2016 - year 0 of my baby

Like wildflowers, you must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.

January 12, 2017 - 4 minute read -
personal development life vase

Someone once sent this to me, and that is what 2016 turned out to be - a year full of exploration.

I travelled to a place that I will never forget (Lake Toba) at January, as a sabbatical before we commence work on Vase full time. And boy oh boy, that is a GREAT place. I finished reading my paperback books the first day I got there.

Lake Toba

Staring at the lake, going into mountains that nearly no one had been into, swimming in one of the largest lake on the planet, eating lobsters for breakfast, plucking mangoes from the trees and eating their skins with it, turned out to be a fun thing to do.

We walked across villages, and there was a school. Kids in there rushed out and they are fascinated by what we are, as if we’re some alien creature (much like when Spaniards landed in the Aztec empire back in the 15th century, except we didn’t wipe out their civilisation)

This made me understood why VR will be a big deal. Maybe it will be a commercial failure, but it will still inject dreams into minds of people that have yet to think about what’s outside of their world, and what they can achieve in that world. The next time that i’m going back, i’m definitely bringing a goggle with me, their reaction will be out of the world.

Let’s dive in to work

In my 2015 year in review, one of my goals is to keep Vase alive. And damn did it flourish.

Here’s what happened to Vase in 2016:

  • Got into Digi Accelerate
  • Now have one of the largest panelist database in Malaysia
  • Became default alive
  • Got our first F500 client
  • Started operations in Singapore

One of my friends told me that my goal is too unambitious, it’s not something that I would set as a goal. I completely disagree, considering year 0 of a startup is generally the hardest. Most founding teams break up during this period, give up (with multiple reasons, prominent one being no market demand for the startup’s product) during this period.

Got into Digi Accelerate

4 months in to building Vase, our first investor came on board. It’s a strategic decision due to the industry that we are in. We are sent off to Thailand and for 4 months & got coached by people who’ve done things that we want to do. For that 4 months, I ate chicken rice daily (except for Monday, god damn it chicken rice place), and met incredible individuals, who became friends.

The Thai startup scene is fascinating, it really feels like a family. Every company is willing to share knowledge to the community, something that I feel the Malaysian communtiy lacks.

Became default alive

This is a big deal for me personally. From young I have always built businesses that are sustainable. Burning to grow, with shitty unit economics, to gain market share in order build moat and gain monopoly didn’t appeal me a lot. Although chances are you can make a lot of money with that method as well. What did appeal me is gaining monopoly by building a moat with superior product, distribution channel, brand, network effects & have healthy unit economics.

After a year of running Vase, I still believe it’s doable. Especially for B2B startups with a sufficiently high barrier of entry. There’s still a chance where you are forced by competitors to engage in a capital warfare of lowering prices, but lesser.

Started operations in Singapore

Now I can brag about running a MNC 💁🏻 But seriously, going from 1 to 2 country is a leap, but from then on going from 2 to 100 is gonna be a snap (in terms of tech)


Some key learnings from year 0

  • Always be experimenting, we originally thought that our early adopters are gonna be other startups, but it didn’t turn out that way. We had go for enterprises instead.
  • I realised startups are hard 1 year in. Didn’t really feel the crunch before that, maybe my responsibility is growing too fast and now I am finally forced to grow my competency.
  • Operational exellence is the difference between dead or alive, always try to choke yourself to death by doing better.
  • Ability to learn things faster than normal humans is important.
  • Present issues represent failure of planning in the past.
  • Hiring is hard, but don’t slack on it. Subpar people have enormous ability to undermine excellence.
  • Mentors are important, and I am incredibly grateful for all the mentors that helped Vase along the way.
  • There’s still a long way to go!

2017, Onwards and upwards.

I will be writing a series named “Thank you” for 2017, to thank people who directly/indirectly helped me with my journey on building Vase.

As I mentioned earlier, I will need to grow my competency as fast as my responsibility grows, that translates to delegating. We are hiring, but maybe more interestingly for you, I have a position that’s unlisted on our site, drop me an email at z@vase.ai if you have the will to grow with me!