Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Start Now. No funding needed

I still remember the days where I was so excited about the idea of government giving free money through Cradle, MDEC Pre-seed Fund and MOSTI fund; and I scramble to come up with some ideas and gather a team with lost touch friends. I tried three times over a period of 2 years, but I didn’t make it. On the surface, I did blame their “secrecy”, “biasness” and “incompetence”; yet perhaps I fail to write proposal which appeal to VC.

Start Now. No funding needed. from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.

Somehow, I decided that I could start something small without needing any funding; since I can't knock the idea off my head. I am a programmer, so I can absorb most of the development cost. I can do simple design and graphics, and I learn about SEO. By the way, I was trying to develop a property website. I took me about a few months to get the website running and feeding in data, and it didn’t quite take off.

The project was put in cold storage for about a year while I embark on something else, then I feel the urge to restart the whole thing again. I focus on food and restaurant this time, using a new framework. I made a few mistakes with the property website, where I develop my own framework (which was fun, but a nightmare to maintain). By using an open source framework, I can focus on developing features for the website rather than enhancing the framework. I put up some courage to employ people (burning my own money) to help me with the boring but important task, which is content building. I used to do it myself, but I felt it’s better to delegate these tasks to others, while I focus on enhancing the website’s features and performance.

Now, I have a monthly burning rate (paying others) and I am working for free (no income yet). But I feel it’s necessary to raise the stake in order to prove once and for all, either my idea will sink or swim with no regrets. I manage to break even after 12 months (discounting my own salary), and we are doing reasonably well after 4 years. Somehow, I started from a timid entrepreneur wannabe who are afraid to spend money to fund my own idea, and later it become natural to invest in my own idea. The good thing about spending our own money is that we run a very “lean” operation with no big overheads; I observe some well-funded competitors sank within a year or two (can’t keep up with the burn rate).

Recently I am tempted to aim for the ICON2 fund, why? Speed. The problem with a lean startup is that we are extremely careful and try to spend as little money as possible, thus the growth rate could be fairly slow. If I could at least double the expenditure, then I could shorten the time to build a successful product. At the same time, we have more luxury to experiment with various ideas, rather than doing things “safely” which hinder innovation and breakthrough. I think I had gain some maturity and success to move into second gear. Wish me luck!

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