My year in review, and some thoughts for the year ahead.
As I enter the final two years of my 30s, I find myself in the midst of a new journey of self-discovery that has taken me towards new work- and life-arcs. I look forward to 2020 with equal parts of fear, hope and awe.
The last time I felt this way was a decade ago, at the end of the previous decade (Nov 2009), as I broke my scholarship bond with 2 years 8 months to go and left public service to launch and run Neoteny Labs with Joichi Ito. Looking back, I think this was a pivotal moment in my “life tree” where *in this deep husky Star Treky voice* multiverses formed around my reality and futures reflowed *echo, echo, echo*. I’m thankful for this twist.
I’ve been trained as an electrical & computer engineer, worked my first job in the public service developing the ICT industry in Singapore and catalysing the startup engineering core, before taking the red pill and switching hats to venture capital, tech incubation and entrepreneurship. There’s been all sorts of ups and downs, such is life, but I’ve generally had a good run, with exits on both investing and entrepreneurship fronts. If I had to reflect critically on how I could have done better, it was that I did not dare to risk more and swing for the fences. It’s about time to step it up a notch (or two).
This time round 10 years later, I find myself at the basecamp of the Mountain of New Beginnings putting together the pieces of a new business that’s firmly in between the world of atoms and bits. This is probably the worse of times (global politico-economic cycles and all) to take risk and start a new company, but it is also the best of times (thanks to my anchor Uzia Sng and our children’s love that motivates) for me to create a bigger impact while attempting to attain escape velocity, by harnessing all that I have internalised over the years; from investing in the confluence of design, software and hardware, to operating at the intersection of ideas, talent and capital.
While fundraising for my new venture recently, I was asked by an investor prospect whether I’m prepared to commit at least 10 years of my life into it. He later asked if I was prepared to sign a 10-year founder vesting schedule. It’s obvious that the age of the unicorns is over, and the rhinos will soon be upon us. The white rhinoceros lives for up to 40 – 50 years. I think any founder setting up a business today needs to be prepared to lead his company for at least 10 years, if not more. Profitability over exits, customer-centricity over unicorn-ability!
I am grateful for all that I have, at peace for that which I have not, while yearning for that something more. It’s an itch deep inside that I’m guessing I won’t be able to properly scratch until this new decade will be over, by which I hope I can claim that I’m sated. I don’t know where it will take me, but I think it’s going to be awesome.
There are only two constants in this world; change, and my family. My better half and our children will always be my best investment. They give me motivation and that inner strength to keep plodding on, no matter the outcome, knowing that I’ll always have them.
May we all find and scratch (all?) our itches in our next 10 years! (And hopefully be scratching them together 🤪). Belated Merry Christmas, happy new year, and a happy new decade to us all.