Fireside chat with Patrick Lee from Rotten Tomatoes


Last week, The Hacker Exchange team had the honour of hosting Patrick Lee, co-founder and former CEO of Rotten Tomatoes, for a fireside chat in Melbourne.

Hacker Exchange co-founder, Jeanette Cheah, sat down with Patrick and took note of some of her key insights. 

When you hear that the co-founder and former CEO of Rotten Tomatoes is in town, what would you do? Well, we jumped at the opportunity to hang out with Patrick, shared some laughs, and he was generous enough to also spend some time with the tech and creative community in the heart of Richmond.

Patrick was visiting from Silicon Valley for a whirlwind week, thanks to Aussie workforce disruptors, WePloy, who count Patrick as one of their advisors.

His week also included speaking at the Startup Grind major announcement event, speaking at WePloy’s event about Building Agility Into Your Workforce, doing PR for the #goldopen diversity campaign, encouraging everyone to see ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, and playing a few arcade games in Melbourne’s laneways.

Here are a few of the key things we learned from Patrick Lee.

Silicon Valley is like a giant tree.

There’s a reason people build films in Hollywood, and a reason startups thrive in the Valley – and it’s all about the ecosystem. As companies grow massive and successful – like a giant tree – great people and teams will naturally fall out of the tree, and literally become the seed for something else. Patrick’s observation is that many other cities striving to be leaders in startups and tech still only have ‘sapling’ -sized companies, which is why it will take more time for the seeds of innovation to sprout.

You can learn to think bigger.

Reflecting on his six years spent in Hong Kong, Patrick says that he felt his goals and mindset slowly start to shrink. Whether this was due to the smaller market size, or the fact that he was no longer surrounded by entrepreneurs who (for better or for worse) legitimately believed that they could change the world – he couldn’t say for sure, but he noticed a distinct shift in his thinking. Patrick shared that he regularly visited San Francisco and maintained contact with people who inspired him to make sure his goals did not shrink. Maintaining a network of inspiring people is something we all can and should do, and these people can be found in every city.

Product-market fit is crucial.

Part of the beauty of Rotten Tomatoes and the key to its success was its simplicity. It was real reviews, from certified reviewers, and it changed the way that people consumed cinema. Essentially, they solved the problem of untrustworthy movie marketing! Patrick’s advice to the room was not to get hung up on your amazing idea or the new tech, but to make sure that there is a large enough audience out there who need a problem solved.

You are the battery that your business runs off. Make sure you are charged.

Speaking of some of his lower moments – like the dot com market crash early in the Rotten Tomatoes journey, laying off staff, and feelings of inadequacy that arise sometimes, Patrick encouraged each of us to find time to recharge ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. As founders, we often have high expectations of ourselves, but you can’t support a business when you don’t have any energy reserves. We are obliged to our team, customers and investors keep ourselves charged up, for optimal performance.

After the fireside chat, Patrick and Nick La (COO, WePloy) spent time chatting with the community over a cold cider. In the crowd were curious students, corporate innovators, founders, investors, and university staff.

It was a genuine honour to be able to bring these amazing people together for a laugh and a dose of inspiration.

Thanks to our venue hosts, Inspire9, our friends Holly, Nick, Sheryl and Sarah, and the entire Hacker Exchange team for helping this event to become reality.

If you’d like to join the HEX team at a VIP screening of Crazy Rich Asians on 7 September, tickets are now on sale. We’re also raising funds for One Girl.

Applications for HEX 1.6 and 1.7 in Silicon Valley are open now until 2 September 2018.

Places for both are limited, so get in quick!