My 10 Year Start-Up Journey — Lessons & Honest Reflections
Earlier this year, on 9 July 2019, I turned 29.
10 years ago, I was a bright-eyed 19 year old who just started his entrepreneurial journey.
I came back from Singapore — I was studying there on ASEAN scholarship — because I was inspired by the power of entrepreneurship & wanted to help Malaysia fulfil its full potential.
Inspired By The Power Of Entrepreneurship To Change Malaysia
If Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates were Malaysian, their personal wealth alone could help educate our electorate in rural areas & kampungs — especially Sabah & Sarawak — so we can all make well-informed decisions, vote in a capable government based on sound policies & truly progress together as a nation.
So I thought, let’s do that!
Let’s solve a global problem, build a 100 billion dollar startup a go from there!
You can read more about my full journey in this collection of stories here.
My Impossible Grand Plan To Help Malaysia Fulfill Its Full Potential, Or Is It?
ASEAN’s Ecosystem Is Not Ready To Support The Next Facebook Or Google
Over the years, I’ve been through a lot, learnt many painful lessons and have realised a couple of hard truths about our start-up ecosystem that’s preventing the next Facebook or Google from ever having a chance of getting built in Malaysia.
Google & Facebook Would Have Died If They Started In Malaysia
Simply put, if Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page and Sergey Brin were Malaysians, Facebook and Google would have died long before it even got a chance to get started, simply because as our current ecosystem is right now, no one would have understood what they were trying to build and no one would have funded them.
I have always believed in working hard on executing and letting results speak for itself. There is no need to complain, whine or talk a big talk; just do, deliver and everything will fall into place. I still believe that today.
Our Ecosystem is JUST NOT READY To Support Truly Innovative Start-Ups
However, after trying almost everything I can possibly try for the past 10 years, I’ve come to the realisation that there is something fundamentally wrong with our startup ecosystem, where a significant number of people in positions to allocate resources don’t really have the right mindset or knowledge to do so, which is preventing truly innovative and world-changing startups from ever getting built in Malaysia.
Worse still, some are doing it in a harmful way that would destroy a startup before it even started. That is very sad and frustrating, because so much talent and potential is wasted.
What’s Stopping ASEAN From Having A 100 Billion USD Tech Company?
The Reason I Am Sharing My Story
I also want to clarify that the purpose of me sharing my 10 year journey here is not to put the blame on anyone or anything, because there is a reason for why our ecosystem isn’t ready to support world-changing zero to one startups.
I Am Not Trying To Blame Anyone — Our Ecosystem Is Young
Our ecosystem is, after all, still a very young one; one where no one has ever built a world-changing global company worth more than 100 billion USD.
At least not yet, and I understand that.
**the best we have today are regional champions or regional hyper-localised copycats
**there is nothing wrong with that, I am very proud of them, it’s just that they are a totally different breed from world-changing companies like Google or Facebook & take a very different path
I am sharing my personal journey here because:
ONE — So A 19 Year Old Aspiring Entrepreneur Today Would Know
I want a 19 year old aspiring entrepreneur today — in 2019 — like me 10 years ago — to know what he or she is really getting into. That if they wanted to build a truly innovative world-changing zero to one startup like Google or Facebook; as it is right now, it is IMPOSSIBLE to do so from Malaysia — unless I succeed and help you.
I hope my pitfalls, lessons and insider’s overview of our ecosystem can help a 19 year old aspiring entrepreneur like I was before avoid painful mistakes when starting whatever venture they may be thinking of starting and save him or her years of his or her life, plenty of money and the risk of falling into depression like I did.
I hope my story can help a young aspiring entrepreneur today better navigate the startup world and increase their chances of finding success.
TWO — Spark Positive Change In Our Ecosystem
Spark a positive change & paradigm shift in thinking among VCs, investors, fellow startups, the general public and the ecosystem to better understand how Venture Capital & a supportive ecosystem is supposed to work and be more accepting of truly innovative ideas — that are by default much riskier & would sound over-ambitious to a conservative ecosystem like ours — that could truly change the world and become 100 billion USD global companies that everyone in the world uses daily.
Hopefully, convince some VCs who are engaging in damaging practices to change their ways for the better instead of unknowingly doing harm to the ecosystem.
THREE — A Plea For Help
Let out a sincere plea for help hoping that enough people reading this might be persuaded enough to take a wild bet and give what could potentially be Malaysia’s first 100 billion USD start-up a chance by supporting us in any of the following ways:
For Everyone Reading This — Help Spread The Word
- Spread this story so more people will know about it
- Download our app and share it with your friends
- Tolerate the many bugs that we have on our app — for now — because we are still just an underfunded 2-man team frantically trying to fix existing bugs while adding crucial features
- Give us constructive feedback we can improve on in due time, with sufficient time and resources — we have very little of both now — rather than 1 star ratings on the play store
- *Read* Please give us 5 stars although you think our app sucks haha. Thanks so much!
If You’re An Investor — Take A Wild Bet On Us
- Take a wild bet on us
*or at least hear us out with an open mind
- This is your chance as a VC to invest in the first ASEAN start-up that could become as big as Google or Facebook — that’s at least a 100 billion USD company — that everyone uses daily
- I am not joking, we are building something that everyone in the world would use every single day to meet all their romantic needs, from finding the right partner when you’re single to where should you have tea/brunch when you are dating or married
- We will be the main lead generator for all things romance — the entire Valentines Day industry, gift-giving, vacations, staycations, gifts, family planning, dining, couple activities, movies, concerts, you name it, there is always a romance angle to that
- If you’re still not convinced that that untapped market is worth north of 100 billion USD, something is very very wrong with you
- You will also be helping everyone in this world find true love and meet their right life partners using data and a set of comprehensive relationship building tools
- You will be helping to reduce the number of heartbreaks, broken families, divorces and people who are stuck with the wrong person — a living hell — for life
- You can truly help make the world a more loving and happy place by investing in us
- Let’s talk more. You can reach me at email@example.com
- LinkedIn is fine too.
If You Represent A Brand, Venue, Restaurant, Building Or Community — WORK WITH US To Build Your Community & Engage Your Customers/Users
- We have a feature where users can just scan a QR code or click on a link to meet other people who also like the same product, share the same interest or visit the same restaurant frequently.
- (E.g. Meet other people who also like Starbucks/Harry Potter/Cornetto Ice-Cream Etc)
- Work with us so we can help introduce people who love your brand/product/venue to each other and build engaging communities around them for everyone’s benefit
The Risk I Am Taking By Sharing What I Know
Everything I am about to share with you about the ecosystem is true.
However, I’m afraid that some people might get offended by the truth.
Founder Stories That No One Talks About
Unfortunately, there are certain horror stories that only founders would share amongst each other.
In fact, I suspect that doesn’t happen nearly enough in Southeast Asia where founders tend to keep things to themselves unless someone opens up first or asks them about it.
Repercussions From VCs & The Community
Generally, founders would never dare to voice out about such issues for fear of the possible repercussions, like getting blacklisted by VCs — I know it happens, the community and the risk of never getting funded by anyone ever again — essentially getting their reputation destroyed & wiped off the ecosystem.
Knowing that such grave consequences might await me, I still feel that there is a need to bring such issues to light in order for us to improve together as an ecosystem so more innovative start-ups from ASEAN can have a chance of succeeding.
*because as the ecosystem is right now, it will never happen
I figured, whoever feels offended or blacklists me are not the right investors or partners for me anyway. On the other hand, those who find sense in what I am about to share & are willing to listen or explore more might just be the right investors or partners that I have been searching high and low for over the past decade.
Trying To Start A Spark For Positive Change
Having said that, I do not wish to start any legal battles or point fingers at anyone for that is totally pointless and does nothing to improve the ecosystem. What I am aiming for here is the realisation of the truth and a spark towards positive change.
I Will Not Name Names, But Will Describe Stories In Detail
Therefore, in my stories, I will not name any names, but will only describe each story in detail, so anyone who receives a similar term sheet or gets stuck in the same situation would know who I am talking about and can make a better informed decision moving forward that best safeguards the future of your start-up.
Siapa makan cili, dia rasa pedas lah kan.
A Summary Of My 10 Year Story
To save you time, here’s a point form run-through of my 10 year story.
Feel free to skip to the part about the lessons learnt below.
2009–2012 — Getting Inspired + Getting Started
- Got inspired by the power of entrepreneurship
- Completed 6 years of ASEAN scholarship (till A Levels)
- Came back to Malaysia, wanted to help Malaysia fulfil its full potential
- (our problem is really a rural-urban divide, still is even with the new government)
- Ageing parents (70 & 60) — they are now 80 and 70
- I am the only child, wanted to spend more time with them
- Started my legal education because law is easy for me.
My First Start-Up — First Time Raising Funds — First Co-Founder — 19 Years Old
- Knew nothing about entrepreneurship
- Went for all the free seminars and conferences, bought as many speakers & CEOs coffee, asked for advice as a 19 year old aspiring entrepreneur
- Found a few mentors
- Found out about a start-up competition
- Needed co-founder to participate, knew nobody, reached out to primary school friends
- Got introduced to co-founder via primary school friend
- Learnt about business models, executive summaries & how to pitch
- Raised RM25,000 in pre-seed money
- Built a pilot project, a market research company called TryThisOut! (gamified sampling & surveys in universities)
- Was best performing team in 4 months, won competition, won another RM20,000
- Continued on to build the business.
Find A Co-Founder Who Complements You — People Might Not Always Mean What They Say
- Learnt my first lesson on choosing the right co-founder
- Will be writing more about that in a separate story — so stay tuned!
- Pivoted to a video based role-playing market research software
- (watch a video, character goes to a party, video pauses, Coke and Pepsi on the table, user makes choice, continue on with story, story differs with different choices made, gather user’s choices & preferences, something like Netfilx’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch)
- Klarssen, Whisperto.us, made money, but not much
- Realised Malaysian FMCGs are only interested in advertising — how much can you sell, market research usually conducted at APAC level in SG or HK, big contract with IDC or Nielsen, what we are getting are only small contract or sub-contracts, could become a RM10–20 million company if I continued working at it, but it’s not the kind of business I want to build
- Returned money to investors with an interest, thanked them for believing in me from the start, told them about our journey, the pivots and the decision behind winding the start-up down
2013 — Limited Time — I Only Want To Start Start-Ups That Can Change The World — Allstars Accelerator Program By Cradle & Proficeo
- Was making money from investment planning (for company directors) and the stock market rebound after the 2008 crash (made half of the bull run)
- With the help of some capital earned from the first start-up
- Built up my network, not just in the start-up scene but also the conventional business scene.
- Found out what kind of start-ups can become 100 Billion USD companies
5 Things Multi-Billion US Dollar Companies Like Facebook & Google Have In Common
- Realised that it was either education or dating
- Pitched E-Class Asia, an education search engine, got into Allstars — Malaysia’s version of Techstars/Y-Combinator, was the top few, pitched to industry leaders on Demo Day
- One of the top tech entrepreneurs in Malaysia wanted to invest, but felt they were too conservative and preferred to come in later
- Was doing my CLP (Certificate in Legal Practice), realised education has a lot of red tape and it costs a lot to produce the video content needed, and dating is more direct and relevant to me at that time, hence did not take the investment and used my own money to solve dating
This prototype brought to you by InVisionAppinvis.io
- Started We Could Happen, completed mock-ups, user testing, engaged developers with more than 10 years of experience, shot short film and promo materials
- Tap on the link above to take a look at an early hi-fidelity mock-up
2014–2015 — We Could Happen — The Truth About Development Firms In Malaysia
- Software developers couldn’t deliver, what was supposed to be a 3–4 month MVP became a 1 year plus project and the app still crashed on signup
- Decided to just launch it to see what happens
- Had 500 signups in the first 2 days, with an extended network of close to 600,000 users, app crashed on signup, directed them to a Facebook page for our relaunch in the future, grew by 100 people per day till around 16k — on hindsight, should have collected emails instead since you will have to pay Facebook to reach those users again.
Watch Vanessa’s Perspective | We Could Happen Short Film
- There is demand for an app like that, marketing materials worked, Youtube videos had more than 100k views, but the app din’t work
Watch John’s Perspective | We Could Happen Short Film
- One of the main features of the app back then was exactly the same as the Secret Crush feature Facebook just launched in 2019
Facebook Wants To Connect You With Your ‘Secret Crush’
- I have been saying that Facebook should have that feature + an “interested to date” button once you are friends since 2013
- If you ask me, Facebook did a horrible job with the feature given the resources they have.
- There is so much more to be done!
MaGIC — Brought Ecosystem Together — Realised I Am A Different Kind Of Entrepreneur
- MaGIC just started, it did a great thing by bringing the ecosystem together, and bringing talent from silicon valley to share their stories with us
- However, although it brought more start-up founders together, I realised that they are still very different from the kind of founder I am, most of them are just looking to move their offline businesses online, start an e-commerce site or copy something that worked overseas to this region
- That’s great, but the route and challenges you would face are totally different if you’re trying to build a start-up that would really change the world
Depressed — Am I Really That Lousy? — What Was I Doing Wrong?
- Wondered what I was doing wrongly
- Am I really that lousy?
- Talked to a lot of founders & pioneers from the 1997–2001 tech boom
- Had heart to heart talks with my mentors
- Talked to early employees in more successful start-ups
Feeling Hopeless & Powerless For Being Right But Unable To Do Anything About It
- Found out from tech pioneers who were technical that I was right and my developers din’t know what they were doing
- Realised that most dev houses in Malaysia are quite shitty
- It almost seems like 80% are semi con-jobs
- Most will promise you anything, try to get a 50% deposit instead of milestone based compensation (which should be the right way, or hourly if you know what you are doing), deliver sub-par work, and expect you to just give up on the project. It almost seems like they are just happy with conning each client of the 50%.
The Problem Of CS (Computer Science) Graduates Who Can’t Code
- Cried uncontrollably on the way back from MaGIC
- Because while MaGIC brought entrepreneurs together and built more support, I realised that I was still alone in the kind of start-up I was trying to build
- It was also frustrating to know that you were right about the tech and the developers you hired were wrong, and the fact that most developers were not good enough
- You understood the tech and how to build it, but just din’t know the language/code to build it yourself because you din’t know a programming language to code it out
Earn The Money & Hire The Best To Build It — Do Whatever It Takes
- Maybe I did not hire the best
- Found out who and where the best software engineers & dev houses in Malaysia were
- Went to them for quotes
- They are super-duper expensive
- RM60k just for a basic app that a user can login with, and that’s just iOS
- Double the price, another RM60k for the same app on android
- Plus all the other features for Wowwwz to work, it starts with at least RM300k for just a very very basic version of Wowwwz that might not be able to fully carry out its purpose
- To continue building it out would cost well into the millions
The Truth Behind Certain Successful Start-Ups — Privilege Is A Very Real Thing
- Talked to one of the early engineers in one of ASEAN’s most successful start-ups
- Wanted to know how he did it since he was not technical too
I Was Not Alone In Making The Same Mistakes — Others Lost Much More
- Found out that the founder too lost hundreds of thousands to developers from India who gave them unusable code
- That founder burnt hundreds of thousands down the drain — more than a decent house
- I lost money there too, but not as much as them, because I din’t have that much to lose to begin with
- I don’t come from a wealthy family, I had to earn every penny myself
But I Don’t Have That Kind Of Money To Do What They Did — Privilege Is Real
- They invested close to 10 million USD of their own money to get it to a certain stage before outside funding came in, the rest was numbers and history
- Learnt that the true story is often not what is reported in the media, the reports are also true, but in a small isolated context, it’s often very far from the truth and the full picture
- To get the true story, you need to corroborate all the different accounts from founders themselves, media, early employees, facts and milestone figures that you can find, and the versions that only people very close to the founders would know
I Don’t Have 10 Million USD Of Family Money To Do What They Did
- They decided to only hire the best engineers
- Built out an in-house engineering team
- A back-end engineering team, a Java team for Android and outsourced the iOS front end to one of Malaysia’s best dev houses
- That’s not including having to hire out a great marketing and operations team from the best consulting firms in Malaysia
- That’s why they had to invest close to 10 million USD of their own money
- They were taking a pay cut, but they were still highly paid individuals.
*I am not going to say who they are, because a lot of people told me what they knew in confidence, but if you corroborate everyone’s account, together with public documents, public milestones and the various accounts of what happened, you’ll get a better idea of the full picture, but you’ll have to talk to me in person to find out more and corroborate everything for yourself.
Hiring Dev Houses Is Unsustainable — Each Iteration Will Cost Me A Fortune
- I was planning to hire the dev house they hired
- Because I heard they built the first version of their app
- Then I found out that they only built the iOS front-end for the first version of their app
- And that was already very expensive
- I would still have to build my own team for the back-end and for the Android app or pay them double for that
- I thought that the dev house built the entire first version of their app, I was wrong
- Realised that it is not sustainable for me to fund this myself
- My original plan was to earn the hundreds of thousands myself and hire the best dev houses to build the app
- I could earn that kind of money with my skills – but it takes time
- But if each feature/iteration will cost me 60k-120k, I can’t possibly earn and fund it fast enough for it to work
2016–2017 — I Had To Learn How To Code — There Is No Other Choice
- I realised that since Malaysia has no Steve Wozniak
- I had to be my own Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg and learn to code it out myself
- NEXT Academy has just started then, a programming bootcamp
- Some of my friends went through it, but not all of them came out of it really knowing how to code
- It was still RM10k and 3 months of your time
- Hence I was not sure if it was worth the time and money
- Since not everyone who graduated could really code
- Eventually realised that I had no choice but to try
- NEXT Academy teaches you enough to get you started
- But coding is hard, you will need to put in a lot of hard work and keep learning to be able to build what you want
- The most important skill you can learn is how to google for the right answers
- Because things keep changing, and no problem is the same.
Finally Met My Technical Co-Founder — It Is Harder Than Finding A Wife
- Finally met my co-founder & CTO
- Got introduced to him through a friend whom I inspired on the path of entrepreneurship and have been mentoring
- I have been on a constant lookout for good software engineers, and he was one of the few good ones
- I told him about my vision, what I was trying to build and what I’ve been through so far
- He was impressed that I knew about graph databases and the challenges building technology like Wowwwz as a non-technical founder
- Offered to help me out for free as I learnt how to code
Learnt Whatever That Was Needed To Build Wowwwz
- After NEXT Academy, I had to spend 1 year learning the additional technologies required to build Wowwwz
- NEXT Academy teaches you how to build a web app — or a quick MVP of a booking or listing site like Airbnb — but not mobile apps and the custom algorithms and custom technologies required for Wowwwz
- I was coding everyday at Pappa Rich Sri Petaling, which was the mid point between my house & my co-founder’s house
- My co-founder would join me after work and on weekends
- We would code from morning till after midnight
- We built the web MVP of Wowwwz from Pappa Rich Sri Petaling, which was technically our first office.
- The year was sort of our “dating” period, where I could ascertain that we worked well together, he truly believes in the mission & could really code.
- We complement each other well
- That was when we formally discussed and agreed upon how we are going to move forward as co-founders and documented everything in writing
Finally Met An Angel Investor Who Believed In My Vision And Understood The Risks
- Around the same time, I finally met an angel investor who really believed in Wowwwz’s vision and is willing to invest some money in us with favourable terms
- I spent one year really getting to know my investor to find out if he really believes in our vision, understands the super duper high risks involved and if he was the right investor for us that truly understands our vision and what it takes to get there
- This is extremely important because the wrong investors would KILL you
- I also wanted to make sure that he understood that this was an extremely high risk venture where there was a 99% percent chance that he would lose everything he put in, especially in an ecosystem like ASEAN that isn’t really ready for a world changing company like Wowwwz
- I wanted to make sure that the amount he was putting in was an amount he can afford to burn, and nobody’s livelihood or education would be at risk
- He understood that, and I was also convinced that the amount he was putting in is just an extremely small portion of what he has and well within his means.
2017–2019 — Building & Launching Wowwwz On Mobile
- Since my investor was excited to invest in us and my co-founder was also getting tired of his comfortable high paying job and can’t wait to quit and work on Wowwwz full time
- We accepted the investment and formally incorporated Wowwwz in July 2017
- We also got a co-working/co-living space which we shared with a few other startups
- My co-founder and myself moved into the space to work on Wowwwz day and night
- Yes, we literally stayed at our office
- We had 2 plain mattresses that we would sleep on
- Code . Sleep . Repeat
Staying At Our Office — From Web MVP To iOS + Android
- We have already launched our web MVP before we moved in at Pappa Rich Seri Petaling
- We decided that our app needed to be a mobile app so we can send push notifications and keep our users more engaged whenever someone praises them or when we introduce them to someone
- Progressive web applications or other hybrid apps at that time were not very good at sending push notifications and were also rather laggy
- We din’t have enough time to learn 2 different languages and platforms to build everything natively with Swift/Objective C for iOS and Java/Kotlin for Android
- We read many good reviews about React Native and how Airbnb and Facebook was also using it in their apps, and since it was also maintained by a big company like Facebook and the community was quite active, we decided to build our apps with React Native
Scroll Feed To Card Feed — One Action At A Time
- We took 3 months to build the first basic version of our mobile apps on iOS and Android
- But they were very basic, with hardly any designs, it was just functional
- We took another 3 months to make it look nicer, redesigned the UI so it looked nicer and sorted out any bugs that we had
- Yes, we had a feature where friends could praise each other and the app would generate an image that they could share on Facebook
- It was quite ugly at first when it was an MVP but it got better
- We’ve since stashed it since we realised Malaysians don’t really praise their friends as much
- But we will be bringing Friendster testimonials back in a more fun and social way soon
- We identified the problem on that same day and fixed it
Virtual River For Chap Goh Mei — Each Orange Is A User Of The Opposite Sex
- After that, we built a virtual river with oranges popping up in 2 weeks for Chap Goh Mei
- Each orange is actually a member of the opposite sex on our app and users would be able to “pick them up” from our flowing virtual river to get to know them
- Because it was a last minute hack, we only managed to run it for 2 days over Chap Goh Mei weekend before Chap Goh Mei was over
- React Native could not support the animation we used for the flowing river
- We also added a feature to show how many mutual values you had with another person
- We also revamped the entire UI/UX based on feedback from users
- It could still be a lot better, but this is the best we can do with the time and resources we have now
- We also added a QR code scanning feature for people to scan and see who else is at the same event and integrated Deep Linking
Stuck With React Native’s Memory Leak Problem — Kept Crashing On Android
- We were stuck trying to solve React Native’s memory leak problem
- Our users spend an average of 20 mins on our app per session on iOS, which was pretty good
- But on Android, most users only spend 20 seconds
- The reason was because our app kept crashing on Android on the 20 second mark due to a memory leak problem React Native has
- That means the RAM usage keeps building up as you scroll through the app until it finally crashes when the RAM usage exceeds that of the phone
- We spent months trying to figure out what we were doing wrong
- We even got our friends who were experts at developing apps for Android to take a look at it but they still couldn’t see what was wrong
Big Companies & Well Funded Start-Ups Also Faced The Same Problem
- We then realised that it was not a problem with us, it was a problem with React Native
- Even Airbnb faced the same problem and had to switch back to native
Airbnb Engineering & Data Science — Sunsetting React Native
- After talking to the VP of engineering of a big and well funded start-up from ASEAN, we realised that they tried using React Native too and had to write off the entire project and lose millions worth of engineering man-hours because it just din’t work
They Burned Money & Switched Away From React Native — We Can’t Afford To
- As a severely underfunded 2 man team, we had no choice but to continue with React Native because starting over would mean spending a lot of time learning 2 new languages and platforms for iOS and Android and rebuilding everything again twice, once for each platform
- We don’t have the resources to hire out 2 teams to do that
- React Native is alright for apps that are not picture heavy
- Unfortunately for us and apps like Airbnb, which have a lot of photos of homes and locations, Wowwwz is an app full of pictures of people
- For some reason, React Native has a memory leak problem on Android for picture heavy apps
We Are Stuck With React Native — For Now — Hacked Out Our Own Solution
- Because we are severely underfunded and only a 2 man team, we can’t afford to scrap the app and rebuild everything in Swift and Kotlin like Airbnb and the well funded start-up did
- We had to hack out a solution by not loading more than 2 pictures at 1 page at any one time
- And wrote plenty of custom animation to make it look like it was an endless carousel of cards in the newsfeed while it is really 2 cards on a page at 1 time
- That took up a lot of time, but we got it done
- That sort of fixed the memory leak problem on Android
Better & More Engaging Features Coming Soon — Insufficient Manpower To Execute Quickly
- We realised that people were answering a lot of questions on our app, but we needed better features to facilitate quality conversations to help people get to know each other better
- With the data that we have today, our introduction, searches and profiles can actually already be much much better, but we just don’t have the time and resources to build out those features on the app with our limited manpower
Ecosystem Isn’t Ready — Survive — Don’t Die — Extend Runway Until We Hit Critical Mass
- We also realised that ASEAN is not really ready for an innovative start-up like ours that could truly change the world and become the next Facebook or Google but doesn’t generate any revenue from the start
- If Facebook or Google were started in Malaysia or ASEAN, no one would have funded them
- Our angel investor believes in us, hence decided to put in more money
- But still, the amount is not enough. I would not want him to put in any more as an angel investor, because we would need to raise a proper seed round, and that should be done by Venture Capitalists whose sole job is to invest in startups like us, but are not doing so
Be A Cockroach — No Salary — Bare Minimum To Survive — Build Slowly — Arrive Eventually
- Due to the fact that the investors in our region isn’t really ready to fund innovative start-ups like ours, we decided that it would be best to stretch our runway for as long as possible and slowly build out the features instead so we can get the traction required to get into Y-Combinator
- That meant not taking a salary and cutting costs to the lowest possible. I am able to do that, and have been doing that for a long time, that’s why I have literally sacrificed my life trying to build this.
- I am ALL IN on this.
- But I can’t expect my co-founder to do the same, that’s why I have decided that my co-founder should go back to a high paying software engineering job and only come back full time when we manage to raise the next round and are able to pay him a liveable wage. Not everyone can sacrifice their lives and go without a salary and live on the bare minimum to survive for years like me. He still helps out part time and at night, but with only 1 engineer coding full time who also has to do so many other stuff, naturally progress will be much slower, but we don’t seem to have any other choice.
China Trip — We Would Have Been Funded Long Ago If We Were In China Or Silicon Valley
- As part of a business trip, I got the opportunity to pitch to VCs in China
- Almost every Chinese VC told me that Wowwwz would be a huge company
- On the scale of Tencent, Facebook and Alibaba
- They were not just trying to be nice because I was a visitor
The Frustration Of Being Right But STUCK In The Wrong Ecosystem
- They will tell you that your idea sucks right in your face if they really think so — that happened to a few start-ups, even US based ones
- They genuinely think that Wowwwz will become the next Tencent/Alibaba scaled start-up
- Exact same pitch, but 2 drastically different responses
- ASEAN investors just don’t get it because they haven’t seen it happen
- If I was a Chinese citizen in China right now, they would have invested in Wowwwz a long ago
Why I Got So Frustrated At ASEAN’s Start-Up Ecosystem After Coming Back From China
- It’s frustrating because you are right, but stuck in a wrong ecosystem where investors still don’t have the right mindset to invest in truly innovative startups that could become global
- We are pre-seed in China because we haven’t launched there yet
- Launching there would require a significant rebuild to our authentication system because they don’t have Facebook there and more
- They can’t fund a pre-seed foreign start-up because of Chinese laws and the limitations set by their prospectus which only allows them to invest in start-ups in China or Silicon Valley, but not anywhere else
My Story — Youtube Channel — Let’s Spark Positive Change Together
- That’s why I have to try everything I can, including sharing my story and hoping to start a paradigm shift in thinking among ASEAN VCs and the start-up community
- In case everything fails, I would also be starting a Youtube Channel that talks about love and relationships and the fundamental principles that I am building Wowwwz on
- I will cover a wide range of topics including “How To Choose The Right Life Partner”, “Why Men Cheat”, “Why Women Cheat”, “Why Couples Grow Apart” and many more
- I will also be sharing plenty of real life stories as examples to help you better understand how things happen and how they usually turn out
- I will be describing the important parts in detail, but won’t name anyone and intentionally leave out some details so you won’t be able to guess who I am talking about — I have too many friends and people who confide in me — so you probably won’t be able to guess anyway
- That way, even if I can’t build the tools to help you find the right life partner and help you all the way with building your relationship, at least I would be able to help you understand how you can choose someone who is truly right and compatible with you and understand what you need to do in order to have a long and lasting relationship where you can live happily ever after together with your soulmate
- Hopefully, that would also allow more people to understand why Wowwwz is a very very different app led by a very very different kind of start-up founder who genuinely wants to help you find your one true love who is compatible with you and can grow old together with you.
- It is nothing like a Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Match.com, Paktor or any other dating app out there. Wowwwz is truly on a mission to help you find true love and live happily ever after
New Features — Schools — Offices — Churches — Cafes — Stay Tuned
- Meanwhile, I am also building new features that would help facilitate more meaningful and quality conversations, making the app more fun to use as well as new couple features for couples to find interesting things to do together on weekends
- We would also be launching in schools, churches, office buildings and partnering up with various brands so we can introduce amazing single people who go to the same schools, churches, work in the same building/profession or like the same brands/cafes to each other.
- But that would take a while because I am essentially a 1 man show, so please support us and spread the word so hopefully we can get the funding we need to help you find true love.
If you’re interested in more detailed stories, you can read all about it here.
*I will keep updating more stories each week
What Am I Building? — An App That Solves ALL Relationship Problems — Wowwwz
For those of you who still do not know, I am building a lifestyle app called Wowwwz that would meet all your daily romantic needs and solve all relationship problems.
We Help Singles Find Their One True Love
If you’re single, the app would introduce you to other like-minded singles who share compatible values and interests as you like a mutual friend would.
We Help Couples Find Interesting Things To Do On Weekends
If you’re attached or married, the app would help you find interesting things to do as a couple so you can create more memorable moments together.
There are also many other tools in the pipeline that would help singles have more meaningful conversations with other singles so they can get to know each other better as well as relationship tools that would help you remember important dates better, resolve arguments and much more!
Due to the limited resources and manpower that we have, our focus is on singles for now.
You Can Meet Other Singles Who Share The Same Values & Interests As You Today!
You can meet other single people on the app who are studying in the same university, attend the same church, work in the same building, work in the same profession or simply share the same values or like the same things as you on our app by downloading the Wowwwz app on the app store or play store and answering questions on the app.
Once you’ve downloaded the app here and signed up, you can meet other amazing single people in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore by scanning the QR codes below.
SCAN with Wowwwz to meet amazing single people in Kuala Lumpur!
If you wish to find out more about what I’m building, you can read about it here:
Why Am I Sacrificing My Life To Build My Startup — Wowwwz?
Key Lessons From My 10 Year Journey
Over the past 10 years, here are the key things I’ve learnt:
Mentors Aren’t Always Right
I’ve had many mentors along the way, I would go up to someone, introduce myself as a 19 year old who wants to learn more about entrepreneurship and business and offer to buy them coffee so I could learn more from them.
Over time, I have built up a close relationship with many mentors and have learnt a great deal from them across all aspects of business and life.
However, I realised that mentors aren’t always right, especially when they have not done what you are doing right now. Their past experiences are invaluable, and we should definitely learn from them, but what might be true back then might not be true anymore today because circumstances change, technology advances and society evolves.
What is important is to be able to understand why they failed when they tried it last time, whether you are doing it any different this time, what has changed and whether you would still fail for the same reason given the current circumstances.
It’s more important to understand the WHY behind their lessons and experiences rather than just taking their word at face value.
You can read more about the worst advice I’ve ever received from mentors here.
SEA’s Start-up Ecosystem Isn’t Ready For World-Changing Global Companies
To achieve my dream of eventually helping Malaysia fulfil its full potential, I had to build a truly disruptive start-up that solves a global problem.
Building copycats or regional solutions would still be hard and takes up years of your life but will just never be big enough for me to be able to make sure all of us can grow together as Malaysians.
Unfortunately, our start-up ecosystem here just isn’t ready to support world-changing global start-ups like what I am building. It’s not so much a problem of talent or available capital, we have enough talent and capital to fund and build such start-ups.
The problem lies with the mindset of key gatekeepers like VCs who seem to have a strong preference for copycat start-ups and regional solutions that generate revenue from the first day. There is nothing wrong with investing in them, but perhaps we should also learn to understand and invest in truly innovative start-ups that are solving global problems that could become the first platform from ASEAN that everyone in the world eventually uses everyday. It’s about time we aimed bigger and not view such start-ups as over-ambitious
We can do this, we are good enough, all we need is a change in mindset.
There Is A Lack Of Entrepreneur-Led VCs
One of the reasons why many VCs here might not be able to identify the truly innovative founders and start-ups is because there is a lack of VCs who were ex-founders who have built a start-up themselves.
Most VCs in this region come from a banking, private equity or consulting background. While there is nothing wrong with that, especially if the VC is a later stage VC, it is important that VCs take the initiative to learn from the best VCs in the world on how to become a great VC and how great companies solving global problems are built in order to know how to identify the right founding teams and right business opportunities.
You Can’t Value An Early Stage Start-Up Like A Late Stage Company
For now, a lot of ASEAN VCs are investing more like banks or private equity rather than venture capital. While that might still be okay for later stage VCs, which are basically bordering on private equity, that’s very wrong for early stage VCs.
You just can’t value an early stage start-up the same way you value an established or fast growing company in a conventional industry with strong revenues and profit margins that’s getting ready to get listed on the stock exchange.
They are two very different creatures and requires a totally different set of skills.
A caterpillar looks nothing like a butterfly, if you don’t know that butterflies used to be ugly caterpillars with no wings, you will never find a butterfly when they are still young.
The few entrepreneur led VCs we have here in ASEAN mostly started regional copycats or regional solutions, and would have extensive experience in identifying the next successful regional start-up, but seem to have trouble identifying start-ups that are solving big global problems and can become the next Google or Facebook and 100000x their entire fund.
This is because no one here has done it before, and VCs often make the mistake that innovative start-ups trying to solve big global problems are over-ambitious or naive.
Perhaps its time for VCs here to be more entrepreneur led and have a more open mindset towards taking a bet on the truly innovative start-ups that are solving global problems.
After all, venture capital as an asset class should be about super high risks and super duper high returns anyway, we need to start funding more ambitious start-ups.
A Significant Number Of VCs Here Are Set Up Wrongly
Word is also that a significant number of VCs here have been set up wrongly in the first place, with a lot of it structured as a loan instead of an investment. That discourages VCs from taking the risks needed to be taken to be an effective venture capital fund.
There is a reason why the word VENTURE is in venture capital. You are supposed to be ADVENTUROUS and take risks in order to have a chance of generating a huge return.
There is also word that VCs here don’t get a cut from their investments and hence are not incentivised to invest in start-ups that has the potential to truly become something big, but often comes with much higher risks.
Most VCs here are just employees who would then naturally try to be as conservative as possible with their investments in order to not lose their high paying jobs, which essentially defeats the purpose of being a VC.
What Ails Venture Capital In Malaysia And Why Consolidation Is Not The Answer — By Dr Sivapalan Vivekarajah
VCs Here Are Too Afraid & Risk Adverse To Fund Truly Innovative Start-Ups
For some reason, VCs here seem to be too afraid or risk adverse to fund truly innovative start-ups, because most of them usually require a much longer development period and multiple iterations until they thoroughly solve the problem.
It could also be due to a lack of the right mindset and knowhow to identify truly innovative start-ups that could become the next Facebook or Google because they have never seen it happen and have never been part of such a journey.
It could also partially be because of their background in banking and private equity that makes them naturally more conservative when investing in start-ups. Unfortunately, that’s not the right way to invest as a VC.
Our start-up ecosystem still has much to learn.
There Might Be An Overcorrection Going On Amongst VCs
Over the years, some VCs probably have realised that their conservative approach and private equity-like method of investing in start-ups have resulted in many small to medium sized start-ups that are profitable but can’t really grow anymore and are too small to go for an IPO or get acquired by anyone.
In a way, they are stuck with a bunch of start-ups that makes money, can’t grow much anymore, can’t exit and own a small stake in, which is a bad thing for VCs.
If you wanted to do that, you should have invested in a conventional business or food outlet with a great recipe and concept like Go Noodle House instead.
Because of that, it seems like there has been an over-correction in the start-ups they invest in, focusing on later stage start-ups or deep tech start-ups instead.
I think that is a huge mistake because if all VCs only invest in later stage start-ups, then who is going to fund all the early stage start-ups? Only privileged people can start start-ups? You will be losing out on plenty of innovative start-ups that way.
Deep tech, on the other hand, is a totally different game, it’s even higher risk than starting something like Google, Facebook or Wowwwz, requires a lot more research and development as well as a physical manufacturing and testing infrastructure that probably only places like Shenzhen or Silicon Valley can support. You are talking about Elon Musk level stuff here.
My fear is that VCs are over-correcting their investment strategies and believing in the hype and bullshit that a lot of AI and deep tech start-ups are creating. A lot of VCs here tend to fall for these things because not many of them, maybe even none truly understand how AI and deep tech works and which are the ones who could truly become dominant companies in the future.
You need to know how tech is applied to solving a problem, whether it is possible, how it is going to be done and whether the problem you are solving is big enough to know which start-ups would be come the next Google, Facebook or even SpaceX.
I fear many VCs here don’t have what it takes to truly know that and they are missing out on all the innovative start-ups that could truly impact the world.
Are ASEAN VCs Stuck With Un-EXITable Dividend Paying Start-Ups?
VCs Here Function More Like Private Equity Or Glorified Bank Loans
A lot of VCs here actually function more like private equity or glorified bank loans with very founder unfriendly terms, probably because of the wrong way they the are structured and the background most of them came from.
This is a huge problem because it then defeats the purpose of starting a venture capital fund, which should be all about taking big calculated risks that could generate incredible returns. If you just wanted conservative returns, you should really be starting a private equity fund or invest in bonds or fixed income securities instead.
The wrong way they are investing with such unfriendly and loan like terms would also kill the chances of the start-up from being able to raise a further round from a proper VC who really knows what they are doing in the future.
Those terms might also force founders to make bad short term decisions that would kill the start-up. You will basically be killing your investment before it even started.
Some VCs Here Are More Like Predatory Loansharks
There also exists a subset of people who call themselves VCs who behave nothing like what a VC should be doing. Those people are basically predatory loansharks.
Some of them are basically offering you loans that have extremely harsh terms that they could use against you to hold you ransom or force you to do things that would kill your start-up, screw you up or help them flip your company for a quick profit.
Crucial Resources Have Been Inefficiently Deployed
Accelerator programs and incubators in this region actually have pretty good resources that truly innovative start-ups desperately need. Things such as AWS credits and software engineering tools are extremely useful for start-ups trying to build cutting edge technology and custom solutions to solve global problems.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of proper expertise, gatekeepers who are shortlisting start-ups tend to only accept copycats, e-commerce start-ups or simple booking or listing apps and shun truly innovative start-ups who are trying to solve big global problems.
There’s nothing wrong with copycats, e-commerce start-ups or simple booking or listing apps, they are all great and solve a problem. I have many good friends who are doing that and are creating real value for us. It is just that these start-ups usually have no need for crucial engineering resources like AWS credits.
Most e-commerce start-ups can just use things like Shopify or WordPress and don’t really need AWS servers or any custom built software while simple booking or listing apps can be hosted cheaply on something like Heroku or would just incur a very small costs if hosted on AWS.
Most of these start-ups don’t even need to use AWS, and they don’t.
At the same time, start-ups trying to solve big global problems with custom solutions and technology usually require custom setups for their software and desperately need whatever engineering resources they can get like AWS credits, but they can’t get it because they can’t get into these accelerator or incubator programs because the gatekeepers usually don’t really understand the businesses due to the fact that it has never been done before, does not fall into a common category or does not generate any revenue yet.
It’s sad that the truly innovative start-ups that really need those resources can’t get into these accelerator programs but many who don’t even need those resources get in and don’t even use those resources.
We need to stop crucial resources from being inefficiently deployed and being wasted in order for the first truly innovative start-up from ASEAN to be able to emerge, and it starts with equipping the gatekeepers who are shortlisting these start-ups with the necessary mindset and skills to understand and identify start-ups that really need those resources.
I know, because I have gotten into these programs before with my previous start-ups, have helped many start-ups get in with theirs, but can’t seem to get in with something like Wowwwz.
Ecosystem Matters — I Was Wrong That You Can Succeed Anywhere If You’re Good
When I came back to Malaysia when I was 19, I believed that if you were good, you will be good anywhere and you can still succeed.
I never really understood why Warren Buffet said that most of his success was due to the fact that he was lucky enough to be born in the US, where the economy was booming and there were stocks for him to invest in. If he was born in any other country, he wouldn’t be as successful.
I guess that’s also why Elon Musk tried so hard to emigrate from South Africa to the United States by first emigrating to Canada via his mom and then moving to the United States, because ecosystem matters when building truly innovative start-ups.
You can still build good regional businesses here in ASEAN, but a lot of investors and the ecosystem here don’t really have the right mindset to support truly innovative ideas that could change the world yet.
It’s frustrating when I discovered that if I was a Chinese citizen in China, Wowwwz would have been funded long ago and we would be well on our way to building out our vision. Investors here would fund me if I started a regional start-up that made money, which I could do, but that’s not what I want to do right now because my time on earth is limited.
If you try to start something innovative from an ecosystem that isn’t ready, key people whom you need to succeed might think you are overly ambitious or arrogant, because they don’t understand how global start-ups are built.
Ecosystem matters, unfortunately.
I Probably Should Have Left For Stanford When I Had The Chance To
You would still have people who ridicule you and not believe in your dreams and ambitions in a mature ecosystem like Silicon Valley. There are also asshole investors there, in fact most of them are.
However, at least there exists a group of right people who have done it before that could help you get the resources you need to build out your vision.
It’s normal, because disruptive ideas are by nature, contrarian, but right. You are by default going against conventional wisdom, because you saw something many people don’t see yet, which is part of why it’s such a big opportunity if you succeed.
You Need A Mature Ecosystem To Build Truly Innovative Start-Ups — Unless I Succeed In Starting A Paradigm Shift In Thinking Among VCs Here
It hurts me to say this, but if a 19 year old who wants to build a truly innovative start-up that solves a global problem that could become the next Google or Facebook asked me for advice today, I would suggest that he or she find a way to get to a mature ecosystem like Silicon Valley because ecosystem matters.
LEAVE. Take that scholarship to Stanford, Harvard or anywhere in the US. Network your way to the right investors there — there’s only a small group of people like that in the world, even most entrepreneurs & VCs in Silicon Valley are those looking for a quick exit — and start there.
*unless I succeed in starting a paradigm shift in thinking via this story, become successful and come back to fund you, otherwise, if you want to change the world, you’ll have to leave
I used to think that if you are good, you will be successful anywhere. Today I can tell you that I was wrong. Your ecosystem does matter.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still build a very successful career in Southeast Asia, make a lot of money, start a successful business, a copycat “X for Southeast Asia” or “hyperlocalised” start-up. Things that have been proven to work overseas but have yet to be done in Southeast Asia, things that generate revenue instantly or at least have a GMV (Gross Merchandise Value).
Our ecosystem is ready for that. But not the world-changing zero to one type where you aim to build something that is orders of magnitude better than anything out there today that would solve a global problem thoroughly and determine how people behave for a generation that no one has built before like Google, Facebook or even Whatsapp & Instagram. Things that can become at least a 100 billion USD company.
I Missed My Chance — It’s Much Harder To Move As A Start-Up Or An Employee
On hindsight, one of my biggest mistakes is to not go to Stanford or Harvard when I had the chance to. It’s much easier to get a scholarship and work on a start-up and build a network when you are studying there.
It is much harder to move there as a company, because you already have investors here and are already a separate legal entity, you will also have to get US funding first or get into a program like Y-Combinator, which has its own set of problems and biases for an ASEAN start-up trying to get in, which I would elaborate in a later story.
If you move there as an employee, you can build your network, but you will have to work on your start-up part time, and it is going to be tough because you will be on a visa and be somewhat restricted and dependent on the company that sponsors you there.
A postgraduate degree is expensive, and it’s hard to get a scholarship at an older age. You would have to join a corporation here for a few years before they would sponsor you for an MBA program, and you would be bonded to the corporation as well. That isn’t very feasible if your plan is to get there to build a start-up.
The best time to get yourself to a mature ecosystem is during your undergraduate years.
VCs Here Generally Only Fund Copycats, Proven Models Overseas, Things That Generate Revenue Instantly Or At Least Have A GMV (Gross Domestic Value)
If you want to start a truly innovative tech start-up in Malaysia like Google or Facebook, it’s going to be extremely tough, bordering on impossible, as I’ve found out.
You’ll probably have a chance if you come from an incredibly wealthy family that can fund your start-up all the way from pre-seed to at least Series A — that’s close to 10 mil USD at least. Otherwise, it’s going to be extremely tough, unless I manage to start a paradigm shift in thinking among VCs and the ecosystem here by doing this — sharing my story and the next steps I am about to take in an attempt to spark a paradigm shift in thinking.
Why Start-Ups Today Need To Raise More & More Money Just To Get Started?
While most would probably deny it to officially keep their options open, the truth is VCs here generally only fund copycats, proven models overseas that doesn’t yet exists here in ASEAN or things that generate revenue instantly or at least have a GMV (Gross Domestic Value) which they can put a value on.
Their actions speak louder than words.
What’s Stopping ASEAN From Having A 100 Billion USD Tech Company?
They don’t seem to understand truly scalable and innovative start-ups like Google or Facebook that don’t generate any significant revenue until enough people are using your product every day — and that could take years to happen — because no one has started a start-up like that in ASEAN.
Some VCs were honest enough to admit that to me, that if Google or Facebook started in Malaysia, they would have died because no one would have funded them because the problem they are solving seemed too big and they din’t generate any revenue at the start.
I Really Hope I Am Wrong About This — Come Talk To Me
This is something that I really hope I can be proven wrong on, because this defines the future of our start-up ecosystem and would determine whether we will ever see a Google or Facebook — or Wowwwz and what it could become — emerge from ASEAN that can truly put ASEAN on the world map and create so many opportunities for innovation, including raising wages, quality of living and creating many high-paying job opportunities in this region.
So, if you are a VC in this region that is not like that or I have not managed to reach yet due to all the roadblocks by gatekeepers or any other reason and would like to invest in truly innovative start-ups who are solving big global problems that could become the first 100 billion USD start-up from ASEAN that everyone uses daily, come talk to me.
I really hope I can be proven wrong on this.
ASEAN needs more visionary VCs like you!
80% Of Dev Houses Are Semi-Con Jobs
Before I start, don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of good friends who are running dev houses and they do a good job. They are the few in the industry who can actually do a good job delivering your product, but because the demand for them is so high due to their scarcity, they are pretty expensive to hire. It also took me a long time to know who they are.
The sad part is, having hired and worked with multiple dev houses over the past 10 years to build various products and exchanging stories with other founders, I’ve come to the sad realisation that most, I would say close to 80% of dev houses in Malaysia actually operate as semi-con jobs.
After I’ve learnt how to code myself, I realised how terrible a job plenty of dev houses in this country are actually doing.
Many people have lost money hiring dev houses just to get a bunch of unusable code or get an abandoned project that no one can salvage, including me. Some have lost thousands, some tens of thousands, some hundreds of thousands, and some have even lost millions to dev houses who can’t deliver.
Most would promise you the world, and try to get a 50% deposit from you. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get what you want, but you will be surprised that more than half of all projects don’t really get completed. You’ll get sloppy work that you’re naturally not happy with and won’t pay more for to get it completed, and the project just gets abandoned, with the dev house pocketing the 50% deposit. After a while you start to suspect whether these dev houses are just planning to con you of your 50% deposit in the first place.
There are some good dev houses around, but it is very hard for you to know if you don’t have technical knowledge or trusted people who know how to tell them apart.
You can read more about the problem with dev houses in Malaysia and how to choose the right one in my full story about it here.
My Experience With Software Development Houses In Malaysia
*Coming Soon — Kindly Leave Your Email + Join Our FB Group For Updates
Founders Here Don’t Go Out Of Their Way To Help Each Other Enough
Another problem that could be preventing our ecosystem from truly thriving is a lack of a culture of going out of our way to help each other. Don’t get me wrong, founders here do help each other, but they are usually just helping friends or people they already know, and our ecosystem is broken down into cliques.
What I am getting at here is the lack of a culture of going out of your way to help strangers when you can and when they ask for help.
I know some amazing founders who do that, but if you ask me, that’s not nearly enough. We need more founders who are willing to go out of their way to help each other out.
In Silicon Valley, there’re cliques, unfriendly and unhelpful people too, but there are enough awesome people who would go out of their way to help you if you ask for help, many would even offer it voluntarily if they see a way they could help without you even asking for it.
People there are trying to solve the world’s biggest problems, and they understand that it is extremely hard to do so. In fact, most will fail. That’s why they have built up a culture of helping each other whenever they can so more of them stand a chance of succeeding, so the ecosystem has more success stories that can absorb and recycle talent into new attempts and new ventures trying to solve the world’s biggest problems.
For more of us to succeed, founders need to go out of our way to help each other more, even when a stranger approaches you for help, and not just help our friends.
Our Ecosystem Is Quite Stingy With Introductions
One of the things we can improve on is the way we make introductions.
I’ve realised that founders here are rather stingy with making introductions. While I understand that an introduction is to a certain extent a stake on your reputation and hence should not be made easily, I feel that there are plenty of legitimate cases where introductions should have been made but weren’t.
My view is that if the person needing an introduction is a decent and genuine person looking for help or is proposing something of value, we should just make the introduction regardless of whether we really like what they are doing or whether the person you are introducing them to would reply.
That should be up to the person you are introducing them to judge, you are not them, you wouldn’t really know, unless you asked them personally beforehand and they explicitly told you that they are not interested or do not want to be introduced.
Even then, you might not be the best person to present the case to that person besides the person who asked for the introduction in the first place.
In the end, the person you made the introduction to might not reply, or might not be interested to help or might not find value in whatever it is the proposal is, but that’s fine. It just takes a few seconds to type out a simple no or for the person receiving the email to simply ignore the email along with countless other emails they are receiving.
At least, you would have done your part in attempting to connect them and brought something of value or potential interest to the receiver, even if you don’t find it interesting yourself — leave it to the receiver to judge that. You can even make your thoughts known and say that you don’t find it interesting, but just in case they will, hence you made that introduction. Otherwise, you can also just let the person asking for the introduction send out a cold email to them and see what happens.
You really never know what could happen.
Great products and start-ups are built when the right people connect with each other, and your simple gesture of providing an email or a simple introduction can help increase the chances of that happening drastically.
Often times, the opportunity for the right people to connect with each other is severed by people who let their own flawed and imperfect judgement get in the way. You might not know enough about the subject or the receiver to know whether something is worth a person’s time or not. We have to accept that there are a lot of things that we don’t even know that we don’t know.
If someone is genuine and decent and has a genuine request or proposal, just make that introduction, it helps to build key connections in the ecosystem that is crucial for all of us to thrive and succeed in.
Make that bloody introduction guys. Don’t think and assume too much.
Our Ecosystem Often Mistakes Healthy Ambition For Arrogance
Maybe it’s part of our asian culture, but people here tend to mistake healthy ambition or confidence for arrogance. There is nothing wrong with having bigger ambitions and wanting to solve bigger global problems, as long as you have a real plan to do that, are willing to sacrifice, pay the price and learn everything you need to know to do it.
It takes a huge amount of courage to be able to take the risks and make the sacrifices in order to pursue a bigger mission, knowing full well that the chances of failure are high, but we still do it because we believe it is worth it, despite all the sacrifices and risks.
That’s the only way society moves forward. Without people with dreams and ambition who dare to take risks and make the necessary sacrifices pursuing those dreams, we would still be stuck in the stone ages. We won’t have electric lighting, still be riding horses for transportation and won’t have computers, social networks or email.
Our ecosystem needs to be more supportive of people who have the courage to dream big and try hard things.
They will definitely make mistakes along the way, because it is extremely hard to do such things, but they still persevere and improve and keep on soldiering on, despite the odds and pressure to give up. We should learn to respect that kind of courage and spirit of perseverance instead of ridiculing them for trying or judging them for taking on something they can’t do.
Doing so would be like laughing at Thomas Edison when he was still trying to find the right filament that could last long enough and each filament he tried burnt out and did not last longer than a minute.
Support those who have ambition and dare to try to solve hard problems, respect them for having the courage to sacrifice and try something that they would most likely fail at and make plenty of mistakes along the way.
They are the ones who will eventually end up changing the world, and they will remember those who were there to support and help them when the rest of the world was laughing at them when they were still trying.
Our Ecosystem Is Often Too Quick To Judge
One thing I have learnt is that there is always something we don’t know that we don’t know. That’s why, we need to always keep an open mind and try to understand things from another person’s perspective and always give others the benefit of the doubt.
Plenty of people in our ecosystem are often too quick to judge, based on their own experiences, which only represents a very narrow and limited perspective. There is a lot that they do not know, and don’t even know that they don’t know.
But because of their narrow perspective, they would think that certain concepts are dumb or impossible, because they don’t have the knowledge and perspective required to make sense of it, and would think that a person who thinks that way is out of touch or arrogant, when in fact they are the ones who are the arrogant ones who refuse to see and learn things from another person’s perspective.
That’s why, we should never be too quick to judge.
Plenty Of Malaysian Computer Science Grads Can’t Code
An observation I have made over the years is also that a significant portion of Computer Science graduates in Malaysia still can’t really code.
I’ve written a full story about this here.
The Problem Of CS (Computer Science) Graduates Who Can’t Code
The First Thing I Should Have Done Is To Learn To Code
One of the worst advice I’ve ever received from my mentors was to focus on what I do best — which was business and — outsource the coding.
They were right in their context where the businesses that they were building only involves selling stuff online or building a simple listing or booking app where the technology and template for that is already readily available. Together with their age and financial resources, it makes sense to not learn how to code and just pay someone to do it for you.
Unfortunately, if you want to start a truly innovative tech start-up solving a global problem that has never been solved before like what I am doing, that’s very bad advice, because you would need to have at least 1 technical co-founder in your founding team.
It is going to be very hard to find a Steve Wozniak in this region, they would probably be overseas or working for a big corporation and taking a huge salary, that’s why you would need to be your own Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg and be technical yourself.
One of the first things that I should have done was to learn how to code.
It will give you the ability to keep iterating and building stuff without spending millions, and tell the good software engineers apart from the bad ones. Knowing how to code will save you a lot of time, money and frustration.
Privilege Is A Real Thing
I’ve also realised throughout the years that privilege is a very real thing.
What you read in the news and media is often not the full story. Whatever is reported is true, but is often far from the full picture.
It can be true that a start-up started with just RM2,000, because that is more or less how much you would need to register a Sdn Bhd in Malaysia, but what you don’t know is the hundreds of thousands to millions that were put into the start-up later in order to build the product, hire a team and launch the product properly to get sufficient traction.
In that sense, it is not untrue that the start-up started with just RM2,000, but it also needed the founders to put in hundreds of thousands to millions later in order to properly get started.
7 Famous People & Startups That Started Or Started As Dating Apps
While it is possible to do well without privilege, the things you can succeed at might be greatly limited.
I know people who truly started with nothing and built successful businesses, but they often needed to start with some sort of a sales job and gradually build their way into a distributorship or some other venture.
That’s alright, but for certain kinds of businesses, you do need privilege, otherwise you would have to fight really hard for it, and might still fail. Privilege does make things a lot easier and makes a huge difference in your chances of success.
It is also a privilege to be in the right ecosystem to be able to start the kind of start-up that you want to start.
Warren Buffet has repeatedly said in multiple interviews that the greatest reason for his success was that he was lucky enough to be born in the United States, and that he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did if he wasn’t in the United States, where there was a mature stock market and booming economy for him to invest in, and that is very true.
There would be no stock market for him to invest in if he was born in Zimbabwe. If he was born in Malaysia, the stocks he could ever possibly invest in won’t be as big and he probably would not have been as successful as he is today given that Malaysia was just a newly independent country.
Realising that Wowwwz would have been funded long ago if I was a Chinese citizen based in China and or in Silicon Valley and would be well on its way to building a product that solves a global problem for everyone in the world is further proof that ecosystem matters, and being born in the right one is a privilege that makes a huge difference.
Not being privileged enough, you will just have to try a lot harder and do everything you can so you have no regrets even if you fail, because you have tried absolutely everything.
Stay Tuned For More Stories Here
There are still plenty of stories and lessons that I’ve yet to have the time to pen down, but I will be sharing a couple more stories every week via my blog.
I Will Be Sharing More Stories Every Week
So, if you’re interested to find out more about our start-up ecosystem and my journey trying to build Wowwwz and help everyone in the world find true love and live happily ever after, do stay tuned and leave your details below!
There’s Hope — Talking To Some US VCs In Singapore + Indonesian VCs
All hope is not lost, we are currently talking to a couple of Silicon Valley based VCs with a Singapore presence and a few Indonesian VC firms who are starting to wake up to the idea of funding truly innovative startups that could go global and become 100 billion USD companies like Wowwwz.
The Silicon Valley based VC’s ASEAN arm traditionally has been focusing only on Series A and later stage start-ups, but has recently opened up its investment portfolio to earlier stage start-ups like ours.
Let’s see what happens!
It’s Time For ASEAN Start-Ups To Aim Bigger
It is about time for us to aim bigger and try to solve big global problems that could make a lasting positive impact on the world rather than just start copycats and regional champions that have a limited potential.
ASEAN Is Ready For It’s First 100 Billion USD Start-Up That Solves A Global Problem
Our region is ready for it’s first 100 billion USD start-up that solves a global problem and everyone in the world would use every day. We are ready for a Google or Facebook to emerge from ASEAN.
We have enough capital, talent and resources. All we need is a slight shift in mindset and the courage the deploy some of these resources to start-ups that might not be generating revenue at the start but are doing something that could become the next big thing!
Let’s Help Everyone In This World Find True Love & Live Happily Ever After Together!
I have sacrificed 10 years of my life trying to build such a start-up with Wowwwz.
Please join me in my mission to help everyone in this world find their right life partner, not just any partner, but their right life partner and soulmate, who shares compatible values as them, and can grow old and live happily ever after together with.
Many People’s Lifetime Happiness Is In Your Hands — Help Us Out
There are so many broken families, broken hearts, broken souls and lonely hearts out there because people either settle for the wrong partners or just can’t meet someone who is compatible and right for them.
With our graph and tools that we are building, we can introduce you to your one true love like a mutual friend would and go on to help you build more memorable experiences together as a couple.
You soulmate is probably just one introduction away, and we can introduce you!
Help Me — So That I Can Build The Tools To Help Them Find Their Soulmates
If you are reading this, please share this story and the many related stories with as many as your friends as possible so we stand a chance to start a paradigm shift in thinking among VCs and our start-up ecosystem so they would finally start funding start-ups that are trying to solve global problems like helping everyone find their right life partners like what Wowwwz is trying to do.
I know our app might be buggy and doesn’t look that nice for now, that’s because it’s largely just me and my co-founder building the app.
It’s largely a 1 to 2 man show.
So I really hope that you would understand and give us a chance. Do download the app, give us a good rating despite our flaws and share it with as much as our friends so we stand a chance to raise the funding necessary to build you a better app with more features that could help you find interesting couple activities to do with your significant other or find that one special person to do them with.
Download the app, give us a good rating, subscribe to my Youtube Channel about relationships, leave your email, join this Facebook Group and check back every few months for cool updates. Help me so that I can build the tools to help them find their soulmates whom they can grow old together and live long happy lives with.
*Search for Wowwwz on the App Store or Play Store to download
JohnsonKhooTV — Subscribe to my upcoming Youtube Channel where I will be talking about real life stories about love & relationships
FB Group To Stay Updated On Wowwwz’s Journey — Join this Facebook Group so you can stay updated on our journey, new features and new stories and new updates on our quest to build a start-up that could help everyone in this world find true love and live happily ever after
You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
More stories and articles can be found on my blog johnsonkhoo.com or via this link to a list of all published stories here.
Help me out, because many people’s lifetime happiness is in your hands.
Once you’ve downloaded the app and signed up, you can also start to meet other amazing single people in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore who share the same values and interests as you by scanning the QR codes below.
*Search for Wowwwz on the App Store or Play Store to download
SCAN with Wowwwz to meet amazing single people in Kuala Lumpur!
Do SHARE this with as many of your single friends as possible so they can find their soulmate soon, we can get more traction, and raise the funding necessary to build you more cool features that will help amazing single people meet each other and amazing couples grow their relationship!
Let’s do this together!
The world needs YOUR HELP so all of us can find true love!
You have the power to become a superhero!