Top 4 Bullshits That Startups Tell You

Before you proceed….

Please know this. I was a blogger known for being a troll before NS unplugged me from the internet. I like to joke, I like to be sarcastic, and that’s the voice I was used to writing. I was a fan of Douglas Adam’s style too, and always tried to imitate his voice when writing compositions.

A little bit on myself now – I’m a full-time Entrepreneur running a mildly successful iOS & Android App Development House called Originally US. We believe in being honest and transparent with our clients. I was on the client side once, and I’ve had enough of bullshit from typical Software companies.

I’ve been running Originally US for 6 months now and I’m surviving – I define that being able to have enough sleep everyday and have some spare cash to eat hotdog buns on weekends.

So here I am. Straight to the point, straight from my heart (or brain). No sugar coating. Just what I honestly feel. Read this to provoke some thoughts in your mind or read this for entertainment, I don’t care. I often have strong, sarcastic opinions on the tech scene, the startup scene, and why do we even call these “scenes.”

Oh, and I don’t do grammar very well. I consider it a waste of time. I want to get the ideas out of my head as fast as possible (limited by my typing speed, which isn’t typically faster than the mating ritual of snails) – so I went cheap on grammar. Someone in white once said, cheaper, better, faster. When I write, its, faster, faster, and no grammar. I don’t care. You shouldn’t too, you Nazi.

Opinions expressed here has nothing to do with my company. Business is business. Tongue in cheeks are tongue in cheeks.

 

 Top 4 Bullshits That Startups Tell You

1. “I cannot tell you my idea. But it will be BIG.”

jamesbond

Founders who can’t tell you their idea probably placed an undue weight on their idea (which is nothing). They are likely to be so green that they don’t know or have not experienced the other more important factors behind having a successful startup – luck, people and execution.

Many investors also have alarm bells that sound when founders say they can’t share the idea – it shows that the founders are not convinced they can carry out and execute their startup better than someone else. Boo. Where’s that Fuckerberg confidence that entrepreneurs need to have?

2. “Come and be my <Insert Nice Sounding Role Here>. I’ll give you equity. I can’t pay you. But it will be the next BIG thing and we will be millionaires.”

equity

This is the cheat code for founders who are too cheap to pay for work done, even if it is the “next big thing”. Heard of “cheaper, better, faster”? Try “Free, stupid and led on”.

Most likely, any founder who doesn’t place value on your contribution enough to want to pay you in cash on top of equity, isn’t convinced enough that the idea will work and is simply just want to minimize his or her own financial risks. Humji?

3. “I’m a serial entrepreneur.”

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There are many legit serial entrepreneurs around, but if you have not heard of that guy or gal having any successes before, this is probably what they were trying to say to you:

“I’ve tried many things, but didn’t have any success. So being a “serial entrepreneur” is the only worthy title you should know me by.”

Don’t get me wrong. I advocate failures. We should try, and if we fail, pick ourselves up, do a little bit of diary writing, and try again. But calling themselves a “serial entrepreneur” with no past success is too much of a bullshit.

4. “I’m the CEO and Founder and Director” (Of a 3 man company).

roles

Screen-grab from Linkedin. Enuff’ said. (FYI, the company name is the same for all 5 roles!)


Myths of Being Your Own Boss

I’ve decided to write on a couple of startup related topics that are close to my heart. I’ve been posting these on Facebook for awhile, so I thought – why not (once again) revive my blog by doing some sharing here?

Disclaimer

Please know this. I was a blogger known for being a troll before NS unplugged me from the internet. I like to joke, I like to be sarcastic, and that’s the voice I was used to writing. I was a fan of Douglas Adam’s style too, and always tried to imitate his voice when writing compositions.

A little bit on myself now – I’m a full time Entpreneur running a No Bullshit App Development House called Originally US. I’ve been running this for 6 months now and I’m surviving – I define that being able to have enough sleep everyday and have some spare cash to eat hotdog buns on weekends.

So here I am. Straight to the point, straight from my heart (or brain). No sugar coating. Just what I honestly feel. Read this to provoke some thoughts in your mind or read this for entertainment, I don’t care.

Oh, and I don’t do grammar very well. I consider it a waste of time. I want to get the ideas out of my head as fast as possible (limited by my typing speed, which isn’t typically faster than the mating ritual of snails) – so I went cheap on grammar. Someone in white once said, cheaper, better, faster. When I write, its, faster, faster, and no grammar. I don’t care. You shouldn’t too, you Nazi.

Myths of Being Your Own Boss

  1. Can make alot of money
  2. No need to listen to anyone else
  3. Can take leaves anytime you want
  4. Have alot of freedom

The Unfortunate Truth

  1. We have to work for every penny, and I mean every penny. Sometimes, the ritual of working for money as your own boss feels a little like begging.
  2. If we don’t listen to anyone else, then we simply won’t make money from anyone.
  3. But nobody ever takes leave, because there’s no such thing as “paid leaves”. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
  4. I always tell people this – I have lots of freedom but zero time.

The Startup Fluff

I’ve decided to write on a couple of startup related topics that are close to my heart. I’ve been posting these on Facebook for awhile, so I thought – why not (once again) revive my blog by doing some sharing here?

Disclaimer

Please know this. I was a blogger known for being a troll before NS unplugged me from the internet. I like to joke, I like to be sarcastic, and that’s the voice I was used to writing. I was a fan of Douglas Adam’s style too, and always tried to imitate his voice when writing compositions.

A little bit on myself now – I’m a full time Entpreneur running a No Bullshit App Development House called Originally US. I’ve been running this for 6 months now and I’m surviving – I define that being able to have enough sleep everyday and have some spare cash to eat hotdog buns on weekends.

So here I am. Straight to the point, straight from my heart (or brain). No sugar coating. Just what I honestly feel. Read this to provoke some thoughts in your mind or read this for entertainment, I don’t care.

Oh, and I don’t do grammar very well. I consider it a waste of time. I want to get the ideas out of my head as fast as possible (limited by my typing speed, which isn’t typically faster than the mating ritual of snails) – so I went cheap on grammar. Someone in white once said, cheaper, better, faster. When I write, its, faster, faster, and no grammar. I don’t care. You shouldn’t too, you Nazi.

The Startup Fluff

I’m 26, but I’m bloody ancient. I picked up programming when I was 12 and have been launching products after products ever since. If there’s one thing that differentiates Entrepreneurs now and then (then was in 2001, right after someone decided to poke a bubble), it is the highly imaginative terms people use to refer some of the most fundamental concepts known to men.

In the past, I wrote Windows Applications, publish it on Software Directories, and I called myself a Programmer. 

Nowadays, all you need to have the INTENTION to launch something, and everyone call themselves an Entrepreneur. You don’t have to earn a single cents. You don’t need to have any users. You don’t even have to launch! 

To hit the first 20k unique daily visitors for my online game (and about 600,000 players worldwide), The Wicked Quiz, I achieved that by posting it on various forums, submiting it on various news site, SEO-ing the heck out of it and even wrote a wikipedia article on it. I went after every single corner of the internet where those interested in playing online puzzles lurk and splash my game in their faces. This is common sense.

Now, this is called GROWTH HACKING! Someone even wrote a book on this “Growth Hacking” thing and wrote about how he “Growth Hack” the sales of his Growth Hacking book! Growthaception!

I developed, fully funded and grew BookINBookOUT, an online used textbook marketplace (the mechanism is similar to today’s Carousell). I spent a grand total of $22 on marketing to grow it  to 10,000 users and then sold it. 

People now call this Bootstrapping Your Way to Acquisition. I don’t wear boots.

It used to be that media features come after success – The Straits Times approached me for a full page feature after TheWickedQuiz hit cult-like status; BookINBookOUT was featured on MyPaper after it becomes one of the top destination for local tertiary students to save some bucks on their textbooks.

Strangely, there’s this phenomenon now where people try to go to press about things that haven’t even happened. Do you go to the press to write a feature on your striking lottery before you even bought the ticket? Well, if you are an *Entrepreneur, this is the common practice now. Don’t wait – grab your friendly neighborhood journalist today!

In all seriousness, I think if there’s one thing so toxic to the startup “scene” now (oh, they call it a scene now!), it is hype.

Misplaced hype by making something seem more impressive than they really are (read: Growth Hacking).

Misplaced hype by calling yourself a Entrepreneur before you have even scratched the surface of being one.

Misplaced hype of shouting about a dream you had – you know, it used to be that only those with Somniloquy who shout about their dreams – it is a mental disorder. Get treated.

All these misplaced hype led to unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations lead to realistic depressions.

I think Entrepreneurs deserve to dream – no doubt about it. But Entrepreneurs are also most realistic and pragmatic person around.

A little more directness, honesty, and less bullshit would be helpful in this scene. There’s always politics and white collar jobs for that, if you are so inclined. Don’t mess it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How I decide what I want to do after graduation

Upon graduation, I took a step back to ask myself what I really wanted. This is what I have decided:

Freedom of time and financial freedom are most important to me. And I want that as soon as possible.

Freedom of time is defined as being able to do what I want whenever I want. In a way, being in a full-time job is a little like conscription. You “book in” at 8.30am in the morning at “book out” everyday at 7pm or later. My romantic notion is that I want to be in the position where if I want to take a walk at the beach and work from there at 11am, I can. If I decided not to do any work today, I don’t have to ask for permission. In other words, I want to retain control of my own time.

Well, a jobless guy would have freedom of time. That’s easy, isn’t it? But the kicker is, I want to have financial freedom too. The two seldom plays well together.

I’m a gadgets person, and I spend thousands of dollars a year on gadgets. I have a wedding coming soon (less than 2 years after graduation), and a new flat coming (about 3 years after graduation). I still have a tuition loan of S$35,000 to pay off. If I were to command salary at the average market rate (based on my academic performance alone), I would make about S$50,000 a year. That’s barely enough money repay my loan, buy a reasonable amount of gadgets, pay for wedding and renovation expenses. I won’t even have money to invest. Yes, there’s always promotions and pay increment, but even at 10% increment a year (an amazing figure in today’s job market), I’ll never be able to afford these expenses without taking a loan.

I’m not even a big spender. I spend an average of S$300-S$600 a month at present! I don’t even aim to be rich as in millionaire rich. But it is obvious that financial freedom cannot be achieved via fixed salary from a full time job, as a fresh graduate.

So I decided to take matters into my own hand. Instead of looking at structured graduate programmes where everything is pre-planned for me, I decided to look at the road less taken. Why leave your future in the hands of others? Your life is yours, take charge of it with your own two hands!

It is with these reasons that I have decided to start my own company. Not because of sexy notions like trying to change the world (although if that’s possible it will be great!), not because of the lure of big investments that venture capitalists are seemingly dishing out at startups (the whole community got too carried away with seeking investments, and that actually plays very well into investors’ hands), and not because my results were so bad that I am unemployable.

Starting my own company is fucking tough, and I was lucky that the journey actually began early in my life. I’ve been building products since I learnt programming when I was just 13. I’ve made a game that hit “cult-like” status and licensed it to SPH and M1. I’ve failed before, even with decent startup grant funding from a government agency. And I know the kind of shit I’ll be putting myself, my future wife, my family through when I gave up lucrative job offers (highest so far was about S$7000) to be self-employed. There’s too much uncertainty, too much risks. Am I even going to be able to earn as much as my peers in corporate jobs, month on month?

I still decided to do it in the end, and things got off quite decently. I got most of what I wanted. When my dad was hospitalized briefly and had an extended MC after that, I was able to accompany him without taking any leave or needing any permissions. When I feel like it, I pack up my stuff and work out of whichever cafe or fast food restaurant I wanted. I have enough cash for my upcoming wedding, and will soon have enough cash to do some decent renovation work for my upcoming house. With luck, I might even be able to afford a car when I move out, so that I can still visit my parents frequently (we will be 2hrs apart by public transport after I moved).

Though, the nature of my work is that the future is very uncertain. But I’ve made my choice and I’m fucking loving it, at least for now.

I think it is really important for fresh graduates to discover what they want and get their choices right really early, whatever it may be. Find a happy path that you would want to walk, for the next 5-10 years.


10 Signs that a student startup will not work out

Students startups are all the rage now, given the easy access to government-based fundings. However, why do we not hear any meaningful success story out of that?
From my own experience and by observing other student startups… I present to you…

10 Signs that a student startup will not work out:
1) More than half of the founding members have a full time job outside, or intend to have 1 upon graduation.
2) There’s no in-house developers, and the founders are not experienced in sales or marketing (by experienced, I mean actual experience in selling or marketing products or services).
3) The office starts looking like a living room than a place where work gets done – before the startup is even market validated or invested in (grants from gov bodies not counted).
4) Assignments and GPAs are more important than launches and sales
5) The founders didn’t have any contacts or networks within the industries they are targeting.
6) Founders didn’t have any prior working experience in SMEs or other startups.
7) Founders are not keen to put their own money in something they believe so strongly in.
8) They confuse media coverage with market validation (press writing about it is nothing to cheer about, it will still fail.)
9) There’s no product road map beyond the next 3 to 6 months.
10) There are more than 3 co-founders.


8 Things To Look Out For When Engaging Vendors to Develop Your Android and iOS Mobile Apps

When I founded my first startup 3 years ago and wanted to build a mobile app, I was confused by the huge difference in price quoted by various IT Vendors.

With such a huge collection of well-designed apps in the marketplace, users are spoilt for choice. If your app quality is just a bit lower, users have no reason to keep yours on their phones.

Having quality mobile apps is important. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if a particular vendor can deliver that.

The worst thing you can do is throw them a list of features you want and ask if they can deliver. Every vendor who are desperate for sales will tell agree to your requirements and launch schedule. It is extremely hard to determine if the vendor can produce the special “x” factor that makes or breaks your app, and by extension, your startup!

You are also not helped by the fact that there are all kinds of unscrupulous vendors out there: vendors who use interns to develop your app at the expense of future upgrades and scalability, vendors whose only local headcounts consist of Sales and Project Managers and all the development work are outsourced to countries like India, among others.

Fortunately, I’m technically trained, and I know the telltale signs when vendors are trying to pull a fast one on me. I was able to engage the right vendor then, but not all startup founders are so lucky.
Thought I would like to share the 8 most important signs to look out for when engaging a vendor:

1) Always check their past portfolio. Don’t take “our portfolio is not online yet” for an excuse.

2) If the vendor is small or young, are the founding partners technical?

3) Are the development work done locally are offshored? Is there are strong technical team behind this vendor to deliver the project?

4) What are the portfolios of the Project Managers and Technical Lead behind your project?

5) Are they building native or “HTML5” mobile apps?

6) Is there a solid UX/UI Designer placed on your project?

7) Ask for contact of their past clients. Check if the vendor is habitual in missing deadlines and breaking promises.

8) Do you have to work through many layers between you and the development team? E.g. You -> Account Manager -> Project Manager -> Technical Lead -> Developers. This will impact how fast you can make changes and updates to your mobile apps.

That said, I after my previous company failed, I decided to start my own Mobile App Development House that brings our clients the best possible value.

Let’s cut out the middle man. No more Consultants, Sales and Project Managers who don’t know what they are talking about.

Imagine working with a company where their entire team, including Consultants, Project Managers and Designers, also have at least a year of programming experience.

No more fluff and bullshit from your vendor just because they want to close a sales.

This is Originally.US.

Originally US Singapore – No Bullshit Mobile App Development
http://www.originally.us


The problems of being a small, disruptive startup

People who dreams of disruptive technologies or processes and have the balls to execute them deserve to be successful right?

Na, wait long long.

Just look at Lytro. They specialize in what they call “Light Field Camera”, whatever that means. Their really cool technology allows photographers to just snap a photo first, and then choose their focus point later.

This concept in itself is huge, and this is possibly the pipe dream of photographers since the beginning of photography. They ought to be very successful and rich right now, right? Perhaps even a nobel price for revolutionizing photography?

Nope. They simply showed the world that there’s a demand or use case for a technology like this. But Lytro is a small kid, and for whatever foolish reasons they had, they decided not to license their hardware technology to anyone else.

So giants like Google and Nokia decided to achieve the same thing with software.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/11/13/5099000/nokia-refocus-download-for-pureview-lumia-windows-phones

https://gigaom.com/2014/04/16/googles-downloadable-android-camera-app-gets-bokeh-with-lens-blur/

With the release of the updated Android Camera app and the Nokia Refocus app, consumers can now achieve the same effect right in their mobile phones with a click on a button. No more shelling out crazy cash for a fancy camera. Not to mention, the original Lytro has really shitty image quality.

Now everyone who bought a Lytro looks really stupid. There’s also no reason for a company like Lytro to exist any more.

Disruptive startup, so what? Big players make you irrelevant as easy as killing an ant.

I’m looking at lots of Pebble advertisements on Facebook and the web, and I can’t help thinking they are trying to clear their stocks as fast as possible. The arrival of the official Android smartwatch powered by Android Wear, or the iWatch powered by iOS will render Pebble irrelevant immediately.

Pebbles are to Android smartwatches will be like what pocket calculators are to iPads. Heck, Pebble even use same cheapskate pocket calculator type LCD but brand it as “e-paper”. Please don’t confuse this with “e-ink”, the screen used by decent ebook readers.

Pebble, while a disruptive concept, is simply a set of cheap hardware in a watch form factor for USD150. One year later, they replace all the plastic parts with metal and tried to ask for USD100 more. Trust me, there’s no innovation going on in Pebble, and it shows.

By the time Android Smartwatches such as the Moto 360 or the legendary iWatch come out, Pebble would be cast out at the roadside and no one won’t pay any more attention to it then actual pebbles.

Product bashing aside, this underlines a very sad fate for startups and entrepreneurs.

You can be disruptive. You can impress everyone. But you will always be at the mercy of larger companies. And more so, if you are giving your consumers shitty value.

Yet another thing that startups should watch out for.

 


The followers and the leaders

We have a leadership succession problem. It seems to be incredibly hard to find youths who could serve as our future leaders.

We can start by encouraging the youth to think about the people, the society and the policies around them. Many just live in their own comfortable lives and don’t give a single shit to what is happening around them.

Once in a while though, we come across individuals who are passionate, critical thinkers who bothered to take time to understand and analyse the situation around them. They often share their discoveries and opinions in hopes to encourage people to think. I don’t think such acts are malicious.

This is what we should encourage. We worry about finding talents to lead us in the future, yet we do not foster an environment where people are passionate about policies and think critically about them. We are not talking about empty mud slinging articles about the government. We are talking about a new generation of educated youths who care, who think critically, and who are passionate. These people are potential leaders.

Yet instead of addressing the concerns, they were shut down. Probably because they asked questions that were difficult to answer. Maybe their opinions are “wrong”.

There’s another type of individuals. Those who feel good about themselves by association. These are the people who don’t care, don’t think, have no passion for anything, other than having a proud organisation with which they think they are associated with. You see them in crazy mega churches. You see them among the whites. These people will always think they are right. And they think they are right “just because”.

It is disturbing to see them echoing what they were told, with zero input of their own thoughts. They do not believe in the two sides of a coin. There’s only “right” and “wrong”. These people are followers.

I think the followers and leaders are in the wrong place. And that’s a scary thought.

 

Inspired by Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s post on CPF.


3 Important Advice That Most Startups Ignore

Sometimes we ignore advice because we think we know better. After all, we are the misfits, the outliers, the ones who dared to be a little different from others.
Why should we listen to what others say?

There are, however, some advice that we really shouldn’t ignore.

From my experience in running my own startups and helping others with theirs, I’ve consolidated the top 3 commonly ignored advice that are really good for you.

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1. Know who is paying and how much they are willing to pay
You may think There are many startups out there with zero paying customers and no business model! The startup success stories that you know (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube) all had zero paying customers. The founders got a good break, get a giant sum of money and lived happily ever after. Why should you bother with finding paying customers? If you start charging, will anyone still use your products or services?
Why you shouldn’t ignore this We mistake success stories like this as the norm rather than the exceptions. Let’s face it: Investors are not running a charity. Companies do not acquire startups for fun. Your startup has to be revenue generating (with ready, paying customers) or be the best of its kind in the world so that investors are willing to back you without a current business model. Now tell me, which is more feasible option for 99.9% of the startups out there?

2. Find a niche area instead of catering for everyone
You may think Why should I be artificially limiting the reach of my products and services? If my idea works for everyone between the ages of 16 to 55, wouldn’t I be guaranteed of high scaleablity?
Why you shouldn’t ignore this Imagine opening a public chatroom with the subject “Talk about anything under the sun” vs one that says “Let’s discuss the most memorable horror movie you’ve ever watched”. Chances are, the former is going to get a couple of “Hi” which quickly give way to “Is anyone still here?” before quickly turning into a ghost town of a chat room. Meanwhile, the other chatroom would get a slow but steady stream of people reading and then sharing their own experiences. By being inclusive, you are stripping your startup of any personality or character that your audiences could identify themselves with.

3. Don’t partner with a friend. Friend a partner.
You may think Does this advice mean that I should work with a complete stranger? I trust my friends more. After all, we have been friends for over 5 years! We know each other very well and we can work well together.
Why you shouldn’t ignore this Business partnerships are always shrouded in micro-conflicts and debates. There is nothing wrong with this as it shows that the partners do care deeply what is going on in the business. However, as Asians, we tend to value interpersonal relationships strongly, leading to conflict aversion when your partners are also your friends. If your partners cheated your clients, disappear from work, didn’t so their tasks timely, ask yourself this: Would you dare to raise issues with them without fear of harming your prior friendship?

Photo source.


@Roosevelt’s Diner & Bar

So TasteBuds’ Country Manager Alvin was invited to Roosevelt’s for media tasting. I’ve read good things about this new establishment and decided to tag along to enjoy the food. Amanda, the Marketing Manager at Roosevelt’s was quick to comply. Here’s a shout out to Amanda for the kind invite!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Tanjong Pagar, Roosevelt’s Diner & Bar is an eclectic modern diner that offers hearty all-day dining in a casual environment and at approachable prices. Our menu has a huge slant towards artisanal and gourmet fares, with our food, coffee blends, wines, spirits, and cocktails embodying this focus.

Roosevelt’s Diner & Bar
8.30am – 10.30pm Sunday to Thursday
8.30am – 12am Fridays and Saturdays
331 New Bridge Road
#01-02 Dorsett Residences
Singapore 088764

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