Golf Entrepreneur Profile:
Name: Eddy Lui
Location: Oakland, CA
“Good or bad, the most important thing is not what just happened, but what you do next. As long as the ball is still in play, you have a chance to do your best and make the most of it.” – Eddy Lui
Eddy Lui, the founder & CEO of the innovative 18Birdies app, is a workhorse. I had the pleasure of meeting Eddy at the 18Birdies kick-off party in Orlando during the PGA Merchandise Show this year.
Running on two hours of sleep, Eddy was the life of the party. Being a young entrepreneur with a busy schedule, it was great to have the opportunity to talk to him.
Between balancing his start-up, commuting between Shangai and San Francisco, and his family, he knows a thing or two about the demands of starting a company.
Eddy gave me a great piece of advice on entrepreneurship that will stick with me for a long time.
“You have to outlast everyone else.” – Eddy Lui
Eddy talked about how being a successful entrepreneur is so challenging that people tend to quit along the way. You have to be resilient and persistent. If you never quit, outlasting everyone else, you will find a way to succeed.
With this mentality, Eddy had a very successful career before 18Birdies. He helped build and grow technology start-ups while at Fairlook Capital. Eddy was also the Co-Founder of PIXIA Corp, his first technology start-up.
Now Eddy is combining his love for technology with his passion for golf. With 18Birdies, he hopes to have a lasting impact on the game.
To do so, he took a very analytical look at the industry. In his recent article in Golf Inc. Magazine, Eddy broke down his thought process behind creating a technology app for golf. His idea is to center it around gamification.
Over the past year, companies like Nike are scaling back their golf divisions. Eddy believes that this is because they are having a hard time selling to Millenials.
“It’s no secret that groups like Millennials are the key to growing any business as they make up about 25 percent of the U.S. population. The most common attributes that they share are their dependence on smartphones, desire to gamify their experiences and the need to share socially.” – Eddy Lui
For Millenials, smartphones are a part of us. Everything we do is connected through our phone. With 18Birdies, Eddy wants to attract more Millenials to golf. His tactic, combine gamification and technology. In his article, he discusses how TopGolf illustrates this approach to perfection.
“TopGolf is another great example of combining gamification and golf with its unique driving range experience. With every shot hit counting towards a score, the gamification factor brings an exciting element to the traditional driving range experience.” – Eddy Lui
With 18Birdies, Eddy has created an incredible app that will grab the attention of any Millenial golfer.
Through the app, long-standing competitive golf betting games are being combined with technology. Players can choose between a diverse amount of side games that add a new level of excitement to their round.
18Birdies also allows it’s users to keep track of their stats, stay connected with their friends through the news feed, and create live leaderboards for tournaments and outings.
In the video below, Eddy talks about technology in golf and shows us the capabilities of 18Birdies.
It was a true pleasure to meet Eddy and have the opportunity to interview him. Here is what he had to say about entrepreneurship and his experience creating 18Birdies.
Tell us a little about your backstory (hometown, college, first job, etc…) and when did you first realize entrepreneurship was your calling?
Hometown: I bounce between Shanghai and San Francisco.
First job: My first job was at the consulting firm Bain and Company after college. There, I was fortunate to be exposed to multiple industries as well as practices within those industries (marketing, cost cutting, strategy). One of the biggest benefits that came from my experience there was that I was able to see and learn across industries and how things could be applied across them. Since I was a kid, I always knew I wanted to work for myself. I always had an inherent desire to solve problems. I viewed every job I had as continuing education.
What did you learn from your other entrepreneurial ventures before starting 18Birdies?
Great ideas do not always translate to good businesses, but without a great idea, you are destined to fail. We are passed the stage in this world where a mediocre product with great marketing can succeed. Especially in technology, products are almost naked in the marketplace and are viewed under a microscope. I also learned that if you aren’t committed to improving your customer experience, you will fail as consumers today have a much louder voice thanks to social media and other forms of digital communication.
The other thing that is key is being able to build the right team that has the resilience and dedication to stay on course and is passionate about what they are doing. Make sure they won’t get derailed by the many problems and issues that will come up.
Success is a combination of team, will, and luck.
How did the idea for 18Birdies come about?
I’ve always loved to play golf and along the way learned to enjoy ways to make the game more fun through betting games to elevate the experience. My friends and I didn’t always just bet for money. Sometimes we bet for fun things like having someone ride in the trunk on the way home from the course or carrying everyone’s bags in the next round or just pride.
All my friends eventually made me the scorekeeper for betting games because of my proficiency in math. That process became pretty painful for me, even though I will say I became very adept at calculating betting games. During this time, mobile technology was taking off, and when golf apps would come out, I was always the first one to get them to see if they would work for me. It was always exciting when I downloaded an app, but that turned to disappointment quickly when I found it didn’t have what I needed or work the way I needed it to.
At this time, I was also investing in the mobile gaming space in Asia, so I wanted to see if I could solve the problem of being able to calculate side bets quickly and at the same time, using mobile technology to make the game more fun and exciting.
What are your goals for 18Birdies and yourself into the future?
The goal is to build the best technology for golf so that every golfer in the world can be served in a way that the game becomes more connected and fun for them. I want 18Birdies to be the place where golfers can manage all their needs for their golf lifestyle. We want to provide convenience and an elevated experience, so people play more, growing the game and introducing new people to golf. I want the chance to do something great for golf.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
15-20 hours a day. And happily doing so.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
There was a well-known Tibetan monk who my family had the honor of meeting. Without any resources, his mission was to build and restore a legendary monastery in the mountains of Tibet. He just looked at the mountain, which was barren, and said that’s where he wanted to build this monastery. He had no means except for setting that goal and traveled around the country gathering resources to make it happen. Ten years later it has become known as one of the most amazing monasteries in Tibet, The Kanda Monastery. My family and I had the pleasure of helping him along this journey to make the goal happen. He was a testament of how with having faith and staying loyal to your goals, you can make anything happen.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
I welcome failure. I have had a lot more failure than success in my life. I see failure as a right of passage in my line of work. When we first started talking to golf courses three years ago about using our mobile platform to better connect and market to their local community, we were pretty much shut down at every door. That didn’t stop me as I believe temporary setbacks are just a door to another opportunity. I find that you are better served not asking what if something doesn’t work, but rather if there is an obstacle, what are the ways around. So I asked myself what could we do to provide more value to these courses. In the end, while continuing to build out our course platform, we made a concentrated effort on building up our audience base so that the courses could see the value in the community that we had built.
Fast forward to this year’s PGA Show; it was so great to see all the various courses and organizations that were now hungry to partner or work with us.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Willingness to take risk
Willingness to listen
Ability to stick out
If you could time travel back to day one of your start-up and have 15 minutes with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heartache, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself that this is far more difficult than you think. Do your homework. Have something you can always hold on to for your belief.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s a lifestyle choice, and you have to be ready to make a lot of personal sacrifices for the chance to make your dream happen. You have to be willing to accept that first. Fully think if the concept is valuable to society and think of all the things that could go wrong before jumping in.