Radical Openess

This video by Jason Silva is brilliantly made. He talks about the birth of an idea and how it evolves over time. Anyone involved in creative pursuits knows the transformative power of a single ‘idea’. The ability for it to transform as we iterate to refine it further. To create something of value where there was nothing before. This video does a great job of encapsulating these ideas into a 2 minute video masterpiece.

January 2013

I have enjoyed writing regularly this month. However, several of my posts this month, have had little or nothing to do with tactical advice on entrepreneurship. The reason for this was that I wanted to address some psychological and meta issues that are actually large stumbling blocks on this journey.

With the start of the new month I want to announce that this year I want and plan to write a short book on “The Journey to Product/Fit” (working title). Instead of writing the book in the form of a more tactical guide I am toying with the idea of writing it as a story. As I have discovered personally, there are several issues along this journey which cannot always be explained with a precise tactical advice.

I want to make this process a lot more interactive and get feedback as I am writing. I will be releasing more information along the way in the coming days. If you are interested in getting on to a list which will give you more access to the book please do subscribe on the link below to get updates.

Journey to Product/Market Fit Inside Group

Foursquare in South East Asia

Foursquare is a simple mobile based service that gives you the ability to checkin to places you visit on a daily basis. In return you get badges, rewards and it turns into a social activity that keeps your friends updated with the whereabouts that you choose to share. The surprising factoid is about its massive adoption in SEA. It generates a tremendous amount of very valuable data that can be used in a host of third party applications. If you are building a social product in SEA you should definintely look into integrating foursquare into it.

The Democratization of Entrepreneurship

I reference Steve Blank in many of my posts. His methodology of customer development is in my opinion mandatory reading for any entrepreneur. Many times I get emails asking about certain aspects of the framework. This video however does a far better job of getting major points across.

I would highly recommend that everyone take an hour out of their schedule and watch this lecture if you have not done so yet.

Identifii – What sort of person am I?

This is a guest post of an interview that I did with Phil O’Brien – an entrepreneur exploring the value of Personal Networks. He has a very interesting blog and I would highly recommend taking a look at it.

In my exploration of Personal Networks, I’ve come to the conclusion that the process starts with a fair degree of self awareness. I’ve always been a “self help” addict – and many years ago I became interested in psychometric testing after undertaking a Myers-Briggs MBTI test. Since then, I have worked with a business psychologist in a number of ventures – and it’s added terrific value. Interestingly, the most pleasing thing with psychometric testing is the synergy between the individual gaining self awareness, the team involved having a shared “score” to communicate around – and the organisation seeing the economic benefit of building long lasting teams with complimentary skill sets.

I recently stumbled upon a start up called Identifii, based in Singapore. It’s an interesting business that focusses on a young audience to make sure they start on the right career path. The key to this is helping with self awareness through psychometric testing.

I chatted with Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh about his new business. First off, he gave me his vision for Identifii: “The right people in the right jobs results in a better world.” That’s a big idea – I like that!

Usman has recognised an issue – and wants to solve it. “The primary problem we aim to solve is one of incorrect career path selection. I graduated from college nearly 5 years ago and when I catch up with old friends, I estimate that over 70% of them, are not entirely happy with what they do on a daily basis. However, they are at a point in their lives, where change has become an extremely difficult option and the decision to ‘just to live with it’, is how they resolve the issue. Many of them selected career paths at graduation, paths which were not always suited for who they were, but rather paths chosen and based upon other factors, such as employer brand or monetary compensation.”

Identifii is focussed on Gen Y – the 16-25 year old college graduate, Facebook generation. In fact, after applying to be part of their Alpha test group, the only way to log-in to the system is via Facebook. So I dusted by FB ID off (an old git like me only uses it to keep an eye on the kids) – and gave the service a try. Five minutes and 20 questions later, I had my psychometric test done – and guess what, they had got me 100% right. See the analysis below!

I’ve been called many things in my life – but I think that I like “Colourful Storyteller” the best! From Identifii’s dashboard, I found out that famous people of my “type” – ENFP (Extrovert/iNtuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) – include Charles Dickens, Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock & Meg Ryan. Cool!! Top three career paths were Journalism, Public Relations and Entrepreneurship. I shared the comments with a couple of friends – and they chuckled at the weaknesses … “Lack of discipline in following through on important detail”, “propensity to focus on what’s achievable rather than what’s doable” and “tendency to become bored or side tracked after creative process is done”. How they laughed – got me in one!

I thought back to when I was leaving school and had a difficult time choosing between a career as a civil engineer, social worker or photo-journalist. Luckily, back then I somehow selected the right career path – with Identifii it would have been so much easier!

I asked Usman why he had created Identifii. “I was at University finishing my Economics degree and thought that I would become an investment banker. Luckily, I did an internship before I graduated and realised it was not for me. I went off to Cambridge University (England) and got my qualification as a certified psychometric consultant. It let me explore how people made choices.”

“I then build a relationship with Psytech – a vendor of psychometric tests – and in 2007 they granted me a license for their products in Pakistan. One of the opportunities I had in Pakistan was to work with 200 graduating MBA students. These graduates felt destined to work at the big multi-national companies (MNCs) like Unilever, P&G, Standard Chartered, etc. I understood the attraction of the large brand and the paycheck – but realised that for 60/65% this was not a good long-term fit.”

Usman could see the opportunity – but felt it was not the time to pursue. He headed back to Singapore and worked with friends developing Hatch Media in to the leading Youth Marketing Agency in the country. He discovered a lot about the 16-25 demographic from his experience there – the Generation Y.

When he saw the exponential growth in Facebook in 2009-10, Usman realised that the time was right to bring Identifii to market. He knew his idea needed major distribution – and FB was the channel.

As with all start-ups, it’s not been plain sailing. He explained how joining the Founders Institute in Singapore was a turning point. He made connections, found mentors to help refine his ideas – and was able to secure the funding needed to start things rolling.

Usman’s perception of Singapore, South East Asia and the surrounding areas was compelling listening for me. “LinkedIn awareness in Singapore with the youth audience is close to 0%. People here are still choosing careers based on traditional pressures like parents wishes, brands and the paycheck size. I believe that there is an opportunity for SMEs (Small & Medium sized Enterprises) to stop the traditional flow of talent to MNCs. We aim with Identifii to job match young talent with more satisfying jobs in the SME sector.”

I was surprised that the Identifii platform only allows access via a Facebook log-in. Usman explained: “We chose Facebook as a way to filter who came in to the site. LinkedIn also has very little take up in the region. However, in the future we will offer a straight forward log-in process and customer validation with Twitter and LinkedIn.”

Usman has a very intuitive feel of the youth audience. “Graduates have typically 6-800 friends on Facebook – it’s a new personal asset that this generation just takes for granted. It’s ‘just there!’. These links through their lifetime will be the links that will create partnerships, job offers and other opportunities.”

Identifii is currently in Alpha testing. He’s opened it up to about 150 people who he knows – or in my case have registered interest. It’s already seen a viral effect with 2,000 folk now using the service. I must admit at the end of the psychometric test when you say “you’ve got me dead right” – it does make you want to get your pals to give it a try. Quite infectious marketing.

Usman’s target audience is a graduate 2 years out of university or college who has just realised they have taken the wrong career path. Identifii will be there to help them get back on course.

As well as the many job sites on the web, Identifii faces competition from newcomers like Roundpegg, OneDayOneJob and BranchOut. I think Usman’s focus in English speaking Asia is a good strategy – and we might well see it transfer around the world too. As he identifies though: “The biggest challenge is building our relationships with employers to provide jobs for Identifii’s users. We currently have 25 businesses involved – and are aiming for 200 employers by summer. It’s essential we can prove we can match the new found awareness with a suitable job.”

Usman is intending to roll out a whole range of self-assessment/psychometric tests for Identifii. He wants to “democratise” this sort of testing by making them free or low price. He also intends to make them fun – so that people enjoy taking part.

I really like Identifii – and Usman’s vision of making the world a better place by getting Gen Y in to the jobs that match them! Do give Identifii and their psychometric test a try. Please do come back here and tell me what “sort of person you are”!

Semi Unplugging


Everyone goes through periods of intense work/thoughts at work. Periods when, abstract ideas are deconstructed into simpler actionable steps. I went through such a period these past few days. It is at times like these when, to fully soak in what has been discussed and decided, I like to take a few days to do very little. The days can be filled with catching up with friends, movies, reading and writing. It is not a complete disconnect, something I hope to do more often this year, however, it is enough to let your thoughts digest while you focus your attention elsewhere.

This article “Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain“, provides some deep insights on the impact that unplugging has on our brains and our ability to focus.