Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Great Idea

Hi everyone,
As customary with all first posts, I will do a little intro about myself and what I do.
When Alexia and Juliana invited me to contribute to this blog, I gladly obliged, having benefited a lot from SOC, in terms of being granted incubation office space, as well as being provided with publicity opportunities. But more than just 'repaying' SOC, I wanted to contribute to the blog to share my experiences, and I hope that the blog will become some kind of 'idea' exchange, with students and bloggers contributing their thoughts and ideas on entrepreneurship.

I keep talking about "sharing experiences", basically because I'm still learning and building my business (hopefully one day it will be successful and I will be featured in the papers (: ), so I don't think I'm qualified enough to give advice. What I have done, very briefly summarized is (this will also serve as an intro about myself):
  • Graduated from SOC in July 2004, majoring in Information Systems
  • Together with my Honors Year Professor and another Prof, started DecisionWare Simulations and Games
  • Made lots of investor pitches, and none came to fruition
  • Organized a nation-wide business game competition in 2005 involving 500+ students
  • Was invited to go to Mexico (one of long-time users of our game is Universidad Panamericana) to give a talk in 2005
  • Worked with a number of government organizations on game projects including National Library Board, Asian Civilizations Museum and Ministry of Education
Intro aside, to the theme of my post, "The Great Idea". I thought it would be a good first post, since most of the time, business ventures are started on a single idea, that a budding entrepreneur and his friends discuss over tea-time or supper, which then gets drafted out as a business plan on napkins or scrap paper, then later formalized as a Word document. A simple business registration on ACRA is the next step, followed by approaching investors for funding. If that doesn't work, use the FFF method - Family, Friends or Fools to raise funds. And finally setting off with your plan to conquer the world.

I remember thinking like that while I was studying. Back then, I was already inspired by all the stories coming from Silicon Valley (1997 to 2000) about computer geeks becoming millionaires overnight. I attended talks and conferences to get ideas, and I remember this one about Technological waves (can't remember the exact name), and the speakers were talking about businesses becoming very successful because they were on the forefront of the technological trend. The one thing I remembered was at the end of the talk, a member of the audience asked, "Are you able to tell us what is the next trend?". One speaker replied, "If I knew that, I would be a very rich man!". I guess that guy asking the question wanted to get ideas for his "Great Business Idea". Well, we all know now that the dot-com bubble burst, and many companies that were built on "unique propositions" simply collapsed.

4 years on, I have come to believe that the "Great Idea" is over-rated. It is still true that you have to offer something extra, but there are many examples of successful entrepreneurs that were not the first to offer something new. From the papers recently we have Charles Wong (Charles & Keith) , Ivan Lee (Thai Express and other restaurants), and there is Google, which was not the first Internet Search Engine to be started.

The point is that it takes more than a good idea for a business to be successful. That is why I get a little irritated when people dismiss a business idea by saying "Oh, but I saw that on the Web already" or "I know another business like that". In this globalized world, nothing is truly original. So even if there is already another company doing something similar, does not mean your idea won't fly, or that your company won't eventually out perform the original company. On the flip side, you have to summon all your knowledge, expertise, connections and bring together a good team, and subsequently put in a lot of hard work into making the idea into a success.

- Kevin

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