I can't wait

I can’t wait for you to breathe the air that you will inhabit for years to come

I can’t wait for you to feel and express yourself with all your might

I can’t wait for you to feel the warmth of all who loves you

I can’t wait for you to interact with the technologies and toys built by the generation before you

I can’t wait for you to experience the reinvention of education and learn what you yearn to at your own pace

I can’t wait for you to understand the power of human relations that brings both joy and heartache in your life time to come

I can’t wait for you to know your heritage and appreciate their individual cultures and language

I can’t wait for you to understand who you truly are and what you are particularly strong in and maximize that potential

I can’t wait for you to experience how the world works, be curious and bold to ask questions

I can’t wait for you to see how beautiful nature is and why I talk about Hawaii all the time ;)

I can’t wait for you to look at “failure” in its face and with a deep breath, say “Bring it!”

I can’t wait for you to find that someone in your life whom you love even through flaws which all human beings inherit

and finally, I can’t wait for you to rewrite this list in 30 years to your own little one

Yours lovingly, Dad (who enjoys waiting - ask your mom, she’ll know)

October 5, 2013 - 11:22pm

p.s. work out/exercise, brush your teeth, sleep more if you can, and have friends who are doctors, lawyers, and accountants

p.p.s. I simply can’t wait another second more to see you

Crazy Ideas

Why are there little to no crazy game changing ideas from Southeast Asia?

Recently I gave a short talk at JFDI.ASIA’s Batch 4 teams. My talk was centered around having a simple product hook in your product that makes it easy for founders to articulate their vision to people (users, investors, potential employees, partners) that they engage with.

As we invest and learn from the teams we work with in the Southeast Asia region, watching founders execute on ideas, the one thing that always nag at me is their product hook. How special is that hook? Does it engage emotionally or change behaviorally? Who ultimately will care?

We are in the beginning of the entrepreneurial revolution. Although the Lean Startup movement painted a great picture of what can be taught, it is not a framework for everyone. Execution is important but a lot of that has been commoditized. It all comes back down to the idea and how you think the world should be. You just need time to let the world know that.

So why aren’t there more crazy big changing ideas here in Southeast Asia?

  1. Fear of failure is probably the main cause. It makes people and people around them (i.e. ecosystem) think too short termed.
  2. There is low density of founders who have tried crazy things, failed, and still keep on trying.
  3. Lack of confidence.

Having said all that, it is extremely difficult to design a product hook with global appeal. I know that, we all know that. That is what ultimately differentiates companies.

Try not to paint yourself into a corner and stop there. Keep inventing and rounding up troops that believe in your “crazy”. And break out.

Original Idea Generation

Original ideas and coming up with them is hard. Very hard.

As we navigate Southeast Asia (and Taiwan) working with entrepreneurs in various cities in Southeast Asia, it is extremely challenging to come up with an original idea that matters and lends to your strengths and passion. Getting the formula right is tough.

As I looked at our portfolios (over 12 now going on 14 - most of which are not publicly known) and ideas from Founder Institute in the Southeast Asian region that have received early attention, funding offers and even exited via acquisitions. I noticed there are generally 3 idea types.

  1. A team solving a very local problem or creating a movement or change of behavior within a market that is large enough to be sustainable and not to be distracted about scaling too early because of revenue pressures.

  2. A team solving a local problem or creating a movement or change of behavior first with ambition to bring the solution to other regional countries. Most of the time it shows the ambition of the team but sometimes it is because their chosen market or markets are still too small to be sustainable.

  3. A team solving a problem or creating a movement or change of behavior in a new and original way that position them to be global from day one. For some reason, there are limited and weak to no competitors.

From our data, companies in the 3rd category achieve customer, investor and media interests rather early on in their lifecycle. Even for myself, I am more excited if teams presented something original and unique than something that is a “clone with a spin or a twist”.

As such I am building a little research experiment to help founders work towards ideas that are original and have product hooks that engage users all in a pace and direction that suits the founder on a personal level.

I hope the outcome can help more founders move their ideas to another level (if they wish to) and also to help more aspiring founders to be slightly more prepared as they get involved with events such as Startup Weekend, Lean Startup Machines, hackathons etc.

Ping me if you are interested to discuss or join in the experiment.

Interns oh interns

Interns ah, how we love to brainwash you.

At Golden Gate Ventures in 2013, we have our largest cohort of interns ever since we were in business a year ago. Our first intern in 2012, Justin Hall has since joined us as an associate just a few months ago.

We love our interns in 2013. Our cohort this year consists of Amira Jeneid, Kelvin LimKevin Liu, and Warren Lee (still counting).

Most of them joined us for the summer and I had great fun working with some of them, sometimes too much fun. I have promised them that I will brainwash them whenever I could and try to make their internship a win-win for both parties. I believe I accomplished most if not all of those promises. They have diligently helped us with investment activities, startup research, event organization, and also working with aspiring founders at the Founder Institute (Singapore). We hope the various activities and people you met has broaden your horizons in what the startup world is like. (99% chaos x ambiguity)

Some parting advice for the interns whom have crossed my path this year and also to those who have not.

  1. Your clear advantage now which no one can take away from you, is your youth.
  2. You may or may not have found what you would like to do for the rest of your life but at least you had a glimpse. A glimpse of what it is or is not, things that you should do or do not.
  3. Experienced industry folks are not that hard to reach. Hunt them down and ask questions, what is the worst that can happen?
  4. Look outside school for what is to come. Reality sits outside the school yard. Google is your best friend (for now). For some of you — Stackoverflow (hint hint).
  5. Finally, for those heading back to school. Cherish the time left, be a kid, play hard and work hard and make as many friends as you can (trust me - especially those who have different backgrounds as you).

Hit me up if you need anything. You know where to find me.

And for all the hard work and laughs. Mahalo.

Congratulations to SGFI 5!

It is with a heavy heart yet again this time of the year where another batch of founders are graduating from Founder Institute Singapore. This is my fifth run and it has been an interesting ride to say the least.

It went by really fast and not without drama even though Adeo was not here to kick off the semester. We tested a few things running the semester this time round and spent a little more time getting to know the founders in and out of class. The Founders in the Bay 2012 trip gave a boost to the class from a fellow founder Sam from Family Play who was with me and 9 other founders in the Bay Area.

It is always heartening to watch them grow, mature, harden like real steel in the world of business and startups. Towards the end of the semester, ideas get sharper and more focused. Visions become bolder but executable.  Many of them have put on more “confidence” as they will all soon know enough they will be jumping into the unknown. Several will do very well, some of whom have received term sheets before graduating, which is interesting considering we are an idea stage incubator. Finally, we have the largest female cohort (25% are female grads) ever to graduate at one go, and all of whom are pretty special. They are determined and can hustle with the best men and women out there.

In closing, a few words for those of you who are graduating:




Thank you again to all mentors and sponsors alike who made SGFI happen!

Be careful of questionable characters resulting from the startup hype

It seems like the technology startup hype is sweeping through Singapore recently. In the last 2-3 months, I have encountered various signals that this hype has descended upon us. 

It makes me read and smile at Chris Dixon’s blog post again. Enjoy it here. ;)

For the founders out there hustling and crushing it. Beware of people around you whether they are approaching you as potential cofounders, advisors, consultants, incubators, accelerators, investors, customers, partners or other players in the startup ecosystem.

Do more due diligence than you have ever done before. There are always exceptions and good intentioned people who deserve a chance. As long as you arm yourself with enough information to make an informed decision, you will be fine.

Consult with people you trust. Be clear you know what you want and always trust your gut. If in doubt, pull out.

Learning to code

As we all know in our little technology startup sector that there is a serious shortage of good talent. It is becoming apparent out here in Southeast Asia and likely will get worse if the region improves as an ecosystem.

At Golden Gate Ventures, we like to think we operate with a down to earth hacker culture (we are also launching several internal software products that scratches our own itch very soon). With our involvement in Super Happy Dev House, and Founder Institute Singapore, the need to train more people who can built stuff gave birth to Startup Academy.

As such, I will be embarking on a journey to pick up coding (again), and I will be detailing my journey on a wiki (powered by Padlet). The ultimate dogfooding. You can read about my motivations, projects, on-going research on programming courses (online, offline and hybrid) and my views on them as I hobble humbly along. 

Wish me luck and if you are kind enough to reach out to help me when I get stuck, please let me know. Eternally grateful.

[Startup Academy's 2nd run of our programming courses are accepting applications now!]

We should have our own version of the video below.