Why Design Matters for Your Startup


Now that startups have become a legitimate option for lots of young folks fresh out of college, it’s important to keep in mind that not all startups are created equal. If you talk to the digerati, they will tell you what separates good startups from the mediocre ones and what separates the insanely great startups from the great ones. Often times, you hear the word “design” a lot! Indeed, great designs can make your startup stand out from the herd, big time! Personally I tend to spend longer time with web and mobiles apps that are more visually appealing to my own sense of “design”. I just glanced through my phone’s screen and selected a few design-oriented apps – that I use religiously everyday – to show you what I really mean here.

1. Twitter -> Simple

I fire up my Twitter app whenever I am waiting in line in a postal office or having to sit through a tedious commercial during an NBA game. The Twitter mobile app is simply and addictive. I guess simplicity is what makes Twitter so great, especially for entrepreneurs thirsty for knowledge whenever and wherever possible.

2. Circa -> Clean

I love news apps like Circa. Co-founded by Matt Galligan, Circa is the kind of news app that can literally change your life. I now get all my breaking news from Circa – i.e. Malaysia Flight 17 & Gaza Conflict. And the clean design takes away all the unnecessary distractions so you can just focus on what matters – reading.

3. Instagram -> Minimal

Instagram is a photo sharing app. I am happy it’s designed that way. The designers at Instagram make the app just about taking photos and sharing. The single focus made it one of the most viral apps ever created. That’s why Facebook snapped it up so quickly. And it doesn’t hurt to have celebrities and brands endorse it too – Taylor Swift, Lebron James, Nike, Red Bull, etc.

4. Skype -> Practical

I believe mobile apps should be like utilities, something we use everyday for practical purposes. Skype is definitely one of those that have all the “utility” characteristics to me. I love how practical it is when it comes to team collaborations & communications. It is a must-have work app for my everyday life. The new iPhone design makes it even more practical.

5. Pocket -> Organized

Pocket is my “read it later” app. As an entrepreneur, I like to make things organized to make them manageable. Pocket is just one of those apps that make my life a little easier. Everyday, I stumble upon many useful articles and blog posts on Twitter, Techmeme, or someone’s newsletter. If I don’t have time right then to read them, Pocket simply lets me save them to read later. It’s one of my favorite mobile apps.

You may have noticed that I showcased lots of news apps in this lineup – well, Twitter is kinda like a news app to me. That’s just my personal taste. I am sure you can find a multitude of well-designed apps in the e-commerce, payment, or entertainment categories as well. But you get my point. “Good design” makes your startup stand out big time. Good design is what Steve Jobs means by “insanely great!” Our next Demo Night event only focuses on “design-driven” startups. Check it out here.


Best Steve Jobs Quote Ever


I came across this quote again yesterday. It’s, indeed, the best quote ever from the legendary Steve Jobs. It keeps me going everyday. Thought I’d share it here just for the record.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steven Paul Jobs

My Announcement to Coinvent NY Meetup Chapter


Whenever we make changes that are likely to affect our Meetup members, we make sure that communications are made in a timely fashion. Earlier today, I sent a message to our NY Meetup chapter regarding upcoming changes coming to this group. Here is my message:

Good day to all!

It was a good run in the last five years! Really enjoyed having you all. I believe in making incremental changes within reasonable time frames to make us the strongest and fittest in the ecosystem that we are in.

Today with this message, I would like to announce a few changes that will likely affect this Meetup group:

1. The group name has been changed to “Coinvent NY (a.k.a NYEBN).” NYEBN will represent the NY Chapter of the Coinvent Network going forward.
2. With the new name, there is a new website as well – www.coinvent.co­. We will make small changes to this site in the coming weeks to reflect new programs we are about to launch.
3. Our mailing list goes national with 16,390 current subscribers. Each Monday, we send out our weekly newsletter. No crap. All valuable info to startups and entrepreneurs. We don’t want to invade your inbox with info you can find elsewhere. Subscribe for free at www.GetCoinvent.com­.
4. Now you can follow us on Twitter at @CoinventNetwork­.

That’s it for now. Signing off.



Why I Started Coinvent




How do you organize a community? I think the answer depends. In a functional community, everyone needs meaningful content and purposeful forces that move them towards a common direction. In the past 5 years, these forces helped me build NYEBN and now they will start to shape the next innovation platform – Coinvent.

The word “Coinvent” was created out of a brainstorming session, where my colleagues and I discussed entrepreneurship and external forces that make innovation possible - such as co-working spaces, hackathons, mentorships, etc. In the process of building a startup, most founders seek out partners or co-founders as their companies in the journey. Collaborative efforts are essential to successfully complete a project from a to z. To some extent, we are all “co-inventors” that rely on each other within an inter-connected support system. So that’s how the name came about.

How will Coinvent benefit the startup ecosystem? Well, by definition, Coinvent is a media company that creates quality content and events to connect startups, investors, and business owners around the world. It is a platform to share content and move resources to where entrepreneurs need them the most. The key word here is people. And our events and content are the catalyst to help them connect.

Within the past 5 years, NYEBN had thrived with its Meetup group and a mailing list. Communication tools such as Meetup and Mailchimp are indispensable resources for managing a “tribe-like” organization. We will continue to incorporate these tools in the process of growing the Coinvent community. At Coinvent, our events cover wider geographical areas and our content reaches every corner in the world.

Last but not last, let me point out the common denominator for such a global innovation community – courageous people like you! Our community is created by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs! Welcome to the “tribe!”


User Development on a Shoestring


My friend Matthew Capala did a Q&A with me about my experience in the past 5 years building the NYEBN community. I thought he asked great questions. Original post is here. I am reposting the interview here.

“In order to build a powerful brand on platform like Meetup, you must be unique and indispensable in what you do for your community. Learn to differentiate yourself. Second, you must constantly give away value to keep growing your community. That means no BS talk. Everything you do must generate direct or indirect value to your users. Many community organizers fail because they put their personal agenda ahead of everything else. “

Says Andrew Wong (@andyrwong), the founder of NYEBN, the most vibrant and one of the largest start-up communities in New York.

I was looking forward to do this Q&A with Andrew, and it’s finally here. I am one of the many fortunate entrepreneurs Andrew has mentored and helped over the years. I have tons of respect for his work in growing the start-up scene in NY.

Andrew is a tech entrepreneur living in New York City. He is the founder of NY Entrepreneurs Business Network (NYEBN), which connects entrepreneurs and startups and runs one of the largest entrepreneur Meetup groups. He enjoys meeting with entrepreneurs and talking about their “world-changing” startup ideas.

Andrew blogs about his entrepreneurial lessons on his personal blog (andrewwong.me). One my favorite reads on his blog is this list of 10 books every entrepreneur should read.

In the Q&A with SearchDecoder Andrew shares the ‘under-the-hood’ tips, tools, and lessons of start-up marketing and user development he learned growing the NYEBN list to 30K users on a shoestring.

[Read more...]

My Talk to The Integrated Marketing Class Students at NYU


I was a guest lecturer to the integrated marketing graduate students at NYU earlier today. The whole talk was about 60 minutes long. I had a lot of fun sharing career advice, discussing the NYC startup scenes, and participating in the Q&A process with the NYU students. This is the presentation slides. I tried to keep the slide deck simple and efficient since it was mostly used to guide my train of thought. Thanks to my friend Matthew Capala for inviting and allowing me to talk to his students.

Tech in China


I have written about the rising tech trends in China lately. With companies such as Weibo and Alibaba filing for their IPO in the US, we will only talk about this topic more. I am a fan of a16z’s tech podcast series. In this particular episode titled “Tech and China,” Chris Dixon, Connie Chan and Benedict Evans discuss the tech in China, and what western companies can learn from Chinese tech companies.

More On MBA: Is It Worth It?


MBA - Master of Business Administration

I have written about this topic at length before. NYEBN also held an event this month called “Do Entrepreneurs Need MBA’s.” Here is another interesting read I had over the weekend, from an HBR post titled “An MBA Holds its Perceived Value, Even in Lean Times.”

The study was conducted for nearly 21,000 business school alumni around the world. Here are the findings:

  • 95 percent of recession-era graduates rate the value of their MBA or master’s degree in business as good to outstanding, compared with 94 percent of those graduating in other years.
  • 95 percent of business school recession-era graduates agree that the degree was personally rewarding, compared with 94 percent of those graduating in other years. Findings are similar when alumni consider whether their degree was professionally rewarding (91% of graduates in a recessionary period compared with 90% of others).
  • Knowing what they know now, 96 percent of both groups of business school alumni would still pursue the degree.
  • 79 percent rate their degree financially rewarding, compared with 75 percent of business school graduates during non-recessionary years.
  • 69 percent agreed that their job adequately compensated them, compared with 67 percent of graduates outside of recession years.
  • 84 percent said their degree was essential to their employment, compared with 83 percent of the other graduates.

The author went on to draw the following conclusion:

Perhaps no one wants to graduate into a recession — but for those who got their graduate business degrees during recessions, our findings suggest that regrets are not in order. Holders of MBA and other graduate business degrees overwhelmingly feel they are better off having earned the degree. The skills, experience, and networks gained during business school yield returns regardless of the job market at graduation and may be even more valuable in a tight job market.

Another finding from our alumni survey suggests that the payback on an MBA degree accrues over the long term. Analyzing responses from graduates as far back as the class of 1959, we find that earlier graduates are more likely to rate the value of the degree highly than recent graduates, consistent with findings from previous years. Our interpretation of the result? The knowledge, networks, and experience gained in graduate business programs yield rewards – financial, professional, and personal – over the course of careers, come good times or bad.

So how much is your MBA degree worth? Is it worth it to make an investment to get one? Will it advance your business career? There is no right or wrong answers. It depends on who you are and what circumstances you are in. But every piece of information helps. You have to understand how others feel about their MBA’s in order to make a decision on your own. So let us know what is your experience with your MBA degree in the comment area.

Celebrating The Innovative DNA’s For These Entertainment & Media Startups



We all know that there is a thin line between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. The recent signs indicate that the overlapping audience for both industries is incredibly large. As a matter of fact, technology and media companies are both innovating in an attempt to gain a foothold in each other’s business. Amazon (technology company) launched FireTV (my review) last week, its answer to Roku and Apple TV. And HBO (media company) debuted a new show called “Silicon Valley” last weekend which is geared towards their startup audience.

I believe this is the right timing to showcase the innovative DNA’s for some best entertainment and media startups in New York and around the world. NYEBN’s Startup Demo Night #23 focuses preciously on that space. It’s worth pointing out that Cheek’d has been featured on Shark Tank before. And this will be their second time pitching at an NYEBN event. Here are the entire lineup for next Thursday’s event:

  1. Metodi Filipov - Co-Founder at Flipps Media ( @FlippsTV )
  2. Nathaniel Casey - Co-Founder and CEO at Blazetrak ( @Blazetrak )
  3. Lori Cheek - Founder and CEO at Cheek’d Inc. ( @Cheekd )
  4. Steven Rosenbaum - Co-Founder and CEO atWaywire ( @waywire )
  5. David Larkin - Founder and CEO at GoWatchIt.com ( @GoWatchIt )
  6. Jeb Balise - CEO at PuzzleSocial ( @PuzzleSocial )
  7. Michael Jaschke - Co-Founder and CEO at 48Bricks Inc. @48Bricks )
  8. Paolo Gaudiano - Founder and CEO at Infomous, Inc ( @InfomousClouds )
  9. Paul Canetti - Founder and CEO at MAZ ( @mazdigital )
  10. Katerina Vorotova - Co-Founder at Try the World@TrytheWorldBox )

The event hashtags are #NYEBN and #CBS (a.k.a Columbia Business School). Tickets are on sale at http://demonight23.eventbrite.com.

Amazon Fire TV Review



This would be my first gadget product review. I am a user of almost all Amazon-related products – Kindle, Audible, IMDB.com, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Prime. So when Amazon launched its own set top box “Fire TV” this week, I jumped on the bandwagon right away. My FireTV arrived early Friday morning. I have been testing it over the weekend. Here is what I’ve found. Hope this is useful for you to make a purchasing decision.

1. Faster Speed – Fire TV has a quad-core processor and a 2GB memory, which is superior to Roku 3, Apple TV and Chromecast. The speed is insane when you navigate through different apps, movies or TV show titles.

2. Voice Control – The painful experience of using your Roku remote to slowly spell out your search keywords has become a thing of the past. The voice control feature on Fire TV now lets you speak into your remote directly and a list of related titles will pop up in front of you right away. Fast and efficient!

3. IMDB Integration – I buy these streaming players not because I need their functionalities (they are more or less the same). The reason I buy them is because I feel the need to adapt to an ecosystem, such as Apple TV (Apple) or Chromecast (Google). With Fire TV, I absolutely love the fact that now I can see the IMDB show ratings right on my TV. No need to use a second screen to search for a movie. Honestly, Amazon has surprised me with this feature.

4. Gaming - I am only a casual gamer. I only play games to relieve stress. I think the ability to use a game console to play games on Fire TV is a game changer. Especially for a casual gamer, you probably don’t need to buy an Xbox or PlayStation as those are more sophisticated gaming platforms.

In the end, I am not disappointed with Fire TV. It has so much potential. I think Amazon can do so much more in the future to make it better. To begin with, I certainly want HBO GO and MAX GO added as it currently only has Showtime Anytime. Also, it would be nice to include third party titles from Netflix and Hulu Plus in the voice search results. Again, this is a very crowded market. As a big Amazon Instant Video user, Fire TV is a must-have for me. I hope Amazon will keep enhancing its features and increasing its app selections with future updates.