| Danial Norjidi |
IN TODAY’S world of technology, for a start-up company to have a chance at success it is imperative to know what it is trying to achieve with its technology, who they are helping and how they can differentiate themselves from the competition.
“In a fast changing technology world, there will be a lot of technologies out there. Whatever one does, whether it’s building a platform or harnessing a technology, at the end of the day, what are you trying to achieve out of that? Who are you helping, and how can you help your target audience in a better way than the next guy?”
“If you’re doing the same thing as the next guy, or as something that’s already being done out there, then you’re not really helping your target audience. You need to do it in a way that is better, faster and more efficiently.”
This was said by Oliver Tan, the CEO of Singapore-based company ViSenze, while speaking with the Bulletin. Tan was one of the invited speakers at yesterday’s Innovate forum, organised by the iCentre at the Rizqun International Hotel.
His company specialises in image recognition features for e-commerce and contextual advertising, and has received $3.5 million funding from Tokyo-based online services giant Rakuten Ventures.
Speaking in the interview, Tan also spoke on the mentality he feels is crucial for entrepreneurs.
“Believe in the things that you do, and use that as determination to make things happen,” he said. “There will be pain points, there will be problems. Even in the darkest hour, you need to know exactly what your end goal is.”
“If you do have to change your route in order to reach that end goal, then make it so. There is no shame in taking another road. All roads lead to Rome at the end of the day. It’s how you get there.”
During the forum’s panel dialogue, a question from the audience asked about how an entrepreneur can judge whether or not to partner with someone else. He responded by saying that whenever it comes to partnership, there are always three areas that need to be checked.
“Fundamentally I look at feasibility of idea, business model and execution team,” he said in the session. “Often the first two boxes are checked, but the third is not or suspect. Sometimes you have the best idea but cannot execute. Nine out of 10 times that is the problem, the execution.”
Elaborating on this point with the Bulletin, he highlighted, “The execution comes from the management team. How balanced is this team? Who comprises the management team and how does each member of the execution team level up and help each other in the long term?”
“A lot of the time it’s not the effort of one individual. For instance, sometimes a person is really good at technology but doesn’t know how to apply this in a business way,” he continued. “Then you have those folks who are very social media savvy, especially if your business model is related to social media. Knowing a target audience and understanding how people behave in social media is not all about technology. That’s just a part. It’s to do with social media marketing.”
“So, it’s a composition of the team itself; does this team have the necessary ingredients to execute the business plan that they just pitched to me? If they have all parts of it covered, good.”
“My next question: is this a new team or has this team worked together before? That is an assessment of how likely this team is able to work together through highs and lows, thick and thin. Even if they cover all the basic requirements, if they only met a day before, then that leaves a big question mark,” he added.
Speaking on outsourcing technology and skills, and the effect it can have on a business development, he said, “If you’re just building a market-based platform, then basically you will be leveraging or harnessing most of the available or suitable technology that you can use.”
For instance, if you’re building an e-commerce site, you don’t need to develop an e-commerce engine, because they’re already available out there, he said.
“What you need to do is use this technology and adapt it in a way that best suits the products or target audience you are trying to address,” he added.
Another speaker to feature at the Innovate forum was Darrel Zhang, a winner of the Young Entrepreneur Awards 2012 in Singapore, who is the Founder of Intraix, a company that specialises in low-cost energy management systems.
In his presentation yesterday he shared his journey as an entrepreneur, beginning by recounting an internship he had in China as a student.
“If you get the opportunity to go abroad and see how things are in Beijing, Shanghai or perhaps Silicon Valley in the USA, take it,” he said. “It is an eye opener.”
There are opportunities abound overseas, he said, sharing that it was during his internship that he met his business partner.
“Where do you start if you want to get into entrepreneurship?” he asked rhetorically. “I always say, take part in business challenges and business plan competitions. They help you learn how to run a company, how to manage things.”
He also highlighted the importance of planning ahead, and of cash flow. Often, he said, companies start out with good ideas, but end up dying out because of poor planning and no cash flow.
“Sacrifices have to be made,” he said, sharing a slide displaying a picture of his bank balance, which showed that he had exactly $0.50 in his account. “For nine months, my partner and I didn’t take a cent for ourselves from the business.”
“This motivated us,” he continued. “When you are at a low, you strive to make a difference.”
He, like Tan, also affirmed the importance of remembering why you started the business in the first place. Speaking in an interview, he said, “A lot of people, when they get too concerned with the financial side of things, tend to stray a bit. I still know a lot of people who quit business and decided to get regular jobs because they said it was too hard for them.”
“When money is the core motivation, I think that is when this sets in very early,” he added. “I feel that, having that motivation where you want to succeed and want to make a difference can help you push through this difficult period, which is a very common period for a lot of entrepreneurs.”