Annual Report 2017: Eleven principles for 2018

If I have a superpower, it is an ability to let go of the past. That ability has allowed me to power through bad experiences, to grow, and to project in the future.

But I have learned to look backwards. The holiday season is such a perfect time to embrace the slowness of the seasons, and to chalk the time as a period for self-reflection. And as Winston Churchill puts it —“the farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

So looking back on 2017 and the first day for 2018, here are principles from the past and for the future, in the spirit of Ray Dalio’s book of the same name.

Thanks to Zeroth founders
Zeroth founders are the lifeblood of what Zeroth is; their success is Zeroth’s success, but more importantly, their learnings are Zeroth’s learnings. There is no other rule as important.

I wanted to thank the following first for the nice things other people are saying about the companies.

  • Botimize: their news in Taiwan
  • Clare.ai: their views on the chat space
  • Dishq: debut on India’s Your Story
  • DT42: their debut of BerryNet2, which allows consumers to make smart cameras more easily
  • Fano Labs: being the first HK company to raise from Horizons Ventures
  • H3O: their debut in Taiwan news
  • Impress.ai: raising their round from Javelin Startup-O
  • Laboratik: their coverage from the Bridge
  • Mateverse: their debut on e27
  • Rocco: they, in conjunction with Mateverse, is leading a decentralized deep-learning training protocol called Raven

Eleven principles I’ve distilled through the course of working with the founders and their companies.

  1. More capital sources, more complexity: ICOs as a capital source is here to stay (not the $100m raises, but smaller $5-$10m), along with larger funds like Softbank and the rumored Sequoia, and corporates getting into the investment game like Japan’s banks. There is more capital options available, but more complexity due to new regulations. In other words, mo’ money, mo’ problems.
  2. Asia rising: And not just talking China. Japan wants to keep competitive, and Korea and Singapore want to stay in the race. Where there’s competition, there is energy; and where there is energy, there is opportunity.
  3. Corporates want to play: 2018 is when AI becomes mainstream in the form of increased corporate activity, in the form of investment and acquisitions. No one wants to miss the opportunity to build AI capabilities into an existing team.
  4. Policy coordination: AI mainstream implementation and mistakes of tech companies the skirted regulations will force more high level governmental inter and intra policy coordination. This will require the support of private players with some public policy experience, not the other way around.
  5. Serve customers first, ask later: Customers are the lifeblood of any business relationship, and if their interests are served, all else falls in place. Once their interests are not served, the fundamentals of business crumble.
  6. Find patterns, establish them, and test: The best innovators are the ones that discover patterns before anyone else makes them a norm. They quickly draw conclusions between different ideas and test them in the market. This could even be drawn into the OODA loop framework, perhaps as an additional step after decide.
  7. In the age of superficial, invest in deep: We live in a world where micro-interactions, clicks & tweets, and one-minute attention spans rule; instead, we should turn the cheek and invest our attention in deep interaction, deep work, and deep tech. We’re starting to realize the limit of short-term gains and the pendulum is swinging over.
  8. The best relationships are forged from both parties’ willingness to learn: This goes for every human relationship, whether it be employee, investor, or customer. Invest in relationships where both parties want to learn, and end relationships when they don’t.
  9. Gather the people that believe in you: The more successful companies had employees, founders, and investors that really believed in the mission and the founder, despite financial, business, and other risks. If there is belief, enlist; if there is no belief, get rid.
  10. At every juncture, find the lesson: Some would call this an attitude of optimism, but I feel this is distinct; founders who are able to process any and every event and to learn from it are not merely optimistic, they’re learning machines. They are able to add to their repertoire lessons from their past, and in doing so ensure that there is a lower probability that they will make the same mistake again.
  11. Follow instincts and project into the future, then back up with action: The best founders work on instinct that a certain move or decision is best, and find a way to make things happen to fulfil the promise of that move or decision. Sometimes they can’t verbally explain why a decision is made, other than the intuition that it is correct. The more important lesson is that even if it is the wrong decision, the founder works to make sure the decision ended up well.

Lastly, thank you to all our investors, partners, and co-investors. Let’s make 2018 a year we create the future we all want to see.

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