Author Archives: Jacky

About Jacky

Having spent one year abroad in Shanghai under the NUS Overseas College Programme, Jacky has an avid interest in entrepreneurship and web based startups. Besides writing for e27, Jacky is working on Lunchsparks, as well as running N-House, Singapore’s first entrepreneurial themed residence in NUS. He also do startupquote.sg and was part of the organizer of Startup Weekend Singapore 2012.

Evangelist

Just realized that big companies have product evangelists. Like AWS or Microsoft. Wondering whether Linkedin/Facebook/Twitter/Yahoo/Google has them as well.

Random thoughts. :)

My thoughts are a bit messy now and I just want to focus on a few key stuffs in the coming few weeks: learning web design and e27. :)

Web Design

Been dabbling with web design these few days. It’s fun. :)

Here’s 2 of the ones that I managed to do. It’s almost identical to the original sites and its meant for learning purposes. Doing 2 or 3 more and then will move on to designing my own and toying around with bootstrap. :)

The first one is from Dribbblr

The Second one is from Klippt:

Oh yea, if anyone needs a text editor, I highly recommend Sublime Text.

It.Is.Awesome. Worked with Text Wrangler and Gedit. Sublime is so much better

Mac/Windows compatible, sexy, and most importantly, its free.

If anyone wants to learn web design together, drop me a note! :) Its just basic CSS.

Pinterest Ripoff

Today there has been a discussion on the web regarding Singapore’s latest copy of the very popular Pinterest. Disclosure: The founder is not a Singaporean.

It’s nothing new about websites copying the successful ones, but the commotion came from a blatant copy of the original site, which caused quite a stir among the community, and thus the discussion of “Singaporeans” are uncreative has resurfaced, again.

If you see this article from SgEntrepreneur, you’ll find that the ripoff, Singterest, is exactly the same as the original one:

Source: Sgentrepreneur

As the author puts it: “I’m not very fond of copycats. I think if one were to do a startup, it should be cutting edge instead of trailing behind the footsteps of a giant.”

Source: Twitter

Of course, there are some discussions on Twitter as well, and the site owner of Singterest responded saying that they launched it the same week the idea was conceived, and that now they wished that they launch it on April 1st instead as a April’s fool’s gift.

What are my thoughts?

Execution matter, and Singterest should be creditted for it.

For one, Singterest put up the site in just a matter of a few days since their decision to build one that is localized to the Singapore community. Personally, I think this is a job well done. A few days ago, I spoke to someone who gave a very good advice to the Singapore community: “Just do it. Dont hold back and not launch your product. Unless you have a superstar team and everyone is super focused on it, nobody really cares.”.

So what if Singterest is a complete ripoff? What matters now is that, they have a working site, they have users (i think), and it would only take them a few more days to “localize” it, adding on a Singapore touch to it. And personally, I think this should definitely deserve some credit, as Mark Zuckerberg puts it: Keep focused and keep shipping.

On creativity, and stealing.

Very few ideas are new nowadays, so what really sell nowadays are the UI as well as the marketing. For now, I guess what startups founder can be creative about is on innovating the delivering of an existing business model, or innovating on its user interface. For Singapore, I think the community is getting there. But we have to think the Asian way. Asia is not the States, and Techinasia also published an excellent article on this topic, where we should leverage on our “home advantage” and build something that suits the Asian ecosystem.

On copying and stealing, personally, I think there is nothing wrong in copying, as Steve Jobs puts it in 1996, good artist copy, great artist steals. While Singterest received some reprimands from the community for blatantly copying the whole Pinterest site, including their tagline, most of the startups now copy some components and designs of their websites from other existing websites too. Perhaps Singterest shouldnt have copied the whole site and release it to the public, just like that. Let’s see if Singterest will come out with something different in the next couple of days.

This represents a personal opinion. If you have read this far, you should definitely follow me on Twitter.

Another reason to stay at N-House

Here’s another reason why you should stay at N-House:

Photo: Hung and Ritesh and myself working on our startups at N-House Kitchen.

Love how we all gather and work on our respective startups in our cozy kitchen at N-House, Blk15 PGP., even when its late at night.

We motivate each other, and keep each other on track, and when we are hungry, supper is available next door at Super Snacks. :)

Building the Community

Binghan and I had coffee with Richerd whom I had the chance to meet over at Startup Weekend. Richerd was part of the first few hires of HootSuite and he helped built the iPad and iPhone interface of HootSuite.  He shared some advices for us.

Valuation

Entrepreneurs always have a higher valuation of their company. Its only natural that because us as founders, we spent a lot of effort building our company, with all the lost opportunity cost, we would feel that we deserved more than what we are actually offered. Always.

Building the community

For companies that relies on users to scale the company, it is crucial to build the community first even before your product hits the market. Ties to what Vinnie told me few months back when I had a mentorship session with him. Community building creates a stronghold of supporters, early adopters, as well as evangelist for your product and can help a lot when you launch. This is something that startups don’t do often enough.

Importance of Marketing vs Product Development

Ties back to the second point which Richerd shared, he feels that business development is way more important than product development. Having built several apps which he thinks is the next million dollar business idea, which dint turned out the way he wanted, he says app development is easy. It is the user acquisition and marketing that is hard. He says: “I’ve been in your shoes where you are right now. You want all the cool features before releasing out to the market. But how do you know the features that you spend your time building will be used by all your users?”. To think that nowadays everyone is looking for technical cofounder.

As Binghan puts it, he is at a completely different level of maturity and prowess, in terms of technical skills, and experience.

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the future, and we are slowly moving back to the wisdom of the crowd.

We are not smart alone, and AI is not that advance to track all the cookies of what people have come across, and then analyse it to give us the answers we want.

Here’s a simple experiment I did: I asked for personal blogs recommendation, and more than 10 of my friends recommended excellent blog posts that i have never heard off.

Wow.

Of course there were some trolls like Thet haha.

Empowerment

By Seth Godin, on Picking Yourself. Source: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/03/reject-the-tyranny-of-being-picked-pick-yourself.html

Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself

Amanda Hocking is making a million dollars a year publishing her own work to the Kindle. No publisher.

Rebecca Black has reached more than 15,000,000 listeners, like it or not, without a record label.

Are we better off without gatekeepers? Well, it was gatekeepers that brought us the unforgettable lyrics of Terry Jacks in 1974, and it’s gatekeepers that are spending a fortune bringing out pop songs and books that don’t sell.

I’m not sure that this is even the right question. Whether or not we’re better off, the fact is that the gatekeepers–the pickers–are reeling, losing power and fading away. What are you going to do about it?

It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.

If you’re hoping that the HR people you sent your resume to are about to pick you, it’s going to be a long wait. Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.

So true.

If it is expensive to advertise, advertise it on your platform.

If it is too hard to get something, build that something.

If you want a book, write a book.

If you have read this far, you should definitely follow me on Twitter :)

Looking for illustrators/designers

Yes as the title mentioned, I’m looking for awesome illustrators and designers (just one or two) to work on another project that I have in mind.

If you are:

+ An illustrator / graphic designer

+ Loves building things and calling the product yours

+ Have some free time to spare (this is going to be a 1 month project which requires only 3-5 hours per week at your own place/time to draw something)

+ Want to be part of the next awesome project in Singapore

Drop me a note at jackyyapp [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll buy you coffee. :)

Lessons learnt from Organizing Startup Weekend

Some of you might know, I was part of the organizing team for Startup Weekend Singapore that took place last weekend. This is officially the biggest event I have organized so far. Before this, I am involved in doing N-House events and helped out in a couple of others, and Im glad the event turned out really well. A lot of people from the community said this is one of the best Startup Weekend around. =)

Key Takeaway:

People relations

The single most complicated variable in any equation, is the human factor. I guess for me, one of the biggest take away is know how to manage the people, one thing that I am obviously not that strong in. For Startup Weekend, I was incharge of Mentor relations as well as Marketing and Media Relations. One of the mentors that I managed to invite had some extra time as his consultation slot with others was making a little bit of noise. Some mentors spent a bit too much time with the teams, and kind of disrupted their work flow. Perhaps what I could have done better was to remind the mentors that their time is up when they are still continuing to coach the teams.

Perhaps my leadership skills could also be better improved. I’ve always acknowledged the fact that I have a soft spot when I am managing a team. I try not to be the dominant character and making sure that everyone feels on par with one another. This often caused me to take up more task and more time that could otherwise be used in something of a higher priority. However, there are times where you have to be stern and make your team members do things.

2 second respond time vs 6 seconds respond time

Sometime when a situation arise which wasnt part of the plan and requires immediate actions, instead of having a 2 second respond time, it is actually good to have a 5-6 second respond time. It trains you to explore all possible course of actions a little longer, as well as giving an impression that you are calm, something that people dont do often enough.

Dont plan too much. They dont fall in place anyway

Did a writeup on e27 for the event as well, so feel free to check it out: http://e27.sg/2012/03/12/startup-weekend-singapore-a-success-but-ideas-need-to-be-bolder/. Met some awesome people like Richerd, part of the earlier hires of HootSuite, and also finally get to meet Steven Goh in real life.

Meeting awesome developers, makes me wanna redo my college life and learn coding instead.

Startup Weekend Singapore 2012

Its Day 1 of Startup Weekend Singapore 2012 where I am part of the organizers. Very excited about the outcome as we did something different this time round: We filtered the ideas and pitches through crowd voting from 87 ideas to the top 40 favourite ideas, and then they presented, and we have a solid panel of 7 judges to filter out the 40 ideas to the top 20 most potential ideas. This made sure that teams worked on only quality ideas.

Coming from Simone Brunozzi, Tech Evangelist of AWS who have been facilitating and travelling from Startup Weekend to Startup Weekends, he said: “The Startup Weekend Singapore #swsg2012 so far seems to be one of the best organized I’ve ever been. Congrats!”

Super excited about DEMO of the final prototypes on Sunday evening. =)

Drawing a fine line between your dream and reality

I quote a friend of mine who has been running a few startups: “Stop Dreaming, you will not be the next Mark Zuckerberg.”

So when do you draw the line between your dreams and reality? There are a lot of life forces that might or might not permit you to go after your dreams, for example, if you have a family to take care after, or say you dont have the support you need, or even when all the doors are closed into your face.

Of course, I always remind myself with the cover photo on my Facebook timeline that “Success seemed to be a matter of holding on when others have let go.”

Things are often easier said than done. What then do you do when plans dont go exactly like how it should be? And even your Plan B seemed to be falling apart.

Motivation. Motivation is the one that keeps one going. That’s the power of motivation. We all live in a world of hope and dream, and that is what makes the world a better place to be in.

Of course, you could lose all the motivation when other life forces overwhelms you, for example, when you have a full time job. Let’s hope that wont be the case.

Always Go Home with the Lady Who Brought you to the Dance

Came across a very good read today while browsing through the Facebook feed: http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2012/03/03/always-go-home-with-the-lady-who-brought-you-to-the-dance/, which i quote:

In life you’ll be faced with many situations like this – moral dilemmas. You’ll learn that there are many bad actors. You’ll find that there are very few people who still believe in honor. When you find those people they’ll be lifetime friends and business associates.

But you can start with yourself. It’s funny how many people I’ve known for 20+ years keep popping back into my life. It always reminds me the importance of always treating people with respect. You can have disagreement. You can have fights. You can even have people with whom you don’t want to work. But if you act in ways in which people question your ethics – people will have very long memories.

Me? I’d rather walk away from a deal than leave with somebody other than the lady who brought me to the dance. And it’s not for purely “Pollyana-ish” reasons. I believe that your long-term reputation matters more than any individual deal. And life’s too short to work with dicks.

So much truth in it. Should always go home with the lady who brought you to the dance. Tells one so much about the importance of your credibility, which takes 10 years to built, but just 10 minutes to destroy.

But sometimes it could be hard as well, especially when you are very close with that someone, but all of a sudden, things changed and he/she lose her credibility, and its such regrettable that both of you were once so close.

Random thoughts.

Power of quotes

Suddenly realized the power and influence of quotes. We live in a world of hope and dreams. Super excited about a upcoming web/mobile app: Quotogram - an app for discovering, organizing, and sharing quotes. You can view recent, popular, or your friends’ quotes, and search by author, keywords, and tags. If your favorite quote is nowhere to be found, you can submit it (or correct any misquotes).

According to the founders which says:

Books, movies, lyrics, and even speeches are anchored in our memories with words that inspire, amuse, and influence us.

Quotes can connect us deeply with speakers. Adds a personal touch to this digital world. Personal touches are always good.

Definite yes for viral factor in the idea, but not too sure about the business model. Ads? Maybe.

Very clean UI too, plus a smart way to incorporate the timeline.

Cool.

Photo: Techcocktail

Photo: Techcocktail

 

Bless and Be Blessed

Sometimes it is very tempting to poke around and see what other people are doing. It is quite important not to do it too often, because we ourselves also need some private space, and need to give other people their spaces.

Where there are instances where someone else took over something that belonged to you, it is quite important to learn how to let go or see things in a different perspective. Applies to real life, relationship and work. When something is lost and where there are no chances of getting it back, its time to focus on other more important stuffs.

When you learn how to bless someone else, it is then that you will enjoy the blessings and know that you are blessed.

If I choose to bless another person, I will always end up feeling more blessed. ~ Marianne Williamson

Every morning when we wake up we have two choices: Go back to sleep and keep dreaming, or wake up and chase those dreams.

Getting started during university life

Many would agree that the best years in life are actually during our University life. Therefore, it would be a waste if one were to sail through the 4 years of university life in a mundane way.

Kr-page-starthere-640x480-600x400

1. Do something. Anything.

So if you are still in University, do something, anything. Seth Godin too puts it in his recent interview that you have to pick yourself:  “You want publish a book, publish it. You want to sing a song, sing it. You want to start a movement, start it.”  Mark Twain has my favourite quotes of all time, which I always remind myself:  “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

2. Get out of your comfort zone and meet more people

Most of us are preprogrammed to be in our comfort zone because we are brought up that way. When we are in university, it is common for us to stick with a bunch of friends where we are comfortable with from our year 1 till our final year. What a lot of people don’t realize is that once you explore beyond your own social circle, there is a higher possibility to cross path with someone that shares the same ambition as you. Also, when you meet new people, you could share with them your ideas and get real customer validation. It is this spirit of stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting new people that will help kick start your business ideas.

3. Get a good Mentor

Another tip to getting started is to find a good mentor.  The role of the mentor is to give you advices from his own experiences as well as pointing you at the correct direction. Your mentor could also open up a few doors for you and introduce you to some key individuals in the community. With a mentor, mistakes that could be detrimental can be avoided. Of course, the question is, how do you find these mentors? One way is to go for events and talk to them. Don’t be afraid to approach these prospective mentors because they, like yourself, are usually comfortable in talking to people.

4. Just do it

Bravery is needed to have contrary opinions and to take unexpected paths. If you’re not courageous, you’re going to be hanging around the water cooler, talking about the guy who actually is. A lot of times its not because things are difficult that we dare not, it’s because we dare not that things are difficult. So if there is something that you want to do but you are held back, you should go ahead with it because there is really nothing to lose.

5. Read a lot

With the advancement of technology as well as the ease of information sharing on the web, it is crucial for us to get updated with what is happening around the web and around the world. This facilitates learning as well as sharing of information, leveraging on the wisdom of the crowd to know what works and what does not work. Reading a lot can also help identify trends and new business ideas and models which could be used to refine your startup idea.  Other than just reading, one should cultivate the habit of reading everyday because there are too much content on the web nowadays, and if you stop for one day, you would miss out quite a lot that is happening in the local community as well as the global community.

Networking

A friend once told me, when you go for a networking event, the most fruitful outcome actually comes from meeting one or two key contacts that you can follow up and have tangible actions post event. So yeap when you go for a networking event:

  1. Research beforehand who is heading to the event and find out who you should meet.
  2. Dont go around collecting namecards and spend 1-2 minute only per person. Instead, should focus on one or two interesting people that fulfills your networking goal and work on the relationship.
  3. If you want to get in touch with someone high profile but am held back with whatever reason, go ahead and say hi, or at least put a face to your name.
  4. Start small. Talk to someone that is looking around as well.
  5. Know when to move on.
  6. Follow up.
  7. And one more thing which always help: “How can I help you?”. It’s a good gesture on your side, and a good way to end the conversation as well as good way to prompt a follow up. Learnt this from a fellow entrepreneur as well.

 

Startup Quote Singapore

Some of you might have already guessed what is the pet project that I am working on, judging from the new tab I have for the blog menu. So yea, happy to finally share with you the project that me and a friend is working on recently to benefit the Startup community in Singapore: Startup Quote Singapore. Have you heard about startupquote? Essentially its the same, but we are a localized version of it, where we showcase inspirations and advices of founders, CEOs and entrepreneurs based in Singapore.

Feel free to check it out and provide some feedbacks in terms of UI, layout, and of course if you know how we could monetize it, do suggest as well. =) We want to at least earn back the cost of the domain and make it self sustainable.

So yea, here’s startupquote.sg:

Like us on our Facebook Page too to follow the updates! =)

Steering back into direction

Sometimes life happens and you are sucked into a vortex of confusion and a lost of direction. You feel lost and then the question of “Why am I doing all these” start to hit you.

When this happens, it is important to stop what you are doing for a few moment, take a deep breath, go take a walk, talk to people, voice out/pen down your thoughts. Do something. Anything, but don’t keep it to yourself, don’t be alone. Because ultimately, we need to leverage on each other’s strength and belief. Know that we can always rely on our friends and family to renew our faith and restore that belief when things seem mundane and bleak.

We are living on our hopes and dreams. And that makes the world a beautiful place to be at, for our mind is powerful – it shapes the way you see the world. Be positive and be amazed at the difference!

Accountability Partner

Article taken from Youngupstarts

Whether you’re worrying about finances, talking to potential clients or having nightmares about getting up and running, starting a business can be difficult and stressful.

When it becomes too much, it can be easy to forget your goals and original intention of creating your dream business. When that happens, you can veer off course, destroying all the work you’ve completed up until that point.

You know most startups fail ‘only’ because the founders stop working on them, and often, it’s because it’s emotionally draining. – Jason Cohen, the founder of Smart Bear Software

With a very high startup failure rate across the country, you don’t want to be another negative statistic. So, how do you avoid this? You need to find someone to hold you accountable. It will be this person that reminds you of the grin you had on your face the day you decided to “just do it.” Whether you think so or not, the time will come when you need this person.

What Will Your Accountability Partner Do?

The person you choose to hold you accountable can do a number of things for you. First of all, this person should know all the details of your business, from financial to creative. In order for them to keep you on track, they need to know where you’re headed and what’s at stake. This is not necessarily a defined role, though there are a few things they will do.

  • Remind you of weekly or monthly goals as needed.
  • Keep important information on hand, including scheduled meetings, financial statements, etc.
  • Be an ear for important decision making. As someone who will know important details of the business, they can help you back on the rails if you veer off course.

Really?

While this person is starting to sound a lot like a business partner, it should be clear that this needs to be someone from the outside, who holds an unbiased opinion.  A business partner is just as likely to get caught up in the stress.

  • As someone without a stake in the business, the person holding you accountable will remain clear headed at all times.
  • Knowing the importance of goals, meetings, and finances, your accountability partner is in place to give you gentle reminders.

How?

There are a number of people who can take this role. You’ll need to consider how much support you’ll need and what sort of information the person will be holding. While it’s not suggested to start a business with a good friend, it’s not suggested that you choose a good friend to be your accountability partner either. As someone who cares about you, they may sway with you as you become emotionally ambivalent. It may be best to choose someone you aren’t close with, but know on a business level.

  • An old co-worker who you had a formal connection with.
  • Someone you know who has been successful in their own business.
  • A family friend who would feel compelled to help you succeed.
  • A person within your industry that you’ve connected with via LinkedIn, etc.

This position is very informal, and not clearly defined anywhere. With startups defaulting every day across the country, it’s clear that something is missing here. With someone to get you through the emotionally draining spots, and everything else in order, you can surely see it through to your success.

I’m looking for one. Anyone keen? =)

Entrepreneurs

While working on a pet project that I will shortly reveal, came across a lot of agreement among startup founders and entrepreneurs on one thing:

For entrepreneur, you have to have the passion, and money alone is not enough to drive you. You have to:

  • Think like an Entrepreneur
  • Behave like an Entrepreneur
  • Work like an Entrepreneur
  • Live like an Entrepreneur

Startup Weekend Singapore

Wrote a post on e27 and as some of you might know, me along with a few other friends are organizing the next startup weekend. So here’s my post on e27:

Perhaps you have heard some chatter over the various social media channels about something exciting coming to town in mid March. Entrepreneurs, this will definitely be good news for you, because Startup Weekend Singapore is happening! This time round, it will be organized by a group of students from the National University of Singapore Overseas Colleges Alumni (NOC Alumni), bringing in a different perspective and fun element into the fourth Startup Weekend in Singapore.

What is Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend Singapore is a 54 hour event which will begin with open-microphone pitches on Friday, where participants share their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday, teams will focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing Lean Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening, teams will demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts. During the weekend, experienced entrepreneurs and mentors will explain the challenges involved in being an entrepreneur, provide tips on starting up a company and share their experiences. An expected 150 participants will attend Startup Weekend Singapore, with approximately half having technical backgrounds and the other half having business backgrounds.

Attractive Prizes to be won

In addition to this entrepreneurial experience, the participants of Startup Weekend Singapore 2012 have a chance to win attractive prizes. There are four prizes to be given away to the four best teams at the end of Startup Weekend. Prizes include a chance to participate in the next season of Angel’s Gate (A reality television show to be broadcasted on Channel 5), incubation spaces at Plug-In@Blk71 or Garag3 NUS, as well as a scholarship to the Founder Institute.

What is different this time round

According to the organizers, Startup Weekend Singapore 2012 aims to give as much exposure to students in Singapore, and there will be an even mix of students and industry professionals. This will allow students to be exposed to an environment of collaboration with professionals, before entering the working world. “One of the things that made my experiences in the Silicon Valley so much greater was the fact that I was forced to go out of my structured academic curriculum and be immersed in a real world work environment on a daily basis. This taught me to think critically about how to approach my studies in order to better prepare myself for my time after graduation, and we want to bring this element into this edition of Startup Weekend,” said Ritesh Angural, one of the organisers and an NOC Alumni.

The team behind Startup Weekend Singapore 2012 also prepared this collateral in conjunction to Valentine’s Day. So if you want to spend an awesome weekend with entrepreneurs like yourself, register now on the Startup Weekend page. Early bird ticket prices end on 17 February. The registration page can be found athttp://singapore.startupweekend.org/ or swsg2012.com

Event Details:

Date: 9 – 11 March, 2012

Venue: The School of Business, National University of Singapore

Image

A lot of people forget that in most cases, you’ve got nothing to lose for trying. So don’t run away before even trying.
- Chin Su Yuen

Early Bird gets the worm

Paid a visit to my uncle who is very successful and has extensive experiences in the real estate and doing businesses. While I did not get to spend too much time with him, that short period of chat shed a lot of wisdom to me, which is what makes me look forward to meeting him everytime I’m back in town. Some of the key points that he shared:

On Private vs Public sector:

“In public sector, you only work for 4 (real) hours/day. In private sector, you work for 8(real) hours/day. So the amount of time for you to learn the things that I learn in my 10 year services in the private sector will be 20 years. With the same amount of time, I would have had more experience that you are if you are in the public sector, and I would have had twice the amount of preparation if a major opportunity come by, hence, twice the chance of success. Time wait for no man. If you live by a day and did not utilize your time properly, it will not come back again. So make sure you spend real quality time learning new things everyday.”

“When I first started out in the public sector, I calculated that if i continue working for another 20-30 years, I will make about 250k – 500k in my whole life. The numbers did not make sense, and it got me frustrated, and when you are frustrated, you start to buy books to read and understand how things work. Nowadays you cannot rely on your own brain and wisdom to do things, because we are not smart enough ourselves. We have to constantly read and learn from other people, and see how they become successful and get rich. It is impossible that another guy can be a multi millionaire but not you.”

On opportunities and money:

Opportunities are like buses. They will come by and even if you miss one, there will be a next one. But you must be prepared when its here. Take your time. Get ready. When it comes, aim and calculate properly, because you just need to hit the 1st jackpot and you will be a millionaire, and hit another one to be a multimillionaire. Dont be too eager to work for people or to enter the workforce. Learn what you need to learn and then move on. There are too much money out there to be earn and you can never finish earning all of them. It is the learning that determines how far you go.

Valuation for Pre-revenue, pre-traction startup

Came across come discussions on the valuation for a pre-revenue, pre-traction startup.

A: At this stage it’s really what people are willing to pay for it. You could assume that you are good enough to get funded by a seed feed, or you’re on par with the startups they fund. They generally give you $20k for about 7%. This means you are worth $380k. “Comparable Analysis” means that you could compare what other startups have gotten. Y-Combinator and all the american seed funds would be a good comparable/proxy, if you’re pre traction.

B: Typically investors look for 4X or more in returns of investments and exits within 3 years. Work on that as a basis.

C: You’ll still need some form of quantititive analysis though so focus on the quality of your management team and the size of your market. You can use this to defend your valuation, which will obviously be made up by you :)

D: Be careful of the number the VC gives you. Clarify if it is pre-money or post-money valuation, because that will make a big difference in the control stake

From Quora, there is an excellent answer given by David Rose, Managing Partner of Rose Tech Venture, on What is the range of capital you can expect from an Angel vs VC?:

The range is quite wide, and varies depending on whether you’re talking about an individual angel investor or an organized angel group. The average individual investment size into a given company by angels who regularly invest in early stage companies is about US $25,000 although the overall range varies widely. Outside of the major tech centers, you might find individuals participating in the $5K – $10K range, and there are certainly high net worth individuals who can, and do, invest upwards of $1 million in one chunk into early stage deals.

The average amount invested by organized angel groups these days is in the range of $250K – $750K, which is roughly the same range as the so-called “super angels”, who are more correctly described as “micro vcs”.

Traditional venture capital firms have generally started their Series A investments in the $3m – $5m range, with follow-ons in later rounds going up to the tens of millions of dollars. However, with the rapidly decreasing cost of starting up a business, and the pressure at the low end from angels and seed funds, many VCs are now dropping down and, either directly or through special-purpose funds, making much smaller investments.

So, putting it all together, in very, VERY rough ranges, it looks something like this:

From $0 – $25,000 you will likely be investing your own cash out of your own pocket, otherwise no one else will be comfortable investing at all. Once in, this money stays in, and is part of what makes up your Founder’s Equity (along with your work and your intellectual property.)

From $25,000 – $150,000 you will likely be rounding up friends and family to put in the first outside cash on top of yours. This will usually be documented as either a straight sale of Common Stock (which is most typical) or else as Convertible Note which converts into the same security as the next professional round, but at a discount (which is actually better for everyone).

From $150,000 to $1.5m, you are in angel territory, either by lucking into one really rich and generous angel, or (more likely) by pulling together either a bunch of individuals (at $10,000 – $100,000 each), or one or more organized angel groups, or one or more micro-VCs (‘super angels’). Depending on the circumstances, they will invest either in the form of a Convertible Note (but with a cap on valuation), or else in a Series Seed or Series A Convertible Preferred stock round, using similar documentation to that used by VCs.

From +/- $1.5m up to, say, $10m, you’re looking at early stage venture capital funds, which will almost certainly be using something very much like the National Venture Capital Association’s Model Series A documents. They will likely make their first investment about half of what they’re prepared to put in, with the rest coming in one or more follow-on rounds if you execute successfully on your plan.

Finally, north of, say, $10m – $20m, you’d be getting money from a later stage venture capital fund, whose paperwork will be similar to the earlier VCs. They will put in much larger amounts of cash, but your valuation will be much, much higher, so they may end up with a smaller stake than the earlier investors (who would likely have continued to invest in each round in order to maintain their percentage ownership.)

Although this is the canonical progression, keep in mind that the number of companies that get all the way through it is very, very, VERY small. A majority of companies that are started in the US begin and end with the first stage: the founders’ own money. The number of companies that are able to get outside funding then begins to drop by orders of magnitude: the percentages (again, very, rough) are that 25% of startups will get Friends & Family money; 2.5% will get angel money; 0.25% will get early stage VC money; and probably 0.025% will make it to later stage VCs

This represents a personal opinion. If you have read this far, you should definitely follow me on Twitter.

Bravery is needed to have contrary opinions and to take unexpected paths. If you’re not courageous, you’re going to be hanging around the water cooler, talking about the guy who actually is.

Life is a party and entrepreneurship is a game

Spoke to the Tokyo partner of Startup Weekend this morning and one thing he mentioned kinda relate to what’s happening in reality. He said: “We are all party hosts”. It’s the same as real life, where we have to play nice to the people around us and entertain them well enough so that they can remember you. Those that made it and those that are remembered are usually the best party hosts.

We don’t actually know why we do any of the things we do, we just hope we’ll end up in the right place.Alexia Tsotsis, Techcrunch

The other day, a friend brought up an interesting premise of entrepreneurship, which has some truth in it: Entrepreneurship is like a game. The premise was brought up a few days ago during Startup Asia when the startups companies pitched their ideas on the Startup Arena. The culture and fame from the west, with the media exaggerating the glory of entrepreneurs that made it, and had sexy exits makes everyone want to be part of this game. Online medias and blogs are fueling this phenomenon and some entrepreneurs do it for the sake of doing it, for the sake of entertaining other people and blending into the crowd of entrepreneurs. Of course, that should not be the case.

This represents a personal opinion. If you have read this far, you should definitely follow me on Twitter.

Thoughts on Freemium Model

These 2 days, the topic of Freemium model surfaced and was putting quite some thoughts on it.

Eric Ries is the one that popularize the concept of lean startup and he put it in his book: “If you want to charge, charge from day 1″. Here’s 2 great article on lean startup:

  1. 5 Entrepreneurs Who Inspire Strategy at Zapier
  2. Bootstrapping a Lean Startup

So when you tie back to the topic of freemium model, it means that there should not be a freemium model, because ultimately, user when they get used with the idea of free stuffs, you will be surprised by the converting users who actually are willing to upgrade to the premium account. Which brings to another point which was repeatedly brought up today at Startup Asia, where the judges would ask the pitching startups about their market size and how many users would actually pay to upgrade their freemium account, because essentially, everyone is adopting freemium model right now.

A lot of them couldnt provide a precise answer.

So should startup charge their users from day 1?

Things blowing up in your face

When things suddenly all start to go wrong in 1 day, you know that it is a reality check and a sign to stop for a while and see whether things are done correctly and whether there are other ways to do the things that you did. While it can be frustrating, it is definitely a good sign for things to just blow up in your face so that you dont feel comfortable. Feeling comfortable is detrimental to your growth because without some problems and frustration, there will be no room for improvement and creativity, and one would be contented with how things are.

As Robert Hunter puts it:

‎”When life looks like easy street, there’s danger at your door” 

But then again, having all the things blowing up at the same time, is definitely a bad omen.

Thoughts about experiences

Remember the Skype call I had with a VC? Had another one last Saturday and a few issues were brought up which I want to pen down here. One of which was regarding experiences. The VC asked whether anyone of our team had any experiences launching a product, and helped craft a successful go-to-market strategy. Well unfortunately, while we have been constantly talking to people, to our users, and to those that have been there and done that, the fact remains that my team and I are all first time entrepreneurs and have not been involved in launching a successful products. That kinda put us in a disadvantage.

Does that translate into: first time entrepreneurs have a smaller chance of getting funding or accepted into an incubation programme? So far, it seems that way. Of course, if you look from the investors point of view, they would want to put their funds into someone experience. This is perfectly fine. But what about first time entrepreneurs? Shouldnt there be other avenues for them so help increase their leverage for success? If these avenues are absent, how would first time entrepreneurs get the ‘experience’ needed and in the future, help another project launch their startup? Just some random thoughts.

On a separate note, had the opportunity to acquaint a friend and had a brief chat over lunch the other day and he shared something interesting about corporate culture.  He said: “I want work in a corporate, because only corporates have the power to influence how things are done in a large scale.”

Interesting.

The facts, but not the entire facts

Market Validations are very important. Of course, you’ve probably see/heard this over a million times but if you have never truly do so, it could be hard to relate to how important it is. I came to this realization when I was speaking to VC today over Skype and when I was sharing about Lunchsparks and how we are planning to create a 3rd party recommendation plugin for event organizers. Essentially, as our platform runs on an algorithm that matches user with user, we can convert it into a recommendation plugin for event organizers and they can use the plugin to match their guests with one another, instead of letting all of them show up and network randomly with one another, which we thought was very ineffective.

I have to cut you off right there. The idea is pitched a lot of times and the market for that is too saturated.

For us, we did validate the whole idea of the plugin which is our pivot direction should the main business model dont work, and we have prospective event organizers who are keen and excited about the plugin.

Perhaps what we could do better was to ask more and more event organizers. The key takeaway point is that, market validation is never sufficient. It is a constant process. And things are always changing. And it is also essential to validate your idea in the right segment, as well as in a different segment, so that you know the entire facts in a more macro view, not just a few facts in your particular niche.

Who knows, you might just be surprised what other segment can offer.

 

 

It’s ok to make mistakes

Few weeks ago, I was invited to be part of a “secret underground group of young cofounders” in Singapore, and we had the first meetup yesterday. All of us who went were kinda young, ranging from 18 – 25. There were about 30 – 40 of us, representing some 20 or so startups.

There was this introduction session where everyone would share on the projects that they are doing and tell everyone why they are awesome. So essentially everyone of us pitched our projects and tell the rest how they could help. What really inspired me was really the energy level and the spirit that everyone has, the willingness to try and get things done. Some of them are only about to enter University and yet have some projects going on. It was simply amazing. Another thing that I really liked was the fact that we are all young and mistakes are somewhat acceptable. There were a few pitches where the founder would say their website sucks, and there was one who accidentally unsubscribed his domain, and now his company site is lost. It was hilarious, but to all of us, we could relate to the fact that “Hey, it is ok to make mistakes sometimes, and we DO make mistakes”.

Inspired by juniors

Today I was at the NOC info sharing session and 2 of my juniors of the programme shared their experience and key takeaway from the one year programme. One of it is the sharing by Jensen who went to NOC Silicon Valley and another one by Dawn, my junior from Shanghai.

In his sharing, Jensen shared 2 key things which I thought was really inspiring:

1. Startup culture vs Corporate Culture. The thing about startup culture is that, everything is new and your opinions are valued. There are space for creativity. Jensen shared that his company’s founder would always ask: “What do you think Jensen?”. And I thought this was really really good as not only it gives the employee a sense of belonging, it also opens up spaces for creativity. Thats the thing about startup that I love. Another thing is that, Jensen would always ask questions and sometimes when the founder couldnt answer, he would say: “I dont know. Thats why we are here to find out.”. Amazing.

2. When sharing about the culture in Silicon Valley where everyone worked hard and played hard, Jensen said that he learnt one thing: “Dont learn how to manage your time, manage your energy and motivation”. Essentially it means (to me) that, with energy and motivation, you would be more productive and can get more things done with lesser time. This is better that learning how to manage time, because as good you are in managing time, if the motivation/energy is not there, it would be counter productive. Definitely a new way to see things.

Jensen published a book titled the Valley lessons, and is a very talented musician/cartoonist.

In Dawn’s sharing, she shared that:

1. Travelling is 21st century’s reading. This is so true. =) Again, new ways of looking at things.

2. +1 rule. Apparently Dawn came out with a +1 rule where in everything we do, we should always strive to +1 to our goal. She gave the example of running, where she would run 5 rounds and be contented with it. However, it would be better if you could aim for 6 rounds. Another examples given was during networking event where you aim to talk to 3 new friends, but you should aim to do more than just that. Of course, this requires high level of determination and discipline, and is often easier said than done, but always reward nicely.

Definitely very happy to see the maturity and learning of some of the juniors. =)

Join in the NOC Experience. Its the best programme in NUS, if not Singapore.

Space to be creative

Was talking to a senior/friend today about the projects that I am involved in. There were a few things he said that captured how I felt since I started out working on my projects, which I think a lot could not relate to:

1. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. I think only those that have been there and done that would only relate to this statement. Many a times, I have to depend on my own judgement, and discipline myself to make progress to the project that I am working on, if not, there will not be any progress. There is noone to tell you what is right, what i wrong, what needs to be done, what should be done, what can be done or what should not be done.

2. When there are life forces giving you pressure (such as family commitment, loans, girlfriend etc), it limits and takes away your space to be creative. So one should appreciate his/her time in university where there is so much space to be creative and to be free of all life pressures. Especially when after graduation, you have to provide for your family as well as to pay for your school loans, entrepreneurship is usually not an option.

There were a lot of things that he told me that only I could relate on. Like we have to be individualistic to work on what we believe in, and we have to move faster than what others are moving.

Fitting Back into the Singapore Startup Scene

Did a presentation to the incoming batch of Nhouse on how to fit back to the Singapore startup scene. Basically its just a sharing of a few resources such as event resources, events to watch, startup resources as well as online resources. The presentation was inspired by the lack of help I received when I came back to Singapore from my one year attachment in Shanghai last year, and I wished there was someone whom I could ask for advices back then. So now, I want to be the one helping out the incoming batch to settle into the local startup scene, should they choose to.

Hence, the humble presentation towards the junior.

Super excited for the startup projects coming out soon this sem in Nhouse! =)

View more presentations from Jacky Yap

Seashell & Starfish

“There is a family with a son walking along the beach. The son collects a lot of seashells along the beach. And soon, his hand were full of seashells. When the dad saw a rare starfish, he asked the son to go and catch it. But the son couldnt, and the dad asked why. Reason was simple: he had a handful of seashells.”

Moral of the story:

Along our lives we could be occupied with a lot of projects, work and opportunities, and we would be involved in all of these “seashells”, and making ourselves as busy as possible to feel productive, to the point that we miss out the “starfishes” in our lives. So sometimes if we are too busy, it could be counter productive and we should learn to slow down and take a look and appreciate our life.

Thanks Isabel, for sharing. =)

This represents a personal opinion. If you have read this far, you should definitely follow me on Twitter.