to sustain your business.  The power of business models is that it breaks your business up into these pieces, and it makes it much easier for you, the entrepreneur, to address each piece of the business and see if there isn’t a way to add value for the customer and to differentiate your product.

Something as simple as how you price can be a value generator for your company.  Think about the first people that used the freemium model, where you start out free, but then you can buy an expanded service.  That was a great idea for the customer, because they could try the product with no risk, decide they like it, then confidently spend money to maintain it.  For example, dropbox built the company on that realization, and then executed it really well.

Dan: So you need to basically know ahead of time what is the business model, what’s the long-term strategy.

Bob: I would agree with that.

Dan: What are some of the business models that you like or think would work well in the 21st century?

Bob: I came to the same conclusions for a totally different set of reasons, but Fred Wilson at AVC Blog, who’s a partner at one of the venture firms in New York City, says that today, he only invests in businesses that are built on marketplaces or on networks.  For example, he was an investor in Twitter.  He was an investor in Etsy, Etsy being marketplace, Twitter being networks.  I think that he has also developed an investment thesis which is very consistent with a concept called “complexity theory.”  What complexity theory says is that human behavior is all explained by networks.  Fred says he wants to invest in marketplaces.  Marketplaces are just nodes on networks.  What you find is that nodes get bigger because they’re better able to process information.  A marketplace is there to exchange information.  I think Fred Wilson’s got it right when he says marketplaces and networks.

Dan: Are there any industries that you think are trending up and have high growth potential?  Any particular industries you like?

Bob: Using the concept of marketplace, and using it better, to bridge resource availability in the third world with the users in the developed world, that’s a big opportunity.  Today, there are some marketplaces that’ll help you find a graphic designer in Argentina, but usually all they are is bulletin boards, where somebody’s name is there, and you can contact them. But if you capture full information on this Argentine designer, show a portfolio of his work, determine what his rates are, actually negotiate the payment terms, then all the user in the United States has to do is to contact the marketplace and say, “I need Argentine designers,” and the marketplace gives him instantly 10 designers in Argentina.  That is the kind of opportunity that we’re going to see a lot of.

Dan: The thinking is now more global as well, versus it’s just my city or my country. It’s a global kind of thinking.

Bob: Yes, and bridging that kind of global connection and adding value in the bridging, anticipating what the developed country users need, is a big opportunity.


Dan: What is your perspective on the overall economy? What do you think is happening in the States or China? Where are they heading?  What’s happening there?

Bob: A few years ago, I went to Shanghai to work with the World’s Fair, in 2010 or 2011.  From the airport in Shanghai to the Grand Hyatt in downtown, it was solid new construction.  And as near as I could tell, there was not a single person living in the buildings.  It was at night, and there weren’t any lights on.  That suggests to me that China is probably due for some fairly serious adjustment.  In fact, it might be their first serious adjustment since they emerged as a full-fledged economy.  It’s going to be a little bit of a tumultuous event, and a lot of those stock market investors have never seen a down market, so they’re going to have a learning experience, too. But I’m reasonably confident that the Chinese government is going to figure out a way to eventually produce a smooth landing.  They may not figure it out today, but they’ll figure it out.  We’re gonna have some ups and downs.

The oil price is kind of interesting, because all the commentators are basically saying that the low oil prices are having a negative effect on the stock market.  But when you look at the value of the oil companies as a percentage of the total value of the stock market, it’s only somewhere between 7 and 10 percent.  The magnitude of the disruption to the market is way overstated for just the effect. I don’t think it’s all explained by other commodity prices dropping.

I’m not sure where the stock market’s going.  I think we may range trade the way we have for the whole month of January.  We’ll just trade in a range and not break out either way until we figure out what’s really going on.

Dan: What do you think of the US economy?  Where do you think that’s heading?

Bob: The US economy, I think, is going to show modest growth for awhile.  A lot of the really detailed analysis of the startup community and stock market valuations for IPO’s show that the valuations are actually not that overdone.  We may have a couple more years before we start to see some really serious negative economic effects.  That’s not to say that the stock market might not be challenging, but I think the underlying economy for the next couple years should be okay.  I wouldn’t be afraid to start a business now.


Dan: I always want to ask each of my guests not just their view on business or entrepreneurship, raising capital, growing a company, but also, “How do you view wealth, money, or life?  Has your perspective on business today or even life in general changed from what it was 30 years ago?

Bob: The only thing that’s changed is I’m more committed to the philosophy that I started with than even when I started.  That philosophy is essentially “serve the customer, build the business, and the money will take care of itself.”  I was lucky enough to work for 3 billionaires, and not one of them ever talked about being a billionaire, or said, “How much money did we make?  It was always about, “How much can we grow?  What does the customer want?  Should we experiment or renovate with this new format change or product?”  If you want to build something really big, you focus on the customer and the product, and you don’t worry about money.

Dan: One of the richest men in British Columbia, Jimmy Pattison, says the customer is king.  It’s focusing on them.  People whose high net worth is super successful, guests on my show, they actually don’t talk about money. They don’t talk about, “I want to make X amount of dollars this year.  I want to grow my net worth.”  I think it’s because, like you said, they’re beyond that.  They’re comfortable.  They’ve got the house and the car.  They’re beyond that level.  Now, they’re just more focusing on creating something great, something large, something that can impact the world.

Bob: To clarify, I think they always felt that way.  Maybe it’s more obvious now that they have the homes and the cars.

Dan: They worry less.

Bob: Right.  When I start my entrepreneurship class the very first day, I have a quote from one of the Buddhist philosophers, where he basically says that if you want to learn, you first must empty your mind.  The part of the mind I want to empty the first day of entrepreneurship class is this notion of getting rich.  I want to replace that with the idea of “serve the customer, and you’ll be successful.”


Dan: When you teach these young students and young minds, what do you think of the new generation?

Bob: The big difference is, in my classes, I always have a course project.  What I’ve found in the last two or three years is that more and more students propose projects that are social entrepreneurship rather than traditional entrepreneurship.  Not to get too complicated, but I would define social entrepreneurship as using entrepreneurship to solve a social problem.  It’s Hacker’s simple definition.  More and more, the students are interested in using their entrepreneurship skills to work on social problems.  I think that’s really encouraging.


Dan: Aren’t you working on your second book on social entrepreneurship?

Bob: My second book is out.  I could come back for a second interview.  (I’m teasing.)  The book is called Scaling Social Entrepreneurship, and it’s on Amazon, where it’s available in hardcover or as an e-book. It’s basically about applying business model thinking to social ventures.  I use things that happened during the 3.5 years when I worked on One Laptop per Child as a lot of the examples to illustrate my points and show how my thinking evolved.

Dan: Can you talk a little bit about One Laptop per Child?  I know that’s a project dear to your heart.

Bob: One Laptop per Child was a project that started in 2005 at MIT at the media lab.  The purpose of the project was to provide a connected laptop to every child in the developing world.  I sold about a million laptops to governments around the world that were then given to children.  Because of that project, I got connected to MIT, and I now teach a social entrepreneurship class at MIT once a year.

Dan: It also goes to show that when we’re successful, there are so many things we can do to give back in using our business acumen and skills.

Bob: I think that’s a good takeaway for  the audience.  There are always opportunities.


Dan: Any final thoughts before we go?  Our listeners can go to to get your books.  What’s the best way for them to learn more about you or get in touch with you?

Bob: Probably to go to my blog, which is called sophisticated Finance.  I’ve been blogging there for 8 years on finance and strategy, technology, social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, so there are a lot of writings there that explain how I think about things.  On that site is my cellular phone number and my email.  I would welcome the chance to talk to people.  I think I’ve worked in 55 countries, so it doesn’t really matter where you are, I may have seen the problem before or seen it in your country.

Dan: I’m so thankful, Bob, to have you on the show.  Thank you so much for inspiring us today with your story and your generosity in sharing your thoughts and ideas.  I appreciate it very, very much.

Bob: Dan, thanks for having me.  It was a lot of fun.  You and I both know that the interview is made by the interviewer, so you did a great job.  Thank you.

Dan: Thank you, Bob.  I appreciate it.