Saturday, April 28, 2007

Talking about Fear

To an entrepreneur, there is always the fear of failure. Before venturing out, one would often ask:

“What if the venture doesn’t reap the benefits that I expected ?”
“How much time should I give myself ?”
“What should I do if the business fails ?”

It is very normal to fear about failure. From young, we had been taught to strive for the best. We are constantly being reminded that it is a very competitive world outside, starting from primary school level. As we grew older, the fear of failure became greater as we had contantly and subconsciously told ourselves that we might not have the time to pick ourselves up after failure. Life has become a never-ending marathon, and once we tripped ourselves, we may find ourselves lagging behind other runners. Far behind. And thus, the feeling of being an underachiever crept in.

We fear for failure because we are unable to accept the feeling of lagging behind others. We feel the obligation to satisfy certain social benchmarks set on us. We feel the need to have a decent pay package at certain age, a car at certain age, and a house at certain age. We feel the need to achieve a certain career status at a certain age. We become more focused on the rewards instead of the journey itself.

As a result, most of us choose to be risk averse and give up our dreams in exchange for a stable paycheck. Seldom have we asked ourselves, is this really the way we want to live our lifes? Is this really the only feasible way of living our lifes? We didn’t ask. Because we fear. Much like a worker ant that fears of taking an alternative path.

Fear is very common. I also have my fear, even now. I fear that my company would not be able to withstand tough competition in the future. Thus, I never stopped enhancing my existing products while thinking of new ones. I fear if one day my company collapsed, I would be left with nothing. Thus, I never stopped thinking of efficient ways to grow my company’s financial and intellectual assets while keeping my operational cost low. As such, fear might not necessarily be a bad thing. It keeps me from falling into my own comfort zone.

Having fear is normal. The closer you are to the reality, the more you feel the fear. There is no way to completely avoid the fear. You just have to overcome it. The important thing is, whether you are already an entrepreneur or aspired to be one, don’t let fear take away all your focus. As only when you look beyond the fear, you can see what you really want in your lifes.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Reasons stopping you from becoming an Entrepreneur

So, you want to set the world alight, you want to be in control of your own destiny, you want to earn more money and you want to be your own boss. But why are you not an entrepreneur yet? What’s the reasons that are stopping you from becoming an entrepreneur?

1. Lack of capital

For people doing retail or F&B businesses, a lot of upfront capital would be needed for the advanced rentals, renovations, equipments and furnitures. And not forgetting the operational costs which include the monthly rental, salaries, inventories and other advertising expenses. If you are doing capital intensive business, you would probably be facing the problem of lacking capital. One way to overcome is to start small, accumulate enough capital and then expand. Another way would be to find a few sleeping partners to chip in. There are always people who have tens/hundreds of thousands in their bank, wish to invest to earn some passive income, but do not wish to get their hands dirty. Whether you are able to persuade them that your business has high potential would be another question.

2. Heavy commitment

Some people have heavy commitment like cars, house installments, and kids. Well, the only thing I can say is, if you have the intention to be an entrepreneur, then try to manage your personal finance properly. Its like, if you are going for hiking, bring along only the necessities. Don’t stuff a television inside your backpack.

3. No business idea

You want to be an entrepreneur, but you do not know what you want to do? Then I think you’d better go and review why you wanna be an entrepreneur first. Chances are, you do not even know what you want.

4. No business partners

It is not easy to find like-minded business partners. Think about this: Would you still venture out if you can’t find a partner? If not, why? Because you do not have the required skillsets? Or because you are afraid of doing it alone?

There are diffent ways of overcoming this problem. Try to speak to more people, especially people who have experiences in startups.

5. Opportunity cost too high

Well, one of the reasons why many graduates are not venturing out is probably because of high opportunity costs. To give up high paying jobs to pursue a dream or passion that may not succeed seems to be a tall tale in this pragmatic society. Till date, I had sustained an opportunity cost of more than S$120,000. It would be quite demoralizing if you keep looking from this perspective. As I always said, if you really feel strongly about something, a S$1,000,000 opportunity cost is the same as a $10 one. To me, as long as the people around me don’t suffer (financially or emotionally) from my decision, opportunity cost shouldn’t be a stumbling stone.

6. Do not have the required skill sets

Don’t have the required skill sets? You just have to go and acquire it, or find someone who already has it.

At the end of the day, you either feel so strongly about something that you would go ahead at all cost, or you just don’t really have enough passions.

Have I left out anything? Yes, it’s the ultimate reason, FEAR. I will talk about it in my next post.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reasons for becoming an Entrepreneur

Ever since I started my venture, I had more chances to meet people from all walks of life. I realized quite a lot of people were sick of their jobs and wanted to be their own boss. And I also started to gather the different reasons they gave for wanting to be an entrepreneur. Below is a list of the reasons I gathered (some added by myself):

1. Want to earn more money
2. Frustrated with boss/company
3. Feel un-appreciated / under-recognized by company
4. Have a brilliant idea and want to implement it
5. Want to pursue your own dreams and passions
6. Want to be in control of your own destiny
7. Like the title “entrepreneur”
8. Want to try out your own idea of how a company should be run/managed
9. Want to change the world
10. Saw a business opportunity or a potential market
11. Want to experience being a boss
12. Want to seek new challenge
13. Feel stagnated or disillusioned in present job

Whether you are contemplating about becoming an entrepreneur, or you had already gotten your feet wet, it is always good to review why you wanted or had decided to become an entrepreneur. This is because when you are experiencing bad times, those same reasons can either keep you going or make you quit. My ex-partner K ventured out because of reason (1). After going through almost 1 year without salary, it was quite natural that K wanted to quit.

Another ex-colleague SL ventured out because of reasons (2) and (10). But soon after he quit the company, the business opportunity he saw disappeared and he was left with only reason (2). He didn’t manage to survive more than 5 months.

Another friend H also ventured out because of reasons (10) and (12). He saw a potential market in a particular sector, and he felt it was time to seek new challenge. From what I heard of, he doesn’t seem to be doing very well but he is still trying.

As for me, it’s a combination of (1), (3), (5), (8), (9) and (12). Out of those six reasons, I would say reason (5) is the main reason. And it is the same reason that keeps me going when I am experiencing bad times.

I will write about “Reasons stopping you from becoming an Entrepreneur” in my next post.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Still remember your very first time…..?

Do you still remember the first time you chat online with strangers ?

It was 1996 then. I was a first year undergraduate, enjoying my first vacation in my university life. I was coding my own home page hosted on Geocities. Back then, all the html and javascript codes were written line by line on Notepad, instead of using application like Frontpage.

I was searching the internet for some cute icons that I can steal reuse and put on my website. Back then, there was no google so I was using a number of search engines like Alta Vista, Lycos, etc simultaneously. And somehow, I navigated to a site called “Alamak Chat”, which was a web-based chat room. Feeling curious, I entered a nickname and logged on to it. Upon logging on, I saw a main screen with quite a number of users chatting. That was actually the first time I entered a chat room. I dared not to chat. I just sit down in front of my PC watching the online conversation on the main channel.

Then suddenly, I saw a small box (or a window? I can’t really remember the details) flashing on my screen, indicating that someone had issued a private chat with me. I opened the window and started my very first online chat with the stranger. The other party was a gal who was three years younger than me and just finished her A levels. We chatted for around an hour. And we continued to chat for the next few days, until she recommended me to use ICQ (I was very suaku then, don’t know what is ICQ), and from then on we switched over to ICQ.

After my new semester started, we continued to correspond via emails and ICQ. And eventually we agreed to meet each other during my one-week term break. We met near my school library because I was a kiasu student and was busy studying during the term break. She was a pretty and petite gal, and was rather quiet. I brought her around the campus, exchanged gifts and then had lunch at the nearby shopping mall.

From then on, we remained in contact regularly via email, phone or ICQ, and went out for movies and dinner quite frequently. We remained as very good friends, though I wasn’t very sure about my actual feelings towards her. Eventually, she went over to Germany for undergraduate studies when she was year two or three in NUS. And slowly, we lost contact with each other.

The last I heard, she was still in Germany. Or maybe she is back in Singapore, I don’t know. I hope she is doing well and living happily. We started as complete strangers, and would probably ended as strangers. But I just wish to say, at some point in my life, I really liked her even though I wasn’t very sure at that point of time. And, wish you a happy birthday and stay happy forever!


Friday, April 06, 2007

Visit to Phase Z.Ro Technopreneur Park

Went to meet a client somewhere around Dover yesterday. Upon going back, I decided to pop by the Phase Z.Ro Technopreneur Park located near Buona Vista MRT station. The technopreneur park is owned by JTC, and is said to be providing quality incubation space for technology entrepreneurs.

The techno park is actually made up of huge container-converted offices, with a total of two storeys for each container. The units come in 3 sizes: 27sqm, 54 sqm and 108 sqm. Each unit comes with individual aircon, lightings, carpeted flooring and broadband connectivity.

The rental are as follows:
27 sqm - $30/sqm (Net Rental rate) + $4.50/sqm (Service Charge) = $931.50 (Gross Rental per month)
54 sqm - $26.95/sqm (Net Rental rate) + $4.50/sqm (Service Charge) = $1698.30 (Gross Rental per month)
108 sqm - $23.05/sqm (Net Rental rate) + $4.50/sqm (Service Charge) = $2975.50 (Gross Rental per month)

Well, not all companies are “eligible” to apply. To apply for a space at Phase Z.Ro, the company should be:

  1. less than 3 years old
  2. have a turnover of less than S$1 million per year
  3. be involved in technology such as: Information Technology, Software Development, Telecom Technology, Application Service Providers, Internet Content Providers, Networking Technology, Wireless Technology, Technology related to B2C & B2B businesses, Peer-to-Peer technology or Distributed Computing Technology.

Alright, my company seems to be eligible, but I am not looking for an office space yet. Maybe next year, if everything goes well and I get to rope in a few more people, I may need to have an office space. But not now. So why am I visiting the techno park?

One of the reasons is I am quite curious of how this techno park looks and feels like. It claims to be an incubation techno park, and thus I actually expects it to have a vibrant kind of environment. I like the idea of having lots of young startups located within one techno park as it can provide a vibrant environment to stimulate interaction, innovation and creativity between like-minded technopreneurs.

But from what I see, there seemed to be quite a number of vacant office spaces, even though the whole park is not exactly that big. And most of the rest of the offices don’t have people around (Yes, I am a peeping tom). It doesn’t really fit my expectation of a “vibrant work environment for like-minded technopreneurs”. Or did I go at the wrong timing? Even their lobby is empty.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the rental rates.
27sqm (290sq ft) - $931.50
54sqm (580sq ft) - $1698.30
108sqm (1162sq ft) - $2975.50

I assumed the broadband connectivity is included in the rentals. But I highly suspect that the individual aircon bills is not included. Ok, let’s ignore the aircon bills and take the above as the gross rental.

I do not really know the rates now, but I know the rates 1-2 years ago as I was looking for office spaces back then. For small offices (200sq ft to 500sq ft), the rates should be between $2/sqft to $3.50/sqft, depending on locations. For larger offices (>1000sqft), the rates will be much lower, around $1.50/sqft.

So let’s say comparing to another office space of 300 sqft, at the rate of $2.50/sqft, the overall rental will be $750. Normally, this would include PUB bills and may or may not include aircon bills. To subscribe for business broadband unlimited, the cheapest rate offered by Singnet is $252/mth (promotional price will be much lower). So ultimately the gross rental plus broadband for a normal office space of 300sqft can be expected to be around $1000 or lower, which is roughly what Phase Z.Ro offers.

Now, let’s consider bigger offices (though startups normally don’t need large offices). For an office space of 1200sq ft, it is quite normal to get a rate of $1.50/sqft or even lower. Taking account a business broadband unlimited rate of $252/mth, the gross rental plus broadband for a normal office space of 1200sqft can be expected to be around $2050 or lower, which is much lower compared to what Phase Z.Ro offers.

This somehow baffles me. I actually expect an incubation techno park to offer a rate much lower than the outside market, since it has such a stringent eligibility criteria and it positions itself as an incubator. But from what I see, the price isn’t that competitive. This may be the reason why it is not attracting lots of technology startups to create a vibrant techno park environment.

We need to know that, not all startups can secure fundings from venture capitalists, and this is especially true in Singapore where many of the venture capitalists come from traditional business background and may not have the knowledge or familiarity to invest in high tech startups. Moreover, most startups will need to invest time and resources into R&D before it starts to collect revenue. Thus, from the view of a cash-strapped startup, the attractions of Phase Z.Ro isn’t that great, even though I personally would like to see such a incubation techno park to succeed.