Daniel Borel is Chairman Emeritus of Logitech’s board of directors. He co-founded the three companies of the group starting in 1981, consolidated them under the Swiss Holding Logitech International that he took Public (Swiss IPO) as Chairman in 1988. After the personal computer industry crisis in 1992, he became Chairman & Chief Executive Officer for the Logitech Group from 1992 to 1998. In 1997 he took Logitech International public on Nasdaq. In 2001 he founded with his wife the Defitech foundation for handicapped people. Among others he was Board member of Nestlé from 2004 till 2016. Daniel Borel has won many awards throughout his career, including the recent EY Master Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Switzerland. He holds a physics degree from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University in California.
Watch an extract from the interview
What mistakes have you made along the way?
You can always make mistakes, but you must only make them once. And mistakes aren’t always truly mistakes. For example, in 1984 we started manufacturing for HP. A great success, but we didn’t fully understand the notion of “working capital”. We nearly went broke… but we learned a lot.
Another example, in the early 90s, all the Taiwanese manufacturers attacked the world PC market with their own branded products, rather than producing for other manufacturers. Among others the price pressure on mice suddenly became dramatic. We had to respond very fast, it was so stressful. We had to lay people off at our locations in Ireland, the US and Taiwan. But, with the right sense of urgency we created Logitech China and began to thrive again.
Looking back at what you accomplished, what are you most proud of?
I’m proud to have survived some 40 years in the thrilling yet brutal computer industry! There was no real entry barrier to the computer industry. It’s a super exciting but also brutal industry. Ideas were open to anyone, you could invent the future with a computer and a phone line like Google did. When we moved to Taiwan in 1986, we got efficient manufacturing but also faced 50 competitors ready to undercut us and take our ideas. It gives you a sense of urgency, and today when I look back, I can see that many of the big competitors didn’t make it, but we did.
Can you feel a sense of urgency in the current crisis? What does it mean?
COVID-19 has taken us through an inflection point where the world will never be the same. You can either wait and hope it will pass, or you can look forward and anticipate what it means for your business. A crisis is a risk and an opportunity. It’s so important to face reality and look forward. We might not like the changes, but we have to move fast. There will be losers and winners. Timing is everything if you want to be a winner. This is the way the world works.
For Logitech, the COVID-19 crisis has been an unfair advantage, it’s been an enabler and accelerator of what we’ve been doing for years. We’re in e-gaming and video conferencing and we acquired a streaming company last year. Our core business with mice, keyboards and webcams has done well. Suddenly, in a matter of six months, the wind has turned, and we’ve sailed rapidly towards our goals. People have been anticipating this, but COVID-19 made it happen now.
The crisis has been an unfair advantage; it’s been an enabler and accelerator of what we’ve been doing for years.
How about for you personally?
For everyone, not just me, it’s a time of increased reflection. In some ways, you start over in your relationships – with people, with family members, with yourself. Relationships get deeper. We’ve stopped traveling, stopped polluting. It’s been a chance to reassess and rediscover our true values. A good thing at the end. Sadly though, there are too many people who have been very negatively affected, lost their jobs or business and that’s a terrible thing for society.
How do you think the Swiss authorities did in managing the crisis?
First, I think one of the major complaints is that we didn’t know much at the beginning, even now, and too many people spoke as if they did know. I think in life you have to be humble. I don’t think politicians have understood the science and the scientific approach to dealing with this pandemic. Also, one thing that nobody fully realized – and I think this is a problem with our governments – we, as a Country, had a unique opportunity to make Digital Switzerland a reality. We could have given every young person a computer along with the training needed, hence giving them the chance to enter the digital world so to minimize the danger of the Digital divide in our society!
One thing that was not fully realized was that this was a unique opportunity to make digital Switzerland a reality.
What does the EY Master Entrepreneur Of The Year award mean for you?
Lots of Joy and a bit of melancholy. I still remember the pure joy I felt when I got my first award of the Swiss Entrepreneur Of The Year (Branco Weiss Award) in 1988. Today I’m of course very honored to receive that EY Master Entrepreneur Of The Year award, yet it also feels like retirement!
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
I love quotes. One is: At the end, everything will be fine, and if it is not fine, it is not the end. So, for everyone suffering, struggling with their business model, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. And I say that as someone who’s been through some really dark times. You should always have hope. One thing this time is creating more than ever is the appreciation for the people you work with. At the end of the day, it’s about people, people, people. Working with great Logi People around the world has been a unique and very rewarding life experience. People is the most valuable intangible asset, and which is not visible in the balance sheet!
At the end of the day, it’s about people, people, people. Working with great Logi People around the world has been a unique and very rewarding life experience.
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