06 Execution is key

I know this sounds really cliché, but it’s really amazing how time flies when you’re having fun. I’m sure entrepreneurs around the world will agree.

Darts I embarked on the Neoteny Labs journey with Joi on December 1st, 2009. That journey is now a year old, and I’m really happy at the progress that we’ve made to date. We ran a small event in Singapore in December 2009 called Neoteny Singapore Camp 1 (NSC1) and had a ball of time. The fund (Neoteny Startup 1) opened in end-April 2010 and had our initial close a month later with some overwhelming responses. We made 8 investments over the next 6 months, and might close on 1 or 2 more over the next quarter.

Even though I’m technically sitting on the other side of the table, I feel like I’m part of an early-stage startup – we’re constantly figuring out ways to do things better and quicker. Joi has been an awesome mentor and together with Reid as an adviser to the investment committee, has done a great job with the fund and the portfolio. The team has grown a little, with Farhan Yaqub moving from Dubai to Singapore to work with me on the investments, and Sean Bonner helping out with our black ops as he weaves his way around the world. It’s really hard not to be infected with the enthusiasm of the founders (and their teams) that we back ;) . I’ve hopped out of bed quicker and attacked my day with more gusto over the past year than all of my previous 28 years of existence combined. Each night I go to bed, I wish I had 8 hours more before the day ended.

I’ll make another cliché statement. The sky really is the limit, but passion and ideals need to be grounded upon strong execution. Execution is more a function of good habits (trainable) rather than natural talent (innate). I start my day by running through and prioritizing the list of to-dos that awaits me. I spend my day meeting and connecting folks to do my bit for the ecosystem, while fragging my to-do items along the way. I end my day in bed by feeding more to-dos into Awesome Note on my iPhone *cues the scene where Rambo smokes his joint in a darkened room and feeds bullets into his magazines*. Heh.

If you’re going to tell me you’ve tried but you don’t think you can do it, STOP. The trick is to WANT to become a “hustler”, and by want, I mean REALLY REALLY WANT. Persevere in your pursuit of excellence, learn from others, never stop sharpening your edge – you’ll get there one fine day. The human will can be really amazing – just take care not to hustle too much and lose the zen in all that you do.

Ideas are free, and until implemented, are like the ephemeral dreams that escape our waking consciousness as each of our days begin. Don’t get too obsessed with your startup vision, lest they turn into Cone of Cold spells that sap away at your life force. Leave illusions of grandeur behind you, and take action today.

Chinese wise men once said, “万事起头难“. It’s never easy to take that first step, but once you have, keep taking your second, third, yadda yadda steps and never look back.

About James Chan ()

James is Investment Manager at Neoteny Labs, and works closely with General Partner Joichi Ito on the fund and its portfolio companies.

Prior to Neoteny Labs, James served as Investment Manager at Walden International Singapore, where he worked on Seed Ventures IV Pte Ltd (S4), a new fund organized under the National Research Foundation’s Early Stage Venture Capital Fund Scheme that was focused on making investments into early-stage technology companies in Singapore. In 2007, James served as Investment Manager at Infocomm Investments, a wholly owned subsidiary of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, which made equity investments into growth-stage infocomm enterprises.

James completed his Double Major: B.Sc in Electrical & Computer Engineering and Engineering & Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon, and earned his M. Sc in Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) at Stanford University.

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