Dowdy Journey of a Glamorous Title — what people do not see behind my entrepreneurship journey
Pseudopscops is not the first company that I started. Pseudoscops is the fourth company that I co-founded at the moment. However, it is the first company that I am running full-time, without the comfort of having a full-time job.
Out of the four companies, three of them are providing technological solutions. The unique one that I started alone provides photography services. One of the services is to bring couples overseas to a scenic location to take their bridal shots and tour the place without worrying about the logistics. Unfortunately, all of them didn’t manage to take off compared to what Pseudoscops is achieving at the moment.
I do not come from a wealthy background, and I need to provide for my own family and parents. Thus, this is a significant jump for me and probably the last time I can make this “daring” decision, having limited time to determine if this works for me. Deciding to embark on this journey is not an easy decision, a daunting task for me, which will be impossible without the support of my wife and my business co-founders.
So what prompted us to start Pseudoscops? It comes from believing that we can achieve more than what we can do under our employer back then. Together with my Co-Founder Adrian, we developed an operational Facial Recognition System with Singapore’s law enforcement agency against all odds. We even conceptualised and built a portable version that’s self-contained and deployable by a single person within 5 minutes. We thought we could achieve much more if we can do what we wanted freely, charting the product development direction and the company with these proven track records. So, after deliberating the idea for few months, we decided to make the jump.
The initial intention is for us to remain within the Law Enforcement Industry. However, with the reality of bread & butter setting in, we need to seek other business opportunities to generate income while developing potential projects on Facial Recognition. It was supposed to be an introductory presentation, sharing our development capabilities with a famous Singapore brand. Coincidentally, they were also looking for a technology partner that can help them in their business transformation.
After a few rounds of conceptualisation and presentation, we secured the deal to partner with Lim Chee Guan Pte Ltd on their digital transformation journey. What we are working on is a change in direction from what we intend to do initially. However, this opens up a much bigger potential market for the company. With this partnership’s industry insights and know-how, we saw a gap that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers face.
Contradictory to what people are thinking about them not wanting to get online, it’s the opposite. They want to sell online but are deterred by the ‘How to’ and the issue on ‘How much.’ Thus, we developed UnitySuite, which aims to bridge this gap by offering them a simple platform that helps them start selling online fast. In my opinion, the critical deterrence in customers taking up this solution is that we have yet to be one of the pre-approved vendors that allow grants to offset the initial setup cost. This situation amplifies by the pandemic where it severely impacts Singapore’s business environment, and many depend on the Administration to render support to them.
In running the company, the biggest challenge that we faced is to take down an online eCommerce site during the peak period when things are not going according to plan. While we have done all the preparations and testing, we failed to anticipate sufficiently the extreme demand and complexity of customers rushing to purchase the products. The customer’s management decision then was to bring the site down immediately to contain the situation. This incident resulted in the loss of trust with my team, and we quickly moved into service recovery mode. Personally, that was the most stressful period, and I thought that this is the end of the journey for the company.
Thankfully, the customer’s management decided to give us another chance and walk the journey with us. Eventually, we managed to bring the site up with additional measures and successfully enabled customers to purchase what they need online amid the high traffic. We have also integrated the frontend process into the backend logistics process to ensure smooth fulfilment to the customers. Currently, we are enhancing the entire process, learning from our experiences during the initial rollout to make this an even better platform for our customer’s customers.
Now, we are faced with the reality of survival after we delivered the projects that we currently have. So besides project delivery, we need to seek out more prospects on both subscribing to our platform UnitySuite or engaging us to develop a customised solution. So to generate revenue, I am also taking up jobs to conduct facilitation on Project Management. The focus on revenue generation is not on paying us the salary; it’s on paying the wages for 2 of our team members. We are not the type of company to fire people to pay ourselves. We viewed those employed by us as an individual, each of them could be supporting a family. Asking them to move on will be the last resort that we take after exhausting every means that we can find.
Many technology startups tend to seek investment funding to grow and bring the company to fame. For Pseudoscops, we are looking at organic growth, generating our income, and the ability to chart the company’s direction. I am envious of those companies that are not facing the cash flow challenge, but I am also aware that they cannot make many decisions themselves. My vision of the company, if we can make a breakthrough, is to remain nimble and bring value to our customers. It is not to grow to a large organisation where people cannot form a personal relationship beyond work.
This thought of mine was similar to how Basecamp is now. In one of the interviews, CEO Jason Fried shared that he doesn’t want to grow into a giant corporation. Instead, he wants the company to remain small and successful. In addition, the company focus on one product makes it good and keep it simple. From what I can find, they have only 34 employees in 2021, worth billions and still privately owned. They are a company that I truly admired, and I hope that Pseudoscops can move in this direction. I do not see that we can be billion-dollar worth yet, but if we can keep everyone employed and do what they like beyond work, I think this journey will be worth it.
If we cannot change the lives of those in our team, how can we think of changing the lives of others? — Sunny Tan
Lastly, my advice to business owners is not to be fixated to jump onto the investment wagon. When you start up a company, you must honestly believe in yourself and the company that you are building. Start with a correct culture and develop a product or service that you can be proud of when sharing with your friends. It need not be something attracting much attention, but the product must be helping people. When you achieved this and customers believe in the value, words will spread. The customers will be your best advocate to attract more customers and help to bring the company further. Till then, focus on the product and find people who genuinely believe in you.
What’s the worst thing that can happen to us as business owners? When we come to the point that we cannot continue with this venture any further, we will need to have a proper closure with all our customers. After that, we need to move on to another stage, probably to seek employment. We shouldn’t see this as a failure but a journey many people do not dare to take. This journey gives us valuable experiences to whoever employs us, tapping into our experiences and contributing to the organisation.
Until then, we continue to explore different avenues to bring the company forward and keep it going as far as we can.