MailChimp’s Take on UX

Everyone knows how great MailChimp is at what it does. As a tech startup, they have achieved a lot and they are definitely one of the startups who are doing things the right way. So, it’s only natural that when UX team of Mailchimp releases a new eBook that everyone should read it.

It’s an easy read. It’s divided into major sections like: Collaboration, Research, Design, Development and Refinement. It’s written from their own perspective, so there are a lot insights into how MailChimp approaches things like building a functional team, creating conducive office environment, how each team do what they do etc . I’m sure everyone can find something beneficial in it. I did.

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Download the eBookhttp://theuxreader.com

Startups vs Corporations, and what happens in between

Why founders of startups get replaced by the board when the startup starts to grow fast? Why many startups fail to integrate into the parent company after the acquisition? And why big corporations struggle to launch a successful startup from within?

Concept of RPV

RPV stands for Resources, Processes and Valuves.

Resources

At the initial stage of a company, all you need are good and reliable people that can get the job done i.e resources. At this stage resources are crucial, if you have a web technology startup and happen to find a great coder and UX developer then you are in luck. On the other hand, if you happen to hire the wrong developer, you will have a tough time launching that MVP (minimum-viable-product) of yours. Similarly, if your lead developer leaves at this stage to a competitor startup, it can greatly affect your product and even your startup as a whole. But this is also the stage where it’s easiest to solve your company’s problems, because most of the problems will be related to resources and usually they can be settled by hiring a new guy or firing an existing employee.

Processes

When your startup is at the stage where it has a product or service that is selling like hot cakes, and you start hiring a lot more people to grow both your company and its revenue, that’s where the processes come in. That’s because you want your operations, customer service, support, billing etc to be run efficiently. That’s when you start to setup company wide processes, different processes for different teams and departments, KPIs (key-performance-indicators), SLAs (service-level-agreements), SOPs (standard-operating-procedures) etc. This is the stage when efficiency is most important to the company, because efficiency is directly related to company’s revenues.

rpv startup

Values

The final stage is when a particular startup has become an established corporation. At this stage “company values” are normally setup to guide the employees in their daily work, dealings and most importantly in decision making. Values are guiding principles that dictate how the company is run in all walks of its life. At this stage, while still important, resources won’t be as important as they were at the “resources stage”. Hiring and firing happens quite often. Individual opinions within the company doesn’t really have any weight unless the person is a c-level. Continue reading

Competition is for Losers

Peter Thiel is no stranger to Startup World. He is the co-founder of PayPal and investor in Facebook, Quora, Artsy, PandoDaily, AdRoll, Reddit and many more.

He has an interesting viewpoint when it comes to Startups and how they should be managed, in order to be successful. For the past decade, methodologies like Customer Development and Lean Startup have been popular. The central idea in these methodologies are around customers, and that your idea (hypothesis) must be tested against potential customers in order to be successful, and based on customers’ feedback you should tweak your initial idea (pivot) to achieve a sustainable and repeatable business model that generates revenue.

Peter Thiel is sceptical about these methodologies. He says that customers might not always be right and listening to them to guide your business’ destiny might not be the right approach. He encourages entrepreneurs to start startups that do in order of magnitude better than the existing competitors, rather than doing incremental improvements as the Lean Startup methodology suggests. He also advises entrepreneurs to go for monopoly when starting a startup, doing something that dominates the market i.e avoiding competition and aiming for monopoly. He says “Competition is for losers”.

He also questions the education system in leading Universities that teach Entrepreneurship, he says that currently our education system instills and inculcates in future entrepreneurs to compete and to be a better competitor rather than doing something unique that makes competition irrelevant or difficult for others to compete with your startup.

Personally, what he puts forward is definitely something interesting and somewhat refreshing. It kind of reminds me of Steve Jobs’ beliefs. He was the type of person where he would say “customers do not know what they want.. etc”. But I think Customer Development and Lean Startup Methodologies are not mutually exclusive to what Peter Thiel is suggesting, in fact they can still be used to help reach product-market-fit.

Below is a video of him giving a lecture in Stanford in “Business Strategy and Monopoly Theory” where he expounds on the above mentioned ideas of his:

Note: If you are based in Malaysia, you can order his book from Bookurve with free shipping. I ordered mine already together with Eric Schmidt’s “How Google Works“, should be arriving next week.

Bookurve – Amazon books, cheaper with free shipping to Malaysia

If you are an avid book reader in Malaysia and often purchase books from Amazon, you must already know how much the shipping fees are pain in the neck. Bookurve, a local startup that was founded by my friends Hossein and Lian Shen is addressing this issue.

Value proposition of their startup is simple;

  • Give access to wide selection of books (almost any books sold at Amazon is available on Bookurve)
  • At a cheaper price (usually 20-40% cheaper than Amazon)
  • With free shipping if you order above RM25 (for West Malaysia)

They have taken few pivots to reach to their current business model. And I’m optimistic about it, as it’s working pretty good for them.

Last week I tried out their service (mainly to see the end-to-end customer journey and provide feedback) and ordered my first book, received it few days back and couldn’t be happier 🙂

Give it a try..

Website: www.bookurve.com

Education 3.0 – New Way of Learning [updated]

I really like the latest developments in the online education/learning field. Some of the startups are really creative and changing the traditional boring means to learn with more fun, gamified, self-learning online resources. On these sites, you will not only be able to learn, but also contribute to the community if you are good in certain subject fields. This is a great way to harness the benefits of crowdsourcing.

Below, you will find some of these websites:

Code Academy

Codecademy is an interactive and fun way to learn coding. By asking you to type set of words and answers to questions, it will involve you in a two-way communication. By the time you realize, you will be coding and understanding the concepts of object oriented programming. It also employs social elements to the site, so that you can learn together with your friends.

Website: http://www.codecademy.com

code academy

Khan Academy

Khan Academy has a huge collection of 2700+ free videos. And it’s a work of one man, Salman Khan. What started of as a casual online tutoring sessions for his relative’s kids, turned out to be one of the largest non-profit educational organizations in the world.

He has MBA from Harvard, he has three degrees from MIT: a BS in math and a BS and a master’s in electrical engineering and computer science. His website is mainly popular for his maths videos, which are easy to understand and appealing to school kids. You can read more on Khan’s story at the following sites; Money.CNN, Wired, and SiliconPrairieNews.

Website: http://www.khanacademy.org

khan academy

TreeHouse

Treehouse is a fairly new website that concentrates on providing instructional videos on Web Design, Web Development and iOS Development. As a part of its teaching method, it uses ‘badges’ similar to what FourSquare does, you will get a badge for answering questions correctly. Continue reading

Silicon Valley Comes to Malaysia #SVC2M

Silicon Valley Comes to Malaysia” conference was a huge success, big thanks to the organizers Dash and Rebeca for bringing in Silicon Valley icons to Kuala Lumpur, namely; Jawed Khan of YouTube, Konstantin Guericke of LinkedIn, Jeff Hofman of Priceline.com, Jonas Kjelberg of Skype, to name a few (full list).

Failure is given, and it should be celebrated

Throughout the event, speakers and panellists have time and again reminded entrepreneurs that they have to take risks and prepared to fail, because they were told, for the first (few) startup(s) they were definitely going to fail.




As we know, failure is celebrated in Silicon Valley, but not so much in other parts of the world, especially in Asia. In most Asian countries failure is stigmatized, it’s especially true in Japan.

“From olden times, if you were defeated in battle you committed seppuku [ritual suicide by slicing the belly, also known as hara-kiri],” Mr Honda says. “That’s in our genes, so people don’t try if they think they might fail.”
Stigma of failure holds back Japan start-upsFT.com

For this reason, it’s not an easy feat for us Asians to take risks and celebrate our failures…

Failures == (Hopefully) Learn How to Launch Successful Startup?

For me the whole message of failures and embracing failures sounded a bit like, to put it very bluntly – “i don’t care what you do, just go and try and learn it by yourself. I don’t have time for this. Surely after few startups you will know how to launch successful startup/product“. Continue reading

Wikipedia’s Initial Idea and How it Evolved

Wikipedia as we know it today, with more than 3.7 million articles for english version alone, had a different idea and business model altogether in the beginning that many people may not know it now.

As the story goes.. In 1999, Jimmy Wales had an idea, he wanted to create a free encyclopedia to be written by experts and PhD holders, it was called Nupedia. He reasoned, only scholars, academics and experts in a particular field would be able to write such articles. It made sense, as scholarly articles needed a lot of referential data and research, not everyone would be able to write such articles. However, in its first year, his team of “experts” were able to write only a dozen articles. They were simply too slow. This was due to many reasons, most of the academics were too busy, it was difficult to convince them to write for Nupedia, research normally took few years..etc.

So, Jimmy Wales saw that it was not working, something had to be done. He came out with a new idea. He suggested to his team, why not make it in a way that anybody can create an article, others can edit it, etc… basically early years of crowdsourcing. But the editors of Nupedia and Advisory Board were not very supportive of the idea. For them it was the opposite of what they were doing at the moment. Non-academics, and uncontrolled editing and creation of articles, they thought, would jeopardize the credibility of the articles and company as a whole. They reasoned, there would be too much error in the articles, which would render the articles useless for any scholarly reference or research.

This new idea ended up separated into different project and was called “Wikipedia” (wiki – hawaiian for quick). Within a year, there were more than 20,000 articles in it. Clearly it was a success and it was working. As for the margin of error, it was 3.86% per article, compared to 2.92% for Encyclopedia Britannica according to 2005 research by journal Nature, which is acceptable. And usually these errors get corrected over time.

Eventually, Nupedia was shutdown in 2003, and it had only 23 articles at the time of closing. And as they say, the rest is a history…

Lesson to Startups and Entrepreneurs..

Sometimes the initial idea for your startup may not work out, and you might end up doing something totally different for your startup and its direction. And this phenomenon is actually very common in startups. As Jawed Karim of YouTube said in SVC2M event in Kuala Lumpur, their initial idea for youtube was “a dating site with videos“.

So, if your first version of your product (MVP) didn’t take off, don’t despair. Find out why it didn’t take off, get feedback from your potential customers/users on what they want, after that iterate and try again!

Note: If you want to read more about wikipedia story, check this Business Week article here

Please feel free to comment about your own experiences or of any companies that you know which changed their business model, direction, idea drastically from the original one.

Next Big Idea: Internet TV

If you are an entrepreneur or company that missed making big money from the dot com era, overall internet business after that, and missing the boat from mobile applications at the moment… then perhaps you should start getting prepared for the next big wave – Internet+TV.

Google is already into it as we all know it, they are trying to figure it out at the moment. But there are so many great products and services can be built for bringing internet to the TV. Just a food for thought!

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