Sonny Vu, Founder of Misfit, on Truly Innovative Technology That Serves People Well

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The desire to create a piece of innovative technology that dominates the market has fueled founders for a long time. When Sonny Vu and his partners created Misfit, they wanted to go a step beyond that. They wanted to create technology that was innovative because it truly served people in meaningful ways, rather than the other way around. In his mind, it had to be something people actually wanted to wear, something they enjoyed using.

This conversation tells how Sonny was born in Vietnam, raised in the home of immigrants, and began starting companies of his own when he was in his early 20s. It’s not the road most commonly traveled, but it’s one that has brought Sonny a lot of personal and professional fulfillment. You’ll be inspired by his story and empowered by his lessons-learned from founding, scaling, and selling a very successful and innovative technology company, Misfit.

Wearable technology needs to serve us and be something we want to use

In Sonny’s opinion, most of the wearable technology that comes to market seems to have been designed by brilliant engineers, for people who have the IQ of a brilliant engineer. There doesn't seem to be thought given to the end-user and what would make the tech something they would not only find useful but also enjoy using.

The goal in starting Misfit was to bring a product to market that accomplished both of those things. As part of the product research phase, Sonny read thousands of Amazon reviews for wearable tech purchases. His suspicions were confirmed: Most purchasers expressed frustration and didn’t actually enjoy using what they had purchased.

The Misfit road to success is one that has changed that story. Elegant, useful products created with the end-user in mind. Listen as Sonny explains.

Wisdom, judgment, culture: Areas where new team members MUST fit your company

One of the hardest things to get right in any company is hiring. It’s almost impossible to discern character, wisdom, and cultural fit in a handful of interviews. So how do you do it? Sonny says it’s not an exact science but you can get better at it.

He’s learned to focus on three things: wisdom, judgment, and culture. He does everything he can to get a clear view of those because they are the character traits that will have the biggest impact on the team, both positively and negatively. He prefers to work alongside people before he hires them. He watches how they interact with others, their body language, and pays attention to the degree of insight they demonstrate during the project.

Are there ways you can apply this “lean startup-like” approach to finding and hiring the right people for your team?

New hires require micromanagement until they earn autonomy

When I asked Sonny how he goes about bringing a new hire onto his team, he expressed a desire to get them to a state of independence and autonomy as soon as possible. But that doesn’t mean he throws them into that level of freedom right away. He actually does the opposite.

He believes it’s prudent to micromanage new hires for a season because autonomy is something that has to be earned. As a new hire proves their ability, capacity, and judgment they are allowed more freedom. How would this approach work in your organization?

Technology that is incredibly useful and extremely affordable is the best innovation

I always like to hear who has influenced my guests in significant ways. For Sonny, one of those people was Steve Jobs. He had the opportunity to spend 5 to 10 minutes with Steve once and received a great deal of insight from the famed Apple founder in that compressed encounter.

Steve asked him about what he was working on and inquired what the most innovative thing he could do might be. During the conversation Steve said that the best innovations are the ones that are incredibly useful to many people yet very affordable, so the masses can benefit from it just as much as those with greater resources.

Sonny loves that mindset and wants it to characterize the way he develops tech solutions. He hopes to one day be part of a project that makes life better for the “bottom billion” - those who are the poorest of the poor across the globe.

If you are with a consumer technology company planning to launch a new product at CES or are even looking ahead to CES 2019, the Max Borges Agency can help you succeed. To learn more, check out: www.maxborgesagency.com.

Topics Featured In This Episode

  • [1:06] Sonny Vu’s dream of making technology serve us instead of us serving technology
  • [4:42] Why the company has hired a medical officer
  • [6:21] Born in Vietnam, raised in an immigrant family, starting companies in the 90s
  • [8:03] Hiring the right team is not an easy process
  • [11:07] Should an entrepreneur ever outsource recruiting and sales?
  • [13:42] When to jump in to help and when to let the team make mistakes
  • [15:20] The Christian values that inform the way Sonny leads his teams
  • [20:30] People who have impacted Sonny through their influence on his life
  • [23:34] How Sonny came to learn that work-life-balance is more about integration
  • [25:41] Sonny’s message to the world: Give first, get later, leave money on the table for the other side

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Sonny Vu

Connect With Max Borges

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