Saturday, December 26, 2009

What is a "Startup" all about?

Christmas season is here and it is also the time a lot of “Love and Sweet” movies are released around this season.

One of my favorite “Love and Sweet” movies had always been “Pretty Woman”. Even though it has nothing to do with Christmas, I personally liked the story because it some how made me think “oh yea, this is the way love should be” and it gives me the “Love and Sweet” feeling. (I was still in my teens by the way)

One day, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about love relationship and I brought up about “Pretty Woman” movie and said
“I would love to be in a story like that”.

My friend looked at me and replied coolly
“so you are telling me, you want to find a prostitute, fall in love with her, then marry her?”

Since then, I stopped getting the “Love and Sweet” feeling whenever I watched reruns of the movie.

It’s funny that Start Up is quite similar to this. You read all these success stories about how those people who made it enjoy their success and many of them tell you money was never the major motivator. Then many of us tell ourselves that money should not be the biggest motivator.

Come on, be real and wake up.

It is true that “Pretty Woman” is a story about love but when you look at it carefully, isn’t it just a story about a prostitute fall in love and gets lucky?

It is true that starting your own company is about doing what you love and feel passionate about it but isn’t it all about making money after all (in fact, a lot of money preferably)?

What’s the message here?

It is good to dream about what your company can do for the world.
It is good to dream about at last you can leave the shit dead end job and do something you feel passionate about.
It is good to dream about how much freedom you will get once you start your own company.

But don’t forget, if your company does not make money, it doesn’t matter how big or good your vision is all about.

I know it sounds dirty and depressing, but the bottom line is, money should always be in the picture.

Otherwise, you are not realizing what you are dreaming about is falling in love with a prostitute.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You will get so bored when you are rich......or will you?

A lot of time, in a magazine, TV, radio, or book that talks about being rich and how boring it is, one of the most used example is "You will get so bored after playing golf for 3 days and wonder what to do next". I disagree. In fact it makes me wonder if indeed people who say these kind of things are actually rich themselves.

Don't get me wrong, I am not rich, in fact far from it. But if you think logically, there is no way you will get bored being rich. In fact, it is the opposite.

Imagine that you don't have to be at your office at 8 or 9 AM everyday and be able to do WHATEVER YOU WANT when you wake up. There are millions of things you can do and don't even get me started about traveling around the world. Trust me, it is fun to travel around the world and it is even more fun to move to a new country and experience a new culture (I have lived in 4 different countries so far and still counting so you got to believe me on this one).

A lot of time, people like the social interaction and social approval. In fact, these two factors are probably the main factors that deter people from getting rich. Being rich is like being a black sheep in the family. Friends will get jealous of you and no one will approve the way you live no matter what you do.

The lesson here is not to believe in what people say. If you have never tried a vanilla ice cream, how would you know what it tastes like? Go and get one, taste it yourself and you be the judge.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What it means to be a boss

After starting the internet venture, this is one of the critical questions that I have been asking myself constantly.
When you are working for someone, it is very easy to just follow instruction, get it done well, then get paid. On the other hand, when you are a boss, you have to come up with the instruction, no body is telling you what to do, and you have to pay everybody first and hope there will be little left for you...... to pay the remaining bills.

I must admin it is not fun being a boss. I have a team of developer and a part time helper and sometimes it is just too much effort to explain the task. Partially because they are working for someone (me) and when you are working for someone, unless there is an incentive tight to performance, most employee would just do the minimum and call it done.

This means as a boss, I will have to constantly monitor the quality of their work.
I did try to implement performance based payments but since I have a limited budget, this is more easily said than done.

As for developer, I tried to structure the milestone payments in a way that if everything is done according to plan AND ON TIME, the payments will be made. Perhaps I should add AND QUALITY WORK from now on……

As for the part-time helper, I am lucky enough to find someone who is self motivated and easy to work with. I have no complaint so far but to be fail our relationship just started and it may change dramatically as time pass by (she may demand higher pay after 6 more months…. Who knows).

So, this is just one aspect of being a boss; try to figure out how to deal with people who work for you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why are people afraid of money?

Let me ask you a question. Would you like to be super rich, let's say 200 million dollars rich?
I bet you would probably say "YES" without hesitating. What I am about to tell you may change your mind.

Imagine your best friend comes up to you and ask for $100,000 investment because she wants to start a company. You say yes without even setting any interest payment or a written contract for repayment since you think she is your best friend you want to help unconditionally. Then she comes back to you and ask for another $200,000. This time you say no and she starts screaming at you and call you cheap, not supportive, and a worst friend she has ever had.

Let's say you want to share your fortune with your family members and give them 5 million dollar each. Guess, what. They call you cheap and they think 20 millions would be more appropriate instead. Imagine what they would say or do if you refuse? Would they still love you then? Would they call you a bastard or a bitch because you have 200 million and only share 2.5% of your fortune to each of them?

Now, imagien you do a donation to the organization that you have been donating for years and years. You decided to increase the donation to 50 time more than what you used to donate (for argument sake let's say 500,000). Then one day you hear a rumor that the head of the organization calls you cheap condiering you have 200 millions in your bank.

What do you think now? I think "What the F@$#" would be a correct answer.

It doesn't matter how nice you try to be, probably at least one of these episode will happen.

Do you still want to be rich?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Depressed and Scared

Not good news. I should have known better.......

I thought I did a good job doing market research to start this venture but as it turned out, the market research was not good enough

I just found out there are zillions of competitors in the industry that I am in….even though my idea is unique, in order to make it work, I need to put more time and capital. Otherwise, the website will simply just look the same as those other zillions of websites.

The industry that I am in is restaurant industry. The product I am providing is a marketing platform. I am not going to provide details at this point and I am sure the details will be revealed by itself eventually.

So, I have already sunk in 1 year of time and plenty of money. Even though I am doing this part-time, the venture has substantially ate away countless weekends and sleep time.

Yes, I am doing this part-time. I have a full time job working in the lab and I am depressed and scared. I am not sure if I am doing the right thing, even though I have been doing this for almost a year.

My scientific career is pretty much stacked. Without a PhD, there is no hope (or should I say "improbable but not impossible") for me to have my own lab, or getting a grant to do whatever research I want to do.

so, here I am. Trying to be an Internet entrepreneur....depressed and scared.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sell, Sell, Sell, Sell

As I approach to finish the part time MBA program, it becomes clearer that running a lab is not much difference than running a small business. It requires substantial entrepreneurial skills and mentalities to become successful in running a lab.

For example, there are 4 key skills that anyone who wants to start a business needs to have. You don’t need to born with them, but rather acquiring these skills and/or knowing how to get the same results without having these skills will be the key to success.

1) be able to sell
2) be able to push to sell
3) be able to innovate / create product to sell
4) be able to organize

We can apply these skills to Science.

1) No matter what your research topic is, communicating to audiences is a key. You need to be able to sell your research ideas, results, grant proposals etc.
Selling good presentation = more recognition
Selling research ideas, results = more papers = easier to get grants
Selling grant proposals = more money

2) You need to be the driver to achieve the sales.
What do you need to do to be able to make the sales? That is the key question.

3) Now that you have sold the research idea, find ways to get more research ideas.

4) Once 1)-3) is in motions, you need to organize and keep track on all these activities.

This is just an example. You can modify/apply in anyways you like.
The backbone is
1) Sell,
2) Push to Sell
3) Make more product
4) Organize

In other words, Selling = More Money = More research

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Science Revolution

I came across to epMotion the other day. Apparently it is an automated pipetting machine made by Eppendorf. I guess it was inevitable fate for any industry to have some kind of revolution. Just like Industrial revolution, eventually “Science Revolution” will be here to replace Lab techs like me. We will need to get a completely new set of training to manage all these machines instead of pieptting 1ul samples ourselves.
Should we embrace the revolution? or reject it? I guess we don’t have a choice but rather need to prepare and accept the fact.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How to dissolve a high molar urea without getting precipitation? part 2

At last I figured out how to dissolve a high molar urea without getting precipitation for a long time.

The reason I need a high molar urea is to strip a nitrocellulose membrane over night but the high concentration urea kept precipitating after couple of hours.

I think the answer was air. As long as the high concentration urea (I tried 9 M) do not get in contact with air, it is ok even in a low temperature for a long time. I left it overnight and there is still no precipitation as I am typing. (Almost 24 hours by now)

Take a look at the picture below. I sealed it in a bag and let it rocking on a platform. No precipitation what so ever!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to dissolve a high molar Urea without getting precipitated?

I have been trying different methods to dissolve a high concentration of urea (9M-12M), but keep getting precipitation.

I think I have found a method to make the urea solution that will not precipitate for at least several hours or even couple of days.

1) Warm up H2O (microwave or hot plate) to substantial degree so that whatever amount of urea is added will be dissolved
2) Add urea and dissolve (make sure it is completely dissolved)
3) Let it cool down slowly and gradually to room temperature

I have also tried different combinations without success

1) Start with cold water
2) Add urea and dissolve it as the water gets warmed up on hot plate
3) Let it cool down slowly and gradually to room temperature

Comment: Probably the cold water is not a good idea.

1) Start with hot water (microwaved)
2) Add urea and stir
3) The water temperature is not hot enough so microwaved the whole thing (did not use hot plate so could not maintain the same water temperature)
4) Dissolve it completely this time and let it cool down slowly and gradually to room temperature

Comment: Probably some urea particles are not dissolved completely the first time and re-warming does not help. Even though it dissolves urea completely, the solution precipitate very fast with 1 hour after cool down.
In other words, you need to dissolve urea completely the first time. For whatever reason (most likely low water temperature), if it does not dissolve the first time it will not work.

1) Start with hot water (microwaved or hot plate)
2) Add urea and stir, completely dissolved
3) Cool it down with ice (monitor it so that it does not drop beyond room temperature) then leave it on the bench to cool down to room temperature.

Comment: cooling it down with ice is not a good idea. Even if you take it out from ice around 50 degree C and let it sit on a bench until it cools down to room temperature, it still precipitates pretty fast after complete cool down.

I wonder if someone out there have/had a same/similar problem making high concentration urea solution.


Sep 2012 Follow up: 
I have actually found a perfect solution to this problem.

1) Warm up water in microwave

2) Add urea (solid)

3) COVER THE BEAKER (or any other types of container you are using) so it won't get in contact with air then place the beaker on a heat stirrer. Keep the water hot but not boiling and keep stirring the solution until urea is dissolved.

4) Keep the solution in air tight container so the solution won't come in contact with air.

The way to cool down the solution was not the issue after all. The secret is to avoid contact with air.

My new personal blog

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Life goes on....

So how is everyone surviving in this financial crisis? Anyone got laid off or see someone got laid off? Well, it is happening in real time everywhere even in Science business.

If you are the only lab tech in the lab then you probably already knows you are OK until your boss's grant money runs out. Unfortunately for those Post-Docs, they are the first ones to go. This saddens me as they are probably the ones work harder and longer hours and yet, they are the first ones to go.

I remember someone told me once that Science job is a relatively stable job than other jobs. It probably is true to some degree (since we don’t get paid as much to start with compare to other fields considering the qualifications that we need to get to go into Science field), but I guess this financial crisis have created a once in a life time opportunity for us to witness “No body is safe” situation.

Well, stay warm and let’s hope to hear a good news sooner than later.