Over 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...]
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.
Recently some entrepreneurs came to me with the following dilemma: their startups are not going anywhere and they are considering shutdown. Some of them started as entrepreneurs for all their lives, have families in the process and have never considered the possibility of going corporate. Hence they thought about making a career switch. The follow up question from them was, “Why did you choose a corporate career and was it tough for you to manage the transition?” After explaining my rationale to them on various occasions, I thought that it might be good to share my perspectives on why I have decided to do that before starting up another company within the next 5-10 years unless something cropped up.
It’s a common phenomenon in startups that the hustler or what I called the business guy, typically goes out to search for the technology co-founder. In meeting entrepreneurs via my network fund, they often asked me one common question after the initial pitching of the idea, “I am looking for a technology co-founder who can get this done. Can you help me with this?” Of course, 99% of these startup co-founders whether they are rookies or MBA students have no clue to who they really want to hire. Hence, this article is addressed to people who might want my advice on seeking out technology co-founders.
In the customer discovery phase of a startup, the startup team typically encounter a phenomenon called the signal and the noise. The signal answers the question whether your startup is genuinely gaining traction and generating viral user growth. The noise shrouds your vision with all the drums banging about the promise of your startup. Both signal and noise constituted both marketing and public relations (PR) portion of a startup. How do you build a proper marketing and PR plan while relentlessly focused on delivering the minimum viable product? I shared some insights on working with users, media engagement and crisis management with the JFDI 2013b class. [Read more...]
The theme of this article is to debunk the myth that “Singapore is a small market”. This article originated from the many discussions I have with fellow Singaporeans both here and overseas. Some are entrepreneurs who are currently working and building their companies locally while others are now pursuing their dreams in the US or China. In most of our discussions, one insight that seemed to pop out often is that Singapore is not really a “small market” and you can scale the company up to a certain point where it becomes attractive to go regional and then global. The key message is that if you want to succeed in Singapore, you have to re-imagine and enable a traditional industry with new technology which makes it more efficient, productive & drives revenue. [Read more...]
Making decisions on issues are parts and parcels of an entrepreneur’s life. Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” describe the two systems where there is a part where we make quick and slow decisions based on the complexity of the issues at hand. It’s not difficult to decide simple issues, for example, buying of equipment and software for the team, but not easy when you are faced with making strategic decisions. No one is perfect and even I have made mistakes in making decisions. In the past year, I have been reading and thinking deeper about decision making process for strategic issues. The issue is that when we reflect the mistakes we made in our decision making, hindsight is 20-20.
Been thinking a lot about the future start-up which I want to build in a few years time. Have distilled many ideas, thoughts and experience of failure into a set of guiding principles for my own consumption.
In this article, I provide a different perspective to an article from Jon Russell (The Next Web) about the four major issues that deals with the strengths and weaknesses challenging the Southeast Asia’s technology startup ecosystem. The article is originally published in SGEio.
A very common fallacy that comes with a start-up getting funding particularly at the seed stage is to ramp up the hiring quickly and scale the company quickly. The reason why the fallacy came about is because the investor expects that you are scaling the company with the business model that is expected to work. In honest truth, all startups at the seed stage have not figured out the business model.
The typical mentality is to “hire fast, fire fast”. To be honest, learning from the past lessons, I prefer to hire slow & fire fast. Some people says that you edit or pivot the product to help the business to grow. Another essential element is to edit the team. If you want to avoid the hassles of friendship being messed up or hiring the wrong person, you need to get rid of the pre-conceived notion that you should hire fast to scale. The key is to hire slow and really slowly. [Read more...]
In the far future, I have three guiding principles to what I will not do in building the next company. One of the three principles is try not to partner anyone as much as possible, whether the partner is a start-up or a large multi-national company. In a simple business perspective, the principle underlies one central theme: distribution. [Read more...]
Is there any method in Rocket Internet’s madness? A few months ago, I made a point that winter has landed in Southeast Asia with the fast and furious expansion of Rocket Internet from the infamous Samwer brothers. In the process, I also concluded that while they may be bad for innovation but they would demonstrate good examples of execution and speed to the rest of the technology ecosystem within the region. While monitoring their revolving door executives quitting within 3-6 months, employees complaining about their ways and their startups shutting down like Home24 within a short period of time, we are beginning to ask, “Is it really going to work or fall apart?” [Read more...]