I have been very busy and haven't really check this blog for quite a while. To my surprise, there are a number of comments on my last post. And most are spammed comments. I really wonder how they select blogs to spam? Maybe blogs that are not updated for a long time? Anyway, I just cleared those spammed comments. Will update this blog when I find time. And mood. All the best for year 2010!
Last Friday, I was in office preparing a mass order from my distributor in central america. It was a rather mundane job, and I really wished I had some temp staffs to do all these on my behalf. In the midst of the task, a random thought suddenly came to my mind: “Wouldn’t it be a risk for my distributor to invest so much to import my product? I wouldn’t have invested my money on a non-big-name product myself.”
Strangely, at that moment of time, I felt very grateful to this distributor. He had enough belief in my product that he had decided to brand it and push it into his region. And I am just a small company. I am just a nobody. He had the belief in my product that even myself doesn’t have.
Throughout my career, including the period when I was an employee, there had been countless of people who chose to believe in me and give me opportunities. I used to take it for granted, thinking that it was all because of my abilities that earned their trust. However, these people can always choose to place their trust on another guy, another engineer, another company, or another product. The world will continue to revolve. I am not indispensible. Nobody is.
To those customers who have chosen my product, to those companies who have engaged me for their projects, and to those resellers who have chosen to work with me, I hoped I will always remain grateful.
Labels: Miscellaneous, My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
My first motivational talk
I do not quite know the correct term for it. Some call it “motivational talk/workshop”, some call it “self-improvement talk”. Anyway, there are plenty of such talk or workshop around in Singapore, with speakers “sharing” with you how to improve yourself, how to have better management of your time/cash, and most importantly how to earn more money. Most of such talks or workshops have free previews whereby the speakers will try to promote his sessions to the audience.
I had been to one such preview few months ago. I was invited by the speaker, who is a business associate. I had politely rejected the invitation a few times, until I felt that maybe I should just go for one session to stop any future invitations.
The room for the preview session was very small, with only about 10 attendees. I came in late and sat at the second row. The talk started with the organizer introducing the speaker in a very exagerrated tone, as if he was Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.
The speaker then started with his talk. With some simple presentation slides, he shared with us some of his “insights” which I felt was rather common sense stuffs. He would occasionally raised the volume of his voice, which I really don’t understand the rationale behind other than keeping us awake. Throughout the talk, we were asked to play some simple games, listing down items on papers and interacting with one another. The interaction portion would involve pairing off with the person beside you and then asked each other some questions designated by the speaker. One rather bizairre thing I noted was, some of these attendees were unusually “high” when playing some of those simple games or interactions. I was rather uncomfortable as I wasn’t a person who would get “high” for no particular reason. Guess I am just not that easily motivated.
The talk stretched to about 2.5 hours. Towards the end of the talk, the speaker began to introduce his workshop to the audience. He started by saying how much he charged companies for his consultation services. From there, he break down and compute the “value” of his time, and concluded that his workshop was worth $X. Then, he proceed to say that there will be a very special discount if we signed up on the spot.
In the end, I do not know whether anyone signed up for the workshop, or how much the workshop actually costs. I just wanted to get out of there asap and breathe some fresh air. I guessed, I valued my time a little more than the speaker.
Just a little updates
Haven’t been updating this blog for more than half a year. A friend had asked me whether I intended to stop blogging, but that was never my intention. I was just too tied up with many things and blogging seemed to be a luxury to me.
Anyway, I had moved to a new office recently. It is around three times larger than my previous one. So I had a little more space to setup a mini-lab within my office. In fact, this new office is in many ways quite similar to my very first office: they are both of around the same size, they are situated at the same floor (though different buildings), and the view outside the window is also quite similar. One thing different is that, I had to setup this new office all by myself.
When I sat in my new office working at night while listening to radio, memories of the past silently crept in. I remembered in early 2006, after I parted ways with my ex-business partner, I was also working alone in a similar office. However, the feeling was very different. I felt lost, uncertained and weary at that time. But I refused to give up. I was thinking to myself, what’s left for me if I were to give up my dreams, ideals and passions? And thus, I persevered.
It seemed that a lot of entrepreneurs liked to talk about their early days struggles. I guessed the reason is similar to why a lot of guys liked to talk about their NS (National Service) days, especially those “siong” period. It is always memorable to think back how you overcame your difficult times. It gives you strength, beliefs and courage to face the more difficult times ahead.
Labels: Miscellaneous, My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
Accountant from hell (Part 2)
After trying all means to contact my accountant D to no avail, I decided to drop by his office to try my luck. To my surprise, D was in his office. And the first thing he said to me was to ask for my payment! Wow, how shameless can a person get. He kept delaying the deliverables, avoid my calls/sms/email, and he still have the cheek to ask for payment?
D claimed that he had emailed me the accounts, but I obviously did not receive and I had sms him about this. He replied my sms that he would send the email again, but he didn’t. When I questioned D about the lack of response, he simply told me that he was overseas and just came back. However, I really don’t believe a person can be non-contactable via call/sms/email even if he’s overseas. Anyway, I did not want to waste my breathe to argue with him, so I just told him to deliver my accounts straight away. But D started to try wriggled his way out, saying the source files are not in the computer, and he had to go meet another client.
When I insisted that he show me the accounts and returned me all my bank statements and other stuffs, he even had the cheek to ask me to settle the payment first. He claimed that I could have received his email and tried to set him up by denying any receival, while secretly use his completed balance sheet to file my company tax.
Alright, I had enough of his nonsense and was really sick of arguing with such weasel. I told him I would bring my cheque book to his office in the afternoon and he’d better deliver to me all my accounts in return.
Then at the afternoon, I went through the accounts with him, which still have quite a few errors. I gave him one more day to prepare all the necessary documents and paid him on the spot when I received those documents. However, he couldn’t find the invoices and bank statements that I passed to him, and needed at least two more weeks to find them and return to me. He also promised to send me the softcopy of the documents, but till now I had not received them too.
Anyway, I have used the hardcopy documents that D eventually delivered to me to file my company tax. I had never been so dissatisfied with a person’s services before, let alone one from a so-called professional. The way he tried to avoid responsiblities, push blames to others and argue shamelessly left a really bad taste in my mouth.
Labels: My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
Accountant from hell (Part 1)
Alright the story goes like this. This accountant D is actually a friend of my good friend AC. I asked AC to recommend an accountant to me earlier this year, and he recommended D who owns a small accounting firm, to me. I passed all my receipts, invoices, bank statements over to D and discussed with him about my accounts around February. Then I entrusted him to do his stuffs.
At around September, I contacted D to ask about the status of my accounts. D told me it was completed long time ago. Feeling relieved, I arranged a date for D to meetup with me in my office to deliver the accounts. However, at the day when we were supposed to meet up, D sms me that he had a last minute meeting with another client and requested to postpone the meeting with me. I didn’t suspect anything and agree to D’s suggestion.
Then at the postponed date, D again called me to postpone the meeting because he had some other meeting at IRAS (or ACRA, I couldn’t remember the details). So our meeting was postponed again. Apparently, the subsequent meetings were all postponed by D at the last minute, each time with a different excuse.
Then finally, on one Monday which I were supposed to meet D, I did not receive any sms or calls to postpone the meeting. I thought this time D would deliver my accounts. But it turned out that D never appear at my office at all. I sms and called him several times but wasn’t able to contact him. I had no choice and thought maybe I will just email him. To my surprise he returned my email, saying that his handphone and laptop were confiscated by MINDEF because he accidentally brought them into camp. D told me that he would be able to get back his stuffs on Friday and would call me by then.
So I believed in him and waited again. Then on Friday, he didn’t call me as promised. Ok to cut short the story, eventually after a few other postpones (with all kinds of excuses) I finally get to meet D in my office. But to my dismay, the accounts he presented to me had a few glaring errors. The income was totally wrong, having a few extra transactions that did not have any names or invoice numbers. The director fees and some other items were also computed wrongly. At that point of time, I was really furious. The balance sheet looked like some last minute work because it was full of errors that even a layman like me was able to spot. The director’s report was virtually non-existent as the only thing he showed me was 2-3 pages of the report and some sample templates of other company. I kept my cool and asked him to do the appropriate ammendments. I asked him when he could deliver the amended accounts and he told me next Wednesday.
So I waited again and as expected, he did not send me the accounts as promised. Two weeks passed by and I still did not receive his accounts. Again I sms him to check and he replied that he had emailed me the accounts and will email me again the week after. But I was very sure that he did not email me, as I had never failed to receive any emails that went directly to my company email account. To confirm that, I even check my spam folder.
So now, three weeks after the date which he supposed to deliver the amended accounts, he was uncontactable by phone calls, sms and email.
I remembered D once told me that he was a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). I would expect a minimum level of professionalism from him. But now it seemed that he doesn’t even have the basic responsibility. No matter how well educated you are, or how many professional certifications you have, you cannot claim to be a professional if you don’t have the basic responsibility. To me, people like D will never be a professional, because he has a serious character flaw.
P/S: My aircon repairman charged me only $10 because he was late. He seemed to be more professional than D. Or at least, he dares to take responsibility.
Labels: My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
My most admired entrepreneur
Recently, I came across an exhibition in the National Library showcasing the contribution of a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist, Mr Tan Kah Kee and his son-in-law, Mr Lee Kong Chian.
Just a little background on Mr Tan Kah Kee:
Tan Kah Kee was born in Jimei, Xiamen, Fujian Province, China, and went to Singapore in 1890, when he was 16 years old, to work for his father's rice store. After his father's business collapsed in 1903, Tan started his own business and built an empire from rubber plantations and manufacturing, sawmills, canneries, real estate, import and export brokerage, ocean transport to rice trading. His business was at its prime from 1912-1914, where he was known as "Henry Ford of Malaya".
With the profit that he made from his business empire, Tan contributed greatly to the community, both in Malaya and his native Fujian Province. He set up the Jimei Schools (now Jimei University) in 1913. In 1919, he set up The Chinese High School, now named Hwa Chong Institution in Singapore, while in 1921, he set up the Xiamen University and financially supported it until the Government of the Republic of China took it over in 1937. In 1920, he married his daughter Tan Ai Li to Lee Kong Chian, who worked under him and who later became a famous Singaporean philanthropist and businessman.
The part that I admired the most about Mr Tan, is his relentless effort in contributing to the society while he himself leading a frugal lifestyle. From the documentary, I remembered there was one incident when Mr Tan’s business was not in a good shape and his advisors had advised him to stop his funding to the schools and used those funds to help the business instead.
However, Mr Tan did not agree. He said that his objective in doing business is to contribute to the society, especially education. If he cannot continue to contribute to the society, there’s no reasons for him to run business. Afterall, he is leading a very frugal lifestyle and he can live with eating just plain porridge every day.
In a society where we measured everything by its practical and monetary benefits; In a society where most people, be it elites or commoners, are being motivated by only the most pragmatic factor, that is money, I really wonder how many people can be like Mr Tan?
The exhibition is still open, at 10th floor of the National Library, until 31st December 2008. I would highly recommend people to take a look, especially entrepreneurs.
My encounter with MLM people
Recently I received a call from an acquaintance, saying that she had a business proposal to discuss with me. I was rather surprised as I did not know her very well, so I was quite curious about the business proposal that she mentioned. Over the phone, we arranged to meet up one day to talk about the proposal, as she claimed that it was difficult to elaborate over the phone.
However, on the actual day, I had another last-minute appointment and wasn’t able to meet up with her. So I sms her about it, and requested for more information to be sent to me via email. She was quite reluctant to email any info to me, and suggested to arrange for another meetup. I was rather busy if my company stuffs and told her that I would like to know more about the business before commiting time on it. So in the end she said that she would drop-by my office to discuss with me and pass me some materials.
At this point of time, I began to suspect that the business proposal was actually some MLM scheme. I do know that MLM people like to refer themselves as business man / woman, and like to claim that they are running a business when they are just sales people or recruiters. So I purposely left my office early and instructed the receptionist to collect the materials on my behalf.
Anyway, when I looked at the materials passed to me, its all about network marketing and how people have misconception about the business model. There wasn’t any information on the products or services offered by the company, as those stuffs seemed to be of a lower priority to them. It seemed to me that it doesn’t matter what they are selling (otherwise they would be promoting to me how good their products are). The only thing that matters is to get more downlines and train their downlines to get even more downlines. Products….who cares?
So in the end, I told her firmly that I wasn’t interested in MLM stuff because I was too tied up with my own company. I didn’t tell her that MLM’s model is against my business philosophy of focusing on offering the best products/services, as I can sensed from our conversation that she is being thoroughly brainwashed already.
An interesting story
I have heard of this interesting story recently:
There are two brothers living in a condo unit at the 80th floor. One night when they were going back home, they found that the lift was under maintenance. The two brothers looked at each other and thought, “Well, guess we will need to slowly climb the stairs.”
So the two brothers started to climb the stairs with their backpacks. When they reached the 25th floor, they began to feel very tired and decided to put down their backpacks. They stored their backpacks in one corner and decided that they will come back and collect them once the lift service resumed.
So the two brothers continued to climb the stairs without their backpacks. The next few floors were much easier without the burden, but as time passed it became more and more difficult to climb even without the backpacks. When they were reaching the 40th floor, the two brothers started to blame each other for not noticing the life maintenance schedule. The squabble eventually ended when they reached the 60th floor, because they were both too tired to quarrel and decided to climb the rest of the stairs peacefully.
Finally, when the two brothers reached the 80th floor, they discovered something terrible: their door keys were left inside the backpacks at the 25th floor!
The eighty-storey building symbolizes our entire life. Most of us begin our life with lots of enthusiasm, dreams and passions. However, when we start our working life at around mid 20s, the burdens of new commitments and social expectations begin to exert pressure onto our shoulders. Many of us decide to put aside our dreams in order to pursue other materialistic aspect of our life. We think that we would come back and pick up our dreams one day.
As we are reaching 40 years old, the burdens of life become more stressful. The uneasiness within our hearts is growing despite the fact that we are more well-off than before. Whether we have achieved those materialistic gains or not, many of us would inevitably start to question or even blame the society and people around us. But not many of us would have thought of picking up the dreams that we once thought we would pick up one day.
When time goes passed, we stops the questioning and blaming and begin to place our hopes on retirement. We decided that the most important thing is to enjoy a peaceful life after retirement. But when we are reaching the end of our life, many of us start to remember the dreams that we once had, but abandoned at the 25th floor. We had so many chances in life to pick up our dreams again, but it always seemed to be placed at the least priority. And some day, we might totally forgotten about it, only to remember when we are approaching the end of our life.
It’s important to ask the right question
Recently, a friend W asked me which programming language is the most popular one as he planned to learn programming. W is an IT administrator with very little programming knowledge, and I was quite surprised at his sudden enthusiasm in programming.
So I asked him why he intended to learn programming. Basically from what I understood, W was feeling a bit stagnant in his job, and therefore wanted to learn something new to have some breakthrough in his career, and perhaps to have some extra means of income.
Well, if W’s intention was to learn programming and eventually take up some freelance projects to supplement his normal income, I would advice him to spend some time to turn his current hobbies into an income source instead of spending time on something which he had neither flair nor passion in. For example, W had passion in photography, and was rather good in it. He went for photo shoots events regularly so obviously he quite enjoy it. Thus, I would advice W to hone his photography skills, build up his own portfolio and offer his freelance services to bridal studios. He could also setup a website to showcase his portfolio to other potential clients. From there, he could extend his services to videography, photo/video editing, etc. Of course, all these are easier said than done, but at least I felt that he would have a better chance to succeed in freelancing his photography services than programming services. Even if eventually he can’t get much income from this sideline, there isn’t any loss as he is doing something he enjoys and would have do it with or without monetary benefits.
If W’s intention was to have some breakthrough in his stagnant career, I would also not suggest him to learn programming. He would be better off getting professional certification like MCSE, which has direct impact on his current job. If he intended to climb up the corporate ladder, he could take up courses like project management. If he intended to stay as a technical staff but increase his employability, he could take up related courses such as information security, or even courses on other operating system admin such as Linux, UNIX, etc.
So basically, neither W’s problem nor solution involves programming. Yet, he posed a question to me based on a flawed solution. A lot of people tend to ask for the wrong advice because they have put themselves into an unnecessary constraint build up by a flawed solution to the original problem. In W’s scenario, his problem is his stagnation in his job and income, not what programming language he should learn. He thought that picking up programming skills is the solution to his problem, and unknowingly shifted the domain of his problem. As for whether a breakthrough in his job & income would bring about more happiness, that would be another question.
The first step to solve a problem, is to identify your problem, and then, ask the right question.
Where does your passion lies?
Quite interestingly, more people likes to talk to me, ever since I started to set up my own company. Maybe to some people, I am quite a rare breed because I gave up a decent and stable job to pursue my dreams and passions. Maybe to them, I am doing something that they had long wanted to do but do not dare to take that first step. Thus, it would be intriguing for them to watch closely how I fared, or failed.
One interesting thing I noticed when speaking to people who wanted to startup their own company is that, they rarely talk about their passion, let alone their vision. Most just wanted to be a boss. Any kind of business, as long as they are the boss. To them, becoming a boss is merely a way of breaking the salary ceiling to achieve financial freedom. Just a means to an end. The means doesn’t matter much, at least not as much as the ends, that is, achieving financial freedom.
The same goes for some existing business owners, and venture capitalists. I once had a chat with a business associate. I told him about the financial strains during my early days of startup, and how I believed that having passion in what you do is important to an entrepreneur. He didn’t quite agree with me, as he himself didn’t have any passion in the businesses that he involved, except for the passion towards earning more money.
What exactly is passion, one might ask? Just imagine you strike a lottery one day, or inherited a large sum of money from some distant relative. You have the money to buy everything you desired, to tour around the world, and still have enough money left to support you and your family up to two hundred years old. What would you do next?
If you are a software developer, would you continue to write software? Or would you uninstall every single compiler and IDE on your computer?
If you are a writer, would you continue to write your novels? Or would you just stop writing because writing is just a tool for earning money?
If you are a chef, would you continue to explore new flavours or methods of cooking? Or would you stop cooking because cooking is never your passion?
In an ideal world, people would pursue their passion and earn their keep while fulfilling their potential. In a pragmatic world, people earn their keep while doing something that is probably neither their passion, nor fulfilling to them, so that they can pursue their passion after work, or after they retired, or never.
Think about your passion. Think about what you really want to do.
I got a new office!
I had been looking for an office for the past few weeks. Ever since I moved out of my first office in the year 2006, I had been a mobile entrepreneur in the sense that I did not have a fixed place of work. I would always carried my laptop with me, and did my work in either some café, or in the library, or any places with aircon, internet access, and preferably a/c power supply.
The mobile office concept suits me well since the bulk of my work can be done on a laptop. However, now that I am starting to expand my operation a little, I feel that it is about time to get a new (small) office.
The reasons why I wanted to get a new office:
1. To have a fixed place to hold meetings with my sales people. Although I could hold meetings in some café, but it would be very dependent on how crowded the café was. Moreover, I would like to have some privacy when having meetings with my colleagues.
2. To have more freedom in managing my time. If I worked in some café or libraries, I would have to be restricted by their opening hours.
3. Better facilities. By having my own office, I would be able to do printing/ scanning/ copying/ faxing, as well as having reference materials or books to refer to.
4. Better focus. Having my own office would allow me to have better concentration on my work, compared to working in a café where there are people walking in and out all the time.
5. Place to store my inventory. Right now, my bedroom is filled with my inventory, and in one or two weeks time there will be tens of thousands of brochures coming in. I needed some place to store all these things and cleared the space of my bedroom.
6. Place to meet customers. Most of the time, I would offer to meet customers at their site. But sometimes, some customers would suggest to come to my office, probably due to their own office under renovation, or they themselves are also using home office. At times like this, I would have to suggest to meetup at some café. Now with my own office, I would be able to have more choices on where to meet the customers.
However, since the property prices in Singapore are still very high, right now I can only afford to have a tiny office. This new office that I have now is about 3 times smaller than my first office. It is about 5 to 6 times smaller than the laboratory which I worked in during my last job as an employee.
But to me, this is a new milestone. My first step towards expansion.
Labels: Entrepreneurship, My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
Patent Story 2: A peep into the Patents Act
I had originally intended to give a deeper analysis on the patent “Method of locating web-pages by utilising visual images” and how ridiculous the Vuestar’s claim was. But, now I decided against it, because:
1. I had stumbled upon a website that had done a great job in analysing and refuting Vuestar’s claim, with some examples of prior arts. It has already covered most of what I had originally wanted to write, and much more. So interested personnels are advised to visit this website.
2. I felt that the patent itself is really not worth any further analysis. In fact, I am contemplating on sending Vuestar an invoice for wasting one hour of my life going through a worthless 29-pages article. Alright, perhaps it is not exactly worthless, at least not in the eyes of its “inventor”, Mr Ronald Neville Langford.
So, instead of writing about some silly patent, maybe I shall write about some interesting parts of our patents act.
Any person can applied to revoke a patent, according to subsection (1) of section 80 of the Patents Act:
Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Registrar may, on the application of any person, by order revoke a patent for an invention on (but only on) any of the following grounds:
(a) the invention is not a patentable invention;
(b) the patent was granted to a person who was not entitled to be granted that patent;
(c) the specification of the patent does not disclose the invention clearly and completely for it to be performed by a person skilled in the art;
Note that a patentable invention is a product or a process that is new, has a non-obvious inventive (improvement) step, and has some form of practical application. So if it can be proven that at least one prior art exists, or the invention is obvious to a person skilled in the art in that technological field of the invention, the patent can be revoked based on the “invention is not a patentable invention” ground.
Section 77 of the Patents Act is also quite interesting to note:
Where a person (whether or not the proprietor of, or entitled to any right in, a patent) by circulars, advertisements or otherwise threatens another person with proceedings for any infringement of a patent, a person aggrieved by the threats (whether or not he is the person to whom the threats are made) may, subject to subsection (4), bring proceedings in the court against the person making the threats, claiming any relief mentioned in subsection (3).
And finally, subsection (1) of section 99 of the Patents Act states that:
If a person falsely represents that anything disposed of by him for value is a patented product, he shall, subject to this section, be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
Last but not least, I urges all victims of this patent troll to come together and seek legal advices on how to deal with it.
(1) I am not a patent lawyer, and all of the above should not be taken as any form of legal advices.
(2) I am not one of the victims, or in any direct relationships with any of the victims. I am just a concerned entrepreneur who thinks that patent troll is a bane to innovation and society progress.
Labels: Miscellaneous, Patent, Vuestar
Patent Story: A little background
Recently, a local company (Vuestar Technologies P/L) sent invoices (ranging from hundreds to thousands of Singapore dollars) to numerous website owners. Basically, the company claimed that those websites are infringing their patent, and thus requesting for payment for the license fee.
Before we look specifically into the Vuestar scenario, I think it would be better to have a little more background knowledge in patents.
What is a patent ?
From IPOS (Intellectual Property Office of Singapore):
“A Patent is a monopoly right given by the Government to the owner of an invention to enable him to prevent others from using, copying or making the invention without his consent in the country in which he has obtained patent protection.”
What is patentable ?
“A patentable invention can be a product or a process that gives a new technical solution to a problem. It can be a new method of doing things, the composition of a new product, or a technical improvement on how certain objects work.”
According to IPOS, for an invention to be patentable, it must in general satisfy the below three key criteria:
The invention should not have been made known to the public in any way, anywhere in the world. An invention is not new if it has already been made available to the public by word of mouth, or it has been commercially exploited, or it has been featured in an article or advertised in the press, or it has been demonstrated. Such disclosure may be novelty destroying and forms one of the grounds for the revocation of a patent.
2. Inventive Step:
The invention must be something that represents an improvement over any existing product or process that is already available. The improvement must be non-obvious to a person who is skilled in the art in that technological field of the invention. If an invention is new yet obvious to a person skilled in the art, the invention would not fulfil the inventive step requirement.
3. Industrial Application:
The invention must be useful and have some form of practical application. It should be capable of being made or used, or achieving a concrete end result in any industry.
A little background on the company
Now that we have some basic ideas of what is patent and what is patentable, let’s go back to the Vuestar scenario. A little search on ACRA will reveal that it is a private limited company registered in the year 2006, formerly known as Blue Steel Dragon Pte. Ltd. Its managing director is Paul Smith, while the patent “inventor” is Ronald Neville Langford. Don’t quite sound Singaporean? Right, from what I know of, Ronald is an Australian. In fact, the patent in question is first filed in Australia in 2001.
The patent in question
The patent which Vuestar Technologies claimed to be infringed, is titled “Method of locating web-pages by utilising visual images” (Patent publication no. 95940).
From the 29-pages full specification of the patent, the patent is basically talking about:
An improved method of locating web-pages and/or web-sites, as described in the following steps:
1. User submitting a search request to a server-side application via a terminal.
2. The server-side application searching a database in accordance with the submitted search request.
3. Identified database entries being transmitted to the terminal as a search results list, each entry containing a hyperlink to a web-page and visual content related to the web-page.
4. The user is able to view the visual content without being required to activate the hyperlink to obtain the visual content.
5. Contact information (telephone, fax, email, etc) for an organization is also provided as a component of an entry of the search results list.
So basically, he claimed that in prior art (search engines before application of patent), the previous search engines only returned text information and hyperlinks upon a search request, which is not very useful to the user. Thus, in this “invention”, he proposed that the search engine stored visual content along with other information of the websites in its centralized database, and returned these visual content as a component of the entry of the search result list.
There are other specific embodiments written inside the full specification, but basically it revolves around how the visual information should be presented to the user, and how the website should react upon user’s actions.
To my disapointment, there are very little (if any) technical details or innovative algorithms on how to implement this “invention”. The idea of this “invention” itself, I would say, isn’t really impressive and probably quite obvious to a person skilled in the art.
According to Vuestar Technologies website, it claims that:
“A web site which has been developed by or for a URL addressee/ owner and uses visual images to hyperlink to other pages in which any first or subsequent page provides the contact details of an Organisation would in Legal terms appear to use the steps and methods outlined in a claim of the Patent .”
If you have read the full specification of the patent, you would probably be as baffled as me. Contrast Vuestar’s claims and what I have written in the previous section “The patent in question”, it just doesn’t match. The methods outlined in the patent is about presenting of visual content as a component of each entry of the search results list. Yet, Vuestar claims that “using visual images to hyperlink to other pages” is an infringement to the patent, which I seriously cannot agree with.
I shall just stop here for the time being. In my next post, I shall go into more detailed analysis on the patent itself, and what I think of the infringement claims in various scenario.
Labels: Miscellaneous, Patent, Vuestar
I attended a gathering recently. It lasted for only a few hours and basically we just played some games that I hadn’t been playing for years. On my way back, I was thinking about the gathering and the games, and smiled to myself. I suddenly realized, that I had not really enjoyed myself for a long time.
Ever since my company became an OMO (One-Man-Operation), I had been doing things all alone. I met my customers alone, I ate my lunch alone, I planned my company’s direction and strategy alone, I did all the coding and debugging alone. For more than two years, I had been fighting a lone battle and unknowingly accummulated loads of stress on my shoulders.
Whenever I meet up with friends, one question that they bound to ask would be: “How’s your business?” And sometimes I really do not wish to answer. I think I am just doing fine, but I don’t really have much to show. I had no problem surviving, but there are a lot more to think about than merely trying to survive, especially when you are in your third or fourth year of business.
One reason why I really enjoyed the gathering was that the people there didn’t know I am an entrepreneur. It was a mere few hours when I can immerse myself in the games and totally forgotten about the burden that was on my shoulders. And nobody would ask about my business. It was kind of like a few hours of mental spa to rejuvenate my spirits.
I am gonna put down some of my loads. I am gonna learn how and when to take a stroll. The view may be captivating at the top of the mountain, but I must first learn how to appreciate the scenary along the way. There’s still a long way to go.
Labels: My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
I met my ex-director…
Haven’t been updating this blog for some time. Somehow, I have lost some of my initial enthusiasm in blogging. Or perhaps it doesn’t exist in the first place. Of course, part of the reasons (for the lack of updates) could be that I am currently quite busy with a few plans going on simultaneously. Will probably talk about all these some time later.
Just recently, I attended an event and was surprised to meet my ex-company director Mr C there. Obviously, he was surprised to see me too. I could still remember the smirk on Mr C’s face when I told him I wanna startup my own company a few years ago. It’s no surprise to me that he still look as detestable as before.
Mr C was a typical management level person who strived on impressing his superiors to work his way up the corporate ladder. I used to be a project leader under him. He was the first technical director I worked with who didn’t bother to read my design document, just because he claimed he didn’t have the time. But the truth was he couldn’t understand the technical details that I wrote.
Some of my ex-colleagues commented that people like him wouldn’t go far. Well, it actually depends on one’s definition of going far. I personally think that people like Mr C would survive very well in the GLCs, because no matter how technically challenged you are, there will always be some clueless people above you that thinks very highly of you as long as you are able to string some buzz words into a sentence and paint some glamourous big picture.
I don’t really like to attend all these so-called networking events, where I can see lots of Mr C walking around wearing a fake smile. But sometimes attending such events is inevitable if I wish to grow my company.
In the end, I left the event early. I am still not quite used to it. The air is fresher outside. The vision became clearer too.
Labels: Entrepreneurship, My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
Looking back 2007: My life . My company . My future
Time seems to pass faster ever since I graduated from university, which was some seven or eight years ago. Many of my peers are having the same sentiments, and I actually had my own explanation for this phenomena. Although time remains consistent as ever, the post-university phase of our lifes had somehow lacked prominent milestones. Most of the people, after a few years of work, began to lead a monotonous lifestyle of work-sleep-and looking forward to weekend. Life had become an auto-pilot journey while time crept away without anybody noticing. Another reason could be the feeling of under-achievement. As the best part of our life kept ticking away, the possibility of achieving what we wanna achieve in life become slimmer. Instead of the “I wanna earn my first million bucks before 30” wish that you have when you are 20 years old, you slowly find yourself need to compromise to more realistic expectations. And as time passed, when people find that even the more realistic expectations are hard to achieve, the notion of time passing much faster than before will come in.
There isn’t much changes in my life for 2007. It’s the first full year of my life as a blogger, and I also started a chinese blog which does not have much readership. I had grown accustom to the lifestyle of an entrepreneur, as it was already my third year in entrepreneurship. Life as an entrepreneur can have the freedom that many working class craved for, but at the same time it can be very lonely. While many of my ex-colleagues are envious of the kind of freedom I am enjoying, I am also quietly reminiscing the times when I could just hop over to the pantry have a coffee and chat with other colleagues. As time goes by, I had gradually shed away most of my programmer’s ego and become more like a businessman. I noticed that I see things differently than before, and my perceptions of a lot of things had also changed.
I had read a lot to both deepen and widen my knowledge. I believe, whether you are an entrepreneur or not, one should always look to improve himself. As an entrepreneur, I had more control over my time and thus I always tried to allocate some slots for learning new knowledge. For the past year, I had been reading up on topics like company law & contracts, marketing, philosophy, strategy, and a whole lots of chinese novels. This is in addition to my usual dose of technical readings in programming and computer science.
I had participated in several volunteering events and am looking forward to more participation in 2008. And of course, like many others, I was addicted to facebook for quite a while.
My company remained as a one-man-operation. The annual revenue for 2007 is better than the sum of first two year, but that’s not something to brag about since my first year (2005) revenue was pathetic. Towards the end of 2007, my focus shifted from the local market to the international ones. I had just signed a distributor agreement with a foreign firm, and is looking towards signing more of this to push my product to different overseas.
I started year 2007 with a few ad-hoc projects that pay rather well, though I always want the main focus of the company to sell its own product rather than doing ad-hoc projects. Towards the second half of the year, I was doing much less development work. More time was spent in planning, marketing, sales and negotiations of collaborations. And I do notice that I become more willing to spend, from both personal and company aspects, which is probably a good sign.
My future is still uncertain. The only thing that changed is that I am getting used to this uncertainty. The financial stress is lesser as I had been drawing a reasonably comfortable director fee since the beginning of 2007, but the expectations are only getting heavier, especially when I saw my peers advancing in their own respective careers.
I have many plans for 2008 but I will not list them down in this blog. I know I will be leading a very different life compared to most people. Its afterall my own choice, and no matter how difficult it is I will continue to embrace it.
Labels: Entrepreneurship, My Adventure in Uncharted Waters
Some advices on Entrepreneurship
Year 2007 is coming to an end, and many people are starting to make new year resolutions for the coming year. Perhaps one of the resolutions in some people’s list is to startup a company. As an entrepreneur myself, I think perhaps I can give some advices to those who are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur. Although I don’t see myself as a veteren or some successful entrepreneur, I believe I had more exposure than maybe a normal nine-to-five office worker. For the past few years, I had seen entrepreneurs come and go, some struggled and some are still struggling. I had seen people leaving the entrepreneurial scene with a bad taste in their mouth. Many people entered the scene with lots of enthusiasm and dreams, thanks to the constant glamourization of successful entrepreneurs and over-emphasis of success stories in the media, but leave the scene bitterly with a dose of reality.
So perhaps I would just list out a few things which I think can be useful to an entrepreneur here, as an end-of-year present to all those avid readers who have been reading my plain little text-only blog. It is heart-warming to know that people are willing to spend their precious time reading a stranger’s rant.
1. Make yourself comfortable, even if you are coming out of your comfort zone.
Don’t believe in the myth that entrepreneurs are all struggling to make ends meet. Don’t believe that entrepreneurs should live miserably before they see any glimpses of hope. Entrepreneurship is long journey. If you are making yourself miserable and uncomfortable, how long do you think you can last ?
But how to make yourself comfortable? Reduce uncertainties to the minimum. You need to make calculated risks before diving into the uncharted waters. Take into account your normal monthly expenses, plus your expected monthly expenses of your company, and make an estimate of how long you can survive without income. If you cannot survive at least one year, perhaps you should save up more or get external financial investments.
Apart from financial aspects, there are also the mental aspects. Try to do something you truly enjoy. It will enable you to persevere through hard times. And don’t make yourself miserable by working 24 hours, unless you are a workaholic.
2. Maintain a good health
A healthy body is the foundation of every entrepreneur. If you are not able to take care of your own health, how can you take care of a company? So, do exercise consistently, eat healthily, and you will find yourself having more energy to take care of other stuffs.
3. You don’t have to own 100% of your company
Sometimes, you may need to sacrifice some of your shares to bring in capital or expertise. But of couse, not to the extent that you become a minor shareholder that can’t make any decisions.
4. Separate your personal and company accounts
Even if you are a sole proprietor, it is advisable to separate your own personal accounts and your company accounts. Things will get real messy if you are paying your baby’s diapers and company’s inventory all from the same account. At the end of the day, you don’t even know whether you are truly earning lesser or simply because your personal expenses went up.
5. Mix with the right people
The people around you can have positive or negative effects on you and your company. There will always be people who are eager to offer their advices. And there will always be people who can’t wait to bring you down. Make your own judgement who you think is credible, and who is just NATO (No Action Talk Only).
Beware of those who are indecisive, over-optimistic, over-pessimistic, NATO, constant-whiners and forever-disgruntled. Take whatever they said with a pinch of salt.
6. Don’t enter entrepreneurship because you wanna avoid something
Be it stress, work, nasty bosses or responsibilities. Chances are you will get more of those in entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial scene is not a place for people who wanna seek refuge. If you cannot leave your previous stage as a victor, don’t expect to come into entrepreneurship and emerge as a winner. You’d probably run away from the same problem again.
Ok, that’s all my crap advices, and remember to take it with a pinch of salt. Wish all have a fulfilling 2008!