David has bootstrapped a global e-commerce venture from Hong Kong. Splendid execution!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
David Menning: I grew up in Sydney. I’ve been educated in Australia. In my later years, I studied at universities overseas both in Canada and Japan for a little while. It was this time when I was abroad spending time in different countries that I was exposed to different business models, cultures, and people.
That was a formative time for me because I was exposed to the fact that in different countries, people do things in different ways.
Sramana Mitra: What educational path did you follow?
David Menning: It was a standard business graduate program where I finished a Business in Liberal Arts degree. Afterwards, I did an MBA and a master’s in Political Science. When I was studying, I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do at that point. It’s not that I knew I wanted to start a business.
I was focused on the education journey. Also graduate studies gave me insights into a completely different area of education as well. Undergraduate programs these days are quite prescriptive whereas a master’s program can be far more interesting, especially abroad, in the sense that you are in class with lots of people from different countries.
Sramana Mitra: What years are we talking about?
David Menning: I graduated from high school in 1997. I did my undergraduate degree until 2001 and 2002. I worked for a couple of years and then I did my master’s from 2003 to 2005. After I did my master’s, I was working in a few strategic projects from 2006 to 2007. That was when we identified the very beginnings of the e-commerce industry, which was already happening for certain product categories.
In the 2005 to 2006 timeframe, you may recall Amazon was selling only books. It was quite a linear product category. We could already see a trend that there was this thing called the Internet. There was already a seed to identify that there was some big change afoot.
Sramana Mitra: When you came out of your master’s program, what was the next step that you made with your career?
David Menning: I did a six-month consultation at the Australian Trade Commission in their London office. I was actually looking at how Australian businesses were entering the European business environment. I started understanding how products were traded around the world, exported from one country to another, and how they were imported.
I started understanding these things. At that point, I was also in touch with some old friends who are now my business partners. We started looking at business ideas together. That was when the idea of an e-commerce optical business came along.