Founder’s Game: How Nathan Chan created his own career with Foundr

In our series profiling prominent entrepreneurs, ‘Founders Game’, we caught up with founder and CEO of Foundr, Nathan Chan.

Nathan Chan didn’t set out to become an instant CEO and publisher – in a sense, he simply had no other choice.

Having struggled with his first degree, Chan found his trials didn’t end at the completion of his tertiary education, and finding a job in his career of choice was even more difficult than getting a qualification.

In a recent interview with The Pulse, Chan described the rocky road to launching his own business as something more like a series of misfortunes.

“I’ve actually got two degrees,” said Chan. “My first degree was in Information Systems – so, that was the only course I could kind of scrape into.

“I failed a lot of subjects in my first degree and then I actually went back to university.”

On his second time around at uni, Chan decided he would pursue a Master of Marketing as that’s the field he wanted to get into.

“I actually found it really, really difficult…to get a job in marketing.

“Literally no one would hire me.”


A career born of necessity


Chan spent some time interviewing for various roles, taking internships and generally not getting anywhere in his career of choice.

He was nearing the end of his tether when he came across an idea, coupled with an opportunity.

“At this agency, one of the guys, he said: ‘Look, I think it’d be really cool if you showcased some of your marketing abilities [in lieu of professional experience]’.

“This opportunity came up where I could purchase software that allowed you to create your own digital magazine.”

The two elements fell into place instantaneously, and Chan began work on the first edition of Foundr – a publication he envisaged as a way of sharing his own insights into marketing and business, but which has since become an international powerhouse of entrepreneurial wisdom.

“The first day we launched, we made five dollars and fifty cents – we had two subscribers.

While some might think it a paltry reward for the six months he’d invested in getting the magazine together, Chan saw this new income stream as a victory.

“I just knew that was a game changer,” he said. “Someone was prepared to spend their cold, hard dollars on something that I created?

“Friends, family laughed at me, and [they were] like, ‘Oh, is that all? It’s been six months working on this thing’.”


The evolution of Foundr


Chan wouldn’t allow the negativity get to him, and instead decided to dedicate a full 12-month period developing his concept to see what it might become.

That’s when things began gathering steam for the fledgling publication, with high profile interviewees imparting their hard-earned lessons for Chan’s readership and also for him personally.

“We got Richard Branson for one of the early editions of the magazine and interviewed him.

“One thing I learned from Richard is his ability to let go.”

Delegation is a key requirement for any business founder and Chan said he’s had to learn how to trust the people around him to make the right decisions and get the work done. But at no point did he feel it was an easy ride.

“Building a business is ridiculously hard,” said Chan. “It’s so tough; it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.

So how does he stay motivated? Chan explained that his secret lies in surrounding himself with aspirational businesspeople.

“The more that I hang out with people that have goals 10-times, 100-times bigger than mine, the more it motivates me to dream bigger, to push harder, to keep going.

“It’s infectious.”

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