What I’ve been up to

A friend asked me for my podcast recently and I realized after looking at the date of the podcast that I haven’t done one for over a year. I also haven’t blogged since April. Its tough because I’ve had other priorities and that thing called life got in the way. I was inspired by my friend’s Ned Dwyer’s quick and short update on “Now” so I’m going to do something similar. Typically I would do this update at the end of the year, but why not kind of over half-way through the year? So here it goes….

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Thoughts on Sydney Startup community

I have 20mins to go before boarding my flight to the US so here are my parting words whilst in Sydney Airport. Coming back to Sydney is always great. Its my home and where I grew up. I came back for 1.5 weeks for work. In this trip, I also had the opportunity to catchup with some people in the tech community as well.

It was awesome to come back in a week where there was also some startup events on from Fishburners birthday party cruise and the Startmate demo day where I saw 8 companies pitch. I was fortunate to visit the new Sydney Startup Hub which houses 2,500 desks over 11 floors. Its filled with entrepreneurs, VC’s, incubators and more. I feel that the startup community now has a physical space and that’s easily accessible as its next to Wynard station. We still have ATP in Redfern too.

Its really awesome to see Sydney Startup Hub. Its actually a mixture of an industrial looking building with some heritage maintained which looks similar to the Atlassian building on 341 George street. It also has this edgy look similar to a design agency. Whilst sitting in the lobby waiting for some people, I saw a lot of familiar faces. There were people that walked over to us to chat about Sydney Startups and how they could help. You can’t deny the benefits of serendipity. I also met a friend outside there as he was working from there.

That whole strip in York Street is the new tech street (if it wasn’t already). Now it has Sydney Startup Hub and its gravity attracting a lot of the startup community. In a stone’s throw you also have two Atlassian buildings where I worked out of. In between there’s Tyro and Airtasker. I caught up with friend from Bambora, a payments company for lunch. I also met with Ansarada, Airtree ventures, IAG ventures nearby. I bumped into Colette Grgic, head of Corporate Innovation from Blue Chilli on the street too.

Those moments are brief yet important as we exchange ideas. They happen because there’s density of tech community activity. Its obvious, but I’ll state it again – we’re not that big in terms of a tech community. So there’s a ton of value in being all together in a specific post code. Silicon Valley is very spread out, but there’s more numbers there and it’s been going for way longer. If we want to get there faster, we have to work closer together and be co-located. Silicon Valley has had many laps of innovation and Australia’s probably done 1 or 2.

I was able to visit Airtasker to catchup with some friends there. I briefly caught the second half of their AMA with the design studio that designed airbnb and Premier league logo. I got to learn about their expansion into the UK. I noticed they had some sticky notes stuck on a wall with some user journey mapping. It was really cool to talk through that with them. They are also going through an inflection point from focusing on liquidity to now focusing on the product to build for scale. They are on their way to becoming a success story in the Australian (& UK community).

Another area I’m interested in is investing in startups. I caught up with some investor contacts in Sydney at various events. It’s something I’d like to learn more about and where I could add value. I’ve previously advised some portfolio companies in VC firms and also through incubators. I help them with product management, strategy and how to get stuff done. I’ve also been living and working in Silicon Valley for one year full time now. I have a lot of contacts in Silicon Valley & SF. I’m planning to have some discussions when I get back to US with some investor contacts in Silicon Valley to find out more about it. It’s something I’d like to do in the medium to long term to do some passive investing. Now I need the cash 🙂

I would like to work with people that know more than me in areas than I don’t know about and who would be fun to work. This includes access to big markets, connections to China, and good product sense. In no particular order:

*China/Australia connection: Xiaochen Zhang (Toutiao), Terry Hilsberg, Rayn Ong (lots of startup tshirts)

*US/Australia: James Martin from Sydney Startups, Blackbird Ventures (Niki Scevak, Samantha Wong, Nick Crocker), Rachael Foo (Stripes Group, New York)

That’s all from me.

Good bye Australia and hello America in 13 hours!



Where can I learn the most? A tribute to the pursuit of perfect sushi

I wanted to write about something I’ve thought about a lot. I recently finished watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix based on the recommendation of my manager at work. It was in relation to mastery. The lessons that I got out of it was on two things:

1. Constant practice
2. Eternal pursuit of learning

They are both inter-related.

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Day 282: Living between San Francisco and Mountain View (inbetween state of mind)

The past 24 hours have been juggling several balls. I’ve had to ruthlessly prioritize what I need to do. The first thing was to order a bed so I can completely move in. In the past week, I’ve read lots of reviews about mattress in a box products and tested out some Ikea beds. I didn’t have enough time to check out other stores or go back to Ikea to put in an order when everything arrived.

Luckily you can order online so that’s what I did. I also knew from testing it out that Ikea won’t deliver stuff til next week. Which is annoying in that I want it now and my last day is this weekend in my current place! Anyhow I’ve ordered a bed frame, mattress and a chair.

I went with a white theme. As I read that white looks brighter and makes a room look more spacious. Whereas black color attracts light and draws you in, making room look smaller. My room is a reasonable size, but it’s not huge. So I’m conscious of the space. I also discovered there’s a smaller built in cupboard that’s great for things like my hat collection!

Unfortunately, there’s no upsell option on IKEA website to do assembly. Even though they list it as a service on their website. I decided to use TaskRabbit as I have used them before. I hired a tasker. I know from assembling Ikea beds and other furniture in the past that it takes like 4 hours or so a piece. It’s frustrating and tiring. So I have hired someone else to do it.

I’ve realized that it costs like ~$200 extra when you count the delivery fee of Ikea and the cost of assembly. Should I have bought one of those mattress in a box companies and one of their foundations? My setup is still a few hundred dollars cheaper and it includes a chair.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on furniture. I’m ok with spending a bit more on the bed. But I’m not convinced yet that Casper, Leesa, Purple is a better mattress and worth twice as much. If I don’t like my current mattress I can always return it as IKEA has a 1 year guarantee and their mattress comes rolled up too. I also wanted a frame with storage to make more use of the space.

When you’re an expat living in a foreign country, you might not know how long you’ll stay there. My plan is to stay in the U.S for minimum 3 years (up to Day 1095). My L1 transfer visa is valid for 5 years. So I want to review my situation after 3 years. So I don’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture. I also want the flexibility to be able to move around. I love the fact that I can pick up everything in one car and go from San Francisco. Check out the name of my podcast – This Mobile Life!

Now I have to buy stuff like pots & pans, pillows, towels, bed, sofa, tables, chairs, and more! It’s a lot of money to invest upfront. I’ve decided to buy the minimum set I need – MVP yo! Plus I need to get a car too. The bed costs $1,000 and doesn’t include sheets, pillows, comforter, duvet. You’re looking at a few hundred dollars for that too.

I was fortunate to get a combination of hand-me-down furniture from a colleague who was downsizing and lives in the same complex. I got an old table, cutlery, plates, tangine pot, and sushi mats. From the building manager they gave me the demo furniture they use for display apartments when showcasing the place. They placed a sofa bed and table in my place. They needed to put it somewhere and they realized that I didn’t have anything (maybe they felt sorry for me!). Anyhow I now have a dining table, sofa bed, computer table, and basic kitchen setup I can eat from! To their surprise, I asked them for more demo furniture. I asked for chairs. But they don’t have any. You can’t have any shame – that’s how I live my life. Ask for what you want 🙂

I’ve been looking for the bedding stuff. I ordered the Amazon basics sheets set for like $30. My friend was horrified that I bought it as it’s made of micro fibre. She says that it’s like sleeping in a plastic bag. To be honest, I don’t really care. I’m happy to sleep in any condition. But I will take her advice and upgrade them to something better!

Last night I’ve been reviewing articles about what to look for in a pillow and comforter. The conclusion I have come to for a pillow is that it depends how you sleep. Are you a side sleeper, back sleeper or stomach sleeper? My preference is to get a natural material like feathers or goose. I’m going to stay away from latex, memory foam or synthetic as it may get too hot. I’ve been looking on Amazon and it’s really confusing. I’m overwhelmed by the 1,000 choices available! I’m probably going to go to a store like Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea or SF Linen outlet so I can touch and feel them. That way I can get what I want and take it home, and start using it.

The last thing on my priority list is organizing a cleaner to clean my old place. It’s been tricky finding someone for the weekend and at a decent price. I’ve been getting quotes from Yelp using their quoting feature. I can see their reviews and ratings too.

A lot of cleaners are already booked up, not available on Sunday or can only give me a 2 hour time window. It’s annoying. I also need to make a 2.5 hour round trip if I want to be there and review their work. I know I need to lock in something soon.

I know the next week or so is going to be busy running around both places to organize stuff. I’m in that inbetween state of mind.

But I know the end result will be good. I’ll be saving a 2.5 hour commute each day. It will also involve lots of ice cream to celebrate!

However it doesn’t end. I’ll also need to find a room mate and rent a car. Then do my US tax return called W-2’s. I also need to organize my personal finances in the U.S. Of course there’s a blog post to come about those topics!

I’m out like moving out,

Matt Ho

Day 275: The relationship between cooking skills to free food (In da eatclub edition)

“You can find me in the eatclub, with enough food to fill a tub” –  inspired by 50cent

I was speaking to my colleagues and other people at big tech co’s (total sample of size of 8) and the consensus was that like me, they don’t cook much either. If at all. For myself, I can get breakfast and lunch at work. In addition, if there’s left over food from lunch, I can get a free dinner too.

We have this system called Eatclub where you pre-order your lunch for the week. So I get my own meal from a daily selection. Its like a corporate Grubhub/Deliveroo / Delivery Hero. Your employer pays for it. Its usually 80% the same stuff with some new varieties each week. Its not bad. I’d give most of them a 7/10. In fact, i’ve rated a bunch of them 3 or 4 out of 5. These are some of my meal adventures that I had this week:

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Day 274: Layer Management

The keys to success for living in the Bay Area is layer management. The Bay Area has a lot of microclimates. So when I travel from the city (San Francisco) to South Bay, the climate is very different. It could go from windy to sunny. Or very cold to cold. Also when I get on the Caltrain, it’s much warmer inside. I need to be able to remove layer of clothing easily in a confined space.

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