These 2 brothers each launched $1.35 billion companies in their 20s — now, Justin Kan says that their success came from how they did chores as kids

Flickr/websummit and LinkedIn/Daniel KanEntrepreneurship runs in the family for Justin, left, and Daniel Kan.
  • Justin and Daniel Kan launched Twitch and Cruise, respectively, while in their 20s. Each brother later sold his startup for around $AU1.35 billion.
  • The brothers learned how to be entrepreneurs and leaders from the way their mum assigned chores, Justin said in an interview with Torch.
  • The Kan family matriarch didn’t assign chores to individuals. Instead, she gave them the list and tasked them with deciding who does what.
  • Justin told Torch that her parenting style taught him how to work on a team, and informed how he sets goals for employees at his startup.

Entrepreneurship runs in the family for Justin Kan and Daniel Kan, the brothers who each founded companies in their 20s and sold the startups for around $AU1.35 billion.

Justin launched the startup formerly known as, now known as Twitch, while he was studying physics and psychology at Yale. His brother, Daniel, joined up with Twitch cofounder Kyle Vogt to make self-driving cars a reality at Cruise Automation.

Video-streaming site Twitch sold to Amazon for $AU1.1 million in cash in 2014, while General Motors bought Cruise for over $AU1.35 billion in cash and stock in 2016.

In an interview with executive coaching startupTorch, Justin said he learned how to be an entrepreneur and leader from his “tiger mum” mother, a Chinese immigrant. The Kan family matriarch had an unusual way of assigning chores to her three sons.

(Justin’s youngest brother, Damien, works as a software engineer at Alto Pharmacy.)

“She didn’t actually assign them to individuals. She just said, ‘Here is the list of things that need to get done, you guys need to collectively do the set of things on this list, and nobody gets to play video games until you execute these things,'” Justin told Torch.

“We thought that was very unfair, but of course the important thing is what that taught us,” he said. “It changed us from thinking of ourselves and our individual responsibilities, to thinking of ourselves as a team. It became about accomplishing a goal as a team, and working together to divide and conquer, holding each other accountable, being accountable to our brothers encouraged us to execute.”

Justin said he applied his mum’s way of assigning chores to how he runs startups. He left Twitch after the sale to Amazon, and is now CEO of Atrium, a startup making software and services for the legal industry.

“[At] any startup, it’s like we are all in this boat together, sink or swim, and it doesn’t matter who does it or who gets credit. We just need to get these specific things done so we can be successful, and if we’re successful, everyone is going to win,” Justin said.

He said it gets harder to maintain that feeling of togetherness as startups grow bigger and their headcounts scale. It puts the onus on managers to lead their teams in such a way that there’s a collective goal that has them work together to achieve that goal.

But his mum’s leadership style has “done really well for me and my brothers,” he said.

You can read the full interview with Justin on Torch.

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