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Resource  11, Apr 2014

The Toad @ JFDI: Startup founders, you should get a hobby

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Are hobbies important in making founders more effective? We talk to JFDI startups

“One must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life,” Oscar Wilde quotes in his play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. A common startup perception of hobbies is that it detracts founders from a never-ending pile of work. However, we think hobbies are just as essential as work, when followed in moderation.

In a nutshell, hobbies allow founders to network outside their industries, keep a work-leisure balance, as well as create deeper relationships with co-founders. Working on the same idea for a long period can start to breed monotony; hobbies help to address other passions.

Most people at JFDI do have a hobby, of which they talk to you about once you get to know them better. Surawat Promyotin, popularly known as Sam, from Stylhunt shared that his hobbies are music and break-dancing. In fact, he claims that there was a time when he break-danced while Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, princess of Thailand, sang karaoke at his business school reception. He also taught his co-founders how to play the drums and bass guitar, so that they could jam together if the group became too stressed. He also used to run a meetup community for the music-oriented in Thailand and formed many connections there.

Another JFDI startup  XY Security’s Co-founder Harshit Agarwal likes cycling and recently bought a bike to cycle to work everyday. Saulius Šeštavickas from Storyroll enjoys being immersed with nature and camping outdoors. Celuv’s Jesse Lee enjoys playing the guitar in his free time.

If you’re serious about a hobby, does it eventually become a business? There are some cases where yes, it does. If you want examples, perhaps you can read the The $100 Startup. Author Chris Guillebeau has a talent of turning ideas into income, opting out of traditional employment to create the time and income to pursue what he finds meaningful. In preparing to write the book, he identified 1,500 individuals who have built businesses earning US$50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases, US$100 or less), often working in their spare time.

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is actually a trivial comedy for serious people, where the protagonists maintain a fictional personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations. In some ways, that is similar to the role that hobbies may play for founders. Quoting from Chris McCann’s blog, who runs StartupDigest, “Much of the difficulties actually doesn’t come from the business or product itself, but from the psychological stresses and relationship issues of co-founders.” Can hobbies help alleviate these issues?

Please do share your comments below.

Theon Leong

Theon Leong

Theon is a skeptic who believes in possibilities after learning that three thirds of a pie does not add up to one and that cats can be dead and alive at the same time. He writes about business and technology, and is particularly interested in deconstructing complex ideas into bite-sized chunks. His favorite novel is The Little Prince, and spends his free time on chess and video games.

  • Alex Chia

    Making your hobby a business can be dangerous for many especially if they love their business idea too much. And especially if there’s no money in your business. Of course, that said, it’s up to the founder to generate money in the industry and not whine that there’s no money available.

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