Barcamps are informal peer learning meetups. Barcamps feature discussions on various topics – from technology to travel, from science fiction to life-hacks. Barcamps are held all over the world by local volunteers. Usually, these meetups are run on shoe-string budgets at local universities, libraries or IT companies. The main aim is to discover the creativity and talent in the community and learn from each other. There are no invited speakers and no pre-scheduled sessions. The sessions are decided by participants. If you are in a room and find that the discussions don’t interest you, walk out and join the one happening in the next room.
Barcamp Singapore 7 was held at Blk 71 this year.
For this Barcamp, since I was there from 10am all the way till 6pm, I had the opportunity to hear from 8 speakers. While hopping around the various rooms for the talks, the topic of Singapore’s talent pool kept surfacing and became one of the most discussed topics (in my opinion). Apparently, many agreed on the fact that there is a serious startup talent pool problem in Singapore. For those of you who may not know, in Singapore, the “good” and “quality” engineers are poached away by the finance and investment banks even before they graduate. They are often lured away by the attractive offers and hefty starting paycheck from these finance and investment banks who engages in a battle for local talent. This often leaves the startups with minimal choices to choose from in what is already lacking local talent pool, creating the difficulty in looking for quality tech cofounders. Elisha Tan of Learnemy is one such victim, where she shared in her session “Hey I founded a web startup OH SHIT I CANT CODE” that even with an interesting idea and the ability to pay (Elisha received funding from the YES! Fund!), she has still not found a tech co-founder to venture with her.
Let’s forget about the paycheck for a moment – it is arguable that startups might not be attractive enough to entice Singaporeans to join them, because for one, Singaporeans are brought up to believe in the Singapore dream – you get a good education (certificate), you get your car, and you get a safe job with a good paycheck. The risks for entering startups/starting up are too high. It can also be argued that working in huge companies like Facebook and Google is also working in a startup, because one can learn more from the already proven platform and also mingle with the best in the industry, on top of enjoying the awesome facilities and their infrastructures. Personally, I’m with the “working in a startup company” camp as opposed to “Getting a safe job” camp but I think a lot of effort must be done to change the current mindset of the Singaporeans and their perceptions of working in/for startups.
Of course, Jeffrey Paine, the man behind Asia’s Founder Institute scene is trying to remedy the problem with his new initiative, Cofoundify, which is an exclusive mailing list of founders looking for cofounders. Derrick Ko also launched a new initiative called the StartupRoots that places the country’s most elite students in innovative startups in hopes of cultivating quality tech cofounders and promoting the spirit of entrepreneurship in Singapore, which he shared in his topic “Fixing the talent pool – the startuproots way”.
Below are some of few key takeaway from the various sessions that I went:
- There are various programming language out there, and if you decided to pick up and start learning one but couldn’t settle on which language, settle with the language where you could learn from anyone who’s willing to lend a helping hand to you [@elishatan]
- Things in Singapore are broken: Scheme by governments are not churning out the required results and are too focused on starting up companies, and the baseline for talent pool can be improved [@derrickko]
- 3 success factor of a tech company: Hubris, Humility, Humor – need to keep hubris and humility on balance, and that most founders from successful startups enjoy working in their own startup [@dieberman]
- In a founding team, there must be someone FULL TIME on it to kick start it, if not, the progress will be really slow. [@dieberman]
- The problem with outsourced engineers is that they tend to over promise. The rule of thumb is that if they could deliver the job in within twice the original agreed period, the outsourced team is quite ok. [@bleongcw]
- Important to hire someone who is a good teacher as the first employee for your company and he does not have to be the best in the industry, and then you build your team around him. [@bleongcw]
Other than that, there were a few findings and tips that were shared by Jeffrey Paine on his topic “Lessons Learnt from Running Founder’s institute” which I think will benefit everyone:
1. Most of us have bad ideas, but it’s ok – our job is to get rid of the dumb ones.
2. Starting a company is very hard and because of that, nobody is going to steal your idea – the more feedback you get, the better framework you will end up with.
3. Testing your idea or a few ideas is a must. Commit to one and don’t turn back – reason is nobody is really able to judge an idea/product.
4. People often have too small a vision.
5. Disconnected from the happenings in Silicon Valley and do not know about the competitive landscape – Most of us might have the perceived million dollar idea but the fact is, there might already be several similar ideas that have received fundings, and also that are in stealth mode.
- Listen, don’t argue.
- Know your passion and domain expertise
- Those raising money now – close before end of the year
- Get good mentors around you.
- Assume everything will go wrong.
- Keep enough resources for pivoting.
- NO Asshole rule.
- Have fun