Updates from November, 2014

  • Universal Love

    11:03 pm on November 30, 2014 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: love, , stories,

    A reminder of our shared human­ity and life this Thanksgiving.

  • Reflections on Malaysia Startup Academy

    5:50 pm on November 7, 2014 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply

    If you pour your heart into your work, or into any wor­thy enter­prise, you can achieve dreams oth­ers may think impos­si­ble.” – Howard Schultz, Starbucks

    I’ve spent the major­ity of my Oct back in the moth­er­land, Malaysia, where I had the priv­i­lege of speak­ing at the inau­gural Malaysian Global Inno­va­tion and Cre­ativ­ity Cen­tre (MaGIC) Startup Acad­emy. As a quick back­drop, MaGIC was estab­lished in Oct 2013 by the Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter and was launched offi­cially in April of this year. Their man­date is to cat­alyze the entre­pre­neur­ial ecosys­tem in Malaysia and make it the startup cap­i­tal of Asia. As one of their major ini­tia­tives to achieve this mis­sion, MaGIC hosted an Acad­emy from Oct 15–19 that brought together an impressive:

    • 500 entrepreneurs/participants from across Malaysia and the region
    • 200+ hours of men­tor­ing sessions
    • 40+ instruc­tors and 40+ investors
    • 70+ tech­nol­ogy star­tups and com­pa­nies host­ing a Career Day
    • 5 days of learn­ing, shar­ing and con­tin­u­ing to build entre­pre­neur­ial ecosystem

    Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 5.41.49 PM

    MaGIC’s man­date is build­ing on a blos­som­ing land­scape, where the coun­try is well on its way to become an entre­pre­neur­ial hub in Asia. To share some excit­ing data-points, out of the eight largest inter­net com­pa­nies in the ASEAN region (based on mar­ket cap), six of them are Malaysian-based (Busi­ness Insider, Aug 2014). In addi­tion, dur­ing the time that I was back, two sig­nif­i­cant events occurred: 1) MOL Global Inc (MOLG) IPO-ed - Malaysia’s and South East Asia’s first tech­nol­ogy IPO on the Nas­daq in over 10 years; and 2) Grab­Taxi raises US$65M in a Series C and is in 16 cities across South East Asia.

    After the whirl­wind trip and on my 25 hour flight back to U.S., I spent some time reflect­ing on my time at the Acad­emy. Here are my top takeaways:


    1) Going from zero to one means hav­ing the grit to show up con­sis­tently overtime

    The cre­ation of some­thing out of noth­ing is hard. In an infant startup envi­ron­ment like Malaysia, where you are up against cre­at­ing and devel­op­ing every­thing from infra­struc­ture, con­tent, com­mu­nity to pol­icy -  that’s even harder by sev­eral mul­ti­ples. The MaGIC team taught me that vision and exe­cu­tion is impor­tant, but the key to every­thing not falling apart and to keep the momen­tum going is pure grit. 3am emails. Back to back 15 hour sched­ules. 8pm team meet­ings. Grit is like liv­ing life as a marathon. Not a sprint. This take­away reminded me of this really quick TEDtalk by Angela Lee Duck­worth on grit as a pre­dic­tor of success.


    2) Estab­lish­ing an ecosys­tem is about earn­ing trust

    When I think about estab­lish­ing an ecosys­tem, I tend to think about three ele­ments: the ratio of trans­ac­tional and rela­tion­ship dri­ven activ­i­ties, cre­ation of entry/engagement/touchpoints and range of players/ par­tic­i­pants in the entire sys­tem. The past week has made me think hard about adding another key ingre­di­ent: trust. Under­stand­ing how to gain poten­tial participants/customer’s trust should be at the core. Other ele­ments just layer on top of this.


    3) Design for the future and then design for demand

    Dur­ing my men­tor lunches, I had a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about under­stand­ing the mar­ket­place for a prod­uct or ser­vice. While I think that is cru­cial to under­stand, I think that entre­pre­neurs should begin the cre­ation of a com­pany with the ques­tion of “what do I envi­sion the future to be?” It doesn’t mat­ter which it is a future for your­self, or for your users or for the indus­try — the con­text will man­i­fest itself dif­fer­ent with dif­fer­ent entre­pre­neurs and what they want their busi­ness to be. I used to sit on the other end of the startup table, on the investor side where I shared some of the respon­si­bil­i­ties I believe that investor should have one of them includ­ing “liv­ing in the future.” Now, work­ing in a startup and help­ing estab­lish other com­pa­nies, I believe that entre­pre­neurs have to hold them­selves to set of respon­si­bil­i­ties. One of these respon­si­bil­i­ties, is that entre­pre­neurs should be able to answer the ques­tion of their deep­est “why” and be able to imag­ine what the inter­sec­tion of the future and demand would look like.


    4) Com­pul­sion loops are a secret weapon

    I learnt this term from one of the other speak­ers, Noah Lucas, who is cur­rently a mobile designer at Expe­dia (highly rec­om­mend the app if you don’t use it already!). I don’t know whether it’s this newly found vocab­u­lary but I started look­ing for com­pul­sion loops in all of my apps (darn you Insta­gram and your well designed loops!). Com­pul­sion loops are a habit­ual designed chain of activ­i­ties that will be repeated to gain a neu­ro­chem­i­cal reward: a feel­ing of plea­sure or relief from pain. Com­pul­sion loops also showed me how you can exploit inbuilt human instincts to cre­ate a bet­ter prod­uct and ser­vice.  I par­tic­u­larly enjoyed this post by Pete Col­lier on short, medium and long term loops.


    If you’re inter­ested in find­ing out more, here are addi­tional resources:

    1) Cezary Piet­zark, one of the keynote speak­ers: post­ing on chal­leng­ing startup conventions 

    2) Heis­lyc Loh, MaGIC Pro­gram Direc­tor: lessons learned from the Academy 

    3) Local news cov­er­age and overview of the Academy


    Thank you MaGIC team and espe­cially to Cheryl, Heis­lyc, Ken, Afiq and War­ren. You guys con­tinue to show me what it means to build some­thing incred­i­ble in Malaysia.


  • Building relationships, communities and ecosystems

    10:41 pm on September 2, 2014 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , communities, community building, ecosystem, entrepreneurship,

    I had a con­ver­sa­tion ear­lier in the evening with one of my co-founders, Jason, about how to mea­sure com­mu­nity engage­ment — or even — how are we even defin­ing com­mu­nity. We quickly breezed past this ques­tion in favour of get­ting to the more tac­ti­cal nature of our con­ver­sa­tion — but on my walk home, I was mulling over this con­cept and the dif­fer­ent lev­els of com­mu­nity. Thought that I would share some of my favourite readings/ dis­cov­er­ies on com­mu­nity and rela­tion­ship build­ing, start­ing from an individual’s per­spec­tive and how this rolls up into an ecosystem.


    1) Why being the most con­nected is a van­ity met­ric - Michael Sim­mons, Forbes.com

    Sim­mons talks about about the sci­ence of net­work bro­ker­ing and com­mit­ting to dis­cov­er­ing ‘new groups’ as a way of gain van­tage point and pro­vide value to your com­mu­ni­ties. I also enjoyed his more recent piece of the evolv­ing nature of build­ing relationships



    2) 1,000 true fans — Kevin Kelly

    A lovely way to think about the long tail, the impor­tance of acquir­ing fans and how it con­nects up to mak­ing a liv­ing. Bonus read: Kick­starter sub­scrib­ing to the 1,000 true fans philosophy 

    3) Tribal Orga­niz­ing — Seth Godin

    If you tee up the pre­vi­ous arti­cle, with this one by Seth Godin — it might give you some ideas about how to sep­a­rate out engage­ment points to gain ‘true’ fans. Seth Godin talks about effec­tively build­ing tribes around: con­nec­tion, com­mit­ment and conversation

    4) What to learn from the man who man­aged  Reddit’s com­mu­nity of mil­lions - First Round Cap­i­tal, The review

    I believe that there’s a pretty large dif­fer­ence in the way that you man­age in-person com­mu­ni­ties vs. online com­mu­ni­ties. The rules of the game are dif­fer­ent, and was struck in this piece, how the com­mu­nity man­ager bal­anced man­ag­ing time and cul­ti­vat­ing con­nec­tions. Worth the long read



    5) How did Sil­i­con Val­ley become Sil­i­con Val­ley? — Endeavor Global

    Thor­oughly enjoyed this report about the power of alumni in cre­at­ing an ecosys­tem and how entre­pre­neurs can kick­start a community


  • MIT Healthcare Financing Lecture

    6:07 pm on May 14, 2014 | 3 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , MIT, ,

    mit_crest_logoIf 2014 had a nar­ra­tive arc, it would look like a series of sprints — from obtain­ing visas, start­ing a new job, mov­ing apart­ments to being in a new indus­try — all leav­ing me just enough room to catch my breath before the next leg begins. Amongst the many life-sprints that have occurred, one par­tic­u­lar sprint has been most unex­pected and reward­ing — both per­son­ally and professionally.

    It started in Dec, 2013 — when I received an email from a friend whose paths I crossed dur­ing my Nairobi days in late 2012. She offered the oppor­tu­nity for me to become a guest lec­turer at MIT Sana’s spring course on Global Health Infor­mat­ics to Improve the Qual­ity of Care. They were look­ing for some­one to speak about financ­ing in health­care in rural/resource-limiting set­tings. Truth­fully, it has never crossed my mind that I would be lec­tur­ing at MIT espe­cially at this stage of my career/life, but embrac­ing Sheryl Sandberg’s phi­los­o­phy of “if you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on!”, I accepted and found my way to the MIT cam­pus in the begin­ning of March to deliver my lecture.

    The course itself  “focuses on inno­va­tions in infor­ma­tion sys­tems to accel­er­ate improve­ments of health out­comes in devel­op­ing coun­tries. The course will focus not only on tech­nol­ogy and mHealth as it applies to global health, but also on broader issues nec­es­sary for the suc­cess­ful deploy­ment of infor­ma­tion sys­tems such as qual­ity of care, dis­ease bur­den, and project man­age­ment. This is the fourth iter­a­tion of the course, which is a col­lab­o­ra­tive offer­ing from Sana, MIT, Part­ners in Health, Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health, Har­vard Med­ical School, and a net­work of inter­na­tional part­ner aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions located around the globe.” — MIT Sana

    Dur­ing my lec­ture, 400 stu­dents were watch­ing from 45 loca­tions around the world. The lec­ture itself was a very basic intro­duc­tion to financ­ing as most of the stu­dents do not have finance or invest­ing back­grounds. It will also be turned into an offi­cial MOOC edX/MITx cur­ricu­lum in 2015! If you’re inter­est­ing in watch­ing my lec­ture, it is avail­able online.


    Thank you Sarah, for this amaz­ing opportunity.

  • Nairobi Terrorism and the Hierarchy of Trauma

    3:32 pm on September 30, 2013 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Conflict, , Kenya, , ,

    Talk­ing about evil is hard. It involves at least two para­doxes. Here’s the first. On the one hand, to denounce evil is an eth­i­cal act. It is to affirm our deep­est val­ues and to com­mit our­selves to pre­vent­ing acts that dehu­man­ize oth­ers. On the other hand, to denounce evil can be an uneth­i­cal act. It is a way of demo­niz­ing; it is, pre­cisely, to dehu­man­ize another. Here’s the sec­ond para­dox: On the one hand, we need to the con­cept of evil to philo­soph­i­cally and eth­i­cally dis­tin­guish acts that shock our con­sciences, acts that are not ade­quately encom­passed by words like bad, wicked, or wrong. The con­cept of evil clar­i­fies. On the other hand, the con­cept of evil con­fuses, pre­vents think­ing. We imag­ine evil is other than human, beyond under­stand­ing, almost mys­ti­cal. This lets us off the hook, lets us deny our own capac­ity for evil, and stops us from ana­lyz­ing the very human, very com­mon causes of it.

    - James Dawes: The Guts of Atrocity

    I have never quite known what to react in the wake of tragedy. Say­ing too much almost feels too opin­ion­ated, and say­ing too lit­tle almost feels to insin­cere. I remem­ber my first encounter five years ago with a per­sonal tragedy and death was uncon­trol­lable laugh­ter. Appar­ently my ‘cop­ing’ mech­a­nism then, was to try to see the humor­ous side of the story. Highly inap­pro­pri­ate. But now, over the past week, I am find­ing no humor that can help me cope as I watch Kenya bal­ance a grow­ing sad­ness of a nation, the anger of their cit­i­zens and the anguish of loved ones as ter­ror­ists stormed an upscale mall in Nairobi claim­ing over 60 lives.

    As emails, phone calls, texts and social media updates came pour­ing in, the irony is not lost on me on how tragedies hap­pen every­day around the world and yet, why is it that this one just seems so much more real. As my emo­tions slide between the con­tin­uum of “why” and “shock”, a strange ver­sion of this Hier­ar­chy of Trauma began to emerge. As I scroll through the news for updates on Nairobi on that day, and through­out the week, it dawned on me that hun­dreds of peo­ple die and are affected by con­flicts around the world. In Pak­istan, 81 peo­ple per­ished in a church sui­cide bomb­ing. In Nige­ria, over 500 per­ished in ter­ror­ist related vio­lence in the north of the coun­try, and the on-going Syria cri­sis has claimed tens of thou­sands of lives. Coun­tries and com­mu­ni­ties that I can’t even com­pre­hend who and where — are suf­fer­ing. Yet, why my heart aches the most for my Nairobi home and only for a fleet­ing moment of empa­thy for the news in Pakistan.

    And sud­denly it struck me, trauma and grief isn’t a com­pe­ti­tion or a hier­ar­chy. We each grieve for dif­fer­ent losses, in our own way and in time. There is no trauma that is supe­rior to, lesser, greater, less shock­ing, bet­ter cov­ered, or any other com­par­a­tive phrase, than the suf­fer­ing of any indi­vid­ual or com­mu­nity. All we can do, is know that even if your expe­ri­ence does not have a chap­ter in other sto­ries of con­flict and trauma, it still a part of our story as human­ity as a whole.

    Think­ing of you.


    Selected pieces that pro­vide dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on the Nairobi incident:

    1) Gen­eros­ity of cit­i­zens in dona­tions for the victims

    2) NY Times on the Value of Suffering 

    3) A Trib­ute to a Friend: Ravi

    4) Aung San Suu Kyi: the Free­dom from Fear

    5) A beau­ti­ful piece in The Nation on forgiveness

    6) Nan­jala Nyabola in Al-Jazeera on Keep­ing the Nairobi inci­dent in perspective 

    7) An inter­view with author, James Dawes on his new book: Evil Men - a col­lec­tion of dia­logues with war crim­i­nals from the Sec­ond Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)

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