Derrick Ko

Builds Kicksend. Product guy. Founded a startup.

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Fandom

I wrote this shortly after Sir Alex announced his retirement a year ago, but I never did hit publish. In light of today’s news about David Moyes, this piece feels especially apt.

Just like that Sir Alex Ferguson has retired. And a million voices did cry out in terror. 659 million fans to be exact.

Football fandom is a weird beast. I grew up 6800 miles from Manchester. Why should I even care what goes on there?

Humans are complex social creatures. The random bonding with strangers for 90 minutes. The shared emotions that come with winning and losing. The sense of purpose that comes with weekly matches. We are, by evolution, tribal and competitive by nature. Club support feeds those instincts.

So how does one decide which club to support? Apart from the obvious reasons like geographic location or family tradition, I dare say it’s because we find aspects of the club that we resonate...

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The State of Photo Apps

Ever since mobile phones have become our de facto camera, the cost of taking a photo has plummeted. We are now taking more photos of the world around us than ever before.

Photos have become such a crucial piece in the consumer app space that companies are basing entire strategies around them. And thus far, our love of nostalgia and our need for validation have been the guiding motivations behind the current state of photo apps.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia drives us to keep our old photos – whether in a shoebox or the cloud. We know that as our memories become more distant, we will value the photos of them even more. And with our hoarding instincts, not only do we want to keep all our photos, we want a reliable place to do so.

Companies have realized this. It’s no coincidence that in a span of two weeks, we have seen a renewed emphasis on mobile photo storage. Dropbox launched Carousel and...

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Opportunities

Every opportunity has its costs. On hindsight, we celebrate the great ones and try not to regret the missed ones. How then, should we approach opportunities that come our way?

To me, it’s about understanding how we want to mold ourselves, and using that to influence our decisions accordingly.

Two years ago, I had a cushy consulting job at Pivotal Labs Singapore when I was given the opportunity to join a file sharing company called “Kicksend”. I’d have to uproot and join these two guys – whom I had just met – across the world.

Two years on, revenue is jumping monthly. The team is growing; from the three of us in an acupuncturist office to a well rounded company with a new Singapore engineering office. And we’re on a roadmap I’m personally excited about.

Along the way, I’ve rejected my share of worthless recruiter emails and worthy opportunities. Further scaling Kicksend at this stage...

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Perfection

Meet Mr Kwee.

mr_kwee.jpg Source: HGW

He arguably fries one of the best plates of char kway teow, an intricate noodle dish constructed from the most basic of ingredients. For the past 40 years, Mr Kwee has been frying the same plate of noodles, every day.

Mr Kwee is a hawker in Singapore. Hawkers serve food out of stalls that are barely large enough to fit two people, in what can be best described as an outdoor food court. The very best earn over $10,000 a month. And there’s a good number of them who have been at it since the 1960s.

40 years on, Mr Kwee still starts the day to long lines of customers. Even though ingredients have changed, generations have grown, and taste buds have evolved.

Every portion of char kway teow that Mr Kwee fries is delicately balanced to be as perfect as it can be, for only that moment in time. The next one will be different – perhaps with a slight improvement...

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Startup Employees: Understand Your Offer

So you’ve been looking for startups to join as an early employee. You’ve an offer letter in your inbox. You like the numbers. You call to accept.

Stop. I’ve seen too many people – for better or for worse – rush to accept an offer without much consideration. Don’t make that mistake. While most startups have great founders who are honest, have the right motivations, and properly value what you bring to the table, there are always the ones you want to avoid. But startups always paint a rosy picture, so how would you ever find out?

One key indication is that offer you have in hand. As an early employee, you should understand the larger picture surrounding the offer, before you make your decision.

The Basics

Salary

The amount of cash you get per month. Nothing exciting here.

Options

Options aren’t stocks. They give you the option to purchase stocks at a price determined by the board called...

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Yes, Designers and Engineers Can Play Nice

With the rise of “design centric teams”, there has been a lot of talk about the differences between designers and engineers. Sadly, they seldom are about anything constructive. But hey, aren’t twists and conflicts just more entertaining to read?

The reality is far from a Mars vs Venus situation, as described by some. I have worked with many design teams – more notably IDEO, and more recently, one of the top designers in the Valley. I know what it takes to foster a close, productive relationship between engineering and design. And I know that it boils down to process and empathy.

Keep design ahead

Design should always operate ahead of engineering. Have a head start of at most two weeks. Any longer, and you risk having something that is outdated by reality by the time engineering starts. Interaction and visual design should be iterated and completed before writing a single line of code....

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10,000

Ever notice that job listings always call for 5 years of experience? There is a reason for that, and it is arbitrary.

The critical difference between expert musicians differing in the level of attained solo performance concerned the amounts of time they had spent in solitary practice during their music development, which totaled around 10,000 hours by age 20 for the best experts.

Dr. Anders Ericsson first presented this concept in a research paper, which was later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers.

In short, one becomes an “expert” after training for 10,000 hours. Or 5 years.

However, everyone eventually reaches 5 years of professional development. Does that make everyone an expert by default? While 10,000 hours worth of experience does give one a good level of familiarity with the subject, I wouldn’t give out the title of “expert” that easily.

I believe it’s how you...

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Why should I start my career at Microsoft, rather than a startup?

Kevin at Microsoft writes:

Startups can seem exciting, but when you consider tech jobs, remember the risks. When you picture success at an early-stage company, you may take inspiration from the money you will earn once the company “hits it big.”

On the other hand, choosing Microsoft to launch your career provides nothing but upside.

Don’t believe the hype. I admit I’m biased, but for tech jobs, Microsoft is your best bet.

Dear Kevin,

While I agree that Microsoft can provide fulfilling careers to many people, that’s just a terrible response. Given Microsoft’s history with startups, I never expected such condescension. (Incidentally, if the hype isn’t worth believing, why bother fueling it with Bizspark?)

Top talent think critically. You need to present a logical argument. You don’t convince people that you’re cool by saying you’re cool.

More importantly, you assume that great...

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No, the iPhone isn’t boring

With this morning’s launch, there has been a slew of articles proclaiming that the iPhone 5 is boring.

Reviewers, quick to call winners and losers in the space, have spent the last few months lamenting that the iPhone doesn’t offer more. Even some hard-core Apple fans questioned whether the iPhone can continue to trail blaze or if it’s becoming a snoozer. One Apple employee recently confided he had been hoping the new device would have more dramatic changes.

In short, a longer phone with an interface that looks the same since 2007, just doesn’t sound like progress.

I can’t help but sense that people are missing the point. Let’s take look.

  • No NFC. NFC is still at a nascent state of adoption. While it could be Apple’s prerogative as a market leader to push for its adoption, the market may not be ripe for NFC just yet. The mobile payments space is still sorting itself out, and the...

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Great Startup Engineers

Early stage startups aren’t for everyone, and they certainly call for engineers with a certain set of qualities. Typically, engineers who have

  • Great technical breadth and technical depth.
  • An immediately applicable skill set.
  • The ability to learn quickly.

But it takes more than that to make an engineer a great startup engineer.

Focus

You can focus, and refocus, effortlessly.

In a startup, things crop up all the time that scream for your attention. And you have to respond – whether it’s a bug on production, or a sudden re-prioritization of features. You keep juggling no matter how many balls are hurled at you.

Focusing on a single feature is easy. Having the discipline, attitude and agility to refocus spontaneously is hard.

Compassion

You have compassion for your users. Engineers traditionally tend to lack this, as layers of product managers and customer support form a pretty cozy...

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