Deepak: ‘For Paperclip, it is all about the community.’
This interview with Deepak Madnani, founders of Paperclip, was conducted and condensed by EntrepreneurHK.
EHK Talks to Serial Entrepreneur and Co-Working Space Paperclip’s Founder Deepak – Part II
You put your own money in building this space which requires a lot of money. How did you make that financially possible?
I had to save up for that, and put in a lot of faith. I also have my current businesses that support what I do. Often, people ask me ‘how are you managing all your businesses?’ And honestly that is what you could call a ‘secret’ but it is not really a secret. You find your strengths and you find your weaknesses. You also find the people to work with. I think hiring and managing people is a huge part of being an entrepreneur. That is how any established entrepreneur runs their business. That is my so-call ‘secret’.
It sounds like Paperclip is more than just a business decision. It sounds like there is something personal that is beyond business. What is that?
Paperclip is part of my ambition. This is the beginning of my Deepak 2.0 journey. I am trying to get to the point where I want to be able to enable every entrepreneur on the planet. Whatever that means to anybody, I don’t even know what it means yet.
There is this little thing inside of me that say ‘this is part of your journey’. I have a test-case that I might be able to empower every entrepreneur on the planet.
I am a product of history. I am an Indian. My parents had to come here at a very young age without many resources and build a life for themselves. There are a lot of history and colonialism, and a lot of goods and bads that come out of it. I have had benefits in my life, but what about the rest of the people who are smarter but just don’t have the resources? All they need is that resource and they can live the rest of their lives independently while freeing themselves from corruption… but the fact that they are not able to do anything because the powers are bigger than any of them. Empowering them is the ultimate goal.
When did you get your eureka moment where you thought you had to re-invent Deepak?
I have been very sensitive to injustice in life, and Warren Buffett has always said something that has always resonated with me. He said ‘I have won the ovarian lottery’. It means that he is blessed to have been born in a country like America, with whatever limited resources but he is allowed to do what he loves to do best and made a success of himself. So in that sentence he is being humble, he is taking responsibility for his actions, and he is telling you that hard work has enabled him to get to where he is. So these three things, the more I think about them every year, the deeper I get into them. The fact that I get to do the things I love to do is one version of success and that is what is pushing me to go further and push things deeper. I am fortunate to be part of this group called ‘The Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum’. Being part of the group, I got to travel with many leaders for free, attend events, and go deep into Africa and India. I saw these social issues that most of us will never see in our lifetimes.
I know, in my own little way, I can do something about this. If my tool is entrepreneurship, I am going to use this tool to impact the little pool of people that I work with. I have seen how I am able to positively impact them on scalable basis.
What was your elevator pitch to your wife?
My wife knows me. She knows that I can excel and she knows that I have these big visions and big plans that I am trying to, in my own little way, execute it. She supports my decision and that is the great thing about a spouse. I am not betting the house every time. It does look like it. If the market crushes, I am going to be in trouble but so will a lot of other people, not just me.
I’ve made some decent moves that pushed us, me and my wife, forward. I’ve also made bad moves in the past. But that is all part of learning and moving forward. The thing about entrepreneurship is that it’s not for everyone, that is why you have accountants, lawyers, bankers, bakers, drivers and so on, everyone has a role to play. But if you are going to be in this journey, you have to understand that not everyone is going to be a Facebook or an Instagram. If you can keep your head above the water and build something stable, then you have done something.
Give me three things that you believe matter the most when launching a co-working space?
The three things are community, community and community. We really can’t do this without the community. I am here to serve the entrepreneurs. I am here to make money, and there is nothing wrong with making money. What drives me is meeting the entrepreneurs that are so passionate about what they are doing and that they want to keep creating something that will change their lives or change the world.
For Paperclip, it is all about the community. Nothing is going to happen without the community.
Let’s talk about design, what is the concept behind it? Are you trying to convey any messages through the design?
I want something that is simple. Paperclip is a simple icon. It can be used for a very long time. It has a beautiful shape. And it is just so functional and useful. It is so simple that you don’t have to think about the term or the word. My very good friend, Stephen Barry, a self-made entrepreneur and a local guy, who owns a creative agency called Stepworks, took care all of our design works.
Another design element is energy. Part of this Paperclip journey is that I have a chance to meet with many entrepreneurs in similar stages of the journey like I am. And I want to create something that support them. Something that is energetic because you are going to need energy to be an entrepreneur.
What do you consider a success for Paperclip?
I want to see people renewing their membership. I want our members bringing in their friends because they feel this is a really important part of the community. If the members are talking about it, inviting friends, attending workshops, I consider those successes.
Any big plans that you can share with us?
Absolutely. We, me and my team, want to own our space and we want to expand. I want it to come to a point where people say ‘Deepak there are 15 co-working spaces and 10 of them are yours’.
I always used to tell my team that I was going to own my own space. I want to own it in terms of quality, service, design, and brand. Coming to a space like this where entrepreneurs can write everywhere because the space is for them to use. It’s build for entrepreneurs. Beautiful furniture made of bamboo. I try to use organic materials. Quiet space. The lighting and color tone are perfect. We are going to expand while keeping the same level of quality and prices.
Last question, this is about starting Paperclip. You have so many global connections, why chose Hong Kong?
Well I guess, part of the whole risk profile is starting a business, and I am from here. I am part of Hong Kong. I feel that there are a lot of entrepreneurs here that need the kind of guidance that Paperclip can provide. So it was a logical place to start. In terms of global city, Hong Kong is definitely in the top five.