Doses of reality

Been too busy to be reading much but caught these two PD articles that I like – I always find people to have a warped view of what a startup is or their role in it. I also find it funny when people think after a year or even two of a startup that started at zero is not bigger than it is. Sure – we all wish we could have worked at or created Instagram or Snapchat or you name some other amazingly fast, well funded started up that is suddenly worth a ton of zeros. My hat is off to you if you made or worked at one of these but let’s be honest – this is NOT the norm. The norm for us mere mortals is to doggedly work on something over many years to see it grow into something that makes money, is big enough to withstand the toils of the free market and is hopefully fun, engaging to work at. Executional prowess over time is not easy and is not going to give you the glory over night. It is just that simple.

So this post by Sarah was spot on for me:

In exchange for all of that, you get to help build something. You will likely have more fun than working at other companies. You have the chance to get rich– no matter how slim that chance is. And you have the opportunity to have more responsibility and professional growth than you might on a typical career tract.

So basic but yet so true. You could go for the bigger paycheck, the sure thing, and the proven company but you won’t get the rocket ship ride and the chance to take something from nothing to hopefully something a lot bigger. For me that is the prize.

Lots of other nuggets in that article.

Then Bryan Goldberg writes this:

A real entrepreneur needs to prepare himself for a marathon, and stop thinking of everything as a sprint. You don’t want to be the next Viddy, you want to be the next Tumblr or Bleacher Report, and those types of companies take time to build. So when an investor begins to piss his pants over last month’s traffic, or tries to delay a term sheet to see how next week’s unique visitors look… tell him to take a chill pill. Or, better yet, move on to a new investor.

Smart money can see through temporary traffic — and just because you are pitching a VC, that does not mean that you are sitting face-to-face with smart money.

I am a stats junkie. We have quite the ever evolving dashboard at Spuul and I check it a lot. Maybe too much but that’s because I am bonded to this living, breathing organism called a product and I love to see the user signups, the payments, the consumption, the countries and the issues. I thrive on it. However I always have to caution myself to look at the month to month – not the day to day (unless we rolled something out or have an issue) – real long term success will be growing active users, subscriptions and consumption month over month. That is really all that matters. So it is key to sort your metrics and focus on that ones that matter.

Two great reads, one summarizing blogpost, and another great day ahead!

Being a connector

Sometimes apart from my main gig and my blog – I am not always sure what my role is in the startup scene. I don’t have time to actively attend lots of things and I usually am probably too busy to actively mentor but I do try when I can. However I do a good job of remembering people, I try to add everyone to my Linkedin so I can keep track of them and I usually remember what people are doing.

So lately the role I think I have been playing is connecting folks. It may not be super glamorous and there may be nothing in it for me but I think that is okay. Too many times people always want something out of doing something for others but I enjoy the giving – I think life and career are full of karma like moments. I am pretty sure I got to where I am today by the people I know and the things I was able to do. Maybe had I thought about karma even more I would have come even farther. Tough to say.

My point is though we can call help each other by connecting folks who need something to folks who might be able to help. Through the connection maybe someone progresses further than they would have without the connection. Sure – maybe there is tech to solve this problem but I think the human touch makes it more fun. Of course my intro might be via email but that’s okay.

Recently I was rewarded for my connection actions by meeting someone at MediaCorp who was asking about the startup scene for a segment they were working on for live TV.  I decided to email all the folks that I thought this person should talk to. This lead to me being invited onto the segment – which I was surprised but grateful for. Of course then I wore my Daring Fireball shirt which lead to a gruber tweet. So the whole circle was perfect. I gave and I received more than I gave. Karma.

The SEA startup scene is small but growing. We will compete with other startup locales but we can beat them all handily if each and everyone of us plays the role of a giving connector when it makes sense. Connecting all the dots will helps us all succeed.

It’s an amazing time to be in the startup scene…

I have a longer post  I want to write about the local events we just had in Singapore and about the role of a connector but that will have to wait.

As an aside – read this: – heavy, but largely accurate in my opinion. Hat tip to – who is leaving Singapore soon and I will miss him a ton. 😦 Anxious to see what he gets up to in his new home.

So at Echelon I snapped this slide from Dave McClure :


I am dating myself but I lived through the before 2000. Worked at a startup that had to spend most of our money just to turn on. We needed to buy Informix database, ATG app servers, Sun servers and racks in a hosting center – I think it was Consonus or something. Point being it is so much easier now. Grab your idea, some time to build it and give it a shot. Of course the competition is also stronger than ever and building a viable business model is not easy but at least it takes less hard capital than it used to.

It is a good time to be in startup land!

good luck.


“Hospitality” – our how I deal with customer service…

At the Fucking Cool Brunch there was a gentlemen there, the mixologist from the bar at 28 Hong Kong Street, who discussed the notion of hospitality. I found it fascinating since generally this is an overlooked topic in the tech industry. What I mean by this is how we treat our users or customers. I call them customers usually cause my goal is to extract revenue while serving them – rather than a user. Who uses. 😉

I stole this line from Wiki:

However, it still involves showing respect for one’s guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals.

There is so much in that line.

Respect – how many times have you been talked down to or berated by a customer support person? Remember that feeling next time you interact with one of your customers.

Provide – Customers have needs. The goal is to provide for them – sure you may not be able to and some of the needs may be silly but the idea is to try where it fits with your product goals.

Treat as equal – this kind of is like the first line – respect but the idea is to get off your tech high-horse and treat your customer as you would expect to be treated.

So given this I find customer support to be a really BIG deal. You work hard to get a customer – it is cheaper to keep them then to buy a new one. Fact.

I have some friends who have newsletter all about techies and customer support – check it out here ::

At Spuul, for now, I still handle most of the customer emails. It keeps me close to the product and the customer’s use of the product.

Generally all the support comes in via email, different channels, and I try to personally respond to all of them. Sometimes they are lengthy replies, sometimes they are check this FAQ and other times they are canned replies since the answer is quite simple. Typing out all of these replies can take too much time – sure shortcuts and textexpander would help but I have something better now – Dispatch. Made by one of the dudes who also makes the Spuul App .

  • I can make snippets and quickly reply to emails
  • I can take emails and save them off to evernote
  • I can use an email to quickly start an asana task
  • Animations are useful and the app is just pretty
  • I can go back and forth from the email and the preview while I type my reply.
  • It works and the whole idea of using my email client as a router to other things is growing on me

App is a 1.0 and obviously will evolve.

Email is not dead folks but only cause of some great innovation by independent  devs.

Customers service is any startup’s secret weapon – now you have a better tool to add to your arsenal.

Next post I will talk about Echelon, getting on TV and gruber.


I ain’t gonna work on YouTube’s farm no more – Ouch!

I love this gem of an article about the Youtube ecosystem, how evil is all is and how one content person is telling folks how it is.

Finally someone who knows what they are talking about is calling it as they see it. Using Youtube as your content distribution strategy will only lead to your content being worth less than it is if you created your own distribution for it or worked with partners that help you to properly monetize it. Some super good nuggets in here.

This is the best one:

In summary, if you are a content company trying to build a ‘YouTube business,’ you are investing in your own demise. 

Section C is awesome!

c) Why content owners investing solely in YouTube are investing in their own demise
YouTube has made a big deal about celebrating their awesome stars, and they should. It’s amazing that personalities like Jenna Marbles, iJustine and countless others have gotten to hundreds of thousands–even millions–of subscribers.

People have become YouTube famous and gotten onto TV even. They’re making a living and a great one at that at the top of the pyramid.

However, what folks must realize is that their subscribers are NOT their subscribers. They’re YouTube’s users. Content creators don’t have the email addresses of their individuals, just the ability — for now — to get on their YouTube home page.

That control has lead YouTube celebs to start investing heavily in things like Instagram, Twitter and destination sites, in an attempt to win back control of their fans. More on this later.

Of course, YouTube additionally keeps changing their design, and not necessarily to help publishers. YouTube executives speak often of their main motivator: ‘to increase the session length at YouTube.’

YouTube controls the user base AND the advertising relationship.

What I tell young publishers is they need to focus on — and own — three things:

1. The relationship with consumers
2. The relationship with content creators
3. The relationship with advertisers

YouTube controls consumers and advertisers already, and they are using special events like ‘YouTube Comedy Week’ to control #2.

If you’re building a publishing company on YouTube, you now have no control over advertising and consumers, and you’re going to lose your talent next.

Think about it. If you’re Maker Studios — which lost their #1 star Ray William Johnson back in October — you now have YouTube inviting your talent to their upfronts and featuring them in massive special event promotions (like the ‘Comedy Week’ thing).

Do you not see what they’re doing?

YouTube is absolutely going to disintermediate the MCN (multichannel networks) in the next year or two. You can see it starting already. I mean, why would YouTube let other publishers control the top talent ultimately?

YouTube needs to fight against the large voting blocks like Machinima and Maker Studios, because if 10 of those folks got together and built a competitor it would be a major blow to YouTube. They could start sending 2% of their users off of YouTube a week — and weeks go by quickly I’ve learned.

In summary, if you are a content company trying to build a ‘YouTube business,’ you are investing in your own demise. You must stop and think, ‘How can I reduce my YouTube footprint to 1/3rd of my mix of revenue and views?’

Every time you invest $1 in YouTube, you’re building their power base and leverage over you. How can you invest that $0.66 of that dollar in an asset you control? At least then you might have a fighting chance over Goliath.

In a way, YouTube is the Sebastian Shaw of the ecosystem, absorbing all your power and talent and using it for their prime directive: maintain the 45% tax through control of talent, advertisers and user behavior.

OK, I’ve got two more sections to go, and this email is already at 1,500 words!

I’m going to finish these two in the next 48 hours (with your help!):

Singapore Rising…

I attended the Fucking Cool Brunch yesterday and was gently reminded of how far the scene has come in Singapore – events, quality of people, the interesting performance art, food, drinks and of course the tech. Being a techy I have to monitor this but as I have said before I think Singapore as an HQ for Global Companies keeps looking better and better. Yes – there are issues. Series A, employments visas, spaces to work and so on but I hope they will all be overcome as Singapore keeps evolving the model and marching on.

At the Brunch I met someone from MediaCorp and we had a nice healthy discussion around Singapore, the tech scene and the possible future landscape. Of course I can quickly digress and focus on the negatives but there is a reason I am in Singapore. I chose it. I value the residency capability, the rule of law, the infrastructure and the burgeoning scene. I feel that although there might be better better places to live or what some perceive as better markets – my gut says Singapore will come out on top of the SEA heap and become a place where one could setup, build and exit a global startup. I can’t prove this, yet, but it’s how I feel.

Apart from all of this the activity right now is high and the quality is good.

We have a conference/event scene that is always improving :: , , – I am sure there are examples of others but these are the ones I am into.

Then there is just all the periphery activity that is slowly evolving that is cementing the Startup Scene in Singapore:

Isaac penned a great Startup FAQ here ::

Although I am not a huge Rocket fan you can’t ignore the activity they are bringing ::


The new 500 Durians Fund ::

The success of JFDI :: – looking forward to demo night tomorrow night. I will try to live tweet my reactions. 😉

In general the mainstream tech press, written by a local, is waking up to the size and opportunity in SEA ::

Yes – still waiting for new Series A entrants who will set up shop in Singapore but I think it will come.

Been in Singapore for over 3 years and in Asia for about 13 years. The current activity is unprecedented – and I don’t think it is a bubble. It is just the natural progression of the tech world waking up to how big SEA is. It isn’t easy to operate here but I think it is worth it. My personal goal is to show that one can build a big global business right here in Singapore. So lately I am focused on doing just that while doing my best to stay plugged in.

Going to be a busy week!