What are startups running from?

At the end of this blog post, I predict that two things will happen. And if you’re the smart ass who thinks, “Better scroll to the end now and read them predictions!”, then I’ll predict something else.

You’ll scroll back up here again.

Yup, welcome back.

Here’s the thing. Over the few years, I have to admit that the number of “startup entrepreneurs” are increasing, and initially, I felt proud. You see, when I started doing this glamour thing called entrepreneurship over a decade ago, hardly would I meet people my age. (Yeah, one of the reasons why we started KICKSTART back then was because I’m tired to seeing entrepreneurs my dad’s age at networking events. They so love to wear those ties and suits.) But now, I do. May it be at an event at an awesome hall, a meetup at the top floor of a tall building or at a workshop deep in the hearts of Cyberjaya, I see youngsters dominating the crowd, and that made me feel happy.

For a while. Until you deep dive a bit.

It gets kinda weird when you see those entrepreneurs who are in a startup right out of college/university. Some got seed funding, hurray for that. Others got their investors from FAMA (Father Mother), and most of them look really raw. Optimistic? Idealistic? Ambitious?

Or is it just a form of escapism? By being in a “startup”, are these youngsters justifying their escape? What are they running from?

Here are some reasons that I discovered, and my take on them:

1. I don’t want to work for someone else.
But seriously, kid. You have never even worked for anyone in your entire life. Perhaps you’ll learn stuff working for someone else, expand your network, pick up a skill or two. Get real.

2. I don’t want to be happy like my parents, working for someone else.
So here’s the thing. Times have changed. Marijuana is a lot more easier to get now. Maybe your parents are just venting off sometimes because if they are not happy working for someone else, why are they still doing that? No choice? Come one lar, there’s always a choice. The fact that they are still working as good employees is because there are benefits to being employed – food on the table, friends at work, a decent livelihood, a sense of purpose, a challenge, or even feeding you now.

3. But I don’t think I’ll be a good employee. I’m too entrepreneurial. Bosses won’t like me.
Again, back to point 1.

But if you have worked or currently working for someone, frankly, good bosses like employees who are entrepreneurial minded, coz they are usually more proactive, good problem solvers, better communicators, hard workers, innovators, good networkers. I know because as a talent development consulant working with large MNCs, the lack of those traits are the reasons why people like me are in business – because the employees are not good enough, and we need to train them to be better.

4. Eh Maverick. My boss is from hell lar. Where got good bosses one?
There are. During my short working time at American Express and Lenovo (okay, I was trying to raise funds to build my 3rd business), I had a great time working with my managers. Heck, if not for a partnership offer that was crazy, I would have been working for Lenovo still. Yeah, there are days when my bosses where not in their best mood, but hey, don’t you? We’re all humans, and the key I realise to have a good boss, is to add value to them,the team and the company. And here’s the secret. If you don’t like your boss or company culture, then just change job lor. Why think so complicated?

5. I want to add value to the world. I want to make a change. I wanna go down in history alongside the Musks, Jobs, Gates and Bransons.
I’m not one that would pour a bucket of cold ice water on your dreams, mainly because with a weather like Malaysia, I would rather drink it. Syiok! Is ok to dream big, to want to change the world. But feeding one homeless person at a time can also change the world. Teaching one illiterate kid math or reading is another one. Helping the elderly with her groceries, reaching for the item in the top shelve for someone who couldn’t, contribute at your community centre, run an event to lift spirits – all those change the world too, a bit at a time. It’s nice to look out far beyond the horizon and intoxicate yourself with the difference you’re gonna make, but it’s equally as powerful and rewarding when you look down and around at things you can do now.

6. I want to be different.
Get a tattoo in the weirdest spot you can think of.

7. I want to be rich. To be financially free.
Firstly, I hope you even know what financially free means. Because if it’s just be a RM2.6b Billionaire, then being the prime minister is an option. ;P If financially free means you will never have to worry about money again, trust me, you’ll have other things to worry about by then. If it’s not having to work a single day and doing what you wanna do all the time, let me tell you of a Buddhist nun I met when I was a monk. Jenny (not her real name. Or is it?) was a secretary, not earning a lot. And she had an elderly mother to care for. She didn’t study much, so her starting pay was like RM800. But she’s a good saver. She lived a frugal life, working extra hours or taking extra jobs on weekends to earn an extra buck or two. Jane (wait, or was it Jenny?) had a clear vision though. She want to be financially free so that she can help out at the temple I was at every day, and perhaps one day, become a Bikkhuni (Buddhist nun) too. Went I met her, she was around 40. By then, she has a house that she had finished paying, and a car like that too. She has managed to save up RM1mil in the bank (no shit back in 1995), and she and her mom were just living off the dividends every month, saving still in case they ever need it. And you know what? Joan’s (hmph) happy. Now, she don’t have a 5-story house in Bangsar, or an Audi R8, or 3 boats docked in Singapore. But she’s financially free to do what she wanted to do, making a difference every day to the people around her, and best of all, again, she’s happy.

8. But I won’t be happy until I have a startup.
Again, go back to point 2 and look at those weeds. If you’re not happy now, you’re not gonna be happy when you reach there anyway. Jerk off, go for a ride, take a day off, or really really think about what has given you the happiest moments in your life. Ask yourself, if tomorrow I’m gonna die, what am I gonna do today, then just do that.

I can think of a few more, but I kinda need to go take a dump now. Yeah, I’m those people who make shit happen everyday, in the morning. Fiber!

So what about the 2 predictions, Mav?

  1. For those of you doubting yourself in this startup journey of yours, don’t quit just yet (your investors may just crowd fund that campaign to assassinate me).This applies to those who want to be a startup entrepreneur too, may you be working right now, finishing school or just dicking around at home. Take some time off, travel a bit and get some perspective. Why must travel? Well, not all of us are super ultra mental power and able to tune out our surroundings Matrix-style. Getting out of the box, out of the norm, gives you a disassociated view on your life. It’s like this. You know sometimes how you hear your friends complaining, trying to solve a problem with a very obvious solution? You know why you can see that solution and they can’t? Cos you ain’t in the shit. The stink is not affecting your thoughts. Or appetite. You may be those friends right now, so get out of the stink. Yucks!
  2. Then there is this other group of you that will say, “Fuck you la Mav. I’ll prove you, my mother and that auntie I never liked WRONG!” To that, I’ll say, fuck yeah!


Co-Founder of KICKSTART by night, Talent Development Consultant, organising workshops and conferences by day, and full-time single dad in between, Maverick is pretty much a renegade. An ex-monk who's always first to ask "why not?", Mav enjoys hacking the way things are done, and pretty much happy with the success rate of 50% (coz sometimes mom is right after all...). When it comes to business, give him a million bucks and he'll most probably get a new set of gadgets, drive home an Audi R8 and reload his Starbucks card. But give him little to nothing, and see how he starts switching on the little brain-matter between his ears. Challenge ACCEPTED!


  1. Go work,get some experience. then start business. Not everyone is like bill gates.

    1. Yeah. Too much of success story makes success looks easy. Hardly anybody sees the hardship on the road to success.

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