Crushing Customer Development in Singapore

By Kevon Cheung in


March 26, 2013

For the last six days, I traveled to one of the most exciting cities with curiosity and excitement. I used to live there for two whole years when I was two years old, and there wasn’t a tiny bit of memory left in my head. That’s why I was extremely excited to be back to Singapore all by myself, just adventure and exploration in front of me.

The primary purpose for the trip was to attend Lean Startup Machine (LSM), an intensive weekend workshop which teaches entrepreneurs and innovators how to build disruptive products. As a believer in lean startup, I had read Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Running Lean by Ash Maurya, but book theories are still in the book, I had to grab this opportunity to attend the hands-on workshop to further learn the concepts. I purposely scheduled to arrive two days ahead of the workshop so that I could make good use of the trip to explore the city.

At LSM, we formed teams to develop fresh business ideas which we would test with real customers on the streets. The emphasis was using a problem-approach, therefore, we didn’t even think about the solution at the first place, all our effort was on “what problems do people have?” They often emphasized, “The worst thing that can happen is building a product that no one wants!” As we all got excited about new business ideas, we made all these rough assumptions and it was not surprising to see how many of our assumptions were made up because we thought people want something, but they actually did not want it. Thanks to these real customers’ feedback from embarrassing ourselves on Orchard Road, almost all the teams have changed (we called it pivoted) from the original idea.

We learned about the right methodology to do startup at LSM, and I kept referring the concept back to my own startup, Sponfed. I realized there were a ton of mistakes we made: didn’t specify a specific market segment where the early adopters are, didn’t test assumptions and pivot enough, and didn’t come up with a way to present our product effectively when meeting with clients. The sponsorship space is definitely a tough market to go into, but we could have been more successful to tackle the problems if we had used the lean startup concept.

Clarke Quay
Marina Bay
Garden by the Bay

Well, other than learning the startup methodology, I also visited a ton of places in Singapore, Night Safari, Garden by the Bay, Sentosa, Raffle Places, Clarke Quay, best rooftop bar 1-Altitude, Little India, Orchard Road, Bugis, what a shame I didn’t get to Chinatown lol! I found Singapore to be a very lovely place, it is extremely small but ridiculously diverse, from Indians to Chinese to Malays to Westerners, you could expect everything there. From the riverside bars in Clarke Quay and Raffle Places to the outdoor ones on Orchard Road, I could say working short-term in Singapore is totally preferable to Hong Kong, but in terms of living permanently, I’m not too sure because things to do will run out pretty soon.

Other observations from my trip were that the architectures in the city are consistent with the similar modern touch, taxi drivers are very friendly and like to talk with the passengers, asking me whether hong kong girls are prettier looking. I have also had most of my meals at the hawker centers or food court, the food there is so cheap that I had to order two sometimes, but the quality? so-so.

I can now announce that Singapore has jumped onto my favorite list of cities right behind Bangkok and Taipei. To be honest, it is quite an ideal city to work overseas!

Garden by the Bay
Boat Quay
Garden by the Bay
Little India

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