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Three Days with MaGIC and Malaysia’s Emerging Startup Community

Inspired by Silicon Valley, many cities and nations around the world are trying to build startup and technology hubs – to spur innovation and economic development. In Asia, Shenzhen, Singapore, Indonesia, and Bangalore have become known as startup hubs. But another nation that’s fighting to earn a seat at the table is Malaysia.

On the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city and home to 1.6M people, is district of Cyberjaya, which has for years been a place for technology companies to plant roots in Malaysia. It’s also the home base of a newly created government agency, MaGIC (Malaysia Global Innovation Centre), which seeks to transform Malaysia into Asia’s startup capital.

My friend Cheryl Yeoh, founder of Reclip.it (acquired by Walmart Labs in 2013) was selected to be the founding CEO and helped kick off the new org this April. Over the summer, she told me about her plans to bring founders, makers and startup folks to KL and share their stories and lessons on building companies with the Malaysian community.

Of course I was in. So this November, I got to spend three very interesting days with Malaysia’s emerging startup community. Here’s what I learned. Continue reading…

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Create Moments of Victory

We make comparisons between business and sports all the time. We talk about hitting a home run, taking more shots, playing defense. But one of the challenges of business, compared to sports, is the rarity of the unadulterated victory. Whether it’s a friendly pick up game to a state title to the Olympics, winning a competition offers something pure and simple. A true win. Yes, the victory may be temporary – next round, next game, next season – but it’s still very real, very tangible. 

In business, there’s no agreed upon metric for winning. Market share? Revenue? Profitability? Customer satisfaction? Return on capital? You could make a case for any one of those, and there’s also no time frame for when to “call it”. We have to manufacture those win opportunities.

Making wins feel real

In technology, the launch date is a big opportunity to claim a victory. For startups, it’s the official launch on TechCrunch (or more likely today, ProductHunt). On a bigger scale, it’s the 2007-12 Apple keynotes, where the announcement is the key moment victory. Of course, announcements and launches can be flops so there is also risk there.  Continue reading…

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You Had One Job…

A few months ago, Rick Webb, co-founder of The Barbarian Group, joined my company Percolate as VP of People Operations. Rick is a top candidate for being the most interesting man in the world, particularly because he’s had a ton of different jobs. 82 different ones to be exact. It’s fascinating to think of this person you know as operating in such a wide variety of roles. And it’s not just Rick. My coworker Monik made his own list, 25 Years, 25 Jobs, that’s pretty neat as well.

My parents’ generation grew up with the expectation that they might have only one job (or at least one employer) for their entire lives. But even for them, that idea was false — a BLS study in 2012 found that young Boomers had 11.3 jobs from age 18-46. That’s a new job every 2.5 years! So anyway, I think our professional lives are only going to have more variety and change, though I can’t imagine I’ll triple this number in the next 14 years, but who knows!

Anyway, here you go: a list of every job I’ve ever had. I wasn’t paid in all of these, but each were serious commitments to organizations and mattered to me greatly when I was involved in them. Continue reading…

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The Best and Worst Parts of Peter Thiel’s New Book: Zero to One

In spring of 2012, Peter Thiel, cofounder of Paypal and Palantir and early investor in Facebook, taught a course at Stanford in the Computer Science department called CS183: Startup. One of the students in the class, a law student named Blake Masters, took meticulous notes that were widely shared across the web (1M+ pg views).

The ideas were intriguing, and ran counter to much of the standard startup wisdom. I had read some of the notes when they came out but they’re pretty lengthy and I didn’t get through them all.

Luckily for all of us,  the two have collaborated to write a book based on the class called Zero to One, which comes out September 18th.

Having snagged an advance reader’s copy, the book has definitely cut the word length down while retaining the ideas and most of the nuance. Instead of summarizing the book, I thought I’d share my favorite and least favorite idea. Continue reading…

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Insights on the Xerox Story From Bill Gates’s Favorite Business Book

When he met Warren Buffet in 1991, Bill Gates asked what his favorite book was. The legendary investor replied that it was Business Adventures, a collection of twelve business articles written by John Brooks for the New Yorker and originally published in 1969 [1]. Buffet lent his copy to Gates, who promptly read it, and recently declared in The Wall Street Journal that it was also his favorite business book.

The article alone has shot the book, which was previously out-of-print, up to number seven on the Amazon Kindle list (at the time of this printing) after Brooks’s son found a publisher to quickly release an ebook version. Who doesn’t want to glean business insights from a book praised by the two most wealthy men in the world?

Gates gives special praise to an article on Xerox, calling it one that “everyone in the tech industry should study”. Having read it, I found so many similarities between the company’s humble beginnings and disruption of the copier / office products industry as the tech startups of today. So without further ado, here are some of the timeless lessons learned from “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox”, part of Business Adventures by John Brooks. Continue reading…