The past Saturday, I organized a half-day "startup workshop" to give a few young Web 2.0 companies in Hong Kong a chance to share their startup experiences with the general public. The turnout was overwhelming; it was literally standing room only in one of our larger University lecture halls. The attendees were mostly entrepreneurs or students hoping to becoming entrepreneurs.
I kick started the workshop with an informal introduction to Web 2.0 which I called the "Zen of Web 2.0." I had fun comparing Web 2.0 to Zen - "Web 2.0 is you, you are Web 2.0". I thought the "finger pointing to the moon" was a good Zen metaphor for not focusing too much on the technology, rather than the value the Web 2.0 application brings. After thoroughly confusing most people with my Zen stories, I passed the floor to the first speaker - Greg Sung of aNobii.
Greg gave an interesting talk on the importance of iterative development for startups. Greg felt that it was more important to get prototypes and features out the door as soon as possible for others to try, rather than getting stuck in "analysis/design paralysis" on imaginary users. He felt that time well spent with early adopters is a much more effective way to creating Web 2.0 applications. There was also a lighter side to the talk where he compared his site to “match making for geeks.”
The second speaker was Simon Lee of bullpoo. His talk was about how to create and maintain a successful virtual community. Simon compared his community building techniques with techniques in giving a really cool party - you need the right mixture of ambiance and celebrity to attract the right crowd. You also need a lot of "fun" activities to keep people there. This talk seems to resonate greatly with all the young party goers we had in our audience.
David Lee from EditGrid was the next speaker. His talk brought the audience back to reality. Starting up is a lot of hard work and perseverance. But for EditGrid, all the hardwork seem to be paying off. He also explained the process of getting funded and the support the Hong Kong Government was giving in the form of the Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme (SERAP).
Simon Chan of Wazhua.com was our final speaker. He just got startup funding for his new Web 2.0 company, which had to do with "entertainment social networking." Simon took my talk on Zen, "emptiness" and Web 2.0 quite literally and started with a blank presentation. In the spirit of Web 2.0, Simon asked the audience to contribute content to "his" presentation! Unfortunately, this Web 2.0 approach to presentation did not work. Simon ended up having to deliver his own content which was on his experience in starting up in US and Hong Kong. The crowd seemed to like his “be the geek” message.
A common thread that I observed among all the entrepreneur speakers yesterday was their overwhelming enthusiasm, energy and passion for what they do. That might be the real main key to their successes!