Startups Dilemmas in Asia: Bad Revenues & Pivot

dilemma-500 Here’s a scenario which I have encountered when various founders sought me for advice across Southeast Asia. They have successfully raised a significant amount of money through investors with a revenue model based on their initial product with the intention to expand to other markets or scale the revenues up with more aggressive sales or marketing tactics. As they start their next cycle, they discover that their business model is not scalable as they originally thought it would be. In such a situation, they are tempted to pivot to a different model given that they have some cash runway. The question is that how they should pivot. Here are a few considerations if anyone out there are thinking about turning around their startups. Continue reading Startups Dilemmas in Asia: Bad Revenues & Pivot

The Trouble with Two Sided Marketplaces (and how to deal with them)

Demand & SupplyRecently, I spent some time with the 2014A batch of startup companies in JFDI.Asia. Although their value propositions are different due to the nature of their challenges, I can basically break some of their questions into the following: (a) I am running a two-sided marketplace with demand and supply (or some may call it a chicken and egg problem), which side should I focus first? (b) How can I grow both sides at the same time and what are the ways to do that given that I have no control on either sides? To answer that question, I relied on my previous experience in running a two sided marketplace type startup and also fine tuned my experience into a simple principle as to how you can turn them from a two sided to a single sided marketplace. Continue reading The Trouble with Two Sided Marketplaces (and how to deal with them)

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. Continue reading The Single Founder Dilemma

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.
Continue reading On Hiring & My Moneyball method for Startups & Corporates Part 1

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. Continue reading Advice to Startups Targeting Small & Medium Enterprises in Southeast Asia