Good to see the boss man speaking – I always learn a few more things every time I hear him.
Good to see the boss man speaking – I always learn a few more things every time I hear him.
This past week was busy with switch, slush, venturecon, VC-PE summit and then walkabout. I hit or spoke or cheered them all on. I love 💕 being in Singapore and it was awesome to witness everyone from around the world coming out to support the city/state that continues to punch well above the weight class that everyone thinks it might be in.
I won’t lie – I am Singapore fanboy.
When I read stories like this about America, startup slump, I am thankful to be in Asia and specifically at the center of SEA. Pro startup with a government mindful of the challenges ahead but super supportive of tech and the role it will play in future societies.
I worry about America but remain hopeful.
Overall I continue to be concerned about the role of the huge tech companies in our lives and their impact on startups and capitalism.
I can’t wait to read The Four.
And on this subject his weekly newsletter is very timely :: https://www.l2inc.com/daily-insights/no-mercy-no-malice/the-worm-has-turned
The biggest opportunity for the Four
The Four could pull off one of the greatest moments in business, addressing a huge social issue while disrupting an enormous, wildly profitable sector that hasn’t innovated in decades. One or more of the Four should launch a tuition-free university that blends offline and online learning, and charges firms to recruit. Student debt and corporate profits are at an all-time high, meaning we need to flip the model — charge firms, not students, for education.
Apple is also well suited to do this as its brand has roots in education. I estimate the economic value of credentialing is, if taken as a market, likely the largest industry in business with 80%+ gross margins. There would be several ways to create $100B+ in shareholder value and catalyze desperately needed competition. We (universities) have stuck out our chins and deserve fists of stone. Feeding like insecure vampires on the scarcity of our product (dopamine surges through our brains at faculty meetings as we revel in how impossible it is for kids to get into our programs), and praying on the hopes and dreams of families. Education used to be the upward lubricant and a social good. It’s now just one of those things.
Other than each other, there is only one thing between the Four and $1T in market value: the perception of poor citizenship. The small-ball strategies of tax avoidance, obfuscation, and the idolatry of youth and the dollar, may turn big tech into smaller tech.
Thoughts to ponder for sure.
I hope one of the companies steps up and challenges the perception of the role they could play and make America proud.
I have been an avid user of Redmart since they opened. Written about them a few times :: https://seedvc.blog/?s=redmart. I tend to walk to the market with my kids, visit the wet markets or visit the Thai market at Golden Mile but sometimes it is just easier to order some stuff online and have it show up. Magic.
I also use both Uber and Grab since depending on the time of the day and where I am going – sometimes one is cheaper then the other. I still say Uber has superior after sales support and so far that remains true. My biggest complaint was their stupid number masking system but they finally fixed that with the new in-app messaging. Now if they would support using taxi stand numbers I would say there is no difference between the two apart from the customer service. What I mean by that is when I have a problem with Uber they generally respond immediately and just fix the issue. Grab can take hours or days to respond and then it takes many, many emails to fix the issue. I have some issues that were simply never fixed, especially if resolving the issue requires giving me a refund.
Now let’s get to the bigger field of play. Alibaba via acquisitions is battling it out with Amazon in e-commerce. I love a good fight since consumers generally win anyway but one of the weapons the Alibaba team is weilding is the LiveUp loyalty program. As a redmart customer I signed up and honestly forgot to cancel the trial so I got stuck with their one year bill.
Realizing I didn’t want the service I started hunting around to cancel it:
From this: https://www.liveup.sg/faq
Q: Is membership renewal automatic?
A: Yes. However, you may choose to end your membership during the free trial if you do not wish to be subject to automatic renewal. Your payment will be processed by either Redmart.com or Lazada.sg depending on the pathway that you registered for LiveUp.
So basically only way to keep this from renewing is end your membership.
So then there is this:
Q: How can I cancel my subscription?
A: We are sorry to see you go, but if you insist, you may click on the following links to cancel membership your LiveUp membership. However, any and all unused LiveUp membership credits, Netflix and Uber benefits will be forfeited upon cancellation of LiveUp membership.
If you registered via Lazada: https://www.lazada.sg/customer/account/membership/
If you registered via RedMart: https://redmart.com/liveup/account
Just to be clear, this is not an error of my blog, those links are not clickable. You have to cut and paste them which to me is the first sign of a horrid user experience. Why make this hard to get to?
Anyway, I cut and paste to cancel since I figured I might forget to cancel.
However I forgot to grok this:
Q: If I cancel my LiveUp subscription, what happens to my rebates and partner benefits?
A: Your subscription will still be active for the full subscription period. Hence, you are still able to enjoy the all the benefits that LiveUp offers until the end of the current subscription period. Do note that unused rebates expire when your membership expires.
Honestly I don’t get what the purpose of a loyalty program is without the benefits but I digress. Once I knew I had to pay I figured I would look into availing of the benefits. The redmart one happens automatically and you get credits on orders so nothing to do there but won’t help me much if I don’t use redmart anymore.
The other benefit I wanted to use was Uber. I started to try and make that work. First I tried emailing LiveUp and nothing happened. Then I tried using Uber support and they kept telling me to login and activate it.
Told me to go here for the record: https://redmart.com/liveup/account.
I would go there and would find no link to Uber. Finally I called redmart cause after 2 days of sending an email they had yet to return my email. Let me just call out that basically LiveUp support is only by the kindness of the partners, no one seems to actually work at LiveUp from what I can tell.
On the phone, redmart was able to figure out that if you cancel, remember this is the only way to keep from getting billed, that the links to activate the other benefits are gone. Got that? As a user the only way to keep from getting rebilled is to cancel but when you cancel the links to benefit activations are gone.
How is that for loyalty program?
I re-apply to the program and the links show up. I activate Uber and it seems to finally work. A few days after that one of my Uber ride receipts says in yellow at the top to be sure to activate my LiveUp benefits. What? Thought I already did.
Now when I go back to the account page it shows me the activation link again – same as it did before I activated it. The link won’t work this time though. They suggest a workaround to use a special promo code in my Uber app but when I try it I get a promo full subscribed message.
Emails to Uber confirm I am in the program, but have yet to see a ride counter for my 10th ride with 10$ off yet. If it comes cool but if it does not I think I have wasted too much time trying to fix it.
I have always said and will repeat it here, this battle will be won by superior customer service. If LiveUp is an example of this then we already have a leading indicator as to who is winning this battle.
Had a great time on this one :: http://www.asiatechpodcast.com/michael-smith-atp-stories/
Please listen and leave them feedback that they need me back for round 2!
Was quoted today in this article :: https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/22/alibaba-tencent-southeast-asia-game-of-thrones/
My general view is that although the Chinese VC and Chinese company activity in SEA region is probably the most as compared to any other region – my gut says that in general Singapore will continue grow to become a target of other regions like the USA and Europe as well.
Singapore has become the default SEA HQ and as the startups continue to mature – the attractiveness to Singapore acquisitions and investment will climb.
One of our views is that automation will eat the world – like it or not. For me personally, I try to figure out ways to get more productive and manage my own time better. As a VC, I take a lot of meetings. Which means being heavily into my calendar. I have pretty much always relied on Fantastical. They have a new update :: http://flexibits.com/blog/2017/07/fantastical-2-4-for-mac-midsummer-edition/.
Which is killer but I must say that I use it less and less. Why?
Cause my calendar is largely automated via email using Evie.ai.
They have just launched their new product and rebranding.
Full disclosure – SeedPlus is an investor but I was using it before that happened.
Anyways. Check it out. You will love it.
This was posted today :: https://www.dealstreetasia.com/stories/future-early-stage-funding-asean-exciting-seedplus-77307/
Which is great – I appreciate good press.
However I want to clarify the first paragraph:
Michael Smith of early-stage venture fund SeedPlus, an affiliate of Jungle Ventures, is uncertain about the trajectory of early-stage funding in Singapore and the wider region but believes that deep technology as a segment will emerge a winner in the long run.
This was the question that this answer was lifted from:
From your current perspective in the ecosystem, what’s the general trajectory for early-stage funding (i.e. pre-seed to Series A) and its evolution since 2015? What is the future?
The future is something we can’t predict but we feel that deep tech will emerge as a winner in the Singapore ecosystem and that across the region there will be startups raising substantial money at the pre-A level for regional or APAC wide business ideas that need institutional money on their way to their Series A. The future looks pretty exciting in our opinion.
I don’t think what I said was I am uncertain. What I said is I can’t predict the future. I don’t have a crystal ball, startup opportunity, and I don’t think it ever makes sense to try and predict the future.
I am just honest in saying no one knows what will happen but I am confident the ecosystem has a very promising future.