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Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish (SGPad Blog)

Reproduced from the blog post written by yours truly on the SGPad blog!

I personally think that one of the most important attitudes to have at a startup is an immense hunger to learn and adapt. Everything and everyone has something amazing to teach you, should you possess the humility to learn from them.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

These days I define startups the way Eric Ries (of the Lean Startup – please read it if you’re into entrepreneurship!) does: a startup is a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

That definition’s great because over my one year of entrepreneurship so far, I’ve realized that successful businesses rarely look like the business plans (or initial ideas) that spawned them (www.SGPad.com initially wanted to focus on providing rental sales to tourists). There’s just too much uncertainty creating new products for new markets that it’s really hard for entrepreneurs to just boldly go forward and think that they’re right all the time.

So accept it. You’ll be wrong most of the time. But remember – a startup isn’t a test where you die when you fail – it’s rather like an ongoing series of experiments where you slowly find out what doesn’t work and what actually does.

That’s why we at SGPad try every day to learn from feedback all around – customer feedback, experiments, and we’ve been also very lucky to have great clients who have themselves walked the path of entrepreneurship and shared their invaluable insights with us.

Here’s a great email that brightened up my day:

Just want to encourage you guys as you embark on this journey of entrepreneurship and a small advice from someone who is just have the privilege of starting out a few steps earlier than you guys.

The advice is just one word: FOCUS

1. Focus on the quality of your deliverables (I just had a rude shock recently with another iPad rental company which gave me 3G enabled iPads with no SIM Cards)

2. Focus on developing your core capability ( don’t deviate too much and your reputation as a specialist will eventually bring you to greater heights)

Bit by bit, we will stay humble, learn and adapt our startup to fit the needs of the market. We owe it all to all your great people out there who cheer us on every single day. Thank you so much for your faith and support!

Stay hungry, stay foolish!

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Defying Gravity

Wow.

It really has been a really long time since I last blogged! I guess what happened is that I have been really busy with Project Radius, SGPad.com and the many family holidays (Christmas and Chinese New Year are pretty important events for my family) that I just didn’t make time to write.

Or journal. And that’s bad because with all the things that I’m doing lately, I’ve realized that a key practice for optimum performance is to be extremely mindful of who you are as a person, your personal (and business) strategy and how you can improve to get closer to your dreams. I guess it is not so easy to see into the horizon when you’re in survival mode, only focused at the immediate tasks before you, but as a leader, I believe it’s important to have a balance of the two and be able to take calm breaks to stand silently and gaze – not only into the endless potential of the future, but also into the richness of our pasts.

My two babies – Project Radius and SGPad

Over the past two months I have been working hard on two projects – Project Radius and SGPad.

1. Project Radius

Project Radius!

Project Radius!

Project Radius is a social opportunity engine that aims to help people achieve their highest potential through introducing them to people with the skills and resources that can help make their dreams come true. As young entrepreneurs, we are inexperienced and have to work with very limited resources. Project Radius aims to overcome that by giving you X-Ray opportunity vision to immediately find the people around you whom you can do great work with. We’re building this system as we realize that in actuality, all the resources we need are present all around us – it could be a family friend, a friend, or a friend of a friend –  but we just didn’t realize it soon enough! We’re also trying to overcome the need for using business cards anymore – just “star” a friend you just met and you have your contacts all saved!

The app itself!

The app itself!

I’m just blessed to have a talented team working on building the system, giving me the time and energy to pursue funding from the government (and business case competitions), talk to event organizers whom would like implementing our system at their events, as well as fine tuning our profit model.

We’re looking to initially implement Project Radius at social and business events/functions, so if you know any event organizers whom would love to have a virtual host introducing your guests to each other in a way that maximizes the speed in which they achieve their personal and business goals, do let me know kevin@kevinc.net immediately!

2. SGPad

The Ultimate Travelers Companion

The Ultimate Travelers Companion

SGPad is a new service in Singapore that focuses on providing quick iPad rental to tourists and businesses in Singapore. Being geeks who love technology, we always thought that it would be really awesome to have 3G so we could have Google Maps in foreign lands so we would never get lost again. Hence, we developed SGPad to serve the tourist market.

Benefits of SGPad

Benefits of SGPad

Since our launch, we have also had quite a number of requests from businesses who want to implement iPads in their work – be it to collect data for a survey, to enhance the learning experience for students on a learning trail or just to spice up an event – and are also trying to develop further capabilities to service this sector.

Feel free to contact me personally if any of you have any iPad rental related needs!

A third project

Being so busy over the past two months, it feels so good to just stop and reflect on what I’ve done so far. Going ahead with 2012 (my most challenging year yet so far – in a good way!) I know I need to build good solid life habits again:

1. to wake up early

2. to do my exercise routine

3. to get to work and be focused at it (minus Facebook and Youtube breaks)

4. to focus on the most important tasks at hand

5. to continue being the best friend I can to the awesome people around me

And to do so, I really need to be accountable for my actions this time – failure is not a problem.

So here’s the idea:

I’m assembling a group of people and what we’ll do is that we will plan a call to each other every day to check on each other every day to see how we’re doing up on the things we promised each other to do. We will all keep a log of our own tasks and routines and check each day to provide encouragement, support and inspiration to each other. Hopefully through helping each other we would learn more about ourselves and be able to push each other to achieve greater heights.

Email (or SMS) me immediately if you’re interested in forming this group! Time for serious personal change in this most challenging year yet! The more challenging the situation, the more we have to grow to overcome it!

Parting notes

Feels so good to write again, and I really want to be held accountable to writing (and journaling) on a regular basis. My personal development habit discipline muscles have become fat and flabby over months of neglect and I will focus to getting them all fit again! Focus on just business alone ain’t enough – it’s all about balance, and I’m going to get that balance back!

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The product-market fit

The cool thing about working on making a startup work is that every day you come into contact with so many new things to learn. There’s always new things you have to read up on, new technologies to understand, new issues to solve and the large variety of challenges that pop up make the great business thinking books we have around on the internet and in bookstores all so much more interesting and relevant!

Business Model Generation

Business Model Generation

It’s really amazing to note that I’m probably going through business articles and books at a quicker rate than I was when I was still in business school!

As i’m working on a technology-related startup, articles on technology and business all look so relevant to me and I really have a good time everyday reading up on all the wonderful material I have around me! It also pays to be surrounded with awesome friends who share what they learn in the business world with me as well!

So I’ll just get down to sharing the two most important lessons I’ve learnt over the past few weeks, shall I?

The two lessons are:

1. A startup’s main focus in the early stages is product-market fit, not scaling.

2. In today’s cluttered world, focusing on radical (not your typical run-of-the-mill) differentiation is a necessity.

Today, let’s spend a little bit of time talking about product-market fit (we’ll talk about radical differentiation some other day)!

Product-Market Fit

As someone who has great dreams of creating a world-changing, profitable startup, I can understand the urge to want to grow your startup up big real fast through securing venture capital, hiring a large sales team and broadcasting it to every single person you possibly can as quick as humanly possible.

Sounds like just the thing to do with that bright idea you just had right? Just scale it up as big as possible in the shortest possible time frame?

Well, that’s completely true if… the many, many assumptions you made about reality in your business plan were all accurate. And the odds are that you probably have a couple of glaring mistakes in the model somewhere.

And just how do startups work on getting those assumptions right? Not by just looking at research papers and reports, mind you, but mainly through real-world-experimentation. Yup, that’s what you gotta do – prototype and start experimenting with your idea as soon as possible as the market’s the only true judge of your business plan! Doing anything else – planning for an IPO, purchasing large amounts of machinery and all are all going to be for naught if the model isn’t validated by the only thing that should ever validate (or invalidate) a business plan – the market itself.

If you have an idea, just get out there and test it as cheaply and as quickly as possible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t get caught up with over-thinking, over-analysis and fear. Just go and do. That’s some pretty good advice that I really need to take myself.

Keepin’ those fingers crossed.

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Being Happy

It’s been a really busy two weeks and as work’s been moving slowly, I’ve been struggling to figure out what I should write about for the week’s blog entry, but I realized that I’ve gained some new insights into happiness lately! So that’s what I’m going to be writing about today!

Happiness

Happiness: So true.

Quite a bit of what I learnt stems from this Lifehacker article which features an amazing TED talk by Shawn Achor which argues that happiness could very well be a competitive advantage that top performers have mastered that helps them achieve great success in life, and that striving for material success to “achieve” happiness is but a futile pursuit.

I really thought about it, and looking beyond the statistics and experiments Shawn brings up in his talk, it really does make sense to me. Happiness does help you become a more resilient person in life. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re bound to encounter obstacles in life. Having a happy, positive state of mind would definitely help provide the mental resilience to overcome life’s obstacles in my humble opinion.

The great thing about Shawn’s talk is that he also talked about how we can easily train our minds to be happier, more positive and able to see the best in situations. According to Shawn, a happy disposition is pretty similar to a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets; the more you practice mental habits related to happiness and gratitude, the happier you become.

Here’s Shawn’s practices for a happier, more fulfilled life:

  1. 3 Gratitudes: Every day, list down three things that you are grateful and thankful for. Reminding yourself of the many, many beautiful things in our lives helps us remember not to take them for granted and to cherish them greater.
  2. Journal: Everyday, journal and write down one positive experience you had during the day. You may have had a bad day, but every day definitely has a bright side to it. If you can see the sliver lining in a horrible, horrible day, you will also be able to do so when you face life’s toughest challenges.
  3. Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins which generally make you more relaxed and happy. Getting some light exercise in the mornings really helps me jump start my day!
  4. Meditate: There’s just so much going on in our modern world – so many emails, so much information – that it’s just good to shut it all out and really focus.
  5. Random acts of kindness: What goes around comes around. It’s a great feeling to brighten up someone’s day, so just go out there and put a smile on someone’s face! It’ll put a smile on yours as well!

I could really relate to this sage advice as my own mom is also wont of reminding me that happiness is all a state of mind. You can have the world and still be bitter, unhappy and unfulfilled.

Even though my girlfriend already describes me as being an “annoyingly happy” person, I still want to help my friends and family around me become happier! I’ve already made discussing the 3 gratitudes and journaling an activity I do with my girlfriend before we retire for the day and it has already helped make our days happier. Hope that the advice here helps you become happier! Please let me know if you find that it helps!

Have  a great, happy week everyone!

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When the going gets tough…

On the thousand mile journey to success, it is a definite fact that you will face challenges upon the way. Some of these challenges may be frustrating, some may be trying, but some of them will end up testing every bit of skill and experience that you have accumulated over the years.

That’s why when the going gets tough, you really need to keep your eyes on the prize, refocus yourself on the real reason for your labour, and keep on moving forward.

Validating Assumptions: Introducing EasyGreet

My team and I have made a whole world of assumptions when developing our killer service. We plan to enter the mobile customer management sector and create a smartphone application which aims to perform two main tasks:

1. Easy entry and storage of customer preferences  

and with those preferences at the system’s disposal,

2. Be able to mass customize and automatically send cards, gifts and vouchers to your customers with zero extra hassle

What it's all about!

What it's all about!

With my system, sales people can just tell the system how they want to treat certain clients – some may want to buy them gifts on their birthday, some may want to just drop a card during an anniversary – and the system will deal with the rest. No additional shopping around frantically every month for gifts and rushing to a post box to get cards mailed out for you salesmen out there!

I pitched the idea to some insurance agents and some entrepreneurs, solicited opinions, feedback and advice from mentors everywhere and with all this information, my associates and I brainstormed, discussed, and developed the idea to what it is today.

Then it was time to run a wider survey to look at what the average insurance agent thought about our product. It was then that we realized that for most of the time, developing ideas would be the relatively easy part, and that execution would be what separates the men from the boys.

Dealing with a 9/50 response rate

My team and I spent hours deliberating on the questions, refining them, and creating a questionnaire that we hoped would give us insight into the true needs of insurance agents around us. Once completed, we just sent it out to the world, thinking that friends would happily pass the survey around to their friends or acquaintances who were agents, and that we would achieve our goal of hitting 50 responses from insurance agents in just a couple of days.

Tons of emails and a 3 days later, we were still stuck with just 9 responses. A whole new challenge presented itself before us. But we knew that whatever it took, we would deal with this tiny (in the large scheme of things) little obstacle and emerge even stronger as a team.

My team and I quickly convened online and we decided that whatever happens, we’re going to give it our very best shot to complete our survey by Friday, so that we can get onto the prototype developing phase as soon as possible. The business world moves fast, and we really can’t use any more delays. That established, we quickly threw around ideas on how to solve the problem. Ideas were whizzing throughout cyberspace; our voices were loud with excitement.

I was pretty agitated by this problem and ended up going to bed slightly grumpy about not having everything settled neatly and cleanly just yet. I was irritable, feeling stressed just thinking of solutions to this problem of mine, and tired after a whole day’s work. I went to bed.

When the going gets tough…

The next morning, I found a note waiting for me when I opened my laptop.

It was a charming little note from my girlfriend which said:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step… so keep taking steady steps, at a continuous pace. As long as you’re clear and focused, don’t procrastinate and persist, I know you’ll succeed!”

It was a timely reminder that whenever problems arise, the important thing is to reorient yourself with why you are doing what you are doing to begin with.

And you know what? If your reason for working is good enough, all your frustration caused by these obstacles along the way would seem trivial at most.

And when I read that note all the reasons I’m taking the road not taken immediately coalesced in my head.

I’m not taking on extra risk just to become filthy rich myself, but rather because I deeply believe in possessing financial freedom – the freedom to be there for my family and friends when they need me most; to spend time with them when it really counts; and to be able to afford to share extraordinary life experiences with them.

I love connecting with people and believe in the product wholeheartedly – in fact, I would be my product’s biggest customer – I would love it if it could help me keep in close contact with the many good friends I have, despite how busy it gets sometimes.

The thousand mile journey towards success may be long, it may be challenging, but when you know deep down that ultimately it’s a labour of love, it all becomes worth it.

Now I’m going to go collect those surveys with continued vigor! All the best in seeking what you truly desire in life!

 ***

P.S. I’m still looking for more responses! If you are a financial planner, private banker, or sell insurance in any way, please do complete my survey here at the following URL: https://survey.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5tgnuv1scUdsejy

Thanks so much for your help!

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