Stan Liu

Stan Liu

Sometime during late 2004, I got introduced to Stan Liu by a prominent author in the Macromedia Flash Community. It was the start of a lasting relationship which I will cherish throughout my life.

Stan Liu became our client. My team and I worked for him. He was really happy with the result. He offered me a partnership and owner equity to the new venture. Later, he even went on to get a term sheet from an Investor, north of $1.5M. However, he felt the terms were not in our favor. By then, my company got acquired and we both drifted apart, hibernating our business idea.

Stan and Joan

In the summer of 2005, I got a good opportunity to visit San Francisco. I got invited to Macromedia’s Lego program to spend a week with some of the best Flash folks in the world. I also decided to head to Los Angeles to meet Stan Liu. I have many fond memories of meeting the family — Stan, Joan, and the then 4-year old Khylen.

I had my first experience with a luxury sports car — rev his Porsche (and years later his Maserati). I also experienced my first authentic Chinese cuisine. I learned a thing or two more about Hollywood, got pretty much free entry to Disneyworld (he worked at Disney). I had my first Sushi at the Yoshida Sushi Bar. Later that winter, I went back to his place and repeated many events, including spending the Christmas-eve with his family and friends.

He encouraged me to try this, try that, made me experience many new events. I remember us attending an Adult Film Industry conference – laughing like crazy in-between our animated poses taking pictures with the stars. Unfortunately, I lost that photo collection.

When I left them that winter, River was on his way.

In 2010, by the time I left Paisa (Infinitely Beta) and was pondering on what to do next, I talked to him. We started Levoma, Inc. He, pretty much, bankrolled my stay in Silicon Valley to be part of the Founder Institute in 2010-2011. I survived frugally but he was always worried that I might run out of pocket money. When I visited them before I leave for India, I met the whole family – Stan, Joan, Khylen, and River.

Unfortunately, the business failed; we pulled the plug and decided to work together on something else in future.

The 8th of Aug, 2014 was a sad day. Stan pinged me on Skype for a talk. We had a long talk. He was sick and at a late stage. However, we drifted and discussed few business ideas instead. He was full of ideas, all the time.

In the summer of 2016, I visited Stan and his family once again. He picked me up at LAX, “You looked pretty much the same.” I replied, “I was worried but you look pretty cool too. I don’t think anything is happening with you.”

I realized he was tired, he was no longer as agile as I knew him earlier. But, he was still energetic and going strong. We discussed few business ideas again, introduced me to some new interesting VR stuffs, went to the movies with his family, joined their weekend family lunch, went shopping. I played few games with River and he beat me real bad; just like how Khylen used to beat me in his video games long back.

He saw me off to the Airport. As we hugged goodbye, he asked, “Do you need extra dollars in cash? Extra baggage, coffee, food! You never know when you need it.” He does that every time he drops me at the Airport. “I’m good. I’ll think over the idea, think of a plan. Let’s talk more.”

Last week, I got to know that Stan Liu is no more.

He was a caring person. I’ve lost a mentor, business partner, and good friend. Rest in Peace.

How to be a Good Parent, for the Lesser Mortal Startup Entrepreneurs

Yes, for those Startup Entrepreneurs, who cannot fly around the world with their kids, who cannot hire nannies at lavish hotels, and for those who do not have superhero, super-dad, super-mom tricks up their sleeves.

Being a Startup Founder and a parent; while seemingly dissimilar, both require a great deal of time, skill and dedication in order to be successful. It may sound like a daunting task, but is possible to run your startup while still maintaining a good relationship with your children.

Founding a startup can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor, but it is also a time consuming process. In order to accomplish your goals while still maintaining a healthy home life, it is important to manage your time wisely. It is easy to get caught up in the stress and excitement of your startup and neglect your family. By the same token, the commotion of a busy family life can cause you to neglect your startup. A healthy balance between work and family is absolutely necessary to running a successful startup while still being a good parent to your children.

Many have written and advocated on effective time management and routines to help you be a super-parent and a hustling Startup Founder. As a Startup Founder, you have to find your ‘style’ of time management and (un)routine to be omni-present for your startup and your family.

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I used Trello for my daughter’s school admission

In India, we have lots of good schools. The problem is getting to the right one in the right location. Ask any parent and they will tell you their adventurous stories of how they navigated through the chaotic processes of getting their kid admitted to the school of their choice.

Like any other established institutions in India, the Schools follow a rather bureaucratic and pain-in-the-rear approach to new admissions. Admission time is also the time, when everyone involved with the schools are at their bossy-best, willing to dust off all their ranks and files to show-off “who they are and what they can do.”

Anyway, without going into the details of the discrepancies in the schools in India, let me tell you the story of how I used technology to streamline my daughter’s admission. I wanted to involved relatives, friends and family without overwhelming them, so I needed a solution that is easy, simple and no-learning-needed approach to keep track of the progress.

Laaija

Let’s get my daughter admitted to a decent school in Bangalore, India.

Yes, I went to lots of ‘Education Fair’, stood in lines for hours in the hot Indian Summer, visited a hell lot of schools to check them out, met with teachers, roam around the campus, even talked to few students. Besides that, I tracked, labeled and measured my actions and outcomes with Trello and mapped the locations with Google Maps. The mobile version of Trello (iOS and Android) is an awesome app and everyone involved really liked it.

My daughter outgrew her playgroup.

My daughter, Laaija, celebrated her 4th birthday on Dec 11, 2012. She is now ready for a ‘real’ school. She has already outlined the kind of school she would like to go to. It is a list of strange, funny and cute (at-least to us) criteria and we know what she meant. No, you won’t want to know that list.

Last October, I had initialized the quest for her school. We wanted a good established one and not necessarily some fancy ‘international’ school (without explicitly excluding them), should not be very far from our residence. I should be able to get there within 30 minutes in the typical Bangalore Traffic. It should also not be next-door so she can learn to be independent, travel and enjoy her school.

Trello, Trello & Trello

I treated it like a Project – steps, processes, labels, issues – a flow borrowed from the Kanban Method, which Trello is very good at.

I created 6 core boards:

  1. Inbox – Everything is dropped here first – school names, location on Google maps, notes on people’s review, facilites and amenities available etc.
  2. Considered – All schools which we considered applying were dragged into the “Considered” Board. We try to add as many details as possible here.
  3. Applied – This is the board for all schools where we applied for our daughter’s admission.
  4. Accepted – Schools which have accepted us. It’s now our decision to pick the school, to get admitted or not.
  5. Rejected by Us – The schools rejected by us irrespective of the selection of the schools. The Cards in this List can come from “Inbox”, “Applied” or “Accepted”. It’s not surprising that this List holds the most number of Cards.
  6. Rejected by School – Of course, quite a few of the schools rejected our application. This List holds all those cards.

Labels

I used few simple labels to help with the choices. A card can have one or many of these labels. The labels were

  1. Transport (yes)
  2. CBSE
  3. ICSE
  4. IGCSE
  5. Girls
  6. Co-Ed

Collaboration

I invited few of our relatives, friends and family members to this Board. They were told to install the Trello Smartphone apps, so they can do it easily on their phones and not worry about being totally involved.

The idea is to take notes and just write-down details while visiting a School or just seeing one while I travel around Bangalore, made it easy to sort them, work on them later. Writing down help me free up my brain to concentrate on my work and not worry about my daughter’s admission all the time. Same goes for my wife, relatives, friends and other family members to help us, without the need to indulge in useless talks, gossips and lousy phone calls.

Yes, I finally got my daughter admitted few days back and she is excited about her new school. We hope she will like it and have fun with her new school.

I created a Public Template of the Trello Board if you wish to use it – Picking a School (India). You should change the List Names, Labels to cater to your requirements.

Besides the activities that I cannot ignore, Trello really helped me get our daughter admitted and freed up quite a bit of my effort, time and I was able to continue my work while I stay engaged with the Admission Process.

Update:

It will be incomplete for this article if I do not include the story of the ‘interview’ which got my daughter selected. We were invited to meet the Head of Department (HOD) aka Principal of the School. She talked and got my daughter comfortable, after which she asked her questions including the likes of the Apple’s color, the monkey’s favorite fruit. She was a bit concerned about my daughters inability to count numbers. The last question she asked my daughter was to use the crayons and draw a circle. That’s easy as Laaija is very good at drawing. She drew a circle. The Principal told her, it was awesome and finally asked her if she can draw a Balloon.

At that moment, I thought my daughter was doing pretty well and we’re pretty close to finishing this event. My wife told me later that, Laaija will now draw a balloon easily. The cool part was, instead of drawing a separate balloon, she just added the thread to the previously drawn circle and made it into a balloon. Me and wife were surprised and I’m pretty sure, if anything, that was the one that sealed the deal. 🙂

Y Combinator’s new Gambit is the ultimate founder dating & recruiting manna

There’s been quite an array of reactions to the new move by Y Combinator when they announced the application for startup entrepreneurs sans the idea of a Business or a Product. As a ‘Startup Entrepreneur’, my spontaneous reaction, wrapped in a tweet was, “any entrepreneur or founder eager to do a Startup will be brimming with ideas.”

Oh! Yes, I don’t hesitate calling myself a Startup Entrepreneur these days as I’ve failed quite a few times to have experienced and know a thing or two about Startups and Entrepreneurship.

However, on a second look at YC’s initiative, I realized this is a brilliant gambit – YC is ready to take a much bigger albeit calculated risk for a long term winning move. Here’s why.

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6 months with an iPad & its my daughter’s favorite companion

Last November, when I was away to be part of the Founder Institute, my wife and daughter went to stay with the in-laws in our hometown – Manipur, a north-eastern state of India. My daughter have a very fuzzy eating habit and have to be watching something while she eats her breakfast, lunch and dinner. With no Internet in that part of the country and frequent power-outages, she was having a hard-time. I sent them an iPad (3G) and had a BSNL SIM carved out to fit into the MicroSIM Slot of the iPad.

Luckily during those days, Manipur was one of the testing ground for 3G internet in India and the speed was very good. With the internet working flawlessly, my wife was able to get my daughter to watch her favorite YouTube videos and she fell in love with the iPad. Few Barbie apps were the early apps downloaded to the iPad and she loves them. She even begin to called the iPad, “Barbie”. Even today she would ask me to put the “Barbie” to charge and sleep at night so she won’t die. These days she does say iPad but mixes it quite often with “Barbie”, “iPad Barbie”, “Barbie iPad”.

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“Cogito Ergo Sum” i.e. I blog, therefore I am

I blog there I am
I blog therefore I am (source : GoComics)

It is the generation of the lazy, the people who need their 11am cuppa coffee to even register that they are alive, and the generation of the creatively competent, the ones who are up all night writing about their fantasy alternate worlds. Is blogging dead then?

Writing isn’t easy, and Blogging is even tougher. Keeping up with the self acquired deadline of creating something readable on a regular basis is quite a task, especially when the only proceeds are the comments and a readership. Blogs that began as a drunken epiphany have a short shelf life, and even the ones that were born out of a meticulously thought out ideology are tough to keep up with. So what do you do when you want to prove that blogging is your calling, especially in this micro-blogging obsessed world that gets jaded if you write more than 140 characters? Do we need to force-fit blogs into snack-sized containers?

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A letter to my daughter on her 2nd birthday

Laaija 'Leia' Oinam

Today, my daughter is 2 years old and I’m unfortunate that I won’t be by her side. I’m writing a letter to her and making it public so my readers, friends and family will, in a way, remind me to keep my promises to her.

Leia

During her first year, I was working on my first startup and I missed most part of her earlier months. It was easier on her as she have no understanding of my absence. By the time we were together for about a year, I had given up on my failed startup. I knew that I had to be away from her again when I decided to take another plunge, get-up from my failed attempt and try harder. I just wasn’t sure how soon that would be.

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Africa: the Next Tech Frontier

Africa! You are probably envisioning savannas, safaris and political unrest, but amidst the AID projects and Elephants there is a new Africa emerging. Throwing off the shackles of oppressive African stereotypes, the new Africa is experiencing a technology paradigm shift vis-a-vis its high-tech entrepreneurs.

Africa’s technology entrepreneurs may not be catapulting the nation into a tech future like what occurred in India, but they are making incredible grass roots advances. Internet penetration has climbed to 30% in the more developed countries, and numbers continue to grow across the continent.

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