Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why I take the path less travelled? (Part II)

After I left my first company, I choose to join a GLC subsidiary. Till today, I can’t really say whether that’s a good or bad decision, but surely it’s an ill-informed one. Well, during the interview, I was told that I will be in-charge of a certain project that is graphics intensive. I was thinking, “Wow, I would be in-charge of designing and developing a project of such considerable scale. That would be quite a breakthrough for me as I had been assuming a team player role in my previous company.” But it turn out that, their understanding of “in-charge” is quite different from mine. I was tasked to “maintain” the software that is already developed and delivered by some foreign company. That is, if there is any minor modification required, I would be expected to do it. If the manager or customers wanted to know anything about the software, I would be expected to answer it. But no design and development is needed from me. And that was not what I really wanted.

Anyway, throughout my stint in the GLC, I did eventually get my chance to do software development. And since the company frequently worked with foreign companies, I did have the opportunities to interact with developers of other nationalities and learnt the various software designs and programming techniques from the source codes that I had access to. And one thing I realised about the difference between foreign companies and local/GLC companies, is that foreign companies invested a lot into their R&D and had genuine concerns about building up their own technological assets and capabilities, while local/GLC firms are normally more business-oriented and concerned more about short term gains. Well, of course there are exceptions and that’s just my own little observations.

There was one incident that really triggered me into thinking about my future in that company. There was a mass promotion and several of my colleagues were promoted to senior engineers. But I wasn’t in the list. I was told that it was because I did not join the company long enough (less than 3 years), though my performances were far better than others. But considering the fact that some of my colleagues joined as fresh graduates while I joined from another company, my total years of experiences were actually not less than them. Furthermore, what’s happening to the performance oriented environment that I was promised during the interview? It seemed to me that it was based more on seniority. Although I was promoted half a year later, I felt that it was time to get out of my comfort zone and seriously think about my future. I was able to foresee that I would meet with a bottle-neck few years later, if I continue to stay in the company. I would have to choose between going into junior management, or remained as a condemned senior engineer.

So eventually, I decided that I shall set up my own company. I came to realize that there isn’t exactly a perfect company, other than the one you set up yourself. Since I do not agree with the way the company is run, I shall set up my own company and run it the way I deemed correct. Since I do not agree with the company culture, I shall set my own company culture. Since I felt that my effort wasn’t adequately recognized, I shall create my own series of products and let the market recognized me. I wanted to take on the world and ready to take on the world. The decision was made and I started planning. That was August 2003.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Entry Barrier

Had a chat with AC few months ago and somehow our topics moved towards the internet café business in Singapore. I told him that I saw one old shophouse at the east being converted into an internet café and it claimed to be the cheapest in town at the rate of S$1 per hour. But their PCs were rather old and the ambience didn’t look that cosy.

Recently, I past by the area and found 2 other internet cafés opened just beside the first one. And all are priced at S$1 per hour. I do not know how adversely the business would be affected by the increase of competition. I do not even know who are their target customer base, since most people nowadays have internet access at home and the shops aren’t located near those low-cost hotels. But anyway, my point is in business, if your entry barrier is low, you will see competitions sooner than you expected. So, when you think that you have a great business idea, you should also start to think about how high is your entry barrier.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Why I take the path less travelled? (Part I)

I had been trying to recall when did I start having the idea of setting up my own company. I graduated from NTU on the year 2000. Like many other graduates, the first thing that came to my mind was to look for a job. My savings was depleted to less than S$300 then, after paying for most of my university school fees. Setting up a company wasn't in my mind back then.

I joined a german MNC shortly after I graduated, as a R&D software engineer. I had a colleague HK who is 5 years older than me. We became very good friends and often went out for supper after work. Being the older and more experienced one, HK shared with me things about the real working life. I started to think beyond the daily job and asked myself what should be my career path. I was lamenting about how IT specialist and technical personnel weren’t properly recognized in Singapore and often encountered bottle-neck which forced them to switch over to project management instead. One thing I remembered HK told me was: “你不要去想做别的东西. 你天生就是搞软件的.” (Meaning: “Don’t think about doing anything else. You are born to be a software designer/developer.”) That was probably the first time my passion and ability was explicitly recognized. And HK was probably the first influencer that led me to holding on to my passion. And I started to toy around with the idea of starting my own company, or pursue a software developer career in the states (where I presumed would be more recognized).


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Why The Uncharted Waters?

It was the name of one of my favourite computer games during my JC days. It was a game which required the player to take on a fleet captain's role, venturing into unknown waters, fighting pirates and exploring new cities/harbours. I always like games that allow me to explore. I like the joy and satisfaction when I discovered something.

To me, entrepreneurship is just like the uncharted waters. There are so many unknowns and uncertainties awaiting you to discover. And the satisfaction of building up your own company is simply unmeasurable.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My First Post – Selamat Hari Raya

I had been contemplating about setting up a blog, for a long long time. I wanted to note down the thoughts, feelings and experiences during my venture into the uncharted waters of entrepreneurship. I wanted to share my experiences with other young and aspiring entrepreneurs-to-be. And thanked those who help me along the way, either intentionally or accidentally.

Well, blogging definitely is a new experience to me. And I do hope that I have the time and enough interest to update it regularly.

I guess that’s enough for a warm-up post. Wish all my fellow Singaporeans, Selamat Hari Raya!