Posted: May 5th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
I started using Google Reader ever since I started surfing blogosphere many years ago. Now that a long-favored RSS reader is being shut down. Question is which service should I switch to?
I’ve tried other RSS reader apps like Feedly, The Old Reader, NetVives, Pulse, etc. After spending good amount of time evaluating each app, I found myself liking none of them.
It seems current trend amongst feed aggregation apps is either being good old, meaning app is really a RSS reader but nothing more, or being picture-heavy magazine style like Flipboard. I totally understand why people are leaving so many comments on this blog post from Digg because they are also looking for a replacement. And, I’m one of those refugees too.
This was the moment I realized that maybe I should create one for myself. A feed aggregation app that just works for me. Good news is building a RSS reader itself isn’t that difficult, and necessary components are already available as open source or provided by cloud computing companies.
For instance, building search engine was a bit tough work back in 2007, the year Google Reader was officially released. Thanks to Amazon CloudSearch, with this service available at my hand I can outsource the entire search engine to AWS and forget about scalability and maintenance issues. This allows me to focus on building features that make the app standout from the crowd.
Nowadays a difficult part is deciding what to do with the app, not how you are going build it. Below is a tentative list of what I’m going to do with the app.
- Manage feeds from both social network and RSS.
- Search by keyword in my feeds as well as feeds subscribed by other people.
- Minimalistic design. No magazine style.
- Mobile app with offline cache.
- Fast response.
And, here is a quick wireframe for prototype. I wanted UI to look like Google Reader so that people like myself don’t have to go through a whole learning process again.
A challenging part is universal search. As I mentioned above, a search engine itself can be outsourced, but getting desired results from various data sources still requires a fair amount of engineering work. In particular, I would like to search for a specific keyword from three data sources: feeds from my social network, RSS feeds subscribed by me, and RSS feeds subscribed by other users.
If everything goes well, I might be able to release first prototype in a short period of time. If I do, I will post it at this blog website.
Posted: March 8th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Startup | No Comments »
This is the statement from Dave McClure’s speech given at Global Innovation Conference Osaka in February. Take a few moments and see what the boss of 500 Startups had to say to Japan.
I completely agree with his overall speech and particularly liked the part where he described current status of Japan not being able to catch up with Silicon Valley and the rest of IT hubs in the world by saying “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.”
I saw many Japanese startups doing over-engineering or spending too much time for things that nobody cares. This happens a lot to the startups where majority of staff is over 40 years old. They tend to do thing in an old-fashioned way, meaning they bring another set of old people and old ideas to the company.
They do market research, hire external agency to create a fancy looking logo, spend a lot of efforts to make sure scalability and security are taken care of, and keep worrying about their product until they think it’s perfect.
The fact is none of these things matters if your products don’t sell. Most of the time, products don’t sell not because you didn’t do market research, a logo wasn’t looking pretty, or the system didn’t scale enough. It’s simply because you were building a thing that nobody wants.
During the initial phase of startup lifecycle, they are expected to verify their hypothesis is valid by putting a product in front of prospective customers as early as possible and see if people are willing to buy it. Only then move on to the next step which is polishing the product. Not the other way around.
A concept of Lean Startup is still uncommon here in Japan. However, if you are a startup founder and thinking about bringing senior people to your company for whatever reason, make sure you give them a Lean Startup book and ask what they understand from it. If responses are all negative, don’t hire them. If you do, not only they destroy your company culture, but also they start bringing more senior people to the company with similar mind set. This is the beginning of the end.
I also recommend that you give them Little Bets by Peter Sims and The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank if you really want to maximize degree of fitness for your candidates.
Posted: February 28th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Usually, I don’t do blog post about technical topics, but this time it’s different.
Disclaimer: I have Computer Science degree from US university so in fact I love talking about technical stuff. I was pretending not to. ;)
These days I’m spending a lot of time playing with Kivy, an open source Python library for multi-touch app. The app developed with Kivy can be deployed on many platforms including iOS and Android.
If you are a seasoned mobile app developer, your first response might be “Wait. Can I run Python app on my iPhone?” The answer is yes.
Kivy packages your app along with Python interpreter and statically links it to the app itself. No dynamic linking. Hence, you can submit your app to Apple (and Google) without problem.
(For those who are unfamiliar with Apple rules, dynamic library isn’t supported by iOS and your app will be rejected if the app uses one.)
Long story short, one thing that makes me exciting is a possibility of creating Unity like IDE (Integrated Development Environment) on top of Kivy, where developers can directly generate iOS and Android apps while entire code is written in Python.
Why do we need yet another tool when we have Unity? Well, there are a few reasons.
First, competition is always good not only to the end-user but also to the industry. Second, developers might be able to benefit from numerous amount of existing Python libraries that are battle-tested and proven to work. Third, I’m a Python guy.
Disclaimer: I have written Coworkify using Python. The app is built with Pyramid framework. For the record, I’m a Python guy.
What if we could combine the best of two worlds: Python being as powerful language and Unity being as easy-to-use IDE that can instantly generate mobile apps on the fly?
It seems my next project will be somewhere around this topic, and I’m sure I cannot do it alone. Please shoot me an email or write a comment below if you are interested in working with me.
There is no guarantee this project will be successful or it will be any sort of startup business, but at least it is an interesting topic to investigate, I believe.
Posted: February 20th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
I got this info from my folks at Pollenizer Singapore so I re-post it here. If you are into the startup scene in Singapore, this event might be interesting for you.
Building Lean Startups is the introductory course in our Academy training program. The course covers lean startup theories like minimum viable product and pivoting using a practice-oriented oriented approach.
Our goal is for participants to leave the course with specific tools for implementing lean principles in their startup or workplace.
The course materials have just been updated, with a stronger emphasis on lean analytics and on making the materials work for corporate participants.
Of course startups are also welcome and will receive our 70% startup discount. The course is open for registration here [http://buildingleanstartupssingaporeapril13.eventbrite.com/].
Below is the event details from EventBrite website.
This course is how Pollenizer employees learn their craft. We have been building startups for the past four years and have refined a practical approach to building “lean startups.” This is a science for transforming a feeling in the gut to a functioning new businesses as efficiently as possible. This course will re-wire your brain to the art of new business discovery. If you want to start a business, or innovate from within an existing company, you will value this journey.
- Disrupt: find an opportunity
- Focus: have impact
- Discover: test your assumptions
- Loop: iterate to success
- Pitch: the story of value
Who should attend?
- Product Managers
- Executives and managers with a mandate for innovation
What can you expect to get out of this course?
- Practical knowledge in developing new products using lean startup approaches
- Creative approach to unlocking new innovative ideas
- Professional course content that can be applied to your business
For more information please visit Pollenizer Academy.
Posted: January 25th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Startup | No Comments »
Startup scene in Japan has been a sort of black box for those who don’t speak Japanese.
Amongst many tech blogs in the scene, Startup Dating aimed to fill the gap between two worlds since its beginning. No wonder they got their recognition not only in Japan but also in the whole Asian regions.
Now that they are taking a further step to become a global media hub for Japanese startups. They got a new brand name Sd, and English website will be up and running soon at http://startup-dating.com according to their announcement.
Wish my colleagues working at Sd the best luck.
Posted: January 19th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
There is a favorite quote of mine borrowed from Zappos.
WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative.
You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.
In a today’s highly competitive market, companies without much differentiation are forced to go out of business no matter how well the companies are funded or how experienced their founders are. It’s simply because market isn’t big enough to sustain all of the incumbents and customers tend to choose the best one or two of them only.
So what’s a WOW factor anyway? For web startups, it might be a product that truly disrupts existing industry. For content startups, it might be something original and unique that makes people say “Wow, I’ve never seen this before.” For startups in general, it might be a superior customer service like one offered by Zappos. It’s easy to say, but difficult to execute.
From time to time I happen to face a meeting where all attendees are discussing topics that are completely irrelevant to their customer’s interest and have nothing to do with differentiation of their company. If it’s an operation level meeting, perhaps that’s okay. If it’s a company board meeting, that’s disaster.
Above statement applies not only to startups, but also to big players. Sony used to WOW people for long time. However, does 4K TV really WOW customers today? Well maybe, but so does its competitor Samsung.
Startup needs to understand WOW is a critical factor and treat it respectfully or startup will have a tough time down the line without it.
Posted: January 17th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Startup | No Comments »
Few days ago New York Times published an interesting article.
The article basically states that investors are becoming more cautious about making investment in tech startups, especially in Silicon Valley area, after seeing troubled IPO of Facebook and questioned profitability of highly anticipated companies like Gilt Group.
I totally agree with David Sacks’s opinion saying there aren’t much opportunities left for startups where they can protect themselves from the onslaught of big players while figuring out what they are on to.
However, it doesn’t mean starting business in tech industry a bad idea yet. There is plenty of unsolved problems in the ares like education, nursing, and medical where software technology alone can be a true innovation.
If you shift your focus a bit on to these areas, you will find your startup can still look attractive to those investors. It’s just a matter of which angle you take.
Posted: January 15th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Startup | No Comments »
This is a bit old information, but I post it here anyway since I found the contents of this book still valid for angel investment environment today.
The book is called Guide to Raising Money From Angels, which is written by an established entrepreneur / angel investor Bill Payne.
As mentioned in its preface, the book is not a template for writing business plan, a worksheet for valuing your company, nor a set of legal documents to guide an angel investment round.
However, the book gives very insightful knowledges to both startup founders and angel investors. In fact, I read it from both perspectives and enjoyed a lot.
I highly recommend this book to founders and co-founders starting their business even if they are not raising money from angels.
Posted: January 10th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Startup | No Comments »
So you have a great business idea, but don’t know how to turn it into actual startup. Use below 5 tools to kickstart your startup.
1. Startup Weekend
Startup Weekend is not just an event. Think of it as a tool to verify your business idea by giving pitch to audience and then check how many people vote for you. Needless to say, Startup Weekend is one of the best places to find prospective co-founders. For non-tech entrepreneur, this is also one of the few places where you can meet tech people with startup mindset.
Now that you have some sort of founding team, but no MVP (Minimal Viable Product) yet. Use LaunchRock (or KickoffLabs) to create a simple landing page until MVP is ready. In fact, this is something you should do while you are attending Startup Weekend.
By having the landing page prior to product launch, you can examine potential of your business idea by looking at the number of people who actually signed up. At the same time, you have a mailing list of potential customers to whom you will be conducting initial email marketing, which we will discuss next.
Okay. You have successfully created a buzz amongst people and got a mailing list of hundred to thousand people. It is time to conduct initial email marketing. Why email? Because it works. People still use email as primary communication channel and it is one of the most efficient ways for businesses to reach customers. MailChimp or any similar services offer ready-to-use templates for your landing page. Make sure you briefly explain a value proposition of your product (a.k.a. what you are offering to customer) on the landing page.
Even if you are not raising money from investor, it is still advisable to have presence on AngelList. As of this writing, AngelList contributed more than $14,000,000 worth of venture capital to startups. If you are serious about making use of this service, first thing you need to do is getting the first key investor on board. He/she functions as good referral to following investors.
Let’s take a look at example of Zaarly, a Startup Weekend alumni that raised substantial amount of capital in short period of time. The company has a list of well knowns investors as well as industry celebrities. This makes other investors have a lot of confidence in the company.
5. Facebook / Twitter
Social media is the last tool to complement all above tools. Use it to communicate directly with customers, to keep them updated about your product status, and to get feedback from them.
There are lots of tricks and tweaks you can do with social media, but my simple advise is to buy Facebook Ads until you have at least 1,000 fans to your Facebook page first. This is because you cannot expect much viral effect if you have only hundreds of fans. My experience says virality starts to show somewhere around 1,000.
Next advise is to use Twitter with appropriate hash tags. For instance, using #startup tag doesn’t bring you any benefit unless you are blogging about this specific topic. Use something related to your product or content of your tweet.
That’s all for now.
Posted: January 7th, 2013 | Author: ensynk | Filed under: Startup | No Comments »
Last year was yet another period of drastic changes in my life followed by series of trips to SE Asia.
Things I felt in each startup scene in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are very diverse. At the same time I saw great necessity for creating bridge between these countries and Japan in terms of access to venture capital and human resources.
Hence, 2012 was also the year I started making angel investment in startups.
Trend in each startup scene was somewhat similar. I saw many startups in the area of P2P marketplace (from car sharing to job outsourcing), cloud & micro financing and smart phone based eCommerce targeted at niche segment.
By acting as angel investor I can be more involved with not only individual startup but also entire ecosystem across SE Asia as a whole.
If two startups are trying to get into the same area but from different countries (or angles), why not collaborate and increase chance of survival?
I understand there is opinion that chasing more than one region at the same time will result in higher failure rate since development and marketing effort will have to split. It totally makes sense to just focus on own region first and then move on to the next.
However, we have seen cases like Twitter, Groupon, Instagram where second dominant user comes from Japan. In recent cases, startups originated from Asian countries such as Between, Burpple, KakaoTalk are the few examples that are quite keen and aggressive to Japanese market.
What does it imply? From my point of view, it’s clear that Japanese market can function as secondary (or sometimes primary) accelerator to their business due to its high penetration rate of smart phones and habit of spending more money for online services than ones in other Asian countries.
I believe by making angel investment in startups I can narrow the gap between two ecosystems and help startup get the most out of what our country has to offer or vice versa.
I’m hoping 2013 will be the year for startups finally beginning to see both venture capital and human resources freely flowing across Asia.