Category Archives: business

Turning my mind to money

“What? Sacha’s going mercenary?”

No, I’m still very much into free software and I’m still definitely
not going for easy-money stuff like working in a call center. =)

However, I _have_ decided that it’s silly for me to look down on
business. It’s something to learn, and it’s just as worthy as
technology is. I’ve been reading business books since childhood, and I
want to put those things into practice. I want to take risks and learn
from experience. I want to do this _now_, while making mistakes won’t
mean starving. This gives me the freedom to take calculated risks and
the power to walk away from bad deals. I want to be able to hack this.

I want to meet other people who are brave enough to be creative,
people who aren’t satisfied with the routine of being an employee and
consumer. When Marcelle told me about unexpectedly having to find
other ways to fund his MA Philosophy, I excitedly invited him over for
a brainstorming session. From a guy desperate for options, he became
someone with a long list of people he can get in touch with and things
he can try out. I think he’ll do well!

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Business book: Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant

I read Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant, another
book in his Rich Dad, Poor Dad series. While I’m generally not a big fan of the other books in the series, the book drove home the
difference between income sources that force you to keep working
(employee / self-employed) and income sources that make money for you
even while you’re asleep (business, investment). It also emphasized
the difference between taking risks _and_ paying for it versus taking
risks and being paid for it. I think its glowing recommendation of
small- to medium-size house/apartment renting needs to be taken with a
grain of salt, and I don’t have the cash or confidence to play the
real-estate games the authors are so fond of, but the book has many
insights anyone can use.

My dad is self-employed, but it’s the kind of self-employed that means
he has to keep working. My mom is working on the business system so
that it’ll function smoothly even if she’s not on-site. The other
people in the business are employees, and they’ll likely stay
employees unless they’re taking care of their own well-being. My mom’s
been trying to help them get the idea of stocks, though, and they hold
shares in the company. My mom’s also quite savvy, and I have much to
learn from her.

I want to go further. I want to learn how to build a good business
system. I want to learn how to do that from the beginning instead of
trying to fit a good business system in afterwards. I want to create
opportunities. I know what I want to be, and I know that just working
normal jobs isn’t going to cut it. I need to take risks.

Let’s take teaching for example. I love teaching, and I would like to
help more people enjoy computing. I can teach in one university and
hope to inspire other people by my example either horizontally (other
teachers picking up good ideas) or vertically (students becoming
teachers). Horizontal propagation takes time. Vertical propagation
takes even more time. I could focus on teacher training, but even
then, control is difficult and turnaround is slow. If I set up a
company for teaching and differentiate the company through philosophy,
techniques and strengths, then we can move much faster. There’s more
risk and I’d have to work outside the school system, but I just might
reach more people that way: tutors who go through the training, people
who learn, teachers who get inspired… There’s nothing stopping the
company from offering free training, either. This idea is an example
of how something like teaching can be more than just an employee kind
of thing. Of course, there’s a lot of risk (saturated market? what
about quality control?). It’ll be more challenging than a safe and
steady professorship dependent only on publications (and that only
until tenure), but challenges are fun.

I want to go out there and learn how businesses work. I want to learn
why and how they fail and how to recover from those things. I want to
learn how to sell ideas, business plans, work… I need to start
small: baby steps forward. I need to be able to make mistakes,
although of course I’ll try to avoid repeating mistakes.

I think I can hack this. =)

How to hire great people

joelonsoftware has interesting insights on hiring the best people. He pokes holes
in hiring fallacies like super-selection: “We’re so good we hire only
1 out of 200 applicants!” Big news: the best people _aren’t_
scrambling for your vacancies! Joel said:

By the way, it’s because of this phenomenon—the fact that
many of the great people are never on the job market—that we are so
aggressive about hiring summer interns. This may be the last time
these kids ever show up on the open market. In fact we hunt down the
smart CS students and individually beg them to apply for an internship
with us, because if you wait around to see who sends you a resume,
you’re already missing out.

The best experienced software developers WILL NOT BE LOOKING FOR WORK.
They will be under lock-and-key at software companies that know how to
take care of them. Unless you can get at them through personal or
intellectual reasons, they’re not going to apply to your job ad. Screw
experience. Cherry-pick students, offer them great internships,
duties), and mold them into the developers you want them to be.

Something to keep in mind if I start my own tech company.

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Read technobiography: OT: Jun-jun the Parking Man and think about the poor.

I think microfinancing is a good idea, BUT it must also come with
financial education. Most people are financially illiterate. Heck, _I_
still don’t think I can start up just any company and make it
successful. People with little money have less education. They need
guidance and they need followup. They need to learn not to use
windfalls for consumption, but rather think of ways to make money with

I wonder what would have happened if the group lent the money instead.
Edwin thinks it would have encouraged Jun-jun to use the money
responsibly, and I think so as well. It would be very tempting for
Jun-jun to go and buy things first and then just try to pay back the
loan, failing eventually because his income hadn’t increased
proportionately. He would need to be taught not to use the money to
buy things right away but rather put money into something that could
yield more money later—a bananacue business, if that isn’t saturated

But yes—you need to teach a man to fish.

What _would_ I do if I had extra cash? I should always keep business
ideas in mind so that I can take advantage of windfalls. I can save
extra money in the bank so that I can make decisions when I have more
money (an investment fund for myself). You need to have a certain
amount of money to take advantage of some opportunities. There are
also ways of making money on top of borrowed money, but I’m not
confident enough to risk that yet.

Tala’s recent “Argh” entry
inspired me, and one of the businesses I’d like to put up is an anger release place. ;)

Hmmm. You know, it _is_ actually a viable business idea. Buy cheap
plates, have people pay a small amount (cost of plate + small margin)
to draw faces on plates and SMASH THEM! SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH!

You can also have stuffed toys for cuddling–or ripping the stuffing
out of! Mwahaha… Voodoo dolls and the like, too.

I wonder where we can put up a small shop like that. We can call it
“Rage” or something…

I remember reading about the business idea somewhere. It sounds like
something one can set up easily. Get satisfyingly fragile plates,
black markers, a punching bag, paper and tape (put faces on the
punching bag), cheap stuffed toys, maybe even a photoprinter after the
shop is successful (and scissors and lighters, too)… Set it all up, have space
so that you can throw things a satisfying distance, and market it as a
cheap way to protect your valuables from your tantrums! If my sister’s
anyone to go by, there’s a market for a place like that! ;)

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Difficult choices

UToronto is offering me admission.
An interesting startup is recruiting me.
Choices are always difficult.

I would like to defer my U of T admission a few months—a sem at
most—and try out the startup. Having my cake and eating it too. I’m
excited about the opportunities. I want to learn about the business
side of things. I want to see a startup try to get all the way to
shipping a product. I’m looking forward to picking their brains.
Lawrence and Luis have worked on other startups before, and they’ve
been quite successful. I want to learn why. I also want to put
together a little investment kitty I can use for myself in the future.
I think the business experience will enrich my research work and make
me even more valuable to the department.

I was going to post a long entry thinking through some other factors,
but posting it as I had originally written it would be doing a grave
disservice to my mother. Initially I was frustrated by her lack of
enthusiasm and her skepticism (although not straight disapproval).
Silly me, of course! Not only is my mom a very savvy business person
who’s just reminding me to do due diligence (and indeed I will e-mail
the former companies of the guys heading the startup), but she’s also
my mom, and although she’s not entirely keen on the idea of my being
away, she knows it’s a selfish feeling and won’t let that stop me from

Conclusion: I have an ubercool mom who is handling all of these things
far, far better than other moms can be expected to.

I really, really love her.

So I’ll check this thing out. If the guys pass whatever tests I can
think of _and_ the UToronto people say OK, then I’ll sign up with them
for a stint. If not, I’ll head over to Canada so that I can get
started right away and come home soon.

I lurv my mom.

1匹の猫を別とすれば家は空っぽだった。 The house was empty except for a cat.

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Edwin’s comment on financial literacy

edwin of technobiography said:

Hi Sacha,

Many of us, like me, have a lot to learn about financial literacy. I’m reading up on financial literacy through Francisco Colayco’s book (Pera mo Palaguin mo) and Larry Gamboa’s book (Think Rich, Pinoy!). Good read, very applicable to us Filipinos.

Gabby and I had a little discussion in January. Take a look: Cashflow! – Edutainment in a box

Yeah, I heard about Cashflow! I’d like to play it. Anyone have one of
those and a free afternoon? We could also have a Monopoly party. I was
never very good at Monopoly (and in fact usually found games a drag),
but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to be good at it. =D

E-Mail from Richi’s server

猫は夕食に魚にありつくとわくわくする。 My cat is thrilled with joy when she gets fish for dinner.

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