Tag Archives: Lunchsparks

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.

 

 

Online to Offline

This new strange acronym is the latest emerging trend, following LBS (Location Based Service) and SOLOMO (Social, Local, Mobile).

So what is O2O? The definition may vary, but essentially it means attracting users online and directing them to physical stores in the offline realm. Some would argue, this is nothing new and many websites have been targeting people online to bring them in offline, but the element of online payment is what really makes O2O powerful. Why? Because businesses can measure the impact of online sales since a payment was actually made.

Source: Technode

According to the article too, the group buying model has been the most recent successful example of how the O2O can work. The article too identify “the next trend of O2O will focus on service and value”

I think the article points out good trends that everyone should know about, and what particularly interest me is the O2O model, because essentially the startup that I am working on is precisely this model, where we bring “Linkedin from Online to our Lunchsparks Offline”, hence adding more value to the users. Of course, this O2O model introduces new aspects to the business that has to be taken care about, such as the quality of the offline service as well as the not only the online user experience, but now, the offline/real life experience also comes into the picture. Thus if O2O goes mainstream which it is right now, value chain managers and customer service managers will have an increasing demand. Startups would not only need technical guys, but business development guys and CRM guys would also be needed.

So how legitimate is this model? Heard of Getaround, AirBnB and Groupon? They are all O2O models.

Things that matter

Now that exams are over, I can now focus on things that truly matter – Lunchsparks and e27. =)

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

Crowdsourcing and its growing importance

Recently I met with a few really interesting people and a few investors who shared with me a few points that i would like to share here. The growing importance of crowd sourcing.

Let me give you an analogy of the importance of crowd sourcing. If you see something new, chances are you wont try it out because you are worried for whatever reason. But something inside you tells you that its cool, and you should try it out. But at the end of the day, you still have reservation whether to check it out. But, if your friends tell you that it is cool, you will dive right in straight away. The same goes for a service, if your friend tell you that its cool and worth checking out, there is an increased chances of you checking it out.

So heres the opportunity, how do you get people to tell their friends about your product? Of course, its the combination of a good product on your side, plus good customer service and increasingly, incentives. There is a reason why Airbnb spent a lot of effort on good customer service, and Zappos dedicated zero budget to marketing and 100% on customer service, because customers’ are your best marketing. Gushcloud is building their business model around this, crowd-marketing, which I think its an brilliant idea (hopefully can cross path with them soon!)!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get paid for “gushing” about products and brands that you already love?

Thats Gushcloud: Incentivize users to promote a product that they like to other users around their social network. If you link back to the analogy i gave just now, this word of mouth greatly increase the reach and convert rate of any marketing campaign. Really really neat.

Definitely something to think about for Lunchsparks. How do you crowd match, How do you get people to spread the words about a service, and how to you engage them in the first place.

Perhaps another point worth mentioning is the usage of gamification. Gamification is not turning things into games that we play, but  is the use of game design techniques and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. An example of Gamification can be seen in this Youtube video:

If you could gamify the whole process of marketing, and make it fun for your users to invite other users, it would be a huge bonus. People will talk about your product. They will spread the words. They will invite their friends. And boom, you have something. Gamification is slowly gaining more popularity, and a senior of mine is pioneering the whole Gamification movement in Singapore (Gamification Singapore) and is slowly gaining some traction in Singapore.

We are definitely slowly moving into industries that tap into the power of the crowd. An excellent example is Groupon where they leverage on the power of the consumers to demand deals. To truly tap into the power of the crowd, organizations and startups have to look into turning impressions into engagements, and turning that engagements into real impacts. And this could pay off really well.

Startup Experience

Recently I guest blogged at one of senior/friend/fellow entrepreneur’s blog on my thoughts of starting up while studying. Nobody said startup is easy.

In the post i wrote:

However, as mentioned, many a times, success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. The fun and satisfaction from running a startup is greatly rewarding. You build something from scratch, you make an impact on someone else’s life, you grow something that belongs to you, and you have the say on how you want it done. The satisfaction derived is something that normal corporate jobs could not offer.

Which is true (well because it comes from me and I feel that its true). Well managing Lunchsparks, something interesting happened today and yesterday.

1. Someone send jobs@lunchsparks a job application without us posting any ads or we never let the words out that we are hiring. Interesting. =)

2. I received a threat email from an anonymous sender:

First of all, concept can’t be copyrighted. If it can, look at all the deals site which sprung up after Groupon (no offense to all deals site).

Secondly, when you put yourself in the anonymous’ sender’s shoe, under what circumstance would you send the email? I believe that I would only send a ‘warning’ to someone whom I donno across the internet if I were a competitor in the same space. So I think he is another Lunchsparks in stealth mode. Or I could be wrong.

It also mean one thing, when you get warnings like this from some anonymous, it means, you are moving in the right direction. =)

You think?

 

Every features has some maintenance cost

 

Very true.

I can’t help but wonder if there are too many features on Lunchsparks which I am super excited about. Maybe we should focus on the core ones and not digress.

On a side note, a senior of mine who’s a serial entrepreneur just reaffirmed me that Lunchsparks is an awesome idea and has a high chance to get funded.

It really made my day. =)

To Code or not to code

Today I went to an excellent event held by Jason Ong – Startup Brekkie. Essentially its an event for entrepreneurs or anyone who want to network over breakfast to meet up and share with each other the stuffs that they are working on. Managed to grab Jason for a quick chat about Lunchsparks.

After explaining to him about lunchsparks (and getting him onboard), I was telling him that I am also currently learning how to code right now. He then said that I should focus more on marketing and sales because Lunchsparks needs a lot of that, and I should leave the technical side of the project to my cofounders. Of course, that was a valid reason, but as much as I want to  focus on marketing, when our MVP is not up, there is not much that I could do. Learning basic coding could also allow me to do minor changes instantly to the site should I spot one, without relying on my cofounders if they are busy. It is also a good skill to have.

This is one of the topics that are constantly debated in the startup scene – whether the business guy should pick up basic programming skills to help the business a bit, or he should solely focus on sales and marketing.

A similar question on quora has the following respond from a member, which i think is an excellent answer:

“Perhaps a more appropriate question is, can business people learn how to code (or do they want to learn) at a level that such knowledge would actually be useful. I had to qualify it because I’d hate to be the guy working for somebody who thinks they understand programming when they really don’t– i.e. someone who knows just enough to be dangerous.

There’s a difference between the kind of coding you would do as a student, and the kind you would do when building a professional application. It also takes a degree of experience to recognize the difference.

That being said, business people shouldn’t need to learn how to code, they should learn on a macro level what goes into making good products and how to speak the language of the engineers who make those products. We don’t need the CEO checking in files to SVN… but it would be nice if he/she knew what SVN is and how it fits into the overall scheme of things.”

Of course, the ideal case is – the technical team focuses on the technical side full time, and the business guy focuses on sales and marketing full time. But for the case of Lunchsparks, we are fully committed to the project and has complete confidence in it, but could not commit to it full time. There is still a need to balance work, study, and our project, that’s why things are moving a bit slower right now, but there are good progress. =)

But the question still remains, is it better for the business guy to learn basic programming or to focus solely on sales and marketing?

To me, if I can juggle both, why not? =)

 

Programming 101

Recently I’ve been busy learning to code. =) Decided to pick up coding so that I could help up a bit here and there for Lunchsparks and also because its cool to have programming as a skill. Started off with Javascript simply because the interactive website that i came across – Codecademy (which just landed an investment of 2.5million USD) teaches in Javascript (it is super fun trust me), and I came across another site – the New Boston, which is super cool, and I have been hanging around at the site for a few hours per day without knowing it. It has everything you need to know about programming and all the tutorials there are free!

Programming is fun.

Makes me feel smart.

For those who want to learn how to code and wondering whether is it too late to learn how to code? Quora has a similar discussion and has really awesome answers from those who have been there and done that:

Q:

Is it too late to learn to code?

I’m a sophomore electrical engineering student and I’m really interested in the technology startup culture. I want to prepare myself for that area, but I’m not sure how to proceed. My initial thinking is to learn to code, but I feel as though I’m so far behind people who started coding when they were younger that it’s too late. Thanks!

A:
Short Answer: No

Long Answer: No, but you have to play catch up and find really smart people to work with. If you find coding fun, then just put the time and have a blast. Your opportunity to catch up is when the people ahead of you go into production. Going from hacker mode to production and support mode slows people down. Go fast and work hard.

The key to getting good at this stuff is to work on great problems. My most memorable projects are (a) my never-ending game engine (b) my computer algebra system (c) my programming language.I recommend starting with graphics. since you get instant gratification and can tweak it on the fly. You can see how complexity limits what you can do. You can set goals and work towards reaching them and then study how to build a flexible architecture around it. Just taking people’s demo code and then factoring it into a consistent architecture will teach a lot about complexity, organization, and how the machine works.

Programming languages are for the more hard-core as you have to study and think through some gnarly ideas.

Then find something to code that makes someone else happy. My computer algebra system made my college algebra students very happy.

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

Peter Draw

Last night while I was at the monthly Founders Drinks by e27, I met this guy whom introduced himself as a artist. I thought he was slightly out of place since everyone whom were present are all techies and from the startup community. He asked me what I do, and I introduced him my work.

The next day, he added me on Facebook, and because Im curious, I went to check him out. His name is Peter Draw.

Artist Statement
“We cannot protect every child in our world. But for those we can, we must. And because we can, we must. This is why I draw”

Short Intro
Peter Draw is an artist and philanthropist who has been making a difference through his drawings over the years. His works have touched and inspired the lives of young people, especially children, in over 20 countries around the world, including China, Japan, Costa Rica, South Africa and ASEAN. In 2008, with the support of MFA and 10 ASEAN Government state members, Peter went around ASEAN to bring happiness to thousands of children while reminding the rest of us that it is the simple things in life that truly makes us happy. He has broken 2 Guinness Book of Records – the largest caricature in the world (2007) and taught the largest art lesson in the world (2010). Peter has been featured as “Everyday Hero” in Reader’s Digest Asia, appointed ambassador for corporate and community organisations and was awarded the Outstanding Young Persons of Singapore for his works for children, world peace and human rights (2008). Hollywood star Jackie Chan has dedicated a video to encourage children to work hard and follow their dreams like Peter and himself. Peter has a personal collection of over 10,000 drawings from children he’s met around the world.

Peter has dedicated this year on a meaningful project to encourage the children in Japan to never give up on their dreams. So far, he has touched the lives of children in Tokyo, Iwate, Fukushima with the support of children he met in Alejuela, Taichung, Aceh and Sichuan.

Awards:

2007 – Guinness world records – World’s largest caricature
2008 – Outstanding Young Persons for contribution to children, world peace and human rights
2010 – Guinness world records – World’s largest art lesson

This is amazing. These are the people that inspire me and these are the people that live with a passion and goal, living a meaningful life, waking up to a purposeful day. Awesome work he is doing to touch people’s life.

On NOC DND the other day when the 10th Year Anniversary video was shared, one key takeaway is that, Entrepreneurship is a state of mind. To me, what Peter did and is doing is outstanding. To me, this is entrepreneurship.

I felt like whatever I do is nothing compared to what he has done. This has taught me that most people that turn up for networking event, must be someone outstanding in his own ways. Must always remember that.

Anyways I got him on Lunchsparks. =)

We are Live!

Hey guys been busy working on my startup launch and right now we are live! =)

Currently we are getting people to sign up for our mailing list so that we can inform them when we are launch, which is really soon! =)

So yeaps, finally, introducing, Lunchsparks – Reinventing Networking for Entrepreneurs and Professionals.

Feel free to comment! =)

Really thankful for Jeffrey Paine and Bhagaban of Singapore Founder Institute for all the advises, all the feedbacks from everyone and the community, and most importantly, my cofounders, who helped make this happen.

This is the beginning of a tough but EXCITING journey. =)

N-Chats

Had 4 great chats during the past few days.

N-Chat with Jorene and Jun Jie:

  • Jorene and Jun Jie are my batchmates who went over to Shanghai with me for the NOC programme and we were having a casual conversation where it became an idea bouncing session.
  • We were discussing several ideas and realized that most of the startups nowadays are all moving towards web based and tech startups, which is unfortunately not our forte, because we are business people. We were laying out what we are strong at and trying to come out something with it, and turns out we could try consultancy.
  • Jun Jie was saying that web based startups are good ideas but it is not something tangible. And he also mentioned that most of the ideas that we discussed revolves around the leverage of other products to earn money, and that it would be awesome if we could have a product of our own that do not rely on other products. For example, before this we were thinking of doing an online site that aggregates quality articles for readers and in this case, we are relying on the presence of “quality articles”. In another illustration, deals aggregator which relies on whether there are good deals available to be aggregated. Definitely something to ponder about.
  • I realized that there is so much that non techies can do at our stages right now because we have school and stuff. Should have picked up web design or programming earlier.
  • Hopefully we would come up with something tangible soon. =)

N-Chat With Daryl

  • Managed to grab a quick chat with Daryl, one of the current participants for the iLead programme batch 8.
  • Daryl is a cyclist and he is looking to manufacture his own brand of bicycles in Singapore and is in talks with Spring for funding.
  • What always motivates me is hearing other equally passionate people who are doing something on their own and actually executing it. These few days I have came across many people with many great ideas and I always tell them, at the end of the day, its the execution that matters, not the idea. Take Facebook for example, I don’t know how true the movie is and whether Facebook is a stolen idea or not, the truth is that Mark was the one that executes it.
  • Having spoken to quite a number of people recently, I realized that there are 2 types of founders, one that derives a satisfaction from tangible products and actually being able to see their products (e.g. retail shops), and another one that derive satisfaction from providing services or non tangible products (e.g. web based)
  • Daryl is the previous one where he would want to see his products in a physical store, which he is fighting strongly for right now.
  • Looking forward to partnering with him in the cycling industry. =)

N-Chat with With Milton

  • Milton is the Founder of Vsee and he dropped by N-House for a chat with those that attended.
  • I like Milton, he gives a very fatherly figure and is someone that you know you can get along with him very well. And this is reaffirmed when both his interns that came over that night shared the various stories during their attachment with Vsee at the States. Both of them are very very lucky. And they are even put in charge of the Singapore operations of Vsee.
  • Milton also believe in his product and execution. He say that when people have a perceived million dollar idea, it is either that you are the smartest guy around, or the idea has been around for a while and people have thought about it and most likely executed it somewhere.
  • Milton is a very persistent man. It took him 5 years of product development before they finally get funded recently, where he could finally move on the marketing and expansion.
  • My respect for Milton have just increase again after hearing that he persisted for 5 years, 2003-2008 before he got his first round of investment. He must really believe in his solution, it’s passion meets reality.

N-Chat With Kenny

  • Had lunch with Kenny, one of my block mate back in B Block Kent Ridge Hall, also the founder of Silvers Solution. Because of the nature of the business, I think the website is not necessary, which explains why I can’t find their site sadly. Silver Solution provides new innovative products catering to the needs of the aging population, like wheelchairs and walking sticks.
  • Had a great chat with Kenny and good to know that he is supportive of what I am doing and will be willing to help should we need any funding and willing to share some contacts to VCs. =)
  • Kenny shared that he has a hypothesis about NOC. Although there are many success cases and many companies are founded by NOC alumni, it is not the programme which makes it successful, rather, it is in the gene of the participants who went for the programme, that they are born in a family with entrepreneurial background. Interesting food for thought.
  • Shared a bit too much with Kenny. Could be a good or bad thing.
  • Kenny also advised that I should spend time thinking about what to do and how to pivot if the project that I am working now doesn’t work out. And that the most critical problem that I have to face is the reception of the idea amongst Singaporean, which was exactly what Vincent told me when i met him last week. Validation of market.
  • Looking forward to partnering with him. =)

“Project”

I think the “entrepreneurship industry” is over-rated. Jollie O’Dell wrote a blogpost about the over-using of the word “Entrepreneur”. I won’t say I totally agree with all the criteria she listed out that qualifies you as an entrepreneur. But I must agree on one thing, why are you afraid to call it a “side-project” or an “idea in progress” if it truly is one? It seems like telling people you have an idea does not give you the status boost that you need? So is “entrepreneurship” now all just about the glamour? Just because there are those that took huge risks and made it, now everyone wants a Hollywood career in entrepreneurship. Through the past six months or so of being involved in Pandamian, I still feel uncomfortable when I/we are introduced or referred to as a “startup” or “entrepreneurs”. I would rather we be called a “startup attempt” or Pandamian as a project. Because that truly is what we are, for now. We are not committed full time, we do not have a proven idea, and most of all, we are not changing the world, yet.

Came across this blogpost by Joash in his Pandamian blog. Totally agree with the over usage of the term “entrepreneur”. Whenever I share about the project that I am working on, I always use the term “project” but not “startup”. I’m not very comfortable with term “startup”, sharing the same sentiments as Joash because there’s a lot of expectation that comes with the term. To me, its always better to say “Owh Im working on this project called Lunchsparks and things are moving slow but steady.” I hardly say: “Im the founder of this startup which i called Lunchsparks” when I introduce the project. Well not quite yet, since everything is still in its infancy stage and we are still putting the bits and pieces together.

For the project that me and my friends are working on, well like i mentioned, things are moving slow but steady. My tech cofounder has been running into some backend problem and some bugs which slowed the whole progress. For my part, I have managed to mine about 700+ contacts which I am manually sorting them out into different interest groups. If things are going as scheduled, we will send out the invitation for Alpha Testing by October, and at the same time start pitching around. =) Do sign up for our mailing list for early invitation to our exclusive networking platform for professionals and entrepreneurs.

One thing about working on side projects/startup is that, if there are no one who commit full time on it, the progress will be very slow. Really, I can totally relate to this. Somehow I feel like school is taking up too much of my time. And one more thing is that, since  these kinda projects are not revenue generating, thus, your founding team has to believe in the value that the whole project is generating, and that everyone is working for equity. This was shared by Vincent when he came over to N-House a few nights ago and mentioned that, the concept of “working for equity” if not that prevalent among Singaporean. Usually they want to be paid and opt for a safer option – settling down at a MNC.

What did I do last nite?

  1. Posted my first blog post on our project’s blog.
  2. Updated the “About our Team” page on our project’s blog.
  3. Attempted my first photoshop tutorial but failed miserably.
  4. Attempted to do my school assignment but failed miserably at extracting info from the web.
  5. Had a meeting at the NHouse at PGP with the Residents Assistants and charted out our plans for the NHouse.
To set a tradition in NHouse, we are planning to have something we call “Wicked Wednesdays” (ok the name can still change heh) where every Wednesday there will be events held at the Venture Lab. This is to set a tradition in NHouse, and let it be known to everyone that every Wednesdays as long as Nhouse is there, there will be something going on among the NOC community, so that when people graduate from Nhouse or any NOC alumni can just come back anytime they want in the future, and they can count on it that there is something going on in NHouse on Wednesdays. - Jacky
Personal note: I think I give up too easily. Not good.
Anyways just to share an event that I’ll be going with e27 this coming Wednesday:

After a 4 month hiatus, we are pleased to announce that our Founders Drinks series is back on for August and we are doing it in style. Book your dates for August 31 for the relaunch of a brand new Founders Drinks.

For the past couple of weeks, we have been trying to see how to restructure Founders Drinks in order to make it more relevant to the community. And we think we have got it. Partnering with Penn Olson and Amazon Web Services for this latest edition, this August session will focus on social media with a specific look at user acquisition via social media.

The agenda for the night, a work in progress, will look something like this:

7:00 – 7:10pm Welcome/Opening speech by e27 & Penn Olson

7:10 – 7:25pm Opening speech by Amazon Web Services

7:25 – 7:40pm Case Study 1 (Qlubbr)

7:40 – 7:55pm Case Study 2 (Gastro Couture)

7:55 – 8:15pm Panel Roundup

8:15 – 9:00pm Networking

For those who have attended our earlier Founders Drinks, you will have noticed that the structure has changed significantly. Instead of the usual startup pitches, we have decided to increase the engagement by having these startups do a five minute presentation on their product and also an issue that they are facing related to the focus of the night. The question and answer session will then engage the panel and also members of the audience to bounce ideas around. After the two case studies, the panel will then round up the evening by taking questions from the audience or sharing some key thoughts of their own.

We are working closely with Penn-Olson to put together the small panel that will provide interesting insights into the use of social media for user acquisition. One of the panelist to be confirmed isVinnie Lauria who will be visiting Singapore then for a mentorship program. All this will be held at Amazon Web Services’ office where they have graciously offered to fill our bellies and quench our thirsty throats too!

Event details:

Date: August 31, 2011 (Wednesday)

Time: 7 – 9pm

Venue: Amazon Web Services, Capital Square, 23 Church Street, #10-01, 049481 Singapore

Theme: Social media (User acquisition)