Category Archives: JFDI

Android First

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The prevailing wisdom is to generally ship iOS first when it comes to mobile apps. However in certain circumstances when the region and the needs permit it, I think it can make more sense to go with Android first.

I met the http://stylhunt.com/ team while mentoring at JFDI and have been fortunate to stick with them past the program while they raise money and launch their product on a wider scale.

If you look at their target market – Thailand, the Android tools available to them and the fact that payments are not the first focus, then it makes complete sense to go Android first.

Yes – they have plans for iOS but at the moment they are rocking the Android charts and people are noticing.

Will try to interview Sam at some point for the blog.

Thoughts on SEA ecosystem and location

Lots of twitter activity over the this post :: http://www.nokpis.com/2014/08/28/hong-kong-versus-singapore/

As mentioned I wanted to follow it up with some thoughts on this post :: http://thenextweb.com/asia/2014/08/23/time-founders-southeast-asia-accepted-location-used-advantage/

Let me preface I did not attend GOAB nd I don’t know Mona. I used to follow her on twitter but she broke my follow rule of never replying to my replies. One of my twitter rules is if I reply a few times to folks – famous or not and they don’t ever reply back then I figure there is no point in following. The point of twitter is reasonable discourse – at least for me anyway.

Mona nails well the recent rise of the SEA ecosystem and how one can most likely build a startup anywhere. Totally agree! However I think there are still some issues.

I will add that this is a tough soapbox to get on for me these days cause I will admit I am NOT in the scene as much as I used to be but this is also one of my weird opinions on the local scene. People talking about the scene and eventing tend to get more attention than those just heads down actually building a startup. Maybe that is just my personal feeling but the local media tends to focus on funding, rumors and covering events talking about the scene more than going deep on what is getting built, by who and the obvious failures that can happen. If I had more time I would do a few things – start a podcast talking to folks building things about how they got here and why they are building what they are building. I would start a review service going deep on all the consumer facing products that are coming at us everyday – some good and of course some bad. An investigative service trying to uncover why local startups fail so we can all learn from it. Alas – I don’t have the time. I am too busy with Spuul and my family to take on any more tasks. I will keep up my mentoring and writing as I see fit. The podcast idea is still brewing cause I miss TWIA and figure there is still some local demand for a good audio feed.

That being said, unlike my time at Yahoo, I am not running around at events or attending many startup focused conferences. Which leads me to another need in the local ecosystem, there are not many events or communities to lean on for those in the local startup land that are a few years in and maturing. This will hopefully improve over time.

Back to some of my thoughts on the article…

– I think seed funding is getting pretty easy to get. However it might all depends on your definition of it. Let’s say less than 150k USD for starters as a rough estimate. I think anyone with some connections, a good idea and some perseverance can land some money in this range. But anything past this I think is hard – there are some trends that buck this. Do something in ecommerce or transportation and for some reason the money is just flowing. Try to do anything with a large risk portfolio, hardware or enterprise and I think the money is much harder to find. Jump in the 150k to 1 million range and unless you have rockstar metrics, a super connected angel or crazy PR – it gets quite hard to find. This is from my personal experience and what I hear from companies I either mentor or talk to a fair amount.

– Location is still tricky. We at Spuul experience this some. The local press tends to pass us up cause they don’t see us in Singapore much. The Indian press always wonders why we are not in India and the USA press tends to overlook global plays from Singapore in general. I think the funding conversations take a similar tact at times. I think for location to work well for you it might make sense to be sure that you can dominate in the market where you have your HQ. Then figure out your regional play and maybe the globe later. Saying you are here and working on the globe might not work for those that like a tangible way to grok things. Of course you may have built something killer or viral that just works for everyone. I am speaking in terms of products as well – not the notion of outsourcing or being a vendor.

– The silicon valley stigma. I look at this one from a different angle than others. I base this on doing some focus groups with yahoo and talking with anthropologists who also study tech. If you get in a room in let’s say in Indonesia. You have a set of normal people who use tech and the internet. You present them with a novel product idea, some screens and user stories. You ask some of these people would they use this if it it came from Indonesia. Or Singapore. Then ask some of them would they use it if it came from Silicon Valley. What happens is they almost always get more excited about the product from the valley. Always. I don’t think this will change anytime soon. It is no different than people loving a Hollywood movie. It is not about what is better but just the cultural aspects that appeal to folks. I think startups in the region have to contend with people on a very local level to win or doing something very unique. If you build something similar to something else that comes from the the valley I think it won’t be successful. Granted this does not pertain to closed or unfair markets like China or say Vietnam who don’t allow truly level playing fields.

The local scene is exploding – just figure out where to make your mark.

Fear BizDev

So JDFI 2014a is over. Check the videos here :: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO7W6ePtwM8&list=UU77igO-PM8Ww1pWCjfYdfUw

What a great event and investors are frothing to get at the startups. awesome.

I had great fun mentoring a few of them.

I have had some follow up talks post demo day and I thought I would share one tidbit.

There is always a few big companies swarming around startups looking to grow their own business via partnering with a startup. Startups are small and looking to grow so initially the thought of working with a big company looks really appealing – a growth strategy of sorts. Well – let me warn you – many times partnering or doing some sort of business development deal #BizDev can usually be worse than not partnering at all.

Some of the pros:

– Getting users
– Getting traffic without paying for it
– Getting some PR
– Being able to tell investors you are working with or have signed a deal with so and so
– Learning from a big company

But in reality what can happen is the cons:

– It might take months to bring the project online
– You will have all the red tape to sort
– You will be at the mercy of the big company development and QA schedules
– Investors will think that the deal is more important than it really is and hound you about it. Not realizing the schedule is now out of your hands
– You might find that the cost of the users was more expensive than just buying the users via marketing
– You probably won’t learn a lot from the big company cause in reality they are learning from you
– The PR is not that big of a deal – sure it helps but it won’t make your startup

I am not saying don’t do #BizDev but have a healthy skepticism for how hard it is, how it may slow you down and how it may throw you off your core business plan.

Sometimes #BizDev is better in the middle stages of a startup than the early stages.

Just saying…

JFDI 2014A

I am back to trying to focus my efforts outside of Spuul in one place again this year – which is JFDI batch 2014A.

http://jfdi.asia/portfolio/

Last Thursday I met with with a few from the list but I think some have already changed their names. I will wait to see who I end up spending the most time with since it is usually up to the teams to ping me for follow up.

For now I have had the most conversations with http://storyroll.co/ and http://stylehunt.com/ . Storyroll is fascinating since it is some guys from Lithuania coming to singapore, frying their asses off, to make a go of the program. I figure I can help a bit given my video and consumer product background. For stylehunt I am always partial to the Thais and it turns out I am from the same part of the world as one of the founders which is cool.

We shall see who continues to bug me as the program rolls on and I will see what kind of impact I can have. Exciting stuff!

Before I get to my tiny advice column I will recall the dinner we had with Werner Vogels and some of what we learned from talking to him. The key takeaway I had was that Amazon is still lots of small teams working on lots of projects. As big as Amazon is today the small team ethos is still going strong. I dig that. The other thing Werner mentioned was how the team still writes the marketing one pager, the FAQ and the press release before any code is written. I love this. I should try to do this at Spuul as well.

It’s good advice to focus on what you want the customer to experience and then work backwards to make it happen. I am sure there are tons of ways to do this or to manage the process but the basics are pretty clear. Don’t code or draw pictures first. Take the time to write out what you hope to build before building.

Obviously this may not work for everyone who has already started making something or is in the program however I think for those who are in the JFDI program there is another way to handle this.

This is the advice I was giving out on Thursday to the companies I met individually with. I have seen a few batches go though the system and generally if one can keep themselves organized and productive leading up to investor day then the odds of success, as far as the program is concerned, are much higher. Fall apart, lose track of time, bicker, try to build too much, or lose sight of the product – will lead you to a bad investor day.

One could hope for breakout success, killer metrics, a sick viral loop or a crazy amount of pr – but pinning your success on the things that may not happen is not very smart. If these things happen consider them a bonus but instead focus on the event. The investor day. Imagine yourself or your team up there presenting, have a vision for what you want to say, make a few slides now that will be the boilerplate for that final day and focus on projecting now what you will accomplish on that stage.

Then work backwards to make it happen. Manage each week precisely enough, don’t go crazy about it, to ensure that you are meeting your weekly milestones that will add up to your successful investor day.

As a member of an accelerator program you are in a time compression chamber. Manage it will and you will succeed.