The end of 2016.

31 Dec 2016.

As I sit down and sip my baileys with milk…

I thought to myself. “Oh boy, what a year it has been.”

2016 isn’t my luckiest year because anything that could go wrong, goes wrong. On the other hand, we could say that I’m lucky because I survived despite all this poor luck. After all, life is a zero-sum game and it’s better to finish my quota of bad luck to make way for better luck in the future 🙂

As I ponder about the past year, I hope to share some learning points and document my reflections. How cool is it to be able to look back at our old self 17 years down the road! What’s more important is for us to learn through past mistakes without having to experience what I’ve gone through.

 

This year has been nasty- kind.

Yeah actually every year is pretty much the same with ups and downs but this year is different (next year too!). I spend half of the year overseas while the other half was busy hustling with ExchangeBuddy ! I’ve lost much… but at the same time gained much. I’ve lost my grandma, and important things that I overlooked. I would run, tire myself out, take deep breaths and think. But you know… I’m sure there are many others out there who went through the same or even worse so I guess it’s normal to feel this way.

Whenever I hit rock bottom, I would try to jump back up. I do manage to jump out of the pit hole but find myself falling deeper and needing to jump back higher. That’s life isn’t it? That’s how life was for the past year.

Despite all the unfortunate events, there are many amazing moments which I’m grateful for and would want to treasure them.

  1. Taking my grandma for her hospital check-up.

    It was probably the first time and last time that I went out with her but still I’m grateful that I had the chance to do so.

  2. Exchange

    14125635_10209255279797518_1572967842046832957_o (1).jpg
    Cr : Janson Seah
    • Met lots of amazing friends on Exchange.

    • Exchange is one of the most exciting and fun student experience we’d get as a student. Not trying to be a bad influence here but it’s the period when studies could be of a lower priority and it’s also the time we get to mix around with a network of international friends and experience things that we’ve never done before.
    • There’s much more to life that we thought there is.

    • I used to fall completely into the category of chasing material wealth and status. However, after countless setbacks and interaction with the less fortunate, I came to realize that there’s more than just academic grades and the pride of climbing up to the top. I lived in poor conditions during my month long extremely tight budget (<700 euro) semi solo trip in Europe as I wanted to feel and experience how the less fortunate live. I came across homeless people, lived in the slumps and got to see how badly treated they were. It was then I realized how fortunately we were. We can afford food, shelter and receive love from family and friends while these people were not able to afford basic necessities and face daily insults. I’m not trying to say that material wealth isn’t important and I would still work to achieve them but I would want to create value and make a difference to the world we’re living in.

There’s too much adventure and I would save the action for another post.

  1. Exchangebuddy
    ExchangeBuddy Collage_1.png

    1. No Regrets !

      • Totally didn’t regret starting this. It has taught me so much about gratitude, hard work and the importance of a team. I am extremely grateful for the friends who have supported this initiative. Thank you NUS enterprise, CS3216, N-house level two, all the contributors, Instagram takeovers, friends who gave constructive feedback and most importantly, the team who have been working hard together with me!
    2. Disappointments

      • Disappoints aren’t bad, they show us the truth. During this journey, there will be times when we thought we had support but in fact didn’t. Yeah, it’s disappointing and sometimes these disappointments make us feel that we’re all alone. On the other hand, you’ll come across people stepping up and giving you support which is something I deeply treasure. Ya know know who you are :).
    3. Plan, do, learn, repeat.

      • Some people talk too much. I mean, it’s okay to brag when we have a certain level of achievements and give constructive feedback. However, being too full of ourselves and putting down others down is a NO go. There were many instances where I received criticism, looked down upon and even told to give up. It can be disturbing sometimes but we shouldn’t allow their actions prevent us from achieving our dreams because ultimately, our success depends on our TEAM and ACTIONS.
  2. Supportive friends.hands

    • THIS YEAR would be worse if it wasn’t for friends who have stood by me! And I must admit that ExchangeBuddy couldn’t have become what it is today without the support from these special group of people :).
    • Thank you…
      • MJC mates for ever being GL
      • Secondary school mates for bo liao weekends
      • Primary school mates for always reminiscing the past
      • University friends
      • Hall mates
      • N-House level 2
      • Block Comm
      • Exchange friends
      • Sabinki mates
      • My room mate Mr SoTakChun
      • Hotland
      • NUS exchange buddy (ies) – Jy, Jt + recuits KK and Regular (Akilesh)
      • ExchangeBuddy
        • Sue Mae, Irvin, Yan Hao, Han Ming, Kiat Han, Xin Ru, Kai Sing, De Shun, Kai Yu
        • Kai Yi, Leon, Thant
      • And everyone who have crossed path with me ! You guys know who you are. Thank you for making a difference in my life 🙂

Let me try to add a bit of drama suspense…

As I sip the last drop of baileys, I place the cup onto the coffee table beside me and look out of the window…..

Ok shucks I think I shall make do without the suspense. Not getting good at this. Haha.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

Anyway, looking forward to an even better 2017! Where I’ll be heading to Shanghai for a year and do keep a lookout for more exciting stuff that are in the pipeline !

P.S : Gonna change URL to singaporeanboy.com soonz !

 

Launch, execute and STePs.

CS3216 : Week 13

Launch:

Phwee here we go! Received good responses from the laugnch as students were signing up but our efforts could have been more effective if we weren’t constrained by the deadlines. It would be more effective if the launch wasn’t too close to finals! Ok but we still manage to pull through and we need to be thankful for the deadlines because it got us moving and delivering.

Marketing:

  1. Promotion video

Thank you Sue Mae for helping with the video!

Pasting of posters at strategic locations

You’ll get what I mean when you see it. If not, it means that it’s not strategic enough.

Campaign:

IMG_5851.JPG

Collaborated with the coffee roaster at AS8. For this campaign, we hid ExchangeBuddy’s poster in AS8 and got participants to guess it. The campaign was effective for the first 2 days but start to die out which made me worried.

Why isn’t the momentum continuing? How can it be more sustainable?

Thus, I decided to give Facebook Ads a try. It drew a few more shares but wasn’t worth the money spend.

Is it that the prize is not attractive enough or is it that Facebook posts dies after 1 or 2 days and the only way for it to be alive again is through re-share or Facebook ads?

If that’s the case, then I must say Facebook is smart because there is a tendency for campaigners to purchase ads to get their campaign running because of the amount of effort being place in organizing the campaign.

Overall, response was decently and we got good traction! And yeh! We managed to hit the user KPI assigned to us by our Prof 😀 .

STePs.IMG_5965.JPG

We’re achieved 3rd but it didn’t come easy! Lots of sleepy nights while the tech codes code and I plan and executed our marketing efforts. The week WAS CRAZY because I would have completed 4 modules that week with either an assignment submission or test or even both each day every day all day.

STePs is one of the biggest SOC event wherein top projects will be showcased to the public and it provided ExchangeBuddy with good exposure because there were relevant stakeholders who came for the event. It’s an entire half day of pitching and a good avenue to hone ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

So now as the course comes to an end…let’s reflect!

What went right?

TEAM! I strongly believe in this because ideas are plentiful but without a strong team, ideas are imaginations, not idealized.

Realigning everyone’s expectations and direction occasionally to keep everyone back on track.

What went wrong?

I’m sure most of us are aware of this

“lean” start-up methodology or heard about such “formats” when building a product.

Yeah, me too but when it comes to the real thing, it might not be as easy as it seems. This is because the “Greed” within us of wanting to build the best, the most comprehensive and most beautiful product.

However, after these few weeks of rampage hustling and discussions, I realized that we diverted from our core of starting simple and ending strong to starting complicated and ending it simple. We didn’t follow the lean start-up methodology and implemented too many features!

Dang, we should have just focused on one first, build it, test, iterate, good? If good, build next, test, iterate, good? Repeat….

Because of overlooking this aspect, my team did not having a decent life coding ExchangeBuddy and I feel responsible for it but I’m glad to have them because we managed to deliver a well-functioning ExchangeBuddy ! This experience has taught me a lot and I feel that I have overcome this greed after being whack-ed by it. As the old saying speaks, a lesson is never learned without a whip !

Overall thoughts:

I took a leap of faith in deciding to pursue CS3216. This is because I come from a non-tech background and this semester is important for me to maintain in the band of my honors degree. However, I told myself that this is the best chance to work with experts and to relinquish a goal that I have set for myself:

to build something not for the sake of building, but for the sake of creating value.

I do want to continue with ExchangeBuddy because I believe and treasure every effort the team have dedicated and I’ll be speaking with them soon. Of course, I would warmly welcome my classmates from CS3216 if any of them are interested to work on ExchangeBuddy or is interested to work towards building something REAL, USABLE, and up in the MARKET. I always believe that the

success or failure of a venture is determined by the strength of the team. In a team, it’s always about us, growing together, and accomplishing great things together!

Before I end off, I would like to thank Prof Colin for overseeing this module along with his awesome TAs who have provided guidance to us throughout this course. I would like to thank my teammates who have been with me because if NOT for them, I couldn’t have made it through CS3216.

Group Project 1: Irvin, Leon, ThantIMG_5978.JPG

Group Project 2: Emmanuel, Ryan, Kai Yi

Group Project 3: Ken, Ten, Han MingIMG_5974.JPG

Final Project: Yan Hao, Han Ming, Kai YiExchangebuddy Team_1.JPG

Thank you guys for your understanding and support throughout this course. Lastly, I would like to thank my classmates too! I have met so many interesting and talented young minds and I’m sure that we will cross roads or might even work together someday!

With this, my CS3216 journey ended. It’s been an eCStactic journey.

Of course, this isn’t the end of everything….

What’s next?

The runway for ExchangeBuddy!

The Journey of ExchangeBuddy : Pre-Launch – Part 3

CS3216 Week 10

Crunch time coming when launch time coming soon. As they say, murphy law always happens and so we always need to set aside buffer prior to our launch! *Fingers double cross for this*.

Highlights for the week:

  • Launch of Lead Up to Launch (LUL) videos

  • Practicum grant

  • Feelings

  1. LUL

Wowz our videos did take off well with our first sequence gathered 5000 views and more than 50 shares within 3 days. We had a total of over 7000 views for the entire sequence!

The takeaway from LUL is that we should have a more thought through story board for sequential videos. That probably explains why the first video had so much more reach than the other 2 parts.

Another takeaway is that the timing of the video matters!

  1. Practicum grant

Great news, we managed to get the offer!

“Money Money Money, Must be funny, In a rich man’s world!”

Wait wait wait, this is good news but I always believe that we shouldn’t spend money unless we NEED it. We need to avoid a situation of being too reliant on fundings because it is not a sustainable cash inflow. If we are too reliant on spending, and once it’s used up, Bye Bye, we’ll be squashed. Therefore, we would only use these funds to spearhead certain execution which is required and not spend it unnecessarily.

Some tips: In using $, we should have an objective in mind of what we want to achieve by spending $X amount. This can be calculated by identifying the user acquisition cost which helps to determine how much to spend for X number of users. We can also calculate the cost per user with the above result. Following which, I have drafted out a rough plan on a few campaigns to be run throughout 2017 and which campaign to choose would be determined by the cost per user conversion.

  1. Feelings

    snow-1217124_1920

Sometimes, leading a startup (I don’t like to use this term as it feels overused) isn’t as glamorous as it seems because in addition to the common problems that we need to manage (academics, relationships, commitments etc.), we also need to be concerned about the morale of the team, progress of the development and execution of the project. My team is important to me because I strongly believe in TEAM.

There is only so much one can achieve but there is so much more we can achieve as a team. – Can I quote myself here? Haha

What motivates me?

I don’t know why but somehow thinking about the future and the potential to create value motivates me. Okay shall not go into this at such a time but I’m extremely excited for the launch of our new web application! So do support us when it is live alright!

That’s all for me this week! Adios !

Journey of ExchangeBuddy: Part 2 – Pitch and Hustle

CS3216 : Week 9

Hi guys! Sorry that I didn’t update the previous week so for this week’s edition I’ll be publishing two posts! The highlight for part 2 would be

1) NUS practicum and innovation grant pitch

2) Full team meeting

3) Mistakes that we made prior to propagating

4) NOC connect roadshow

5) Promo video film.

  • Pitch

Let me recall where I stopped last week. Oh, yes it was at the pitch to NUS enterprise so I shall start from there. Pitched to NUS enterprise for the innovation grant on Monday and I must admit that it was my first time pitching to a panelist of 5 with some investors within the panelist.

Was I nervous? Well, kind of and not really. I was nervous the start but somehow as I started pitching, I reverted to my presentation style. I feel that it’s important to be genuine and just be ourselves when we present and I’m not fond of putting up a front that isn’t myself. Perhaps I’ll need to do that someday as some investors might prefer a more professional outlook but okay we shall see as we progress.

Some key takeaways from the pitch:

  1. Be clear when describing your application flow!
  • Perhaps a good way to present this is to explain it using user flow story
  • Visual tells
  1. Saying that you’ll use Facebook/ Instagram for marketing with $ is like spanking yourself in the ass
  • It depends on the nature of your solution but using advertisement might not be the wisest choice to spend the money. Furthermore, the funding might not be sufficient to sustain this marketing cost and the conversion might not justify its cost.
  1. Be firm
  • Ok I feel that this can be subjective depending on investors. For me, I believe in humility and thus I do not like to “argue” my points but instead, accept arguments that I’m not able to give a good rebuttal. A feedback that I got is that I should be more firm even when questions are shot because by giving in, it might give the investor an impression that I am unsure of what I’m doing.

What’s the FINAL outcome of the grant? Heh check out Part 3 !

  • Full team meeting

    img_5760

We had our first meeting at the hangar today. The main agenda is to get everyone to know one another because I strongly believe in a homely working culture.

  • WEBSITE DOWN!

Just when we just had a viral content that is achieving more than 100 shares, and gaining traffic of 1000 views a day, our website went down! *Panic button pushed! *. This is because we wanted to connect the current domain to our new application for NOC connect on Saturday. However, our plan backfired as we didn’t deploy and test it on a staging server prior to connecting. Hence, when there were issues with connecting the backend, BOOMZ, server down, our current website cannot be displayed due to propagation time (24-48hours) and we are not able to showcase our new application during NOC connect.

The point to note here is to deploy and test on a staging server before releasing and note that DNS propagation takes time!

  • NOC connect roadshow

    img_5769

Thank you, NUS NOC for the opportunity! This is our 2nd road show where we got REAL with users. The interesting thing about doing road shows is that we get more familiar with our application as we share with more people! Also, we did validation by talking people and through these conversations, we got to understand more about the needs of our users and ways which we can improve our application.

On a side note, I was extremely touched by a friend who mentioned ExchangeBuddy during his speech upon receiving his scholarship. It may be a simple act but it made me feel that what I’m doing thus far was recognized and serve as a motivation for me and my team to push harder.

 

  • Promo video filming

    Processed with Snapseed.
    Processed with Snapseed.

How do we make it viral? The answer to this is to ride with the trend! However, this can go either extremes. Finger cross that ours would be at the better end! Did some basic filming, voice recording and editing. Wait out for our promotional video!

 

That is all for part 2! Check out part 3 on Pre-Launch !

 

 

The birth of ExchangeBuddy

CS3216 : Week 8

Hello friends!

It’s been awhile since I’ve last posted on my CS3216 Journey. Things have been tight with all the submissions and midterms that came along but not to worry as we’re still on track and gearing up for the final stretch! With the final project on the way, I’ll be sharing with you guys the journey of the NEW ExchangeBuddy (Here is the link to the current version if you want to know what is it about!) and hopefully it’ll be able to give you a more genuine and factual insight of how is it like trying to start something up at the infancy stage! Take note, we’re going to launch on the week of

24th OCT! REMEMBER THIS DATE OK!

Flash back to the beginning of the final project whereby 10 projects will be taken up by 10 groups. 3 weeks ago, we had external and internal pitches. During external pitches, established startups such as Shopback and Quickdesk came down to pitch projects and there were about 14 companies. On the other hand, there were about 7 internal pitches. This add up to 21 pitches! To be honest, I was confident yet worried on whether ExchangeBuddy is able to juice interest from my course mates as I didn’t manage to execute my pitch well on the pitch night. Furthermore, the established companies were able to provide monetary incentives while me on the other hand, I’m still a student living on pocket money. However, luckily for me, I found myself a team of like-minded budding team mates who are eager to bring forward this cause and make a difference to the world. We decided to work together because of the possibility of CONTINUING ExchangeBuddy after the module. There were other extremely talented course mates who were interested to be part of this project but unfortunately, we could only be in a team of 4 and hence I wouldn’t be able to work with them this time round. However, I do look forward to work with them once the course is over!

exchangebuddy-v2-intro_2
Meet the development team! Left to Right : Yan Hao, Han Ming, Kai Yi

Flash front, we are now on the 3rd week of development and things are going well. In terms of marketing, I had the marketing plan from now till Dec planned out and here are some of the stuff which we are currently doing (but I won’t be sharing everything! You’ll need to like our Facebook and Instagram to check out the SURPRISE!). I will be involved in all of these initiatives and I’m fortunately to have assistance from my talented friends whom I would like to credit these initiatives to.

  1. Contacting universities
  2. Facebook Page
  3. Instagram – #aweekOnExchange ( YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO FOLLOW THIS. COOL STUFF)
  4. Designing of A1 poster (Yu Ann)
  5. Maintaining ExchangeBuddy content (Kiat Han)
  6. Promotional Video (Sue Mae)
  7. Special Video
  8. International Study Fair 1st Oct
    1. Managed to get ExchangeBuddy’s branding out to students who are intending to travel overseas and I’m surprise to hear of NSFs who knew about ExchangeBuddy.
  9. N-House sharing 5th Oct
    1. Had a booth during N-house Open Day and I was impressed by the number of driven young minds who wish to create value. Also, we received more than 10 internship interest applications. Internship is definitely an aspect we will look into after re-gearing and strategizing at the end of the term
  10. NOC connect sharing 15th Oct
esmp4993
Us at N-house Open Day! From left to Right : Kai Yi, Eugene, Kiat Han

In addition to marketing efforts, ExchangeBuddy have gotten through the final round of the NUS innovation grant and I will be pitching to them on Monday, 10th October! Let’s hope NUS believe in us because we’re going to make it happen!

And that is all of the wrap up of the past 3 weeks! Do stay tuned to this site for updates about the growth of a startup

AND REMEMBER 24Th October! Get ready to be part of this crazily fun student community!

Ciaos !

Week 5 : Countdown to internal pitch!

The past week was less intense as we had external pitching where companies came down and pitch their ideas. The idea that caught my attention was Treatsure by Preston. It was a similar idea that we had in Startup Weekend Olsztyn, Poland where we came in 1st runner up and was awarded the best pitch! Old good memories I must say. But STILL, I’m more excited for the internal pitch as it would be the time when I could pitch ExchangeBuddy! Looking forward to form a team to undertake this project because it is going to be REAL! I got the marketing covered and most importantly the possibility to embark on a journey together after CS3216! We aren’t only building it for the finals, we are going to build it for the FUTURE! Met with a staff from NUS enterprise, received useful feedback on it and I will be submitting the practicum grant form this week too! Ok enough for the excitement and I shall keep the rest for the pitch tomorrow!

Other than the above mentioned, this week was assignment 3 week and my group have decided to work on Schoolines – An application that can consolidate deadlines so that students would no longer need to refer to IVLE regularly to check on the various exam and assignment deadlines. Started learning illustrator and completed the logo for our application! Wait up for Schoolines and we’ll take care of your deadlines !

That’s all for this week! Ciao!