AUGUST - 2002

It has been a super-long time since I have had the chance to take some time out in order to reflect on life. While things remain as hectic as ever, I decided this morning that I would take the afternoon off to destress.

One of the things that I wanted to do on my afternoon off is to write down some of the events that are happening in my life at the moment. I guess it is a soothing process and I know that there are lots of people who have not heard a peep from me in a really long time and would at least appreciate some bits of gossip.

Things are going well for me in Singapore.

On the family front, Jennifer ( is now 9 weeks old and has moved from a life of eating, sleeping, and pooping to one of eating, sleeping, pooping, and playing. She smiles and googoos now and genuinely reacts to music, singing, and the reading of books.

She particularly likes the Grease Soundtrack, Limp Biskit, Pink Floyd, and NWA...go figure. Sadly, no perceptible reaction to The Cure.

I have been involved in her life as time permits. Generally I have been able to spend Thursday night through Sunday night 100% at home since she was born - one of the perks of being the boss - I can work from home and nobody can complain. Additionally, although I work on Monday, it is in Singapore so that I get Monday night as well. Tuesday morning through Thursday afternoon is usually spent in Malaysia so I miss her during those days.

Although I am only with her 60% of the time, I have used my time with her pretty well I think. I feel that she knows who I am and that I am one of the people associated with happiness (food, diaper change, cuddling, chatting). Hsien and I share duties fairly equally, though she is definitely full-time.

That said, Jennifer is a pretty low-maintenance baby. She has no problem getting to sleep by herself, sleeps in her nursery rather than in our room, and wakes up only once at night (3AM which is my shift). She does have periods of grouchiness but those periods are usually because we are not understanding what she needs rather than her being "manja" (rhymes with ganja) as the Lims say.

As time goes by, we are getting better at reading her signals. This means that she is frustrated less often. The problem, however, is that her needs seem to change every couple of weeks. So once you think you know what all the signals mean, she changes. Periods that appear to be focussed on mental growth, for example, are very different from periods that appear to be focussed on physical growth. As a result, the same type of cry can mean that she wants very different things in either period.

Anyway, we are working through it together and eventually, she'll just be able to talk.

She also seems to be fairly average in terms of development. Like I said, she is smiling socially now and she can track people as they move around her. She also is getting stronger and can lift her head up about 60 degrees from being face down. Unfortunately, she is not yet propping herself up on her arms, is not yet able to roll over, and is not keen to grab a rattle and shake it. But these are all things that will come in time.

Another nice thing is that the sense of absolute terror that bombarded me a few moments after Jennifer was delivered, is now mostly subsided. I am comfortable with all of the new physical things that I had to learn - carrying, transferring to another person, bathing, feeding, wrapping, putting on clothes, burping, etc....

While none of these things seemed particularly frightening as I was reading through, "What to expect in the first year" during Hsien's 8th and 9th months, when confronted with a real, wriggling baby, it can be very intimidating. Learning by reading just does not cut it and when faced with a real environment I have to say that I was really frightened.

I look back and think about the first night in the hospital after Jennifer was born. During the night she had spit up a little bit of milk and hacked a bit. The event had me jogging down to the nurses station, white with terror, to get help preventing her from choking. Of course it was nothing. But at the time, the event convinced me that I had absolutely no operational knowledge of this creature and it was then that I agreed to stay at Hsien's mom's house for the first month.

Anyway, while there is still so much to learn, that terror has subsided with the day-to-day experience.

She has been growing well. She is fairly tall for her age group and she is pretty strong. Hsien estimates that Jennifer is getting close to 5kg, which is about 11 pounds. And she is somewhere like 58 cm in length. We have tried to incorporate just as much physical play as intellectual play. Although, like most parents in this age, I am always concerned that she is getting as much intellectual stimulation as she can.

We try to continually change the designs in her nursery and give her lots of things to play with such as mobiles and crackling/dinging/clicking squeeze toys. And we also read books to her, watch TV together (Mandarin and English shows) and listen to music. But you always wonder if it is enough or if you should be doing something more.

In the end, I tend to think that developing her into a well-rounded nice person is more important. She will be smart enough no matter what. Being happy with life is perhaps a harder long-term achievement and this seems to me to be more about spending quality time together and less about what exactly you are doing during that time.

The family support network has been astounding. It is realy nice that Hsien's family is so large and kind and fun. Also, her network of friends out here will be great in coming years as it seems as if all of her friends are having kids plus or minus 2 months. There will certainly be a whole gang of same-age kids in Hsien's extended network.

In particular however, her mom has been great. Although I missed "home" that first month, being able to stay with Hsien's parents made the transition really relaxed and low-pressure. With all the cooking and cleaning being done for us and with the knowledge that there was someone experienced around all the time kept the stress level down. It also meant that Hsien and I were ok with me leaving for a few days each week for business.

Beyond that, Hsien's mom enjoys baby sitting and starting a few of weeks ago, we have been able to return to Swing and Funk classes two nights a week and even go on dates every other week. This is important because I gained about 15 pounds over the last 9 months and I really need to get some exercise and get back to a normal state.

On the work front things are as hectic as ever.

During the Fall of 2001 we began the process of looking for external funding that we could use to grow the company regionally and prepare us for an IPO around 2004.

We have had a good run these last two years. We have grown from 5 to 30 employees and have made profits two years in a row. We have also secured contracts in Singapore, Malaysia, and the UK and if all goes well, Thailand should be next. Given the business climate in the last two years, I would consider our success nothing short of miraculous. I think that though there is room for improvement, we have provided a really nice environment for our staff and have really given our customers sevice that they just could not get elsewhere.

However, while pulling in a couple million each year is good enough to grow us steadily, if we want to move quickly to capture market share regionally and grow from a small to a mid-sized company of say 200 people, we realized that we would need some funding support as well as help from experienced business people with managing the growing pains.

So we started looking for either a venture capital company who would want to invest, or a publically listed company that might want to merge.

The search took up about 120% of my time for about 6 months and took me into areas of business that I had not previously had a chance to explore. After the experience I now feel much more credible as a CEO. I think that this hardcore financing/legal/negotiation/strategy stuff was the last area of the job description that I really had not had a chance to try out.

Anyway, the process culminated in a large company listed in Singapore (PKTech) buying a 65% share in eXtropia. We signed the papers in June and are in the middle of regulatory approval from the Singapore stock exchange. We expect that sometime in late September the deal will be fully closed and eXtropia will become a formal subsidiary of PKTech.

Needless to say, the synergy is good. I really personally like the management team at PK and they seem to respect us as well. Although they will buy a 65% stake, the agreement is that we will run the company for the next 2 years with no interference. If we have done well, then we will continue after that. So things don't necessarily change all that much but we will have funds to grow.

The companies also fit well together. PKTech is a systems integrator with a great sales channel, lots of manpower to do projects, but poor technology. We are a company of hard core nerds with really great technology but poor sales and marketing and not alot of staff to go out and do projects.

So in theory the two companies should be a perfect fit. They can sell and implement our products and we can focus more and more on R&D.

Although the paperwork is still in process, since we signed, we have been working alot more closely and I am pretty confident that while it won't be a seemless transition, the merger is going to work and the two teams will work well together.

As part of the deal, PK will invest a total of 4 million over the next 2 years into the company itself and will spend another chunk of change buying out the existing shareholders. With the money pending, we have begun hiring some key managers who will hopefully remove a great deal of operational burden from me so that I can focus 100% on building new deals in the region and in Europe (where PK has a lot of leads).

One of the recent hires is Dave Florey who will come in as VP of Marketing. Dave is a friend of mine from High School, University, and the band. He has been working in Taiwan and Hong Kong for many years and has grown into quite a credible biz guy.

While he is going to be really great for the company, I am also keen to have another friend in town. While Hsien's friends are all great, and the swing community is as great as anywhere in the world, and while Gunther is a best friend, I do miss a gang to call my own. Of course, given both of our lives we'll probably not spend all that much time hanging out....but somehow, knowing he is around will make life feel a bit less claustrophobic.

And so...that is pretty much it. Family and work take up most of my time. Very little backpacking through jungles or the like, but I guess that is normal for someone in their 30s.

Anyway, sory for the not-so-personal email but you know.....hope life is well on your side of the world....

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