Category Archives: startups

Success and Failure in Startups

Some time ago, I was asked in an interview with SG Entrepreneurs:

What do you see as the three most important attributes for an entrepreneur?

My answer was:

First, I think an entrepreneur needs to dare to try. It takes a bit of a leap to go out and try to do something different, and you’ll never know if it’ll work out until you give it a go. So trying is the first step, and as easy as that sounds, it can sometimes be a huge psychological hurdle.

Second, and most people will say this too, is a healthy dose of self-belief and perseverance. A lot of people are going to tell you “no,” “don’t do it,” and “it’ll never work.” You’ll also go through rounds and rounds of disappointment as things don’t work out the way you hope. You’ll need to believe in yourself (and your team) a whole lot to get over them.

Finally, I think an entrepreneur needs to not be afraid of failure, because the odds are almost always stacked against you. But so what if you fail? Just pick yourself up, learn from it, and start over. I think one thing we’ve learnt is that it’s not that hard to start, and it’s not that painful to fail. It’s executing well that’s the difficult part, and that’s what you need to focus on the most.

I think not being afraid of failure is still incredibly important, and it’s what allows us to embark on a venture in the first place. But Jason Fried of 37signals presents a very interesting and relevant perspective to this idea:

What? Failure is part of the path to success? This industry’s obsession with failure has got to stop. I don’t know when it became cool or useful, but the industry has been steeping in it for so long that it’s become normal to assume failure comes before success.

Don’t be influenced by this. If you’re starting something new go into it believing it’s going to work. You don’t have to assume you’re doomed from the start. You shouldn’t believe your first idea won’t be your best one. And you definitely shouldn’t treat your first venture as a stepping stone towards something else. What you do now, what you do first, can be the thing you do well for as long as you want to.

Yes, starting a business is hard. And you certainly could fail. I’m not suggesting failure isn’t an option. I’m only suggesting that it shouldn’t be the assumed or default outcome. It doesn’t need to be. Have confidence in your ideas, in your vision, and in your business. Assume success, not failure.

From: http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/1643-failure-is-overrated-a-redux

Clearly, starting out thinking that you’re going to fail and that it’ll be a badge of honour to wear isn’t going to be very good for your startup. If you don’t believe in your startup, who else will? So how do we reconcile these perspectives?

Here’s my answer – I think not being afraid of failure is very different from assuming that you’re going to fail and treating it lightly. Before you start, it’s important to not be afraid of the possibility of failure, in order to get started at all. But once you start, a healthy dose of the fear of death is one of the things that will keep you doing everything necessary and possible to keep your startup from failing. Ultimately, that’s what we’re all aiming for – to not fail, that is, to succeed.

Which brings us to our other little recent insight:

Starting up is easy, knowing whether and when to quit is very hard.

Marketing on Facebook: Groups vs Pages

There’s a long-standing debate over whether Facebook Groups or Facebook Pages make better marketing tools for businesses. Technically speaking, Groups were meant for organisations, interest groups and groups of friends, i.e. groups of Facebook users, while Pages were meant for brands and businesses. But who ever used things as they were meant, eh?

Here are some pretty comprehensive comparisons between Groups and Pages:

Why facebook communities can work for your brand by Claudia Lim

What’s the difference between a facebook fan page and a facebook group

Facebook group vs facebook fan page – what’s better

With Facebook’s latest update to Pages, things get even more confusing, because now, Brand Pages are like User Profiles – brands can post twitter-like status updates on their Pages, and these status updates get broadcast on their fans’ newsfeeds (apparently). Although with the latest revision to the Facebook homepage, I’ve yet to see status updates from brands appear in the new twitter-like newsfeed.

So what’s a Facebook marketeer to do?

Well, as far as I can tell, it really comes down to these key differences:

Groups give you:

1. Viral invitations – your group members can invite their friends to join the group with the “invite people to join” link on the group page. This isn’t so for pages.

2. Openness of community – a group is really an open community around a particular interest area, in which the group members participate freely and help to create content for or add content to the group.

Pages give you:

1. Broadcast announcements – in the form of broadcasting your status updates to your fans’ newsfeeds (supposedly). So every time you have an announcement to make on your Facebook Page, all your fans get to know about it automatically.

2. Control over your presence – Page owners have more control over their Pages (like user profiles), deciding what apps to put on them and how they should appear. With Groups, you get the standard apps and the standard layout. A lot of the content on a Page is also focused on what you want to tell or show your fans.

I guess it depends on what you want to use your presence on Facebook for. If you want to create an inclusive community around your product, service or subject area, and let users contribute to the content of the community, then go with a Group. If you want more control over your presence on Facebook and use it to make regular announcements directly to users, then go with a Page.

But don’t forget that viral invitations (letting your group members invite their friends to join) can be quite powerful in growing a Group on Facebook, and there’s no easy way to enable that for a Page at the moment. So if you need to ramp up a community quickly, just start a group and ask your friends to invite their friends.

Finally, check out this link if you need to migrate your Group to a Page.

UPDATE: Oops! Looks like Facebook isn’t doing any more conversions from Groups to Pages. From Facebook’s Help page:

We’re no longer able to convert Facebook Groups into Pages. You’re welcome to create a Page and notify your Group members that you’ll be using the Page instead of the Group going forward. If your Group has too many members to send them a message, we unfortunately aren’t able to provide you with any other solutions for how you might contact them about this change.

Please check out our Facebook groups for Zinerepublic and Shoplette to see how we get on with them. And if you’d like to help us out, please invite your friends to join them too!

P.S.: Perhaps this calls for us to set up a Group and a Page as an experiment, and see which works out better.

Talk to us: Facebook Groups vs Page – What do you think?

The State of Entrepreneurship in Singapore

Occasionally I hear someone mention in passing that there just aren’t enough entrepreneurs in Singapore. That there aren’t enough people striking it out on their own and that the majority of people are looking for a highly-paid salaried job.

I’m really not so sure that’s true, especially if we look beyond our usual circles and stereotypes when we think of “entrepreneur”. Every food hawker, market stall owner, pasar malam (night bazaar) vendor and independent boutique owner in Singapore is an entrepreneur. Many hairstylists, fashion designers and retail shop owners are entrepreneurs. And then there are the wholesalers, delivery company owners and pre-school proprietors. It’s quite possible that we may have a more of such independent businesses than other countries where large and established brands (think Walmart, Target and Tesco’s) have dominated the competitive landscape.

So perhaps when we’re thinking about entrepreneurship, there’s a lot we can learn from the entrepreneurs around us, outside of the technology industry.

Talk to us: What do you think about the state of entrepreneurship in Singapore?

Priicr.com: An easier way to find cheap games

Our friends at Deepcalm have just released a test of Priicr, their brand new search engine for video games. It’s the best video game price comparison engine we’ve seen so far and we love the simplicity of its design. To the point: search for cheap games, save money.

It only searches UK game retailers at the moment, so lucky you if you’re in the United Kingdom. If not, please give it a spin anyway and let them know what you think.

Starting Up in a Recession

There’s been much talk about how small businesses are going to survive the current economic downturn (do we get to call it a recession yet?), and whether it’s such a good idea to start a startup right now. Investment funds may be drying up and that means it’s a terrible time to be raising funds.

But for startups that are self-funded and aren’t looking to raise a tonne of cash, the situation is a little different.

A self-funded startup has two key directives – keep costs low, and generate revenue as early as possible. This doesn’t change in good times or bad, because in either case, the founders aren’t getting paid until their startup makes money.

If a recession comes with deflation in prices (or generous retail discounts enticing consumers to spend) and sends overall prices down, the founders might actually find it a little easier to get by, as living expenses fall.

If a recession comes with unemployment or deflation in wages, the founders don’t feel it as much as the employed (or previously employed), because they were unemployed to begin with, and their job security is in their own hands. To some extent, the opportunity cost of striking it out on your own may be marginally lower with deflation in wages. And if the startup is looking for co-founders or new employees, what better time to look for good people when wage expectations are lower and people view “stable jobs” like banking with suspicion?

It’s not all roses, of course. If the startup is banking on advertising revenue, this may be harder to come by as brands may reduce their advertising and marketing budgets during the recession.

If the startup is selling a product or service that customers pay for, you’d have to look at whether customers are more or less likely to buy your product or service at a given price during bad times, or whether that demand elasticity remains unchanged. You might have to lower your prices, you might have to give more value, but that’s really the same for everyone in a competitive environment.

We don’t think it’s necessarily a good or bad thing to be a startup in a recession. If you really want to start a company (and you do really have to want to for it to work), chances are, you’ll do it anyway. In any case, growing a startup means looking at the conditions and adapting, regardless of the economic situation we might find ourselves in.

Here are a few more interesting articles about this topic:

Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy
Ask 37signals: Does “Getting Real” work in this economy?

Talk to us: Are you trying to start up right now? How do you view the current situation?