Moderation and Consideration

During my free time, I began to focus on my backyard, practicing the art of planting trees and grooming flowers. To learn more about nursery work, I asked my friend’s wife, Sandy, the master of gardening, to educate me, and visited her garden a few times. I indeed began to appreciate even more about nature from visiting her stunning home garden.

What caught my eyes the most from the vast garden was the chirping of the countless different kinds of birds that fluttered around the bird feeders hanging from the branches and captured my heart.

I figured this was it, so I enlisted Sandy’s help and ended up investing my time pruning the trees for birds and installing bird feeders, bird baths, and many other toys in the visible areas next to the windows of my home.

Watching these birds has been quite entertaining, and I have also learned so many things as they’ve challenged me to think in new ways.

For example, I noticed the birds would never overeat, no matter how much food I placed in the feeder. When they were hungry, they would fly into my yard, nibble a little, and then fly away to seek shelter from other birds. I’m sure that overeating with such a small body would strain the bird’s wings and even affect its flight. So instead, the birds must act in moderation and live with discipline.

When I observed the birds, with their small body size, keeping the hierarchical order, I sometimes felt ashamed with how humans, no matter how rich they were and capable of having more control over their power, still lived with anxiety, as if they were always lacking and needing more.

Two words came to my mind as I watched these birds. Moderation and Consideration! I thought these two words were what we needed as a reminder in our daily lives.

Don’t Give Up On Challenges

Humans across history have displayed tremendous resilience, even in dire situations. But I’m not sure we’re necessarily born with willpower, and I don’t believe it’s innate in all people. Willpower is something you should see modeled and then learn for yourself.

I have visited many beautiful places during my travels, but what stood out vividly in my memories were the archaeological remains of the great ancient civilizations. I was moved to tears the first time I stood at the entrance of the Mayan underground compound. Now that is an example of willpower!

Arguably the New World’s most advanced pre-Columbian civilization, the Mayans carved mammoth stone cities—complete with palaces, pyramid temples, and even ball courts—into the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America. It took the sheer will, persistence, and strength
of millions to accomplish such feats. Known for their hieroglyphic writing, calendar-making, mathematics, astronomy, and architecture, the Mayans reached the peak of their influence during the so-called Classic Period, from around A.D. 250 to A.D. 900. Then, in one of history’s
greatest enigmas, the population suddenly deposed their kings, abandoned their cities, and disappeared.

I discovered an even more stunning example of human power and innovation in the underground city of Derinkuyu, located in the arid Nevşehir Province of Turkey. The Cappadocia region was home to more than 200 underground cities, and Derinkuyu was the largest.

No one knows who built the underground cities or when, but archaeologists speculate that they could have been created by the Hittites, Phrygians, or Persians 3,000 years ago.

While other cities constructed in the area were between two to four levels, Derinkuyu Underground City had eleven. It supported 20,000 inhabitants despite the severe environmental limitations of the surrounding area. When I visited, I was able to see, despite the unimaginable conditions, how the inhabitants of Derinkuyu found their will to survive and triumph over their circumstances.

No one can predict how much greater miracles human power can create in the future. Still, we believe humans will constantly explore and overcome whenever there is a challenge.

Here is the story of my miracle to own my dream house that led me to overcome many other tasks and challenges, which came from a great deal of willpower!

Comparing My Toolbox With Others

Discovering my goldmine, the perfect fit for my aspirations, took a willingness to admit what I didn’t know and accept failure and move on to the next step, no matter how challenging it was at the time.

When I arrived in America, I realized most people that grew up there took almost everything for granted. To me, everything was so remarkable and unfamiliar, especially the ease of getting ahead, which seemed ordinary for others. I had to learn everything, from the beautiful English
language to the advantages of having easily accessible supermarkets and sprawling shopping malls.

Because I came from another place, I could appreciate what others hardly noticed, which gave me the advantage of seeing and leveraging the life I wanted.

I had to be honest with myself and with what I didn’t know and then go out and learn it. And so do you. Assuming you already know everything out there is to accept that growth is limited.

If you are pursuing your dream, do your research or ask someone who knows.

Secondly, I needed to understand that every step of my journey was a gift. Helping my friend sell his knock-off handbags on the street was even worthwhile because I always enjoyed learning something new and unexpected.

Value, I had discovered, came from not just appreciating the things that others had. If you want to control your life, you must learn to see all your experiences, both good and bad, as learning opportunities and gifts. And you must be willing to work hard.

I often met young people who wanted to start their own companies, but they expressed their dream to conquer the world before explaining their business model or big idea. “I want to be the next Bill Gates,” they say, or “I’m going to build a company larger than Apple.” These dreamers don’t last long in the real world because they only know how to dream, and they don’t know how to devise and build a realistic plan.

What else is needed to be successful?

As you’ve seen in my own story, passion is essential, but a specific strategic plan is even more vital. For a business dream to work and a new venture to succeed, the dreamer must put their feet on the ground and do all the hard work of market research and competitive analysis.

By utilizing the skills, education, and lessons you learned while growing up, whatever they are, you will find a limitless toolbox catered for your unique path. Even your failures can be the tools of your future success if you start appreciating and learning from them.

8 Proven Networking Strategies from a Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist

Networking is an oft-used word that has become cliché in many quarters. Many people talk about networking, but few do it right.

The Los Altos Golf & Country Club, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is an oasis of greenery and fresh air that offers to its select members a therapeutic escape from the daily pressure of the high-tech industry.

With a hefty membership fee, the club is one of the most exclusive private social associations in America. Membership is by invitation only and requires sponsorship by four existing members.

A gathering place of titans and aspiring titans, the club unofficially concentrates the power of Silicon Valley. It is said that more deals get done over brunch at the club on weekends than in boardrooms during office hours on weekdays.

When I relocated to Silicon Valley, I knew that being part of this club would be a catalyst to success. However, being new in town, I had few connections and little influence. Nonetheless, after months of research from my contact and resources, I resolved to influence the board president himself, Tracy O’Rourke.

I worked my then fledgling network, and by early spring time in 1996, found myself sitting in Mr. O’Rourke’s office, being invited to play golf at the Los Altos Golf & Country Club.

There were several factors at work here that helped me meet Mr. O’Rourke. My success did not happen overnight; it was built layer by layer.

Defining networking

Networking is the establishing and maintaining of a relationship with a select group of relevant people we can rely on to further our goals and who, in turn, can rely on us to further their goals.

If done right, networking does not simply multiply our reach. Rather, our reach is raised to the power of the people we know. A network provides an exponential increase in our

impact and efficiency. In other words, a network can be defined as what we know raised to the power of who we know.

People often wonder how I established a strong network starting from nothing. Here are guidelines I have discovered during my career that have enabled me to create and maintain efficient networks that have greatly improved my chances of success.

Step 1: Actively seek out gathering places

The Los Altos Golf & Country Club is a physical gathering place that, as I said above, concentrates the power of Silicon Valley. It is the ultimate watering hole for the successful and influential.

Depending on your life stage and career aspirations, there are different gathering places suited to your goals. Young entrepreneurs may not target expensive country clubs when they are just starting out. Look for people you would like to include in your network, find the appropriate gathering places, and improve your networking ability step by step.

A gathering place acts as an efficient way to connect people with like-minded objectives. To derive the benefit of a network, you need to be at the gathering place. Actively seek to be part of it. Unless you are welcomed at the gathering place, you will be an outsider of the network.

Once you are part of your desired network, be actively present there.

Step 2: Do your homework first

Before becoming a member of the Los Altos Golf & Country Club, I researched the club extensively. I learned its history, understood its programs, and toured its grounds. Then I mapped out influential members of the club.

Once I identified Mr. O’Rourke as the President of the club’s board of directors, I found any connection in my existing network to him. I learned about him, his track record, successes, and plans at Varian Associates. I read all newspaper clippings about him, went over his interviews and asked others about him. When the opportunity came to meet Mr. O’Rourke, I was fully prepared. I felt I was meeting somebody I knew well even though it was the first time I was shaking his hand.

Networking consumes time, energy, and resources with often indirect and uncertain benefits. You do not want to be wasting energy on networks that consume you and yet are unlikely to support you in your growth. So, do your homework, be informed, be choosy, and be prepared.

Step 3: Know what you bring to the table

A network link is a two-way connection. It does not matter if the person you are trying to reach happens to be the President of the United States. If you desire that he take you seriously, demonstrate that you can bring value to the relationship.

This is often very hard, especially when you are trying to network with people who are position-wise, job-wise, or wealth-wise at a higher level than you. However, consider a number of things you can bring to the table: your own experiences, your ideas and observations, your background, your history, your cultures and beliefs, your feedback on the other party’s interests, your own contacts, etc.

Contribute your good demeanour, and make the other party laugh with a sense of humour. Connect on something that you both have in common: kids’ schools, local neighbourhood, social causes, etc. You always have something to add. Irrespective of a person’s position in life, he is a human being, just like you.

Sometimes we create these oversized images of dignitaries and celebrities, though everyone is very similar deep inside. Rich and influential people also have insecurities, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, and worries like the rest of us. They also have a need to intellectually connect with others and may be wanting to talk to you more than you want to talk to them. Do not be intimidated by who they are. Rather connect with them at as a human.

A cautious note here: I have found that people, in an attempt to force a connection, go out of their way to please the other party. They sometimes lie and often overcommit as to what they are willing to do. Such people tell you what you want to hear when you meet them. They commit to everything you want them to. It is easy to commit and forget or fail to deliver. Try to establish a connection but do not force one. Bring to the table only what you can really deliver.

It is always better to under-commit and over-deliver rather than over-commit and under-deliver!

Step 4: Be prepared and rehearse

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” There is much truth in the adage—preparation is key to a successful meeting.

Preparation means taking time well before the meeting to think through what we may expect out of the meeting, who will be at the meeting, what topics may be discussed, what are the expected outcomes of the meeting, what roles the attendees could play, what would influence them, what are your desired take-always from the meeting, action items, etc.

Before you set out to network, take time to think the meeting through. The worst mistake you can make is to go to a networking event unprepared as that may have the negative effect of damaging your credibility and position in the network. It takes time often to get a meeting and you do not want to lose the one opportunity to make a bond.

Once prepared, rehearse! Rehearse the talk you need to give, the point you need to make, the idea you may need to explain. Practice makes perfect.

Step 5: Tell stories

Storytelling is instinctive to human nature. It is a core aspect of our behaviour that has allowed people to live together in groups, to communicate, to recount history, to remember battles fought and won, and to build beliefs, myths, and legends.

Note, by storytelling here I do not mean embellishing facts or lying. Rather, I mean framing your message in a narrative that is impactful and easy to digest.

When you meet people in your network, do not attempt to get their initial attention by laying out data. Often times, we want to quote metrics and numbers from the start of a meeting. This is common among technology company founders and engineers.

In my experience, jumping to data is an approach that rarely works. Always start your meeting with a pleasantry or a joke if you can pull it off. Then frame your message in a narrative that the other parties can both emotionally and rationally connect to.

Connect to your listeners at a personal level. Ask them about themselves. Show interest in their children, their families, and their causes. Then use these hints and craft your own narrative weaving your message into the conversation.

Step 6: Be yourself

When we meet someone we feel we need, there is a tendency for us to exaggerate our statements to impress the other party. Think for a minute about the dynamics during an interview. The person seeking the job is always emphasizing how good they are at everything. We tend to do the same thing when we are networking with others, especially people who are higher ranked than us.

In my experience, this is a mistake. It does not help but rather hurts us when we overstate our experiences, magnify our accomplishments, and extend the truth. How can that hurt us? It hurts us because the other party is at least as intelligent as we are. Successful leaders can very easily detect when someone is telling the truth or when someone is embellishing facts to get noticed.

To be successful at networking, always be who you are. Listen attentively, think before answering and making a point, remain humble and respectful, quote data only when you know they are factual, ask genuine questions, do not be shy to say you do not know, and change your own positions if the other party makes a more convincing argument.

To be yourself, you need to know yourself well and know yourself truly. We are all biased towards our own ideas and behaviours. To be taken seriously, genuinely understand your abilities and limitations and then accordingly contribute to others. We are all born with things that are valuable. Find those in you and leverage them to build your network.

Step 7: It takes more than one meeting

Networking is more art than engineering. It requires a good deal of interaction and a lot of dedication without a clear expected outcome. Often times, it costs a lot of money and time too. You cannot approach networking as a computer code where if you input ten hours in three meetings with eight people then you expect two job offers as output.

While many of us know that this is not the case, we often do the mistake of approaching people with this sort of formulaic expectation in mind. Networking is all about people connecting. The aim and goal of networking is simply to make connection. Do not measure your network’s value by the outcome of every meeting or by expecting a benefit from everybody you meet.

Let’s say, through hard work and careful planning, you finally meet an individual who can support you to achieve your goal. Of course, it is very exciting to finally meet this person. This person might have unique insight to a problem, or they might have a contact at a company you are trying to work for. One step closer to achieving success, right? Of course, you want to move forward and achieve your goal immediately!

That rarely works, if ever. Let us pause for a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of the individual you would like to meet. Imagine someone trying to meet you solely for information. Would you want someone to approach you with only one goal in mind, with only one reason to meet? The answer is a resounding no.

For this reason, it is important not to talk about what you need, what you want. Approach networking with the objective of building trust, growing confidence and friendship. Like setting the frame for a perfect photograph, you’ll find that if you are patient, you’ll find the perfect opportunity to present your case. Networking has better long-term benefits if you wait for the appropriate opportunity instead of rushing towards your own goals.

A sturdy network is built the same way as a good friendship: establishing mutual trust, building on common interest, and investing good will. All of these are subjective goals. But they are ingredients in establishing a strong bond with others who matter. Business and career benefits are secondary results of strong relationships built on trust.

Take time to know the person you are networking with. Understand each other’s ideas and objectives, build trust, and then brainstorm future collaborations. All of these happen over the course of many interactions. Go into a networking event with the mindset that the event is one step in many to come. You will then not try to achieve everything in that one meeting, rush your objectives and burn bridges. These hasty actions lead to a weak networking strategy.

Step 8: Refresh your network

I keep all my business cards in a big shoebox. Every other year, I go through that shoebox and I toss a large number of the cards away. In fact, I toss away more cards than I keep. People change roles all the time and our relationships with them change too. Further, we gather more information on people as time goes by.

To keep a network healthy, pruning the network is as important as adding to the network. It is important that you take a look at your network at least once every year and decide who you should ‘un-friend’. This is not mean—it is wise. One issue I have with large social network sites like Facebook and LinkedIn is that they do not encourage un-friending as much as they encourage friending.

An unruly large network is very inefficient. A great network is like a bonsai tree—it is healthiest and lasts longest when it is carefully pruned. A network is worthy if it is selective.

Let’s Play Golf

When I was ushered into Mr. O’Rourke’s office that day, I found him to be an affable gentleman. He greeted me with a broad smile and a warm handshake. Even though our backgrounds were very different, we connected right away.

After a few pleasantries and some questions, Mr. O’Rourke quickly realised that I had enough experiences and could bring enough opportunities to contribute to the club’s reputation. Within ten minutes, he casually said, “Well, if you want to become a member of the club, you need to understand the course. Let’s play golf this weekend!” That would be my initiation into the club! I turned out to be one of the first candidates who succeeded in becoming a member within only a few months.

Once I joined, Tracy introduced me to several other key club members and I was able to quickly make inroads in the local business network. It was a life-changing opportunity for me.

Maintaining the network

Remember, networking continues even after you become part of an inner circle. Work at blending into the circle, maintain your reputation, and be committed. Do not try to promote yourself too much or too quickly.

Successful people are not easily impressed. Put in your time, work hard, and build your track record. Above all, be sincere. Most people are hungry for genuine connection, and are just looking for a friend. A good friend always has positive energy and a pure smile. Finally, dress the part. Make an effort to look presentable when you are starting out. T-shirts and jeans are acceptable only when you become Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

The writer is a venture capitalist at LTC Innovations Inc and an Executive Advisor for NUS Enterprise / Visiting Professor at the National University of Singapore Business School. He has written two books on business and entrepreneurship, titled Wonder: Amazing How a Little Wonder can Change the World, and Tomorrow: Create your Future Today.

This article is an excerpt from Tomorrow: Create your Future Today.

Startups should believe in the power of branding

Good branding is more than just your logo

While I was attending innovfest unbound earlier this year, I met a lot of Singapore start-ups – both those exhibiting in booths and pitching at start-up challenges. I noticed that many of them do not pay enough attention to building or leveraging their brand. When compared with their U.S. counterparts, Singapore start-ups fare badly, when it comes to creating a corporate identify, investing in the look and feel of the company, and continuously managing the brand.

The leader of a company must understand the value of branding, right from day one. Your company’s brand is basically what the public thinks of when they hear your brand name. And while many entrepreneurs may think developing a brand means creating a company logo, good branding involves a whole range of items that are associated with the company, such as product names, designs, symbols, colours, or phrases.

Building the brand of a company is similar to building your own personality. It sets the company apart from others, and enables people to understand the company based on its values, character and expected behaviour. In the crowded start-up space, this is critical for establishing trust, loyalty and competitiveness. However, a reliable brand is relevant to everyone – not just the customers or prospective customers. For investors, it provides a sense of stability; for employees, it gives them a sense of direction and purpose; and for strategic partners, it offers a sense of fairness.

Also read: I have a question for startup founders – Are you a brand?

And while larger companies often outsource their brand development strategy to expensive consultancy companies, start-ups wanting to get their brand right, should focus on three key areas:

Choose the right company name

The name of your start-up should be easy to pronounce, not sound similar to any competitor and preferably have a linkage to the business you are in. Where possible, do not choose a generic word for your company name, otherwise imagine the nightmare a customer will have when doing a simple Google search on your company. Many technical founders choose strange names that only have meaning to a small group. This is a mistake. The name (together with message, logo and other branding mechanisms) must be easy to remember, clear and striking.

In some cases, the right name can instantly provide the right association. For example, the VC firm Sevin Rosen was known for investing in and renaming start-ups to begin with the letter ‘C’, such as Cypress, Cyrix, Compac and Cienna. I was an early investor with Sevin Rosen in Cyrix, and this resulted in a very satisfying win for me. Whenever I would encounter a new start-up starting with a ‘C’, I would quickly do a background check to see if Sevin Rosen had invested in them, as if they had, the start-up would be of immediate interest to me.

Think through your logo and design

Your logo and design should be symbolic of your company’s identity, broadly conveying what the company stands for. Where relevant use appropriate imagery, so the brand establishes the right identity in people’s minds. The brand should also resonate with your customers, evoking a certain response.

Protect your brand

One reason why brands can accumulate such value over time is because they can be protected. For example, the Tiffany brand, which associates with the robin egg blue box and luxury items, is over 170 years old. In order to maintain your brand identity, start-ups should develop an active and co-ordinated marketing strategy. There is a symbiotic relationship between the brand and marketing, where the company’s brand is used to assist marketing, and marketing is used to further strengthen the brand. Through pushing out consistent and regular messages about your brand image, the message will be perceived and embraced by a prospective customer.

Before you dismiss the value of your brand, think of Google, which according to a recent study is the world’s most valuable brand, estimated at more than US$109 billion in 2016. By having a well-planned and co-ordinated strategy, you could develop your brand into one of your most valued assets!

—-

Ike Lee is an executive advisor to NUS Enterprise, a Visiting Professor at the NUS Business School and the CEO of LTC Innovations. He has extensive experience within the entrepreneurship sector, as an angel investor, venture capitalist from the Silicon Valley and mentor to numerous start-up management teams.

Start-ups ‘cannot run on just passion’

Veteran venture capitalist shares message at NUS Enterprise event

By GRACE CHNG 

SENIOR CORRESPONDENT

FOUNDERS of start-ups usually have plenty of passion but their in­ability to roll out viable business plans and tendency to focus on short-term success rather than long-term strategy means failure is often inevitable.

That is the sobering message from serial entrepreneur and ven­ture capitalist Ike Lee, who has al­most 30 years of experience in the tech industry.

The US-based Mr Lee, 59, said: “They (may) have the right idea, passion and business plan but the wrong timing, like the 9/11 terror­ist attack in the United States which impacted the economy. There’s nothing you can do in such a situation.”

He told about 200 students, en­trepreneurs and academics at the National University of Singapore (NUS) last Friday that successful founders are those who live “it for 25 hours a day for eight days (a week)”.

“They have focus and failure is not an option. This is what it takes to succeed,” he said.

Successful founders are also not afraid of taking that first big step, said Mr Lee, who was born in South Korea and is now an American citizen.

Once they know they have good ideas, they seize the moment and launch their start-ups.

Mr Lee was speaking at the in­augural seminar for Global Start-up@Singapore, a new net­working platform to help local start-ups and entrepreneurs ex­pand overseas.

It was organised by NUS Enter­prise and the NUS Business School.

NUS Enterprise is the universi­ty’s start-up incubator.

Its director, Professor Wong Poll Kam, said Singapore has de­veloped a good ecosystem to nur­ture start-ups over the past 10 years with strong government sup­port

“The next phase is to go be­yond by helping Singapore-based start-ups to grow by going glo­bal,” he added.

Besides bringing in experienced investors and entrepreneurs like Mr. Lee to inspire local start-ups as well as provide mentorship and contacts, NUS Enterprise will initi­ate how-to workshops on a series of topics start-ups need to know when they go international.

The first, in August, will deal with crowdfunding, followed by one on how to tap the expertise of NUS Enterprise overseas offices in Silicon Valley and China. 

Another workshop will be held on international regulatory com­pliance for biomedical devices and electrical/electronics products, he added.

Networking that works: Lessons from a career in Silicon Valley

Ike Lee, Lee Technology Consulting and adjunct professor in the Department of Strategy and Policy at National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School.

More than 20 years ago I landed for the first time in Silicon Valley speaking barely a word of English and not knowing anyone. Since then I’ve built up my own tech business, launched dozens of startups and seen them through to IPOs worth billions of dollars.

Underpinning all of this is a carefully nurtured network of contacts.

In the business world, “networking” has become something a cliché. Executives swear by it; marketing and sales professionals claim it is their only job; and MBA students, such as those I meet as an adjunct professor at NUS Business School, take courses to learn it.

Done right, networking can deliver an exponential increase in impact and efficiency. But it is important to remember that effective networking is an ongoing process – establishing and maintaining relationships with relevant people whom we can rely on to further our goals and who, in turn, can rely on us. 

Those in our network need to derive benefits from being connected to us as much as we derive benefits from being connected to them. So relationships must be continuously built and maintained.

Here are eight lessons I have learned in my entrepreneurial journey about building a strong and efficient network.

Step #1: Do your homework

Networking consumes time, energy, and resources with often indirect and uncertain benefits. You do not want to be wasting those on networks with little probability of improving your own success. 

The Los Altos Golf & Country Club is a vital node of the Silicon Valley tech network. When I moved to the Valley, I quickly realised that being part of this club would be a catalyst to success.

But before joining, I researched the club extensively and mapped out its influential members. 

Once I had identified the president of the club’s board of directors, I learned all I could about him, his successes, and his plans. I did my homework first and when the opportunity came to meet I was fully prepared.

Be informed, be choosy, and be prepared.

Step #2: Actively seek out gathering places

Once you have identified the network you want to be part of, locate its gathering place and then actively seek to be part of it.

Physical gathering places include clubs, conferences, social associations, meet-ups, non-profit events, sports venues, local joints and popular restaurants. Virtual gathering places include online blogs, social networking groups, mailing lists, online forums, bulletin boards and WhatsApp groups. 

A gathering place acts as an efficient way to connect people with like-minded objectives. To derive the benefit of a network, you need to be at their gathering place and be actively present. 

Step #3: Know what you bring to the table

A network link is a two-way connection. It does not matter if the person you are trying to connect with is the President of the United States – you need to demonstrate the value you bring to the relationship.

This is often hard, especially with people who are in position, job or wealth higher than you. But consider what you can bring to the table: your own experiences, ideas and observations; your background, culture and beliefs; your feedback on their interests; or your own contacts.

At the same time, bring to the table only what you can really deliver. One of my evergreen wisdoms is: “It is always better to under-commit and over-deliver rather than over-commit and under-deliver.”

Step #4: Be prepared and rehearse

Preparation is key to a successful meeting – this means taking time to think through what you expect from the meeting, who will be there, what topics may be discussed, and what your desired take-aways are.

Failing to think these through risks damaging your credibility and position in the network.

Even once you are prepared, rehearse! Rehearse the talk you need to give, the key point you need to make, the idea you may need to explain. 

It usually takes time to even get a meeting and you do not want to lose this critical opportunity to make a bond.

Step #5: Tell stories

Storytelling is as an ancient social skill and is as relevant as it has ever been. It doesn’t mean embellishing the facts or overblowing your abilities, but framing your message in a narrative that is impactful and easy to digest.

A common trait among entrepreneurs and engineers is to try to win attention through data. In my experience quoting metrics and numbers from the start rarely works.

A better way is to frame your message in a narrative that the other parties can both emotionally and rationally connect to. Connect to your listeners at a personal level, then craft your own narrative weaving your message into the conversation. 

Step #6: Be yourself

In a job interview, the person seeking the job is always emphasizing how good they are at everything. Many people tend to do the same thing when networking. 

But networking is not a job interview. It does not help but rather hurts us when we overstate our experiences and extend the truth. 

Successful leaders can easily detect when someone is telling the truth or when someone is embellishing facts. To be successful at networking, always be who you are and understand your abilities and limitations. Listen attentively, think before answering and when making a point, remain humble and respectful. 

Step #7: It takes more than one meeting

Networking is more art than engineering. Often times it costs a lot of money and time, and there is no formulaic path to certain success.

Let’s say you finally meet an individual who can help you achieve your goal. It is, of course, very exciting and you want to move forward and achieve your goal immediately. But rarely, if ever, does that work. 

Imagine someone trying to meet you solely for information. Would you want them to approach you with only one goal in mind, with only one reason to meet? 

Instead approach networking with the objective of building trust, growing confidence and friendship. Go into a networking event with the mindset that the event is one step in many to come – the perfect opportunity to present your case will come eventually.

You will then not try to achieve everything in that one meeting, rush your objectives and burn bridges. 

Step #8: Refresh your network

I keep all the business cards I receive in a big shoebox. Every other year, I go through them and I toss a large number of cards away. People change roles all the time and our relationships change too. 

To keep a network healthy, pruning the network is as important as adding to the network. It is important that you regularly take an overview of your network and decide who should you un-friend. This is not a mean thing to do—it is a wise thing to do. 

One of the issues I have with large social network sites like Facebook and LinkedIn is that they do not encourage un-friending as much as they encourage friending. 

An unruly large network is very inefficient. A great network is like a bonsai tree—it is healthiest and lasts longest when it is carefully pruned. 

Singapore’s entrepreneurship X factor

It should not aim to become like Silicon Valley but exploit geography and cultural mix to become a world-class launch pad.

I’ll confess, I am a late adopter of Singapore. Although originally from Asia, I had not set foot here until April last year, when I was invited to speak at NUS Enterprise’s Innovfest conference for entrepreneurs. Since that first visit, I have been back eight times and, each time, I notice something special; something that gets my heart racing.

It’s the same feeling I got when I first arrived in Silicon Valley in the late 1980s – a buzz that comes about when a place has achieved a particular critical mass of physical, human and intellectual infrastructure. Like a chain reaction coming alive, this magical formula is the X factor that powers entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s what has made Silicon Valley the global ground zero of the tech industry.

I travel tens of thousands of kilometres every year and wherever I am, at every entrepreneurship event I attend, the question is asked, “How can we be more like Silicon Valley?”

The answer I give is straightforward: don’t be.

EIGHT TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS:

1)  Focus on the customer: Every decision and every feature of your product should be assessed and framed according to how it improves the customer experience.
2)  Target the small but significant: Many big successes come from making small changes, reinventing something used every day.
3)  Soak up advice: Networking is crucial; absorb as much knowledge as you can from others. Learn to process and sort through that advice and how to apply it to your business.
4)  Practice your pitch: There is no set format to a successful pitch but learn to tell your story in 10 seconds or less. It helps focus your mind.
5) Have a plan: Do thorough market research, build a plan with short-term and mid-term projections. Put down on paper a process that shows your concept works.
6) Trust your instincts: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. This is especially true when choosing a business partner, mentor or investor.
7)  Avoid talk of failure: The start-up industry is driven by results and track record. Mistakes happen but failures – especially avoidable ones – will be held against you.
8) Don’t be discouraged: Knock-backs are inevitable; some people will underestimate or look down on you. Take this as a challenge.

The Valley is unique. It’s a standalone ecosystem that grew organically from a particular local culture and circumstance. It is not something that can simply be copied, lifted up and transplanted to another place on the planet.

Nonetheless, there are lessons that can be learnt and applied elsewhere by those with experience of the way the Silicon Valley works.

With that in mind, I recently took up the offer of an adjunct professorship at NUS Business School, furthering my association with the university as an adviser to NUS Enterprise.

It’s an opportunity for me to share my expertise, to help support ambitious Singapore start-ups and scale them into world-leading enterprises. And it is an opportunity to uncover some “diamonds in the rough” – the emerging business ideas that need that extra little lift to truly shine.

Singapore has already built a solid foundation for its own entrepreneurship ecosystem. It will not be a facsimile of Silicon Valley, but by developing and nurturing its own magic formula it can be part of a new generation of “Valleys” based upon its own culture and circumstances.

With government support and its strong educational infrastructure, Singapore is well past the early phase of generating excitement about start-ups. Its world-class universities are investing heavily in supporting entrepreneurs, fuelling the flames of creativity and turning ideas into viable businesses.

Now the challenge is to focus that energy on developing ambitious entrepreneurs and businesses with regional and even global reach. Doing so requires individuals willing to take that risk, who can develop networks outside of their home turf and are willing to accept and adapt to different ways of working.

It’s also important to seek the advice of others, listening to and understanding what they have to say. As the old Cub Scout motto says, “be prepared“.

PASSION AND PERSONALITY

As an angel investor, it’s exciting to see in Singapore so many optimistic, energised entrepreneurs, eager to bring their products to market. All too often in many parts of the world, scepticism is what dominates. A tendency to find reasons why something won’t work – rather than reasons why it will – spells death to creativity and innovation.

Having instead a positive mindset – a passion for your product – is critical for entrepreneurs to succeed. Passion is about having a belief in your product, that it can change lives and that it is the best it can be.

Equally important is the personality to convey that passion to others, to those who can help bring dreams to reality.

But passion and personality alone are not enough. Dreams, however big and potentially world-changing, can quickly fade or run out of steam, and too often great ideas die because the entrepreneurs behind them are dazzled by short-term success.

Almost always this comes down to the simple reason of failing to set out a viable business plan.

A willingness to take risks goes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. But youthful ambitions must be tempered and risks must be calculated, aligned with a strategy, and drafted into a comprehensive plan.

To experienced business leaders, this might seem obvious. For headstrong and ambitious young entrepreneurs, however, this can often be ignored in an overconfident rush to get their product to market.

FEAR OF FAILURE

Among many of the younger generation, especially here in Asia, there is a drive to start a business simply because everyone is doing it. Enthusiasm should be encouraged, but it should also be moderated – passion must be balanced with pragmatism.

Increasingly, I read articles or hear talks saying entrepreneurs should not be afraid to fail, that a cultural fear of failure – especially here in Asia – is what prevents many from realising their entrepreneurial potential.

I believe this risks encouraging the wrong mindset.

If you think about failure and you have a safety net, people begin to think, “Oh, I can fail, and there won’t be any consequences”.

Many Asian cultures have an inbuilt aversion to failure – I don’t believe that is a liability; instead, it is an asset.

In the hundreds of start-ups I have mentored, we never talk about failure, only success. To borrow a phrase from Apollo 13, failure is not an option.

Yes, mistakes are inevitable; but I believe that over-emphasising failure encourages the wrong mindset.

In Silicon Valley, companies are born and die every day. There is no safety net and that is a powerful influence pushing entrepreneurs to succeed.

LAUNCH PAD

Singapore’s prosperity comes in part from its fortunate geography, placing it at a key strategic trading crossroads. It is still an important asset. Today that position and Singapore’s cultural mix are competitive advantages that can help it become a world-class launch pad for entrepreneurs and their ideas.

Generating the critical X factor energy to fuel this means adopting and adapting aspects of Valley culture, and then fusing them with Singapore’s own unique strengths and advantages.

After 30 years in the start-up business, I am excited to bring my advice and experience to NUS Business School, helping to bring this into reality and mentoring a new generation of global entrepreneurs.

The writer is Adjunct Professor of Strategy & Policy at the National University of Singapore Business School, CEO of Lee Technology Consulting, and an angel investor, venture capitalist and mentor to start-up management teams.

Ike Lee’s Eight Tips For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and angel investor Ike Lee recently joined NUS Business School as an adjunct professor. Here are Ike’s top eight tips for aspiring entrepreneurs eager to bring their game-changing business idea into reality:

Focus on the customer

“Successful businesses are always built around the customer and the customer experience. Give total attention to meeting your customers’ needs and develop your idea and product from there. Every decision and every feature of your product should be assessed and framed according to how it improves the customer experience.”

Target the small but significant

“Most entrepreneurs want to change the world, to come up with something completely new. In fact most of the biggest successes come from making small changes, reinventing something that is used every day. Home automation start-up Nest, which was bought by Google in 2014, took a boring and neglected piece of technology – the everyday thermostat – and turned it into a multi-billion dollar business.”

Soak up advice

“Networking is crucial and it is important to meet as many people as possible, absorbing as much advice as you can. Learn to process and sort that advice, see through the noise, and think clearly how you apply it to your business.”

Practice your pitch, and practice again

“Elevator pitches have become something of a Business School cliché but are very useful for a variety of reasons. There is no set format to a successful pitch, but learn to tell your story in 10 seconds or less. It not only grabs the attention of a potential investor or mentor, it also helps focus your mind.”

Have a plan

“Do your market research thoroughly, know your potential customers inside out, and build a plan with short-term and mid-term projections. Put down on paper a process that show your concept works, and that the risks will pay off.”

Trust your instincts

“If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. This is especially true when choosing a business partner, mentor or investor. Often I hear people say ‘I felt something wasn’t right about it, but I went ahead anyway’ – 99.99 per cent of the time, that’s when everything starts falling apart.”

Avoid talk of failure

“The start-up industry is driven by results and track record. Mistakes happen, yes, but failures – especially avoidable failures – will be held against you. Many people think there is a lot of money going around looking for new businesses to start and it doesn’t matter if you fail. But that is someone’s money. And it does matter.”

Don’t be discouraged

“Knockbacks are inevitable and some people will underestimate or look down on you. Take this as a challenge. Entrepreneurship is about believing in yourself and constantly pushing forward. I actually came to enjoy it when people looked down on me; it made me more determined to work harder and prove myself.”