Friday, 6 January 2017

2017 New Year Resolution

Read a post on FB, and I listed down my new year resolution as follows in different categories: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/21/former-google-career-coach-shares-a-useful-visual-trick.html
  1. Business
    1. Fooyo Sales 300k from me
    2. Fooyo China setup
    3. Skoolight 100 schools + seeds/pre-A stage
  2. Personal life
    1. Family: 1-2 milk packs/month, visit 1-2 times/year, ask them to visit SG or other places of interests
    2. Romance: Consolidate my relationships, propose/marriage in 2 years.
  3. Health&fitness
    1. 70-75kg by end of the year. 0.5-1kg/month
    2. Swimming as a habit(2-3 times/week)
  4. Fun
    1. Visit 5-7 countries/biz trip mostly
    2. Personal trip with GF for 2-3 places
  5. Skill building
    1. Get a driving licence in SG and convert to China
    2. Learn Japanese(biz communication level)
    3. Digital marketing/adtech skills
    4. Read 5-10 booksMind)
Hope the plans do come true.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Learning to operate a digital product

Things worth noting down.

In the past two weeks, I've been trying very hard on the marketing strategy adoption for our newborn platform "Dadafish". It's basically to solve the market place chicken and egg problem in a more cost-efficient manner.

We start from the teacher acquisition:
  1. Location based Door to Door marketing(visit physical store based on locations). 
  2. Vertical domain marketing approach(research 2-3 subdomains and find the relevant hosts to host classes on Dadafish)
So far, we've got quite a number of classes ongoing, ranging from arts/crafts, language, cooking, sports. For the time being, we focus a lot on language and arts/crafts. Classes coming in the next few weeks:

1. Classes conducted this week:
  • Japanese writing class
  • Chinese class for complete beginners

2. Class conducting next week:

  • Japanese writing class
  • French language exchange for complete beginners(3 groups)
  • French language exchange for immediate level(1 group)
  • Chinese language course for complete beginners

3. Class conducting the week after:

  • Japanese language course(trial) for complete beginners
  • German language course(trial) for complete beginners
  • Turkish Ebru painting class.

4. Class conducting

  • Spanish language course(trial) for complete beginners
  • Italian language course(trial) for complete beginners

Classes under discussion:

  • Chocolate tasting workshops(Two workshops)
  • Coffee workshops(Two workshops)
  • Wooden craftsman workshops(1 workshop)
  • Wine tasting workshop
  • Yoga workshop
  • Cooking and Baking workshops

For student acquisition, it's harder.

As an online platform, the digital marketing approach would be really important.

It initially started from our own personal connections and meetups.
1. Wechat groups
2. NUS alumni/student group
3. Meetups

Now we are also exploring
  • Facebook/Instagram/Twitter marketing
  • Medium post writing
  • SEO
It seems that the face to face appointment approach is so far the most effective approach in acquiring teachers. Meetups is so far the most important channel we have for students acquisition.


Things motivated me this week:

1. I visited a cafe named Oriole. It's very encouraging to share with them about our concepts and values. It was a really nice match.


2. Our new French friend flew all the way from Paris to SG on his culture journey. We never know each other before he flew over. I asked him: "Why do you trust me even before you meet me?" He says the same question should also go to me as well. We just trust each other. He shared his thoughts about Travel and Tourism from two philosophers.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: "Travel in order to learn more." from the book "Emile or On Education".

There is also Montaigne who says that : "There is an art of traveling", there is a huge difference between "Tourism and Traveling".

3. Mr. Tan, who's a floweriest in Raffles Hotel. He's holding his Kenzans(Japanese flower arrangement equipment) which accompany him for more than 40 years. He shared his experience with me which is really inspiring. He's really interested in Flower Arrangement. He learnt after his NS and fell in love with it ever since. Then he went to Japan to learn it more properly and later also to Taiwan when a western floweriest came to teach. However, he didn't pick Flower Arrangement as his career in the beginning as it'll be "too tiring" according to other people. After working on other careers for 10 years, his cannot stop following his heart to work with flowers. Though it can be tiring, he decided to work full-timely with flowers. Now he's doing really good, but he thinks that he should be doing it 10 years earlier. He'll definitely have more energy and do better.





Sunday, 12 June 2016

Thoughts

I've been working as a project manager on an interesting project named "Dadafish" for quite some time. The intention is to create a sharing economy platform for lifestyle teaching/learning. Put in a more straightforward way, an Airbnb for classes.



There is one assumption:  People are willing to pay to learn skills from amateur or semi-pros at a lower price.

Quite some ongoing arts classes in meetups are taught in cafe shops at 15-50SGD/session. It's an indirect validation of our assumption. There are also many free language classes in meetups and facebook groups. We did an experiment to validate the assumption by introducing a Japanese friend who's organizing a free meetup to teach Japanese. She doesn't have a certificate and she's currently teaching Japanese in meetups for free. The experiment class was charged at 15 SGD/h per person for a 3-4 pax group class. We posted the class and teacher info in a NUS student/alumni SNS group and three people signed up. One student who intends to travel to Japan with her parents, one working adult who's currently working in a Japanese company and one fresh graduate who's interested in Japanese culture. The class turned out to be really good despite the fact that the teacher is not a pro.



There were two local companies who tried the experiment before: Learnemy(C2C) and LessonsGoWhere(B2C). Both of them failed. Learnemy's lady went to Facebook to work. LessonsGoWhere just sold the company this year after a big loss with the introduction of SkillFuture program by the Singapore government.

In the states, there are also some companies tried that. One of them is SkillShare. They initially tried offline teaching but they failed to solve the location issue. Then they become a purely online learning platform.

The problem statement wasn't strong enough if we are simply another marketplace for people to find cool things to learn. That'll end up to be a supplementary platform of SkillFuture.

While meeting up with the founder of LessonsGoWhere, he's proposing the followings:
  • There are normally two models to work things out. Saas model and the marketplace model. For learning/education, Saas model makes more sense. It can be a platform to empower the teachers/organisations to manage their classes. Marketplace model can work for lifestyle things, but not tuition.
  • For the two kinds of classes: fixed class(one-off classes) and recurring classes. The marketplace model is very unlikely to work for recurring classes as people will stay with the teacher and not stay with your platform any longer. For fixed classes, it works.
  • Focus on one vertical, not everything. As a startup, resources are very limited. We've got to be very strong in one domain before spreading to other domains. He gave a very good example of their growth story. Early the second year, they are getting better in acquiring new classes. However, the sales don't get grow. With 25% growth in the bookable classes in all categories, only 5% of growth in the total sales. Then they changed the strategy to focus more on cooking/baking classes(the strongest domain they have). It paid off.

My partner Otto and I also met Bastian, a cool growth hacker based in Singapore.

  • The problem statement for our platform is not clear. Is it still teaching/learning app or a social meetup app? The answer is still learning centric lifestyle app. The later one will have a better possibility to scale and go viral.
  • People do not want to be the first buyer. Thus for every Groupon, it always shows someone already bought the class.
  • Groupon has nothing to do with group indeed. People buy the products/services because they themselves want.
  • For marketplace chicken&egg problem, a common practise is to gather one side(either demands or supplies) to create the awarenesses even with fake posts.

For far, we are still trying very hard to find the product market fit. After visiting many space owners, lesson providers and students, we realised the biggest pain points for hosts in the learning platform are:

  1. Location. As individuals, hosts have little ideas on how to find proper locations to teach for private classes. Top priorities are condo function rooms, followed by public cafes. 
  2. Marketing&Branding. Personal branding are mostly built through word of mouth. However, that's not scalable. They should be a more powerful and useful tool for them to build the networks. So far, meetups and personal connections are the best.

Used to think in the line that we can turn under-utilized spaces into a teaching hub. Another startup in NYC is currently working on that. That sounds interesting. Let's work things out.












Saturday, 2 January 2016

Past and coming year

It's been a long time since the last blog update. A lot of things happened in the past year, mostly beyond my expectations.

1. First official startup -- Fooyo

Though I've been working with startups and individual entrepreneurs since school days, chances/courages didn't come into existence until this lean mobile team decided to work together.

It was hard, especially at the beginning when we've got nothing but hardcore ability to code mobile apps. For B2B solution providers, the primary resource is indeed customer relationships. None of us have business backgrounds, neither are we good at marketing or persuading people. The important thing is that we focus a lot on products-- the UI/UX design and development process optimisation.

Gradually, people who value our product development skills come to us. Mike's team in Minitheory is really awesome. We work together to deliver beautiful projects. One of the apps we worked together is Nibble, a food sharing app which has a great potential to become a leading service in Indonesia and beyond.  It was a great experience to work with the clients from Nibble. We become friends afterwards.



Besides individual entrepreneurs, we also partner with innovation departments of multinational companies. Centers we are currently working with includes an innovation center settled by Jones Lang LaSalle and another settled by Konica Minolta. The innovation centers are indeed quite impressive. Unlike traditional cooperatives which may be reserved and slow, they do value fast and good work.

In the past year, we've worked out quite a variety of projects, ranging from education to gaming. In the next year, we'll do more explores. There is a VR(virtual reality) project under incubation now. It's going to have a demo in late January. We may also explore device + cloud data storage projects. Now we are discussing with a project about medical device+cloud data processing.


2. Pin off a VR startup providing education/game contents.

It's under the plan. An experienced mobile game developer and a leading game artist are ready to devote themselves into VR, which is going to be a big trend in 2016. Below is an sample scene designed by our game artist. We'll need to pitch for fund and come up with 3-4 premium educational contents in the next year.



3. Explore a C2C learning platform business model and acquire users. I will need to write it in another blog post. It's quite a big thing.



In the new year, I hope I could have more chances to visit Beijing. May have 1-2 chances to visit another country briefly(probably an Indian wedding etc). Financial wise, it should be OK to feed the Fooyo team and possibly raise the salaries for the team members(ideally 10% by end of the year). However, we may not have good savings for the company until big projects come.
























Monday, 3 August 2015

RISE Conference

Our team went for the exhibition in the RISE conference organized by Web Summit. It was fruitful to learn from entrepreneurs and investors in the community. During this event, we demoed our newborn product, Tutormy, which is a mobile market place for tutors and students to meet and communicate.

Some highlights:

Regarding products:

We visited most educational related product booths during the event. There are basically three types of products in the market.

  • Dashboard management system for schools to better manage their internal resources, including teachers, students, courses, etc. The system also serve as a engagement tool for schools to communicate with parents and other relevant entities. Most teams who are doing this kind of B2B systems are mostly working on domestic markets(spotted some teams from Delhi and one from Philippines). Some have already been quite established and looking for new opportunities(Found one Norwegian company).
  • Marketplaces. There is a HK based startup with a similar idea as us but working in a purely web based system. As marketplaces, we keep record of the transactions and take commissions out of that. That's a proven model. However, no global dominated tuition market places exist yet in the market. Honestly, this kind of web based system has already been there for a long time. A guy from Yahoo visited the booth claiming that he created a similar platform 7 years ago. There are quite a few tuition agency websites coming into the market every month from Singapore, let alone elsewhere in the world. What makes us different? For us, our key selling point is the #1 mobile market place in Southeast Asia. For the HK team, their key selling point is a better web user experience compared to some existing ones. 
  • Content providers. I did spotted some companies being more content driven. An educational game design company from Latvia, a physical education data visualisation company from UAE, etc.
Why there are still no dominating marketplaces for the tuition industry? There are a few reasons in my mind:

  • Tuition market is pretty localised in different places, a universal online experience may not be enough to scale, further localisations need to get involved to fit into a specific market.
  • The fundamental experience is to find tutors and pay tuition fees. The online experience may not be as superior compared to the offline experience, i.e., online/mobile payments may not be so convenient as the offline.
  • Either the tech side for the tuition marketplace is just too easy to be replicated, or the game changing techs still haven't been properly utilised to make a big difference.

Regarding investments:

Honestly, there are not many investment companies or individual investors dropping by to booths. Most of them just assign some staffs to collect namecards and have a short conversation. There are some collaboration programs such as InvestHK which provides a bridge to help overseas startups to grow in HK.

Thankfully, I still got some interesting advises from some top investors. A Senior Goldman Sachs partner commented that the idea is good but the business model needs to get fine tuned and tested out. A Senior Paypal Braintree director suggested us to get the payment transaction integrated as soon as possible and try to test the tier commission model. Back in Singapore, I also received some critical advises from an investor in Sequoia. His suggestion is that the star tutors in our platform would be the key ingredients if we are to compete with others.

Regarding ideas and vision:

Honestly, I did learnt a lot during this event. I think bigger and more clear about how we can possibly enter into bigger markets. I deliberately talk to some Southeast Asia education startups to see potential collaborations. There are some in my namecard list: Indonesia,Philippines,Thailand, etc. However, those who come to us seeking for collaborations are mostly startups from 1. India 2. Taiwan 3. HK.

I visited my HK friend in Google and he's very interested to help explore the HK market. I think we may add some features gathered from HK in the product refinery stage in the next 2 iterations.

During this event, quite a number of smart people approaches us. Some includes an educator from MIT, a Stanford graduate, a Cambridge graduate, a Princeton graduate.

Two thoughts blow up my mind:

The educator from MIT shared his opinions regarding teaching. He believes the randomness in the offline community is very difficult to replicate. However, that's the essential of learning and teaching. Most schools teach students to be better employees, but a great school should empower the students to be better self learners and leaders. An interesting example he proposed is that a teacher spotted a very intelligent student in the classroom/school, he can encourage and inspire the student to be more motivated. The student can be a better self-learner and possibly become a next Nobel Prize winner. The point of this example is to highlight the importance of a community with intellectual students and teachers. The random connection between a teacher and a student make the whole experience magical and amazing.

The Princeton graduate who's currently working as an intern in J.P. Morgan also highlighted some very interesting points. Her first two questions are: "What makes a super good startup and why startups fail?" My answers to these two questions:"Stats shows 90%+ startups fail because of cash flow. However, most important thing is still the team. To be a super good startup, team is not the only thing, the vision determines how far the startup can go." She only cares about the vision part, since her question is to create a "super good" startup, not a normal startup. She's very interested to creating a great education company that's fundamentally change how people learn and think. That's a big vision and she can really sell. We had a further discussion regarding how we can possibly collaborate together. Let's see whether we can bring our project steps ahead.














Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Echelon Asia 2015

I attended the Echelon Asia summit on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was nice. Echelon this year comes with an app which help attendees better connect with each other. It's indeed pretty helpful.



In a situation when I cannot find a speaker in the back stage, I connected her with the app and it really helped out.

Top highlights: 



The talk about scalability: How HotelQuickly manage to launch 6 countries all at once and scale so fast all across. Speakers: Tomas from Hotel Quickly and Suhair from Google.


The talk about relationship between southeast Asia and China. Managed to talk to Thomas Tsao and William Bao Bean.  Learnt a lot from them and got to know how VCs think.
The talk about relationship between southeast Asia and Europe.
The story about freelancer.com. I posted my request to do SEO for my websites. Within minutes, I received 10+ free lancers asking to provide SEO service for me. Unfortunately, the one I chose with high rankings was indeed a scammer. Reliability is indeed the most important thing that should come along in a market place.


For the turkish airline's booth, they had a very interesting campaign in which they invite startup cofounders to talk about their business and broadcast to 110 airplanes. I talked about Fooyo and our new coming product Tut / Tutormy. That's pretty exciting.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Smart Health

It was quite a coincident that this week's meetups all lead to the topic of innovations in health.

This Thursday, I attended a luncheon with Ms. Tin Pei Ling who is the youngest member of Parliament. She has a deep knowledge of health&health care related politics including the CPF medical schemes(medisave, medifund, medishield), government's attitudes towards mentor health, etc. I raised some questions regarding healthcare innovations especially for the aging population. It is an important topic in the Smart Nation speech delivered by PM Lee which I attended last year. Ms. Tin gave some suggestions and encouragements. Really appreciated.


That same evening, I went to 237.io in China Town to attend a health related event named Smart Health coLAB which happened to be a hackathon briefing. I've got to know people from that industry and the pains people are really facing.

The event organisers invited some industrial people to share their solutions to the current existing problems. In fact, some solutions are quite pioneering. One solution sounds very interesting to me. It is intended to keep track of the home activities of an elderly and help him/her live a better life. The solution is named Silverline which integrates Low Energy Bluetooth tags and some WIFI enabled hardware devices to connect to a central Hub and keep track of the indoor activity data including door opening/closing, flushing of a toilet, fan speed, etc. It is currently under experiment in some HDBs for elderly and it's going to raise more fundings soon. 


Another project which interested me is connexionsasia, a health data collector who creatively combines health data with the insurance industry. The problem they are trying to solve is to help HR in the company better optimise the employee insurance costs by referring to real health data and getting to know employees' health conditions better. They already received series A funding and going to extend the business to 12 countries this year.



Then I spent some more time with Justin, who is now a PHD candidate doing medical researches in NUS. He also works part-timely in a global health care organization named Access Health International. He is now working in the aging sector, which he believes a big problem in the society. We did some brainstorming together in a juice store, coming up with some interesting ideas. One of which is related to Square Dance(广场舞), a good way to help the elderly live more healthy and less lonely.

This Saturday, I went to the hackathon, with Justin and his colleague - Rachel Leung from HK Chinese University. Rachel is really outgoing and rationale. We had some quick discussions and everything became clear. Later, an lady, Alice, who plans to start an elderly program in HK joined our team. Since I'm very experienced in hackathon and have mentored teams to win hackathons, I guided the team to do brain storming and wireframing. Time is limited, thus our plan is to come up with a prototype by using existed prototyping tools. 


It went well and we managed to come up with the prototype with three killing features:

1. The self learning square dancing class
2. The square dancing event appointment system(before event, at the event and after the event)
3l A social community concept to help the elderly to better communicate with each other.



We won a great prize and it's a nice collaboration with the health&healthcare professionals.  Innovations will continue to happen in different areas. We'll keep on learning and work hard to create products we ourselves feel proud of.  Jiayou!