Favoring Entrepreneurs That Have Already Failed

It’s true that entrepreneurs have high highs and low lows. There are terrifying nail biting moments — moments when you aren’t sure if an idea would work, moments when you wonder if you’ve jumped the gun by agreeing to go ahead with an idea, moments when you feel like you’re at the brink of falling into a blackhole of failure. Yes, entrepreneurs are amazing people. But entrepreneurs who stick on and brave the odds no matter how strong the headwinds are, these entrepreneurs have my utmost respect.

David Cummings on Startups

Recently I was talking to an entrepreneur that was trying to figure out the next step for his startup. After digging into things, I realized it was him and some outsourced developers working on the business. There really wasn’t a team since all the programming was contracted with a third-party and he was only person pushing the business forward. My advice was that he needed to find a co-founder that complemented his skills. He then asked what else he should look for in an entrepreneur.

I told him I like entrepreneurs that have already failed at one startup and are still eager and ambitious to do the next one.

Failure shouldn’t be celebrated, but it also shouldn’t be shunned. I don’t like failing, but whenever I fail, I learn a tremendous amount and it helps keep me humble. Entrepreneurship has high highs and low lows, so when an entrepreneur weathers the difficult…

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Positivity & Gratitude: Spread the Smiles


Life is truly the school of hard knocks. We’re never prepared for the curve balls that come our way! But I think what makes life that much more bearable is positive thinking and positive affirmation. A conscious state of gratitude goes a long way, too.

I write this today in memory of those who have gone missing on MH370. I cannot begin to imagine the sense of loss and grief their family members have gone through and are still going through; the regret they feel for the things they could’ve done, words they could’ve have said, encouragement they could’ve given when there was still time — and how this all now weighs so heavily upon their conscience.

One thing this tragedy has made me realise is that my problems aren’t really that big; there are others with far heavier burdens to bear. I have my loved ones with me, and, unlike those who have lost their families so suddenly and tragically, I still have time to say positive things and do what I can for them. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, things to laugh about.  I have learnt how wonderfully cathartic and liberating it can be to unburden my deepest fears to The Wife, with the absolute faith that she will support, protect and make things easier for me however she can.

What this tragedy has also struck in me is the importance of doing what we can to touch the lives of those we love, work with or come into contact with. Because a little bit goes a long way. Because it puts a smile on your face and theirs. And because you want to live each day as if it were your last – with no regrets.

As we approach mid-week, I want to reflect on the power of positive affirmation.

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Husbands/wives – tell your spouses how much you love them. Appreciate them with a hug and a kiss each night before you go to bed and each morning when you awake. Remember and appreciate the littlest thing they do for you – because what may seem little to you might have cost them somehow, just so they can make something happen for you.

Bosses – just like the occasional quick “rap on the knuckles”, a word of thanks or praise goes a long way. It shows that you pay attention to what your subordinates do. It shows humility, too.

Co-workers – Say thank you; praise a colleague’s efforts. Offer to help; be a team player. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, but we’re humans, not dogs.

Parents – I believe that sparing the rod spoils the child. But I also believe that being generous with criticisms and sparing with praise ruins a child’s self-confidence.

Friends – talk about the good times; remember each other’s achievements. Praise each other, and mean it! Encourage one another and rejoice in each other’s successes. Don’t let jealousy get in the way of friendship. No man is an island.


And to yourself – you deserve to cut yourself some slack now and then. Always focus on your good side (not just when posing for photographs J ). Believe you can do what you set your mind to do. If something seems impossible, take a break, regroup and reflect. Believe in yourself, but be aware of and accept your shortcomings. Because if you’ve tried your best and exhausted all avenues then, really, the problem does not lie with you – it just is what it is.

I hope you have a good week ahead. And to the families of those on MH370, my thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies go with you. I hope you find a way to move on. I hope that as much as you mourn the loss of those you love, you will remember to celebrate their lives and all they have lived for.



Growth: A Two Way Street


I read with interest, an article published a couple of weeks ago in The Vancouver Sun: two leading Canadian economists had called for Canadian businesses to expand abroad. What particularly caught my interest was, among the 10 Asian countries for expansion on “Canada’s Next Top Markets” list, half were in Southeast Asia (SEA). And five of the Asean Big Six comprise Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

This ‘Look (Far) East’ policy isn’t exactly new among Western countries. Southeast Asia has seen a surge in recognition by superpower and rising economies, with prime ministers from Britain, Canada, China, India and Japan – to name a few – have come a-courting.

The growing interest is understandable: Asean remains one of the most rapidly growing regions of the global economy, due to its overall competitiveness as a low cost manufacturing hub and its fast growing domestic consumer markets. The increase in mid-income households, inter-Asian trade and manufacturing supply chains with Northeast Asia and expansion in infrastructural spend and urban development also play an important role in elevating the Asean economy as a whole. Once Asean becomes a single economic bloc in 2015, accessibility to one market means you gain access to others within Asean.

I am undeniably a strong advocate of Canada’s expansion in the Asean region and was glad that the Harper administration had signed a joint declaration of cooperation with Asean under the Global Commerce Strategy. In fact, as testimony to our commitment to the region, we set up office in Malaysia three years ago, subsequently opening in Singapore and Hong Kong (headquarters still remains in Vancouver).

But growth is a two-way street: Asean stands to benefit by doing business with Canada and the rest of the developed world, too. For the very reason that different product offerings and skills, and the sharing of knowledge can help diversify economies, better equip human capital, increase productivity and, hopefully, translate to more equitable living in the global society.


Canada is, for me, a country other economies from the East can leverage on.  Canada ranks as one of the top countries in GDP among the G7, no doubt propelled by its sound financial, banking and political systems and the oil boom. Alberta, a province in Southwest Canada, has the third largest proven oil reserve in the world, after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Canada has now joined the ranks of exporting oil nations, and is reported to supply more petroleum to the US than Mexico or Saudi Arabia. Realising the potential in this North American country, China, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia and recently India, have acquired stakes in the Canadian energy sector.


This means an increase in job creation, particularly in cities like Calgary and Edmonton and neighbouring satellite cities. Job creation equals migration and translates to a surging demand in rental housing.

More and more Asians, who traditionally invest in brick and mortar, are beginning to see the wisdom in investing in property in these areas. Of course, it takes time to educate a global public that has constantly equated Canada with Vancouver — which is completely understandable because Vancouver is an amazing place! That said, the  economic fundamentals in Alberta, plus the exemption of inheritance taxes and the absence of restriction on the trading of Canadian property for foreigners positions Canada as a far more viable property investment option than countries in, say, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia which are already experiencing tightening in housing regulations; or America or Europe, which are still recovering from both the subprime crisis and the Eurozone downturn. Basically, what I’m saying is, it is prudent to invest where there is money to be made.

But. Back to the courting of Asean by superpower economies. I hear that US President Barrack Obama is visiting several countries in Asean come April – ah, exciting times indeed!



To Market, To Market…


granville island

I figured it was time for a new picture on my blog header. So I posted a photo of the Granville Island market in Vancouver to replace the previous photo taken on the road to Banff in Alberta.

My latest blog photo of the Granville Island market brings back clear memories of my trip back to Canada in 2011; I had taken my then-girlfriend (now wife) with me and it was her first trip to Canada.

Having been to Granville Island market several times in the nine years that I’d lived in Vancouver and Toronto, I naturally didn’t see things in the same way The Wife did: brimming enthusiasm, wide-eyed excitement and an insane need to stop at every stall. Not at first.

As we walked along, her curiosity began to make sense: The Wife is a great believer that, besides superseding supermarkets as being the best place to get the freshest food and produce, the market is where the community is at its most organic form and the place to (over)hear the latest news and gossips in the surrounding neighbourhood. She has a similar outlook on all the places that she travels to and the people she meets, noticing all the details and trying to interpret it into the larger scheme of things.

I was eventually infected by her enthusiasm and have since had a changed perspective of all the places I travel to – markets included! And I would be remiss if I didn’t share more pictures of the market that The Wife took (the de facto photographer on all our trips 🙂 ). Happy Friday, all!


The history of Granville Island goes back to the late 19th century. The island, little more than two sandbars, was used by the First Nations people to help corral fish. Industrialisation saw a growth of factories, plants, shipyards and sawmills in the 1900s. Today, life in the island is centred around its public market which draws thousands of visitors, all eager to purchase fresh seafood, produce, cheese and breads. The market is known as one of North America’s best markets.




Pate, anyone?


Cheese galore!


The wife’s favourite store, stocked with all kinds of books (close-up below), ingredients and all kinds of knickknacks and bric-à-brac.


At Granville Island market, you get to feed your mind and soul as well as your stomach!


The pier and the view of Vancouver outside the market.


Mischievous little girl that caught  The Wife’s eye.



Why I “Heart” Canada


I recently read in the South China Morning Post, a report about the backlog of more than 45,500 rich Chinese (estimated combined wealth of C$12.9 billion!) waiting for approval of their application to move to British Columbia under the investor visa scheme. The article reminded me of my interview with a Hong Kong journalist who asked about the migration of mainland Chinese and Hong Kongers to Canada, and the growing number of real estate deals made in big cities like Vancouver, Edmonton, etc.

It’s true that Canada is a preferred location for the Chinese – Vancouver is nicknamed “Hongcouver” because of its significant Chinese population (of course, some may beg to differ!). That aside, Canada has seen a growing number of investors and immigrants because of its strong economic fundamentals, banking systems, political stability, and breath-taking nature.

To lend context: Canada’s population in May 2010 was 33,476,688. Canada Census 2011 shows that the country’s population grew by 5.7% in the preceding five years, making it the leader in population growth amongst the rest of the G7. The population increase is more noticeable in Western Canada due to the oil boom and other related services industries (Alberta has the 3rd largest proven oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela).

Albertan cities like Edmonton and Calgary posted the strongest net immigration across Canada  — a 12% population increase compared to the national average according to Census Canada statistics. What’s worth noting is the high population growth in Western Canada is not just made up of foreign immigrants, but also immigrants from across Canada seeking to fill the rising number of job vacancies in the area. An article that appeared in the Calgary Herald late last year reported that Alberta’s employment growth represents four in 10 new jobs created nationally, outperforming Toronto and Vancouver – quite impressive if you consider that Alberta’s population is roughly about 1/10th the Canadian population!

In terms of FDI, Canada has attracted substantial revenue from oil and gas deals with China, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia and, very soon, India. The Consumer Energy Report 2012 estimates that Alberta’s oil and gas sector will attract over CAD$360 in investments over the next 25 years. 

The increasing cache of foreigners and Canadians to the western Canada has triggered an increased demand for rental housing. Which is great for our investors; yields for our properties in these areas have consistently been between 7% and 11%. 

Canada is also home to some of the top universities in the world. As of 2012, Canada was the seventh most popular country for international students, accounting for 6.5% of all post-secondary students in the country. The 2013/14 QS World University Rankings lists 26 Canadian universities – of which three are in the world’s top 50 and nine make the world’s top 200. I am extremely proud that my own university, the University of Toronto is on the top 50 list (no 17).


Indeed, I count it among some my life’s best experiences to have studied, lived and worked in Canada. Sure, every country has its weaknesses and there will always be economic headwinds ahead. But the fact remains that Canada has some of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world, the most breath-taking natural beauty, and one of the soundest political, financial and education systems in the world. I also count myself lucky to be attached to a Canadian company, which allows me to go back to Canada, my second home, often enough.

What Exactly is an Entrepreneur?


What Exactly is an Entrepreuner?

Recently read article written by The Economist’s Schumpeter columnist (click http://econ.st/1jpohIZ to read). The Schumpeterian view is dynamic and highlights the replicators vs. innovators argument. The article also makes mention of a paper that underscores how the number of self-made billionaires a country produces provides a much better measure of its entrepreneurial vigour than the number of small businesses.

A slightly heavy read for a Monday morning…Hopefully the picture (by Ashley Welton) makes it worth the while. Or, at the very least, puts a smile on your face. Happy Monday, all!


What exactly is an entrepreneur?



Recently read article written by The Economist’s Schumpeter columnist (click http://econ.st/1jpohIZ to read). The Schumpeterian view is dynamic and highlights the replicators vs. innovators argument. The article also makes mention of a paper that underscores how the number of self-made billionaires a country produces provides a much better measure of its entrepreneurial vigour than the number of small businesses.

A slightly heavy read for a Monday morning…Hopefully the picture (by Ashley Welton) makes it worth the while. Or, at the very least, puts a smile on your face. Happy Monday, all!

Dream Big, Treat People Well & Have Fun!


Dream Big, Treat People Well & Have Fun!

As a person involved in business, I understand how easy it is to get sidetracked from the things that really matter. Yes, money is important; making a living is important; but we often forget to have fun and treat people well. We also allow the tiny problems and issues that crop up along the way, clutter our path to achieving big dreams.

And isn’t dreaming big part and parcel of being creative? Mary Lou Cook says it especially well — and makes it especially fabulous for a Monday post.

Happy Monday, everyone!


Haffner Peak, Kootenay National Park – Paul Zizka


Haffner Peak, Kootenay National Park - Paul Zizka

The Canadian Rockies is certainly one of the world’s more amazing wonders. I’ve seen it in the dead of winter, at minus degrees celsius and in the summer, and the mountains are beautiful.

I recently read on the Huffington Post about how a lone photographer climbed the Rockies at night. This is one of the pictures taken from Haffner Peak, Kootenay National Park.


Canada – The Next Property Sweet Spot

It is undeniable that brick and mortar is perhaps the best bet when it comes to investment. The past few years have seen many changes in the rules on property purchase in the Asian region, particularly in countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia.

Governments are tightening regulations because of the growing property bubble. As a result, investing in property in these countries hasn’t been easy. I am  a firm believer that there is a cloud in every silver lining: in this case, now’s a great time to look at other property markets that are just as lucrative, if not more so.

I recently wrote an article which appeared in a Singapore publication, which sheds light on how Canada has increasingly become a great place to invest in, particularly in fast-growing places like Edmonton, St. Albert’s and Calgary. Here it is:


SINGAPORE — The Government’s new loan curbs and debt-servicing framework have hit hard at home and are pushing more Singaporeans to overseas properties to seek better returns. Like many Asian investors who have also been hit by property cooling measures, more Singaporeans are looking out for the next sweet spot where prices are lower and investment yields higher than back home.

Traditionally, Singaporeans investing overseas have favoured Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States and, more recently, Canada. Recent statistics indicate that Canada is becoming an increasingly viable, if not better, investment option than the old favourites.

Canada has overtaken Australia, Brazil, China, Singapore and the UK as countries most favoured by foreign investors, according to an AT Kearney annual survey released in June.

From an investment viewpoint, Canada makes sense: It is the top G-7 country in GDP and employment growth in the last 10 years, it has the soundest banking system in the world, and it is home to several of the world’s most liveable cities. It is a politically stable democracy with strong regulations and respect for the rule of law.

However, knowing exactly where to invest in Canada is equally important. Asian investors have begun to recognise the value of Edmonton, a city in Alberta where almost all of Canada’s oil and gas are located.

Unlike Downtown Vancouver and Toronto, which are overpriced, Edmonton has great potential for strong rental returns and capital appreciation.

The energy boom in Edmonton has boosted its employment rate to an impressive 96 per cent, much higher than that for Vancouver and Toronto. Workers in Edmonton also earn 2.6 times the national average. The surge in employment has resulted in an increased demand for housing: The vacancy rate in Edmonton is at 2.5 per cent. St Albert, an affluent satellite city in Edmonton, has an even lower vacancy rate of 0.3 per cent.

Unlike Singapore where current rental yields barely exceed 4 per cent, yields in St Albert, Edmonton, and several Canadian cities average 7 per cent. There are also no buyer and seller stamp duties. Canadian banks typically offer financing of 65 per cent to all investors, regardless of nationality and the number of mortgages they hold.

Ultimately, regardless of where one chooses to invest, due diligence is important. Brick and mortar is often a safer bet than land bank. Investors should partner with a reputable investment company, get a professional assessment of the property they are interested in and find out what the most common real estate scams are.