An Idea

Any entrepreneurship veture needs to start with an idea.

An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.

– Cobb, Inception.

When I was pursuing my Electrical and Electronics engineering degree in NTU, the Internet caught my imagination in 1994. Instead of studying for my exams, I spent my time glued to the CRT monitor screen in the school library and mesmerised by the then nascent World Wide Web. The geek inside me was thrilled every time when the loading icon (throbber) of Netscape browser showing meteors streaking across a starry night sky and bombarding a barren surface of a celestial planet. Needless to say, I flunked a few papers that year, which was my usual academic track record. But during then, I would already know I wanted to be part of “The Grid”.

Before starting, I already dreamt up an idea during one supper session. While we were cooking instant noodles over a portable butane bunsen burner, I shared the idea with my roomies. I even told my roomies that I’ll make my first million by the age of 30. Let’s just say I’ve allowed myself to postpone the goal by a few decades. Heh.

We ended up embarking on the second idea that I came up with in 1996, after we graduated. The idea was to have an online shop selling music CDs. It was much less cost intensive as compared to a brick-and-mortar CD shop and we would hand-deliver the order within a day. Well, due to various reasons that is best left for another post, we didn’t get far with the idea… fortunately. However, I still remember the nights where the four of us met at a now defunct cafe on the fifth floor of Orchard Cineleisure. We would discuss excitedly our ideas, dreams, ambitions over lattes and cappuccinos, and intoxicated by the aromas of freshly baked ciabatta breads. During our time, laptops were still expensive and not a common sight yet, like the early Silicon Valley startups, we would scribble our ideas on paper napkins. Those were the days of my cherished memories… I wish I had kept those napkins.

When the second idea didn’t pan out, I told myself that I would think of an idea that only requires me, myself and I to make it work. Sometimes, too many cooks really spoil the broth. While waiting for my Eureka moment, I was reading up HTML 4.0. It was the least I could do to equip myself with the knowledge to at least do up my own website.

It was when I was planning my wedding that I had the idea that germinate and bore fruit and finally become

Back in 1999 when I was planning my wedding, I took it upon myself to gather the wedding packages from various wedding venues. Being the geek I was, the first thing I did was to search for a wedding portal that was a central depository of the wedding packages. To my surprise, after I input my keywords to the search engines and directories like Yahoo!, Alta Vista and Google, I couldn’t find any wedding portal in Singapore! I had no choice but resigned myself to the traditional method of calling the various venues to request them to mail or fax the packages to me! It was very inefficient and non-environmental friendly. The mail would come in folders with pages after pages of brochures and packages. Sometimes when I couldn’t get anyone from a particular wedding venue to pick up my calls and email addresses were practically non-existent then, I had to visit the concierge of some hotels along Orchard Road to ask for the wedding packages on my weekends.

Next was shopping for wedding gowns. To me, they were just white pieces of fabric and they all looked the same to me! And wedding gown packages cost in the range of thousands! The most expensive item I’ve ever spent till then was my desktop PC. I couldn’t understand for the life of me how could white cloth be so expensive. I felt very stress when visiting the boutiques. I felt like a mountain tortoise and I was afraid I would embarrass myself and my wife. You can plant me in Sim Lim Square any day and I could choose RAMS, hard-drives, graphic cards, motherboards and assemble my own PC. In a boutique, I was meek and totally clueless. I wished there was a directory where it listed the website of wedding boutiques where I can surf in private and only visit those that my wife find interesting. But I can’t find a web directory of bridal boutique websites (and not realising that many boutiques didn’t have websites yet).

We would also need a professional wedding photographer to document our wedding day. Our choices were usually based on recommendations from friends who had gotten married. Needless to say, the choices were limited. Some of the photographers we met, we know immediately that the photographer was not for us once the portfolio was shown to us. The style was just not what we were looking for. Out of courtesy, we still had to sit through at least an hour with the photographer before we take our leave. I was convinced by then, a wedding portal that lists the photographers’ online portfolio would really make wedding planning and sourcing for their services more convenient and efficient.

During our wedding planning, my wife and I had lots of tiffs and fights. It was really a stressful time. We had to try to accommodate the wishes and requirements of both our families. At times, our families wishes were in conflict with each other. It really made wedding planning a diplomatic nightmare. There were times that some arguments were so bad that I even wondered if my wife was really the one I want to marry. I had thought and expected wedding planning to be happy, romantic and blissful. I had wanted our wedding to be a fairytale. I never expected it to be a nightmare which I can’t seem to wake up from.

At that time, I had a colleague who was also preparing her wedding. When she shared with me that she was having fights with her husband-to-be, I realised that it may be common for couples to fight during their planning but nobody knew as we tend to keep it from our close friends. We were embarrassed and we thought we were doing it wrong. When we had fights, we thought that our marriage was not meant to be. I’ve heard of couples calling off their weddings due to their fights. When I realise fights during wedding planning were more normal that we had known, I thought if we had an online community when we can confide with each other in anonymity, more couples will realise fights are common and less weddings will be called off.

It was my experience in wedding planning that I was inspired to come out with a solution to solve a problem at that time. During the planning, it had different facets of a problem and I wanted to solve them and it defined what I, and hopefully what other couples would look for in a wedding portal. That was how was born.

Luckily, the seed of my idea grew and it defined me instead of destroying me.

Lee DeWyze – Sweet Serendipity

P.S. It was really just wedding stress. Currently, my wife and I have been happily married for 11 years. Getting married is the best decision I’ve made in my life! 🙂

Low Thia Khiang – The Master Strategist and General

There were rumblings before the nomination day that Low Thia Khiang may vacate his fortified stronghold – Hougang, and join battle with his elite team in Aljunied GRC. This caused a flurry of speculations and discussions with many guessing that he would decide against it in the final hour as the risk is too high. If he stayed at his stronghold, Worker’s Party (WP) is guaranteed a voice in the parliament. But Low Thia Khiang surprised and shocked everyone with his announcement on nomination day that he’ll be joining his elite team of Sylvia Lim, Chen Show Mao, Pritam Singh and Faisal Abdul Manap in Aljunied. His announcement was akin to a call-to-arms that galvanised the supporters into action which was evident in the huge attendance in their rallies.

And then when you know that he has left his fortress to be defended by his protégé Yaw Shin Leong and you’ll begin to realise why WP enjoys such longevity and success. Low Thia Khiang had already prepared political leadership renewal in his party. When you think about it, Yaw Shin Leong is such an obvious choice as he is also a familiar face with Hougang residents.

In the previous election (GE2006), Aljunied GRC was PAP’s worst performing GRC at 56% and that was after the “Gomez Gate” that possibly had negatively affected WP’s showing. To make a final and strong push to convert 6.1% to be in WP’s favour, a bold gambit is required and that came in the form of Low Thia Khiang going from the defense to the attack.

His elite team had very strong members like Sylvia Lim (household name), “secret weapon” Chen Show Mao and “the orator” Pritam Singh.

WP’s Pritam Singh at Aljunied GRC rally, May 5

Singapore Pledge at Workers Party Rally @ Serangoon Stadium on 5 May 2011

It was also revealed in Sylvia Lim’s interview that she had been pounding the grounds of Aljunied every fortnightly in the past 8 years. The preparations were long in planning.

In all war, the battlefield is never static but changing conditions. The tide of advantage may sway any way. Finally,  万事俱备, 只欠东风Ž (Translation: Everything in place, just lacking of the Eastern wind).

And when it rained, it poured!

  1. The first gust of Eastern wind came in the form of Tin Pei Ling. The introduction of Tin Pei Ling, a 27 year old and inexperienced candidate shielded behind the wall of GRC system, attracted the ire of the online community.
  2. The gust of Eastern wind just grew stronger when Eric Low of PAP’s Hougang candidate commented that it has become a ‘slum’. Doesn’t he know that he shouldn’t insult his voters when he is trying to win their votes? The Hougang voters eventually rebutted his comment by voting strongly for Yaw Shin Leong and giving WP the best showing ever in Hougang with a vote of 64.81%!
  3. The newspaper report of an incident involving Cynthia Phua with residents of Aljunied in 2009 surfaced again. Also, reported on 8 May in The Sunday Times, she also admitted that her sometimes brusque and abrupt demeanor which grassroots volunteers had feedback, may rub the residents the wrong way.
  4. Lim Hwee Hua’s feeble attempt at casting doubt on Worker’s Party of managing a town council. In an atmosphere where the voters no longer accept tactics with the slightest hint of smearing and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Unfortunately, regardless of her intention, her comments cannot be more ill-timed during the campaign.
  5. The biggest bombshell dropped was when MM Lee (with all due respect) said, “If Aljunied decides to go that way (WP), well Aljunied has five years to live and repent.” MM Lee had always been known to make strong remarks and robust statements. It worked very well during Singapore’s tumultuous years and my parents’ generation, but such statements no longer sit well at all with the current Internet connected world. The statement created much unhappiness and resentment among the voters, it further swung the voters leaning towards Worker’s Party.

We must also give credit to Worker’s Party fearless leader, Low Thia Khiang. Their campaign was a well-planned and executed onslaught. This can be evident from their choice of rally points during the campaign. It started with Hougang, where Low Thia Khiang needed to explain to his Hougang supporters his decision to vacate his stronghold. He also rallied his voters to continue to support his ‘son’, Yaw Shin Leong. In 8 days of rally, 4 were spent on Aljunied GRC and the party ended the final 2 days of the rally in Aljunied GRC. This was all deliberate and no details were left to chance.

The fate of George Yeo’s led Aljunied GRC team was already written in the stars. The Worker’s Party was also hardwork was handsomely rewarded with a convincing 54.71% win and the future parliaments, they will be represented by 6 MP and 2 NCMP.

Any party, if they want to achieve similar success, they need to take a page out of Low Thia Khiang’s playbook. It involves years of planning and staging. The battle starts now.

What’s next? PAP’s East Coast GRC team fared only 54.83% against WP team in this general election. This is the next exposed weak spot in the PAP territory. Will we see another Low Thia Khiang led charge in GE 2016? Only time will tell.

Tinie Tempah – Written In The Stars ft. Eric Turner

The Will of the People

Come 7 May 2011, almost all Singaporeans will get to vote, 2,350,873 of us. 82 out of 87 seats are contested and this makes it the most hotly contested general election in Singapore’s history since independence. This is the day, that we as a citizen, get to choose our parliament and government.

During this campaign period, emotions run high, heated words are exchanged among the netizens. The emotions are so electrically charged that campaign posters were vandalised. A worker’s party supporter even requested Desmond Lim of SDA to step down from the election to avoid a 3-cornered fight. This election was a battle of heart, soul and the mind. It was also a clash of ideologies (hegemony democracy vs liberal democracy). For some, it’ll be an easy choice when they cast their vote because the candidate was never seen; for others, it’ll be a difficult choice as it feels as though the fate of the nation rests on one electorate.

At least this time, we can no longer be labelled as politically apathetic. Every day, my Facebook wall posts and twitter feeds are filled with political commentary and critics. A wide range of views have been published and I even discovered a blog post made by a young Singaporean, Daryl Yong, of only 20 years. His blog post showed maturity and intelligence beyond his age. Similary, I’ve also discovered an Ellsworth Toohey in the midst.

More than a decade ago, I was caught in the midst of Asian Financial Crisis. I only joined the workforce not many months earlier. During the crisis, every few months, I see colleagues being retrenched. It was a sombre and depressing period. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I would not wish on anyone. It culminated when Compaq PCA factory I was working in closed down and everyone of us was retrenched. It was circa 2000.

Then in the tail end of 2008, Global Financial Crisis struck. Like many, my company went into crisis mode. We had always been prudent in our spending and still, we managed to become leaner. No staff was let go.

About a year later, Singapore emerged pretty unscathed and the GDP grew by 14.5% in 2010.

With almost full employment rate, but shrouding within the impregnable shadow of dissatisfaction and unhappiness among the people due to rising costs of living and rising public housing prices, we, the citizens of Singapore will go to the polls tomorrow.

Regardless the result, with or without a co-driver, the new government will be required to steer and lead the country through a future with dark clouds already gathering in the future horizon. The challenges have already started to rear its monstrous head. With Japan still recovering from the recent 11 March disaster, which already began to disrupt the global supply chain and potentially affect the Singapore manufacturing sector; America buckling under it’s US$14 trillion debt crisis and the threat of retaliation from terrorists cell, the future is fraught with uncertainties.

I’m not pro-PAP nor pro-opposition, I’m just pro-choice. Tomorrow, whatever the result, it is not a freak election. This election will be voted by almost all eligible citizens of Singapore and the result is the representation of the WILL of the PEOPLE.

Respect that.

Take That – Greatest Day