The “Frapple” Nations - Facebook, Frappuccino and Apple

3:51 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (3)

Having visited many countries in the past 2 years, it gives me fresh perspectives on how people embrace their digital lifestyles. I observed them at the airports, at the malls, at the cafés, at work, as well as at their homes. Things have change quite a bit since I visited those countries. Plenty of study data from prestigious research firms could point you to this shift, but I’m more interesting in sharing real-life stories, hoping to gain insight on where the market is going. Yes, shift does happen, and it happens at faster and faster rates.

Not just Starbucks, many other
cafes with wifi and great food are everywhere in Asia
First, “What the hell is Frapple?”. OK, ok, I made the word up. As you can tell from the post title, it is a combination of Facebook, Frappuccino and Apple. So where is the “Frappuccino” coming from? I must confess that I use it so that the word is easier to pronounce. No, actually it’s a new phenomenon of social lifestyle around the world. It’s no secret that Starbucks growth outside the US is impressive. But more impressive is the Starbucks copycats and wannabe are popping up everywhere. It is a respond to high demand to accommodate a new lifestyle – wi-fi, great coffee, great snacks and great people to talk to.

So, why Frapple is interesting for entrepreneur, businesses or startups? It is a shift, tipping point, snowballing effects in which many countries are experiencing or would soon go thru the experience in a few years. This is where the big wave and money will be made at least for the next 3-4 years. It would be an exaggeration to say that Facebook and Apple are everywhere. They’re not even major players in China, Japan, India or Brazil. China blocks Facebook and Twitter; Japan has Mixi and South Korea has CyWorld. Orkut is popular in Brazil and India. However as more and more people interconnected globally expect changes come quickly. For example, Facebook is getting more and more popular in Brazil as people who live closed to the border of the neighboring country Argentina use Facebook.

In the US, RIM-Blackberry has still the biggest market-share for smartphone, and even Android outsells iPhone in the last quarter. But what Frapple has is loyal and passionate users and developers who will buy, build, sell on their platforms. Many countries fall into this category. Japan, Singapore is good example. While iPhone market share is still tiny in those countries, but the reactions to the product are overwhelming. iPad is another product that they just love. Even in China, you can find iPad wannabe runs on Android. As a software developer and entrepreneur of a small startup, the trajectory is as (more) important as the market share size. Last month, it was a landmark milestone for Facebook with 500 million users, while iPhone boasts more than 200 thousands applications with more than 3 billion downloads.

Let’s look at what I observed when I spent time outside US:

At the International airports. More and more airports around the world provide free Internet access, in the form of free wireless or Internet kiosks.

Internet Cafe at Taipei International Airport
 At SFO(San Francisco) and SEA (Seattle) airports, iPads could easily be spotted. At Taipei and Singapore airports, free internet kiosks are provided. I stood there and observed for a pattern. As they signed in, most people went directly to Facebook, followed by web mail (Hotmail, GMail or Yahoo). Often, I would see all computer screens in at café are Facebook pages.

Picture was taken 12:35 am in Jakarta
Living their daily (digital) life. Asian people love to eat as social activities for both personal and businesses. It’s easy to find restaurants at 3:00 in the morning. One local article I read while I was there show how growing number of people started the work at night thru early morning at café or restaurant to avoid traffic jam. They carry anything they need in a mobile phone and it is typical to carry more than 1 phone. Mobile becomes the personal computer. In Japan, people spend a great deal of their time in subway trains, holding one hand on a hand rail, while the other hand is on phone. Mobile app must be design as such that is useable with one hand. In short, mobile is their life. While personal computer and online usage is growing, that’s no comparison to mobile internet growth.

This also happens at the bottom of pyramid. A surprising number of users can afford mobile Internet access with cheap mobile handsets. Most of them use pre-paid cards to access Internet with as little as US $1. Yes, they skip PC generation altogether. In just 2 years, for example, Indonesia has 165 million users who have Internet access from the mobile, thanks to Facebook and Blackberry (and its copycats).

Online Search – Does it matter? This trend may not be good news for Google. While online users can’t live without search engine, mobile users much less incline to do search. As I meet many people, many times they ask me what company I work for? When I tell them I work for a startup and they can search it on the Internet, they wouldn’t try to search from their phone. If I tell them that they can find the company info from their Facebook mobile, their face lights up. It’s still painful to browse pages from such a small device, even with zoom in/out capabilities.

Does this mean the “search war” really matter anymore? It does still given the gigantic size of the market, but it becomes less and less relevant. As more and more find the products and services from friends’ recommendations (for example for Facebook “Like” feature). On the top of that, more and more interesting news, links are brought you by your friend via Twitter and Facebook update streams. For me, I don’t need to filter a humongous RSS streams anymore; let my friends (happily) do it for me.

Developers and Startups. Every company who offer platform knows how important developers are. If you’re still in doubt, you should watch this.

Startup Weekend, Seoul -
Geeks on A Plane. May-June 2010
How about startups? For entrenched and dominant players, startups pose the greatest threats. Eric Schmidt from Google realizes this. No longer startups need millions of dollars to come up with scalable, stunning products, thanks to open source and cloud computing. True that many of them will die, but many of them will blossom that could take over them. I believe the biggest advantage of being startup over entrenched player is the agility and humility. No one will laugh at your product even if you produce a sucky product during your product iteration. In my recent trips with Geeks On A Plane to Asia, I was amazed how many startups are building iPhone apps (Android platform is popular in China).

Can’t Frapple be stopped?  Well, the default future seems like pointing that way; but as you know missteps could cost company dominance, even its existence. There are a few cracks already seen and competitors won’t stand still. In addition, government plays major roles in a few countries dictating the technology and services used for their citizens. Among a few things that I see:

• In a few countries, like Thailand and Indonesia, Blackberry platform is surging ahead. Although, Indonesia is the 3rd largest Facebook country, RIM comes up with their own social networking (allowing users to create a group, post pictures). As I landed in Jakarta, I updated my Facebook status with my temporary phone number, but no one seemed want to connect to me. After a week, I got a call from a friend who happened to open his Facebook, and forwarded my phone number to his Blackberry groups. The following days for the next 4-5 days, I got so many lunch and dinner invitations.

• Apple has a world class marketing team. However, in a few countries, its products have difficulty penetrating the market; not so much the products itself, but the price is unreachable for vast majority of the population. I understand that they would like to protect the profit margin; but will it be too late as other mobile platforms can offer good enough products at fraction of the cost? In Jakarta, I saw a big billboard for iPhone 3GS “for just 13 millions rupiah”, that’s roughly $1,300. As a result, iPhone becomes just a status symbol, instead.

Frapple in Action. I leave you with a picture that illustrates how Frapple could shape our culture and digital life. In recent wedding ceremony in Seattle, the bridge and groom brought their own iPads; signed-in to their Facebook accounts and changed their status from single to married. That’s so Frapple!

Geeks On A Plane Trip Report: Southeast Asia Is the Next Place To Be

1:34 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

Last month, we completed an unbelievable Asia trip in four cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul and Singapore), while few of us continued the journey to Tokyo. This trip has been well covered by TechCrunch (via Serkan Toto) and CNN. Kris Kruger captured the fun journey here, while Christine Lu explained Geeks On A Plane purposes via video. My highlight of the trip was to be able to connect with local startups and be with awesome people in the tour for 14 straight days. We had also unprecedented access to all-star country’s entrepreneurs and other startups. To be able to connect to local startups face to face, gave us much deeper understanding of culture, technology and entrepreneurship in Asia.

So much has been written about China and India. Hence, I won’t repeat it. No questions that there are massive opportunities in China. Of course, doing business in China is not without challenges. Benjamin Joffe put together an excellent slide deck.

After the trip, I spent an additional month in Southeast Asia with the primary purpose of trying to better understand the current state of the market. I had spent 19 years growing up in this region, and in the past two years, I’ve been running SaaS cloud and mobile business in this region. It’s no secret that many private and public high-tech companies and start-ups have been recently investing in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippine, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, and others). Sarah Lacy from TechCrunch recently unveiled these opportunities in her article – “Is Remarkable Indonesia a new Incredible India”. I have my own perspectives why this region presents US companies with opportunities they should not ignore.

1. The Market Size. A region with 600 million populations and growing. That’s twice the size of United States. While the buying power is relative low compared to western countries, the middle class has been growing rapidly, thanks to region economic growth.

2. People in Southeast Asia are receptive to Western culture, ranging from entertainment (movies, sports) to fashion. Many countries in Southeast Asia are fairly diverse. Malaysia and Singapore has Chinese, Malay and Indian population. Indonesia has 300 distinct ethnicities and more than 700 languages spoken. It’s the way of life for them to accept and respect other cultures. They look up to the US for the latest innovations and embrace their culture easily. Many US popular services are thriving in Southeast Asia without (or little) modifications. Indonesia has 3rd largest Facebook population in the world. Indonesia also holds no #1 of Twitter users in Asia. Blackberry phones are everywhere in Thailand and Indonesia, and iPhone is a huge success in Singapore.

3. As far as technology development, Southeast Asia is relatively green. Many of their brightest are moving to the other countries which will pay them much better. Local startup communities are not so organized; they require a lot of mentoring to manage and run their companies. Sadly because of piracy, the region produced only few startups. The IT industry is not considered as glamorous job with a low paying salary. As more and more services moving the cloud and mobile, as well leveraging social network effect, the piracy becomes less of issues. Singaporean government is actively recruiting startups to help boost business productivity in the country by matching grants. A few individuals in the regions also have recognized the need to foster high-tech entrepreneurship.

4. Others beside US are coming to the region to take these opportunities. Many VCs from China, Japan and Singapore start investing in Southeast Asia startups. Yahoo and Google are the two U.S companies that have some activities in the region. I had a conversation with a CEO of a successful Mobile startups in Beijing, her immediate plan was to expand to Indonesia market because the opportunity is huge (165 Mobile Internet users) and the competition is much less. Another example, an individual, like Batara Eto, founder of Mixi japan, invested in many Indonesia startups as reported in TechCrunch. Recently, Yahoo acquired Indonesia startup, Koprol, a Four-squarelike service.

5. Not everything is all good and well. There are still many issues to deal with. Social unrest, political instability, respect to IP, slow decision process and bureaucracy are to name a few. These problems are common in Asia and other non-Western countries. In addition, recruiting great developers in this region is a big challenge; many work in a multi-national company like Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft as opposed to start their own or join a startup. Cultural pressure adds to this problem.

The first individuals, companies who can figure out the right model and execute and scale it well, stand to reap huge benefits from this growing region

Recap: Startup Lessons Learned for 2010 and Beyond

10:23 AM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

There are many excellent blogs that discuss, in great length, how to run startups. This blog is not meant to repeat and augment those blogs; instead I would like to share my personal experience. For the past few months, I post a few blog posts about startups, ranging from how to run the startup globally, how to design product, how to run the startup team and more. I put together all my lessons learned into one single slide deck.

There are a few shifts that make starting one is much more interesting journey than decade ago:

1) With open source, cloud computing, and much better tools and modern languages, development costs are reduced dramatically.

2) With the pervasiveness of social media, social networking, the cost of distribution is also much lower.

3) Globalization increases your market size. In some countries, you can offer your product or services as is without modifications or localization. In other countries, you'll have to do a lot more to penetrate the market.

4) Competition. Almost any imaginable product/service, someone has already built it. When you enter a market, be prepared to compete with many others. Product differentiation is critical. If you don't stand out, you'll be buried soon.

However besides all of these at the end of the day, does your solution really solve their problems effectively; or you're smart enough solving a problem that they're not aware exists.

The presentation below captures many lessons learned that I hope you can benefit from it. Enjoy!

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How to Start A Startup - Lessons Learned

7:47 AM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (2)

This year comes to an end in couple weeks, and 2010 is welcoming us soon. Holiday session is upon us, it’s a great time to reflect what happened this year and plan for the coming year. The past two years are particularly hard for many of us because of the economy conditions. Interestingly, many technology transformational changes are accelerated as the result of global economy meltdown. For example,

Cloud computing curiosity peak because of its promise to cut cost, reliability and elasticity.

• The need for globalization is magnified. There is sense of urgency to be able to produce goods and service more efficiently, and to be able expand market beyond just one country.

• We’re much more connected now than ever. Facebook and Twitter dominate social digital life around the world. Not just a vehicle to connect friends and family, but also connecting to customers and communities.

This year has been such a learning experience for me as an entrepreneur, and I would love to share my experience with you; especially for those of you who are thinking of starting up a company. There are so many excellent blogs focusing on “startups” on the Internet, and I don’t intent to make this blog about startups. The “startup” blogs that I subscribed are: Paul Graham, Venture Hack, and Dharmesh Shah – OnStartup. For many great interviews with successful entrepreneurs or other start-up superstars, you must check out Andrew Warner - I learn so much from them, and I encourage you to subscribe them too, even if you don’t plan to start your own. Going thru this personally, giving me a bit different perspectives on what works, what’s not. I enjoyed many coffee talks with enterprenuers or wanna-be enterprenuers, righ here in Pacific Northwest. So, I put together a presentation for starting up a startup. I hope you’ll find it useful. Happy Holidays.


Cloud Computing Security and Privacy- Let's Get To The Point

2:51 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

Security and privacy are the major concerns or stumbling blocks for many companies to move forward with their cloud computing implementation. The concern is deeply rooted from the perception that the company will lose control over the security and privacy once they move over to the cloud. There is some truth to this, however it’s not as clear as it seems.

If we perform a typical security threat analysis on Cloud Computing, there are trade-off that we have to make. Although you may apply hybrid model while migrating to Cloud, let’s look at closely how security and privacy work in pure Cloud computing play. Although you could control some aspect of configuration, most of your computing and data are delegated to the cloud provider. So, in this case, the core discussion is centered around trust, values and risk assessments.

Trust. How much trust you have to your cloud provider? Are you sure that they’re in business tomorrow? Are you sure that they would do the best they could to protect your data? Given that cloud computing is a trust business, just like financial institutions, it is in cloud provider’s interest to provide quality security protection. Un-reputable, unreliable cloud providers will die very quickly. Imagine you do business with a bank that often loses your transactions, or not allowing withdrawing some money. The bank has no business to be in this ‘trust’ business.

Value. This is closely related to Trust. How valuable the data, resources you would entrust to the cloud provider. You may have a non-essential business process that you’d like to migrate to cloud first. Once you feel comfortable, you may consider migrating to some critical business operations. Trust is earned, not given; and the cloud providers need to earn it from you. The more trust you have, the more comfortable you will be for entrusting high value data and operations. It could be easy perhaps to persuade a company to store archive of their catalogs in the cloud, but it requires a lot of convincing before critical business day to day operations are running all in the cloud.

Risk Assessment. As we all know, there is no such thing as perfect security. We all make risk assessments every single day. Say, you go to visit your grandma for Thanksgiving; you have options to take car, bus, plane or train. All of them have pros and cons. With car, you’re in full control, may cost less, but it may be the slowest and accident rate is pretty high compared to the other transportations. With plane, you can get there quicker, but you have to trust the airline, pilot and crew that they will ensure your safety and you would reach your destination in time. The same true in Cloud Computing case. You may be able to reduce case, increase your reliability, increase your business agility, but you have to give up some of controls that you hold dearly. Today is the dawn of cloud computing and that’s another risk factor that you need to add. We all learn from this exciting journey. Are the benefits worth the risks? It’s a question you have to answer.

The presentation below will go thru the high level overview of security in general, and quickly dive-in into some cloud providers implementations which are aimed to address security and privacy concerns. Like always, comments are welcomed.

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Cloud Computing Explained - in Pictures

2:04 AM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

I just got back from PDC 2009 in Los Angeles. We’re ( grateful to Microsoft for inviting us to join in a few activities at PDC. It was a blast. As you know, this year PDC Conference was dominated by the Azure announcements . At the same time, we announce the availability of Guppers Cloud Beta which is running on Azure. I really had a great time connecting to many people from press, analysts, ex co-workers, bloggers and many others.

As the news and opinions trickled down, I read a few comments on each article. I was amazed how widespread misconceptions about cloud computing are. Some people were afraid that their PC becomes obsolete, some were afraid that their IT jobs are in jeopardy, some were afraid of paying cloud providers a big amount of money every month and giving up their privacy.

As, I waited at the LAX airport to board for my flight back to Seattle, I pulled the free-PDC-give-away laptop and thought – “What would it be a better way to spend this time than trying out this Acer laptop, Office 2010 Beta and started working on the slide deck, hoping to clear up some confusion”. Well, I was also lucky that Virgin-America flight had free wi-fi that I was able to complete half thru my slide-deck; and finally thanks to Seattle weather (rain, rain and rain – what else?), I completed the slide deck titled “I’m Cloud Confused”. So here it is….

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How Your Business Can Take Advantage Of Cloud Computing?

3:01 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

Cloud Computing is one of transformational technology shifts which recently gains momentum. As the economy suffers in the past years, business started looking at ways to reduce costs and boost the productivity. There are so much buzz about Cloud Computing, I’ll try to explain in much simpler term as possible, but it hopes still gives you helpful information. The presentation below derives mostly from my experience developing a few applications on the cloud platforms. It gives me some interesting perspectives from developer point of view. We're also running day to day business completely on cloud platforms. I would love to share what works, what doesn't.

As I mentioned early in my first blog, this blog is not all about “What”, but I will focus on “How”. Given there is so much confusion about cloud; I’ll divide the presentation into two. The first part (today), explains the cloud platforms and the second part (next post), we’ll explain how to take advantage of this transformational technology change.

My advice is, although cloud is still early in the game, but it’s worth looking at it given its potential benefits. You can proceed with cautions; deploy it at the small departmental level. If you’re a small business, you can even try to jump now. As always, I’m looking forward to your comments, feedback, or send email to me directly.

The Missing Readers - That's a 1.3 billion dollar question

12:51 AM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

Globalization is one of the topics that I’m passionate about. I grew up in the eastern part of the globe, and have spent the other half of my life in the western part. I was lucky enough to work with many different people around the world. In my 14 years with Microsoft, right here in Redmond, WA, my teams almost always resembled a united nation team. Often time, I had to work virtually with people from Asia, Europe, span over 3-4 different time zones. This trend continues as I co-founded We’re a small startup globally working together every day. With this experience, I come to appreciate diversity and how diverse ideas give us unique perspectives globally.

Along the line, I notice is that unbelievable useful amount of information such blogs isn’t consumed by many people in other countries. Culture, communication barriers may be to blame, but they should not stop us from sharing wonderful information.

The presentation below describes challenges and opportunities for us to reach the other side of the world. As we shift toward to “democratized” the Internet, these challenges should be addressed.

Our requirements to address challenges are pretty simple, yet it could be complex to implement – find the lowest common barrier to allow people around the world to consume and produce user generated contents that universally understood by large number of population, not just the elites.

I hope we can all together take, even a few small steps, to address these issues. Please comments, I love to hear your thoughts.

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3 Simple Habits of a Highly Effective Team

10:41 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (5)

Effective Team Collaboration has been studied for so many years. This post does not try to repeat of what has been researched intensively, instead, this blog post is based on my 20 years of experience working with various different teams around the world.

Given the rapid changes in technology and in the market recently, such as social computing, cloud computing, social media and mobile, we’ll also focus on taking advantage of this trend in applying to your team. But more importantly, having observed the patterns over and over again, I propose three simple habits that a team should follow to yield impressive productivity gains and keeping team’s morale high. Again, I’m not interested in high level recommendation, but I’ll go into a few specific actions that you need to implement.

Yes, you can start implementing them today. As with any other guidelines, it requires discipline to produce consistent results. I have practiced them over and over again in the past a few years, and I can honestly say, I’m very pleased with the results.

The presentation below goes into details what the 3 habits are. I really hope it helps many teams around the world, whether you’re in high-tech, manufacturing, health or financial or any other industries, it does not matter. Please share your results with rest of us. I’m really looking forward to reading and discussing your comments. Nothing is more rewarding than helping others achieving their goals, or seeing that we help each other.

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Designing Online Services for 2010s

3:33 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

As we enter 2010, let’s reflect how much we have achieved so far and opportunities lie ahead of us. Although we’re resetting ourselves because of the global economic meltdown, still, the online, technology growth is stunning: more than 225 million web sites in the world; Facebook reaches 200M users; Twitter’s phenomenal growth in the past 2 years, reaching 50 million users; and China user online population surpasses US population, even with only 22% penetration; Apple reaches 1 billion AppStore downloads only in 9 months; and four out of five adult people in US are now actively participating in social online.

Besides all the successes (and failures) mentioned above, average entrepreneur, startup, small business faces increasing challenges: how to design online services that will stand out among millions, attracting and keeping customers while there are hundreds of alternative services to choose from, and taking advantages of this shift. The presentation below discusses the heart of this question. In the future blog posts, I’ll discuss how we build, market this service. Love to hear what you’re thinking

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Changes That Matter To Us in the Next Three Years

10:36 AM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

As I tried to put together a presentation for technology, economy, social changes that matter for us for the next 3 years, I found many wonderful articles and presentations are already done (see below). Although some of them are a bit out dated, they are still very relevant today. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the data presented, but a more important question to ask ourselves is how we can take advantage of these changes. We need specific achievable, present, actionable items; not abstract, high-level a-year-from now action items. Changes are too rapid for planning beyond a year. That’s exactly this blog is trying to address and I hope we’ll have many constructive discussions among us.

Before we jump into many specific discussions, let’s look at a few recent changes that matter to us:

1. Economy reset. While the global economy is recovering, the customer and business behaviors are resetting. People and Businesses are now more cost-conscious and resourceful. “Do more with less” is no longer just an interesting sound bite, but it’s becoming a lifestyle for a long time to come.

2. Globalization acceleration. As reported in many reputable newspapers, that many US graduates are coming home to their home countries because the lack of job opportunities in the US. And after years of unprecedented consumer saving, China has made efforts toward consumerism. On the top of that, more and more countries are now opening up to foreign investors and businesses. It’s possible and common now for startups, or small businesses to do business outside their home countries.

3. The rise of Social***. Yes, Facebook and Twitter are everywhere; and virtually all marketing guys conveniently label themselves as Social Media experts. Enterprise 2.0 promises many benefits for businesses, but not many adopters yet. Are these hypes or real? The data don’t lie, however, for those people who expect great and instant return on your investment, you’ll be disappointed. It takes a while to build your present and reap benefits in the social*** space.

4. Cloud Computing, if they build it, do we come? The promise of cloud computing is excellent. You can have reliable, virtually infinite, high-available computing and storage power. The cost-elasticity can be easily achieved, and business can shrink and grow without worrying too much about under or over utilize capacity. The cost is predictable, hence businesses can concentrate what they should do best – running their real business, instead of running IT. Only handful of companies in the world can provide massive cloud computing platforms, since it requires huge capital investment and high maintenance. Can they deliver their promises? It remains to be seen.

5. Mobile. Apple AppStore reaches 1 billion application downloads recently; 3.4 billion texts are sent everyday around the world; we reach 4 billion world-wide subscribers this year, and the market penetration is still less than 50% in Asia. While the statistics are staggering, only few companies make profits from this highly fragmented and confusing market. Many top-tier companies and phone carriers are looking for ways to come up with THE mobile platform, but at the same time, they worry about killing their cash cows.

6. Compressed time, compressed space. With constant stream of data, interruptions; more than ever people are looking for a ways to organize, filter data, and respond in timely manner. Brevity, concise, and core are important element in communication nowadays. Collaboration must be effective, even if it happens 12,000 mile away, or span across 3-4 time zones

7. Digital Life Convergence. In Asia and Europe, this life style is pretty obvious. There is virtually no line between personal and professional work. The line is getting blurrier by days in US too. Many people do personal chores at work (online shopping, planning a quick personal trip), and do work in their pajamas at home when the rest of family is asleep. Our life style is easily trending toward living in connected world 24/7.

8. Privacy and Transparency, do we have the right balance? Most pictures, videos, comments, messages that you post online are becoming easier and easier to search. While the information may be useful for others, but also for hackers. In addition, many of (potential) employers are start looking at your online behavior as well. Transparency is a new way to communicate to our customers, team members, and employees. Gone the days when customers have to go thru a red tape to get to talk the company executives. Companies must be easily accessible, or else they go somewhere else.

For the next 3 years, these changes which currently underway will present us with many challenges but also many opportunities. Ride the wave early, build awesome products, services, startups. Let’s talk.

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Twitter Guide for Facebook User

1:21 AM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

Facebook and Twitter. Oh, ya, they’re everywhere. Turn TV on, you’ll be hearing “Please follow us on Twitter, blah blah”. Walking on the street, you see a billboard sign with a Twitter address. And almost all your friends , co-workers and family are probably already on Facebook. Thanks to mainstream media and social networking obsessions, both Facebook and Twitter enjoy phenomenal growth this year. To put it in perspective, If Facebook were a country, its population is bigger than Brazil (200 millions), that’s the 5th largest country in the world. Twitter’s growth is also stunning. Twitter population is already reaching to 50 millions.

I’ve been a Facebook user for a couple years now. And like many others, I actually signed up Twitter the same time and abandoned it quickly. But I “re-discovered” it again early this year. Back then, I was confused as to why I need yet another service, like Twitter, if I was just as happy with Facebook already. As I use both services regularly, it becomes clear to me that they can be both co-exist, and offer different kind of benefits for consumer and business.
As you join Facebook, the instant gratification is undeniable. Getting constant stream of personal news, pictures, videos that are very relevant to you would definitely keep you coming back to this site. On the hand, as you join Twitter, it is harder to find an instant gratification. As you finish your registration, Twitter offers you to follow many Twitter power accounts which include a few celebrities, news organizations. But that’s getting old pretty fast. It took me a while to build my network of people. A typical user comment would be like this: “I don't understand the popularity of Twitter. Am I so self-important, self-absorbed and so smug that I need to tell people what I'm doing 20 times a day? And truth be told, I don't care what others are doing either. I have enough going on in my life”. Higher retention rate is a one of the most important requirement to keep the service growing.

Could Twitter still grow at healthy rate? You bet. The crux of the problem, in my opinion, is Twitter model does not represent real life model. At first glance, it seems that everybody is speaking, no one is listening. Try to explain this concept to your mom, she would probably think this is crazy. However, the brilliance of this model is that once you pass that point, Twitter can be used in many (new) scenarios.

I put together a presentation that explains Twitter for Facebook user. I hope it explains while Twitter is a still-hard- to-understand concept; there are many benefits once you use it regularly. Enjoy.

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Text Messaging for Business - What You Have Been Missing!

2:39 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

Consider these staggering statistics: 3.4 billion text messages are delivered, and 4 billion cell-phones are actively in the hand of subscribers, and the growth is still very healthy. What interesting is the usage of texting in business is very limited, if any, especially in the US. While younger generations in US are embracing texting, the use of texting is hardly exist in the workplace. This article unveils how texting/SMS could actually boost productivities in the workplace.

Let’s look at the major issues the prevent business from using text messaging as part of their daily solutions:

  • Text messaging considers a P2P technology
  • Text messaging considers too intrusive in many business settings.
  • Text messages are prohibitively expensive in the US and Canada, even though that’s not the case in most countries.
  • Integrating Text messaging channel into information technology is difficult. A short code needs to be established and approved, and the approval process to work with telephone providers can take months. In addition, supporting SMS protocol (SMPP) put burden in IT resources.
  • SMS users are isolated from the rest of company. In US, many of us use e-mail as the primary communication.

Before we discuss the solutions, let’s look at what Text Messaging (SMS) will provide us:

  • Virtually any phone is capable of texting. Old and new, cheap or expensive.
  • There is no need for a data plan.
  • Much greater mobility. User can roam anywhere in the world and start using SMS immediately.
  • While people frown at the 160 character constraints, it has been proven that brief, essential messages are more effective and less time to waste. Compare this to a 2 page long of email.

To fill these gaps that outlined above, today, few services address the texting deficiencies in the workplace. The mobile phone providers now aggressively encourage user to sign-up for unlimited text message plans for as little as $5 per employees. Consider a few scenarios that you could enable today:

  • You’re at the client site; you’d like to retrieve the inventory level of product #XL9204. This can be done by sending a text message to a service.
  • Your ability to send messages to your team members, regardless if your co-workers using email/blackberry, SMS, or online. The ability to communicate seamlessly using one’s communication preference tool.
  • You can get a stream of business activities on your phone. For example, even on the go, you’ll be first to find out that Julie just joined a company; Peter just modified inventory data.
  • In addition to query, your team member can update the data directly into the database using only SMS. For example, your workers can send a text message command with the information to the service, and the service will update the database.
    While you’re choosing a service, the following is important criteria to consider:
  • Make sure that you should not have to deal with any deployment. Zero installation is the best.
  • Make sure you don’t have to change your existing infrastructure, in order for the service to work.
  • In this economy climate, it’s wise that we don’t have much access capacity. Pay as go services are preferable over fixed cost services.
  • Addressing IT security concerns that the data can be locked down in the services.
  • If you plan to do some business soon, ensure that the service is available globally as well.

Guppers is one of few services that provide end-to-end multi-channel collaboration solutions for business, and SMS is one of its important features. Unfortunately, many other services today are mostly focusing of mobile marketing; pushing information to the (potential or existing) consumers. I believe the mobile marketing model is over, and user should be in control as far as information sent to their mobile phone. Twitter allows many companies to do just that. In addition, Twitter is a great service to be used as part of social media efforts for a company. Other services focus mostly narrow band of problem space, such as group messaging only.

If you're interested in learning more details as far the user experience, you can browse the presentation below.

In summary, the business texting solutions exist today that enable many of new scenarios which may result in dramatic productivity increases while keeping the cost low to operate.

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How To: Going Global for Startups and Small Businesses

12:23 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

As a startup or small business, often time we feel that we don’t have the energy and resources to expand our market to a couple countries. Going global is an effort that is normally associated with a large company than a startup. Things have changed, however, as time and space are virtually compressed, digital divide no longer obvious, the rise of middle class citizens and the movement toward consumerism in a few countries have started. Jack Welch says it best:

Business is Global, not the geography. That's the only way to run the business

So, as a startup or small business, what would you gain by going global? Plenty.
  • Expanding market. The US market is so crowded with products and solutions. For a given problem space, there are tons of existing business and startups that go after the market. By going global, it allows you to diversify. There is also much less competition outside the US, and the consumers are hungry for solutions. You’d feel you can breathe again.
  • Tap into mass resources and expertise. Some countries could deliver quality product or service in much more cost effective way. While this has been true in manufacturing for many, many years, you see this in high tech sector as well. For example, Guppers team works closely with a few vendors in China to build LCD, LED display devices. It would have taken us months to produce what we’d like, and would have cost us 3x as much per unit.
  • Raising capital opportunities. The saving rates in many countries are much higher than in the US. Many individuals have formed investing groups to allow them investing to companies, including foreign companies. There is much money sitting in the sideline, waiting to see great opportunities to invest. In the US, VC and angel funding is drying up, or reduce their activities dramatically. This is not the case, outside the US. Guppers gets many more inquires about investment opportunities outside the US then in the US itself.

Of course, going global is not easy. Each country presents unique challenges. I put together a few lessons learned which we hope could benefit others (see the presentation). A few challenges to keep in mind:

  • Don’t spread too thin. Focus on couple countries first, and make sure your end-to-end solutions work over there. Then, you could spread to the neighboring countries.
  • Go after simplest regions that you could penetrate. I talked about which regions you should go after first in the presentation.
  • Business is Personal in many countries. Work closely with your local connectors or influencers. Finding the great partners in the local country is probably the hardest and most challenging if you don’t know anybody in that country.
  • Culture, law and regulations, business process. This is where your local partner is invaluable to keep you informed what works and what’s not.

I love to hear your experience and comments. We can build a set of “lessons learned” which we can share, networking globally so that we could all benefit from huge global opportunities. Like always, contact me: [andy at gestone dot com].

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Tip #3 : Simplify - Don't over prioritize!

4:25 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto / comments (0)

It's easy to use priority as a way to express the importance/urgency level of a work items or bugs. Priority 1 or zero bugs are normally items that we need to fix it immediately, while other priorities; we'll assign a priority number depending on the urgency or certain conditions (nice to have, solve it later, etc). If you find yourself and your team members arguing over what priority should be given for an issue/bug, it is time to simplify your process.

After years of running many small or big projects, I experienced over and over again that lower priority bugs/issues will end up being ignored and never get visited again. And sadly, when we have a chance to visit again at the beginning of milestone, the bugs may already obsolete or the requirements have changed. I use the following process to track project work-items/bugs that I find to be much more effective. This process not only can be used in software development, but also on personal or group collaboration task oriented team work:

(1) Simply, separate bugs into 2 buckets:
· Bucket A: issues/bugs that we will fix this period (which should be a short one - my preference is 1 week).
· Bucket B: issues/bugs that we won't fix this period (e.g won't fix this week). If the issues are pretty large, break into smaller pieces. However if the issue's resolution is beyond your control (e.g "Approval from the government"), you may use a separate list to track it.

(2) You should triage and discuss issues/bugs every day with your team. We find by discussing new bugs every member of the team is informed and often offer good solution. Decide at that point, whether the new issues/bugs should be in fix this period, or beyond this period.

(3) As we approach toward the end of the period, if the issues/bugs aren't that many anymore, you may want to consider moving some items from Bucket B into Bucket A, or vice versa if issues cannot be completed during this period.

(4) At the end of period (e.g at the end of the week), start the cycle over again. Decide issues/bugs that the team you will tackle this period (e.g this week). At the cycle starts again.

While you're doing the iteration, keep the following guidelines in mind:

(A) Make the simple! Create a simple list. Do not overdo with creating unnecessary fields that you won't use. For example, “How's this issue found?”, “Which area this issue belongs to?” If you never use this data to do useful analysis or useful tracking, don't ask the user. It's a waste of everyone's time. The following 4 fields are sufficient enough for most cases: Issue Description, Status, AssignedTo, Bucket.

(B) When decides the length of period, reasonably short period is preferable. For me, I like one week as the length of the period. It's better to complete many small tasks to feel good progress being made as opposed to large tasks for longer period. In addition a compress time-frame will make the team more focus. One will react differently if one is given to complete the same (reasonable) task for a week vs for a month.

(C) End-Game. Everybody should know the end game. The period that defines in #B is not the end game period. You should come up with reasonable and specific objectives as a milestone. For example, by the May 25, we will be able to a) Register to our web site (b) Sign-in using username and password, and two-form authentication (c) Send messages from mobile phone, etc.

I'm not strongly against using priority; the problem I have is hard to get consensus of priority level sometimes within the team if we don't have clear guideline. My bigger problem is the priority does not tell you the time to complete. One could argue that we can use milestone to impose the time line, the problem with this approach is if the milestone changes, should we need to adjust the priority as well? However, I like the simplicity of two simple buckets that everybody can simply understand.

An online collaboration service, called Guppers (, allows you to create a customize list that are accessible for all members in a group or organization. In fact, Guppers team uses their own list to track bugs, feedback from customers, new ideas. One of the features this site has is to allow notification via Email or SMS, if the issue is assigned to you or change its status. The site is free for everyone. A quick overview is on

Disclaimer: Yes, I'm the Co-Founder of this site.

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