Saturday, February 7, 2009

After graduation..

I graduated last May and the job search was very long and  challenging (sometimes frustrating).  Now, I have chosen to go back to an engineering position in a startup in the Bay Area, because I could no longer afford to wait, I do not see any immediate economic recovery, and my long term plan is still the same whether I take up an engineering or marketing position.  If I had an option to change something, I could have tried the traditional MBA routes such as consulting or leadership programs. Back then, I decided against them because I already had lot of experience and did not want to wander for a few more years.

In the meantime, I get a lot of questions from prospective students and I thought I will answer them as separate blog post rather than responding to their comments made on an earlier post.

PS: One of the FastTrack MBA student has shown interest to contribute/take over this blog. Other current MBA program students are welcome to join. Just shoot me an email to add you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Studio Search

I just developed a new feature for my website. It is a Google Maps application that let musicians search a rehearsal and recording studios based on certain conditions like price range and location. Its feature is still limited to Tokyo area but I am planning to add more studios and expand it to all over Japan.

There are 2 reasons I've added the new feature. First, the customer segment is the same as my main business. My website customers being musicians, I thought it might help my main business if the new feature brings more traffic to the website. It's kind of a marketing strategy, but there are a lot of musicians looking for studios to rehearse or do recording, so I might as well offer a solution and be able to increase the site traffic.

The second reason is that I wanted to try my old business idea. I thought of different business ideas in the past, and this studio search was one of them. I didn't go for that idea because I thought I'd better stick to one idea and chose my current business model instead. But if the customer segment is the same, maybe it's not such a bad idea to offer two services instead of one. It's an experiment, but I guess I will find out in a few months.

The best part is that it doesn't cost me much money or time to experiment and bring out a new feature. Once it took me about 6 months to develop the first service since I didn't even know basic html, but now I got hang of some basic programing, it only took me about 10 days from the idea conception to implementation. Not bad. Kudos to Google Maps API and open source community!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My website (Audia) is up.

My website is now officially up and running. To summarize what my website does, Audia is a website for musicians where they can upload their promotion materials and submit to promoters and concert organizers. Musicians can use a template to create promotion kits and make galleries and audio playlists. The website is in Japanese, but please take a look anyway.

It took me more time than expected to complete the website, but for a non-techy like me, it has been a great learning experience putting up a website together and understanding the underlying technology. Of course I could've outsourced it, but for me to become a web-entrepreneur, I think the learning process was both necessary and worth the effort.

Now the real challenge will be marketing the website and generating revenue. Notwithstanding my previous statement, anybody can put up a website if you spend enough time on it. But whether your service can find customers in the market and become a profitable business is another story. I hope MBA education I received at Babson will assist me along the way (otherwise why the heck should I spend so much money on tuition?).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Company registration is done!

In my previous post, I talked about registering a company in Japan. Now it is finally done. My company is called Audia K.K. (acronym for Kabushiki Kaisha, which is c-corp in Japanese). For those of you who know me, it was previously called PhonoVillage, but it was just too damn hard for Japanese to pronounce it, so I changed it to something simpler.

Like I said, I wrote by-laws myself, so there were a few typos and some mistakes and I had to go back'n'forth to the registration office, but it was relatively easy to fix. I am glad I did it all by myself. Now I understand what each clause in bylaw actually means (,which I didn't quite get back in MBA days). For those of you who are thinking about registering a business, it's not as complicated as it seems, and I just can't believe some lawyers charge so much money for something like this.

Now that it's done, I can now put all the paper work behind and work on the actual business. The next milestone will be the lauch of a beta website, which I hope to accomplish within 2 weeks. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 25, 2008 - Guess their business model

If you have not heard GlassDoor before, try it out, before you accept a job offer. To register, you need to give at least one review about your past employer. The site guarantees anonymity of your review. This site is started by former Expedia folks and hence you may see a lot of look and feel like in TripAdvisor.

Their requirement for a review to subscribe is brilliant. They get the content required. What you get out of this service is so good to make one hesitate to lie. (Soon, they may introduce a rating system to kickout people who they think are liars) You provide three levels of information, one a survey response to a bunch of questions related to job satisfaction, comments to management and an approval rating for the CEO. Job satisfaction is pretty useful for users like you and me. I think there is more to collecting management/CEO related information than sharing with the users. I am wondering if they can spin this around and offer as a premium service for management to get some real feedback from the users. What would that mean to companies? Would they pay such external sites to keep their companies attractive to current/future employees? What if data from GlassDoor sets the floor for salary negotiation?

On a different note, LinnkedIn has a profile for each (almost) company that includes data from businessweek and in addition they calculate(to some extent guess based on the number of linkedIn profiles from a company) number of employees, average age, male/female ratio, etc. Even better, they summarize where majority of employers were before coming to a company and where they go next.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

XaaS - How entrepreners decide on what the next "X" would be

Here is the context. In the IT world, for a very long time, we had two versions of offerings. Hosted service and a packaged product. Now, we have everything as a service. SalesForce promoted CRM as a service and propagated the idea of SaaS. Platform as a service, Storage as a service all followed suit.

I hate the current job search process and at the same time I love it too. I learned quite a few things by talking to several companies in a fairly detailed level. One of the startup I interviewed with was a victim of its own publicity and could not handle the traffic and miserably failed. They have come out of it through the use of EC2, Amazon's cloud computing(It is basically infrastructure as a service). Startups are stretched for resources and anything that would come as a variable cost is a welcome sign for them. Whether SalesForce, EC2, Google AppEngine or something else going to win or not is not merely dependent upon the alliances and standards but a lot on what and how entrepreneurs choose such services.

My question is, how savvy are the entrepreneurs to use such "X"aaS? Will they need some consulting help? Or, will there be a need for optimizers to come and help them choose the package, tariffs, usage patterns, etc?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Company registration in Japan

I have been back in Japan for almost a month now. For last couple of weeks, I have been trying to figure out how to register a company. First, I was thinking of registering as LLC because it's cheap. It only costs about JPY 60,000 (=approx.USD600), as opposed to JPY 200,000 (USD 2,000) for a C-corp.

But doing some research, I found out Japanese LLC doesn't have a tax pass-thru. It turns out that Japanese government started allowing LLCs a couple of years ago, hoping a lot of people would start new companies. But they thought people might use it for tax evasion and ended up not allowing tax-pass thru. What the hell were they thinking? In my opinion, LLCs are popular in the States because people hate being double-taxed. Naturally, adoption rate of LLCs has not been so high in Japan. Go figure.

There is another reason why LLCs haven't widespread yet, though. It's credibility. I talked with my friends and business associates, and the conversation would go something like:

My friend: "So you are trying to start a company? That's great."
Me: "Yeah, I'm thinking about starting as a LLC."
My friend: "What is LLC?"
Me: "Well, it's a form of a company."
My friend: "I've never heard of it. Is it even legit? It kinda sounds suspicious."
Me: "...."

It usually goes like this with other people as well. After a lot of consideration, I have changed my mind and decided to go for C-corp instead. Why? I might sound very Japanese, but I don't want my potential clients to think of my business as something illegitimate just because it has LLC on its name. Considering conservative nature of Japanese companies, it's very likely, especially when you are a young startup nobody has heard of.

Now that I decided to go for C-corp, I have to come up with other means to compensate for the extra cost. That's why I am writing company by-laws by myself. That's right. No expensive lawyers who charge you hundreds of dollars for doing simple things like filling out company registration form templates. I am already on boot-strapping mode and saving every penny I can think of. Let's hope the government officials will accept my not-so-professional-looking registration documents.