Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Brian Chesky of AirBnB (2010)



  • Everyone is once powerless and obscure.
  • Press tactics: don't start with CNN, they won't cover you. Google for related keyword/news, find the bloggers who talks about it and email them. Then the local news will pickup from the bloggers, then the state news, then it's reach CNN. Got the 1st 800 listings.
  • When you have plenty of time, make cereals
  • PG interested because these guys won't die
  • Whatever you focus on, you get
  • Community marketplace for space
  • Rent airbed for events -> cover non-events -> rent rooms -> rent apartments -> rent any space (private island, tree-house, boat, castle for events, etc.)


  • Launch 1: Rent airbed from our apartment for an event (local hotels are sold out)
  • Launch 2: Airbed for conferences for all over the country, launch by SXSW
  • Launch 3: Stay with local while travelling (press tactics)
  • Launch 4: Making Cereals
  • Launch 5: Demo Day: YC (users -> profit)

Review: Ben Silbermann of Pinterest @ Startup School



  • Making things can take a long time (quit jobs 2 years ago - work on multiple projects, 4 months to launch, get 3000 accounts in 3 months)
  • Commitment to HAVE to make it work. You should just do it, or stop talking about it.
  • Ways investors says No: 
    • Call me back in a few months.
    • Who else is in?
    • There is NO way this will happen.
  • Lessons about investors:
    • Even rich people are subject to free cookie, investor are people too.
    • Hack the leverage: fear of losing the deal, the believe that the thing will be so big.
    • Don't take investors' advice as face value, they make mistakes too, judge for yourself.
  • Be great at 1 thing, the ONE thing worthy of people's time
  • Investors are subjects to the same bias and trends everyone else is reading on techcrunch and hacker news.
  • Convince investors through users who is their friends and wives.
  • A lot of different ways to succeed, not necessary following the trends; trust the user, data and your instinct
  • Build something you believe in, else you will definitely burn out
  • Don't give up: don't let others talk you out of your dream

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Empower the People (how to make money online)

When I first saw Google Adsense, it was like holly shit: everyone could make a living by serving advertisement (without the hassle of securing advertisers) on their blog and website, as long as they produce contents which interest people. It is no longer the privilege of magazines or newspapers or big media websites, and the cost of running is practically zero (blogger is free, singup for Google Adsense is free, only time is not quite free).

Now, everyone could make a living online by producing contents (e.g. write a blog about cars, pets, fashion, technology, etc.). Personally, I felt this is both liberating and empowering. One of the reason I really love Google is because they empower the commoners and small business owners, creating products where almost everyone could take advantage of to make a living (Adword, Youtube, Google App, Google Place for Business, etc.). Google made it possible, easy and free (most of the time); the only thing stopping you is yourself.

You probably need to be trained (and probably certified) for years to be an accountant, lawyer, doctor, engineer or programmer. If you do not have a formal education, you probably ended up in a low paying labor intensive job. Besides using the Internet, certain conventional industry allow everyone to make a better living without a high prerequisite: Insurance and Multi-Level Marketing (MLM). Almost everyone could be easily trained to be an Insurance agent within months, and many housewives successfully become a MLM agent (e.g. Amway) within weeks. Everyone could make a better living, as long as you could excel in sales.

Besides Google, there are plenty of options which empower to make a living online:

  • Etsy: Sell your DIY products online
  • eBay: Auction anything online. Check-out Lelong for Malaysia.
  • Youtube Partner Program: The more people view your video, the more money you make (it’s like Adsense for Video). Sadly not available in Malaysia yet.
  • Airbnb: Everyone could rent their empty apartment or room as holiday home. Check-out iBilik for Malaysia.
  • Fiverr: Sell your small service for a fee
  • TaskRabbit: Run an errant for others
  • HomeTuitionJob (Malaysia): be a home tutor

The question is: can you do well in one of the following?

You can choose not to work for others if you don’t like to, and you don’t need a lot of money to start making a living online. Nothing is easy, but it’s definitely very possible :)

PS: If you are passionate about your choice, you will be happier, satisfied and hopefully make a sustainable living, and definitely last longer (able to preservere).

Friday, October 12, 2012

PWNED: WebCamp KL Online Culture

I believe WebCamp KL is the most interesting and engaging tech group in Malaysia, I have no doubt about that (but there is always room for improvement). The community is smart, knowledgeable and helpful; but sometimes I felt something is missing there: humility and respect.


There are bound to be some influential people in a community (maybe it due to their charm, background or contribution), and they are usually the most vocal one as well. But with great power comes great responsibility, as they could “skew” the direction of the discussion.

Sometimes I am not sure people agreed with them because they are popular or cool (fan mentality, like following TechCrunch), but most of the time their comment garner more support (or likes) than a more insightful one posted by a loner. The discussion always go in favor of the most popular person, not necessary the most insightful one. As someone with such “power”, I hope they are aware that their actions are watched and followed closely by others, and I do hope they would put their power into good use.

IMHO: someone with authority who is at times pessimistic, yet people still cheers on his quality; someone felt the responsibility, thus being cautious in posting.

Pwning the Noob

On the other extreme of the spectrum is the noob, who always get pwned by someone with no humility, the mob, and sometimes the Authority.

“Who want help me build a social network with 5 million users” might sounds like noob request begging to be pwned, but every actions has it consequences. My wife told the about something she heard on the radio show, about a famous music producer refuse to be a judge on those TV singing contest, and he persuaded his fellow colleagues not to do it as well. His reasoning is: basically what the judges do are squashing people’s dream, or giving them false hope, which are cruel things to do. What makes you think you have the power to judge others and predict their fate?

We talk about passion and dream, yet we unconsciously eating people’s dream for lunch. Are we trying to role-play Simon Cowell or Donald Trump here? It might not be a smart or insightful question, but if possible, try to refrain from sarcasm or personal attack which bruises someone’s pride.

Ever wonder why only a handful of people are the most vocal on the community? All the newbies are so afraid to try to say something and get pwned (or already pwned).

Pretending to be pwning the Noob

There are always some fraction wars, like HTML5 vs. Native, PHP vs. Ruby/Python, and NoSql vs. RDBMS, which are legitimate questions with no clear winner, depending very much on who are the fan boy and use case.

I still remember I raised a light comment of HTML5 for games, then some people jump to the gun saying they HATE people like me for following the hype, claiming HTML5 is not for games. I can accept his argument, where traditional PC and Console games does require higher hardware capability (then again, I saw some FPS build on HTML5), and I agree developing game on HTML5 is pretty darn challenging; but think about casual games, and HTML5 provide no-install and play instantly (which are critical to higher play rate).

The dude saw an opportunity for pwning, and go straight for it. If someone of authority made the same statement, I doubt the dude will do the same. People are so eager to prove that they are right and more superior, that they are willing accuse someone else of being lesser in order to push their values and views into others, and claim victory (PWNED!).

Humility and Respect

I hope we can agree that most successful people are humble people (e.g. Robert Kwok), as they would not dare to say that they are right and others are wrong, and they usually brush off their success to some luck factor. I have no doubt Donald Trump is a smart and successful businessman, but do we want to learn from him as role model? Why not Warren Buffet?

I have no doubt a lot of people in WebCamp KL are smart, knowledgeable and probably successful; I do hope there is more humility and respect shown in the group. A humble person doesn’t point their finger at someone, and say that someone is wrong, underprivileged or deserved your pity. You can voice your different view in a general manner, but personal attack is not cool.

Most people would agreed they could respect someone with different political or technological views, but most of the times their actions speak otherwise.

Guidelines for commenting

Before you post your opinion, ask the following:

  • Are you being humble and respecting others’ view? (You are SO WRONG and you know shit!)
  • Are you noob pwning or pretending to be noob pwning? (DIE, you stupid minions)
  • Are you giving your personal views without hurting other people in the process, directly or indirectly? (I despise those people who believe in HTML5 hype)
  • When you click like, it is because it’s insightful or something you agree or you are just supporting your friend and authority? (try to show support for good stuff, not just the popular stuff)

Maybe it’s my fault 

Then again, I feel like I am the only one noticing the problem, so there are chances that there is nothing wrong with WebCamp KL Facebook Group, the problem is just me: am I too sensitive?

Maybe it because I am not the “Authority” voice (no charm and reputation), yet I like to be vocal at times (I have spent enough quiet days at school, it’s time to speak up). So I have been in the receiving end of what I would like to call “pretentious noob pwning” (I am a noob? NO!!! Haha). Sometimes I pity a newbie got noob-nuked by someone with no respect for others, and the worst case when the mob join in the fray; and the only thing I could do to salvage them is finding something likeable in their comment (hopefully there is one), and click like.

Sometimes, I do feel like refraining from posting anything anymore. The “cyber-bullying” phenomenon is not that serious yet, but I do hope it’s not going to get worse. If WebCamp KL is to be an elite club (natural progression), let it be the elite club with humility and respect, not ego and pwning (head hunter culture) as its core culture.

Use your judgement and power of likes wisely to upkeep the balance, and refrain from personal attack (directly or indirectly, intentional or unintentional).

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Which 20% to focus on?

20% of work produce 80% of the results
so how do we know which 20% to focus on?

When I first started Malaysia Most Wanted, the vision is pretty simple back then, to allow people to search for restaurants online (online restaurant data was pretty crappy by then). I need to focus on 2 things: data and search.

I build a basic platform (ala crowd-sourcing / user-generated content); try to put in as much restaurant data as possible, and make searching (or discovery) its first class citizen. I continue to maintain the system (not much new features) and feeding it with more data (either manually or through user submissions), and the website grow organically until one day I decided to put more effort into making it better.

I believe all these years I sort developed a MVP product (data + contribution system + search), where I jump to work on the following list of features for various reasons for the past 9 months:

  • Develop a better UI (the old UI does looks 1.0, and investors frown upon it): increase engagement but not traffic.
  • Redo main page from search-centric to discovery-centric (people don't know what they are looking for): feels good, lesser impact.
  • Browse for restaurants by Map (restaurants near you is the way to go, right?): still a fancy tool on website, maybe on mobile apps.
  • Browse for dishes by Photos (Pinterest and Foodspotting, yeah!): it's hard to be both Pinterest and Yelp.
  • Launch a newsletter and encourage user sign-in (the Groupon-way): people like newsletter? not much impact.
  • Launch promotions sections (Paid listing): everything on the Internet is FREE!
  • Establish constant contact with Restaurants Owner (the paymaster): sales is time intensive.
  • Frequents update on FB and Twitter (everyone is on social network, right?): maybe I don't know how to do it right, still learning.
  • Mobile App (everyone need a mobile apps, right?): mobile app adoption is costly and difficult
  • Grant application, Pitching session, TV Reality show, conference, etc. (Securing fund=success, right?): I realize I don't need tons of money to pull this off, thanks to Adsense.

None of these new things had produced significant result (web traffic) for the website. I think I diversified my goals into business model discovery and trying to pivot into social sharing, where I believe I should focus on one thing only at this stage: traction. I have limited resources in terms of time and skillsets (coding=good, growth hack=average, marketing/sale=bad), and I should align my resources (time + skillset) to accomplish my goal (traction).

Which 20% should I focus on?

I am a believer that content is king (+ search), followed by community engagement. Build lots of content, focus on search + discovery, and build a community (encourage them to contribute to the platform, like Wikipedia or StackOverflow).

Forget about business model (at this moment), just focus on building the most effective platform to search and discover restaurants, and painless and fun to contribute information. Everything else is secondary at this moment.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Review: The Lean Startup


  • Build, Measure, Learn
  • What is startup? Human institution designed to create something new, under condition of extreme uncertainty.
  • Startup = Experiment to creating a sustainable business
  • Entrepernuership = Management
  • The good entrepernuer doesn't have a better idea than a bad entrepenuer (equally ridiculous), the only different is they don't give up, neither do they preservere into studborness
  • Pivot = change is strategy, not a change in vision
  • Startup Runway = how many more opportunity to pivot before we run out; raise more money to extend the runway or get to the moment of pivoting sooner
  • Learning is used to justify failure; could you fasten the learning from 6 months to 1 months, or by testing the market with a smaller product or no product at all?
  • Innovation Accounting = MVP, weekly pivoting meeting
  • How do products grow? Are we creating value? What's in the MVP? Can we go faster?
  • Don't just listened to me as I am a failure, or I could be lying to you. A true entrepreneur don't take down notes at seminar like this and go back to implement them. What work for me might not work for you, and what work before might not work now. What I hope you would do is take bits and pieces of this scientific framework, experiment with it and tell me what you think.
  • Daily/Immediate release cycle drastically reduce deployment time due to smaller batch size
  • No penalty is releasing MVP early: either you get more customer feedback and promise them a better release, or they actually like the MVP more than the full product (Google search box vs Yahoo portal).
  • Manager's role is big corporation is to prevent innovation, and to continue working on proven methods; if you want innovation  you should employ someone with the job title "Entrepreneur" and put them in a subsidiary or something.
  • Focus on long-term benefits, as you can't do anything meaningful if you just focus on short-term profits.
  • If you are wondering about product-market fit, you don't have it; you launch with the press when you have good results to show (not just fancy product with probably ZERO customers)
  • Product is marketing; in a startup, there is no distinction or silos of department

Monday, October 01, 2012

Interesting: FAKEGRIMLOCK's Minimum Viable Personality

The world is full of boring products, don't make more!
Personality = Interesting = Care = Talk = Win!

3 Questions
1) How you change customer's life? (Superhero)
2) What you stand for? (Awesome)
3) What do you hate? (Boring)


Be On Fire!