1 March 2015

*2 mins read*

It’s official! It has been 6 months since I left my job to focus on a business venture not new to many called BoxGreen.

The truth is, after 6 months of doing this, I’ve realised it has been a wakeup call for me to start finding my passion back again.

I recently met a friend who has left the bank and she mentioned it felt like she lost part of herself in the 3 years which she was working. She is currently taking a break to discover herself back again. I can’t help but to agree with her.

The past  6 months was more of a rehabilitation/discovery process of myself. In the past, I’ve been told to wake up, go to work, come back home, sleep, rinse and repeat. I have given up on my interests, hobbies, doing things that I used to love doing in our past. With the sudden amount of free time after leaving my job, I became quite lost for a period of time because I don’t really know what I am going to do with my life! Work has become part of my life and now it feels like I’m missing on something. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. What I know is I don’t want to be trading my hours for dollars, at least the concept of automating businesses so I have more time to focus on the more important things in life, my wife and my family was something I thought makes sense.

The process of building BoxGreen is definitely a character building exercise. But in the midst I’ve also realised what matters more to me is having the time to do whatever I want, whenever I want.

Some business takeaways.

1. If you wanna go fast, go alone, if you wanna go far, go together.

2. It’s not a 9-5 job. The time spent does not determined your results. Automation is the smarter way of doing things. Smart business owners create a process which allows them to work on more opportunities.

3.  It’s not all about the end goal but the process.

4. I wrestle with fear on a daily basis and that is what keeps me alive and opens the doors to more opportunities.

5. There’s a reason why many opportunities happen to be found in the road less travelled.

 

A New Year (Sort of)

*2 mins read*

Today is the eve of the lunar new year, which marks the last day of the year in the chinese calendar. I thought it would be appropriate to share some thoughts on the last day of the year.

I have been on this journey of starting my company for almost 6 months now. And more often than not, I felt like giving up almost every alternate days and starting a company is not easy.

Quoting Andreessen Horowitz in his book The hard thing about hard things

What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology

There are times when I felt like I have been working in overdrive  for an extended period of time. As compared to working in 9-5 job, I started asking why did I gave it all up. The idea of going back to a day job sure sounds tempting as hell.

As of now, I’ve learnt to pace myself better, I realized I can never finish doing everything. I have to focus. So I set off to complete only 3 major tasks each day. Having a to-do list also helped tremendously.

Last but not least, this is more of a marathon than a sprint. I was too fixated on the result that I lost track of why I started this in the first place. This led to a tunnelled vision of working mindlessly, not remember the bigger picture of helping people find healthier snacks easily

To quote an excerpt from AH’s blog,

A Final Word of Advice—Don’t Punk Out and Don’t Quit

As CEO, there will be many times when you feel like quitting. I have seen CEOs try to cope with the stress by drinking heavily, checking out, and even quitting. In each case, the CEO has a marvelous rationalization why it was OK for him to punk out or quit, but none them will ever be great CEOs. Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweat, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary founder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say: “I didn’t quit.”

All that’s been said, the journey is still a fruitful and humbling experience. Every day is different. So here’s wishing everyone a happy lunar new year and a prosperous year of the goat ahead! Mehhhhh~!

Don’t be Too Hard on Yourself

*1

I was listening to a podcast during my commute today and I came across this quote:

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a mindset that you can become easily trapped in.You’re grinding, trying to make something work, make something out of nothing, so have some pride in that and not be too hard on yourself.

That’s when I realized I’ve been pretty overworked lately. I’ve been focusing more on the fear of failure rather than trying my best and this has guilt-tripped me to work even harder, resulting in a spiral down to negativity.

Trust yourself. There is no right decisions but the cool thing is, the minute you make a decision, there is progress and that’s the best decision.

Starting up is already hard enough. There’s no need to make it or imagine it to be harder. I’m reminded that it is a privilege to be creating and working on an idea so I ought to do it willingly & happily. 🙂

1 Jan 2015

*3 mins read*

I realized I haven’t been writing as often as I like to be. I’m a post  behind my scheduled start-of-the-month post. Still, better late than never.

With the help of a very diligent intern, Melinda, and an experienced Startup guy from the valley, Bertram, we’ve managed to sail through December, bringing in some more revenue.

Before diving straight into the business, I would like to talk about people. Somehow aving a couple of people on board meant delegating work more than doing it all on my own. I was mentally tired from engaging so many people at one go, switching mindsets between marketing to product to sales to different people at once. Managing people hasn;t been easier.

Going the extra mile

So how did Melinda end up with BoxGreen? It all started when I received an email at 1:11am on a weekday from an 2nd year college student wanting to intern at BoxGreen. So I thought, firstly, the person must be really determined (or crazy) to be emailing at such an ungodly hour. Secondly, she seems to be pretty eager to learn about the subscription box business and is going to the valley herself for an exchange program at a later date so it may be pretty relavent. Lastly, I usually get a consistent amount resumes flowing in everyday since we have some posting from. But I found most of the applications to be a mass job spam exercise and I’ve also read a fair amount of resumes that was addressed to another company. So for if someone made the effort to mail me personally, I usually make it a point to follow up since they have gone the extra mile to hunt me down. (I think this generally applies to all forms of applications.)

Melinda joined the team has helped out a lot on the social media part, mainly by scheduling post and engaging our instagram crowd. With her help, we managed to reach out to a small network of bloggers to spread the word on BoxGreen.

Back to the thing the spurred me to write this post, Bertram, who used to work in a valley for a YC backed company AnyPerk, shared an article about products management.

The platform today is equally strong on perks and the Sales side. And if the business side is already up and to the right, can the product make it go up-er?

3 takeaways

1. A sales driven approach at a business may have a higher chance of survival than a product driven one

2. It is better to fail fast and know that the business doesn’t scale at an early stage than too late (a.k.a getting funded too early)

3. It is okay to focus on tech heavily later getting the numbers, but remember it has to scale with tech

I did some further googling and found out the company actually changed their course and pivoted SIX times before founding AnyPerk.

Back to BoxGreen, we are at the point where our MVP is over and our growth has sorta flat-lined without advertising. The hardest thing is not about getting the 1st customer/user, but it’s more like going from 100-1000 paying customers that’s hard. We have just started experimenting with ads and finding out our cost per acquisition (i.e online marketing jargons about how much advertising cost is needed to get a customer to buy your products)

My hypothesis as of now is:

Our customers are not converting because our web experience is bad

A few things to improve on.

  • Paypal checkout is clunky
  • Landing page is kinda ugly looking (Need a better hero banner)
  • We need better photos
  • Our web is not sophisticated enough and our sites are all over the place (distracting customers)
  • Snack page is not in our main site
  • Blog/community site is not on our main site
  • Ecommerce function is situated on Shopify
  • We don’t collect enough email leads
  • There is no reason to come back to the site because you can’t rate review or learn more about trying to snack healthy

So we are putting more efforts into our site and hustle as hard as we can for the next 2 months.

The question remains, can we scale this business to the rest of the asian cities, just like how we imagined?

Wedding, Photography & the Balls of Life

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Amidst all the hustle and bustle of starting up, it’s always nice to take a break and appreciate some of the greater things in life, such as the holy matrimony of 2 people.

I’ve had the chance to witness the marriage of my best friend for 14 years (@kodomut.com), capture some of the special occasion and ponder about life.

SONY DSC

I’ve posted the photos here on exposure.co, which is an awesome platform for telling stories through pictures.  Hopefully I’ll be able to migrate the old photos over and get my photo journal updated.

The event reminded  me of the crystal ball story by Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises,  who spoke of the relationship of work to your other commitments:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.

Give the required time to your family, friends and have proper rest. Value has a value only if its value is valued.

How counter intuitive this piece of advice is for a startup!

So everyone, at the end of the day, life is short, build/do stuff that matters. 🙂

Congratulations again to you Mr. & Mrs Soh @kodomut.com!

1 November 2014

*1

Shucks! I am one month late.

October has been a pretty rough. I got my ass handed to me while pitching the idea of a subscription box to investors. They all have the “not another subscription box” look across their face. The general folks on the street don’t really get the term subscription boxes either so I had to put it  across simply that I sell nuts and dried fruits online.

Ambiguity also happens to be the word of the month. I underestimated the level of uncertainty I had to deal with on a a daily basis. As quoted from Mikkel Svane, founder of zendesk in a Startup Grind interview:

There’s complete ambiguity about what’s going to happen with the company. There’s complete ambiguity about when you’ll ever get a decent paycheck. So keeping people together in that phase is really complicated.

Everyday I am second guessing whether we are building something people want, whether this is a company worth building. There were countless of times where we wondered if this would be a worthwhile venture to pursue. And then after reading Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing about Hard Things, I realised this is part of the struggle.

‘On fear – The hero and the coward feel the same. They just do different things. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not what you feel.’ – Ben Horowitz

Thankfully, every signup and feedback from customers gave reassurance that someone is paying for BoxGreen (some even paid for a year upfront). And so we continue our climb to the 200 sign up mark.

‘Embrace the struggle and remember – the hard things will always be hard things.’ -Ben Horowitz

 

1 October 2014

*5 mins read*

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

I am officially one month into my new job.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m the same old horrible time manager. The plan to do a weekly post didn’t seem to materialize but seeing the 2000 views from my 1 September post, I figured people would be curious about my progress as an entrepreneur one month in. So thanks to the mental motivation from you guys, here’s my report.

I am proud to say I’ve learnt more than than I ever did a month in business than working in a bank. I’ve talked to more strangers, customers, gotten positive and negative feedbacks from investors than I ever did in the bank.

Just to digress a little, I’ve also picked up a couple more books to read and listened to more podcasts. I finished reading Delivering Happiness, a story of Zappos, a US shoe company which got acquired by Amazon and I highly recommend everyone to read it. In fact, I think all business/team leaders should buy this for their staff. It’ll be a leap into learning about positive customer experience and building a successful & happy culture. (disclosure: I’m trying out amazon affiliate program so the link above will provide some revenue if you decide to purchase)

One thing for sure. I’ve looked back at the cushy lifestyle I once had and have never regretted being out here. The constant act of  struggling, fulfilling, serving, selling to customers, potential employees, investors made me feel… very much alivereal.

Some lessons I’ve learnt in the past month.

Keep your emotional state constant

A good news is never as good and a bad news is never as bad. One day you could have a random investor calling to know more about the business that gets you all excited. Another day you could have a potential lead turning cold. It’s a roller coaster ride dealing with all these and I’ve learnt not to over think too much about it.

The saying  hope for the best but expect the worst which just means averaging your emotional state all the time when you are starting a business.

Starting up takes up a lot of time

I have come to a realization that this is going to consume more time than I thought (even though I was mentally prepared for it.) My good friend, Wee Meng (who is a sociologist at heart) gave some great advice.

“You should be more mindful about the time you spend because you’ll tend to work harder since you know it’s own business and your effort will translate directly into results.”

Unfortunately, that’s the truth. Starting up takes up a lot of time. As much as people don’t want to talk about it. It’s hard and it’s an insane amount of work. Balancing work and fulfilling responsibilities as a husband, boyfriend, etc…it’s impossible to do that without tradeoffs.

For those who say it’s about having better time management, sorry but that’s a story they are telling themselves.  As much as I’d like to tell myself to manage my time, I know in my bones that’s not going to happen. I listed down some of the things thats in my job scope

Web design & development
  • Wireframing
  • Website Design & Maintainence (Strikingly)
  • Website Design & Maintainence (Shopify)
Sales
  • Sales Lead Follow up & Closing
  • Vendor relationship
  • Customer relationship & experience
Marketing & Product Design
  • Box & Web Design
  • Newsletter Write up & Design
  • Discovery Card (Design, Print, Cut)

Logistics

  • Packing of boxes (Pack, Label, Seal, Stamp, Send)
  • Delivery (B2B)
  • Delivery (B2C)
Product
  • Snack Sourcing
  • Snack Curation for B2B
  • Product Photo shoot
  • Box Design & Printing
Business Administration
  • Fund Raising (I underestimated this)
  • Administration fillings and general office keeping (licensing, permits, secretarial)

and really, it’s alot of work.

Get your sh** together with your co-founders early

There is no doubt Andrew & I have arguments and differences & I’d be more worried if everything was smooth sailing.  We constantly need to balance our personal commitments and prioritize the business in our lives. Both of us don’t spend enough time working together (twice a week) and I realized we needed more commitment, accountability and time to work together to make the business work. It’s not easy and we’re still sorting it out.

If you are starting something with your co-founder, get the hard questions sorted out early. Talk about equity, talk about commitments, talk about clear roles and responsibilities, talk about values right at the beginning and commit on a paper napkin or in contract. It’s easy to say let’s see how the business goes and take it one step at a time but when you are at the cross roads or when sh** hits the fan, that’s when all these homework will save you.  Our acceptance into JFDI was a reality check on our commitments and a lesson.

Bottom line is It’s not just good for the business, It’s good for both of you. The discussion is gonna suck now but it’ll just suck even more down the road.

Be selling, always.

Not the cold selling or harassing your friend sense.

But it’s important to have conviction in what you are doing because everyone, and i repeat, everyone, is gonna ask how BoxGreen is going and if I dread answering the question, they can tell. Even my dog knows when I’m lying to him.

Mak_Paper

Nobody likes to hear a sad sobbing story of your business failing. People want to be inspired, challenged and to a certain extent, entertained.

Customers want to believe that a snack revolution is coming their way, that tong gardens and camel branded peanuts (Big snack brands) are for 40 year old guys who drink Tiger beers.

Investors want to believe you can be the next snack brand to be in all of Asia and ultimately be bought over by a big company.

Suppliers want to know they are riding on the next wave of snack craze.

These ultimately may or may not happen but it’s ultimately the founder’s job to communicate the vision to them, so always be selling.

People are out to help you (& themselves) succeed.

The truth is, everyone wants to succeed. Everyone wants to support the up & coming underdog. Everyone wants to believe and be part of something big.

We’ve gotten a term sheet to join JFDI & I am very very grateful they  see something in us (2 guys from banking with no domain or technical expertise trying to break into the F&B industry?) but on the other hand, I really respect what they are doing and want to be part of them to do them proud.

Vendors are interested to build a long lasting relationship, while making money along the way.

Customers appreciate our effort in curating different snacks every month and are backing us on a 3-12 months plan.

Friends are chipping in to help when we are paying them literally, peanuts.

This win-win relationship has gotten us very far and is something I’ll always bear in mind – never sacrifice long term goals for short term gains, especially when it’s at the expense of others.

The Business so far

BoxGreen has grown and signed up 30 more subscribers this month on the B2C end and are moving towards the 200 subscribers mark.We’ve also signed up another small company thanks to Andrew’s contact.

That put us a step closer to our target of 1000 subscribers in 6 months. 3 more months to go to make that happen.

Fundamentally,  the business is profitable. but is it gonna make us 10x the return? I don’t have an answer to that. I think it’ll depend on how big the founders want this to be, our definition of success and what do we want to become down the road.  We are afterall, our greatest obstacle & enemy.

Being Transparent 

Why am I being so open about my experiences? Simply because I think there is so much more to gain by sharing than keeping it all to myself  – especially in starting a business. I received emails from businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to know more about BoxGreen and how to start a subscription business and it gets me excited to see new ventures happening and possibilities ahead. More often than not, I’ve benefitted more from the people whom I’ve shared these information to than the other way round. So here you go, feel free to comment or drop me a message. Let’s make October count!

BoxGreen & JFDI

*8 mins read*

We finally sat down with Meng, the co-founder of JFDI (an accelerator program) for a chat.  Meng is a man of wisdom, constantly drawing analogies from the back of his head, akin to pulling rabbits out of a magician’s hat. He was also spot on to question the sustainability of the business model and quick to point out some the company’s vulnerabilities.

The three main concerns that was raised are:

  • a lack of a technical cofounder
  • a lack of domain expertise in the snacking/F&B industry
  • a lack of commitment from the co-founders

What bothered me the most was the comment on a lack of domain expertise which challenged my thinking as an entrepreneur.

How can a founder with no technical expertise and zero domain expertise convince accelerators to accept the team or investors to part with their money?

1. Are Domain Expertise & Industry Experience overrated?

I’m sure every founder started off with a deep desire and belief that they can create better a product than what’s already out there, whether they are in an industry or not. Richard Branson didn’t know about record labels, Tony Hsieh didn’t know about shoes and the list goes on. This is an innate quality in all founders right? So why don’t investors see that?

I decided to google.

From Mark Suster:

Domain expertise doesn’t guarantee success, but it is more likely to minimize certain risks, particularly those around market fit and sales.

Before they’re presenting I want to know “what unique experiences you bring to the table that are going to give your business a faster time to market, a better designed product, more knowledge of your customers problems – a higher likelihood of success.”  It’s what many VC’s call, “An unfair advantage.”

I know that not every entrepreneur has deep domain experience when they launch their ventures.  That’s OK.  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t really either.  Some people claim that too much domain experience can actually harm you because you become cynical of all the things that can’t be done – you’ve got the scars to prove it.  There IS some truth to this argument. But if you have it – use it.  If you don’t have it – see if you can pick up team members that do.  There is no doubt in my mind that on balance it offers you a huge Unfair Advantage.

From The Instigator:

I recognized early on just how important it was to establish myself in the HR / recruitment space. With my experience in brand building and positioning, I was able to fairly quickly and successfully get some level of recognition in the space. But in hindsight, I probably spent too much time doing that, and overvalued those efforts. Without question there was value in establishing myself and Standout Jobs as leaders and innovators in the HR / recruitment space, but if I had gone in with domain knowledge and experience already, I would have started in a much better position.

Mark MacLeod suggests that domain knowledge and aggression are the two startup founder traits that stand out. Is domain knowledge really one of the top two traits that define successul founders and startups? I’m cautious about over-estimating its importance, even in light of my own experience, but I do think those founders that have domain knowledge (versus those that don’t) have a clear advantage in terms of the amount and quality of data they possess. That makes it easier for them to make better decisions on a consistent basis. And generally that leads to winning.

On the flip-side,

Hackernews Post:

Domain expertise, seems empirically useful but is not critical. The Airbnbs knew zero about the hospitality industry when they started. They just knew they’d had a life-changing experience when they rented out airbeds on their floor during a conference. The Stripes didn’t know anything about payments before they started Stripe, except what any hacker who’d tried to process payments before Stripe did (that existing options were terrible). And it was because the Homejoys didn’t know how to clean, and thus found themselves living in squalor, that they ended up starting Homejoy.

From Paul Graham:

Know nothing about business. This is another variable whose coefficient should be zero. You don’t need to know anything about business to start a startup. The initial focus should be the product. All you need to know in this phase is how to build things people want. If you succeed, you’ll have to think about how to make money from it. But this is so easy you can pick it up on the fly.

I get a fair amount of flak for telling founders just to make something great and not worry too much about making money. And yet all the empirical evidence points that way: pretty much 100% of startups that make something popular manage to make money from it. And acquirers tell me privately that revenue is not what they buy startups for, but their strategic value. Which means, because they made something people want. Acquirers know the rule holds for them too: if users love you, you can always make money from that somehow, and if they don’t, the cleverest business model in the world won’t save you.

So why do so many people argue with me? I think one reason is that they hate the idea that a bunch of twenty year olds could get rich from building something cool that doesn’t make any money. They just don’t want that to be possible. But how possible it is doesn’t depend on how much they want it to be.

For a while it annoyed me to hear myself described as some kind of irresponsible pied piper, leading impressionable young hackers down the road to ruin. But now I realize this kind of controversy is a sign of a good idea. The most valuable truths are the ones most people don’t believe. They’re like undervalued stocks. If you start with them, you’ll have the whole field to yourself. So when you find an idea you know is good but most people disagree with, you should not merely ignore their objections, but push aggressively in that direction. In this case, that means you should seek out ideas that would be popular but seem hard to make money from.

We’ll bet a seed round you can’t make something popular that we can’t figure out how to make money from.

The Instigator:

The Lean Startup Methodology and Customer Development can most likely counter (somewhat) a lack of domain expertise because these strategies are driven by engaging customers, discovering key problems and then implementing solutions. Their systematic approach to building startups, finding product/market fit and scaling through information gathering & assessment help remove errors that might be caused by not knowing an industry. So you can “learn the market”. But even here, without true domain knowledge, you may not be asking the right questions when speaking to prospects, and you may be approaching things incorrectly (but simply be unaware).

Thoughts

We started BoxGreen with minimal experience in the industry. We also didn’t do it because we thought it was cool to start something. We started this idea because we worked on a problem that grew organically out of of own experiences – not being able to find healthier snack options at work.

How did we go about doing it? We did what we possibly and humanly could, using the least resources to test the market, iterating our product, interviewing the customers and being open and humble along the way when we meet learn from existing industry players. To some extent, I think this naive optimism has worked in our favor to provide fresh perspective into the industry.

Clearly, having domain expertise helps in a business but is not a prerequisite. What we lack of, we compensate by working doubly hard to out-learn and out-execute other existing players.  Large incumbents don’t have the luxury to push our products or respond to market feedback as fast as we do. Having a tight feedback loop and high customer touchpoint helps our iteration probably and is probably our best bet right now.

Are we fooling ourselves to think we can be the next airbnb, next stripe? we probably are but I don’t think there is anyone willing to bet big on the company, other than the founders – us. The gumption to think big is something I feel Startups in SEA are lack of and from the advice I got from various mentors so far, thinking big, having a vision and sticking to it seems to be the way to go.

Afterall, who understands the customers better than us?

2. Technical Co-founder Where Art Thou?

Hackernews

The most valuable insight isn’t that a non-tech founder needs to get super-technical. Rather, it’s that he needs to demonstrate a willingness to do everything he possibly can. That is the secret sauce. It’s not about being able to talk shot for shot with a super-techy coder. It’s about not being the kind of person who throws his hands up in the air and sets limits to what he can or can’t do, or will or won’t do. Being a successful entrepreneur means doing anything and everything it takes to get to success. And it’s a serious red flag when the co-founder, from the get-go, is already broadcasting that he’s setting limits for himself (such as not even attempting a prototype)

Thoughts

While interviewing potential technical co-founders, I find myself having to sell the business idea to most potential candidates instead of sensing a passion to want to part of something big. Again, I guess it is my duty to evangelize instead of expecting a natural fit to happen. Conversations tend to lean towards more of a “what’s in need for me” more than a “how we can work together and make something happen”. Andrew & I were also concerned about future team dynamics and how well we would all work together.

So are we currently doing whatever we can to get the support we need? I think we are.  Are we selling the vision of the company as hard as we can? Yes but our pitch could be tighter (that’s something I can benefit from JFDI).  This is certainly on the immediate to-do list.

3. Commitment from Co-founders.

Below are a few points from PG which I think resonates where Andrew and I are right now.

Family to support
This one is real. I wouldn’t advise anyone with a family to start a startup. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that I don’t want to take responsibility for advising it. I’m willing to take responsibility for telling 22 year olds to start startups. So what if they fail? They’ll learn a lot, and that job at Microsoft will still be waiting for them if they need it. But I’m not prepared to cross moms.

What you can do, if you have a family and want to start a startup, is start a consulting business you can then gradually turn into a product business. Empirically the chances of pulling that off seem very small. You’re never going to produce Google this way. But at least you’ll never be without an income.

Another way to decrease the risk is to join an existing startup instead of starting your own. Being one of the first employees of a startup is a lot like being a founder, in both the good ways and the bad. You’ll be roughly 1/n^2 founder, where n is your employee number.

As with the question of co founders, the real lesson here is to start startups when you’re young.

Not ready for commitment

This was my reason for not starting a startup for most of my twenties. Like a lot of people that age, I valued freedom most of all. I was reluctant to do anything that required a commitment of more than a few months. Nor would I have wanted to do anything that completely took over my life the way a startup does. And that’s fine. If you want to spend your time travelling around, or playing in a band, or whatever, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason not to start a company.

If you start a startup that succeeds, it’s going to consume at least three or four years. (If it fails, you’ll be done a lot quicker.) So you shouldn’t do it if you’re not ready for commitments on that scale. Be aware, though, that if you get a regular job, you’ll probably end up working there for as long as a startup would take, and you’ll find you have much less spare time than you might expect. So if you’re ready to clip on that ID badge and go to that orientation session, you may also be ready to start that startup.

Thoughts

While we’ve been operating our startup with a one-step-at-a-time mindset, I think we are at the crossroad where some hard decisions have to be made.  Thankfully, Andrew & I’ve been pretty open and understanding which have positively led to where BoxGreen is today.

Closing

Fund raising, getting accepted into an accelerator program is an art. It takes up a good amount of time and sometimes I wonder if we should just keep our heads down to focus on the customers instead. I’ve often gotten feedback from fellow entrepreneurs that getting into an accelerator is an expensive and unnecessary route,  which we could do without. I’ll pen my thoughts down in greater detail in the next few posts  but in short, I do see value in being a part of something bigger like an accelerator, the resource and network it provides and how the eco-system can truly benefit from a great accelerator, like YC.

I will try to pen down more “bare it all” posts on our startup in the future.

Y Combinator Teaches At Stanford & Why You Should Be Watching

*2 mins read*

I’m at the 12:37 mark and anyone interested in Startups should stop whatever they are doing right now and watch this (45 mins video at end of post).

If you are new to the scene, Y Combinator(YC) is like the Harvard of Entrepreneurship that provides seed funding for startups. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding. The fund is used to pays for your expenses while you’re getting started. Some startups that came out of YC are AirBnB, Dropbox & reddit.

The course is led by Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator and is made available online. The course will feature appearances by well-known investors and entrepreneurs such as Peter Thiel (Paypal turned VC), Marc Andreessen (Netscape turned VC), Marissa Mayer(Yahoo)and Ben Silbermann (Pinterest).

Why You Should Be Watching

  • Understand the basics and dynamics of a startups
  • Know what it takes to do a startup, the “ugly” side of startups
  • The opportunity to hear and learn straight from the horse’s mouth about startups

You can’t teach everything necessary to succeed in starting a company, but I suspect we can teach a surprising amount.

We’re doing this because we believe helping a lot of people be better at starting companies will be good for everyone. It will hopefully be valuable even for people who don’t want to start startups.- Sam Altman

Key Takeaways (up till Dustin’s presentation) 

  • The best company are usually mission oriented. The company should feel like an important mission.
  • Have conviction in you own beliefs, learn to say no to the naysayers. But know there is a fine line between genius and insanity.
  • Think of the market and what people want first.
  • Your job is to make products that users love. Build something that users love.
  • Better to build something that a small numbers of users love than something that big number of people like.
  • Founders of great companies do sales and customer support themselves in the early days.
  • Founders just need to work on product, talk to users, exercise, eat and sleep. Nothing else matters.
  • Startups live on growth
  • The no.1 role of a CEO is managing your own psychology

Class syllabus | Class Link

1 September 2014

*3 mins read*

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I am officially unemployed.

And it’s not that scary to be honest. After a lot of procrastination, I’ve decided to dust away the digital cobwebs on my site and start writing.  From Walt Disney:

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. – Walt Disney

I’ve decided to commit time to writing. To set some quiet time to be alone with my thoughts, and actually following through with them. It’s about doing one small thing, anything, to honor our personal truth — today.

Golden Handcuffs

I’ve had a good run in the bank the last 3 years, made some of the brightest friends in Asia, built some really great network and of course, meeting and marrying the most beautiful and greatest wife that I could ask for. So you could say the ROI of my early career is infinity.

And then I started thinking when I hit 26 a year ago.

I was in a rather cushy environment and all I had to do back then was to drag myself out of bed, arrive at the office by 9am, look forward to lunch, survive the after lunch food coma and get out of office at 6pm.  Get paid. Enjoy the weekends. Rinse and repeat.

But in reality, every bit of the above sucks. Everyday felt like a drag. I ended up swimming in a sea of organizational inefficiencies and office politics rather than actually trying to solve a customer’s problem.

And what’s next? Climb the career ladder, wait for the next bonus and bigger paycheck? Not the most meaningful thing in life. So I’ve decided to let the entrepreneurial side of me take over the driver’s seat.

The Clock Is Ticking

I thought to myself that when I’m 30 and I look back at my 20s, I wouldn’t want to have a belly and continue to meddle with office politics. Now is the best time to go out to learn and make mistakes, to acquire and try our different skills, to meet new people and build a network. To experience and to learn while I still have the youth and vigour.

Our 20s are the defining decade of adulthood. 80% of life’s most defining moments take place by about age 35. 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career. More than half of Americans are married or are dating or living with their future partner by age 30. Personality can change more during our 20s than at any other decade in life. Female fertility peaks at 28. The brain caps off its last major growth spurt. When it comes to adult development, 30 is not the new 20. Even if you do nothing, not making choices is a choice all the same. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do.” -Meg Jay

Failure IS an Option

Lucky for us. I think failure is a more widely accepted notion today than 5 or 10 years ago. If you think about it, what’s the worst that could happen? Start something and fail, or regret not even trying? That doesn’t mean I’m setting myself up for failure. I think 1 year of savings have given me enough runway to figure something out.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs

So, 1st of September 2014 carries a lot of significance. A new end and a new beginning. Now I guess it’s time to get down to business. Welcome to the Jungle. Welcome to BoxGreen.