Bootstrapping


When I started my venture, I started with $20k in my savings account. In the first month alone, I spent $2.5k on a laptop. Eleven years ago, that only got me a Digitek laptop running on Celeron chip that was 3kg in weight. I spent another $3k on a print ad for SingaporeBrides.com in Her World Brides magazine. In total, $5.5k was ‘burnt’ in the first month alone and that constituted about 25% of my starting capital. Instinctively, I knew I had to be careful with my spending as I didn’t know how long it was going to take before my venture is profitable.

During that time, many dot-coms started with having dedicated servers in local data centres for their websites and portals even though they may not have high traffic or visitors. Instead, I chose a cheap web hosting provider from the US (US$9.99 per month). SingaporeBrides.com began as a website hosted in a server in US (web-farm) with many other websites in it. I chose an open-sourced (and free!) server configuration which is now commonly known as LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) when at that time, most local start-ups server of choice was running licensed Microsoft softwares.

As I was working alone, I didn’t really need an office as I can work from home and all I needed was my trusty 56.6kbps dial-up modem and I’m connected to the cyberspace with the then available Starhub surf-for-free plan. The fired-up modem would sound the familiar chimes every morning making connection to the Internet to download my e-mails. The connection will be disconnected immediately once all my emails are retrieved to save on my dial-up phone bills. I was so cautious in my resources that I was using my friend’s office address as my registered address. I was so wary to not even wanting to spend the monthly fees of a virtual office address.

For the first year, I had only 2 clients.

And all this while, I still have to pay the monthly mortgage of my HDB loan, utility and phone bills. Thank goodness for CPF that was accumulated from my four years of working in Compaq!

From the start, I was prepared for the long haul. I just didn’t know how long. I knew I just had to scrimp and save every single cent.

I built SingaporeBrides.com on my own by reading up on HTML 4.0 and stitched the site together with some basic JavaScript. I didn’t hire a web designer nor developer. Everything in the site was hard-coded and every page was written using notepad in the beginning. I didn’t have any staff. I was doing everything on my own. While I didn’t have resources, I had time.

When I went for my meetings with potential prospects, I never took cab. I made it a point to take only buses and minimise transfer. When the bus does not stop at the destination, I would stop at the closest bus stop and walk the rest of the way. I would be in my work attire (long-sleeves, tie and formal pants) and carrying my 3kg heavy laptop. After about 15 minutes walking under the Singapore hot sun, I would almost be drenched in my perspiration so I always make it a point to arrive 30 – 45 minutes before appointment time so that I have sufficient time to cool down and wait for my attire to dry.

There was once when I had my appointment at Chinatown and my next appointment at Delphi Orchard with 2 hours in between, I walked just to save the bus fare.

Whenever I was thirsty and if I needed a drink, I would look for the cheapest water (Ice Mountain FTW!) in the supermarket and I would buy the bottle from the shelf instead of the chiller because it costs ten cents cheaper! And if I had my meeting in Starbucks, I would buy whichever drink and size that my prospect requested while I’ll be drinking the cheapest beverage which was the smallest sized ‘brew of the day’. If I’m outside, I would usually skip lunch or buy the cheapest bread to curb my hunger.

As a self-employed and funded entrepreneur, there is no difference in my personal and business expenditures. Every dollar I spent came from the same coffer. While I work at home, I also didn’t turn on my air-con to cut down on my utility bills. It came to a point that I don’t turn on the heater for bathing even if it was a rainy night just to save on the electricity bills. I also hardly went for movies with my wife and bought any books and magazines. Without saying, we didn’t go on any vacation or went travelling.

These had gone on for a stretch of 3 years. Even though I had scrimped and saved, my savings eventually dwindled to a few hundred dollars and my CPF had long ran out of funds and no longer able to make the mortgage loan by CPF alone. I didn’t even dare to let my wife know as I didn’t want her to worry. At that moment in time, I thought I finally had to give up my dream and start looking for a job.

Just when I was about to throw in the towel, something happened. I began to have clients! It started as a trickle and eventually it grew to a constant stream! My business finally reached its tipping point on the third year!

Looking back, I was glad that I had scrimped and saved every single cent. If I had not, I wouldn’t have enough resources to last until the final moment.

Similarly, like exit strategy, it was only in my later years that I realised what I did was “bootstrapping”.


The Wanted – All Time Low

The Man Rules

Apparently this has been making the rounds in emails, FB notes, blogs etc. This is really funny and I think it serves as a good reference for women to understand us men. This is truly some honest stuff. 🙂


The Man Rules

At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down

We always hear ” the rules” from the female side…

Now here are the rules from the male side.

These are our rules! Please note … these are all numbered “1” ON PURPOSE!

1. Men are NOT mind readers. (FIRST & FOREMOST RULE)

2. Learn to work the toilet seat. You’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down. We need   it up, you need it down. You don’t hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

3. Sunday sports, It’s like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

4. Crying is blackmail.

5. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one:

Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

6. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

7. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

8. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 Days.

9. If you think you’re fat, you probably are. Don’t ask us.

10. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one

11. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

12. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

13. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

14. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

15. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

16. If we ask what is wrong and you say “nothing,” We will act like nothing’s wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

17. If you ask a question you don’t want an answer to, expect an answer you don’t want to hear.

18. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine… Really.

19. Don’t ask us what we’re thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as Football or Cricket or Rugby.

20. You have enough clothes.

21. You have too many shoes.

22. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

23. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight;

But did you know men really don’t mind that? It’s like camping.


Reposted from: Moh Hon Meng’s Facebook Note


Nicole Scherzinger – Right There ft. 50 Cent

Happy Staff, Happy People

During the recent general elections, one of the common rhetorics I’ve read online is that Singapore government’s emphasis on GDP growth has led to stressful working environment. I don’t profess to understand the logic with the above statement. To my limited economic and governance knowledge, GDP is just a number for the government to measure the health of Singapore economy.

With regards to a stressful working environment, I always think that it is in relation to the job scope, colleagues, office politics, work environment and company culture, no?

In the recent decade, we have gone through some major economic crisis – Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, Dot Com Bubble Burst in 2000 and Global Financial Crisis in 2008. During these crises, many companies went into cost-cutting mode where many staff were retrenched and the people who were left in the company were forced to pickup the extra workload and job responsibilities. These continued for many years and even during good times, many companies were still cautious about employing more staff. The companies wanted to keep themselves lean and nimble so they would be able to handle any economic downturns come what may. Some companies may even rationalise that if the current staff was able to pick up the slack by working harder and longer hours without the company increasing the headcount, why not?

In the past 1.5 years, pockets of the world economy recovered in an astounding rate and Singapore’s was one of these. However, some and maybe many companies did not or were not able to react fast enough, many employed people were left to work harder and longer hours to compensate for the increased workload. This increased stress and caused many people to become unhappy working people.

When I noticed my staff were overworked, I checked them and find out if they would need additional headcount to alleviate their workload. Recently, when I think an internal team of 2 staff were overworked and they were working at a capacity of 120% each, I recruited a new staff to join their team and now each of them are at about 80% capacity. I don’t think it is right to overwork my staff at over 100% capacity for long periods of time. This is neither healthy nor efficient.

All along, my staff has been operating on flexi hours. As long as their work is done and do not inconvenience their team members, my staff can start work later and leave earlier. We’ve mostly, if not all already, moved our documents and software (SaaS) to the cloud. My staff now has the flexibility to work from home if they choose to do so. They would more than happy to choose this option especially when there is a heavy downpour in the morning during rush hour. They get to keep their socks and shoes dry.

Being a boss, I would want my staff to be happy and enjoy their work. Singapore being one of the developed countries with the least number of public holidays (11 days), on top of the standard 14 days leave per annum, my staff gets off days on their birthdays. As we are SingaporeBrides.com, it only makes sense that our married staff get off days on their wedding anniversary. As we also operate SingaporeMotherhood.com, on top of government’s stipulated childcare leave, I’ve given my staff off days on each of their children’s birthdays.

As my staff number has increased and I’ve been pondering on how I can reward their years of service with the company. I’m never one who is big on paper certificates or engraved pens. After much contemplation, I decided it is best for my staff to mark and celebrate their anniversary with an off day.

I just announced this new off day to all my staff today. 🙂

When Singapore’s life expectancy is at 80, assuming our working lifespan is 40 years, we would be spending half our life working. It is therefore important for people to be happy in their work. In order to achieve work-life balance, I strongly believe it starts with the employer creating a conducive and understanding work environment. I don’t profess that my way is the way of making staff happy but I am just trying to do my best.

Most importantly, the least any employer can do is to respect their staff and their time.


Pitbull – Give Me Everything ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, Nayer

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 SingaporeBrides.com, 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 SingaporeBrides.com.

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 SingaporeBrides.com 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

Sick

I fell sick over the long weekend. I was down with a cold. Since Friday morning, I’ve been feeling groggy and sleepy. I can’t do anything but sleep. My conscious mind seems to have been blanketed by a layer of fog and my cognitive ability was totally impaired. Like all weekends, I had hoped to catch up with work and emails but all I did was having restless sleep with weird dreams invading my subconscious.

I woke up feeling more tired and worse.

On Thursday evening, I was meeting a very good friend, Maggie, at Starbucks Raffles City where I chanced upon DK. As always, he is at his usual haunt again. It was good to catch-up with him since we’ve not met for a long while. But his 见面礼 was a cold bug!

When I was still an employee, at times, I was glad to fall sick and get a MC from the doctor. It means I can sleep in, rest and don’t have to go to work.

How life and attitude change now that I’m my own boss: I don’t want to fall sick. Falling sick means I can’t catch up with work and the progress of projects may be delayed or fall further. I’ve thousand and one things to do. My to-do lists are ever expanding. As it is, I’ve 168 items on my to-do lists spanning 6 pages of Google document.

To prevent myself from falling sick, I jog 4 km every alternate days and swim on Sundays. I also make sure that I down one glass ofvitamin Corange juice every day. The only area that I’m still working on is to get 8 hours of sleep regularly. Most of the time, I get 6 hours.

Come to think about it, in the past 11 years, I only had 3 vacations. When work become your life and you are enjoying your work, why would you want to be away from it?

I hope I’ll be well enough to work tomorrow.


Sick Muse [Official Music Video – HD] – METRIC