Power Players

Self-made billionaire attributes his success to one particular competitive trait

This billionaire gamer built a pandemic-proof business
This billionaire gamer built a pandemic-proof business

Today, Min-Liang Tan is an undisputed business icon, having built one of the most recognizable brands in global gaming with a suite of services that continues to grow.

But when the Razer CEO quit his job as a lawyer to start the business with his co-founder Robert Krakoff in 2005, his aspirations were hardly that great. In fact, they simply wanted to augment their gaming, the enthusiast told CNBC Make It.

"We said: 'Is there a possibility for us to build a better mouse?' All we wanted to do was to be able to compete with the rest of the gamers out there," said Tan, whose company offers gaming hardware and software platforms, as well as a payments wallet.

That small aim gave rise to Razer's flagship product, the Bloomslang mouse, designed to improve precision and speed.

Gamers from the Malaysia team compete in the qualifying rounds of the eSports event between Malaysia and Vietnam at the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) in Manila on December 5, 2019.
Ted Aljibe

However, it also sparked the gamers' competitive spirit, which Tan said has been the basis for his continued drive in the 15 years since. 

"We could have just stopped at making a mouse. We could have stopped at hardware. We've gone on to build an entire ecosystem," said Tan, who is currently chasing a Razer banking license as well as producing face masks for the coronavirus relief efforts

Indeed, that gamer mentality is apparent in the brand's slogan "by gamers, for gamers."

I kind of look at it like a gamer always. It's always about the next challenge.
Min-Liang Tan
co-founder and CEO, Razer

"I kind of look at it like a gamer always. It's always about the next challenge, what's ahead," said Tan, who at the age of 40 earned the title of Singapore's youngest self-made billionaire when Razer went public in November 2017.

"We very rarely look backward. What has been constantly ahead of us is what is the next thing we can go for. I think, for us, it is how can we get to that next level," he added.

The now-42-year-old leader said that's also true of his management style. Razer has come under criticism in the past for its demanding work schedule, which Tan noted was also a reflection of his gamer mentality.

"It's like management, we look at it like it's a real-time strategy game, what kind of resources can we move around? How do you get from point A to point B in the fastest time?" said Tan, whose team spans 16 offices globally.

However, he added that, ultimately, the business for him is about having fun.

"I think today when we realize that this is entire thing is a multibillion-dollar industry, we go like 'wow, it's kind of grown a bit.' But still, at the end of the day, it's about fun. We're looking at building a bank at this point in time. Like, what's next?"

Don't miss: How this self-made billionaire built a pandemic-proof business

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