A good friend of me once told me that people who just want to be entrepreneurs rarely succeed – the journey is just far too tough and lonely for one to succeed if it is just something you want. For a person to succeed on this less beaten path, it has to be more that something you just want – you have to need it.
But why do I need it? Luckily over the course of the past two weeks, I applied for the Founder Institute, a start-up accelerator, and I was presented with the following essay question to answer:
“Write 2-4 paragraphs on why you want to be an entrepreneur”
After quite a fair bit of deep thought and introspection, here is my response:
Answering this question took a good deal of soul searching, but thankfully everything came together when I went to the very core of things and looked at my core values – lifelong learning, freedom and making a social impact.
Getting real about entrepreneurship now that I have graduated from university has turned out to be a trying and difficult process – but one thing that always seems to put a smile on my face is the fact that I go to bed every night having the pleasure of learning something completely new. It also amazes me how I always seem to see how the business and management literature that I’ve always enjoyed reading seems to become so much more relevant now that I’m trying to set up my own business.
Secondly, my family is extremely important to me and I want to have the freedom to be there for them when they need me – just like how my business owner dad was around for me when I was growing up. When I was growing up, I was extremely blessed to have my business owner dad always being around – he took me out for breakfast, he sent me to tuition and was always there to support me, much unlike other dads who always seemed to be too busy. I want to do the same for my children and wife in the future. That’s why despite how difficult it gets, I know that I want to start the journey right now, before it gets too late.
Finally, I have also learnt that entrepreneurs are a crucial component of creating lasting social change. Everyone wants to make an impact and my personal vision is to bring my two passions together – connecting people, as well as technology – and to fundamentally change the quality of interpersonal connection people have with one another in this fast-paced, often impersonal world.
I want to live an awesome, inspiring life, and I take a long term view at success. Ultimately, the more you stretch yourself, the more you learn, and the sooner you get where you want to go. Right now the answer seems to be entrepreneurship for me – the trials, tribulations and learning that comes along with it would definitely help me become a better student of life.
Seems that time just flies! Been keeping busy traveling, meeting developers and finalizing how our startup’s first mobile app will work with my partners and it seems that I totally didn’t make time to blog. Guess that now that we finally have our own beautiful little cubicle in NTU’s innovation centre, I have no excuse but to make some time on Mondays to chronicle how my startup is growing.
Oh well haven’t blogged in a month, but at least I had a great month filled with solid learning experiences! So… where do I start?
Getting the product-market fit right
Guess I’ll start with the current state of my startup. Right now, we’re still working on the concept and trying to get product-market fit right, in that we’re still meeting and talking to the primary target audience of our product (salespeople), and gathering feedback from them to refine our concept.
But real life ain’t business school where assumptions and clear logic are enough. Assumptions have to be tested against the market and my partner and I are currently trying to get our startup’s first product – a mobile assistant that aims to improve on the way salespeople interact with their clients – prototyped.
As my partner and I are not (yet) hardcore iOS developers, we’ve been spending the last week or so talking to iOS developers, working on our project briefs as well as thinking of ways to raise development capital for our little project over here. I think that out of the many meetings we went for, we did come across some gems and we really hope to have chosen a quality partner by the end of the week.
Looking for capital
Secondly, my partner and I are also looking into the many government funds for funding for our project. We strongly believe in our company vision to help transform the world into a much friendlier, kinder and considerate place with our products and have been talking to people all over on how our startup can secure some seed money.
We’ve probably got enough to start production of a prototype or two by ourselves, but some government support will really help! Do let us know if any of you readers out there have connections to managers of government funds! We would love to talk to meet them!
Growing the team
Finally, after some discussion, my partner and I have also decided to start looking for talent based in KL. We’re currently looking to fill in the following two positions:
- Based in the Klang Valley
- Able to speak English fluently
- Self-motivated and able to work independently
- A good team player and with a proactive attitude
- Minimum diploma and above
1. iOS Developer
- needs to be proficient in Objective-C and able to work independently
- must have a strong interest in design thinking and UI design
2. Web Developer
- must be comfortable with design back-end systems and working with databases
Interested applicants please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your resume, expected salary and recent photograph. We will get back to you as soon as possible. Would also really appreciate it if you spread the word to friends of yours who have just graduated and want real hands on experience on how working with a startup is like!
Guess that pretty neatly sums up what I’ve been working on lately! Will write about some of the many things that I’ve learnt real soon!
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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
It has been a tiring but yet a fulfilling week working on my startup idea. We set out to conduct a questionnaire, went out to get it done, and ended up with much more than just mere results. The failure of our online questionnaire led us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and approach financial planners all over – be it at Newton, Raffles Place, or even over the phone. My team and I were pleasantly surprised when a great majority of the people we interviewed didn’t chase us away, but rather were pretty interested about our idea – quite a number of them even going so far as to leave their email and phone numbers with us, asking us to keep them in the loop, with regard to the project.
I think that it’s just super amazing how we actually made some pretty good friends and mentors though conducting a survey. I guess it all comes down to being humble and showing a keen interest to learn.
Looking back at the whole exercise, I guess my team and I are just really blessed to have such awesome people around us, helping us every step of the way. A big shout out goes to all of you awesome people that helped me out in any way, be it passing me a number, introducing me to some friends, or even passing our survey along. Special thanks goes out to Pamela and Melissa who actually took us out to meet insurance agents they knew, which in turn introduced us to a whole lot more awesome people!
And the great thing was that I wasn’t just meeting great insurance agents – my awesome friends and family never fail to support me, continuously introducing me to new and interesting mentors who each have powerful lessons to teach me. One of the key perks of being employed is having the opportunity to work and learn the trade from a good boss. Not having a boss, I’m just so blessed to be surrounded by mentors from different fields who readily and generously share the wealth of their experiences with me. Thank you so much.
Through all this, I have really learnt two main things
1. If you are interested in starting a business… just go start! Find some way to begin and just go do it. Start small if you have to! Persistence, focus and the alignment of your venture with your deepest values will cause magical things to happen helping you learn so much faster along the way! There is just no substitute for just starting! Saying that you need experience or capital is just making another excuse for yourself! I’ve started small, with just tons of interviews, surveys, brainstorming sessions and consultations with mentors – and I feel that I probably learnt so much more than I would if I took up a typical marketing position at a typical marketing firm.
2. And that true success in life probably isn’t just measured in dollars and cents – the number of lives whom you’ve touched are really important too! In this whole process of trying to get EasyGreet started, I’ve realized that what motivates me in business is really the people. I love interacting and connecting with people, and businesses are what drives value – and potentially human happiness if done correctly – up if done correctly. For more thoughts on happiness and about the meaning of success, do check this extremely meaningful article out.
Guess that’s it for this week! Hope that my partners and I will have more to share in the days to come! Count your blessings when you can! (We’re sure blessed with our secret hideout as well!)
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
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!