Min-Liang Tan is the co-founder and CEO of Razer, where he directs and oversees the design and development of all Razer products.
Tan was born in Singapore and resides in San Francisco. He graduated from the National University of Singapore Law School and was a lawyer before turning his passion for gaming into a 500-person global company.Min-Liang Tan was recently elected to the board of the PC Gaming Alliance. In March 2012 he contributed $10,000 USD to the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter project, admitting it was to atone for pirating Wasteland when he was a child. (Wasteland designer and Interplay CEO Brian Fargo replied that Mr. Tan has more than made up for his piracy of the game.)
Min-Liang Tan has been named one of “The 25 Most Creative People in Tech” by the Business Insider together with Jonathan Ive and Gabe Newell. He has also been ranked one of the top 40 most powerful people in gaming by Kotaku in their “The Kotaku Power 40” list.
How did you get started in this business?
I have always been passionate about gaming since young. At that time, no one in the industry was creating high-quality gaming equipment. I believed that there was an unmet demand and gamers were being ignored.
We started Razer on a hunch and so we faced many challenges in the beginning. We were entering a brand-new market – one that has not been explored or even envisioned. As such, there were many doubts that the business would succeed.
And the rest is history.
How do you make money?
We founded Razer because of our passion for gaming. We make products for the gaming community and this has naturally translated into the gaming hardware business that we know today. Over the past years, we have built the world’s biggest gamer-centric ecosystem of gaming hardware, software, and services. In short, we’re just making what gamers want.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
We were profitable in the early years but started investing heavily in recent years which resulted in a loss situation for us. We just announced that we would be profitable in 2020.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
We knew there was a demand for high performance gaming peripherals, but it was unexplored territory. Naturally there were many concerns. But as gamers, we believed in the community and persevered. That perseverance paid off and Razer is now the world’s leading lifestyle brand for gamers.
How did you get your first customer?
There wasn’t one single first customer, but the gaming community as a whole were waiting for it. The success was overwhelming when we launched the Razer Boomslang. That emboldened us to develop other mice and then venture to new product categories like gaming keyboards and headsets.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
By building a community of like-minded individuals. People are passionate about things coming from Razer, we’ve become a lifestyle brand for youth and millennials. I think it’s because we’ve always been very authentic, and we’ve always stuck to our roots.
Community engagement is incredibly important for our brand. Razer has more than 11 million fans on Facebook and almost 7 million followers on Instagram. It is a form of spontaneous communication and in today’s world, it is important to be close to your consumer base.
We have a group of very passionate fans, who tattoo our logo on themselves and queue up for new store openings overnight, rain or shine. People sometimes ask me why I spend so much time on social media chatting with our fans. It’s simply because Razer has built a community, a family and even a way of life.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
With COVID-19 hitting many businesses hard, the economy has taken an extreme hit. While Razer was fortunate to stay afloat without any retrenchments, the management had to make many difficult decisions on how to position our business for continued success.
Personally, I’ve taken a pay cut in early 2020 along with my management, to allow us to safe costs and protect our workforce during these unprecedented times.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
The passion I have for gaming. I’ve never stopped gaming. Whether it is a few rounds of PUBG Mobile or playing the Witcher III on a long-haul flight. It’s not just important to know your audience, you need to be part of the ecosystem too. We have always lived by our motto, “For Gamers. By Gamers.” and it informs every choice we make.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
There are many satisfying moments with Razer. Every product launch is satisfying, watching our team grow globally and building our new Razer Southeast Asian Headquarters are extremely satisfying moments. It’s hard to put a pin to it when as a company, we’re always striving for our next achievement.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Gaming today is a multibillion-dollar industry and virtually all youth and millennials play games. Razer has the largest ecosystem of hardware, software and services that accompanies the gamer’s lifestyle, and we are hyper focused on meeting all needs of gamers.
What business books have inspired you?
I enjoy reading biographies of different entrepreneurs – it’s always interesting to read about their lives and stories.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I believe in drawing experience from everything you do and using it to improve yourself in other areas. Never be afraid to learn something new, even though it might not have a direct link to your objective. Most times, you will realize that you are actually gaining knowledge and that experiences are transferable in everything you do.
Most importantly though, be passionate about what you do.
Good results can come from hard work alone, but to be truly great, you need to be passionate and believe in what you are doing. This will allow you to not only keep yourself motivated, but to also motivate others who share the same approach.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
I am afraid my plate is too full right now!