The difference between “Learning From” VS “Delegating to.”

With the birth of our first baby, we hired a yuesao for 40 days. A yuesao is somebody staying at home and helping parents with an infant. Our experience didn’t go well – but that taught me a life lesson: the difference between “Learning From” VS “Delegating to.”

Continue reading The difference between “Learning From” VS “Delegating to.”

Challenges in writing with a baby!

Vincent and I started carnet.cc a little over a year ago. The ride is fun and challenging. Fun because we learn as much from the process of writing than the writing we create. And challenging, because we both are not great writers. It takes a lot of energy to get something out of our brain.

November this year, my wife delivered our baby daughter. It is the most exciting event that we have experienced. Every single day, we are grateful for the chance to be parents. We aren’t experts, but we do our best to help her grow healthily.

For our most observant readers, there has been a gap of almost 5 weeks on this blog. No articles were published during this period. It is due to my early steps into fatherhood.

My partner’s day to day has been most impacted. She needs to feed the baby and rest on a 24/7 basis, on short ~2-3 hours cycles. Intense.

Having a baby and trying to maintain a blog is a challenge. The lack of sleep, irregular but frequent interruptions, and holding a moving mini-cute-monster, are making the act of writing all the more complex.

Traditionally, I have optimized my process of writing: I think of blog post ideas on the metro ride back home. I start an Evernote post (but switching to paperus.co from my good friend Jeriel) and jot down some initial thoughts. Back home, I take a deep breath and focus for 30 to 60 minutes to write the first draft. A couple of days later, I review the post and correct it with Hemingway and Grammarly (but soon, all that process will be done on paperus.co). The final step is straightforward but time-consuming: I format the post nicely and publish it on our WordPress site, right here.

Writing with a baby, I don’t get 30 to 60 minutes of focus. And I can’t find the time to format the blog post.

There aren’t many solutions that I can think of at this stage. But I will ask fellow bloggers and find my ways.
In the meantime, I expect shorter blog posts. Ideally, I would post them more frequently. And probably more podcasts and interviews – but without the transcription (that I always correct manually).

Fatherhood is a wonderful gift. But writing with a baby is a challenge. I am still experimenting to find the flow and the routine. That’s what I need to deliver blog posts on a more regular basis.

Experience with Chinese service industry

There is something fascinating for anyone that shipped parcels from Greater China, it’s to watch the development of the homegrown carrier SF Express over the last decade. Unlike its competitors (DHL, UPS, Fedex) SF didn’t develop a powerful back end to handles the parcels, but relied a lot on manual labour, a lot of parcels are still sorted manually by the last mile delivery men. 

This reliance on manual work is pretty common for Chinese company. They also often pay employees on a commission basis (Uber before Uber), while it’s far from being ideal on the side of the employees the unexpected side effect has been an incredible service. The delivery man has to be efficient and has to know internal processes, if he wants to be well paid. In return the customer gets a very good service, especially compared with traditional career where one has to deal with multiple layers of admin to get things done. This pretty unique mix of manual labour reliance and commission-based income put the Chinese service industry on steroids. 

Unfortunately, this time is coming to an ends quickly with the development of the recent Hey Tea and Luckin Coffee, where WeChat mini programs replace the efficiency and warmth of the faces of those companies.

Introverts are leading Communities

Panels are high chances to engage with a broader audience and throw some new ideas to steer debates. At a recent one with Community Builders, we wanted to test an assumption. We paused our conversation and asked the audience to raise their hands if they saw themselves as an introvert.

This idea became important to me over the past few years. I have been reading these sorts of articles for some time now (here and here). But I’ve also met hundreds of Community Builders from different countries and cultures.
The idea that “introversion actually helps people build strong communities” became a sort of theme in my head.

Our guess was right; most of the room raised their hands. We weren’t surprised, but they probably were — each of them assuming that they’d be singled out among others. I enjoyed seeing the organizers, my fellow panel speakers, and myself – all having our hands in the air.

We were a room of introverts, talking about building community. The one activity that forces you to speak with people and get them excited about your projects!

I have been thinking about this evening many times since and trying to understand what to make of it.
If Community Builders are introvert like me, how do I make their journey less painful than mine was?

Self-structure as a mean to balance our energy.

Talking about mental health.

Creating platforms for Community Builders.

What a ride! Three years at Techstars

April Fools day in 2016 – Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. A special day: I stood up on stage to host their second Techstars Startup Weekend. Plus, I announced to everybody that I was going “Professional.” Three years ago, I joined Techstars as the Regional Manager for Greater China. It was the first day joining the organization that I had supported as a volunteer for over four years.

What followed has been a ride of epic proportions. Nothing could prepare me for it, and I did my best to embrace the new life full speed ahead. Amazing colleagues, empowering mission, and extraordinary programs to help more communities around us!

If you’ve known me over the past three years, you most definitely heard me saying these things below. It is fun to reflect on these sayings and write them down here:

Time gets experienced in “Dog Years.”

That’s my way of describing what I feel every period as seven times longer than it is. If we met two months ago, it would most definitely feel like over a year. There is no science behind this and no bragging rights. It goes beyond the long hours on the job or a large number of travels. It is my way of describing the intensity and depth of conversations and projects we experience. Instead, it highlights the high energy required always to be positive and constructive. Working in the tech/startup community building in Greater China is a significant time-shifting experience!

Have confidence

One of my self-deprecating jokes is how much of a black sheep I am. Who would hire a Frenchman to work for an American company, trying to nurture tech communities in Greater China? How strange is that?
Building legitimacy to make the most out of this role was important from day 1. We work with the best corporations, partners, conferences, entrepreneurs, and investors. And by “we,” I mean the hardcore Felix and Bronze who joined me to support a vision that few believed in initially.

It is NOT about me

Even if the entire post has been about me, this adventure isn’t. We support thousands of entrepreneurs on their journey to create new projects. We share the best of our experience and work with hundreds of Community Leaders in the region. We keep scratching our heads to find the highest positive impact with limited resources. We work to make our volunteers shine. So many people #givefirst and fight for what they believe in doing.

The past three years haven’t been simple, and there is no reason for this role to be. It was presented to me as an “18 months job before you burn out or move on.”
As shared during my talk at TECOM, all I try to do is “thriving to make this little corner of the world a slightly better place. That’s all there is.”

What is Apple strategy in China?

The updates announced at the Steve Jobs Theatre on Monday 25th of March got commentators with plenty to argue about. Once again!
Beyond new services such as Apple News+, Apple Arcade or the software updates, the keynote was a powerful signal sent to its international audiences.  

Apple is a company that has to nurture “a” global market in mind. That gets translated into one product offering for the entire world. The App Store has the same interface in Bangalore and Milano, iOS is minimally customizable, etc. It happened that some services were released in the US first (such as the iTunes Store back in 2003), but the end goal was always to get those available worldwide over time.

With the recent announcement of Apple News+, Apple Arcade, Apple Card, AppleTV+, we are observing a clear strategy around the service offerings. How sustainable will it be? 
There is little to no mention of the announcement on Apple Chinese Website. And the reason is simple:  out of the four services announced only one could have a possible existence in China (Apple Arcade).
Apple Card might eventually be available, but Chinese observers know how credits cards aren’t widely used in the country. And in countries where credit cards are marginal, Apple will have a hard time convincing the general public to use Apple Card.

What I take from the incredible show that we witnessed at the keynote is that Apple is developing a third pillar to Apple product offering: first, hardware and software. Now, hardware + software + services. Is Amazon Prime the trendsetter?
But the real challenge that I anticipate for Apple is rolling out its services outside of the US borders. How will they get broad acceptance in a country where players like Xiaomi and Huawei have deep integrations with a large number of local services. And the flexibility to roll out updates at a much faster pace.

Can we imagine Apple developing features that would be tailored for each market? The example of how China’s importance to sales got Apple to add a Dual Sim to its flagship product is an indicator of what might happen moving forward.

(Picture Credit: The Verge)

Hitting the “writing-wall”

Several years ago, I anticipated the need to be a better writer. Putting down on paper good stories, posts, jokes, speeches.
It started with 750words.com and the idea that one should write three pages of text without sharing it. Doing this exercise daily, it didn’t work at first until I committed to the routine last August 2018. At first, logging 750 words a day was the exception. Progressively, it became a quotidian habit.

In practice, writing so much every day is a challenge. I don’t live an exciting life to the point of writing three pages. To cope with this, I added “the three things that I am grateful for today” and “what I learned today.” When done correctly, that takes up to 1/5 of the entire note – freeing me a little from the commitment.
The rest of the note could be only blabbering about how I have nothing to write on.

Later, I decided to up the stakes and commit myself to write a blog article per week. As an introvert, not particularly creative, and not English speaker I was starting a solid gamble. But building on the momentum with my 750 words notes, it felt like writing a 300~350 words post a week was doable.

I set some ground rules to build my comfort zone:
– First, the format has to be simple. No research, only opinion pieces. Short posts, one idea max.
– Second, the first four posts would never get published. I redacted them to get into the habit.
– Third, the following four posts would get published but not shared. So no public shame in case of poor quality.
I have been able to write 20+ posts consistently, so I guess the gamble paid off. You can find the latest ones on carnet.cc.

This morning, I struggle with finding the right angle to write my note. I had several ideas to begin with, but none of them converted correctly. How frustrating to be so close yet so far.
Strangely enough, I eventually did the one thing I was used to when nothing comes to mind. The solution to breaking the writing-wall hit me! I could replicate what I do with my 750 words notes when creativity runs dry. I would write about the difficulties of writing.
And this note is how I finished my weekly goal 🙂