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Saturday, June 29, 2013

On setting goals

So, I have broken my promise again to write more often. I read about it somewhere that I'm not unique to this "over promise, under deliver" problem when it comes to writing. Still, I feel like I fail myself and my readers.

Writing is a Good Thing™—somebody even compiled 17 reasons for doing it—but it's hard, especially for perfectionists (and procrastinators!) like me—I can write a paragraph and keep refining it for an hour. But why is my old self seems to be more productive? I think the reason is, like I said, I feel bad when I fail to meet my target. The disappointment adds up, and it's making me to think, "The hell with this, I'm not gonna make it."


Fortunately, I learned something new today about goal setting. We shouldn't set our goal in binary: either we achieve it or not. Instead, set it in 3 categories: What we can definitely do, what we want to achieve, and what is awesome to get. Let's use my writing problem as an example.

Looking at my recent writing frequency, 12 posts per year seems something I can definitely do. Of course, that amount is lame for a blog, so my target is to write 52. It seems ambitious, but in 2007 and 2008 I wrote more than that, so it's a good target. Always challenge yourself, reasonably.

52 is the number of week in a year, but I didn't mention the interval. I can slack for 11 months and rush in December. Now, if I can write consistently every week, that's awesome!

Note that it's better to set the categories in stages. That is, achieving awesomeness means completing the rest. I could set the awesomeness to be "Write a book", but accomplishing it doesn't mean I meet my target (52 posts), which will make me sad.

Now it's your turn.

Monday, January 28, 2013

OMG, I'm now 30!

Happy birthday to me! I can't believe I'm now 30 years old. Gosh! I have promised myself to blog everyday starting today, until (at least) my next birthday. The topic does not matter, it's the process that I seek. Since I just returned from a 5-day trip from Boracay, the Philippines, I'll spare myself and consider this short paragraph a first :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pengalaman tinggal di Kuala Lumpur

Dari semua tulisan disini, tulisan gw tentang makanan di Malaysia ternyata paling populer. Beberapa orang bahkan sampai mengontak gw di Facebook untuk bertanya lebih lanjut. Sekarang gw sudah hampir tiga tahun tinggal di Kuala Lumpur, saatnya untuk berbagi lebih banyak.

Sedikit latar belakang, sekarang gw tinggal di Bukit Jalil, dekat stadion yang waktu itu digunakan untuk pertandingan bola Indonesia vs Malaysia. Ini adalah tempat "kost" gw yang keempat selama bekerja di Malaysia, dan lingkungan sekitar masing-masing tempat kost sangat berbeda. Gw akan membandingkan dengan kondisi di Jakarta,

Tempat tinggal pertama: Shah Alam.

Shah Alam bagaikan Cikarang—jauh dari ibu kota dan relatif jarang penduduknya. Waktu pertama tiba di Malaysia, gw ga punya duit (sekarang juga ga punya sih, hehe). Untungnya ada teman SMP yang tinggal disini, jadi selama sebulan pertama gw menumpang di kondo dia di Shah Alam.

Pengalaman dari tinggal di Shah Alam:
  • Beberapa perusahaan besar di Malaysia mempunyai call center untuk penggunanya yang ber-Bahasa Indonesia. Teman gw dan teman-temannya bekerja di DiGi ("Indosat-nya Malaysia," populer di kalangan anak muda karena murah). Mereka pekerja outsource dan mendapat akomodasi tempat tinggal (satu kondo bertiga) dan bis karyawan. Karena mereka bekerja shift, bisnya datang setiap jam.
  • Tidak ada alasan untuk tinggal di Shah Alam kalau kamu bekerja di Kuala Lumpur, kecuali punya kendaraan sendiri dan rela menghabiskan waktu di jalan. Teman gw punya mobil dan kantornya di Shah Alam juga.
Tentang kereta ("kereta" berarti "mobil" di Malaysia, tapi untuk tulisan ini "kereta" berarti "alat transportasi yang berjalan di rel"):
  • Transportasi massal berbasis rel di Kuala Lumpur ada tiga: monorail, KTM dan LRT. KTM hampir sama dengan KRL AC ekonomi(?) di Jakarta—sama-sama ga tepat waktu dan lambat.
  • Tiket dapat dibeli di konter atau mesin (tapi kebanyakan mesinnya rusak, hehe), atau pakai kartu Touch N Go (kartu debit).
Tentang angkutan umum lain:
  • Di Indonesia, kamu bisa berdiri di pinggir jalan dimana saja (termasuk di gang!), pasti ada angkutan umum yang lewat. Disini kamu bisa berdiri di pinggir jalan besar dan ga melihat satu pun bis lewat.
  • Disini ga ada ojek, bajaj, omprengan atau angkot (minibus). Selain transportasi berbasis rel, hanya ada bis dan taksi.
  • Di bis ga ada kenek, hanya ada sopir yang sekalian mengurus pembayaran. Kamu harus membayar tunai atau dengan kartu saat masuk. Suara rekaman akan memberitahu kamu sudah sampai mana.
  • Kalau naik bis, kamu umumnya harus berhenti di halte, ga boleh di sembarang tempat.
  • Taksi disini sangat pemilih. Sedikit macet ga mau, padahal kan tetap dibayar!
  • Di beberapa tempat (terutama daerah turis dan tempat clubbing), taksi ga mau pakai argo ("meter") atau minta tambahan, misalnya +RM2 (~Rp6 ribu).
  • Di bandara dan KL Sentral ("Blok M"-nya Kuala Lupur), kamu bisa bayar taksi dengan tiket. Datang ke konter, kasih tau mau kemana, bayar sesuai jarak. Ga perlu takut dibawa muter-muter atau tawar-menawar.
  • Taksi disini jauh lebih jelek dibandingkan di Jakarta.
  • Naik taksi disini cenderung lebih murah, mungkin karena tidak begitu macet dan tidak perlu memberi tip.
Tentang jalanan, kendaraan pribadi, pejalan kaki dan tempat parkir:
  • Jalan raya di Malaysia lebih lebar.
  • Jalanan disini umumnya hanya macet sebelum dan sesudah jam kerja, tapi macetnya tetap lebih "masuk akal" dibandingkan dengan di Jakarta.
  • Beberapa jalan tol dipasangi speed trap—kamera yang menangkap kalau kamu terlalu ngebut.
  • Di Jakarta, orang suka seenaknya menyeberang jalan sementara mobil/motor harus mengalah (mungkin takut dibakar massa kalau menabrak orang, hehe). Disini sebaliknya.
  • Di Kuala Lumpur, mobil lebih banyak dari motor.
  • Motor boleh masuk tol tanpa membayar.
  • Kadang disediakan jalur khusus untuk motor.
  • Tidak ada yang mau naik motor kecuali terpaksa. Pedagang kaki lima dan penjual DVD bajakan di emperan jalan pun naik mobil.
  • Alasan orang-orang disini punya mobil karena transportasi umum sangat minim. Secara kualitas Malaysia menang, secara kuantitas Indonesia jauh lebih baik (terlalu banyak malah, jadi macet).
  • Orang Malaysia sedikit lebih teratur dalam mengantri, termasuk di lampu merah (untuk hal ini, pengemudi mobil lebih patuh dibanding pejalan kaki).
  • Disini ga ada tukang parkir, apalagi "pak ogah".
Ada yang perlu ditambahkan? Tulisan berikutnya akan berdasarkan pengalaman gw pertama kali "ngekost" di Kuala Lumpur.

Status update, midyear 2012

How fast time flies. My last post was on the 1st of January this year, and that's more than a half year ago!

I was dormant here, but I kept on writing (at least for a couple of weeks) in #anakkos, a blog inside Neytap.com, a classifieds for room rentals, for SEO purpose. So far, the website receives almost 100 page views daily. Not bad for a $0 marketing effort.

It could be better, though. I use Ajax heavily to make Neytap speedier (speed is a feature of Neytap), but it's not SEO-friendly. I also design Neytap home page to be clean and simple, just like Google's; Apparently it's not SEO-friendly as well :( Search engines would think my other pages are not really important, since they're not referenced directly from the home page. That's assuming the engines can find the pages in the first place, since in order to open those, you must perform (Ajax) search. Dooh!

TL;DR: Neytap is designed to be speedy, with the (unforeseen) expense of search engine discoverability. Lucky that blogging helps, although not by much. This explains why engineers suck at selling consumer products :D

Next, I co-founded Cabara.co.id, a curated marketplace for domestic workers. At the moment we're focusing on maid service in Jakarta. We pitched in Startup Asia Jakarta 2012, you can watch my pitch there in YouTube (you might want to skip the first few minutes).

We didn't win (we'd be surprised if we did), but it's a great opportunity to pitch there. We were covered in Tech In Asia and some other publications, and approached by a number of VCs. Everything is new to me (and to my co-founders as well, apparently), so it was quite an experience.

Last but not least, I recently created temanmudik.com, a (social network?) website to connect Indonesians who are going homecoming this year. It's a tradition in Indonesia—and probably other Muslim countries, I know they have it in Malaysia—for people to go back to their hometown to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr (in Indonesia it's called Idul Fitri or Lebaran).

Following Minimum Viable Product concept, at the moment Teman Mudik is just a landing page and to be developed progressively depending on feasibility. Teman Mudik is a mini-site for Neytap and they share the same user base. I will give report on how it goes after Eid ul-Fitr.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

Can't believe it's 2012 and we're still breathing, LOL! Anyway just in case some big meteor hit earth in next minute... this is my first post in 2012!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Neytap released!

I've been spending my free time developing a website to facilitate room rentals. The website is an attempt to scratch my own itch. Today, nine months after I registered the domain, I'm releasing Neytap to general public.

Neytap is a classifieds for room rentals inside Facebook. It's simple, because I lack design skills. It's fast, because my internet is crappy. And it's easy, because I'm too lazy to explain how it works :)

For the curious, the word neytap originates from an Indonesian word "menetap", which means "to stay" or "to settle".

me·ne·tap v bertempat tinggal tetap (di); bermukim di: banyak orang asing ~ di kota dagang itu; ada yg pulang ke kampung halamannya, ada pula yg ~ di kota-kota; Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia

"menetap" is a mouthful word so I trimmed it to "netap". To make the pronunciation similar for Indonesian-speaking and English-speaking tongues, I added "y" in the middle.

"If you are not embarrassed by your first release, you've launched too late" — Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn.

I'm embrarred indeed. The website is so simple, too simple in fact. There are some features that I decide to exclude from this release, including multi-language support and a mobile version, mainly because they're still crappy.

This is the first public release of Neytap, but certainly not the last. I'm going to update the website iteratively. Meanwhile, please take a look at Neytap and tell me what you think!

If it isn't for the pretty date (20-11-2011—Indonesian format), I would certainly delay the release. But then again, "waiting for the perfect time" is just an excuse and it may never come. Soli Deo gloria.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Would convertible debt burden me?

As I've written before, I'm currently working on two side projects in my free time. This post is an update about their progress.

For the one I'm doing with a co-founder, it's pretty much stalled. It requires significant capital investment and some brick-and-mortar business networking thus we can't start from zero. My co-founder has pitched to some VCs all out, but apparently the conventional wisdom is true: you can't really get investors just by selling idea. At least not when you're nobody.

For the other one, a classifieds for room rentals (the idea is much bigger than that, but I must start from something small), it's been going slow. I thought of speeding it up; quit my full-time job and give the project all the love. That's why I was thinking of raising MYR 75k (USD ~23.7k or IDR ~210m) in convertible debt to fund the project for at least 6 months.

I cold emailed some people (only two, actually. A CEO in a company I worked for and an acquaintance I met in airport), asking whether they know anyone interested to angel invest in my project.

The latter forwarded my email to her business partner who then asked for a pitch. To my surprise, he showed deep interest on our first meeting, and immediately showed intent to invest after reading my financial projection (which I think quite conservative on number).

In case you're curious, here's my proposed term:
  • 8% interest p/a
  • 25% discount
  • with cap
  • maturity at 1 year
I think it's pretty much standard. But then the guy said that he "doesn't like the idea of giving loan" because he "doesn't want to burden me". He wanted some shares instead. This is his offer (more or less):
  • Start the company in Malaysia so we can get government grants and stuff, but it must be majority owned by local, so he proposed...
  • 60% for himself (being a Malaysian). And because his business partner (my friend) introduced us, so...
  • She'll get 20%.
  • Maybe he doesn't really trust me, so the money will be dispensed monthly, and...
  • I must get his permission for any expenses.
To summarize, the company would get USD 23.7k spread over 6 months period, I would get 20% share and less than half my current salary, and I must report everything. I've never dealt with any investor before, but I don't feel right.

My friend jokingly said the money I need is around the price a car, might as well I borrow it from bank and keep 100% share for myself.

I emailed the investor politely rejecting his offer. Here's a snippet of the letter:
You've been very gracious with your time and I'm thankful for that. After careful consideration, however, I have decided not to take your current offer. I have asked around and did some research, convertible debt is still the term I want. 
There's a great article on the benefits of convertible debt, http://venturehacks.com/articles/debt-benefits, where the two main points (for me) are Suitability (point 2) and Control (point 3). It is also investor-friendly when complemented with discount and cap.
I guess I'll keep doing this as a side project until I can stand on my own or found more sensible investment.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Validating your idea

Last week a guy added me in Facebook because he said we have similar interest in startup and found my blog (the one you're reading now) quite amusing.

I usually only approve cute chicks and people I know—because in my experience random guys who added me happen to be gay and they thought I am too (I am NOT). Since he introduced himself (and his intent), I'm more than happy to approve his friend request. He happen to be a smart person, and has a female wife :)

We exchanged messages, and I thought one of my replies worth to post in blog, so I asked his permission and he agreed, so here it goes:

Hi bro, thanks for your length reply. I think you should stop reading and start jumping to action. In startup, first-hand experience is much more useful.

The simplest is to create a landing page to validate your idea. If it doesn't get satisfactory traction (i.e. low signups), either the idea sucks or the landing page needs refining.

It might hurt to know the truth (since your idea is most likely your ambition), but it will save you the time from building product nobody wants and you can move on to another idea.

A couple days ago I read Ash Maurya's Running Lean which mentioned Eric Ries' Lean Startup. I didn't finish the reading, but it made me realize that I've been taking the wrong approach.

I've been spending too long developing the product and also sidetracked by "research", but nothing towards validating my idea early. I'm afraid that when my product has complete, it doesn't get the traction I expected, and I will feel demotivated. I've been in this situation.

But there's a lie within landing page approach: Sometimes the traction doesn't translate to actual product usage. It might be because the product is "less interesting" than what you promise in the landing page, or the product launched too late (the guy who subscribed already forget who you are and what you do), or any other reasons. Just be prepared with this.

So, to answer your question on how am I doing with my journey, now I'm doing "temporary pivot". I'm focusing on building a landing page.

My co-founder is currently in Jakarta for his first baby born and also to pitch to some VC. My project with him requires significant capital and network investment, so it's essential to raise some money (and make friends).

As for my other project, Neytap, now I'm thinking on how to solve the chicken-and-egg problem. As you know it's a classifieds for room rentals, a marketplace of buyers (tenants) and sellers (landlords). I need to figure out how to grow both sides in balance. Do you have suggestion?

Anyway, regarding US as your target market, I think you're right, aim the ones you're most familiar with. But isn't US already saturated?

I'm so happy to meet like-minded people :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How much should you pay developers?

Two days ago I started a discussion in StartUpLokal group, "How much should you pay developers?" Basically I shared a link I found regarding compensation plan in StackOverflow.

Teddie followed up with an interesting question (copied as-is), "As a Founder..how much U willing to Pay Your Programmer (honestly)?" Wenas Agusetiawan replied, "rockstars deserve to be paid well," but Teddie didn't seem satisfied with the answer thus asked again, "how much?"

My answer is: "It depends." Let me elaborate.

I'm a programmer myself. If I were to outsource/delegate programming tasks for any of my startups, it must be because (1) I'm not good enough to do it myself, or (2) The tasks so boring I'd rather do something else, like sleeping.

So, how much?

If I were to pay the programmer for the first reason then I must award him well. He's smarter than me, he deserves at least same salary I'd get if I were to do it myself. If for the second reason, I'll base on industry standard, or, "How much I'm willing to be paid if I don't have better option." (Which is logical—if you're the programmer, would you take the boring/repetitive job if you have better option?)

Of course, being a startup founder, you must squeeze expenses as much as you can. So for the first case, I'll negotiate with him but focus on retainment (I don't want to lose him). For the second case, I'll focus on minimizing expenses (I don't want to lose too much money).

Note: Change "him" to "her" for your convenience.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birds of the same feather flock together

You are who you surround yourself with. You tend to be more productive when you hang out with like-minded people.

I usually work solo on my personal projects, and it's damn tiring (on the plus side, I can do whatever I want, haha). I do have a partner in one of my startups, but since my internet is crappy and my co-founder lives in a different continent, communication is hard.

So it was a very refreshing experience when last month I attended Google Hackathon App Engine. It was a very productive weekend indeed.

From Wikipedia: A hackathon is an event when programmers meet to do collaborative computer programming. These events are typically between several days and a week in length. A hackathon refers not simply to one time hacks, but to a specific time when many people come together to hack on what they want to, how they want to - with little to no restrictions on direction or goal of the programming. Translation: party for geeks.

I didn't manage to launch anything there, but I made significant progress; made some friends too. Looking forward for another similar events. So guys, if you have the chance to attend such event, don't miss it :)