A letter I wrote to our programmer’s grandfather.

To run a start up, the leader has to make sure everything in peoples’ lives are going well. Working in a startup is not a career, it is a lifestyle. You count the hours you don’t work, and you live and breathe your products. For this reason, my job is not only to make sure everyone has a fulfilling and meaningful career, but also a fulfilling and meaningful lifestyle. Even when the business is going well in every way, personal issues become some of the the toughest challenges in a start up. Family members usually never support working at a startup due to the high risk and initial low compensation, and they give a lot of pressure to startup people, as if there are not enough problems already. In this case, I wrote to our programmer’s grandfather and hope he would approval of what we are doing.

Hello Mr [omit],

How are you doing? I hope life is treating you well! I noticed that Steven has not responded to your email for awhile, so I said he should email you, and then I thought it would be a good idea for me to write you an email too, since that might make you more comfortable with what he is doing here. I felt bad a month and a half ago when Steven told me that he realizes you are visiting him from Aspen and would miss him. During that time, I have actually just returned to CA from Aspen too. I was invited to help out at a conference “Selling without Selling Out: CEOs of socially responsible companies that are bought out by internationals” (I’m just a helper and do not qualify for that title). I got to meet the founders/CEOs of Ben & Jerry’s, Odwalla, Dagoba Chocalate, and a few other great people on a very intimate level, and I have learned a great lot there. Aspen is a great place to be, and if I had known earlier, I would have paid you a visit too there! (assuming you welcomed that obviously)

Future Delivery plans to develop a continous and long term relationship with Steven. Steven and I were good buddies from awhile back. We went to the same high school quite awhile ago. I used to teach him chess and take him to chess tournaments, as well as worked very hard to prevent him from failing Forensics class. It wasn’t a subject that he cared to put much time into, haha. After going to college (UCLA), I became an entrepreneur, and have spent every hour of my spare time trying to build good businesses that make a positive impact in society. Before I gradauted, I conceptualized the concept of converting a virtual world (usually used for gaming and escapism) into a professional tool where people can do business and find jobs in. Essentially, it is a game where, the more hours you spend on it, the more productive you are (our company motto is combine work and play in every single way). The concept is appealing in the sense that we recruited some top talents in the industry, including our CTO, who is a senior engineer in Toshiba, holds 24 patents, teaches at UC Irvine, and was the first employee for Xerox in China. We also put together a very strong board of advisors, including the founder of Google Adsense, the founder of the Google Earth company, the lawyer who worked on the News Corp – Myspace aquisition, and the accountant who worked on the eBay-Skype aquisition.

While I’m building the business, I kept in touch with my high school friends. Steven and others were extremely interested in the project we were doing, and were interested in helping out. Good programmers are always looking for good projects to work on. I heard that Steven, along with Mike and Tony, were very good programmers, and I thought of something that is very intriguing. When I tell the Californian folks that I am from Kansas, they all say it is very random. I thought it would be quite awesome if we formed a Blue Valley team that would become famous when the company starts to make a big impact. The goal is to have it so that, a decade later, when people hear about Kansas, the first things they think about are Jay Hawks, Oz, and Blue Valley. Working with old friends are obviously very fun too. So even though we had a lot of resources and talented people here in California, I invited them to come, and tour around CA too. I’m sure you will agree that travelling and learning from different places and cultures are invaluable experiences that school can never install in you.

So here they are working at our Summer internship. Because of the low resource and nature of the startup, we declared very early before they agreed that they won’t be paid a wage. They came here purely for the fun and challenging project, experience, and seeing CA (besides Steven I would say). After they came, I decided to give them each 5,000 amount of stock options, which may or may not be valuable in the future. Since we plan to build a longterm and continous relationship with Steven, later on we will defintely pay him in the future when we have the resources. Right now we all are at an apartment work station close to UCLA, and half of it is for sleeping, a quarter of it is the work place, and a quarter of it is the gaming place. Right now me, Tony, Steven, Mike, and another person name Chan live here. Besides Chan, we are all from the same high school. Mike goes to UI-Urbana Chapagn (the 4th best school in computer science), and Tony goes to KU. I try my hardest in making sure they have a good environment and are having fun here (which is what the company stands for). I cover their living costs, cook for them, do their dishes, do their laundary, and take them to places. I also sponsored accupressue massages for them. We’re all here to have fun, do good work, and make life more meaningful.

As for the hours, Steven pretty much does everything on his own hours. He would sit in front of his computer, work, surf the net, play games, work a bit, and then go and play video games. It seems like he’s only interested in his computer, video games, and eating. Everyone here plays video games freely, and since I know Steven has an ingrained interest in getting the codes to work, I don’t really monitor much. He’ll do it if it is work that he likes. I’m not sure if that answers your question.

Finally, I did make plans to take them to a lot of places around Southeran California, including famous beaches, Disney Land, Universal Studios, Getty Center and such. However, it seems that Steven and Mike are not interested in going anywhere. Only Tony is excited to go to places. I didn’t want to force them to spend money and go to places that they don’t want to go, so I often let them stay home and play video games and sometimes only Tony goes to certain places. Steven and Mike are really the type that prefer to sit in front of their computers or play video games. However, I did emphasize that being outdoors is important, and made them go out and play basketball once. That is when I realized Steven never played it before and does not even know the rules. Mike also felt it was torture. I also promote walking whenever we can, instead of driving. At this point, I’ve only been able to show Steven Chinatown, Korea Town, Hollywood, Walk of Stars, Chinese Theater, Disney Concert Hall and the UCLA campus. He says that since you suggest it, we can go to the Getty Center to take a look (it is just 10 minutes away). I hope I can take him to more fun places, but it probably depends on his consent.

That pretty much sums up how his life has been here in Los Angeles. I hope I addressed most of your concerns, and feel free to ask more. I know the email is pretty long so I do thank you for reading all of it. I thought it is something that is important in your mind, so I decided to elaborate more on it. I know that you would still like to talk to Steven, so I suggested him to call you in the near future. I think he will do so soon. Anyway, I hope you have a great week, and that you will be successful in every activity you engage in!

With Sincerity and Respect,
Yu-kai Chou
Future Delivery
Tel: 323.633.8323
Fax: 866.734.3124″

Networking: Finding the Common Interest

Networking and building relationships with people is one of the most essential things one needs to do to become successful. When you want to contact someone and meet up(newly met professional or old friend), you want to find a common interest to make the meeting pleasant and enjoyable for both. Maybe you both like golf. Maybe you would both like to visit a museum. But what if you don’t know what that person likes? In that case, there is a pretty universal common interest: food. Statistics show that most people deal with some sort of food one time or another in their lives. It also happens that most people like food. So it’s pretty safe to invite this person to a good food place when you don’t know enough about him/her. If the food is good, timing is possible, and maybe you’ll be treating them (and it’s worth it), most people wouldn’t mind getting some food and talking to you.
When you are talking to a new professional, make sure you don’t put too much focus on his or her professional information and forget about the personal things in his/her life. It doesn’t matter if they’re highly successful people, they’re still people, and until you show that you care about them as real people instead of their titles, you will have a hard time building a true relationship.

In regards to conversations, if you know the person likes something that you don’t, do not lie and
pretend you like it. You’ll lose any sense of credibility very soon. You could reveal that you do not know much about that topic but is interested to learn about it. That’s a good way to have a good conversation on something without needing much knowledge to it. Most people like explaining and teaching things they are passionate about, as long as you can keep yourself from drooling. However, besides having an open mind to learn, being genuinely concerned about the other person often helps in being more interested towards subjects that he/she is passionate about.
If you know what makes people smile, your day will turn out much better.

Awesome Wizkids from Kansas

For the Summer, Future Delivery invited 3 young programmers who are 19-20 years old from Kansas to help us develop our FD World platform and FDCareer.com launch (in the next few weeks). I call them Team Blue Valley because they were all actually from Blue Valley High School in Kansas. I converted my 1 bedroom apartment into a work station with desks connected, and added another bed in the bedroom. Right now we have Team BV sleep in the bedroom and do work in the living room. My old roommate and myself just sleep on the floor in the living room, and a marketing gal will sleep on the couch for awhile. That’s an awesome startup life.

Now to really understand how good these kids are, I need to tell you what happened. Our CTO Jason Wei gave them an option of 4 tasks to do, and expected them to tell him which one they want to work on in 3 days, and take the next few weeks to complete it. After 3 days, instead of telling Jason which one they want to do, they already finished 3 out of the 4 tasks. Jason was very impressed, and so he gave them another set of tasks that were much more challenging, and they completed it in 2-3 days again. Jason said they are better than at least 50% of his team in Tosh-iba, which is one of the strongest devisions in the US, and all have at least 10-15 years of experience. Again, these guys are only 19-20 years old.

Everything is looking swell in FD, and everyone is passionately trying to make a difference in the future. I do hope that we will be given that opportunity to make that impact in society.

Steven Wallace: The Crazy Genius

Mike Liu: The man who is addicted to frustration

Tony Tonev: The Bulgarian Web 2.0 guy for celebrities

They’re working their lives away for FD….obviously.

A great blog I retrieved on the founding of Bruin Consulting

So today I accidentally found a blog post by my business partner Jun. It was a blog that he thought he had lost due to switching of url names and destruction of the wordpress database. I found it on Google Cache and remembered the good old days of how we founded Bruin Consulting, a premiere business group at UCLA. I was also gladened by the kind words he gave me. Anyone out there who seeks to start a student organization, here is a great example.

“Posted by Jun Loayza on Aug 28, 2007

Recruiting during the Fall of 06 was an eye-opening experience. I was able to get many first round interviews and achieve second round interviews as well, but I never received that phone call that I was impatiently waiting for. I interviewed with a myriad of companies: PWC, Deloitte, Triage, Cast, FTI, Gallup, and many others. My interviewing skills were top-notch, so I just couldn’t understand why I had yet to receive a phone call from these companies.

I came home early November to visit the family. In my room was a pile of letters, letters that were staring back at me, digging into my soul because I knew what each one of them said. Do you remember the feeling back in High School, when you come home waiting to get your acceptance letter in the mail? You know if you’ve been accepted by your dream school even before you open the letter. Big means that all your hard work has paid off; small means you just didn’t make the cut. Well, in the world of interviewing for a full-time job, a letter means that they had “too many qualified applicants” to give you a position.

Life has always been easy going for me. I work hard, get good grades, have great friends, and always get what I want. These letters hit me like a ton of bricks. They made me feel small, inadequate, and unimportant. These letters would be the turning point in my life.

A good friend of mine told me the reason I wasn’t hired at his company was due to lack of experience. My interview was great, but when it came down to making a decision, my resume was lacking the leadership and experience that other people had. To be honest, I felt depressed for a while. I didn’t care about school and I thought that my biggest fear was going to come true : I was going to be a failure.

A phoenix is a mythical bird that dies in flames and is reborn in its ashes. I was the phoenix. Yu-kai Chou was the fire. The most influential person in my life has been Yu-kai Chou. Because of him, I am who I am today. He was the one who encouraged me and made me pursue my dream of achieving a consulting job.

In one of our many long discussions about UCLA, we came to the realization that UCLA does not have a consulting organization. There was no club in UCLA that prepared students for the consulting world. I belong to Delta Sigma Pi, but the fraternity is mostly for the benefit of brothers, and it was at a professional low during the Fall of 06. I came up with the “crazy” idea about starting a company that does consulting work for small businesses. Yu-kai had the perfect book for me to read, E-myth Revisited and E-myth Mastery. I read these books while in Peru and was motivated and ready to start my company. My company was going to be called Loayza Consulting. I was so ready to start it, that I managed to overlook some very important facts that would make Loayza Consulting fail before it even got off the ground:

1. I had no consulting experience

2. The Loayza name is not attached to business prestige

3. My team was small, still in school, and had no consulting experience either

A brother by the name of Dave sent me a link to Berkeley Consulting. Berkeley Consulting is an undergraduate organization, supported by the HAAS business school, at UCB that does consulting work for companies in the Berkeley area. This was the perfect organization that I could mimic and implement at UCLA. I quickly contacted the president of Berkeley Consulting and asked him all about the organization and how it works. I also talked to Yu-kai about my idea and he said that he was on board. With Yu-kai on my team and UCLA Consulting ready to go, there was nothing that could stop me from creating a consulting organization on campus.

UCLA said no.We do not want students conducting a business with the UCLA name.” Even after I explicitly told them that it was not for profit, and that Berkeley does the exact same thing, they still would not let me create UCLA Consulting. I was upset, and ready to petition and argue this thing as long as it took me; however, an even better idea dawned upon me. My original idea was to create a for profit company that does consulting work for small business. I also wanted to create an organization that educates UCLA undergraduates about consulting and helps them get a consulting job. I decided to create both a company and an organization. Bruin Consulting (I got the name from my friend Jamie Lee) would be the organization on campus that educates students about consulting; Scholar’s Edge Consulting would be the for profit company that does consulting work for companies in the Westwood area. The most promising students from Bruin Consulting would feed into Scholar’s Edge Consulting, creating a synergy between the two organizations. It was a genius idea.

Bruin Consulting was founded with the vision to educate UCLA undergraduates about all types of consulting, create a stronger business presence at UCLA, and get the most prestigious consulting firms in the nation to recruit UCLA undergraduates. It’s crazy how life is filled with ups and downs. If I had never received those rejections letters from those companies, I would never have been motivated to create such an influential organization on campus.

By the way, recruiting turned out to be a success for me. I was offered a full-time position at Navigant Consulting as a Business Analyst. Good thing they didn’t give me the offer in October – I would never have been set on fire.”

Premier Market Research Firm Gartner Lists the 10 Biggest Disruptive Technologies in the next 10 Years

The list is:

  • Multicore and hybrid processors
  • Virtualisation and fabric computing
  • Social networks and social software
  • Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
  • Web mashups
  • User Interface
  • Ubiquitous computing
  • Contextual computing
  • Augmented reality
  • Semantics

These are 10 technologies that would change the game, as they either bring the user experience to a whole different level, or cut costs to the extent that some professions need to find new ways to keep their jobs. Future Delivery is heavily involved in a few of them, including augmented reality, Web mashups, Social networks and social software, User Interface, and Cloud Computing. What is very interesting is that designers are part of this large technological trend, as User Interface is what truly connects great technology to users. A good interface is not only a good feature of a product, manytimes it is the sales person of online applications too. It’s what converts people from “trying it” to users.

20 years ago, not that many people were using computers. 15 years ago not that many people were on the internet. Now they are both required to live life normally, or even just enroll and pass your classes. With exponential progress, I am excited to see where the future will take us.

The Team that I am Blessed to Work With

In every startup, or any project that makes an impact, there is a great team that make these things happen. I am a firm believer of the concept of, instead of coming up with great concepts and having great execution, get people with great concepts and great execution on the board. As a leader, my biggest job is to get great people on the team and make them even better. With a strong vision of making society better by connecting people to the careers that they are passionate about, I am blessed to have an extremely qualified, passionate, execution-focused team that has complementary skills.

Jun Loayza: My CMO (Chief Millennial Officer) Jun is completely Godsend. Jun and I met at the Business Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi in 2005, and had since talked to him at least two times a week on average. Jun has a few natural talents. He is a natural speaker, and is extremely personal with all his engagements. Being one of the most presentable people I know (haha), Jun impresses people the moment he starts his first sentence. There’s been moments and Jun starts to talk, whoever listens goes “whoa, this guy speaks so well.” I remember the first time I met him, he was doing a presentation, and as soon as he started speaking, I made a determination to become friends with him, which happened 25 minutes afterwards. Many times when I or someone else makes a presentation, with Jun just making an introduction, there would always be a group of people swarming around Jun, asking him questions regarding the presentation, and the speaker might just have 3-4 people talking to him. It is even to the extent that whenever the programmers had an personal issue, instead of talking to the CTO or me, they would call Jun, the furthest removed CMO, and ask him. Jun is that good at being personable.

MORE importantly, Jun is extraordinary in execution skills. I have met and worked with a lot of people, ages between 14 and 55, many of them highly intellectual and successful, but Jun definitely is one of the top top among them when it comes down to execution skills. If the goal was to meet as many recruiters at a career fair, Jun will go around the room for 2 hours, meet ALL 55 recruiters while making a personal expression with each, go home, and send a personal followup email to all of them within an hour and half. On one Friday he decided that Future Delivery needed to have a whole series of podcasts (4 hours of audio), an eBook on making yourself stick out to employers (30 pages) and 6 videocasts all by Monday. On Monday, he had it all finished. The eBook received a lot of great compliments from people who downloaded from the site, and the audio series became very helpful for those who recruited.

Finally, Jun is essential in creating the right culture for Future Delivery. Jun created the Premiere Business Organization in UCLA called Bruin Consulting that took UCLA by storm just in 1 quarter. As president, he created a culture of “fun-loving people who want to do good work.” In FD, he remains to support that culture of combining work and play. Every meeting with him is not dull but full of laughter, and our brainstorm sessions involve the “trash/genius” model, which creates a lot of idea synergy and moves things quickly. Future Delivery can never and will never be what it is, or what it wants to be, without Jun Loayza.

Jason Wei: My CTO Jason is one of the top top people in the programming industry. After getting his double-major in computer science and business administration in China, he was the first employee Xerox hired in China, and he set up the whole Xerox system there. He also started his own medical device company with a few other partners, and for 2 years there were no technological competition. In 2001 (7 years later), he sold his shares, and it still operates today. When he moved to the US, both Microsoft and Toshiba wanted to give him his green card, he chose Toshiba because of their flexibility in projects. He also teaches at UC Irvine as a extension lecturer and has built up a fan base among his students. What’s interesting is that he became a lecturer because he was taking a class there, and his professor was so impressed, that he proposed that Jason should teach the class. In addition, the reason why Jason chose to come to the US, is that in his whole career in China, he has only met 1 other programmer who is just flat out better than him. When he came to the states, at the top level at these top tech firms, he already met a few people who was better than him. That excited him and made him want to live in the states.

Jason, due to his green card issue, has not been able to work for FD fulltime yet. He has done a lot of solid research on all the resources out there and made a lot of planning, but I look forward to the day he can commit fully and create the most value in FD and this world.

Cat Sze: From the beginning of our company, we had troubles finding the right Art Director. We felt that there are a lot of designers, but there are very few truly creative artists who also understands user-friendiness. We looked for a long time, covering a lot of places, including Taiwan, and had trouble finding a good one that has played with virtual worlds. We worked with another excellent artist/designer, but due to high loans, he was stolen to help out Guitar Hero 4 (FD should boycott it :)) And then we got Cat. Cat graduated from the Art Center of Design in Pasadena, one of the most prestigious design schools in the US. Cat has been an avid gaming and virtual world fan since the beginning. She is a hardcore player of World of Warcraft, and is a moderator for Gaia Online, another virtual world company. She also studies a lot of business content.

Cat is the perfect combination of being a creative artist/designer, familiar with virtual worlds, understanding the target market, and having good business sense.

Gamification in Finding a well-rounded Advisory Board

Gamfiication Advisors

Click this link to see my latest post on how Diablo III uses Gamification to become so addicting

Finding advisors is a game

As a young team, we need a well-rounded advisory board who know what they are doing to guide us and prevent us from making bad decisions simply because of a lack of knowledge.

However, finding impressive strangers to help you could be a scary task, so by adding “gamification” to the process, or simply viewing it as a game, things become a lot more straight forward and less daunting. (How many of you are afraid of approaching a boss in a video game?)

As I pointed out in another post , good networking has 6 Core Values: Integrity, Sincerity, Optimism, Confidence, Initiative, and Persistence. As long as you constantly apply these 6 core concepts in your life, doors will open up in life for you.

1. Decide on the Objectives of the Game

In order to find the right mentors and advisors, you need to first know what are your objectives. Are you trying to create a scalable business? Are you trying to solve certain technology issues?

2. Identify the Kind of Advisors you would need for your Objective

Once you know what your objectives are, create a list of skill sets and experiences that you need to assist you further. Be as detailed as you can, such as “Someone who has 20 years in this field, has brought at least one company successful, and is local to my city.”

3. Create a Hunt-List of Qualified Advisors

This requires some work. You need to go on LinkedIn, go to conferences (and especially check out the speaker list), read the press, and identify a list of super powerful individuals that could be your advisors. Don’t be timid in adding the strongest folks in this list. You never know.

4. Start the Hunt

The next step is to hunt for these advisors. In this day and age, it is easy to find their traces online and possibly offline. See what social networks they spend a lot of time in. See if they have a blog and have a podcast show. Also, pay attention if they are going to conferences soon.

5. Soften up the Ice

 Before you reach out directly to them, go to a few of the places that they have presence, and create some interaction about that. If they have a blog, comment on their posts a few times. If they are on Twitter, Retweet and respond to their tweets.

6. The Direct hit

After some soft engagements, write a respectable email, social network message, or approach them at a conference, and say, “Hello, I’m _____. We’ve had a few back and forths on your blog. I’m working on a [2-3 sentence]. I was wondering if I could have a conversation with you sometime for the purpose of you potentially being one of our advisors. I think your experiences in _____ would make you perfect and I believe YOU will be the one that helps us become successful.” If you have done everything well from before (including truly finding the right and relevant person), you have a good chance of making it.

7. Sell as usual

During the meeting, you should sell your company just like you would to any investor. Get this advisor excited. Get this advisor to like you. Also, be clear on expectations of what you want from an advisor and what you would give for it. I recommend guaranteeing a monthly 1-hour phone call, as well as in-person board meetings once a quarter. Most startups give out  about 0.1%-0.5% of the company for a good advisor that is willing to commit.

8. Add a point on your LeaderBoard

Once you have gotten this advisor to help you, give yourself a brownie point and then go for the next one!

Throughout my career, I have firmly believed that, when you meet passionate and motivated people with a sincere attitude, only good things can happen. Building relationships is one of the most important and meaningful things you can do in life, regardless if it is for professional or personal enrichment. To apply another Gamification Analogy: Outside the comfort zone there is a harmless dragon that looks scary, but you are invincible to it. Once you realize there is nothing you can lose by approaching and talking to more people, you will be ready to slay the harmless dragon.