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Your Startup is ‘Breaking Bad’

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SPOLER ALERT: If you haven’t watched the series yet (until the finale), be warned that this post will give references to scenes of Breaking Bad and contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Assuming you are Walter White, you just realized that either your present career is hopeless or your life is somewhat heading towards a dead end (or you’re just getting bored). You need to do something about it.

Say you are working the traditional job. You are (or were) an employee, like Walter, and you are getting tired of everything – from your boss firing up your ass inch by inch on a daily basis to you being the typical breadwinner. You realized you are not going anywhere. You are going to relive your inner scientist to prove to yourself – you can do much better than this.

And so you venture to a new world, a much dangerous and risky but free world.

Your new adventure awaits you.

ROUND 1: STARTING YOUR COMPANY

Ha. So you want this business? Why so? “Oh well, you’ve never seen a high school Science teacher cooking meth, have you?” And so you chose to do what is not done yet. And you’ll be the first one to do it. Not only to show the world that you can do it, but also to experience what it’s like to go out of your comfort zone. And don’t forget the money business.

ROUND 2: FINDING A CO-FOUNDER

You realized you cannot do this alone. You may as well look for a partner. Oh, there’s someone I knew from high school… Jesse!

Things should go well from here, you wished.

ROUND 3: YOU NEED A SHIP

Oh ship! You’re finished with your product, what now? There goes most of the startup problems, getting you to ship your products to the right customers (or users). Think of why most of the Kickstarter campaigns fail. Most failures occur not because they fail to get funds, not because they fail to perfect the product, it is when they didn’t put in mind that delivering their products to their customers is part of their business.

Thank the drug deities for Tuco’s gang.

ROUND 4: EXPANDING YOUR BUSINESS

Well, the main gist here is – if your product is as genius as Walter’s 99% pure blue crystal, you get to expand your business easily. Even with just the word of mouth. Your products don’t have to be perfect, though. As 99% is as perfect as it may seems, at least you got way above your competitors.

ROUND 5: COMPETITORS

Here comes your competitors. As you expand your business, you must be aware of your competitors. Or you may end up getting hit by a 12 year old boy you wouldn’t think your competitors would surprise you.

Well, now you are aware of them. Like Walter, you know you have a better product – waaaaay better than theirs. Why is it? Because Walter spent most of his time actually being so nosy on everything about his product, from that one fly carrying shenanigans around the lab to the very least details about temperature and chemistry stuff. He underdid his competition. He doesn’t need competitors, least the need to compare his product with theirs.

ROUND 6: WE ARE ACQUIRED!

“Posterous has been acquired by Twiter, all your posterous blogs will be shut down next month. Muahaha”

Oh, remember when you spent most of your time investing to a service then one day you’ll hear they’ve been absorbed by a much larger (hint: monstrous & slimy) entity? If any of you ever played MyMiniLife way back 2008 you’ll know that feeling when Zynga bought it and all your MiniHomes were instantly demolished into one lonely black hole on the internets.

Well, as being on the client/user’s side, it sucks harder than actual black holes. But mostly on the startup, company, service being acquired, they are partying harder than a migrating flock of geese leaving all but bird shit behind.

Oh, remember when Mr. White’s business has been acquired by Gus Fring’s army of chicken-flapping distributors? Well, he and Jesse got more cash than they dreamed of. But ended up doing things they do not wanted to do. The freaking CCTV, anyone?

In the end, he fired his new boss. Hmmm, might end up differently had he been acquired by the Cartel, eh?

ROUND 7: BETTER CALL SAUL… AND FRIENDS

You know you cannot do anything outstanding without any legal advice, right? Saul was supposed to be killed the first time they met but Walter realized he needs him… and his connections. Better have legal advice, buddy. Bloody network, too.

ROUND 8: K.O.

Your startup’s future is in your hands. Had it been that Walt’s DEA Brother-in-Law didn’t discover that book Gale gave him, it would be a happy ending for the White household. Well, to the very end he still saved his co-founder’s troublesome ass who turned Judas with him. So I guess the lesson is pick the right co-founder to begin with. Ha.

It all goes back to where you started. If you are thinking of building a startup, it’s up to you to just remain as society’s typical byproduct – or go start cooking and go Breaking Bad.

Now, find your Jesse Pinkman.

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About the Author

This article was written by Gian Faye, a web geek from the Philippines. Gian has been doing web design and development for 7 years and Gian is currently focusing on front-end development and user experience design. see more.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

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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