Wrote a Business Plan when you were 17?

I didn’t. But the high school students at Raffles Junior College (RJC) sure did. I was at the school yesterday giving a presentation on business plan writing to about 40 (?) members of their Entrepreneurship club (along with Justin who’s an alumni). This was a weekend camp for the new members who had a 2-hour crash course on business plan writing as part of their camp programme. 2 hours?!?! Man, it took 10 weeks for John Nesheim to teach that same course. Maybe a couple of days for a proper workshop for business plan competition participants. But 2 hours? I didn’t really know what I was in for when i took this project up.

“Can you talk about “Business” or “Entrepreneurship” for more than 3 minutes when you were 17?”

I am good at BS, so I sure could =D But it won’t make sense to those who really knew. I wanted to develop a presentation that excited the young audience without killing their interest by boring them with details. Thats where the E27 philosophy came in. We invoked a lot of excitement by highlighting Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Blake Ross, Mark Zuckerberg, the Youtube guys — most of which were 1-5 year timeframes away from the young audience when they started up. But inspiring them was easy, the meat of the presentation was the tricky part.

I had ONE BIG Challenge: the Curse of Knowledge.

1. I had way too much knowledge from my years of starting up and working for a startup. A fine line had to be drawn between simplicity and quality.

2. These kids had their own Curse of Knowledge too – from Google. I have to help them navigate through that surplus of information that plagues modern society today.

We realized 3 things early in developing our presentation:

1. A business plan format is really boring and tedious to 17-year-olds.

2. Everything was available on Google.

3. We are all very good “buying” consumers but we just dunno what its like on the other “selling” side.

We ditched the entire business plan format as the focus. And did away with a lot of business jargon like sustainable competitive advantage, core competency, value proposition. At its very core, entrepreneurship=business=making money. To me, entrepreneurship is making money with soul as a real human being. (You have to curb some human instincts when you work in a big corporation.) Injecting what you know about human society, their psychology and their attitudes towards buying things. All of us are humans and we are in contact with many businesses every day. And thats the angle I took.

Since everybody could google “Business plan writing” anytime, we focused on 3 key concepts that will be good filters in knowing the core of what it takes to write a good business plan. These filters were intended to be the mental “Compasses” to navigating the “GoogleLand” and overcoming the Curse of Knowledge.

1. Unfair Advantage

2. Positioning

3. Strategy

These were smart kids and I tried to make the examples and analogies as close and personal to them as possible. I asked that what shoes they wear, the food they eat, the MP3 player they like and what other company dominates their consciousness. From there, I explained why Nike, Singapore Airlines, AirAsia, Apple iPod conquers the business world and their minds.

Hopefully, it was all engaging. The room was bloody cold and the kids were dressed in T-shirts and shorts. I feared there would be a mass exodus midway through the lecture due to hypothermia fears. =D Thankfully, there wasn’t. Lets see if any of them find this blog post so we all get some real feedback.

Yahoo’s Major Mobile Ad Deal Includes Singapore Airlines

Yahoo ramps up it advertising deals with top brands today, according to Reuters. In a show of its clout among brand advertisers, Yahoo has signed a multi-country mobile-phone advertising deal with companies like Hilton’s Embassy Suites, Infiniti, Intel Corp., Nissan, Pepsi & Co, Procter & Gamble Asia-Pacific and Singapore Airlines. This is expected to be the first wave of customers.

The new service is available in Western Europe in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and in the Americas in United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

It also plans to offer the advertising service in Asia-Pacific markets including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

How will it work?

Advertisements will run along the top of Yahoo’s home page on the Internet screens of mobile phones. Consumers can click on the interactive ads to learn more about an advertiser’s offer or call the advertiser directly for details.

Yahoo Japan Corp., the company’s joint venture with Softbank Corp. has been running ads in Japan for several years in what ranks as one of the world’s most advanced mobile technology markets.

Its interesting to note the aggressive push of Yahoo into the mobile markets of 6 major Southeast Asian markets. Yahoo’s expanding reach across Southeast Asia, in recent years, has focused on building up an advantage in working relationships with local content and service providers, giving it a heads-up advantage over competitors like Google which is still very new to the region. Granted that direct response advertising don’t really work well on mobile phones anyway (simple no screen space to serve them alongside search results), Yahoo is proving to be faster in understanding that their strengths lie in brand-based marketing and scaling those relationships to the Asia-Pac region.

The Yahoo Japan example in the news article is a curious misnomer. Everyone knows Japan’s 3G (or beyond now?) networks and user habits make them an anomaly in global digital culture. The Japanese read mini-novels, watch TV and play geo-dating games on their phones, all of which are ideas still largely being incubated in many media and research labs around the world. While Singapore might boast a decent 3G infrastructure, user habits are unlikely to shift dramatically overnight to make branded ads a painless component of mobile internet usage. I already find loading webpages on the Nokia 6280 and Motorola Razr V3X a time-wasting hassle, let alone wait for a static graphic ad to load at the top of my browser.

Credit to Marketing Pilgrim for breaking this news.

Re: Singapore’s Web2.0 Readiness

This is sort of a reply to James Seng’s post. James is considered one of the Internet pioneers in Singapore, based on Wikipedia. He is also an advisor to the non-profit organization my friend Ming Yeow founded – The Digital Movement. I should start by thanking him for approving the E27 submission on Tomorrow.sg, Singapore’s top social media news outlet (which James founded). Thanks, James. =)

James had 3 points on why Singapore is not ready. I generally agree. I am nowhere near James in terms of repute nor experience and all I am doing is to offer my humble viewpoints. Almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about finding zero Web2.0 startups in Singapore, only to amend that statement when I found some and profiled them at the first E27 event. Still, we are a far cry from the Web2.0 frenzy in Silicon Valley. I know its unfair to compare, although recent media exposure on the national (rather the government’s) desire to create the next “Youtubes and Skypes” from our shores have made this a hot topic again. Below are my personal views on his various points. Continue reading

A Vision: To become Singapore

A friend of mine, Wesley Oxenham, hails from Mauritius and has written an article in what I can only guess is a news journal of Mauritius. The main site is in the native tongue (?) of French. But Wesley’s article is mainly in English and its speaks of his dream for his home country. A dream many Singaporeans like myself sometimes forget and take for granted in our cushy environs.

“I have a dream for Mauritius; but the desire is not enough for a dream – a vision – to come true.” …

I believe we need to build up new and sturdy foundations for our country and people, and the best way to achieve this turning point is to learn from successful case studies from around the world, one of which is Singapore: a country with absolutely no resources, about 3 times smaller than Mauritius and with 4 times more people. Yet Singapore today is referred to as one of Asia’s economic “tigers”.

Wesley goes on to talk about how a culture of poverty and corruption handicaps the social psyche and perpetuates a subculture of hatred and criminal violence. He highlights the importance of meritocracy and how it might stem the brain drain of talented native Mauritians who choose not to return to their home countries.

Reading this article makes me think of the many Mauritians I have met in the past few years. I distinctly remember a guy called Joy from my undergrad years in NUS – a person who dreams of learning what he can from Singapore in order to join politics back in Mauritius and contribute to his society. His friends laugh at him but his spirit and mentality is admirable. His career pursuit is guided by a socially responsible compass and the outcome is one which will lead to benefits that goes beyond his personal domain.

Such thoughts always make me come back to the “Idealism vs Pragmatism” debate I think plagues young Singaporeans today. Continue reading

Fan Video of Singapore’s ASEAN Victory

Right, this post is for the Singaporeans only. Ding Cheng An commemorated Singapore’s victory at the recently concluded ASEAN Football Championships and made this machinima-esque video. Not sure how long he took it. But the attention to detail and sequencing was smooth if he really did it haphazardly. He even chereographed the match highligts, shots and goals to near-perfection. Its an enjoyable clip. Look at the faces of Khairul Amri, Mustafic, Shi Jiayi and Daniel Bennett and see if you recognize them.

Credit to Youth.sg for this.

Event: Conversations with Web2.0 Community at E27

e27round.jpgRegular readers of this blog will know of the Entrepreneur27 Singapore initiative started by myself last year. We return this Feb 15 (next Thursday) with our 4th edition titled “You Are the Media”. Ahh yeah, I know, we “borrowed” that from the Time magazine folks.

I want to thank Ridzuan from NTU who has blogged a “5 Reasons why you should come…” kind of pitch for us, hence saving my work for marketing. =) He’s not the only guy and I want to thank the other bloggers for helping the word of mouth effort. Hat-tip to U-Zyn too at Ping.sg. We have 130+ signups since we started the wiki early this week. 70 more spaces to go, guys. Cant resist a commercial pitch here..

Sign up here (no entry fee). More on event here.

This time round, we have a better-planned unconference with 3 concurrent tracks. I pray it works and attendees find the range of sessions useful and not disruptive. We continue to unearth the more exciting Web2.0 startups in little Singapore, those with crazy ideas that should really sink or swim, as evaluated in front of our live audience. There’s no better way to crash-test your business model in front of the actual consumers themselves — young university students and bored young professionals with lots of free time spent surfing the web at home, in dorms and in offices. If you are keen to sharpen your sense of wit and sarcasm and practise your VC analytical skills, come sit in. Its really kinda like American Idol where the audience members are all Simon Cowells, Randy Jacksons and Paula Abduls.

Then there’s always the user-generated sessions which grants you a podium to speak freely and get your 15-30minutes of facetime in front of an audience. Talk about anything you want as long as its relevant to web2.0. Like whether Youtube is an one-off startup opportunity, whether Internet TV is a misnomer due to bandwidth issues, how to identify and find good PHP/ Django programmers, how to design a better widget, tricks to make loads of Adsense money or building the nest big thing blah blah… Eclectic topics and equally eccentric personalities is what we like. Sometimes, the crazy ideas help us get our best thinking done.

The final track is a new creation. Called “branded conversations”, we hope to let the corporates eat the E27 pie too and talk to our audience. In Singapore especially, our fledgling Web 2.0 industry means most of the subject matter experts with industry experience work for someone else now rather than for themselves. So, we hope to bring these people to share some frontline stories of battling with real customers, industrysg_entrepreneurs_logo-white.jpg partners and share their strategic viewpoints from within their corporations. We think its also a good chance for entrepreneurs to have a direct line to talk partnering with the biggies without the hassle of calling contacts and scheduling. Join in the pre-event chatter now at SgEntrepreneurs here. The $500M Interactive Digital Media (IDM) fund guys from MDA will also be around to chat.

If you dig Web 2.0, what are you waiting for? Did i mention free dinner too if u come early? But dun leave till you contribute. 😉

Another unconference joins the family – Barcamp SG

This one is for the geeks of Singapore. “Those who code shall rule the world” appears to be the mantra that drives many other Barcamps around the world. In Singapore, we might be late to jump on this bandwagon but we are coming there.

barcampsing.jpg

Harish lamented the lack of geeks at the Barcamp event. I agree. I might not be a geek but I do know what Barcamp is not – another event for business types like myself. We need diversity of social events for the coders, hackers and all forms and shapes of Continue reading