Entrepreneurial talk

This week's session on entrepreneurship was amazing! It was totally worth skipping dinner.

The first speech

There was this superb opening by the angel investor Jayesh Parekh who seemed to put in so many useful stuff in his slides. His focus seemed to be more of the business rather than the product side, which was terrific. I think an important lesson from his presentation was that startups being a complex endeavour have many parameters and there's a wide spectrum of combinations of these parameters (like: ambitious vs. conservative, self-funded vs. "Other People's Money"), so when starting one you should take all these things into account and be totally sure that you make the right decision. 

Another important lesson was the "typical stuff that needs to be considered on typical startups". This was taken from the heading of his slides:

  • enthusiasm
  • information / research
  • innovation
  • leadership and action
  • pricing
  • funding / grant
  • early team
  • board / advisors
  • backup plan

The other speakers were all very inspiring in their own ways. I will just randomly spit out some stuff I can still remember now. (I hope my brain is quite selective such that it remembers the important stuff but ignores the less important ones ;P)

On seeking co-founders

Your co-founder(s) would be very much like your spouse, but more, since unlike spouses co-founder(s) are supposed to have skills that complement yours. "Love at first sight" can happen, as well as slow-and-steady relationship. You have to be able to totally trust your co-founder and tolerate their weaknesses. If no prospective co-founders are available, you can try seeking for one, but just like looking for a girl-boyfriend it might be quite difficult.

On founding after graduation vs. working first

Founding a serious business is a serious business. Only if you have something exceptional then you do it. Passion is not exceptional -- unless you can make people believe your cause (which entails experience in sales / marketing). Ideas are (99.9999% of the time) not exceptional -- what makes Facebook more successful over Friendster is not the idea. People / team can be exceptional, but it's very difficult (I think) to get one. Successfully identifying the next wave are not exceptional -- either a lot of people have identified the same wave, or you identified the wrong thing.

You will have more of these items under your collection when you work for a company, so I guess it's better to work first, unless you are absolutely sure that you have all these magnificent resources available for you -- in which case I think it is totally worth it to drop out of school immediately. Who cares about an undergraduate degree if you can have the next multi-million dollar company? (Similarly, who cares about a founder of a spectacularly failing company that never completes any tertiary education?)

On serendipity and labour

Some may think that these successful enterepreneurs are just lucky to see an opportunity when the stars were perfectly aligned for his zodiac. Luck is always a big chunk of the equation in all walks of life, but I think we tend to put too big a chunk for luck in the equation. These fellows have successfully identified an opportunity / wave, rode on that, created value and money, scaled the processes/business, etc. All of which needs luck, absolutely, but also to a varying extent skill, passion, network, people, government favoritism, local trends, global trends, and a lot of other stuff. Smart people analyse these and react accordingly; lazy people classify these as "luck". 

And I can't help to mention that none of the speakers were female.


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