Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to not work in a lab yet stay in the Science field and not working for someone but for yourself?

Fund ScienceI know, I know. Whenever scientists talk about this, it is always something like "work for a bio-tech and become a sales manager" or "become a field engineer and show how protein purification is done" or "become a technical support at some chemical company" etc etc etc

If you notice the sub-title of this blog (I don't know how long it will stay this way, so I am going to write it here in case it changes in the future

Lab My Life | An Internet Entrepreneur Wannabe

Yes, it's all about being an entrepreneur. So, here is a story about someone I know and how he is (was) working on eventually stop working in a lab.

I have known him for quite long time and we met occasionally at parties here and there. So it was a nice surprise to meet him one day I was on my way to school last year (I was still finishing up part-time MBA classes). He had no idea I was pursuing MBA and the conversation lead to an interesting topic.

"Yea, I got accepted into MBA program too but I decided not to go for it and instead started a non-profit organization" he told me

"What kind of organization is that?" I asked

"It's little bit like Kiva but for Science. The idea is to fund young scientists (with interesting ideas) by connecting them with the general public" he replied.

"Wow" I thought that was a great idea.

he continued to explain about what the organization does and who is on board so far at that stage.

"So why did you start it" I asked.

"You know, the idea is to be able to travel around the world and have a great job and still getting paid" he answered.

He had figured out a perfect solution!!

1) The idea helps people to solve a problem
2) Still relevant to what he does (Science)
3) Becoming an entrepreneur
4) Be where he wants and do what he wants
5) Doing all these and still get paid

So who is this guy? He is David Vitrant founder of FundScience.org  



At the time he started the organization, he was still a PhD student. You have all my respect David.

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.