Why Did Tan Kin Lian Lose So Badly? Because He Failed to Cross the Chasm Correctly.

what have I gotten myself into...

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore is a marketing book that espouses the need for a product or company to first find traction with early adopters before attempting to sell their services to the mainstream market a.k.a cross the chasm. Failure to do so will inevitably result in disastrous consequences. For many entrepreneurs and marketing people, this book is a bible.

Now what does Tan Kin Lian’s poor showing at the PE2011 have to do with this tech-oriented marketing book? Very simple: he failed to find a core base of users on which to launch his campaign on. These core base of users would be analogous to the early adopters that a company must first seek to convince before he attempts to cross the chasm and enter the mainstream audience.

Which was why he mentioned his two lowest points were when Tan Jee Say announced his candidacy and was later granted the Certificate of Eligibility to contest. With Tan Jee Say in the running, he grabbed what would be Tan Kin Lian’s core base of opposition supporters in one fell swoop. While on the other side, Tan Cheng Bock and Tony Tan were craving up the pro-PAP supporters into the so called PAP Grassroots a.k.a heartlanders and PAP Elites a.k.a erm… Elites. That left Tan Kin Lian with scraps.

So when Tan Kin Lian did his After Action Review and found that among other things, his inappropriate campaign logo of ‘Hi-5’ or mis-reporting in the mainstream media which were the chief culprits to blame for his downfall, I’m sitting behind my desk thinking: this guy still doesn’t get it. So here’s my personal message to Mr Tan Kin Lian:

Dear Sir,

Firstly, I applaud you for persisting with your beliefs and not pulling out due to populist pressure. It takes a man of courage to have done what you did. As a wannabe entrepreneur, I respect your rags-to-riches journey in being a self taught programmer and eventually succeeding in the corporate world.

But I shall not sugar coat my words any longer. The reason why you lost so badly was very simple: you did not communicate a clear set of ideals and vision to a clearly defined group of people or in business speak, target audience. To put it very bluntly, you stood for nothing for no one

As someone who has risen to the very top of the corporate world, I would have thought this to be plainly evident.

If you had gathered more support during your involvement of the Lehman Brother’s Minibonds saga, that could have been a possible launch pad. But even then, you failed to gather enough rapport from the people.

The reasons you cite as contributing factors to your poor showing were merely poorly implemented tactics which by itself should not drown a candidate. The overall strategy was flawed. Even the most brilliantly executed campaign would not have saved you from a flawed campaign strategy. 

So Mr Tan Kin Lian, as you are eating your mooncakes and sipping tea under the moonlight, do you still think mis-reporting was the main cause of your downfall?

Yours Sincerely,

A Wannabe Hacker.

Singapore Elections 2011: A Wannabe Hacker’s Point of View

This is a break from the usual tech and startup related posts as I will be voting for the very first time in my life and I thought I ought to do a blurb about it.

As a concerned and vested citizen of Singapore, I am taking a long term perspective on issues and policies. Long term as in a time-frame of decades. I believe to have a 50 year plan, you first need to have a 5 year plan. To have a 5 year plan, you first need to have 1 year plan. So, like most things, the devil is in the detail. Say I want to hire a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). CMO waltzes in and says: “Ya, I increased visitors to xyz.com by 5000%. Trust me. Hire me.”

Erm, no?

Basing current performance on historic performance is well, not my cup of tea. Call me a fundamentalist. Here’s a simple exercise. Assume there are 5000 fund managers in the world. At the end of each year, a fund manger either outperforms the market or underperforms it. By the end of year 5, just based on pure probability alone, there would still be 156 fund managers who would have outperformed the market for 5 consecutive years. No skill, just probability.

The first things that come to my mind in testing this CMO would be:

  • How did you increase it?
  • What was the context for the increase?
  • Did you do A/B testing or MVT?
  • How did you account of seasonality?
  • Were your marketing efforts repeatable and hence scalable?
  • What methods are not longer effective?
  • What was your ROI?

You know, stuff like that to make sure this guy really knows his shit. So therein lies the problem for me: No party is giving me the f*cking details. I don’t know how all the parties are going to execute on their rhetoric. I want to know how you’re going to achieve your goals over what period of time and the resources required. You know, kinda like a shareholders AGM where the stakeholders can hold the company accountable?

First for the bored and curious, you can find the manifestoes for each party here: PAP, SDP, NSP, RP, SDA and WP.

Of all the parties, I think the Worker’s Party has the most thought-out and well written manifesto. Even then, they still fall short on details. Let’s take it party by party. I’m just gonna pick up random snippets.


“The government should seek to attract more venture capital firms to Singapore so that they not only provide the funding to promising start ups, but the managerial expertise as well.”

Erm, how? VC’s are chasing returns. How do you have returns when there are no exitsDoing a Yuri Milner might be a better way to help startups in Singapore.


“Target to reduce Singapore’s Gini Coefficient of 0.45 to 0.35 within 10 years, the latter figure being representative of most of the developed countries.” 

Erm, how? This is like a fucking difficult problem can? Are you going to slow down the rate of millionaires in Singapore or what? In any case, why do we have to be on-par with other developed countries? Hell, why not lower?


“Increase funding for healthcare to reduce the financial burden on Singaporeans. Increased investment in public hospitals and polyclinics to cut the waiting time for Singaporeans. More hospital beds are needed for a growing and greying population. The number of hospital beds has remained stagnant at 11,000 to 12,000 over the past 10 years, while our population grew by 26%.”

Erm, how? Where is this money coming from? Is this coming at the expense of another budget? Is there a correlation between population growth and hospital beds? Shouldn’t the right comparison be proportion of aging population versus available hospital beds? Isn’t a lot of this population growth coming from young immigrants anyway?


“Universal health insurance to be funded through current CPF contributions replacing current Medisave and Medishield schemes.”

Universal health care is an age old problem. From my limited understanding, the standard way to provide for universal health care is to have high taxes like in the Nordic countries. But wait, you want to increase GST as well. So, our CPF is gonna be like a magic hat? You pull money of out it to pay for your flat, your retirement and your health insurance? Erm, show me the math please? How is this all coming to work out? Where’s all the money coming from?


“Economically, the influx of cheap foreign labour is causing wages of locals to be depressed. The widen income gap is unsustainable. Socially, the immigration policy is causing tensions that are beginning to manifest in unfortunate and ugly ways. We must check the PAP’s recklessness and stop it from increasing our population by another 30 percent!”

Let’s compare apples with apples here. As far as I can tell, all the cheap foreign labour are doing the jobs that well, Singaporeans don’t want to do. E.g. Driving buses, selling rochor beancurd, atrium sales etc. So when you say wages of locals are being depressed, who are these locals? What are they doing? I think the reason why the PAP is letting so many foreigners into the country is because Singaporeans aren’t f*cking enough. Any culture needs a birth rate of 1.25 to be self-sustaining. Singapore is at 1.16. That’s right guys, we are going to be extinct at this rate of copulation.


” Provide new, high-quality and affordable HDB home”

Housing prices must surely be one of the focal points of this election unless you’re MBT. You could have taken this opportunity to address the many concerns of Singaporeans but instead you decided to go with a one-liner. 10 points for being concise, 0 points for empathy. Also, with the whole baby fertility thing? I think you’re treating a social issue as an economic one. Throwing more money (literally) at the problem isn’t going to help FFS. Didn’t anyone of your scholars read Predictably Irrational?

My Conclusion

I am not the target audience for the various political parties ergo my vote is not important to them. Their target audience are the kind of people who would respond to lorries blasting out slogans on a loud hailer. That’s also damn old school style of campaigning man. I cannot connect emotionally with a loud hailer on a lorry. Sorry, I just can’t. Not even if Nicole Seah, Foo Mee Har AND Tin Pei Ling were in the lorry wearing nothing but their birthday suits. Then again, words don’t even count for much these days.

To a certain extent, I almost don’t care what their implementation policies are like. I know this completely contradicts what I’ve just said. But I guess I just want to know that they are actually thinking about these various problems in detail and anticipate that us, the electorate, aren’t just nodding donkeys ready to drink the kool aid that’s being dished out. That they actually have a crack team of guys doing the due diligence that’s required and having the data to support their assertions. You know, data-driven policy making.

To cap off, I think the best outcome is for PAP to win in aggregate but for certain parties to win seats in Parliament. Chen Show Mao is a rockstar and he is the kind of people we need in Parliament to provide expertise and perspective that will ultimately determine the future of Singapore and her inhabitants. We also need to start caring about the details because this isn’t a popularity contest. Maybe that’s the problem — no one cares about the details anymore.