Today Chris is:

…in Ho Chi Minh city on the MIST startup week.

Met some truly wonderful people doing awesome things.

Digital Rain Home Page

Building Digital Rain

I’ve had this Digital Rain idea in my head for a couple of months. A social business allowing technology and online entrepreneurs to build their businesses. I feel there’s so much missed opportunity out there for the sake of a website and a few hundred/thousand dollars. I came up with this idea that we (I) could help support them with access to technology and business support and mentoring, such that they could help themselves. Not just this idea of a co-working hub, there’s enough of them, but somewhere they could get really experienced support and a structured business programme. Help from people who’ve done it before.

That’s the social side, the commercial and business side supports clients in small and medium-sized businesses with getting to grips with technology, process, training and the inevitable overlap with people. Both as users and as customers. As it would happen, the client pipeline took a sudden influx of proposal requests this week.

I love the logo and design of the new website.Not bad for just over a weeks work. Not a great deal to do with me I should say. All the talent of my better half and her awesome design skills.

We’re looking for interns and partners to help support the sudden influx of clients needing our online and technology services. So take a look at the bottom of the home page for details.

Building Digital Rain Jobs

There’s no real recruitment agencies here in Cambodia. The market operates on a small payment to get the job online and then basically potential candidates e-mail the address at the bottom of the ad. If the client or the candidate gets lucky, the client might get a half-reasonable resume, and the candidate might possibly get a response. They all seem to operate the same way. No surprise then, that finding good technical talent in Cambodia is incredibly hard.

I thought I’s have a go at what has become the norm in the UK and US where an agent goes in the middle, knows the market, and knows the candidate. They do all the leg work and as a consequence, if everything is done well, you get a happy client and a happy candidate that go on to have a lasting career together.

So, Digital Rain jobs has been launched as an idea, and I’m looking for a partner or someone to help on the recruitment and working with businesses side. I’ll concentrate on the technology and help out where possible. If this is you, please get in touch.

Why Roles and Responsibilities are so important

Sometimes when I work in consulting I worry that I’m starting to sound like a cracked record. Stuck saying the same thing over and over again. I’m working with a client who we’ve identified has having communication, responsibility and accountability problems on their projects. Issues spread all over the organisation from Sales to Customer Support. The root cause being that roles and responsibilities haven’t been defined such that everyone knows what they are doing and who they communicate to when things stop going to plan.

Such a simple thing to know who’s doing what and when, letting people know when they have problems and when they are finished. It’s not that simple though as the organisation grows, takes on more customers and the person you used to talk to for this sort of thing has grown into a department on another floor of the building. Growing pains as they call them, and typical of a startup turning into a medium-sized business.

Picking Up Asana again

Used Asana a few years ago before they implemented its new interface. I’m potentially picking this up again for a small client team of 10 people.I really love its’ clean interface, the speed of operation and the fact that its’ so intuitive. So much so that I started using it myself again. Albeit there’s a bit of an overlap in functionality with Insightly – see below. I still like the video though, OK, so I admit I’m just a little bit obsessed with productivity, but I do so wish my day ran like in the video.

Building Businesses and a Sales Pipeline with Insightly


I’m at that envious point where I have many clients wanting the services I deliver.  I’m having to manage my own sales pipeline process and make sure I don’t lose any information, fail to follow up and consistently be on top of all the small details that go together in making a potential client feel like they can be completely comfortable with you looking after them.

Rather than put everything in another spreadsheet, a to-do list or Evernote ( even though I love Evernote) I thought I’d give Insightly a try. It’s another great tool with the same zero cost barrier to give it a good try before parting with a long term financial investment. Such a great model.

Anyway, its very early days, and I like it. I have three clients asking for proposals this week. I wonder if it was psychological or if Insightly really did help ? Why not give the trial a go for yourself.

The Inno-Tech Festival, Phnom Penh

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… and last but not least visiting the Inno-Tech Festival and meeting more of the local technology suppliers, hackers and entrepreneurs who are growing the technology sector in Cambodia. In general the display booths concentrating on infrastructure and websites. The complimentary Apps developers being ever present in growing numbers.

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There were a few surprises with Khmer ‘games’ I use that phrase loosely as Poker is probably not an area I should be promoting given the somewhat unpleasant and unregulated gambling industry here. I guess where there’s demand, supply in whatever form it takes won’t be far behind.

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The other surprise being pseudo payment systems and digital wallets. Again this is the ever present need for online payment, a real hurdle for online business here. I didn’t get chance to really dig into the details of the systems involved and if these are still only the half-way solutions. Sadly not all the stands were staffed with those who understood at the technical level. More for me to investigate later.

Then there was the drone. I’ve been interested in one of these for a long time, as a photographer I just love the views that stills and video could never achieve in the past. The inventor in this case trying to solve the need of the Cambodian market at a budget they can afford. I was wondering if that £1000 entry point barrier had been broken. Their ‘large’ model sells for $250 and runs for roughly twenty minutes. A battery costing $60. The camera is an extra, but given my still unused cheap Chinese Go-Pro copy lying as yet unused I think I could finally have a partner for it. They launch next week, and have a stall at the market not far from where I live. Definitely worth a second look.

This week has been the second week of my Technology StartUp course. I confess I’m really enjoying teaching this subject.

This week we were covering Product Creation, and how to build an MVP, a minimum viable product. We even used a couple of early Apple products as examples of what can be created and sold with a minimum of features that customers will still love. There’s lots of interactive sessions within the course content, so students can get actively involved in the subject matter.

There’s homework too, but if this is completed students will have the foundation business plans to go ahead and make their business flourish.

So far we’ve covered the overview of starting a technology business, what it means to want to create a technology product, the really hard questions about why you’re starting this journey and how to find the answers. This week was Product Creation.

Future classes will cover Marketing, probably one of the subjects most anticipated, then we do operations and finally the Financial overview, joining everything back up to the business case and where we started.

The course details are here: Impact Hub – Successful Technology StartUp

You can also find all of the course slides and links to other resources on the course page.

Its OK to say no.

“No thanks, that’s not what I want to do.”

“No, that’s not on my priority list.”

“No, I don’t have time for that, and I have other people and projects that deserve my time instead.”

“No, I don’t have to do that, even if you think I should.”

“No, you left that way to late to try and give to me last minute.”

“No, its just not for me, try someone else.”

It’s not as hard as you think it is. It’s perfectly OK to say no too. The vast majority of people who may ask you for your time, effort or attention will understand when you say no. There are only 24 hours in a day and we all have a finite capacity to get things done.

We also have a finite capacity to get the things that we want to get done too. It may be important to the person requesting, but it’s not necessarily important to us.

Then there are people who make assumptions about our time. Who look initially a little stunned when you say no. Your family, boss, colleagues. They assume you’ll say yes. You just have to say “no” more than once to make yourself understood. On a rare occasion I’ve said to this sort of person, “which bit of no, do you not understand?” Its a phrase that comes with potential conflict, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Then there’s my favourite, someone who leaves tasks until the very last minute, and then hands them to you with a deadline that’s so close, you’d need to drop everything to attend to it if you were to have any chance of meeting the deadline. They can have had this issue a week, before handing it to you with a deadline in the next 24 hours. It’s like being handed a poisoned chalice. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  On hearing no, the run off to their boss, who immediately appears at your desk, asking you if you understand the priorities of the business and customers. This is of course relevant, but not relevant. The priorities you are fully behind, covering for people who fail to plan and communicate properly is the thing you have issues with. Saying no in this case is hard, but very necessary.

Saying no is not always easy, but sometimes it’s incredibly important to do so.


Lessons I’ve learnt this week

There is one aspect of office life that I hate the most, and that’s being subjected to the politics of others.

My work experience in the past has meant that I’ve managed to avoid it for the majority of my career. I’ve only seen it at its worst in the last few years.  Thankfully I have managed to avoid the majority of personal involvement. That was, until this week.
It can be difficult to avoid when those who manage you, are themselves sucked into the inescapable political vortex. They can become influenced by the small truths, less than whole story and the subject of the agenda of others.

So what lessons can we learn from this?

  • Do not become distracted from your goals. This noise is a means of throwing you off course. The agenda of others is made easier if you fail.
  • Have an honest conversation about how this makes you feel, should it come up.
  • Review this small thing in the context of the bigger aims of the organisation and your personal principles. Will anyone care about this in a month, a year, five years from now ?
  • Never, ever, play their games. Politics is for politicians, if they have to live their lives by manipulating others, then you have to ask where their core expertise lies.

Should this take over and you are subject to their stories and lies, stand close to your principles. Rarely was an honest and calm person not seen by those who matter most.

My current client is occasionally happy for me to work from home when there are personal issues to attend to.
This particular issue involved the dentist and some less than ordinary work. Implants.

Nothing special about this, is there ? Well maybe, my client is UK based and my home this week has been Prague.

Armed with WiFi, mobile, and a Skype number they can call a regular UK number and be connect to my laptop here in Prague. I’m really pleased with the call quality, better than most regular phones and certainly better than call from a UK mobile. Topped up with Skype credit and you can call UK numbers from your laptop too.

This is very much a step from Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week, my bible on all things work related.

With mobile data roaming on O2 costing only £2 per day, having all of your apps available, along with decent web browsing meant I could even check internal e-mail via the web browser. Coverage of course is a killer in whatever county you visit and a train ride into the Czech countryside meant a very slow data connection.

All in all, successful trip with no issues at all raised by the client. They probably thought working at home meant a UK home.

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