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A tale of two startups


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The stories of 1

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A tale of two startups

  1. 1. A Tale ofTwo Startups (and a half) By Benjamin Joffe Going Global From Asia JFDI | Singapore | 2012.02
  2. 2. HELLO! My name is@BenjaminJoffe!
  3. 3. @BenjaminJoffe –  In “Asia” since 2000 (JP, KR, CN, SG, MY) –  “Digital Naturalist” & Consultant (+8*) –  Angel investor (Cmune, MyGengo) –  MobileMonday Beijing Founder (40 events) –  100+ talks in 18 countries –  100,000+ views on SlideShare –  “Mentor” in 5 incubators (SF, MV, PL, CN, SG) –  Startup founder since 2011! ( I wear many hats!
  4. 4. Idea #1 There is no “Asia” “Asia” was originally a concept of Western civilization”
  5. 5. Ecosystems Civilizations Those are the two important lenses to look through
  6. 6. Ecosystem? –  GDP/capita –  Population –  Infrastructure –  Access to talent –  Access to money –  Access to advice Ecosystems encompass elements of economy, workforce, infra…
  7. 7. Idea #2There is no “Global Market” We are in fact addressing new ecosystems.“Entering China” often equals to “starting a new company”. How “global” is even Facebook if not in China?
  8. 8. Corollary There is no Silicon Valley With Yuri Milner signing checks to Y Combinator startups, whosefounders are from around the world, “Silicon Valley” is more of a network than a place.
  9. 9. Bonus Startup: Newt Games I will start with the first startup I was exposed to, back in 2003
  10. 10. SoLoMo in 2003! –  Location-based social game –  Virtual goods avatars –  3G –  GPS –  In Japan! So innovative it is pretty amazing even today
  11. 11. Problems –  Engineers only –  No user acquisition strategy –  Data too expensive –  Too few compatible handsets Unfortunately even Japan was not ready for it
  12. 12. What I learned –  “Too innovative” –  8 years too early –  Marketing? –  Art vs. Business And the company was not really ready for business either
  13. 13. Cmune This is the first startup I have been involved with (almost) from start
  14. 14. UberStrike is the #1First-Person Shooter on Facebook It is doing pretty well today, with a very advanced game
  15. 15. Human Instincts It taps into fundamental human instincts such as…
  16. 16. “…shoong  someone  in  the  face   with  a  gun.”   Ma#hew  Johnston,  Senior  Producer  ,  PopCap   Told you.
  17. 17. Demo Check out
  18. 18. Indicators of Success •  Least to most important –  Industry recognition –  20 staff –  Investment by top tier VC –  1M players –  Revenue Revenue is what marks success, beyond popularity
  19. 19. Going back 4 years But of course, it was not a straight story
  20. 20. Cmune –  2 foreign friends in Beijing –  “3D real-time collaboration” It started with 2 guys who needed a tool to work online together
  21. 21. From Delusions to Business –  2008: pitch to Joi Ito –  Accidental Widget –  Pivot to gaming = kill 4 projects + B2B –  Pivot to web-based = dropping the client –  Pivot to Facebook = free distribution –  Pitch at LeWeb (2008.12) –  Upgrade everything! –  Pitch angels start at LeWeb (2010.12) The world changed as the product was being built
  22. 22. Financing for 4 Years –  Year 1 Founders –  Year 2 Friends –  Year 3 Team + B2B –  Year 4 Min. guarantees + Revenue + Loan –  (Year 5) Seed funding + Revenue How to finance? Cmune has done it all!(except donations, kickstarter and selling cereal boxes)
  23. 23. Living for 4 Years –  Founders experienced + had some savings –  Beijing cheaper to live ($2K/month is enough) –  Hiring cheaper has a cost –  Building network How to keep going when you can’t pay people and yourself much?
  24. 24. Personal Costs for Founders –  4 years with minimal salary, often no salary •  4 x $125K x 2 = $1M –  High risk high stress times –  “Stuck” in Beijing –  You’re getting married! The opportunity cost is significant, and so are constraints (place, co-founder).
  25. 25. Personal Rewards for Founders 1.  Over $1M value created 2.  Own boss 3.  Build something people love 4.  Amazing experience 5.  Meet cool people When you succeed, it is worth it (of course).If you fail, you still have all except money! (but time is gone!)
  26. 26. What now? •  Mac App Store (#1 Game, 500,000+ DLs) •  Mobile (call by Nvidia) •  More!
  27. 27. Summary of Problems –  4 years (somewhat typical in fact) –  Many mistakes (none fatal) –  (almost) ran out of money 3 times –  Various crises •  Stock options, mis-hires, biz dev, … –  Hiring juniors: you get what you pay for •  Lots of training, lower quality, less ideas, slower Advisors can help you through problems Smart people in the team are recommended
  28. 28. What I learned –  “Too innovative” –  4 years too early? –  Networking –  Financing –  Hiring Started very early, thankfully the world changed!
  29. 29. DayDeed This is my own startup project
  30. 30. “One good Deed per Day” “Wisdom from Friends” “Everyone can help!” “Paying it forward”“Facebook without the crap” Which tagline do you like best?
  31. 31. “I need a dentist!” (DayDeed pitch) DayDeed brings you advice from friends: trusted personalized
  32. 32. “Wisdom of Friends” •  Not just sharing, doing –  “Am Anfang War Die Tat!” •  Helping friends getting helped –  Paying it forward It takes social networking beyond simply connecting sharing: problem solving!
  33. 33. “Social Craigslist” “Twitter for what matters”“Facebook without the crap” A few other ways to look at DayDeed
  34. 34. Demo It’s live! Register at
  35. 35. 1 Create up to 3 active needs 2 See needs from friends Reply or Cheer them 3 Help and get help from strangers too!
  36. 36. Timeline •  2011. 5 Failed pitch at iWeekend in Beijing •  2011.6~8 Research in SF + Founder Institute •  2011.9-10 Search in Singapore + events •  2011.11 Hired team moved to Malaysia •  2011.12 Alpha •  2012.01 Open Beta •  2012.02 Silicon Valley roadshow The research phase included many discussions, mockups and “customer development” interviews
  37. 37. Problems •  I can’t code •  I can’t design •  I don’t have co-founders •  I’ve never done a startup before How did I do it?
  38. 38. Life Goals •  I had to do it •  I don’t need a house (yet) •  I don’t need to marry or kids (yet) •  I can afford to lose money (some) Better check your priorities before you embark on a costly adventure in time and money
  39. 39. What I have •  Savings (+8* for cash flow) •  Network (thanks to 100+ talks 5 years) •  Knowledge (consulting rocks!) •  Concept (original to me ^_^; ) A strong idea and limited resources are enough to start!
  40. 40. What I CAN do •  Draw mockups (Balsamiq rulz!) •  Write user stories •  Find great people •  Get feedback •  Hustle This is all about PRODUCT PLANNING, HIRING, CUSTOMER DEVELOPMENT and BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT. I think this is the Founder’s job
  41. 41. Options •  Learn programming •  Outsourcing (India, Slovenia, etc.) •  Hackers (Hackweekend / Startup Weekend…) •  Freelancers •  Senior developers I had many options for the technical part, and decided to go for senior developers
  42. 42. What I need •  Reasonable costs •  A few smart guys •  Decent infrastructure The question was who, where and at what cost?
  43. 43. Geographical Options –  San Francisco –  Beijing –  Singapore –  Berlin –  South-East Asia Those are the locations I considered. Malaysia won.
  44. 44. It’s all about Ecosystems •  GDP/capita English-speaking market •  Population Large •  Infrastructure OK •  Access to talent Introductions •  Access to money Self-funding + network •  Access to advice Founder Institute, network Malaysia scored well on most parameters
  45. 45. What I learned (a) •  Prepare well •  Research (usage, customer development interviews) •  Prepare your act (mockups, user stories) •  Build smartly •  Work with smart people •  Launch fast •  Track REAL metrics (not vanity) and Act on them I use Balsamiq, Pivotal Tracker, Mixpanel, Google Analytics and some custom stats. Read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
  46. 46. What I learned (b) •  Share your idea (leaves stealth to ninjas) –  Feedback is super important –  Especially negative / dubious –  Maybe not a user, but prepares u for questions –  No-one will quit their job to do it –  Already half a dozen doing it you don’t know about –  “Competitors” build the market too •  Silicon Valley culture is PAYING IT FORWARD You NEED feedback. Your job is (1) Finding who to ask (2) Prioritizing To get people’s time, HELP THEM FIRST
  47. 47. What I learned (c) “Design is HOW IT WORKS” It took me 2 years to understand this phrase. I’ll save you time.
  48. 48. Meaning? •  Design IS NOT looking good •  Design IS NOT only solutions •  Design SHOWS HOW TO USE IT •  …and EMOTIONS People understand at once how to use a well designed product. Something ugly can totally be more usable than something pretty (think about those fancy light switches: which one lights up what?Read “Emotional Design” “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman
  49. 49. Consequences on Landing page •  Know in 5 seconds what it does •  Use it within 5 seconds •  Prove that it works •  Feel good: how it feels (UI, copywriting) Make people happy using your ugly product before making it pretty!
  50. 50. What I learned (d) •  Specs Project Management are easy –  Pivotal Tracker •  Design can come late –  1.5 months AFTER alpha! •  Black Magic of Copywriting •  Social Design Emotions! Prioritizing is hard. Design copy matter as they convey EMOTIONS
  51. 51. What I learned (e) Sign up to For the last tip, sign up to and give me feedback there!
  52. 52. So can you go global from Asia? •  There is no Asia •  Research A LOT then build FAST and keep MEASURING •  Build connections in Silicon Valley for future resources, users, market access •  Find a few A-players for your project So many companies are built in small countries, the 48 countries of “Asia” will not be an exception!
  53. 53. Good luck Enjoy the ride!
  54. 54. Reading List •  Skip the new TV series or funny YouTube video and invest $10 in ideas instead: –  The Lean Startup –  The Design of Everyday Things –  Emotional Design –  Understanding Comics –  Kopywriting Kourse •