Bernard Leong - Co-Founder
Dr Bernard Leong is currently in Vistaprint as a technology manager, where he manages an engineering team and builds new products for emerging markets. His former entrepreneurial stints include CTO and co-founder of Chalkboard where he has architected the platform for location based advertising across web and mobile, and also an early stage investor in Thymos Capital with Lunch Actually, Padlet and iHipo. His accolades include the Young Professional of the Year Award for the Singapore Computer Society 2010 and Outstanding Young Alumni for National University of Singapore 2007. His expertise includes technology and social media. Currently, Bernard also serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with INSEAD Business School and taught courses in entrepreneurship in NTU.
The writer's posts
My friend Jon Russell from The Next Web has recently penned that there are four issues challenging Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem: risk aversion, fear of failure, lack of big firm presence and immature ecosystem.
To his credit, he has spotted some inherent weaknesses of a diverse market fragmented not just by geography but also business culture. In a similar reflection, Michael Smith Jr from Spuul focused on the lack of enough big firms.
While there is a lot of hurrah with the arrival of 500 Startups to the region, there are several trends that might deter the growth of the ecosystem — the purpose of this article is to open a discussion on what these might be. Read more
Seed-funded startups often believe in the fallacy of quickly ramping up their hiring to scale the company.
This thinking is prevalent because the investor expects you to grow the company with a business model that is expected to work right away. In all honesty, startups at the seed stage have not figured out how to do that yet.
In the book “The Startup Owner’s Manual” by Steve Blank & Bob Dorf, a startup is defined as a temporary organization in search of a scalable, repeatable, profitable business model. Even if you have raised money to assemble a team and build a product, you should not go on a spending binge with the hope that the product will bring you customers.
The typical mentality is to “hire fast, fire fast”. But having learnt from my past experiences, I now prefer to hire slow and fire fast. Read more
Is there any method in Rocket Internet’s madness? A few months ago, I made a point that winter has landed in Southeast Asia with the fast and furious expansion of Rocket Internet from the infamous Samwer brothers. In the process, I also concluded that while they may be bad for innovation but they would demonstrate good examples of execution and speed to the rest of the technology ecosystem within the region. While monitoring their revolving door executives quitting within 3-6 months, employees complaining about their ways and their startups shutting down like Home24 within a short period of time, we are beginning to ask, “Is it really going to work or fall apart?” Read more
In a short and concise book, Clayton Christensen (famous for his theory on disruptive innovations) reflected on the lessons learnt in his career from business to academia and how the same lessons from company culture, motivation factors in hiring people and business ethics learnt can be translated to family life. Written together with two co-authors, James Allworth & Karen Dillon, the book introduced how our careers whether as an entrepreneur or corporate leader can provide us a mirror in how we view our family life. Read more
If you want to read a first person account on how Apple has designed, implemented and executed their marketing and advertising campaigns, Insanely Simple: That Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall offers a glimpse on how the concept of simplicity drives Apple as a company.
As the person who was part of the team who came up with the famous “Think Different” TV advertisement and putting the letter “i” behind all Apple products, Ken Segall organizes Steve Job’s obsession into 10 simple principles. Read more
Steve Wozniak was the technical wizard behind Apple's early success.
Here’s a typical problem. Your background is in business and you want to do an Internet company because the cost of starting up is extremely low and you think that you have a great idea.
The unique challenge of finding good technology people is endemic not only in Asia. It happens everywhere, including Silicon Valley. While Google, Facebook and many notable technology companies are putting in top dollar for the best engineering talent, most founders in start-ups don’t have that kind of resources.
The challenge of finding the best technology talent is exacerbated in Asia, since these people are viewed as a support arm and is something that can be outsourced to programmers in India or China.
Here are some considerations as to why you should or should not find a technology co-founder.
Whether you are an investor or entrepreneur, the book “Venture Deals” by Brad Feld from the Foundry Group and TechStars and Jason Mendelson, also of the Foundry Group, serves as a reference for those who are involved in fundraising.
While venture deals can be complex depending on the context around the players (entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, lawyers, investors syndicate and mentors), the term sheet and other structures which are required, this book serves a good overview of the subject but one has to bear in mind that it’s very US-centric, and not everything is applicable here in Southeast Asia. Read more
Although the case studies from this book are already outdated (as it was written in 1996), the lessons learnt and the concept of a strategic inflection point together with its implications for the high technology industry by Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel Corporation, are relevant for today.
This is a highly recommended book even for those who are thinking about their own career strategic inflection points at this moment of time. Read more
Drawn from his blog “Startup Lessons Learned” and sharing his experiences as the former CTO of IMVU, The Lean Startup is Eric Ries’s (@ericries) effort, in his own words, to change how startups are built. Whether you are a business person or technologist, the book “The Lean Startup” is a must-read for any entrepreneur.
The lessons on how to build a minimum viable product, iterate base on customer feedback and metrics and pivot when all else fails will guide the entrepreneur and hold them accountable in their attempt to change an industry. Read more
The process from starting to managing a start-up is a daunting process for any entrepreneur. In that journey, founders from different companies face a challenging set of questions which they struggle to come up with answers for.
While browsing through the Kinokuniya bookstore on a Saturday, I came across this book “The Founder’s Dilemma” by Noam Wasserman, which has the extraordinary nature of combining scholarly research and practical advice on dealing with a couple of sensitive issues from founding team dilemmas to division of equity and other financial rewards among the founding team.
Highly recommended for those who plan to embark or are already living the entrepreneurial lifestyle, it can serve as a guide to very tough situations for founders to evaluate the best possible way out. Read more