Personal Leadership: Saying “No”

Note: In September 2016, I was caught in a company-wide reduction in force (RIF). This is my follow-up piece to the prior blog post.

A week after I was caught in RIF, I politely and candidly declined a lucrative strategy consulting engagement offer from my former manager at Capital IQ, who is now an SVP at one of the largest payment companies. One close friend (a FinTech expert) who I confided with reacted: “ Dude!, that is $xxx for four-month, cash money man! Besides…payments…could be fun.”

Indeed, I have a special passion for FinTech and data-driven businesses. Payments, in various crude and advanced forms, serve as the backbone of the global economy. In fact, payments represent the world economy, which is simply the aggregation of all transactions for goods/services and financial assets.

For someone who is just out of a job, it seems counter-intuitive to turn away such a good opportunity, not to mention the lucrative financial reward. Had I been my old self, I would probably have said yes immediately But this time, I felt little FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and there was a (rational) thought process behind it. Continue reading “Personal Leadership: Saying “No””

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Personal Leadership: My Thoughts and Actions in the first 48 Hours after Getting RIFed, for the First Time

Note: In September 2016, I was caught in a company-wide reduction in force (RIF), my first such experience in life. There will be many bigger challenges in life ahead, but I wanted to document this one so that years later, I could look back and relive how I felt and reacted. To people managing career challenges now or in the future, I hope this at least provides some useful food for thought.

The hunch — my last day in the office

Sitting in a small dimly lit conference room, I turned to my colleague in the mid of our brainstorming session for a new project and said:“ Gil, I think today might be my last day at the firm.” Gil: “No, I certainly hope not, that would have been a terrible mistake, you are an asset to the firm IMO. At least to me, you have been incredibly helpful…” Continue reading “Personal Leadership: My Thoughts and Actions in the first 48 Hours after Getting RIFed, for the First Time”

Didi & Uber China: End of the Car Hailing War, End of Pride and Prejudice

China's TrailblazersOn the heels of Didi announcing the deal to acquire Uber China, The Economist reflected on some of Western media’s historical pride and prejudice against Chinese internet firms in its cover article – “China’s tech trailblazers”. China’s internet market has many unique characteristics – the Great Firewall, government censorship, unique and complex culture, and some local firm’s unconventional (or highly questionable) competitive tactics. To many Western media, it is easy to conclude that local firms flourished because of protectionism. To me, this inference is more level-one thinking. Would the competitive outcome be different without the above constraints against foreign firms? The answer is No. Let’s first tally the scores of some of the well-known internet wars: Continue reading “Didi & Uber China: End of the Car Hailing War, End of Pride and Prejudice”

A Mental Model for “Cold Launching” Start-ups (Four Launch Modes)

Disclaimer: I cannot claim originality to the framework used here but owe it to Cao Zheng, a former core member of Baidu’s business analysis group, 4399.com chief architect, and a current gaming entrepreneur from China. He is an avid thinker/ blogger on the internet business, from whom I have learned much (link to Cao Zheng’s public account on WeChat “caoz的梦呓”)

After more than half a year in incubation, a friend recently launched the beta version of his marketplace app for people to rent or buy things from people nearby, yes, the old “neighborhood sharing economy” concept again (aka. using app to borrow a power drill from your neighbor). I have served as an adviser to him prior to the launch. During our conversations, one counterfactual I constantly used to push the discussion was all the neighborhood sharing apps that have struggled to gain traction before, which is well documented by this article on FastCompany – The “Sharing Economy” is Dead, and We Killed It.

“Everything made sense except that nobody gives a sh**. They go buy [a drill]. Or they just bang a screwdriver through the wall.”

Continue reading “A Mental Model for “Cold Launching” Start-ups (Four Launch Modes)”

Finding Mindfulness in Art

New York had one of the worst winter storms over the past weekend. Trapped inside the house gave me a unique opportunity to do something I had not done in a long while – drawing. Notwithstanding my passion for start-ups and investing, nothing else gives me more satisfaction and a sense of tranquility like art creation. An hour and a half of complete focus produced this drawing of Miyamoto Musashi, the famous Japanese swordsman and author of “The Book of Five Rings,” a text on martial arts and strategy. The drawing is based on the original artwork of Inuoe Takehiko’s masterpiece “Vagabond,” which was done with ink and brush. I guess my attempt at replicating Inuoe Sensei’s expressionism with a pencil was not a complete failure. Continue reading “Finding Mindfulness in Art”

Demystifying Bitcoin/Blockchain: How it Actually Works

Note: This my second blog post on Bitcoin/Blockchain. My previous postprovided an overview of Bitcoin/Blockchain and some brief commentary on the evolution of its applications, as well as its implications on securities trading. Of course, the potential impact is beyond just payment or exchanging non-physical assets. However, in order to truly appreciate the potential and shortcomings of Blockchain, one has to go back to the origin (Bitcoin and Blockchain were born together as one) and understand how the Bitcoin system works, ACTUALLY.  Only then can one cut through the fog and begin to tell what is truth and what is myth, and start to appreciate the complexities. Inevitably, this Blog runs the risk of oversimplifying things and may appear naive to the true Bitcoin experts. But for the novice and non-techies, this is where we start diving into the rabbit hole… Continue reading “Demystifying Bitcoin/Blockchain: How it Actually Works”

Prologue to “Demystifying Bitcoin/Blockchain”

Note: This is a prologue to my next post “Demystifying Bitcoin/Blockchain: How it Actually Works.” I will also be exploring the brilliance and short-comings of Bitcoin/Blockchain, from the perspective of someone who did not understand it three months ago. Special thanks to Andreas Antonopoulos,Pascal Bouvier, Vitalik Buterin, and Simon Taylor, whom I have not met but whose intellectual generosity has accelerated and deepened my understanding of the subject.

The post could also be found on Linkedin Pulse.

Overview of Bitcoin/Blockchain – Where it All Began:

Invented in 2008, Bitcoin is not just a currency or a payment system. Andreas Antonopoulos, author of “Mastering Bitcoin: Unlocking Digital Cryptocurrency,” provided a well articulated definition:

It is “a network-centric protocol and platform for recording [and transferring] ownership and trust on a peer-to-peer basis.”

Blockchain is quite topical recently given hyped up interests by financial institutions; it was also featured on the October 31st cover of The Economist. However, Blockchain by itself is just a boring ledger distributed or replicated among all the participants in a P2P network, it is only with the protocol/incentives (in purely mathematical forms) integrated into the Bitcoin system that Blockchain becomes a powerful trust machine. One cannot understand Blockchain and its full potential without understanding how Bitcoin system as a whole works – Blockchain is Bitcoin. Continue reading “Prologue to “Demystifying Bitcoin/Blockchain””