Phillip Gee: Martial Arts Meets Business
For me, work is about the challenge. I'm passionate about innovation and doing the impossible.
I was born in Canada, but my parents sent me to the U.S. to stay with my grandfather when I was a year old. We lived with three Shaolin monks in San Francisco. They trained me in a form of martial arts they had created. The monks didn't believe in competition, but I was curious. I learned tae kwon do and won my first tournament when I was 14. I was hooked.
I married at 24, and my wife came to all my competitions. I represented Canada in tae kwon do in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and in 1988 in Seoul. An athlete's life is grueling. It is just like having a job, if you have a job that you love. My dream always had been to be an Olympian. Once I had accomplished that, I moved on.
While I was competing, I was also working on my PhD in applied mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1989, I began working as chief scientist for mci Worldwide, but after WorldCom bought the company in 1998, I left. I went to a local firm but I didn't get along with the ceo, so I started my own company in 2002. Our software makes wireless networks more secure. I recently raised more than $5 million from angel investors and have deals with distributors in Japan, Malaysia, and China. We've also sold our technology in the Middle East. We're on our way to bringing the technology to North America, where customers want to see an established history before they sign a deal.
My instructors taught me from an early age to follow my gut and apply what I knew. They always said: "Willingness isn't enough. You must do. Knowing isn't enough. You must apply." Knowing how to kick and punch is fine, but if you can't apply it, it's not doing you any good. The same thing is true in the technology business. Even if you develop the products, it does no good if you can't sell them.
I'm not afraid to fail. I've lost tournaments, and it's not the end of the world. It's healthy. But you must continue to do. Something I teach my martial arts students is that if today is the same as yesterday and the same as tomorrow, then you're living in the past. In order for tomorrow to change, you must do something today.
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