Startup

Paylah.com x IIUM Student Union

Today marks the official launch of IIUM Student Union by Dr. Maszlee Malik. Our involvement is simple – we are providing fundraising solution. Really looking forward to help the student union achieve financial sustainability in the long term.

Gig Worker vs Freelancer

Gig Worker vs Freelancer
Gig WorkerFreelancer
Skill LevelLowMedium to High
Ownership of Means of ProductionPlatformWorker
Pricing PowerNo PowerSet Own Price
Wage TrendDefinitely Going DownVaries according to market demand
Able to Choose CustomerNoYes
Skill DevelopmentNoYes
Require Higher Education?NoMaybe

Another thing I notice is that for Gig Worker the skill is never offered as a diploma or degree. For example, there’s no degree for taxi driving but there’s a degree in graphic design. Likewise there’s no diploma for food delivery but there’s diploma for culinary arts.

First Public Outing of Paylah.com

This had been under wraps for several months and finally today Paylah.com is out in the public. We enable organizations to receive recurring payment from all banks in Malaysia. I’ve chosen this venue because I’ve discussed with Dr. Zulkifli Hasan, Dr. Daud Bakar, Aiman & Muaz about recurring donation for NGO 2 years back.

The solution I proposed back then was rather bodged together so the performance is low and cost is high. Now we can enable direct collection to organizations with lower cost. Even better, organizations can pay our fess later.

We share address and resources with Instaweb

Why Customers Might End Up Losing With eWallet

eWallet had boomed in China, and the rest of the world is clamoring to catch up. Both merchants and operators are really pushing the adoption of eWallet. Right now in Malaysia it’s a battle between Boost, GrabPay & Touch N Go.

Mobile Payment using Payment Terminal
Photo by Jonas Leupe / Unsplash

On the technical and business side, eWallet made it easier and cheaper to receive payments. As somebody on that side, I can appreciate its benefits.

However, end users might be on the losing end adopting eWallet to replace cash.

Why? The absence of pain.

Pain is actually a good thing, it tells you something is harmful. It’s a useful signal.

Carrying around heavy wallet is a pain. Seeing your wallet shrinks after paying is a pain. Protecting your wallet from theft is a pain.

Those are all signals that engaging with the market is a risky proposition. You might get scammed, swindled, or hoodwinked.

eWallet eliminates those pains. In fact, eWallet seeks to give even more pleasure. Little drips of dopamine that your brain craves.

In a cash transaction, your pleasure of buying an item is countered with pain of seeing your wallet emptying. eWallet eliminates that pain.

To top it of, eWallet give you pleasure by issuing bonus points. Human minds are hapless when given the chance to hoard, no matter how middling the value is.

Consumer might spend more to gain that small pleasure of getting points instead of opting for cash. Things get even worse when the app starts to give randomized reward. That made users hooked to spend even more.

When topping up an eWallet, the consumer mind already set to spend it. Worse still, topping up an eWallet requires the user to top up more than the actual spending.

Once there’s money in the eWallet, the app starts to nag the consumer to buy stuffs. Cash wallets never do that, they keep your money safe. You can hide money in the nooks and crannies of your wallet to make you ‘forget’ having the money so you don’t spend. There’s no such thing in eWallets, it’s sole existence is to make you spend.

So, watch out when using eWallet. Stay safe shopping.

Tech Hype-Busting Through Lindy Effect

Tech Hype-Busting Through Lindy Effect

Working in tech means that you are inevitably will get caught up in hype. Enormous VC funds distorts the market further by sustaining the hype even longer than it normally should.

I recently moved all my Medium post to this Ghost installation. At one time, Medium is touted to be the savior of blog and long form content. It combines the familiar blogging format and discoverability of social media. However, Medium later changed for the worse for no clear objective.

I was caught up in the Medium hype, at one time we even considering to move The Dredger TV blog to Medium. Thankfully we didn’t.

Mainstream blogging platform had been around since 15 years ago, so it should last at least another 15 years.

Medium on the other hand had only been around for 5 years, so the best estimate is only another 5 years.

I also observed similar trend in eCommerce. Many online sellers are now moving to giant marketplace such as Amazon, Shopee and Lazada. They can get more customers on these massive platform.

Amazon Pickup & Returns on South St. in Philadelphia
Photo by Bryan Angelo / Unsplash

Amazon had started to go wrong for many sellers. They find themselves kicked out, banned, or sabotaged by other traders. Expect to see the same story play out on Lazada & Shopee soon as they want to extract more profit.

Of course Amazon had been around for 20 years, and can possibly survive another 20 years.

But don’t forget standalone eCommerce site is even older than that. At the very least it had been around for 25 years (a quarter century!). It can easily outlast Amazon. It’s even more stark if compared with Lazada & Shopee that had been around for less than 5 years.

You might not pull as much sales as on Amazon but you do have a bit more security of your business. The tools to create your own eCommerce website is now cheaper and easier than ever before.

Please have your own place on the internet. Your career and business survival might depend on it.

Cost of Accessing the Market

Cost of Accessing the Market

Of course you can just open a stall in front of your house selling nasi lemak. However, most likely there will not be enough customer.

If the Internet can really save you then at least you’ll need a smartphone and a data plan. That will cost at least RM700 for a decent Xiaomi smartphone and RM30 per month for the cheapest Umobile data plan.

To start receiving money online you’ll require a basic savings account from any local bank. CIMB or Maybank will be a safe bet. The initial deposit is around RM250 – RM300.

Please tag me @belart84 if you use this photo in Instagram, or post a link to my page unsplash.com/@belart84 if you use it anywhere  else 🙏🏻
Photo by Artem Beliaikin / Unsplash

Even if you don’t plan to sell anything many employer will require you to have a savings account. Probably you can search for jobs using your smartphone.

So at the very least you’ll need RM1000 initial outlay plus RM30 per month.

If you want to go full fledged eCommerce then you need to register an enterprise. That will cost around RM100. Then the company current account will require RM100o to RM2000 initial deposit.

eCommerce site can’t be effectively managed from a smartphone so the very least you’ll need a second hand laptop. That will add another RM3000 to the cost.

Factor in hosting and domain then you’ll need another RM150 per year.

Thus, even if you have all the required technical skills you’ll need at least RM5250 to begin. That’s quite a lot!

Picking The Poison

Picking The Poison

This is a continuation of the startup styles cheat sheet. I noted that you need to know your poison and pick the poison.

Right now I’m in the midst of launching a new startup. The company registration is in process. Early customers had lined up as well. There’s also partners providing financial and technical firepower. To some degree this particular venture is akin to an intrapreneur setup. (Something my ex-mentor said I’m particularly suited to as opposed to full blown entrepreneur)

sunglasses and keyboard
Photo by Oscar Nilsson / Unsplash

However, I still need to make some critical decisions regarding the foundation of the startup. As duly noted by Peter Thiel, a wrong founding move will significantly hurt the startup and haunt it forever.

What’s certain is I’m avoiding hyperscale startups. It’s a big no since it’s inherently unsustainable. Just look at the recent Lyft IPO and the upcoming Uber IPO. There’s also no possibility for work-life balance which is a big deal for me as a family man.

Hyperscale companies hurts society mainly by exploiting people and accelerating inequality. Hot money usually leads to a scorched earth. It’s problematic to say that you need to attain monopoly to do the right thing. It indicates a broken society.

I would say artisanal SaaS is the ideal. Fully bootstrapped with paying customers from day one. Perhaps supported with some consulting projects here and there. The SaaS product become the calling card to market the consulting so to speak. This will lead to small headcount and high margin.

The middle road of Enterprise Software could really hurt as it’s not much different from working at any medium-sized corporation. Furthermore, the pay might even be less! All the stress without any glamour nor perks associated with MNCs or the hot startups.

Aside from being unprofitable, outside ownership is another major source of stress. Your objectives and welfare are rarely aligned with theirs. Thus, the key is to find creative ways of financing this. Perhaps an Artisanal SaaS product funding an Enterprise Software company?

Startup Styles Cheat Sheet

Team work, work colleagues, working together
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

After years of interviewing startups on The Dredger TV and lots of reading, here’s my summary of the three major startup styles.

Know your poison, pick your poison.

Rework (Jason Fried)Lost & Founder (Rand Fishkin)Zero to One (Peter Thiel)
Artisanal SaaS – Intentionally smallEnterprise SoftwareHyperscale Platform – Requires rapid growth
No VCVC Backed – Not OptimisticVC Backed – Highly Optimistic
Not Selling – No Pressure to ExitFaster Exit BetterNever Sell When You Can Get Bigger
Flat Organization – Full Remote Work PossibleRequires C-Suite to Function. Office in Major City.Global Footprint. Prominent Founder.
Work CalmlyCorporateCult
LLC / LLPPrivate Limited going to Public ListedPublic Listed
Simple Product – Simple PricingMultiple Product OfferingMultisided Platform
Profitable from Year 1Modest Profit After Achieving A Certain ScaleGo Big or Go Home. Profit Only Possible by Market Monopoly

Krisis MaGIC & Mitos Silicon Valley

Apabila Cheryl Yeoh dilaporkan akan berhenti dari jawatan CEO lebih awal dari sepatutnya, itu bukanlah satu kejutan buat kami. Sebenarnya kami telah lama melihat bibit-bibit yang membawa kepada krisis ini. Pimpinan MaGIC sedar sekiranya mereka tidak dapat menarik seluruh lapisan masyarakat secara sekata mereka akan mempunyai masalah dengan pihak pembuat dasar.

Apa yang heboh, kononnya MaGIC tidak membawa agenda bumiputera sehingga isu ini dibawa dalam Perhimpunan Agung UMNO. Tapi bagi kami yang berbangsa Melayu sekalipun, kenyataan dalam PAU itu memualkan.

Memalukan kerana memberikan gambaran seolah-olah Melayu berfikiran sempit. Sebetulnya MaGIC bukan gagal dalam mengangkat agenda bumiputera tetapi gagal dalam mengangkat mandat yang diberikan kepadanya.

MaGIC dilihat sebagai peneraju dalam membangunkan sektor startup berteraskan teknologi tetapi sebenarnya mereka diberi mandat untuk membangunkan ekologi startup bagi semua sektor. Ya, semua sektor bukan teknologi semata-mata. Tak percaya? Semak semula kenyataan Tan Sri Irwan Siregar dalam Utusan pada tahun 2013.

MaGIC menjawab kepada Kementerian Kewangan dan ukuran kejayaan serta kegagalan perlu disandarkan kepada fakta mandat mereka. Bukan kepada persepsi dan dogma sempit semata-mata.

Sebenarnya, terlalu sempit untuk kita berbincang tentang MaGIC semata-mata. Setidak-tidaknya kita perlu melihat lebih luas kepada Cyberjaya yang menjadi kampung kepada MaGIC.

Cyberjaya dicanang sebagai Silicon Valley Malaysia. Iklan-iklan dan bas-bas menjalar ke sana-sini mendabik gelaran tersebut. Namun sejujurnya, gelaran Silicon Valley Malaysia itu sebenarnya tidak layak untuk Cyberjaya.

Perhatikan apa sebenarnya yang menjana ekonomi Cyberjaya. Kebanyakannya hanya kerja-kerja outsourcing syarikat-syarikat gergasi global. Syarikat-syarikat tersebut pula kebanyakannya syarikat era Industrial. Bukannya Facebook atau Google yang membuka cawangan di Cyberjaya, bahkan Microsoft pun tidak bertapak di sana.

Gelaran lebih tepat untuk Cyberjaya ialah Bangalore Malaysia kerana apa yang dibuat kebanyakannya hanyalah kerja-kerja outsourcing. Syarikat-syarikat gergasi global hanya memanfaatkan insentif bagi mengurangkan kos operasi mereka. Mereka tidak pun menempatkan makmal R&D di Cyberjaya bagi menghasilkan inovasi baru untuk meningkatkan pendapatan mereka.

Dalam erti kata lain, Cyberjaya sebagai Silicon Valley Malaysia adalah hype semata-mata. Isu dasar ini sebenarnya membawa kepada kegagalan MaGIC sejak awal penubuhannya.

Pihak pembuat dasar mengimpikan MaGIC sebagai pemangkin untuk mencipta enjin ekonomi yang baru. Jika dahulu ukuran kejayaan graduan adalah untuk berkerja dengan kerajaan, GLC atau MNC. Tetapi sekarang, mereka mahu graduan membina startup sendiri atau berkerja dengan startup tempatan.

Cyberjaya bukanlah bandar tipikal Malaysia — enjin ekonominya diimport, penduduknya diimport, idea pun diimport. Jika disebut secara teknikal, ini adalah pemikiran ‘1 to n’. Sesuatu perkara telah berjaya sekali dan mahu diulang n kali — tiru sahaja apa yang telah menjadi. Sedangkan startup memerlukan pemikiran ‘0 to 1’ iaitu daripada tiada kepada ada.

Idea ini bukan kami reka-reka, ini adalah apa yang disebut oleh Peter Thiel co-founder Paypal dalam buku beliau Zero to One. Jadi bagaimana mungkin Cyberjaya melakukan inovasi Zero to One yang asli sekiranya bandar itu sendiri sibuk meniru Silicon Valley?

Apabila kita meluaskan pandangan lagi, Silicon Valley itu sendiri pun satu mitos. Bukan semua startup gergasi bermula dan berpangkalan di sana. Amazon dan Microsoft berpangkalan di Seattle, Facebook pula bermula di Harvard sebelum berpindah ke Silicon Valley. Memanglah Silicon Valley yang terkenal tetapi bukan itu sahaja tempat di mana inovasi dan startup bernilai berbillion dolar tercipta.

Kita lihat Klang Valley kita sendiri, berapa banyak startup tempatan yang beroperasi di luar Cyberjaya? GrabTaxi bermula di Petaling Jaya dan kemudiannya melangkau Cyberjaya untuk terus berpejabat ke Singapura. Silverlake Group yang membekalkan perisian kepada bank-bank dan institusi-institusi kewangan juga berpangkalan di Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya. Les Copaque sebagai peneraju industri animasi 3D pula beroperasi di Shah Alam.

Jadi, apa yang sibuk sangat hendak memusatkan semuanya di Cyberjaya dan secara khususnya di MaGIC? Bila kita amati kenyataan para pembuat dasar tentang MaGIC ternyata mereka sebenarnya mengharapkan keajaiban.

Mereka harap dengan buat satu agensi baru dengan bajet yang besar enjin ekonomi baru akan tercipta. Kononnya dengan cara ini Mark Zuckerberg dan Steve Jobs Malaysia akan dapat dilahirkan.

Kalau itulah keajaiban yang mereka harapkan maka tidak kiralah Cina, India, Melayu, Melanau, Iban atau Bajau yang jadi CEO. Jawatan ini akan terus jadi kerusi panas yang penghuninya bertukar bersilih ganti! MaGIC pula di Cyberjaya akan terus jadi hype di atas hype!