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,, 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 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 :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On using new technology and setting up infrastructure

It's very hard to build a startup; it's even harder to build two at the same time, especially since I have a full time job. For the past few months, most of my free time were spent on coding. Let me share some progress.

My first project is Neytap, a classifieds for room rentals—which in Bahasa Indonesia is called kos (correct term is indekos, although sometimes people write it as kost or kos-kosan). I'm aware that there are some similar websites already, but competition is always good :) It has just reached version Private Alpha and right now is under development for Private Beta.

My second project is a location-based service. I can't tell you much about it since it needs to be in stealth until certain stage of development. I can only say that, for this project, I have a co-founder.

On using new technology

Both projects use JVM-based languages: Java, Groovy and Scala. I'm currently learning Scala, so I try to use it as much as possible. Groovy is used for scripting (like one-time off code) and Java when I'm stuck with Scala :D

There's an important lesson that I want to share with technical founders who, like me, like to tinker with new technology: Building startups with technology you're not familiar with is a bad idea.

I'm not talking about quality (since you're not familiar, you might develop sub par solution), but it's all about time allocation. The point is, every time you want to use some fancy stuff in your project, ask yourself, "How much the distraction from achieving my target (delivering project)? Will it add significant value (i.e. "worth the time")?"

I spent a significant time learning new stuff instead of working on actual product for these two projects. Knowledge-wise, it's not a waste. Goal-wise, it is. I decided to fallback to technologies I'm familiar with, and adding just a bit new stuff that I'm sure will improve my productivity.

Infrastructure setup

You can code immediately without any documentation (URS, Diagrams, etc), which is exactly what I did. But at some point you will realize that you need some order. You need at least an issue tracker.

Important lesson: Use what you're familiar with and don't spend too much time setting it up. I'm familiar with Trac, Redmine and JIRA, but all of them are not trivial to setup for me (YMMV). I end up using YouTrack. It's free for 10 users, no installation. Just download the JAR file and run from command line: java -jar youtrack-3.0.jar 9999. This assume you have Java runtime installed,

The next thing in mind is a version control system (VCS). You must use VCS. Use the one you're most familiar with (if you're familiar with none, then stop coding and learn one, Git is good).

Important lesson: If you don't like to wait, make sure your infrastructure is fast. Get a good computer with enough CPU and RAM. If you work alone, setup issue tracker and VCS in your workstation (localhost). If working with team, use the fastest server-based solution. I use Unfuddle for Git and installed YouTrack in an EC2 located in Singapore. If submitting an issue or comitting code take too long, you'll be tempted to open Hacker News and not working :D

In conclusion, remember not to spend too much in either "research" or setting up infrastructure. In the end, it's your code that matters.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Give it a name

The first thing you need in building a startup is an idea. Some people think that idea is worthless, but for me it is equally important as the execution that follows it and the team behind it. It sets your target so that you know where to focus. But don't fall in love with your idea, it can evolve and even change radically. You just need it to get started.

After having an idea, the next thing to come up with is a name. Having a name upfront is not required (you can use random name, e.g. "myproject", and change it later), but it simplifies a lot of things.

Name is important for:
  • Presence: domain name, Twitter handle, etc. We'll get into this in a moment.
  • Development artifacts: project directory, namespace (e.g., in Java, "com.myproject"), Redmine project, Basecamp account, etc.

Online presence that you need to secure

Domain name

Buy a domain from Google Apps, it's easier. You will get GMail-backed without setting up anything.

Handle in your target deployment

For example, if you use Google App Engine, you might want to secure This is optional, as it will usually be masked by your domain name (e.g. will be forwarded to, but it's always nice to have some consistency.

Facebook Page

Facebook requires that you have at least 25 fans before eligible for a username (that is, a Ask your friends to Like your page to secure it.

Twitter handle

This is obvious.

Blog (e.g.

Not necessary if you want to use your domain, e.g.

Remember that choosing name is not urgent, but the sooner the better.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet

As promised, I'm going to start blogging again. Here we go.

It's almost a year since my last post and I told you that lots of things have happened. Ironically, I don't know what to write. Maybe I'll start with how I feel these days.

I don't feel happy.

I'm working in a big multi-national company, which recently been acquired by a much bigger multi-national company. That's good. But on the other end, I just feel like a drop of water in the sea. I miss being my own architect, developing things I like, using any tool or framework I want.

That's one.

The other thing, I always want to have my own business. Not the grand thing like the next Microsoft or Google (although that would be nice). I just want to have a simple small business, like a restaurant or massage parlor (with hot chicks under my employment, yay!).

That's two.

The last thing, right now the world is having "startup fever". This trend is also happening in Indonesia. Now everyone with their uncle want build a startup, get investment, get acquired and exit with a load of money. Everything with "getting more money" is always good for me, and I hate just sitting here watching other people partying.

That's three.

Because I miss architecting and hacking stuff, and I want to have my own business, and I want to join the startup wave, today I'm announcing that I'm opening a restaurant.

Oh, wait. You know I can't be serious. I barely know how to cook.

Actually, I'm in a very early stage of building a startup. Well, two, actually. What? Why? Shouldn't I suppose to focus on one first until it's launched?

It goes like this. I was starting on an idea, a website which suppose to help me scratch my own itch (that is, solving my own problem, and hopefully others'). But then a couple of weeks later a friend of mine asked me to become his co-founder. I told him that I'm currently working on something else, but he didn't mind at all, so there comes my 2nd startup. Both are not related to each other.

Will I quit my job now, lock myself for months and start hacking? Not quite. The stuff I'll be doing are totally not related with my company's line of business (so no conflict of interest), and I don't set deadline for the projects, so it'll just to "kill time" and won't affect my day job. Of course this might change.

From now on, I'm going to blog primarily about my experience in building that two startups (one where I'm solo and another where I have a co-founder). I hope by doing this, I can keep motivating myself (and, oh, make myself happy!) and help others who want to build their own startup.

Note: Some of you might be curious about this blog title, "Isn't that supposedly "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"? According to, the more correct translation from the original Chinese would be the one I put in the title. Rather than emphasizing the first step, Lau Tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. Another potential phrasing would be "Even the longest journey must begin where you stand." In other words, you must get your ass off your comfort zone.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm still alive

Hi guys, just to let you know that I'm still alive. Lots of things have changed since my last post. I promise I'm going to blog more often. Stay tuned :)

Looking for my geek side?