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...]

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...]

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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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...]

Android or iOS first? A definitive guide for startups & corporations

android-ios-logo In building a native mobile application either for your startup or corporation, one major question for entrepreneurs and corporate executives is, “Which mobile platform should I build the native mobile application that will further the business objective of my company?” We should be of no delusion that it is now a two horses race between Android and iOS, with the rest being a far distant third. The question now becomes, “Android of iOS first?” I propose a checklist in how one should tackle this question for both start-ups and corporations.
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New is Easy but Right is Hard: Hacking Product Management

Eastern_CowboysA great product is a synthesis of technology and business thinking. How do we decide what goes into the product and determine the roadmap of the product? How do we establish the balance between the business and technology of the product? In this post (based on a talk with the same title I gave in Hackers & Painters on 15 Nov), we discuss some interesting lessons learned on product management and why both business leaders and technologists don’t get it. [Read more...]

Initial Feedback & Next Steps on Open Source Angel Investment Templates

Examing a Legal DocumentRecently, together with Huifen Zheng, we launch the open source angel investment templates. Our aim of the project is to facilitate angel funding in Singapore for both startups and angel investors. At the same time, we hope to provide a set of documents to help overseas entrepreneurs from other parts of the world, which incorporate in Singapore with the aim to receive financing from Singapore investors. With the initial launch, we have received some feedback from the users and even enthusiasts within the community here in Singapore who have created interesting applications with the legal documentation. [Read more...]

Open-Source Angel Investment Templates

Examing a Legal DocumentToday, we launch and release an open-source angel investment templates in the same spirit of what Y-Combinator did in Silicon Valley for Singapore that encompass the great Southeast Asia entrepreneurial ecosystem. The origin of these efforts came from our mentoring work in JFDI.Asia, INSEAD Business School & young entrepreneurs seeking advice and meeting with overseas entrepreneurs who plan to move to Southeast Asia or seek investment from investors in Singapore. Working with a corporate lawyer & mentor to JFDI.Asia, Ms Zheng Huifen, we have released these documents as part of our modest and humble contributions to the ever growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Singapore and out to Southeast Asia.
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