Monday, 3 November 2014

[W12] Flash Update for Square Register

Just something interesting that I found today.

Our sovereign wealth fund, GIC, (who will be managing your CPF etc indirectly in the future) has invested an unknown amount in Square. That's surprising news, because I thought Square is a pretty small company, and I didn't think GIC would be interested.

Could this mean that GIC sees a future in mobile payment? Perhaps we'll see Square increase its presence in Singapore pretty soon in the future.

Announcement from GIC:
As a long-term value investor, GIC believes the rising secular trend and penetration of mobile payment software will present good investment opportunities. Square, in particular, plays a key role in accelerating the acceptance of all forms of payments in the Small and Medium Businesses' sector.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

[W11] Wavenique

Just a short update on our most recent endeavour:

We are working on Wavenique, an app to manage your online music content better.

Check out to find out more. (And subscribe yourself to our early invite list :) )

If you like listening to music, we also invite you to contribute to our market survey here:

P.S. If you google Wavenique, we are now the top result!

// end promotion message

To share some updates on our progress, I'd want to say that my group has pretty good dynamics so far. Their pace of life suits mine pretty well, and this includes plenty of break time, tea time, etc. Often, this break is well needed for me as well, to recharge from the exhaustion from other involvements beside CS3216.

Despite that, they constantly surprise me with the quality of work, I gotta say that I am quite impressed thus far with what they have produced. If any of you read this, good job!

All these are done while meeting the deadlines reasonably, and without late nights in school. I hope things stay this way in the future as well!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

[W7] On Carousell

It was really interesting having Carousell in class today. Personally, I haven't used it because I haven't had a need to sell something, but hearing him speak got me nodding several times in agreement.

This is my gut feeling about Carousell - they have a great team, and they are doing things right. 

He shared a lot of tips from and I can only say that I have a new-found respect for this person. I have heard of Y Combinator before, but in my mind, I was already of the opinion that it is probably another accelerator that funds many project, and bank on a few successful ones generating high returns to make up for the rest. 

The tips I hear today resonate with me in a positive manner. Startup = growth. I think Carousell made a good decision focusing their effort on growth instead of trying to reap the benefits now by paying themselves. 

You will be surprised, I have read many stories about entrepreneurs who got comfortable and stopped growing after getting venture capital funding, thinking that they "have made it". I can understand that the temptation to start giving you and your team paychecks is high, especially after slogging it out for a few years, even though your company isn't really earning that much. For this, I am impressed that the presenter (forgot his name..) said with such conviction that he isn't earning a single cent and putting all into growth. That's some great discipline and stewardship there. I can't say I will do the same if I were in the same situation.

I am rooting for Carousell and will be following its development over the next few years. I sure hope it will develop into another homegrown app that we can all be proud of!

[W7] NUSay!

It's been a hellish period for me the past few weeks. CS3216, Biz final year project, job search, and not forgetting mid terms. I barely caught any breaks in between and I was shuttling from one project to the next the whole recess week.

Nonetheless, the app is out ( and I am really happy with it. I think I picked up Angular pretty fast, and even though I may code slower than the rest (that's expected, considering this is my only computing mod this sem), I think I exceeded myself on this one.

However, there's no time to rest. Gotta keep up the momentum and do the same for final project!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

[W4] Application Critique - Square Register

Application Critique - Square Register


Square is a mobile POS tool that processes all major credit cards. They have a data analytic component that tracks and reports popular products with customers.

Most Important Takeaways from the Presentation

1. Square is Mobile

This is definitely the most important feature and competitive advantage that Square has would allow it to triumph over the other POS systems. The presenting group is right to emphasize on this point through their mini-skit (which I admit I found amusing). However, I have mixed feelings about it. 

Well, most companies now accept payments online first then deliver the goods. The delivery of goods is usually no more than just a deliveryman (from FedEx/DHL/Singpost) passing on the goods to the customer.

When I first hear about Square, I thought it was an awesome idea. It could revolutionalise the way deliveries are made. If payments are made in person instead of through the net, it means there is an additional opportunity for contact between the business and their customer. It opens up a window of opportunity for the business to cross-sell complementary products to customers in person right before they deliver.

The psychology behind why this will work is that people are vulnerable to relatively small impulse purchases, and especially right before they pay. Since they are already paying for a big ticket item, if you sell them a perceived useful item that is much cheaper relative to what they are paying for, they are more likely to think "Well, it doesn't cost a lot and I could use it" than when they have time to evaluate the choices. I am not kidding you, just google around and you'll see. One famous example I can cite here is this: If you needs to drive across town to save $7 on a $25 dollar pen, you are likely to do it because that's a huge discount. However, if it were about saving $7 on a $495 suit? You most likely wouldn't because the perceived savings is less, even though the savings is the same. Similarly, customers will think less about a small purchase if they are already making a large one. 

But upon deeper introspection, I decided that it is very hard to put this theory in place.

For one, the person receiving the product is usually not the same as the one purchasing it nowadays. If delivered to customers' home, it may be any of his or her family members receiving the purchase. If delivered to an office, the receiver is usually the mail room or receptionist first. The window of opportunity is not consistent and hence, not profitable if you ask me.

The other thing is that shifting from a "pay first, deliver later" system to a "payment on delivery" model is going to increase risks for businesses. If you don't have to pay immediately when you purchase it, people may get irresponsible with their purchases, such as cancelling it even though it is being delivered. This means more volatility or write-off and is definitely not favourable.

Hence, even though it is mobile and has the ability to change the way deliveries work, the incentive for businesses is not high enough for the switch.

2. Square POS is free...

except for processing Credit Cards, which is virtually all the transactions that will go through it. Technically, 2.75% is the market rate and is even cheaper than Paypal's processing fees (see here). 

Like the previous point, this initially looks like an enticing choice, but I can also see why businesses do not want to take this up.

I did a basic market research on the rates businesses charge for POS systems, but I didn't manage to get any reliable figures. My anecdotal experience from doing sales for Prolink is that businesses are charged 2% for processing credit cards locally. If this were true, at 2.75%, Square would not be able to compete locally with the typical retail bank merchant services. 

A little off topic here, but my research also revealed that the popular retail banks such as DBS and Citibank can provide both wired and wireless terminals, which sort of made Square's mobile competitive advantage a moot point in retail businesses.. 

Back on topic, another major turn-off for Square is that even though the reader is free, every reader needs to be accompanied by a corresponding mobile device (probably a tablet). The point here is obvious, the implicit cost of adopting Square is that the businesses need to buy hardware to support it as well. After all, I wouldn't trust a business with my credit card if their POS system (i.e. the mobile device) is something the salesman also uses for his social life and brings home every day. 

So, after these costs are added up, Square still has to be cheaper than conventional methods for it to be a viable alternative.

3. Data Analytic Service

Square provides you up-to-date sales information that would be very useful for businesses. Such information includes top items by sales, new vs returning customers, average visits/spending, etc. 

This is something that I feel is a competitive advantage of Square. From the interface shown in class by the presenting team, it looks very polished, targeted, and relevant to all kinds of businesses. 

To the best of my knowledge, these monolithic organizations trying their best to hold the rubbish from legacy systems together, otherwise known as banks, have yet to catch up with such post-modern feature of rolling out analytic to the businesses. 

The crux of implementing useful data analytic will lie in the execution. From the interface, one can see that many fields need to be filled in per transaction. With a card reader and no bar code scanner, I just hope that inputting the sales item will not require much manual effort. The reason why many data is unclean is because the fault lies at the point of input, where the cashier or salesman input what takes the least time or is the most convenient to them (probably during peak periods), rather than ensuring each input is accurate. If the whole process from purchase to payment is as seamless as their interface, I am sure data analytic will automatically become useful.


The competitive advantage of Square lies in its mobility and data analytic service. While its mobility feature can be positioned better, the data analytic service provides huge incentive for businesses to switch.

In my opinion, the target market of Square would be the more educated, tech savvy crowd, who are aware of the benefits of data analysis. 

There are business owners who may not be educated, but have very good business acumen, which they have relied on to build their enterprise. This market would be harder to penetrate because the owners often do not choose to rely on data, but on their instincts instead. The educated crowd would be aware of the latest buzzwords (such as big data) and would more likely have an interest in analytic, 

These more educated owners would also be less resistant to switching to a more modern POS tool, presumably because they would also be dissatisfied with the outdated and clunky UI of conventional POS tools. 

Square is also very suitable for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). These are the businesses that do not have enough profits to justify the exorbitant fees charged by data analytic companies such as SAS and would benefit from Square's payment scheme to get a basic data analytic. 

Small businesses may not have the infrastructure to support collecting data as well, and this is where Square can also enter as the solution to their lack of infrastructure.

Would Square be a success venture? I feel that it has the potential. The group mentioned that Square isn't doing very well in the US. While I do not know what is their implemented strategy, it is of my opinion that if they implement the entire experience well enough, from front-end to back-end, and target the correct group of people, Square would be able to gradually grab a slice of the market before its much larger competitors take notice. Hopefully, by then, Square would have invested enough resources in its infrastructure and offerings to be able to compete with the big players by itself. Only then will it be able to change the industry.

Monday, 1 September 2014

[W4]Give your all to me, give my all to you

I'm typing this while on the last bus home. This is the second Sunday I'm spending with my group out of these 4 weeks of school. Assignment 1 is coming to an end soon, and I hope things go well for us in the remaining time.

I got to say that time has passed really fast yet feels really slow this semester. As we were walking to food clique to eat our dinner, it dawned on me that such pace of life usually only happens on week 8 or 9 of my semester. Yet, it is only barely week 4 now!

Coupled with my business school final year project, which started last semester and spans over 2 semesters, life has been intensive with only some occasional breather in between. (Years of intensive studying has taught me that knowing when to take a break is an important skill to remain productive.)

Nonetheless, it has been fun. Even though I'm only doing the ui/ux side of things, it is still gratifying when things turn out the way you coded them to be.

One major roadblock for me, however, is trying to integrate Facebook properly. The documentation is not user-friendly and when an error occurs, one can hardly find out the cause through Facebook documentation itself. There is nothing we can do, however, except to try everything to make it work.

Anyway, I'm almost home now, so it is time to continue crafting the perfect ux for Planendar.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

[W3] Some growth hack techniques are wrong and you shouldn't use them. Here's why.

On the grounds of ethics, I disagree with a good portion of what was said in today's growth hacking class. The question I am going to answer here today is: Does the end justifies the means?

In this context, "end" would refer to the final sales figures and "means" is of course, whatever that took place to get there.

I am going to start with a disclaimer first that I agree with a good portion of the presentation. He has very good points, and we ought to learn from other people's successes and failures. Social metrics, A/B testing, targeting authorities/media from the relevant fields for outreach (and some very innovative methods of reaching them), video marketing, etc are all methods that I find interesting and valid.

However, as with everything in life, we ought to step back, and think for ourselves what is the purpose behind these actions, and whether they are right or not. Unfortunately, this isn't always easy and there are many gray areas where our judgement needs to be exercised.

Just because it is legal, doesn't mean it is right to do so.

I am not talking about exploiting bugs, etc, but the more abstract ideas of morals, intent, purposes and values. For example, exploiting the heartbleed bug to spoof others' identity is clearly wrong. Exploiting a bug in Craigslist to mass-post your listings isn't. That's just stupidity on Craigslist's end. It's quite a clever hack though I must admit.

In the case of the presentation today, the example of impersonating as a user on online forums and recommending your own app is clearly wrong. You are misrepresenting yourself and your products to your potential users. While it may seem ingenious or amusing at first, if you give you more thought, what you are essentially doing is deceiving people and employing deceptive sales tactics.

This is very different from presenting yourself as the app developer and selling the benefits to the members on the forum. This is not allowed on most forums either so you will still get banned anyhow. However, you are not trying to misled people into using your product by pretending to be one of them.

Another point that I have major contention with as well is buying your way into the top grossing charts. Downloads and reviews are what users rely on to judge the quality of the app. Manipulating these figures through unethical ways only serve to compromise the integrity (of yourself primarily and then the app).

You can place your product beside popular ones to anchor users' perception. That's a clever trick to make people download. Buying downloads? Hmm, things get a little subjective, but still you aren't directly misleading people, so it can be argued. Buying reviews or writing fake reviews? Now, that's clearly an ethical breach. The intent is to explicitly make people believe that your product is good through deception. Basically you are lying through your teeth. Imagine if buying reviews become a social norm in the future, will these reviews serve any purpose any more? In such a scenario, a seller with bad rating could possibly be the most honest merchant around and every other 5 star ratings are untrustworthy.

Surely, these techniques will make you more successful than your competitors over the same period of time. However, I won't feel proud with this "success" I obtained, embarrassed even. I feel that it is important to be ourselves and maintain a moral compass, even through trying times. While this may limit the intended "success", I would have upheld my values and my conscience, which to me, are more important than material success. At this point, it should be obvious to you that I strongly believe that the end does not justify the means. The means must be justified as well.

That being said, everybody has a different yardstick for ethical issues. It is a sensitive issue and I was not prepared to spark any heated discussion in class. Definitely, you (the reader) will disagree with me at some point in this post and I will be glad to hold a discussion with you on this topic.