Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who am I, again

A man plays many roles, as a son, a husband, an entrepreneur, and a citizen of earth and my country. The question on my mind is what I had become and what I want to become.

When I was young, most of it is about study and school life. Then came the moment to decide what discipline to study at college. Somehow I was influenced by In-Tech and Computimes, and is choosing between Engineering (Lego influence) and Computer Science; and I choose computer science because it requires less money to startup my own company (rather than the millions requires to setup my own factory). Why I wanted to start my own company? Perhaps it’s because I wanted to be like Bill Gates, or perhaps it’s the words of my brother that we need to be an entrepreneur in order to succeed (he didn’t became an entrepreneur as of this moment). That’s how I tie my fate with software.

College years are an eye opener for me, as I finally feels that the thing I learned are useful as in applicable in real life (I have no idea what the science and mathematics subjects are for during my secondary school years). It’s fun, and it’s quite easy. I am actually quite motivated to work on projects, and exam are a piece of cake (as compared to STPM, maybe the scope is smaller or other students are less competitive).

Though programming is fun and all that (at one point, I do find programming troublesome and wanted to become a system administrator because it’s easier), but I am still a techie but not entrepreneur-ing yet. I work on R&D projects (I learned that I am not good enough for scientific research, just pure programming skill) and C++ patterns which is really fun, inspired by people like Mun Wai and Andrew Keith. I am good, perhaps not really talented, but I found my own space and my own world, and I am happy and comfortable with it.

My entrepreneur-ing started when Kwang Yee asked me to join him to develop some insurance software for Pocket PC. Somehow I really like the idea and jump ship without giving much thought into it, as I am just too excited. Soon reality kicks in as I am thrown into deep sea and expected to do sales (I thought I just need to handle programming), and I realized we didn’t ironed out a lot of partnership detail and I am in for a lot of shock due to different expectations. Perhaps both of us are immature in a certain sense, as he is street smart while I am just a techie good with programming; I can’t be him.

Anyway, this failed entrepreneurial spark the opportunity for me to do freelance programming for a while, and I landed another job developing business application (out of my R&D forte). I learned the business part of software development and project management, while still continue with part-time freelancing. A few years down the road as the company is not doing well with little challenges left for me, I came out with the idea churning property statistic out of classified advertising. It took me almost a year to develop the website to cover new property launches (not my original idea, but this will serve as the platform to attract visitor who are interested in property) while I continue freelancing to cover the bills.

Somehow my Endeavour is not very fruitful, and Mun Wai asked me to partner up with a few guys to start a software company. At first it’s quite promising (with a few problems), but we still have to part our ways due to different expectations and commitments after a year. We did have revenue of about RM 100K, an office, MSC-status and a staff, superb! I did learn a few things about software startup here, which changed my mind of wanting to do a startup. I decided I wanted something mobile and lightweight, as a conventional software house is too heavy with the physical office maintenance with staffing issues, running cost and the continuous need to seek business, and also issues between partners.

My last software startup serve as a wakeup call and made me realize what I wanted to do, that I am running out of time as well. My freelance business pickup up, and my web application on food and property is doing really well. I found that I can create a business which does not require high capital, does not require permanent on-site staff with high maintenance, does not require an office with running cost, does not need to seek for more clients and offers me great mobility with recurring income. It’s almost a perfect paradise, and I had the correct skill set and experience to make it workable, and I am comfortable with the profit level. It just requires some hard work and innovation for a few years to build the platform; and it could set me free to retire by yachting into the Caribbean seas. Perhaps not so perfect, but it’s the best plan for me so far.

For the past few years, I received a few invitations for partnership from other entrepreneurs, to work together on some new idea, or to contribute to their business, or to create a software startup (to move beyond freelancing). Somehow I no longer feel excited, due to a few reasons.
  • Developing software for the sake of money is boring. Software Development need to be fun in order to last (perhaps I am too pampered with choices)
  • Partnership is like marriage, and it’s not easy to find someone compatible. At this stage, I would prefer a “best friend” or “girlfriend” in business, not a “wife”. Partnership is a sticky business; it’s not something I am willing to jump straight into it. I prefer natural progression, step by step; we need to work together for a while before we talk about marriage.
  • I had extra baggage with me, which are my freelance business and web applications. I am not willing to stop them or bring them into the new venture; because it’s extremely tricky when we have to split.
Perhaps I had been a lone ranger for too long, or perhaps I had mastered the way to survived as a lone ranger; or perhaps I had found my ideal business. I no longer dreams of making millions per annum in a software company with 100 strong staff, where I need to exchange money with lots of hard work and loss of freedom. Perhaps I really know what I wanted to do, for now. Can I withstand the temptation of money? Or am I too lazy to work too hard? Or I am afraid of commitment into a business partnership without courtship? Perhaps it’s a bit of everything :)

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