||281 06-264 Tampines St 22
|Interview with Mr Lim Chooi Guan
|by Khairul Amin on 24-Apr-2008. Student can be reached at kAminbmz@gmail.com
|Skyjuice software is a provider of professional IT consultancy services and
excellent quality batch software. It is a company that places high premium on
developing good and easy to use software. It's about making the software
work for people and not the other way round.
|Mr. Lim Chooi Guan is straight forward, precise and an unrelentingly goal-
oriented business person. He is perhaps amongst the best in this industry that
has taken into account, and given much attention, to end-user friendliness,
clean design aesthetics, and prompt customer service responsiveness.
|1. What is the nature of your business?
|The tool that I initially created was a productivity tool. SkyJuice software
focuses on developing productivity tools, for better efficiency; tools that save
time, money and resources to significantly improve overall productivity. We do
consultation as well but we are mainly a product-based company, specialising
in software development. It is a business that is targeted towards enterprises
and individual consumers, especially technology enthusiasts.
|2. When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business? NOTE: If it is not a family business, ask: Do your parents have their own businesses too? Have they inspired you in one way or another? (Select appropriate question according to the entrepreneur being interviewed.)
|I started my entrepreneurial journey as an experiment back in 1999 when I
was studying for a diploma in Singapore Polytechnic. I created a tool that was
used in our final year project and made it freely available on the Internet. I
did this because I wanted to help people by creating software that is good and
easy to use, and to prove the skeptics wrong - that it can be done and it is not
that difficult to be an entrepreneur. Then users of my software started to tell
me to start selling my software creations, so that was what I did. As I see it,
making good and usable software is a means to help people; helping people
through technology. I make myself very freely available for my business.
My mother provided me start up capital, which was less than two hundred
dollars. My parents have always been supportive of me. My mother runs her
own business (LSK tuition agency) which is not technology-related but she has
been in business for a long time, so that kind of rubbed off onto me as well.
However, most of my friends don't really have the entrepreneurial spirit, but
that did not affect me too much because I know that everyone has their own
dreams to follow.
|3. What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
|I have been interested in computers since I was in kindergarten. My
father bought a computer when I was very young and that was when I
started getting more interested in computers, learning how to fiddle with
the DOS operating system and trying out some features of it here and
I also worked as a computer technician during my polytechnic days. But
my main interest has always been writing good software. Computers
have been a part of me for almost more than half of my life, and because
of this I think it was almost natural for me to be in this field. The initial
motivation was purely interest and passion rather than monetary gains.
I believe that it's important to love what you do, because only then you
will be motivated and naturally be good at it.
|4. How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
|Getting initial visibility was not a problem because I already had a
consumer base before I started the business. My startup capital was less
than two hundred dollars, courtesy of my mother. The design and
construction was all done by me, because during my polytechnic days I
was doing a diploma in multimedia and software engineering, and am
very good with design. The initial design and aesthetics of the business
web site was created by me and has not changed much over the past few
years. In addition to the consumer base, the Internet further adds upon
the visibility and outreach of the company, so not much money was
required in that aspect. The product was already there and there was
almost no risk and nothing much to lose. I would have broken even as
soon as I reached two hundred dollars.
Advertising on the internet was relatively new in 2004; I used some not
so frequently used keywords when advertising with Overture, and it
worked quite well for me. In my opinion it is best to position the product
in the frame of the consumer. What I feel is that most software today
lacks is thinking about the user, this comes from software developers
having a concentrated focus on writing software code alone. I feel
marketing is about differentiating yourself from your competitors, and for
me, personalised service is a valuable thing that you can provide to your
customers. And if the product is good enough, it can sell itself even
when it has minimum visibility.
I also learned a lot from other software development companies that
have been out in the industry for a couple of years and learned from
|5. What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
|My first ever customer was a pharmaceutical company that got bought
over by Pfizer. Back then, I did not really know how much to charge
them, so I asked, "how much are you willing to pay for it?". Well, I was
relatively young, and they bought the license for about hundred dollars
which wasn't much, but that was my very first sale back in 1999, and it
was a customised version.
Most recently I clinched a deal with a travel company from the UK. I do
have lots of interesting customers like for instance, RockStar games, the
YellowPages, the World Health Organisation, and Amazon, to name a
few. In addition to that I have numerous accolades in a form of "keep up
the good work" and compliments such as "thanks for making a good
product". Several years ago I was featured in the University of
Queensland (where I was studying) newsletter and a person from the
business and law faculty happened to buy my software. We caught up
for coffee later and he got to see me in the flesh. I don't see my
customers face to face very often so that was a bit different!
|6. i. What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
ii. And how did you specifically overcome these challenges?
|First of all you never be certain on success. Initial success and stability
comes when you start making money. Many startups spend years and
never receive a cent in revenue, but I guess I was really fortunate
because I started developing my product at the time when the internet
was booming and I had people telling me to sell it which I otherwise
would not have. And so I had the ease of knowing that my product would
sell. That solved part of the revenue issue; all I had to do was sell a few
copies and I would have broken even. There is also the issue of how you
can make a living of this. I simply overcame this by providing good value
for my clients by delivering quality products and I listen to every request
from clients and implemented changes based on all of those requests.
By doing so, I can increase the value of my product, and in turn increase
profits. Prices can always go down but value is a lot harder to replicate.
Another way I faced the challenges is through development and
innovation. This way you can always integrate different products and
thereby enhance their functionality.
Customer service is very important and if people hate you no one is
going to buy your product. Prompt response is pivotal and often crucial in
this area. Every business will always have some unhappy customers,
maybe due to frustration of not knowing how to use the product. So
customer service is one of the ways that businesses can add to the
overall package. Ultimately you want to build a better relationship with
the customer, because once you have a better relationship with the
customer, the customer will always prefer you compared to some other
good product-based company with poor customer service. So it is
important to retain and maintain your customer-base so that you can
have repeated profits.
|7. How do you overcome the problem of piracy?
|Piracy is unavoidable. The people who pirate your software are not your
usual customers. Corporations will definitely not use pirated software
because they could be sued for millions. One of the reasons why people
pirate software is that it is easy to find a crack for particular software
rather than pay for it. Obscure software which has cracks that are
harder to find are probably less likely to be pirated by the masses.
However, you can take measures to make your software harder to pirate.
One way to combat piracy is to deploy incremental updates to your
software, which is what corporations like Microsoft are doing. So if a
crack exists, there will be a need for an update that patches the crack.
This will always be a cat-and-mouse game which will result in no clear
winner. The loser will always be the consumer.
The other way would be to have a web-based application. But I wouldn't
worry about piracy, because everything is going to be pirated anyway. If
everyone were to be afraid of piracy then there wouldn't be any software
You could argue that piracy is also useful because one of the reasons
why software is pirated is because it is simply that good. And that's
actually good for publicity. If it's good people will pay for it.
There is a lot of open-source software freely available but not many
people will want to use them because the user interface is not very user-
friendly, and adding to that, the documentation is horrible which makes it
hard for other people to extend the software other than developers. So
there is still a lot of advantage in commercial software.
|8. Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
|With any start up, you will always have to consider the fact that you are
not going to make any money. If you are fresh out of university and you
think that you are going to make money the first day you start working,
that kind of mindset means that you are probably not suited for a
The approach is to never give up. If you feel like giving up, you have to
ask yourself why you want to give up. I guess the reason for many, is
that you're not making any money. There are probably days that you
may not even make a cent. You can put in hours and hours of work and
you won't make a cent and you may be thinking why or what you are
doing wrong. Sometimes you just don't have a straight answer for that.
Sometimes things are also beyond your control. So what you can do is to
always keep yourself in the positive frame of mind and realize that it
doesn't mean that you are not going to make money forever, it just
means that it just hasn't happen yet. You can fail one million times but
you only need to succeed once. For instance, your code might not be
working, or your computer might be acting up, but there is always a
solution and there is always another day. Sometime you just need to
take a break and re-evaluate things. I understand that for most people
the frustration would be spending a lot of time on these and not making
any money. That is why you always have to love what you are doing
otherwise you will always be thinking about the money, and that is not
the way you're supposed to think. It is sort of like a paradox you don't
think about the money when you want to do something good. The money
is sort of like a side effect. You want to develop a really good product and
money will be the side effect of that.
|9. Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges?
|First of all, never give up and don't overspend, and don't hire for the
sake of hiring, because the circumstances are different for every
business. Let's say if company XYZ advertises using Google adwords,
that doesn't mean your business has to do it as well. There are always
ways to doing things other than the traditional way. But many people
don't think of that; they don't really take the time to brainstorm or think
of other ways to do things or to explore different approaches. For
example, marketing. A typical software company's marketing
department is often segregated from the developers and designers.
Marketers don't really know much about coding and designers and
developers don't really know about marketing. The important thing to
note is that all of these things are integrated together. And no matter
what role that you play you always have to look at the big picture. Try to
think about how the business works as a whole, even though your role
may be specialized. Time is precious; don't overspend time on doing
things that are minute and that people don't really care, depending on
what you're trained to do. You can never be perfect but if you can be
excellent that is good enough. There is no such thing as true perfection
as everyone has different ideas of perfection.
|10. When was the moment you realised the business would
work and support you? When was your "ahaa" moment?
|To be honest, up till now I'm still not sure if it's really going to work. No
one can predict the future. The most you can do is try to keep the edge
and be competitive because your business can last like ten years or it can
last twenty or it can collapse tomorrow if the world economy collapses.
But what you can do is to always add value to your products. For me I
feel that I am still in the "ahaa" moment and am trying to maintain it.
For me I always knew this venture was going to work because I had
people tell me to sell my software. That obviously means that they are
thinking of buying the software and are willing to pay for it. So for me,
my little "ahaa" moment goes back to 1999 when I secured my first
|11. i. What are some of your proudest business achievements to date?
ii. And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
|My first proudest achievement was having someone to pay me for my
software. I was only about eighteen years old back then, so for me, that
with my level of technical competency, it was a pretty big achievement
but like I said the whole aim of the software was to help people via
technology. Regular Joes and big companies use my software. The
majority of the code is designed and developed by me, which I consider a
pretty big achievement. Additionally I receive compliments from people,
which is important and good enough for me.
|12. Which is your most popular, blockbuster product?
|If you look at my website there is a product, Quick File Rename, which
has evolved over nine years. It is probably my most polished product to
More blockbuster products are in the works for the future, we'll just have
to see how it goes. Right now you should try it (Quick File Rename) if
Quick File Rename's Rules system allows you to rename your files,
photos and music, in anyway way you want, automatically even when
you are asleep.
For example, you can replace dull camera photo names with descriptive
names with minimal effort, in a matter of seconds.
|13. How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
|As you can see our about page, there are lots testimonials over there
that says a lot of good things about our products. I usually leave it up to
other people to decide, discover and look at how good our products are.
Design & Aesthetics.
The majority of software is not aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. People
don't usually realise that the user-interface is basically the product and I
can take advantage of that. Many software developers never truly
considered the design so they will just put the software together and just
make sure that it works. But I don't do things that way; I take into
consideration design first and then development. So that's one
advantage that I perceive.
Putting value on good services.
I have established presence with many large clients like Amazon, Boeing
which reminds them that my software is trustworthy. And it's how I put
value in the product. I use video tutorials to provide explanations on how
to operate features of the software so no reading of manuals are
required. I also develop innovative features by keeping the end user in
mind and making sure that end users do not have problems using the
software. For all consultations, I ensure prompt delivery, always before
the due date.
|14. What are some business ideas you have implemented that
created great results in your business?
|Well, it's really simple. Follow the customer. I know it seems cliche but
it's true. If you follow what the customer wants, you will definitely
achieve results. Because if someone has a problem, and then they
suggest something, it is most likely that someone else will have the same
problem. When your product is really polished you will come to a point
where, simply following the customer isn't enough you will have to think
of ways to surprise them. It is sort of like Apple for most products, they
like to surprise people, take for example the iPod, which was very
revolutionary and innovative when it was released. Last year, I adopted
this approach by rewriting the majority of the code base of my software
(Quick File Rename) because the software was getting stale and even
though I could still build on it, it was not worth it as the code quality was
worsening. Every piece of software has a lifecycle, in the beginning you
build a prototype and in many companies you actually build off from the
prototype. After several iterations and releases, the prototype, which has
now evolved to become the final product, reaches the state where it is
like a giant jelly mould and you have sticks around it to keep it from
falling down. My software had reached that state, so I started rewriting it
from scratch. And learning from Apple, I wanted to surprise users and
benefit them. I think it's good to think differently. It's good to redevelop
rather than building off existing code which has grown over the years. So
I totally redesigned the software including the user interface.
You realize I haven't talked much about marketing because I have not
really done marketing in the traditional sense. I mainly focus on value
added services, and building good relationship with customers.
|15. What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
|Maybe. It's something that I've been considering but right now the
economy isn't very predictable so I'm just working on adding more value
and enhancing my product base. I'm looking to partner with other
companies. There are companies that have expressed interest, one such
company is Individual Software. I have also contacted Canon and other
digital camera manufacturers.
And expansion certainly includes plans for developing new products. Even
though I do not have a deadline for these products, I certainly have timelines.
I do not believe in churning out a new but shoddy product just to meet a
|16. In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in
order to be successful in business? And why? (Educational
qualification, work experience, attitude)
|In the technology industry anything can change within a matter of
months. Whatever computer programming language you learn may be
obsolete. But in the technology industry, I won't say experience count
that much. I would say that your fundamentals are more important. So
you need a very solid grounding in technology fundamentals that many
universities are teaching. Good basic foundations are what you need for
developing software products. But experience, not really because as you
can see most of start-up companies in the US are started by fresh
You have to have a positive attitude. Education doesn't count that much
too. You can have a PhD in rocket science but it doesn't mean that you
are going to make a million dollars. You need to approach a problem and
come up with a solution or you need to solve a problem that people don't
know about, that adds value. You need to have determination and find a
problem that is worth solving and never give up.
|17. Who or what motivates and inspires you?
|I like to read about the start-ups. There's a really good book, "Founders
at work". That's a book containing essays about the various start-ups like
PayPal, Gmail, I highly recommend reading it. Read stories about
Microsoft, the inventor of personal computer Steve Wozniak; just reading
about them, you will find they have a similar underlying theme. About
making the world a better place. You know if you find a problem, solve it,
even if you don't make a cent, you'll still make the world a better place
because money is just really a side effect.
|18. What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
|Entrepreneurship is to be different, think differently and not follow the
herd. And to help other people by adding more value to society.
|19. What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
|First of all, whatever you do, you need a solid foundation in your education. No matter what you end up studying, it might not be your career path. The purpose of education is to guide students in problem-solving and articulation. You need a solid foundation no matter what your dreams are. If you wish to make it on your own, education may not be that important. However, in case if you do not make it or if you wish to work for a company rather than being your own boss, it is important to always try your best. The world is getting more and more competitive. Do volunteering or spend time developing something that will help other people, and add value, by improvising on things that you learn. I actually started this during my diploma days. So it doesn't take a lot of effort nor education to benefit others. Even if your efforts do not benefit other people, you'll definitely benefit yourself.
|20. What do you see is the future of software engineering (trends)?
|As a software engineer you will always be in demand because software engineering is still in its infancy stage, and there are many unsolved problems in computer science. And there are many ways that you can write software. People have this perception that software is malleable; it is very easy to change things but actually it's not, so it is still actually very hard to develop software. Technology will always change. But as long as you understand the fundamentals of computing, you shouldn't be too worried. There's still long way to go. There will be many more programming languages, frameworks, etc. Fundamentals of writing code are still hard to automate. The world is getting more interconnected. All software technology will be integrated into mobile devices. Responsiveness of web technology will always be a problem.
|21. What is in the name "Skyjuice software"?
|If you look at my logo, the "k" you can actually see the Chinese character for water. My name in Chinese means "water source" when translated to English. So that's how I actually came up with the name. I designed that logo.
|22. In your opinion, what does it mean to have the "spirit of enterprise"?
|Well, everyone is enterprising in their own way. Being nominated for this award does not mean that I am different from others. You can be good at filing, and have an efficient way of categorising books, for example. That's your spirit of enterprise right there. Being enterprising in my opinion is being efficient at something that you're at, whether be it cooking, studying, giving a talk, we all have the potential and are enterprising in our own way.
|23. Can you share some of the more significant events / incidents that affected or shaped your business philosophy and the way you conduct your business?
|I've always adopted a focus on the customer approach, and that has never failed. However in many cases, the customer does not know what they really want. You have to look at the big picture and see how you can improve their situation or empower them with what you're providing. I've also noted that minor details matter. Minor details add up to big details. Never discount the minor details. I've had a customer point out a spelling mistake to me once. Make every customer an individual rather than just a name, afterall people like being appreciated and addressed individually.
|24. What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
|Ask yourself why you want to start the business. If your whole aim is to simply make money, then it's not going to work. You must add value first, before thinking about money. Put yourself in your customer's shoes, and ask yourself if you are willing to pay for what you're providing. After all, if you don't use your own product, why should anyone else? Learn what and how you can be efficient in your business, this means putting in energy into things that you can affect, and not worry about things beyond your control. Lastly, never stop learning. Read about anything and everything, open your mind to possibilities.