Monday, March 21, 2016 : MEMBER OF M.I.T. BLACK JACK TEAM SAYS ACTIVITY PREPARED HIM FOR A CAREER IN BUSINESS.
Yuchun Lee built and sold a $500 million company.
In an interesting interview with Business Insider this week an erstwhile member of the famous MIT blackjack team that won millions off Las Vegas casino operators at the turn of the century said that the experience and discipline necessary had prepared him for a successful business career.
Blackjack prodigy Yuchun Lee joined the team after graduating from MIT and starting his own company, a marketing software enterprise titled Unica which he built up and subsequently sold to IBM for $500 million, joining the "Big Blue" executive team for several years as part of the deal.
The entrepreneur launched a new company, Allego in 2013, which is enjoying success as a corporate video training service and now has over 20,000 users across 50 different organisations,
"Blackjack has really strengthened me over the years, to go through the ups and downs of business," Lee told Business Insider.
The blackjack experience, which saw him travelling to Las Vegas to play almost every weekend for six years as part of the team, taught him valuable lessons, Lee says.
Among them was how to develop the courage and commitment to survive the swings in a business cycle. Lee says he went through 4 recessions and 3 wars during his years running Unica, and part of the success was having that "emotional fortitude" to not only succeed but prosper.
"If you ever want to experience volatility, many ups and downs emotionally, there’s nothing better than joining a professional blackjack team where you can win or lose so much money just by the sheer randomness of the game," Lee said. "It's taught me to have conviction in what you do."
It also steeled him for the "David and Goliath" challenges that inevitably face small start-ups entering an established market, Lee said.
His time with the famous MIT team saw the tightly disciplined and professionally managed outfit doubling its money every year, earning millions of dollars on which Lee says it paid all required taxes.
His own discipline included rigid adherence to keeping his blackjack earnings separate from his business interests, even though five of his Unica employees also played on the MIT team, and trained with him after hours.
He also developed the confidence to "bootstrap" his own start-ups, eschewing the involvement of venture capital companies in favour of retaining responsibility, control and the ultimate rewards. Lee believes that there is a danger of becoming "less discriminatory" when it comes to spending money and allocating resources if you have too much money in the early stages of a business.
"Not having money is a strong incentive to help you make the best decision possible," he told Business Insider.
"You don’t have to be smart or have as much resources as your competition, but whenever you see that you're doing something wrong, if you can correct it quicker, you can still beat the competition," Lee said. "That’s in my experience one of the things that we treasure the most as a business."