Rob Leslie is a serial entrepreneur who graduated in Ireland in the eighties as an electronics engineer. He spent the first 20 years of his career working in Japan for a variety of Japanese and foreign companies which included being a member of the management team that launched Dell in the Japanese market. Over the four years he was with Dell, the company grew its revenue over $300M and added 250 employees. He has held senior management positions with Datacraft Japan as Director of I.T. and Business Systems, PTS Ltd. as Director for Systems Integration Services. He left Dell to become a partner in a startup called PTS, a niche technology services company. PTS was acquired in 2000 by Datacraft Asia as part of their entry strategy into the Japanese market.
After returning to Ireland in 2003, Rob founded a couple of technology companies that were focused on digital identity and trust. Kyckr, which was listed in the ASX in Sydney in 2016, provides anti-money laundering and ‘Know Your Customer Services’ to corporates for the financial services industry. Sedicii has developed a unique technology, based on a protocol called Zero Knowledge Proof, to allow personal identity to be proven without the need to expose it which makes it fully compliant with privacy legislation around the world. Sedicii has won numerous technology awards and is a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer.
Network Capital interacted with Rob. Check out his insightful interview.
1. What do you do? What drives you? What is your vision?
I’m am engineer at heart and want to solve problems that will make peoples’ lives better. Making a difference is what drives me. My vision is to help to make the digital world a safer, more trusted place where people and businesses can do things online without having to worry about being defrauded or having their identity stolen.
2. If you were to reflect upon your careers, what would be some of the most defining moments that have shaped your professional journey?
Early on in my career I worked for a Japanese company that was building a manufacturing facility in Ireland just at the time of the economic collapse that Japan experienced in the early 90’s. The company experiences a sales drop of almost 50% which necessitated putting on hold the Irish plans and laying off a lot of people. Six weeks after we closed the facility a large corporation mentioned to me that they would have bankrolled the operation had they known about the financial challenges. This taught me never to give up looking for solutions to problems because they can appear from the most unlikely places.
The next one was when Michael Dell was briefing the Japanese management team about how to optimise supply chains so that you were never holding lots of stock on your books. This was when I realised that selling digital goods and services was likely to be extremely profitable as it was easy to manage the logistics pipeline as compared to physical goods which are much more complex.
3. Who are your mentors? How have they helped you?
I have many mentors, from my kids and my family to many business acquaintances and friends I’ve made over the years. You never stop learning. The advice can be as simple as something your 6 year daughter says when she says to you “not to worry, I’ll play tennis with you tomorrow” which makes all the problems you have trivial in comparison! Joking aside, being able to ask for help and advice over the years is something I’ve never been shy about doing. To me it is a sign of strength, not weakness, when you are willing to ask others for help and shows a human side to you
4. If you were to give your 18 year old self some advice, what would it be? Will the advice be different to your 30 year old self? If yes, what?
You mean my 50 year old self! My advice is to follow your dream and not to accept No for an answer. Find a way. As an older entrepreneur with 30 years plus of experience I actually think it is harder now that when I had no idea as to what my own limitations are.
5. What is the next big personal/professional ambition/target for you?
I really want to try and solve the digital identity challenge so that people get back control of their identity and are able to manage it just as they would any other asset that they own. Once that is done, I’d love to get involved in helping an under-developed community in Africa get themselves on the web so that they can make and sell products to the rest of the world.
6. What advice would you like to give to students and young professionals?
Don’t think you know it all. Learn from those who have done it and succeeded (or failed) before you. Once you have an idea on what you’d like to do, give it a try, stick at it by changing things around if they don’t work initially. Ask for help when you need it. Persist!!