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Month: September 2013

Grand Front Osaka

Visiting Grand Front Osaka for the first time. This is the place akin to Shibuya Hikarie, where multipurpose buildings are put together. A difference is the former is consisted of four distinct buildings and located in Osaka, and the latter is actually one 180m tall building and located in Tokyo.

The purpose of both complexes is almost same, but Grand Front puts more focuses on collaboration between academic institutions and businesses. Hence, it hosts satellite offices from nearby universities to accelerate collaboration between them as it can be found here.

Looking forward to seeing more startup activities in this region in the future.


Boulder Colorado Being My Good Teacher

ecently I had discussion with the team of Startup Weekend Kyoto and the discussion was toward when and where we should do next event.

While there are lots of similar startup related activities happening in this region, I had feeling for long time that none of these individual activities were really connected. The information is scattered around various websites and places, and there isn’t a central place where we can get the most up-to-date info. I’m talking something like

At Startup Colorado they provide the following information.

  • Local startup events
  • Blog posts from local entrepreneurs and investors
  • Map of local startups and supporting businesses
  • Information about community fund
  • Links to useful resources like talent recruitment

For people outside region these info are super valuable and important such that any first time visitor can reach out to any company or person and make an appointment BEFORE actually arriving to Colorado. Also, the website makes it easy to get a grasp of activities happening in the region. I don’t have any worry if I were to visit Boulder city for the first time.

Unfortunately we don’t have such a central place where we can distribute all those info. Kyoto is still a city that is considered far away to foreigners and being difficult to just get an overview of what’s going on there. So I proposed the SW Kyoto team to build a similar website like Startup Colorado and make SW related activities as contents of that website. Of course, we will need to create the rest of other contents like startup maps and blog posts from local founders. We will do that.

What I’m saying is that we need to make started related information in this region far more accessible to anyone who’s interested in startup and the city. Hence, the information must be available both in English and Japanese.

Lastly, what’s even missing is something like community fund that we can use it to fund started related activities in the region. As for SW Kyoto team, one of the biggest time consuming tasks is to find appropriate sponsors for each event to cover the fees for venue, beers and pizzas. If we could eliminate those tasks, I think it will be much easier for entrepreneurs and volunteers to holds events more frequently since they don’t have to go through mini-fundraising every time.

Disclosure: I’m hugely being inspired and biased by Brad Feld’s recent book Startup Communities right now so please excuse me for being very specific about this.

Focus on Design Rather Than Copywriting

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Mostly they are startup related. Among them, Startups For The Rest of Us is one of my favorites.

I always had a skeptical view about copywriting and thought of it having less impact on web materials as compared to copywriting on other materials such as physical brochure. This episode made total sense to me.

I’m not saying words on landing page have no meaning at all, but given that most people do not read a lot of text you cannot expect people to pick up every word you’ve put on your landing page. I think it’s more effective to focus on design and that design should be self explanatory.

Also, copywriting is language dependent. Same copywriting can be interpreted differently depending on reader’s language preference. On the other hand, design is universal language. As discussed in above podcast, Call-to-Action in yellow color always yields the best conversion rate regardless of language or copywriting. Why? It’s because color scheme which is part of design is universal.

Again, I’m not saying spending time on copywriting is totally worthless effort. It is still important factor in some other area. However, my recommendation is not to spend too much time on it. Instead, run your contest at 99designs and try to find good designer who can improve conversion rate at your landing page.

Testing, testing, testing

This is my response to 500 Startups’ podcast Startup Founders Podcast – Special Growth Hacker Edition with Sean Percival.

As Sean mentions in his talk there is really nothing special about growth hacking. It’s just executing series of user acquisition techniques that are measurable and repeatable. I agree with him particularly on the point that a word ‘marketing’ is used too broadly nowadays and marketing means something like PR and brand building, but not always means growing user base. Being on TechCrunch can create pops at user growth rate, but it’s not sustainable. We don’t call this king of things growth hacking. We think it is part of marketing.

Growth hacking should be treated differently from marketing. Hence, skill set required for a growth hacker should be different from marketer in general. I think this is one of the reasons why senior marketers who were brought from large company sometimes don’t succeed at startup when they are asked to grow user base. Their skill set and techniques simply don’t apply to startups. What they think growth hacking isn’t really it. It’s considered as marketing.

Recently, I came across startup founders discussing about how an icon for new app that they were developing should look like. They had few design samples and kept discussing about which one of them would be appealing to users. Actually, that discussion occupied quite some time for the rest of entire discussion. I personally think this is huge waste of time.

My advise is always “Test it against real customers and stop discussing it internally.” How do we test which icon would be the best? Well, you can do classic A/B testing with actual app, conduct quick survey to existing customers using services like SurveyMonkey and ask them which one they like, or outsource it to professional survey company that has access to demographics of the audience you want to approach.

Important thing is to test it with as much as people rather than being biased. What you are doing is not measurable and repeatable nor contributing to growing user base, it’s NOT called growth hacking. Think of it as just a one time marketing effort.

What the Viki acquisition means for Kyoto

Interesting article. I’m hoping Kyoto won’t have to go through 70 years and multiple wars to develop its own ecosystem until we could produce iconic exists like Viki. I think we can shorten the time by carefully studying Singapore as a case study.

What the Viki acquisition means for Singapore

What I didn’t know is that Viki was founded by two Koreans and an Egyptian-Armenian who were complete foreigners.  They stayed in Singapore because they are funded there.

To make contract to above artcile, what’s missing in my hometown are 1) NRF-like scheme to support local seed fund 2) Place like Hackerspace.SG where foreigners can easily stop by, work and stay for few weeks 3) Iconic exits like Viki to attract talents and investors from all around the world.

I will have answers to 1) and 2) because I’m working on them right now with enormous support from like-minded people. A tough part is 3) which requires a fair amount of time and effort to accomplish, but we will eventually have it if we never stop catching up and studying.

I encourage everyone who is in software industry and based out of places other than Silicon Valley read this article, and take some action.