Chris Leong

Disoriented views from the rosy lens of an optimistic realist.

Category: Entrepreneur & Business

Entrepreneurship and Fun

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone – that is something that I always believe in. So there are times, I frowned upon programmes that encourage students to be entrepreneurs by promoting it as a cool thing to be in. While I can understand the rationale behind promoting entrepreneurship but I sometimes wish entrepreneurship was not portrayed as a cool/fun thing for someone to jump in. To me, that is not the entire picture and can be misleading.

From my time spent in the entrepreneurship scene, I had seen different types of entrepreneurs. I come to notice that there are more and more upcoming want to-be entrepreneurs that had the wrong mindset about what entrepreneurship is. I notice that a lot of these want to-be-entrepreneurs spent more time in events than spending time running the business. A true entrepreneur would rather spent each waking hour in their business rather than going to some get-together to have fun bragging about how good their idea is. And if when you are in the scene long enough, you know ideas are cheap.

Starting a company is never fun (in the conventional way). It would be fun though if you were the type of person that defines fun as spending hours everyday to train for an Iron Man competition or to climb Mt Everest. Not everyone enjoys that, so not everyone will enjoy entrepreneurship.

The life of a true entrepreneur is full of worry and sacrifice. The first thing the entrepreneur loses would most likely be the social life. Clubbing sessions, drinking session and any other non-essential activities would most likely to be the first to go. Public holidays and festivals soon won’t draw the same excitement as it used to – everyday can be a workday anyway. Delay gratification would start to become a habit, as cash flow considerations would be the priority. (Imagine saying no to the latest cool gadget you want to buy). And the list can go on and on

So is entrepreneurship fun? Yes, only to a selected few.

For an entrepreneur to thrive, there must be a deep conviction within. A conviction that regardless of the odds, they have the “special” advantage to succeed. This conviction also would allow entrepreneurs to enjoy the fun part of a start-up: The happiness of getting 1 yes after 10 rejections, the excitement of launching a product after weeks of all-nighters and the satisfaction of proving the naysayers wrong.  That’s the fun part of entrepreneurship – to assume the role of David and to try the very best to beat the hell out of a Goliath.

Entrepreneurship always reminds me of “running”. Running faster than your nearest competitor and running faster so that you are far ahead of any upcoming competitor. So entrepreneurship is all about running fast (especially for tech companies) and this quote that I read from the book “The World is Flat” sums it all up.

“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” – Old African Proverb

And that ends my ramblings about entrepreneurship. And if you enjoy “running” welcome to the entrepreneurship world.

Image from the Boho Garden

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Lean Start-up

Are you an entrepreneur? Have you heard of Lean Start-up? Then you better understand more on how you can drastically improve your changes by applying the principles in the book. The principles of Lean-Startup can be applied to any business (not only tech). Rather than I explaining it in words, watch this video. It is a great way of explaining what is it all about.

Lean Start-up

You can get the book at major bookstores or you can save a tree by buying the Kindle version in Amazon. More information on the principles on its official website – http://theleanstartup.com/

Lean Start-up by Eric Ries

Silicon Valley Visit–An eye opener

sanfrancisco3

I have been in the tech circle and the entrepreneurship circle for a number of years in Malaysia. I have always regard Silicon Valley as a very special place, some sort of Mecca for entrepreneurs. My visit there was a mind boggling experience and it is a place where i would like to stay longer. Maybe to do a start-up of my own Smile

After being there, talking to VCs, angel investors and visiting the tech giants around. I came into one conclusion. IMHO, Malaysia with its plans to emulate Silicon Valley has still a long way to go. Silicon Valley is special because of the soft aspect – people. Not its infrastructure, it is something that more Government officials need to realise.

Signing off from Dubai, in a 8 hour long transit.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Bono’s TED Talk

These days whenever I have free time, I will browse through all the interesting TED talk to get some inspiration. I have seen this video before but it still does inspire me. While Bono did not talk about entrepreneurship per say, but his changing the world attitude is one that any individual can learn from.

I am particular intrigue with one particular quote in the video.

Idealism detached from action is just a dream.

Don’t wait for the ideal business plan to come out. Don’t want for the the ideal partners to start. Entrepreneurs wannabe should start taking small little steps to kick start their venture (Writing business plans do not count). Go talk to prospective customers, start building the site. Do something purposeful. Because, when everything is certain, someone has already made their millions. NOT you.

What I learned from Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk

I was browsing through TED’s video and found this video of Malcolm Gladwell’s talk. Being a fan of Malcolm Gladwell writings (I have all his books), I want to see what insights he has to share.

He did not disappoint. His talk was titled “What can we learn from spaghetti sauce”. It tells a tale of how the food industry was obsessed in finding the “perfect” sauce and how a man came to change the industry’s view.

 

I find his delivery to be engaging and funny at times. but more importantly within his speech there are underlying insights that every entrepreneurs can learn from:

Making complex things simple to understand

This lesson was not in the content of his talk but on how they way he delivers the talk. He manage to explain what can be a boring academic research into something easy to understand. His usage of analogies and his story telling style of presenting kept me captivated. This skill is very important especially to entrepreneurs who wants to pitch for funding.

I’ve been into many pitching sessions where entrepreneurs either bore the judges to death or confusing the judges with too many jargons. What they should do is to relate the product offerings to something that the audiences can relate to. Telling a story the problems a consumer/user face and how your product can solve it is a better pitch.

Ask the right questions

No matter how efficient a person digs, there is no way he will find treasure if he’s digging at the wrong place. Asking the right questions is akin to providing the right solution. In the talk, the food industry was asking the wrong question all along, wasting millions of dollars in producing products that does not fulfill people’s need. Having a rebel attitude that challenges the core belief and status quo might just create the right solution to an underlying problem.

Consumers do not know what they want

Revolutionary product that creates new market do not come from market research and focus groups. Consumer just do not know what they want. Think of the IPhone. What do you think the answer would be , if a consumer was asked whether he/she would like to buy a phone that has no multi-tasking, no copy & paste for a premium price?

If people were to survey on whether I would want to buy a tablet that acts almost like the IPhone, I would say no. But now I’m happily proven wrong as I can’t keep my hands off my IPad.

Check out the video.

What have I been up to for 2010–Wrote a book

Like Me Follow Me - Chris Leong

If anyone were to ask me a couple of years back whether I’ll become an author, I will most probably laugh until my stomach ache. But, things really work unexpectedly, in early 2010 I was actually working on a book on Social Media.

When I was tapping Oon Yeoh’s brains on social media for my MBA dissertation, he asked me whether I would like to write a book about Facebook and Twitter with him. Even though I don’t see myself as an author and have no experience doing it, I jumped at the opportunity as it seems to be a fun thing to do.

So that’s the start of an exciting and hectic journey especially with Facebook ever changing features and user interface. Finally on July 2010, the book “Like Me, Follow Me” was in MPH stores.

I learnt a lot from the experience and even got an interview slot in BFM with Oon Yeoh. Check out the podcast attached. If I sound nervous in the podcast, it is because I really am. Smile

 

P.S: I was hysterical when the book was in the 2nd place of local best sellers (non-fiction, Aug 2010).

Key to start-up success

I was at echelon 2010 in Singapore and attended the Dave McClure’s keynote presentation where Dave McClure shared his thoughts on the future of internet start-ups (which is getting better and better) and why large VCs are not suitable for internet start-ups. Here are his slides.

Startup 2.0: A Silicon Valley Story

View more presentations from Dave McClure.

 

The most intriguing points about his presentation are what an entrepreneur should avoid and focus on in his/her venture. Here are good points that I’ve picked up:

  • Design and marketing skills are often lacking – Hire someone if your team do not have the skills.
  • Focus on user experience and distributing your product/services
  • Less is more – Focus on what your customer wants and use that as a basis to get feedback.
  • Early market validation – don’t wait for a year before you introduce your product to your customer.
  • Frequent customer feedback – have short development cycle to get frequent customer feedback

The detailed summary of the presentation is published here.

What is success?

I saw this great video from my friend’s blog – Sybreon Ones Nought. I find it very true and want to share it.

There are some things success is not.
Its not fame.
Its not money or power.
Success is waking up in the morning so excited about what you have to do that you literally fly out the door.
Its getting to work with people you love.
Success is connecting with the world and making people feel. Its finding a way to bind together people who have nothing in common but a dream.
Its falling asleep at night knowing you did the best job you could.
Success is joy and freedom and friendship.
And success is Love.

This are all important points for you to consider when you want to venture to business. Many entrepreneurs are successful because they love what they do. They are fulfilled and enjoy all the work that comes along with the business.

Are you excited with what you are doing?

Evaluating your business idea

A friend of mine, Bugs Tan has a great way for inventors and entrepreneurs to evaluate good business ideas. Bugs Tan is an award winning inventor who is very passionate in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Based on his experience, he came out with a practical series of questions to help entrepreneurs and inventors to evaluate their ideas. I like these questions as it provides a very good perspective on how an entrepreneur should review the viability of their idea.

Do also check out Bugs’s blog to tap his thoughts on innovation.

What is a good business idea?

Before answering the question, What is a good business idea? Let me ask you this question, do you need a good business idea to start your business?

A long time back, my MBA professor once told me that your business idea do not need a competitive advantage to make money. The class was stunned but in many ways he’s right. There are so many businesses out there who does not have any significant competitive advantage but are making a decent profit.

Think of the chicken rice stall near your office. How do they fare compared to the best chicken rice in town? Not good enough i assume. But are they making money? You bet they are. But not as much as the extraordinary money that the best chicken rice stall is making.

people_around_good_ideas

So, do you need a good business idea to do business? No.

You only need a good business idea if you aspire to be the market leader in your industry. A business idea that allows you to earn extraordinary profit.

So what consist of a great business idea?

In my opinion, the human motivation of avoiding pain and increasing pleasure is a good measurement of an idea.

pain2

The best ideas generally have a mixture of both. Personally if given a choice, i like ideas that help customer avoid/remove pain. It is just human nature to have a bigger motivation to avoid pain rather than to seek pleasure.

The first step, for you to evaluate an idea is to identify the pain point of your customer and think of a solution to solve it. Make sure that the problem is so painful that the customer will gladly pay money to make it go away. (Those are the best ideas) In terms of pricing, you need to ensure the pain removed is bigger than the pain the customer feels when paying you.

Pleasure

What about pleasure based ideas?

Use the same methodology and identify how you are increasing the pleasure of your customer. Are you creating fun? Are you increasing sales for them? Identify them.

Careful though, if the business idea is a pleasure based idea, then you really need to identify whether your product/service is a “nice to have” (massage, spa, manicure & ETC).

If it is a “nice to have”  then you are exposed to what is called an elastic consumer goods/services. It just means that the higher you charge the lesser demand you have. Elastic goods/services are dependent on the current economy situation. People will cut back if they don’t have enough money and you also face the danger of a price war.

Here are some starting point for you to review your business idea.

Stay tune for the next post.