In these heady days of tech, an entrepreneur is portrayed as a late 20-something, hoodie-wearing, SXSW-attending idea man on a path towards changing the world through an iOS app.
I didn't invent a social network, I have yet to create a cloud application, and I have no idea how to make colorful filters that transform ugly pictures into art.
But I did start a restaurant.
In 2009, with a mix of naiveté and enthusiasm, I opened a Japanese restaurant called Standing Sushi Bar in the brutally competitive Singapore F&B landscape. Two and a half years later, there are two outlets in Singapore, one in Indonesia, and a few more branches and countries on the way.
"Small Talk" aims to throw open the doors of my restaurant and talk about how the technology industry affects small business, which is still the main engine of growth for every country.
So, how did I get here?
Thirty years ago I played Combat on the Atari 2600, and my passion for technology was born (or perhaps it was simply a love of goofing off). Two years later my dad brought home an IBM XT and I began writing programs in BASIC. I got into the BBS scene (does anyone remember atdt commands? Color 64?) and was tickled pink when I received my first Prodigy e-mail address.
Upon entering university I flirted with Tourism Studies and Hospitality. I went to an internship fair and talked to a hotel group representative. He said to me, "Tourism Studies? What is that? You should study something useful. Like accounting." Four years later armed with a Masters in Information Systems, I moved to Seattle, Washington and started working for Microsoft on the Excel product development team. In 2003 I transferred to Singapore to be part of the fast-growing Asia Pacific headquarters and took on a role in developer evangelism. A few years later I joined our community and online support organization, leading our technical community engagement efforts.
Towards the end of 2008, with the global financial crisis looming, Microsoft announced layoffs. While I still had my job I thought it would be good to have a "Plan B." Perhaps I should have tried out one of my numerous app ideas, but instead I went the brick and mortar route. Restaurant!
912.5 sleepless nights later Standing Sushi Bar seems to have found its footing. It came time to make a choice, manage the corporate career while simultaneously running the restaurant or go full throttle with the latter? I went with the one that allows me to own my time--my business.
It hasn't been a happy shiny bout of fun. Operating the business has been more like running a marathon with a leg cramp.
Here's what I didn't know about running a restaurant: Everything.
Here's what I do know: Technology
So that's what I'm going to talk about.