Month: January 2012

11 Personal Highlights of 2011

Experiences, moments, or stuff I feel pretty good looking back on, arranged in chronological order.

1. January. A company I co-founded was acquired by Groupon

Pictured above is my team, building a group buying site (then creatively named Groupsmore) in between ramping up our social advertising business, and moving offices.

One day, we got an email from Groupon. From our customer support contact form.

Yes, you were told customer support was an important part of any business. It’s true.

Next thing you know, we were on our way with what we know now as Groupon Malaysia.

3 weeks to launch Groupsmore, 3 months to race ahead of the other more well-backed group-buying sites, 3 weeks to close the deal w Groupon in January. A great way to start the year.

And thanks to Joel and his team, they have since grown into something a little bit larger than anything we’ve ever imagined!

After transitioning everything, a few of the original pioneer team and I proceeded with our booming social advertising business, determined to push our limits with what we can achieve. We picked a new name, and a new space…

2. March. The new SAYS… and ‘The Secret Hideout’

We rebranded the social-advertising company to a punchier name: SAYS.com

I designed a new work space, for the new journey ahead.

I love designing workspaces. And I’m really proud of the outcome. It’s humble, but just right for the kind of culture have at the team. I look forward to going to my workspace every day, even on some weekends. It makes me feel alive.

A space can really change how you feel about work.

The entire backstory and email correspondence, layouts etc of how it was built is detailed on this blog.

3. June. I finally changed my hairstyle after, like, 5 years.

Ok those who have known me for a while may have accepted the unreasonably impractical lion’s mane on my head. I now maintain half of it. I have even learned what my ears look like.

4. June – July. The IVLP: A monthlong trip to DC, Seattle, Boston,Ohio, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley

I traveled alone for a month. With the help of the US State Government. I had been selected to be part of the IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program). According to Wikipedia, former world leaders such as Tony Blair and Dr.Mahatir have been on this thing. And then they send Khailee Ng. I hope this is not a sign that Obama is screwing things up.

I’m not complaining, though, it was an all expenses paid affair, where they arranged about 3 meetings a day for me, all geared to help me connect with individuals in the US who would help me in my journey. The whole idea is that they would hope the individuals they send on the IVLP will be doing lots of friendly stuff with the US in the near future.

I met with all sorts of cool startup founders, investors, university deans, new friends, and then more. I also extended my stay in the Silicon Valley.

This is me soaking up the vibe at the BlackBox Mansion.

Overlooking San Francisco on a walk with an old friend.

Chewbacca demo-ing SAYS at the Venture Shift conference. Heck I didn’t need to demo to anyone, but I wanted Chewbacca to shake up the otherwise serious conference. And he sure did…

5. July – August. Got hooked on ‘Imperial’, the board game.

Thanks to my friend, Aslak, the boys at SAYS and I got so hooked on this game… We were playing it almost religiously every week at one point. It’s like Risk and Monopoly, without the dice and luck. Pure strategy. The game was fabled to have taken 20 years to develop and perfect. Read about it here.

Playing games like this really exercises the mind in a different way, and gives me another avenue to share good times with people I love.

6. August. I introduced Bootcamp into my life

At first, all I did was buy a Groupon on impulse to ‘try it’.

Next thing I know, I am waking up before dawn 3 times a week, and aching like hell for the rest of the week.

This Australian franchise  is a essentially a group crossfit class conducted at unholy hours in the morning, in the dirt and grass. I have been at it for close to half a year now, and if I had not gotten addicted to it, I would be far fatter, and less able to run away from predators.

7. September. Closing the financial year at 5X growth vs 2010

When we first invented the product behind SAYS , we believed it was ground breaking approach to engaging social media audiences.

And the market agreed. 370+ campaigns have been run with us by 70+ of the largest advertisers in the country. Many campaigns have won marketing effectiveness awards.

Working with my team towards the revenue growth was an adventure in and of itself. I am so grateful to have such a killer team to work with.

Most of all, with the money we saved up, we’re funding some very bold ventures and new ideas for 2012!

8. October. Geeks On a Plane – Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, HongKong

Either someone up there loves me, or Dave McLure does, as he invited me to one of his legendary trips:

Organized by 500 Startups, Geeks on a Plane (#GOAP) is an invite-only tour for startups, investors, and executives to learn about burgeoning technology markets worldwide. We travel by planes, trains, and automobiles to the most exciting international startup scenes with the sole mission of uniting geeks and exploring cross-border opportunities. The result: a lifelong bond with fellow travelers, a wealth of new friends and business contacts in exploding technology markets, and a stronger appreciation for the cultural and economic ties that bind us globally. ~ GeeksOnaPlane.com

These were the people I traveled with. We visited startup hubs, incubators, pitch nights, had private tours of some fo the world’s largest internet companies, wined, dines, partied, and had found time to stop by the Tokyo cat cafe.

More of my personal pictures of the trip, here.

Needless to say, it changed my life, and supercharged me even more to change the lives of others through technology and business.

9. October. Life Lessons from Delhi, India

I failed to become a yoga teacher and backpack through the slums levitating in meditation. Instead, I flew in for  meeting and left the same day. But what the person I met had said to me, and the advice he gave, came at a really good time in my life. It’s kinda personal, but it had a lot to do with the power of clarity, and bold conviction.

10. October. Dressing up as Cesar (Planet of the Apes) for Halloween

Halloween is my favorite day of the year. Every year I hand-make my costumes and try to outdo my previous costumes.

This year, this was my pride and joy:

I even had stuffed apples in my mouth to disfigure my face for this role.

The only thing that beats creating costumes is probably being in character all night. CESAR IS HOME.

11. November. Back at building new things with my team

This is a picture of me with my team, at a recent Hackweekend we sponsored.

I can be in any country, with anyone, learning and doing anything, but my mind will always be on working with my team on building something new, something better, something that can change everything.

2011 has since been a good step forward in this quest. And now, onto the next…

PS – Big shoutout to all of you who made my 2011 so epic. Let’s rock 2012!