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Entrepreneurship

Dan Khoo, Malaysian Youtuber

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Dan Khoo is a prominent Youtuber from Malaysia, he is the founder of DanKhoo Productions, a renowned Youtube channel where he publishes his work. Originally an Economics degree graduate from the London School of Economics, Dan’s life took an unexpected turn when he decided to embrace and share his passion for making films. Via Youtube, Dan’s incredible talents for acting, producing and directing films were discovered by the nation. Along with other Youtubers, he spearheaded the “Youtube Boom” of Malaysia, a period which marked the emergence and rise of locally produced Youtube entertainment within the country.

Having been on such an extraordinary journey, Dan Khoo is here to tell us his story from when he first picked up his camera and the insights he developed since.

Dan, when did you decide to shoot films?

It’s actually more like an unintentional thing. Although, this is what I do now, I didn’t set out to make shooting films my career. I think in around 2011, I just decided to buy a camera and started to shoot some videos. At the very beginning, I sort of had in mind what I wanted to shoot so I got a camera to shoot it but even then I didn’t picture myself doing it full time. I thought I would just do all of this for fun.

At which point did you decide to take it up onto Youtube?

There wasn’t anywhere else to put it on, that I knew of. Youtube was free anyway so I just decided to try to put some of my earlier works there. Of course, it didn’t become a hit straight away, it just eventually more and more people started to recognize it.

When did you realize the videos have become hits?

I guess it was sometime in the start of 2012, I met with other Youtubers in Malaysia. I’m sure you’ve heard of them, like Jinnyboy. We consider that the first boom. We got together and started appearing in each other’s videos and then we started appearing on newspapers and stuff. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, people actually recognize this.’

Did you expect the results at all in the beginning?

When I started, to reach 100 subscribers was like: ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be nice?’ Then after I reached it, I was thinking to myself: ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to reach 1,000?’ I thought ‘Surely, impossible.’ Then I reached it eventually. Then, ‘How about 10,000?’ I thought: ‘Okay, it’s going to take a few years to reach 10,000’ but I reached it anyway.

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Did you face any major challenges trying to break into the Youtube scene?

Right now because people see us as the standard, so they are trying to break into the market. When I started there was no market. So there was nothing to break into. So we became the market. I didn’t want to break into anything, I wasn’t trying to prove anything. So I just went in for fun.

What can you tell us about the Malaysian youtube scene?

We are quite close because we do the same thing so its pretty fun to work with each other and sometimes, we just throw ideas. Its a really fun community if you don’t try to take things too seriously.

What do you think are the major differences between the Malaysian Youtube scene and the American Youtube scene?

I think the U.S. is definitely a bigger market. In Malaysia, the boom just happened recently. There are more people getting introduced to this industry. Even, for example, clients; Not everyone knows that it is a very good platform to get your brand out. If you are talking about Youtubers in Malaysia and the U.S., I think there is still quite a distance because all the big things happen in Hollywood they say. So you can make it there, you can make it everywhere.

Would you say there is a secret to making a good Youtube film in Malaysia?

I think you have to understand what people would like to watch. Sometimes things that may be funny to you, you have to take a step back and view it from a third person’s point of view to see if it is funny. I just upload videos and notice the views. If there are more views, it means people tend to like it more. Before, I was doing a lot of love stories, there views were okay, they were high digits. Then I just tried out humor and the views went up to 6 digits, so I realized that people like that.

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What are some lessons do learn from being a Youtuber?

Because there are many types of Youtubers, I can only share based on what I am. So, for someone like me, which is almost like a one-man-show, given I write the script, I settle the actors; it really builds you as a person on a wholesome basis. You learn everything. You learn from the scratch to this and that, to clients. So, it’s a very hands-on job and its a humbling experience because you get to meet all kinds of people and do all sorts of great things.

How is a typical week like for you?

I normally sleep late and wake up late. Sometimes, I miss breakfast or lunch. I often meet clients, if not, I am usually at home writing scripts or editing videos. Usually at night, depending on what events, I just hangout with my friends.

Does the release of the ‘Magical Blackout’ video mark the beginning of more videos that satirize Malaysian politics?

Not really. I rather not go towards the political if I can. Unless, if I really can’t resist it, like the blackout. I couldn’t resist it. I just had to take a jab at them because when I heard there was a blackout again, I was like: “Oh man! Not again!” I had to say something. I just did it on the spot and they called me a cyber-trooper and they called me a lot of things. People couldn’t believe I released it so fast.

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What are some personal principles that you hold dear?

Sincerity. I try to be a good person, I try not to make enemies. A friend is always better than an enemy. It has obviously affected my career as a Malaysian Youtuber as well.

So what are your future plans?

Build the brand and make more videos. Expand my network and hopefully fly over to the U.S. to shoot one day, collaborate with the Youtubers there. I have some contacts arleady. So when I am more established with abit more free time, I will probably head towards there, L.A.

In your opinion, what is the key to success for a person building a career or establishing a venture?

For me, I would just say: “If you want to do it, just do it.” Stop thinking about what it is, stopping you or what can’t you do. That is because, for me, I just went out and did it.

Any parting words of wisdom for our readers?

Just pursue your dreams and don’t let anything stop you.

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Connect with Dan and DanKhoo Productions today:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DanKhooProductions
Website: http://dankhoo.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dan_khoo
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DanKhooProductions

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

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