The Single Founder Dilemma

iStock_000018238421SmallHere’s the question which I am being asked by many people who want to apply to accelerators or planning to start up new businesses. “Should I be the sole founder or find a co-founder?” The answer is not so straightforward. Most accelerators often preached the need to have co-founders and tend to drop applications by single founders. There is justification in why they chose to do so. After all, 9 in 10 startups fail, and, following on with you get 84% with multiple founders vs 16% with single founders in the successful startups. Does that mean that you should not attempt to be a single founder? In this essay, I take a contrarian view that you can be the single founder if and only if you satisfy a set of conditions. [Read more...]

On Hiring & My Moneyball method for Startups & Corporates Part 1

mentorThe biggest problem for any startups and corporations hiring in Southeast Asia is hiring. One major issue which every founder or industry leader faced is the lack of information on candidates. One can blame it on culture that Asians are not vocal in calling out incompetent people. The only people who I have seen vocal about calling out this lack of information are not from Asia: Steven Goh (CEO, mig33) and Thomas Clayton (CEO, Bubble Motion). So, what I want do in the few posts on this topic is to encourage local entrepreneurs to share information about hires and be much more vocal about incompetent hires, particularly, those with pretty CVs crossing several household names but are truly useless in my view. As I am currently looking on the remaining 19 items on my list of 20 things I want to contribute to the startup ecosystem after striking one off the list, I decide to take a bold step to share something probably in a few parts that I have worked on about hiring. I will share my methods and look forward to trustworthy people who I can share this with. It is something that I have thought about after the demise of Chalkboard, and have spent my time in the last two years refining the idea about hiring. It relates to the Moneyball approach espoused by Michael Lewis in his book.
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Advice to Startups Targeting Small & Medium Enterprises in Southeast Asia

map_southeast_asiaThere is a danger for any startup to find product and market fit at the early stages of inception. Most startup founders often reached for the market that is easily accessible to them given the lack of networks and industry experience. One segment which I often see startups stumble is in what we call and small and medium enterprises, which represents almost 95-99% of the economy which they are operating in. For Southeast Asia, it is not simple to touch this segment because the market means different things to different countries. I have worked on this segment for a few years and deliberated on the best approach to build reach and distribution whether I am in a startup or corporate setting. The problems are similar as much as the misconceptions. In this essay, I address how one should approach these issues, and hopefully guide entrepreneurs through my own learnings as well as failings. My key advice to everyone targeting this segment particularly in Southeast Asia: A lot of startups claim to focus on small & medium enterprises in their respective markets. My advice is to focus on “M” & not “S” In that market segment. [Read more...]

La Villa, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Entrance of La Villa restaurant where I went with my wife for #finedining in Ho Chi Minh CityRecently on a business trip, I was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. With my wife to celebrate our wedding proposal date, I took her to La Villa, one of the highly rated restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City which won TripAdvisor’s traveller’s choice for restaurant. We managed to get a booking for both of us in the restaurant through the hotel conceirge and arrange transport to go to the restaurant as it is located in the outer part of the city. A different fine dining experience with French food in a renovated mansion with a beautiful pool outside. It lived to the reputation except with a little glitch. [Read more...]

If you want to grow a company, you must master the Rockefeller Habits

mastering-the-rockefeller-habitsI wished that I knew about the book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish when I was working on my startup a few years back. There are definitely things that we should not have done during that time. Jamie Lee, the co-founder of Lunch Actually and now Prizle (which I am an investor in both companies), recommended this book to me during one of our lunches. We were discussing on the subject on how to scale a team, and he highlighted how he scaled his startup to a company from the lessons learnt from this book. If you are thinking how to grow a startup from scratch to a proper functioning company, this is a must read book. So, what are the Rockefeller habits that you can use to scale your company? [Read more...]

On Mentoring in Startups & Corporates

mentorOver the course of the past few years, I have been mentoring within the ecosystem, focus my efforts mainly through INSEAD Business School and JFDI.Asia. Sometimes, I might end up giving some advice to entrepreneurs who I might be interested to invest in their companies. For a while, I want to convey my thoughts on mentoring and how that has evolved over the years. A recent feedback session I have with JFDI.Asia prompted me to pen my thoughts on mentoring. [Read more...]

Ristorante Da Valentino

ristorante-da-valentinoIf you are seriously looking for an Italian restaurant with great service in Singapore, Ristorante Da Valentino stood out to be probably the top on the list. It was started by Chef Valentino and his family in July 2005 with humble roots in a shop house along Rifle Range road. Subsequently it was moved to the Grandstand in Turf City. The toughest part about Valentino is that it is always fully booked and you have to book at least two weeks in advance. I have been to Valentino twice: the first time with my wife (when she was still my fiancee) for our first anniversary of the proposal date in the Rifle Range and the second time three years later with her again two days before Valentine’s Day. In both occasions, the restaurant did not disappoint but impress me with both food and service quality in the highest degree. [Read more...]

Are Southeast Asia technology companies under-valued?

map_southeast_asia Let’s start with the question, “Are Southeast Asia technology companies under-valued? Different people will have different perspectives depending whether you sit in Singapore or in Jakarta or Bangkok. Recently, Terence from Tech In Asia published an interesting post on the investment activity around Southeast Asia. Two important observations came out from the article: (a) the investment in e-commerce, fashion and online retail constituted where most of the money were channeled to and (b) the amount of investment that Rocket Internet amassed against local investors is 5 to 1. Taking this further with the data from Techlist Asia, we can draw some interesting insights about the value of Southeast Asia technology companies. One interesting insight is that the asymmetry of information about the Southeast Asia leads to different perceived values of startup companies in the market.
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First Encounters with Google Glass: What I learned about developing apps on the glass

Google Glass After my trip to Google I/O 2013 last year, I wrote about the development of applications on the Google Glass. As a prequel to the review on Google Glass (which I have been recently gotten one unit through a private unit via the glass explorer program and using it for at least a week), I thought it might be good to share this earlier article I have written about how one should think about developing applications. One important thinking is that the development philosophy on the Glass follows closer to web development than native mobile application in either iOS or Android SDK.
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Alkaff Mansion Ristorante

Alkaff Mansion holds a special place in my heart even for the fine dining experience. Located on Telok Blangah Hill next to Mount Faber in Singapore, the mansion has been an icon to those who lived nearby. For me, my home was next to Telok Blangah Hill and I have seen the mansion in its current form since the age of seven. When I was a child, it was the only mansion on the hill along with a Chinese temple nearby. Subsequently, the Singapore government turned the hilltop to a recreation park, by removing the temple and kept Alkaff Mansion in tact. During my college and university days, I usually jogged around the hill and was often fascinated by the infrastructure of the mansion. The location has gone through two incarnations as restaurants, and in her second incarnation today, it has taken the form of an Italian restaurant. Hence for me, reviewing this restaurant takes on a different perspective from the fine dining restaurants located in the city.
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Goodbye 2013, Welcome 2014

2014 As the year 2013 comes to a close, it is a time for reflection on what has passed and look forward to the challenges ahead for the year ahead. I am thankful to my wife, Yuying Deng who has braved through tough moments together and sacrificed a year of career to take care of our daughter Eleanor after two major surgeries in her first year. Of course, we are both thankful to our family, relatives and friends for their support to us over the course of the year. Nevertheless, we see it as part of the process that will make us better people for the future. We should focus on the future because we will be spending the rest of our lives there. Here are some thoughts ahead for 2014. [Read more...]

Why Native Apps win the Mobile battle over Web Apps

digital tablet pc with app icons and cloudIn the digital realm, businesses are searching for a solution from the mobility space as an enabler for them to reach or acquire customers. Typically, they run into a basic question whether to choose building a native application (or app for short) on one or two mobile platforms (iOS or Android) or a web application (otherwise known as mobile websites) that seemed to be ubiquitous across browsers on different mobile platforms. In this essay, I explain why native apps is currently winning the mobile battle over web apps. [Read more...]