Day 1 of Echelon 2013 was an insightful and fruitful session. My first Tech Conference after many years of “hiatus”. I’ve to say, it is a refreshing experience and I hope to draw out more time to attend more of such events. Many interesting startups were spotted at the showcase and picked up quite a few useful tips from the main conference.


Here are my quick summary from today’s sessions at Echelon 2013…

Session 1 on Building products that solve problems by Sahil Lavingia – Founder & CEO, Gumroad


Sahil shared tips on how one should approach building products for users. Here are some of the points I picked up:

  • Build products instead of providing a service. Products are scalable, services aren’t.
  • Focus – on the single problem. Pass away (outsource) the others.
  • Move. Launch as soon as you can. Try things out quickly.
  • Have faith and believe in your assumptions.
  • DRY i.e. Don’t Repeat Yourself.
  • Remove steps for users. Make it as simple as you can. E.g. use FB/Google connect for sign-up.
  • Make users smart.
  • Provide immediate value.
  • Focus on solo experience. Don’t wait and think about a community experience until your user base grow.

Session 2 was a panel discussion on Key strategies startups need to build and grow their companies

Few pointers from this discussion:

  • It’s ok not to be perfect. Just put it out for users to try. Instead of testing it internally with people who knows what you are trying to build, test it with the REAL users and get REAL feedback that will help you improve and troubleshoot at the earlier stage of development.
  • Focus on matrix that matters NOW rather than vanity matrixes that means nothing until you are ready to expand or sell. E.g. What are users using the system for? Rather than What are the exposure of our products?

Session 3 on Shifts in investments trends in Silicon Valley and the Series A crunch by Dave McClure


This was the most insightful to me. I’ve always wondered how all the investments I’ve been reading about from VCs and Angels function. Through Dave’s sharing, I have a better understanding of what these investors are looking at when deciding who to invest, and the various stages involved. His slides on slideshare as embedded below:

Session 4 was another panel discussion on Creating a Compelling Investment Case/ Early Stage Portfolio for Series A Investors


One of the key takeaway from this session kinda contradicts to what I have been hearing from startups I know. Many said that Singapore is a great place to get something started and tested before expanding the product to other markets. But during the discussion, it was pretty clear that getting fundings in Singapore is tougher than in the States. Matter of fact, any country with a less significant pool of user-base is less likely to get big funds unless they manage to capture audiences beyond their local market. If its tough to get $500k funding from Singapore investors, how would one even try to get $500k from an oversea investor?

So is Singapore still the best place for a startup to start planting its seeds?

Session after Lunch was by Sangeet Paul Choudary – Founder, Platform Thinking on Platform Thinking: Business Model Design for Internet Businesses


Many of the points brought up were pretty obvious from the examples he quoted and most intellectual person would have see how these platforms evolved and grow and sold. And one slide in his entire presentation summed up what he was bringing across in his session:


The final panel discussion I sat in to at Echelon2013 was on Business Models Design for Digital Platforms & Marketplaces


The panelists shared about their experiences in bringing their products into the different countries and problems faced in each of them. With different laws and regulations, languages and culture in individual countries, one need to be prepared and understand at least the basic of what the problems their products may face (and plan ahead with possible solutions) before jumping onboard to opportunities.

My day at Echelon 2013 ended off with the startup pitches by 10 shortlisted startups from across Asia. I’m pretty impressed by a handful of these startups and an planning to catch up with some of them on Day 2 of Echelon 2013 happening tomorrow. Highlighting few which caught my attention…


Mathspace allows students to work out the answers to problems step by step, and get help instantly on any step they get stuck on.


iPhone prototyping made easy.

You draw your app design on paper, snap photo of these sketches with popapp and stimulate the app for real using their app. Its pretty cool. Waiting for it to come to the android store so that I can give it a try.


This video tells it all…

Stamp App Demo from mobiliti on Vimeo.

And after the 10 pitches, the Most Promising Startup at Echelon2013 was awarded to Waygo.


A Chinese to English translator for food menus and signage.


From the Demo, it looks like a very useful apps for anyone who can’t read Chinese but have to travel to chinese speaking countries very often. If you are one of them, you just got to have Waygo in your mobile. It’ll help solve many of your hunger problem at restaurants just like this video below…

Follow more updates on #echelon2013 on Twitter tomorrow! I’m signing off now to recharge my battery for another full day at Echelon 2013! See ya!