Grab Life with Both Hands – My Newsletter Edition 1

I’ve decided to create a email newsletter so that I can discuss startups, entrepreneurship, tech and life as an extension to this blog. I added the newsletter signup button a few months ago and started gathering email addresses. I have 16 people so far on my mailing list. It was probably about time that I sent out my first newsletter!

I’ve copy & pasted this month’s newsletter in its entirety. If you think it will be useful for you, please subscribe using the orange button which says “newsletter” on the left hand side of the blog.

Edition 1


Thanks for subscribing to my personal newsletter via my blog. This is my first newsletter so its a startup as well! I’m going to write about my thoughts on startups, entrepreneurship, technology and life. Please let me know if you find this useful, information, or if its not good at all. I’m open to feedback. If you do one thing today, just hit reply and let me know. Its that simple.

Recently, I’ve realised that you have to be pro-active when it comes to opportunities. Good things do NOT come to those who wait, particularly in the startup world. You have to grab life with both hands and go for it.

To give you an example, there was a startup event called Sydney Walkabout Tour which my friend Zach Kitschke was organising. The tour involved visiting various startup office spaces and co-working spaces around Sydney. I was working out of Fishburners and sitting near my good friend Brett Fox, who was scheduled to speak on a panel about Startups. He said to the organiser that he could no longer do the panel discussion. So I turned around and said out aloud, I’d be happy to fill in and do it. The organiser looked at me and agreed on the spot as they needed someone at the last minute!

Fishburners Panel Discussion

Fishburners panel discussion

That’s how I ended up on this expert discussion panel about Startups:

I got to share my knowledge with the audience of 40 people about life in a startup. The same thing happened a week later, when I was attending the Sydney SEO meetup. I was attending for the first time. About an hour from the event start time, there was a message from the organiser saying that one of the presenters had dropped out. So I volunteered to present on “App Store Optimisation” and posted a link on Meetup to my slideshare presentation. It was a presentation I had done at Product camp 6 months earlier.

I then received a call from the organiser and BOOM! I was presenting at my first SEO meetup in a room full of SEO professionals. I had an awesome time, and its one of the most engaged and savvy audiences I’ve presented to.

By presenting and sharing my knowledge, I’ve been able to position myself as an expert in the mobile / startups space. I’ll also be presenting again on 5 December on “Growth Hacking & SEO”. You can find the meetup here.

Similar opportunities have come up with teaching at General Assembly when they needed an instructor for their growth hacking course. I grabbed that opportunity because I got to further learn & research about the area and to also teach others about it.

Sydney SEO Meetup

Presenting at Sydney SEO Meetup

I’m now teaching a second course at General Assembly on “Making Effective Prototypes“. I’m going to show how I create prototypes, why we prototype and some of the tools that I use. This was an idea that I pitched to General Assembly. The course is $70 for 3 hours. As a blog follower, you can use my promo code GA_fam for 20% off to get the course for $56. (Tip: the newsletter subscribers got higher discounts, so sign up using the orange button on the left hand side of the blog for exclusive deals.) You can enrol for the course here.

Thanks for reading to the end of this newsletter. If you want to be successful in life, I believe you need to grab these opportunities that present themselves. You need to be ready, willing, able and prepared. I’ve decided to be open about the experience and knowledge that I have, to present and to teach and to help others. I believe it will come back to you. We need to be doing more of it in the startup industry. I have a YouTube Channel with regular episodes of videos of myself speaking and interviews with other entrepreneurs. I believe that there is much that we can share with others that can be captured via courses, articles, videos and newsletters.

Matthew Ho

p.s. Just hit reply and let me know what you think of my newsletter.


The Year in Review – 2011

This had been on my mind for the last week or so. A lot of things have happened this year, so here are some highlights of 2011 in roughly chronological order.

– Places travelled: LA, Austin, New York and San Francisco (twice), Cairns, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo.

Pumping Iron @ Venice Beach - lift not real

– Flew between Sydney and Melbourne at least 6 times. I know this route fairly well now =)

– Been part of the youth leadership team at Padstow Chinese Congregational Church for the first 5 months of the year. Its great to see them doing amazing things. Our youth group is growing up so fast now!

– Started going to a new church in Melbourne.

– Attended UFC 127 in Sydney, my second live UFC event.

– Organised the first SXSW Meetup in Sydney and Melbourne for people from the music, film and digital industry.

Getting my Bruce Lee on - Austin, Texas

– Attended the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. I saw the Startup Bus finals at SXSW and the energy and enthusiasm that the best entrepreneurs and hackers from around the world bring, and I wanted to be a part of that.

– Drove from San Antonio to Washington DC to help a friend move house. My US first road trip was a lotta fun! It was my first time driving in the US and I drove a big Penske truck (like U-Haul) and we were pulling a trailer with a car. We drove for 2 days straight halfway across America.

Roadtrippin' across the US - I drove this Penske truck!

– Finished up at Next Digital. It’s where I got my foot in the door in the digital industry and I closed a chapter of my life. I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me three and a half years ago.

– Worked for airbnb, a disruptive accommodation website. Organised their first party in Australia and 110 people turned up. Organised an event where airbnb gave free ice cream to hosts in 14 cities around the world!

– Entered Australia’s first Startup Weekend competition to meet and test myself against the best entrepreneurs from Melbourne. I ended up winning!

– Organised Product Camp Sydney and spoke on the topic of innovation. It was rated as the most popular talk before the conference (thank you friends for voting for me). You can read about it here and here.

– Lived in Melbourne for 6 months. From Burnley to Fitzroy and now Northcote.

Streetart near where I lived in Fitzroy

– Started a meetup for Melbourne startup founders and hackers called MCombinator.

MCombinator crew - Melbourne's up and coming startups

– Attended events in SF and Palo Alto – Startup BBQ, Zaarly pubcrawl, Startup Weekend SF pre party. It was awesome to meet hundreds of people in the startup scene from the US and the world.

– Cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge which was an amazing experience and hung out with two friends, Vanessa and Dom from Sydney in SF.

Aussies at Outside Lands, SF

– Played my first game of squash.

– Became a godfather to Liam, Ashby’s son and one of my best childhood friends.

– Started up my own company, Native Tongue which came out of winning Startup Weekend.

– Launched a product and exhibited at Techcrunch Disrupt Beijing a few months later. It was exciting to be exhibiting alongside entrepreneurs from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, China, Japan and Australia. We were featured on some of Asia’s biggest blogs like Technode and some local ones too. Best of all we have paying customers!

Representing Native Tongue at TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing

– Walked across the Great wall of China and got through the Great Firewall of China (hello VPN).

– Joined Melbourne’s newest co-working space, York Butter Factory and a fantastic community of local entrepreneurs.

– Took some salsa lessons and graduated from Salsa Level 1.5 (intermediate), despite missing two classes!

– Turned 30 =)

Phew, that’s been a big year!

I feel like I’ve done a lot this year. I’ve taken some risks and seized opportunities where they presented themselves. It seems like its paid off. Whatever I’ve done, I’ve given it 100%. My 2012 will be about focus and capitalising on the opportunities that I’ve created for myself.

I’m out like 2011,

Matthew Ho

The best way to learn is to dive right in

I’ve found that if you want to learn something, the best way is to dive right in and be surrounded by the best people in that field. You shouldn’t worry about looking stupid or concerned about your lack of domain knowledge. Here’s a summary of some of my learning experiences.

Seek to learn from the best

Earlier this year, I came across this field called product management. A friend of mine told me what it was and it sounded pretty interesting. I asked around about it, and at Silicon Beach drinks someone mentioned that the Brainmates organisation were the best in this area.

So I went to the website, saw some of the courses they offered and gave them a call about it. I also noticed they were holding a product camp, so I decided to volunteer and help organise it. I wanted to go, because I wanted to be surrounded by the best in that industry and learn from them. I was persuaded into giving a talk, and I ended up giving a one hour workshop on innovation!

Don’t stand on the sidelines

A few weeks ago, I noticed on the website in Melbourne there was a salsa class. I’d always been meaning to do it but never had the chance or motivation. So I decided to give it a go and signed up for a trial class. It was awesome! I had lots of fun. After the lesson finished, they had an open dance floor but most of the beginners I was with either left or just stood on the sidelines. However, I figured I might as well make the most of this opportunity and I found the instructor on the dancefloor who was dancing by herself and got her to practice the basic steps with me again.

Do short courses and attend conferences

Lately, I’ve started to learn how to program. My motivation is to simply know what is going on. I work with websites and programmers all the time, and I feel that I can relate to them better if I understand what they are doing and what they are talking about. I don’t want to be a non-technical person anymore and stand on the sidelines. So I asked some developers I knew, went to Stackoverflow forums, Quora, HackerNews, and then made a decision to learn Python.

I download Zed Shaw’s ebook, Learn Python The Hard Way and did a few lessons. I could see that I needed a bit more help so I bought his video course on Udemy. Then, I booked myself into the Australia’s annual python conference. It was two months away, so that gave me enough time to learn the course. Again, I figured that if I was going to learn, I might as well go to a conference and be surrounded by the best python programmers and learn from them.

I ended up doing 8 lessons before the conference (mostly the day before!). I found that I was able to do the lessons quite quickly. The more I did, the faster I got, and I was able to do the later lessons in a few minutes. The conference was little over my head since I was a non-developer but it gave me a lot of new concepts and contacts in the industry.

I’m pretty confident I had the least amount of development experience of anyone there – since I only really started the day before! But I still got a lot out of it. I recently read this blog post from Emile from Housefed, which encapsulates my thinking about learning development.

In summary

Whether its learning salsa, programming or a new skill, my tip for you is to dive right in! Look for the best in the industry and learn from them.

I’m out like standing on the sidelines,

Matt Ho

Projections for ’09: A good year?

After completing the lengthy 2008 post,  I’m going to write briefly about 2009 so far and what I hope to do.

From a professional perspective:

– Work more with websites. I would like to work with Umbraco, Sitecore, Reddot, Fatwire etc.., which are open source content management systems. More like finding out what the client wants, developing a strategy and design, managing the build and overseeing the process.

– Online Display Advertising – I’ve very keen to look at stuff like banner ads, learn about adblaster, open ex ad serving and the like.

– Become involved with social media. I would like to experiment with online marketing campaigns involving social media. I haven’t done any yet, but I am eager to do a viral campaigns using Youtube, social bookmarking, etc….I’m really into social media from a personal perspective because its interesting. However,  it’s hard to see how it can be monetised & the commerical appeal – there’s no real formula.

– I’ve started up a work basketball team @ Alexandria. Unfortunately, I’ve sprained my ankle but hope to be back soon. It’s the first sports team @ Next Digital, Sydney so should be an interesting ride.

– I’m attending a few events in the next month or so:

I would like to attend events,  every now and then to hear industry thoughts, meet people, etc…The event that I really want to attend is Wiki Wednesdays if they ever hold it again. Its for people that are involved in wikipedia’s which leads to……..

– Working on a wiki using Confluence. Its my pride and joy at the moment, and I’m currently the residential expert. I hope to evangelise a wiki culture into our business and show others how to use it. It was my suggestion back in October when I posted about it on my internal work blog, and it slowly coming to fruition.

– continue to find out more about folksonomies, search engines, cloud computing (my favourite topic area at the moment), and RSS.

– I currently have an allocation of work time to study search engines and I will be going for the Google Advertising Professional Exam.

– I hope to find a mentor at work or outside of work.

From a personal perspective

– I would like to do some travelling this year around Australia. I’ve seen so much of the world (Europe, states, Asia, etc.) but I’ve never seen Ayers Rock, WA, Great Barrier Reef, etc… This year I will tick one of them off my list.

– International travel – if not this year then the next. I just had a look at tickets to South America, maybe somewhere like Brazil or Peru would be cool.

– Get my own car & move out!! These two things have long been overdue. They both will be done (or a least one!) by the end of the year.

– I would like to sign up for this local mentoring service. I saw a notice at the library asking for mentors, and I feel like I could help someone. I also believe that I should do some volunteer work if I can find the time (there always is time, I just can’t find it :P)

– Fix up this website and get a proper website. It’s ok having a stock standard blog, but I would like to upgrade the website.

– Sign up for a gym – something I’ve also been meaning to do. I have the form on my desk and was about to complete it, but then my ankle injury hit.

I’m out like moving out,


Reflections on 2008

This is something I’ve been meaning to write for a while but haven’t got around to it. I just need some time to think!

2008 was a weird year for me. I started the first two months still on the road, traveling from Guatemala to Belize to Mexico and then back to New York. I actually didn’t write that much in 2008 when I was travelling, I started pumping out less travel notes (but higher quality of course :P)

Highlights of 2008

1. Watching the NY Giants v Green Bay Packers in New York

Then celebrating the win by running riot in Times Square. We were one of the first people to get there because we literally ran there after the game finished. Who could believe that New York would win? Not even the most diehard NY Giants fan. I was interviewed by two different cameras about the win, and I knew nothing about NFL!!!

2. Watching the David Letterman show live

3. Saying goodbye to my Mexican host family in Playa Del Carmen

I promised to send them pictures but still haven’t – I will one day!!

4. Visiting Washington DC

A very profound place where I wrote something really deep about what I saw – the monuments, the poverty, the history.

5. Playing competitive basketball again

I actually hadn’t played any form of basketball in a long long time since April 2007, when someone tripped me over and landed awkardly on both my knees.

I started playing two nights a week, Mondays at Bankstown and Tuesday at Hurstville.  To be honest, I hadn’t played comp basketball since university finished save the odd game (mixed basketball doesn’t really count). I also started playing more frequently at my old high school, once or twice on the weekend in addition to twice during the week.

I really do feel like now I’m a much better player, more confident having played a lot more and with and against better players.  I must give some credit to playing with Adam Labbad and Bardya for teaching some of the finer nuances of the game.  Sometimes, at Bankstown I would stay back after the game and shoot around and once I went there when we didn’t have a game and practiced myself. The highlight must be of course scoring like 14 successive shots in a pick up game at Kingsgrove high school against Chuck & co (which I’ll never hear the end of and probably will never be repeated).

As you can see basketball is a big part of my life and always will be.

6. Seeing my family again after my trip and being able to sleep in my own bed & having home cooked food: this really should rank higher on my list.

7. Deciding to start a new career

I made a big decision to try something new. I wanted to do something I could be passionate about, was challenging and that had some creativity around it. For someone that was trained in accounting and law (two relative conservative fields), having a really good job I could go back to and great colleagues, it didn’t make the decision easy. But I was on momentum thing when I came back and it was kinda like now or never. I was 26, and if there was a time to make a change, it was now.

I had a really supportive workplace. Even though I wanted to make a change and I wasn’t really sure what, my old workplace tried to facilitate that. People gave me tips about what to do and my old boss, Matt Turner was really understanding and helped me get my mind right in terms of what steps I needed to take. And I thank him for that.

I decided to look elsewhere and decided to work at a place called Next Digital, where I work on a bunch of different things. That was one of the reason I chose to work at this place, because they did everything from websites, email marketing, search engine marketing, SMS, etc…So far it’s been pretty good as I’m very into the internet so it’s been a good fit.

8. Going to advertising school

As I was thinking about embarking on a new career, I needed some fresh knowledge and I had a lot of time since I was unemployed. So I enrolled in AFA Advertising School.  I decided to do one subject to test it out “Media Buying & Planning”. I really wanted to do “Account Management”, but this was the only course that was available. It ended up being pretty interesting and I made some new friends.  Plus I got a distinction – I aced the final exam!!!!

9.  Melbourne (twice)

Before I started my job, I booked a trip with my two best friends Tim & Ashby to Melbourne. It was a good trip and we stayed at some dodgy hostel. We checked out this place called Nightcat club, the GameOn exhibition, met up with Tim’s Melbourne friends,  saw DJ Roc Raida and had a pretty good time.

I also went to Melbourne for my company’s end of year Xmas bash. That was cool because the company paid for it, and I stayed a couple of extra nights. Also, I had a bunch of mates Limo & Christian that were also there and we hit up da clubs!!!

Oh yes, I also went to my favourite kebab place Stacalities twice in a year! How good was that.

10. Being a part of RICEFest & seeing Mark Driscoll speak

I’m not very big on attending Christian events, but last year I actually made a conscious effort to do more. I helped run two events for high school kids as part of the RICE Festival. It’s kinda like an outreach ministry event at Homebush and the Entertainment Centre in August. So that kept me busy.

11.  Concerts – Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg/Ice Cube/Bone Thugs

I love live music and I got to see some of my favourite artists. It wasn’t cheap (except for the Snoop one which I got in for free – thanks Dan!).

12. Starting a new blog focused on digital media –


If you have highlights in a year, you must have lowlights as well. For me there were a couple, and I think one of them was being unemployed for 2 months. When your making a career change, its never easy especially when you have no relevant experience that people can see nor studies in that area. Also, bumping into someone from my past unexpectedly was not good. And I’ll leave my lowlights at that because the highlights have far outweighed that.

I don’t feel like I did that much in 2008, but after typing all this out, I feel like I’ve had a pretty big year.  One of personal & professional growth, lots of travelling & trying new things, but also getting back into the swing of things. I feel like I have to continue trying new things in 2009 as I have regressed back into doing the “same old”. I always wanted to try a salsa class, submit some writing to a magazine ( I thought about it a lot and enquired with two magazines) but never made that extra step, and travel around Australia more.

I’m out like 2008,