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Entrepreneurs: stop cloaking your ideas in secrecy

share ideas entrepreneursThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 4-April-2013 issue

Joe and I met at a networking event recently. Joe is new to the entrepreneurial game and wants to start a business in the restaurant industry. When I asked Joe to tell me more about his concept, he immediately clammed up. “I’d prefer not to discuss it until it is launched”, he said hesitantly. “However if you could sign a confidentiality agreement, I do have one with me …”

I meet entrepreneurs like Joe all the time. Like most entrepreneurial newbies, he is very protective of his idea. His greatest fear is that copycats will steal it. So he guards his baby zealously, and doesn’t even tell his friends about it. By contrast, mature entrepreneurs who have been in the game for a while are only too happy to tell others about their ideas. Here’s why: Continue reading

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Is rapid growth bad for your business?

rapid growth graph tech bizThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 28-Feb-2013 issue

In 1999, the Webvan Group promised to transform the grocery shopping industry. Thanks to an über-successful IPO and other sources such as venture capitalists, it raised a staggering $1.2bn in start-up capital, rivalling big players like Amazon.com. Fast forward to 2001, when Webvan went bankrupt, barely 18 months later. The cause? It ran out of money.

How is this possible?

When investors inject capital into a business, they want a return on their money. And the expectation is that rapid growth will usually fuel this return. Americans even have an expression for fast-growing firms: “gazelles” are publicly traded companies that have grown at least 20% for each of the previous four years, kicking off with US$ 1m or more in sales.

But sometimes, growing too quickly can actually be bad for business. Continue reading


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From corporate to start-up: can you cut it?

entrepreneur young at PCThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 7-Feb-2013 issue

Four years out of our MBA degrees, my MBA classmate Joanne* was working in a senior position at a leading global FMCG company. She was extremely well-paid, got to travel extensively and had all the usual corporate perks. Everyone thought she had the perfect set-up. But inside, Joanne was desperately unhappy. Her dream was to start her own business, and she would spend all her spare time researching an idea she was passionate about. However, she had two children whose private education didn’t come cheap, a sizeable homeloan to pay off, and her husband’s investment business had taken a knock in the global financial crisis. So the family depended on Joanne’s salary. As much as she wanted to quit her job in corporate, she didn’t think she could. Sensing her unhappiness, Joanne and I met for lunch to explore if there was a way she could successfully make the leap from corporate to a start-up. Some valuable lessons came out of our discussion that hopefully can help others in the same predicament.

I made the transition in 2007 and it was the best career decision I have ever taken. The entrepreneurial environment, however, isn’t for everyone. And corporate will be extremely tempting when you hit the inevitable rocky period in your venture. Before making the leap from corporate to start-up, you need to understand what you’re getting into and if you’re cut out for it.

So the first question to address is: What traits do you need to have in order to succeed in a start-up? Continue reading