Saturday, April 23, 2011

Measurement of Happiness

Inspired by a TED video by Chip Conley's Measuring what makes life worthwhile, all of us are trying to achieve success. Most of us thought money shall bring us success, thus we are going for money. Is happiness a better indicator for success, after all we thought money could bring us happiness. Why are we pursuing money instead of happiness? Because happiness is hard to measure, difficult to grasp and quite illusive and intangible.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted - Albert Einstein

We have GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to measure the economic success of the country, since almost everyone is trying to make more money, why not. Did you forget the reason why we wanted to make more money? To achieve happiness, and to the fulfilled the lowest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is physiological and safety. Should we focus on our higher level need such as Love/belonging, Esteem and Self Actualization? How can we measure such needs? Through GNH (Gross National Happiness), to measure quality of life and social progress in a more holistic and psychological terms.

200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in the United States Declaration of Independence. 200 years later, GNH started in Bhutan, where the King has the wisdom to focus on his people’s welfare and happiness, rather than asking them to work harder and make more money (solving one problem but creating more problems). Bhutan’s goal is not to create happiness, but to create the condition that foster happiness.

Emotional Equation = Wanting what you have / Having what you want

Robert Kennedy, “GDP measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” GDP could calculate air pollution or destruction of forest (did it?), but it didn’t calculate the health of our children or the integrity of public official.

For company, rather than focus on employee’s tangible output, perhaps we should measure the intangible qualities as well. Is the extra sweet and polite receptionist appreciated for her contribution in making everyone who approach her happier? Is honesty and helpfulness in the workplace appreciated? Is staff who jell the team and make everyone cheerful important? Besides counting how much hours you clock in or how many work you completed, there are more intangible things to go around (and we probably need a reasonable metrics rather than based on subjectivity).

Is happiness something we have to pursuit? Or is happiness appreciating what we have. I know we still didn’t quite grasp “happiness”, and most of us seem to always go the wrong way, and knowing go that way. There must be something wrong with the world, the society and probably ourselves. What is wrong with our mind, are we not programmed to live a happy life, or are we corrupted by the dark forces of money.

We all know happiness is good, just that we are not heading the right direction. Last advice from Conley, we should start counting what is really important in our lives.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Echelon 2011 Kuala Lumpur: Startup Ideas

Echelon 2011 Kuala Lumpur is a short and meaningful event; allow me to catch a short glimpse about Malaysia’s startup arena, how to fair in the 5 minutes presentation and what are the common questions from the judges, and what a typical startup look like.

Basically most of the ideas are common buzz nowadays with no spectacular breakthrough, so it depends very much on how you present your idea, how you answer question from judges and how to execute the idea eventually. I think most of the founders are below 30 (2-5 people), some with some sort of financial backing. The usual questions from judges hover around monetization, one particular judge seems interested if you are working on your startup fulltime, and some give good insights into some specific problems. A lot of emphasis is on social and geo-location.

Wootfood by Alphapod is something like foodspotting, find good food through photos. I think food is very important and unique for Malaysian (that's why I develop MMW Food and Foodie Android App), and there should be a good app for it. Their app and idea seems decent enough (funded through the 150K MDEC Grant); but since it’s a UGC platform, how are they going to solve the no contents less users issue (chicken and egg)? Co-founder TJ seems to be a pretty alright entrepreneur having started Ninja Jones before, good at PR stuff.

31Storey by FLOChip is fashion e-commerce site. The sad thing is, they sent a not so proficient designer to present the startup, rather its YCombinator alumni co-founder Ong Teng Siong (perhaps they don’t need the money?). The initial strategy is to persuade the blogshop owners to use their service, by presenting pretty storefront full of product images. There are some opportunities in this space, but their proposal is not very compelling.

FongFeiKei by Motif Channel allows you to sell your ticket away when you can’t make it for the event, overcoming inefficient means through forum, twitter and classifieds. They are some grey area in terms of legality of selling second-hand “black market” tickets and authenticity issue; they are advised to target business instead of individual. They have a pretty good approach to target cinema with their unsold tickets especially during weekdays. At the end, it might end up like a Groupon-clone with a different focus.

FanXT is a fantasy sports platform, I think people buy credit to play these games (they are some avid fantasy players on the floor, the market should be there). Most fantasy sports target US-based sports, so they target International sports like F1, World Cup, Tennis, etc. The judges question the legality of using famous players name in their product without licensing; and the need to buy player’s stats from 3rd party to make the game more realistic.

Second CRM by Soft Solvers Solutions is on demand / cloud / SAAS CRM solution, something like, only cheaper and simpler to use. The approach is “traditional” but I think is solid enough with some potential, but the only problem is Malaysian’s awareness of the need of CRM, even though it’s for free (no time to evaluate). So they need to target medium sized company, and do a lot of awareness workshop.

Tikam by CellKast Games, allow you to get random prizes. You get a fixed number of chances by logging in, or you can buy more chances. They guarantee the prizes will be worth more than the money you put in, by getting deals from sponsors. There is one viral element here: when you win something which you don’t like (winning a Carlsberg but you don’t drink), you can send it as a gift to your friend through Facebook wall posting, and probably you get some credit for sending as a gift as well. Grey area of it might be considered as gambling.

Posttude (sounds like Prostitute), to replace postcode and solve problem of areas without address. Why not use GPS lat/lng? GPS is a specific point, where posttude is an area, broken is 5-4-4 digit. The first 5 digit represent a bigger area (like a country), which can be zoomed in a smaller area (like a state), and the last 4 digit to target the exact location. You can extend the code further to cater for floors or specific unit (private implementation). Supposing you can buy your own name as address like tinyurl (URL shortening and redirection service), for example ###desmond as my address (the downside is need Internet as lookup, can’t be done offline). The question is how to encourage massive adoption and change human behavior? The presenter is an old dude with an attitude, with pretty catchy presentation.

Feed George is a location-based services, show you nearby messages, photos, restaurants, property, etc (something like my prototype, lamb). It won the people’s choice award, so it’s clear people do want more location-based services. I think the expectation is high, but the delivery might be disappointing (the same applies to my idea as well). Location-based twitter are not very useful most of the time, with chatting going on rather than relaying useful information to the general public (a better filter perhaps). Flickr photos might be nice to look at, but it gets bored easily. Foursquare places contains a lot error, and listing places is not enough (we need better review and evaluation how good is this place, what is highly recommended, etc). To deliver better location-based services, perhaps we should think of how to create good quality data, and more local contents.

WorkCrowd by AdExcel Online Networks offers Facebook-clone for the workplace, so that you can separate colleagues from friends, and also as an Intranet platform to increase workplace understanding and knowledge sharing with a social twist (badges), something Intranet forum and wiki failed to deliver over the decade. The app seems pretty solid, thanks to their existing funding and bigger team. Can social element really encourage office participation? Maybe, but certainly a leap forward than existing solutions. You own corporate Facebook? Sounds good to the CEO, maybe not to the works; good news is the CEO who pays the bills :)

MobileApps is an app store with the selling point of giving 95% cut to developer and accept wider payment than the current pitiful Android Market’s Google Checkout. I guess they try to win it through marketing, but I don’t think the proposition is compelling (it will get harder to compete with Android Market eventually).

My pick for the day is WorkCrowd (due to their solid product and potential corporate adoption, disclosure: the CTO is my ex-colleague) and FongFeiKei (nice twist e-commerce and deals, or I ran out of choices).

Friday, April 15, 2011

There are no better times to be an Entrepreneur

I truly believe this is the golden age of entrepreneurship. There are plenty of business ideas which we can work on with require little or no money at all to startup (launch an online shop, blog, book, music, game, etc), and “online marketing” (blog, twitter, facebook, Adsense, viral video, etc) had provide alternative to conventional marketing which usually cost an arm and leg. Now we have Internet as the global platform, and the cost of hardware and services are fairly affordable to individuals. It is very possible to start business on a part time or full time basis, which you could choose to work alone, with little or no money, with plenty of helpful books and websites, and all it requires is an idea which you like and passion to persist.

Not that long ago, Eric Sink coined the word Micro ISV (Independent Software Vendor), meaning you could start a software company with one or a few person, and still able to make good products which make good money.

Lately, we have the Micro Entrepreneur, teaching you how to start a successful business as a lone ranger.

Why suddenly we are going from Macro to Micro? Though many of us aspire to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but vision of being Microsoft or Apple is too far for most of us. Most of us even have problem with a starting capital of $100K, and probably still like to keep our full time job while we venture out. I guess not all of us are big time entrepreneur who goes for the millions winning all or nothing risk takers. We like a small business because it’s easier to manage, we would still like to maintain our freedom and we are satisfied of making just enough money for a comfortable living, and it’s much more satisfying than employment. I guess it's a lifestyle choice, haha.

If you are dissatisfied with your current job, it’s time to tinkle with the idea of starting a business on a part time basis, and things shall move on from there. Every dream requires the first baby step, so start something in the next 24 hours.

Friday, April 01, 2011

To the Brave People of Japanese Tsunami

Realizing the Japanese Tsunami taken more than 10,000 lives with 10,000 more gone missing; and the brave fireman and technician who are trying to solve the nuclear crisis, knowing very well that they might never get to go home again. It’s one thing to have our life taken away by disaster, but we must give our tribute and respect to those who willing sacrifice themselves to save the life of others.

If possible, please donate through Google Crisis Response for 2011 Japan Crisis.