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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Creeping Ambition

I wrote this in indirect response to what i felt was unrealistic expectations on the part of MDA officials. I was actually trying to make the point that a MDA manager/Exec/deputy CEO has to be sensitive when commenting on a startup that is out there in the trenches trying to make something work. I encountered above said officials who actually made me feel that they looked down on a startup simply because it cannot scale to the magic 100M revenue figure their KPI required. And the ridiculous thing is that a dot com business that makes 5.5M can be making 2.3M in profit (eg sgcarmart). That is more profit than what the CEO and deputy CEO and managers in the IDM office of MDA make combined. Instead, I feel they should be encouraging as that is what their office is meant to do.

As for creeping ambition... unfortunately, my story as a founder ended when i sold the firm in 2011. I have learned a lot in terms of how to scale up further and how to work under a MNC structure but i no longer have a shot to build a 100M dollar company. But for my situation, i think it is the right decision. Industry is competitive and developed already.Perhaps the next business then. =================================================================
(Final post on sgentreprenuer.Posted 2009)

Resident Contributor, wonderdoggy (aka Der Shing, JobsCentral) posted a lengthy comment in response to fellow resident contributor, Aaron Chua’s article, “4 Issues With Singapore Startups”. We decided it was too good to be left sitting in the comments and have decided to republish it as an article.

Der Shing writes: Interesting article from MDA point of view. I interpret the 4 points as follows : a) instinctive business sense b) ambition & scalability c) win win partnerships d) internal capability (manpower, ops & sales) Here is my personal POV on the 4 based on my experience running a not-ambitious enough internet business :)

(A) Instinctive Business Sense We learned through trial and error what works and i learn alot by reading very widely about other businesses. Personally I read economist, INC, Wired, NYTimes, Fortune weekly. I am rather obsessive and i actually try to count the revenue of restaurants/businesses i deal with. Just as a fun exercise. I am constantly benchmarking against competitors within and outside industry. Most entrepreners i know have this tendency. I am sure for IDM guys it should be no different.

(B) Ambition & Scalability This is where I think I failed. When I started up in 2000, i told myself $1M turnover would be great. You usually feel this way when you are struggling to just sell $2-5K packages. When we hit that , we said $1M profit would be great. When we hit that, we aim to do $20M turnover and have an option to list. By the writer’s standard, i think we are damn unambitious and actually i think I agree. Problem is that we benchmark ourselves against local firms and local compensation. So earning $1+M a year profit is like any CEO already right? So not bad. But when we compare with top global or even regional internet firms, we are quite lacking. One thing to note here though…. we are creepingly getting more ambitious. Maybe once we hit $20M , we will aim for 100M, then we are in the bigger leagues? So it is possible to be lacking in ambition in the beginning and slowly gain it as you can see a clearer path to growth. So not all people need start with world beating ambitions? Likewise, I think there will be many that are content with profit of $1M year in year out. Still creating jobs, still adding value…

 (C) Win-win Partnerships Yes, many people are very cautious about partnerships and letting others know too much. I think the caution is usually unfounded except when dealing with adjacent entities. Then it pays to be a little more long sighted and careful. But agree with the writer, in the first 3 years, partner all you like, its so touch and go anyway.

(D) Internal Capability (Manpower, Ops & Sales) Actually this point is similar to point c. Need to trust and bring in the right skill sets. Give/Sell them equity if need be to retain. It pays off. But make sure personality and common understanding is there, otherwise can be a recipe for conflict in future. Generally, i have met quite a few web 2.0 guys. I think the problem is tenaciousness. Few players stay in a business long enough to learn thru trial and error and to make money. Many Egos are too big too. It takes time to build a revenue stream from a new business model, so give it time and be willign to make effort and changes. See the Battlestations guys, they worked quite hard and long and experimented with so many platforms. But even then, i am curious if facebook can be big bucks. $40K a month as revenue (not profit) is not a lot. Other IDM guys with tenaciousness include Mikoishi, hungrygowhere, sgcarmart, cozycot, propertyguru and I am sure many more i missed out.

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