The myth of the average consumer

The myth of the average consumer

Whether you are running a business or a marketing campaign, ideally, you would prefer to target as many people as possible. Since by definition, most people are average (yes you are), the largest target market is the average consumer.

But, who is the average consumer? How do they make decisions and what are their preferences? Let’s take a look from the consumer's perspective.

Successful entrepreneurs are great at capturing value

Successful entrepreneurs are great at capturing value

Most would say entrepreneurs are job creators. Businesses and companies they build, employ workers and drive the economy. You could also say entrepreneurs are value creators. Their ventures create and deliver value to their customers.

In my mind, an entrepreneur is someone who is exceptionally good at identifying gaps in the market, fills it and captures the resulting value of this exchange.

My toothbrush is better than yours

My toothbrush is better than yours

Even if your toothbrush is newer, cleaner, fancier, more colorful, electrically powered or emits ultrasonic wave, I still prefer mine. After all, why would I want to use someone else’s toothbrush. Yuck!

This is fine if we are just talking about toothbrushes but in reality, we have the same concept towards other peoples’ ideas. We tend to prefer ideas we came up with rather than those from others. This is known as the Not-Invented-Here bias or the Toothbrush Theory.

Culture and values you want in your company

Culture and values you want in your company

The single most important advice Peter Thiel (Co-founder of PayPal & Palantir) gave to Brian Chesky (CEO of AirBnB) after he invested $150M in the company was, “Don’t f**k up the culture”.

He didn’t say “Don’t waste the money” or “Don’t buy a Ferrari”. What he is implying is that you need a good culture to build a successful company. But what the heck is company culture?

An Unexpected Journey

This is an email written for my team to remind them of the principles that got us this far.

As we enter the year with new hope, determination and soon a brand new office together with probably the most awesome 6-man team ever assembled in KK, it might be the right time to recount how all this began. 

In a time not that long ago, in exactly the same place where we are working now, John and I were just 2 developers trying to build MVP for startups in the most agile way we know how. Once in a while, we would enlist help from Isaac the mercenary, especially when it comes to dealing with server related skirmishes. 

Deep down inside, we always wanted to build our "own thing". That killer product that we hope one day would put us on the map and life would be good. So over the years, we built all kind of products on the side. Some of them were useful, some not so but none of them was the "one".

One of these however lead us to a chance, an encounter with Lord Wu and Emperor V. It turns out not only did they like the product, they liked us too. Sharing the same vision of the Empire, we decided to embark on this adventure together. 

Our first quest was to bring Omvana's meditation technology to the desktop. Now, we are on our second quest, building Elula - a platform that allegedly cures cancer if we do it right. We even did a side quest where we explore the wonders of content delivery with Overmind. 

And along the way, we enlisted more members into our team beginning with Isaac, then the poster boy Duane to dramatically lower our team's average age. And recently, we are lucky enough to have 2 veterans (Edham & Joshua) join our ranks to bolster our firepower. 

Even more amazing is that we are now completing the construction of our new home base. John have been busy making sure it is built and equipped properly. This is serious stuff as the Empire is sending us the "wings" to officiate the base. We are no longer a band of mercenary on a quest. We are now a team representing the Empire on a mission. A mission to push humanity forward. 

I didn't titled this writing "The Unexpected Journey" because I believe this isn't the only one we are going to have. I'm very certain there are going to be many more. In fact, I'm writing this to ensure that we will, as long as we remember these principles:

You are here to serve

It's not enough to be professional and good at what you do. We must have the heart to serve and delight everyone we work with. Treat every interaction with your team and colleagues like how you would treat your customer. The customer service department serves the customer. We serve the Empire as a whole. Everyone in the Empire is our customer. 


Communicate ocassionally and intentionally 

More communication can identify problems early and keep things moving more efficiently. This is why daily standup meetings are so important. It keeps the team in sync and let us identify and remove blocks early. However, don't fall into the trap of over-communicating. This applies especially to managers. Make sure every communication has a purpose and is intentional. The last thing you want is to bog everyone down with endless meetings and constant disruptions. 


Constantly adapt and improve 

Since we are expecting the unexpected, we should learn to embrace change. Take every opportunity to learn and improve from it. Obviously not all changes are good but no change isn't good either. Remember to be agile and do continuous innovation on your processes and yourself. 


Bring out the best in others

Too often we attribute successes and achievements to a hero figure. The truth is, it takes a team of like-minded individuals working together to achieve world-changing results. Remember that we are all in this together. Encourage and help each other to do the best work of their lives. You win when everyone in the team wins.

After all these years, John and I may not have built that ellusive killer product yet. But maybe the product we are after is this awesome team that we have right now. In that case, we got more than we bargained for. I can only begin to imagine the things we can do together as a team. 

Having said that, let us begin the year with these principles to lead us into greater adventures ahead. May we adapt to change, communicate effectively, be ever-ready to serve and push each other towards awesomeness. 

Happy 2015 everyone.  

10 Actions Points to build your Minimum Viable Product

Andrew Warner of Mixergy interviewed KISSMetrics CEO, Hiten Shah on his experience launching products and some action points on how to create a minimum viable product to test your ideas. 

Here are the 10 Actions Points by Hiten:

  1. First write down your assumptions.
  2. Then survey and interview potential customers.
  3. Look for patterns in their responses.
  4. Build your Minimum Viable Product.
  5. Don’t worry about the ghetto launch.
  6. Look for early adopters who would accept flaws.
  7. Get feedback on your launch.
  8. Pivot, if you need to.
  9. Don’t worry about the competition.
  10. Discover your mistakes early.

Go to this page to grab a copy of the PDF containing the entire interview. Trust me, it's worth your time.

5 lessons for entrepreneurs

For those of you who are addicted to self-employment and solving problems to make a living, here are some interesting lessons and tips.

  1. Passion - We all know how important passion is as a driving force for anything you do. But your passion can also be your business greatest weapon. Jonathan Betz makes an interesting point where the founder's passion can make a huge difference.
  2. Find (and solve) problems that others have ignored - Quote from Intuit's co-founder Scott Cook in an interview about how they built Quicken and Quickbooks.  This should be obvious but it's worth reminding that unless your product solves a real problem, it's not a business.
  3. Test your idea first - It's very common for you to want to jump in and start working on your idea right away but you should test it out first. Test if there's a market and if anyone would pay for it. What Buffer app did to test their idea is something we should all learn from.
  4. Advertising isn't a business model for everyone - The idea of starting a site and slapping Google Adsense to make a quick buck sounds easy and attractive but it isn't viable for everyone. Advertising is only valuable when a user arrives at your site with an intent to buy/search for something. Read this post on how the position of your product/site in the customer's decision process makes a big difference. Ideally, you'll want to be first in the process like Google/Facebook/Twitter.
  5. Patient for growth, impatient for profit - Clayton Christensen said in his book, Innovator's Solution that there are good money and bad money. Businesses should become profitable before they become big. Raising money to grow and scale before finding a solid foundation for profit can be very dangerous. This is exactly what's happening with Groupon.
Personally, I've been trying to apply these lessons but hardest thing is to identify a problem that's worth solving. But when I do find it, I'm going to test it out by building a minimal viable product first.

Kung Fu Masters and Entrepreneurs

I'm a big fan of Kung Fu movies. Both the more realistic ones (Ip Man, Fearless) and those with supernatural powers like Storm Riders. (only the first!) Kung Fu Masters are basically the Asian version of superheroes. Like how we learned from Spiderman that with great power comes great responsibility, there's plenty of values and lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Kung Fu Masters.

  1. Motivation and Drive - It takes a lot to get up every morning and go through the same process over and over again. At some point, you are going to get bored hitting a wooden dummy but Kung Fu Masters never give up. They know that the path to success takes a lot of commitment and focus.
  2. Practice, practice, practice - Even after they master a technique, formed their own school and defeated the villain, Kung Fu Masters never stopped practicing. Practice is the only way to maintain your skill and focus. Life is a constant learning process and practicing is one way to learn.
  3. Many paths up the mountain - Kung Fu Masters understand that there aren't just one way to reach the summit of awesomeness. There are multiple routes you can take. Similarly, the journey to success for an entrepreneur isn't predefined in anyway. Part of entrepreneurship is to discover a whole new way to success.
  4. Experiment - It's always extremely cool when a Kung Fu Master reveals his new technique that will blow his enemies away. But how did he come up with it? He experimented! What do you think he was doing hiding inside a cave? Entrepreneurs should never stop trying and testing things to see what works. Eventually, you'll come up with your own special home-brewed technique to defeat your competitors.
  5. Calm & Wise - A Kung Fu Master is always calm and wise. They don't rush into things and always seem to have the wisdom to get everyone out of trouble. An entrepreneur is a leader for his/her employees. Similarly, an entrepreneur have to be a calm and collected figure for the employees and use his/her wisdom to guide the company. You don't have to be smarter than your employees but at least be smart enough to realize that.
  6. Everyone has a weakness - No matter how powerful a Kung Fu master is, there's always a weakness to exploit. An entrepreneur must realize that no matter how big or well-established a competitor is, there will be a weakness somewhere to take advantage of. Just remember that you too have a weakness.
  7. Marketing - A Kung Fu Master knows the importance of marketing. This is why they are so eager to show-off their strengths to others. You must however maintain a good reputation and standing among your peers. Make business not enemies.
  8. Disciples - When you are passionate about something, you'll want to share it with others. This is why Kung Fu Masters start schools/guilds and recruit disciples. Similarly, an entrepreneur must have the passion and willingness to share. You have to inspire others to follow your lead.
  9. Competition - This is a fact of life. There's always someone better out there but Kung Fu Masters use it as the drive to push the limits. Let the competition be your fuel for your journey.
  10. Lonely at the top - There are always sacrifices to be made in order to reach greater heights. Kung Fu Masters know that as you move up the ladder, things around you will change and people will start treating you differently. But no worries, there are 6 billion of us, so surely there will be a few great ones up there to welcome you.

This is by no means all that you can learn from Kung Fu Masters. I'm sure there are many more insights and teachings that can help you in your journey. Now where did I put my Ip Man DVD...

RPG and Entrepreneurism

My dad used to complain that I spend too much time gaming. But I always argue there's plenty of things to be learned from playing games. It turns out that if you play any RPG games like Diablo or D&D, you are learning important values and lessons to be an entrepreneur.

How you ask? Well let see what we can learn from the generic classes found in RPG games.

  • Tank: Take everything head-on and always be the first to get into action. As an entrepreneur you must be ever ready to lead the charge into the unknown. It's your job to protect those who decide to follow you on your adventure.
  • Rogue: Precision strikes. Execute with pin-point accuracy. Ideas are useless without execution and good execution can make a huge difference.
  • Wizard/Magician: Resourceful and knowledgable. To be an entrepreneur, you need to know more than just business or finance. You have to know a little of everything. You got to be able to do things that no one thought possible. You need to surprise people.
  • Healer: Realize that you can always recover from whatever that hurts you. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. The game doesn't end when you fail. Just resurrect and fight another day.
  • Bard: Ability to affect other people around you is crucial for an entrepreneur. Charisma is important if you want to inspire and recruit others to your cause. A bonus, if you can strike fear into the heart of your competitors.

So next time, if anyone complains about your gaming sessions, tell them you are preparing for your future business ventures.

After all, it pays to be well prepared and casting spells or slashing monsters are just too fun to resist. Just remember to actually do something after all that practice and preparation.