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I’ve failed a lot – Here’s why that’s OK.

A favorite question of mine at recruitment interviews and one we are always hoping to hear interesting answers to is “Tell us (if comfortable) about your biggest failings”. We don’t usually get good answers and this may be because, culturally we are not comfortable talking about failure.

To do my part, to make it clear that failure is ok and you need to fail to learn, at a recent speech to students at a University, I opened my speech with a story of one my failures. Here is a lightly edited draft of the start to that speech:

Good morning everyone! Thank you very much for this opportunity.

I very much appreciate the intro you gave me, listing out my achievements – But as you also just heard I have failed many times. So before I talk about how we do research at Frontier, let me give you a little background into some of the things I have failed in.

This is me at age 17, with a trophy for the “best results” in my school.

Then I went off to Uni and in my final year:

  1. I got a lot more involved in varied student activities that involved public speaking – this is something I took up as a personal challenge in Uni, because public speaking was something I was terrified of before going to University.
  2. I also went into a very deep study of 19th and early 20th century stock market bubbles, which was an optional and very small part of my course load, but led me to ignore the rest of my studies till far too late.

I got totally burnt out doing all this and I went into full blown “panic mode” in the final two months of uni. I had had a really great time in university before then, but those final two months were a really bad period.

This is me at age 21. Absolutely shocked at seeing my degree results and realizing I had passed. I was quite convinced I had failed. With that expectation, just passing was great news to me, but the reality was that I was definitely well in the bottom half of my batch and my hopes of getting into a good graduate school for studying beyond my degree were gone, so I felt it was not a good end to my Uni Career.

And it does not stop there. I returned to Sri Lanka from Singapore, because I completely failed to make progress after an initial great break with my first job overseas.  Then, after starting Frontier, for the first seven years it was a ridiculously small business where, even in my seventh year, I really did not know if I would continue in business or just have to quit.

 I am sharing this for two reasons:

  1. Now looking back, the study of bubbles in the 19th/20th century (which I burnt myself out doing) is the material from Uni that I think is the most fundamentally useful to my work now. And the ability to speak publicly is far more useful that any results from Uni. So now, using the term popularized by Steve Jobs, the dots connect well backwards.
  2. If you ever go through a hard time, I hope this helps. Knowing that failing badly is the story behind many successful figures, as shown in the following graphic, has helped me, so hopefully more stories like this with a Sri Lankan context would help you

“Failing” is also often the result of doing something risky or different. But knowing that it’s ok to take that risk, because it often works out better in the longer term, despite the initial failing, helps to encourage others to be open to taking more risk – this is something we need to build a more entrepreneurial and creative workforce in Sri Lanka.

I am also putting this on the blog, as a message to anyone looking to join Frontier. We want to make it clear that we are not “conventional” in wanting to recruit people with only a straight line track of success. We want to recruit team members who have failed and learnt from it – those that can bring those learnings to Frontier. If that sounds like you, send us your details to

“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.”

– Richard Branson.

How do you improve your products (or your life)? Figure out the job that needs doing.

Products and Services. The World is full of them. But why is it that some find success and grow to be indispensable to our lives, while others sink into ambiguity and disappear? Well, according to Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, successful products are those that are built knowing what ‘job’ they were ‘hired’ for. Confused? Let me explain.

Generally, in the marketing sphere, Christensen argues that people play a game of categorization. They segment their target market based on either the ‘attributes of the customers’ or the ‘characteristics of the products’. However, this is a broken system – just because a customer is from a certain demographic segment does not cause him/her to buy a product. So what causes us to buy products? It’s simple – we all want to get something (i.e. a job) done at any given time and we ‘hire’ a product/service to do that ‘job’ for us. Christensen illustrated this concept with the example of a fast-food restaurant that was trying to boost its sales of milkshakes:

It segmented the market by product category and had extraordinary data on the demographics and even the psychographics of customers who bought milkshakes. […] The company got very good feedback from these customers about how to improve its milkshakes. It did improve them, and surprisingly, the improvements had no impact whatsoever on sales or profits. Peter Drucker once said that rarely does the customer buy what the company thinks it’s selling.

Therefore, one of my colleagues went into a restaurant one day and observed for 18 hours to see if he could answer the question, “What job do people hire a milkshake to do for them?” […] It turned out that nearly half the customers bought milkshakes in the very early morning. […] So the next day my colleague returned and confronted these people as they left the restaurant, milkshakes in hand, asking them, “Excuse me, please, but could you tell me what job you are trying to get done for yourself when you hired that milkshake?” […]

It turned out that they all had the same job to do: They had a long and boring commute to work. One hand had to be on the steering wheel, but God had given them this other hand in which they needed something to hold while they traveled. They weren’t hungry yet, but they knew they’d be hungry by 10:00 a.m. Therefore, they needed something that would land in their stomachs and stay a while.

It turns out that the milkshake does the job better than any of the competition. Surprise! The competition is not Burger King’s milkshakes. The competition is bananas, doughnuts, bagels, Snickers bars, and in many cases, boredom. Why boredom? It was so inconvenient to get these milkshakes that people quite often just drove to work bored.

So that answers that one. Figure out the job that customers hire our product/service for and then serve the product to do that job. Easy right? Not so fast. A product will not always have just one job to do. Let’s go back to that milkshake for a minute:

My observant colleague also learned that in the afternoon and evening, the milkshake tended to be hired for a very different job. In the evening, the milkshake was bought by fathers with their children and eaten with a meal inside the restaurant. Dad feels bad because he has been saying no to his kids all day, and he just wants to say yes to something. He says, “Sure, Spence, you can have a milkshake.” Dad finishes his meal. Spence finishes his meal, and then he picks up that thick, viscous milkshake and it takes him forever to suck it up that thin straw.

Dad waits patiently.

Then Dad waits impatiently.

Finally, Dad says, “We’ve got to go,” and he throws the shake away half consumed.

Suddenly, the milkshake is not a one-size-fits-all product.

Now that we know what job (or jobs, as it may be) that our product is hired for it becomes surprisingly easy to make the right improvements to it to get that job done better:

For the morning job, for example, you would actually want to make the milkshake more viscous so it would take even longer to suck up the straw. You would stir in tiny chunks of fruit, not to make it healthy, because customers don’t hire it to be healthy, but to add variety. Think about it. Every once in a while, you would suck up a piece of fruit, and it would add an air of unpredictability to the morning routine. You would also move the milkshake dispensing machine from behind the counter to the front and give people a prepaid swipe card so they could just dash in and go.


OK, so that’s how I can improve my products. But how does this help me improve my life?

I’m glad you asked. You see, Christensen’s outlook on what actually sells a product is one that is broader than it appears. In the context of life, looking at the various aspects of your life through the job-to-be-done lens can lead to a happier life overall. In his book, How will you measure your life, Christensen takes the example of a marriage, where he observes that a number of unhappy marriages are actually based on selflessness. This is because a spouse will do what they think will make their partner happy, without knowing what they needed most: [Emphasis ours]

He [Christensen] cites the example of a husband who comes home to a tired wife attending to young kids, and gets to work immediately with the dishes and household chores without her knowledge, only to realize that what she needed the most was some adult to talk to after a day spent around restless infants. The chores are the least of her problems and him doing them only adds to her guilt.

‘If you study marriages from the job-to-be-done lens, we would find that the spouses who are most loyal to each other are those that have figured out the job that their partner needs to be done – and then they do the job reliably and well. […] The path to happiness is finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to. It is natural to want the people you love to be happy. What can often be difficult is understanding what your role is in that.’

You can read a summary of what he talks about in his book here.


So the next time you think about how to improve your products (or your life), concentrate on the value that product (or action) will create for your customers (or family/friends etc.) – and remember, this value can be different for different people based on the job they want done. You can’t customize a product (or your actions) to suit everyone’s needs, but (just as in the Milkshake example) many people will have the same job to be done. You just need to figure out what that is.

“Start with Why “ by Simon Sinek: Useful Insights By Amal Sanderatne

My previous blogpost was an account of my reflection on Sinek’s book, here I explore his concepts in depth and present a snapshot of useful insights.

To fully grasp Sinek’s concept we need to identify the WHY, HOW and WHAT in a COMPANY. The following extract from the book helps us visualize these elements.

Sitting at the top of the system, representing the WHY, is a leader; in the case of a company, that’s usually the CEO (or at least we hope it is). The next level down, the HOW level, typically includes the senior executives who are inspired by the leader’s vision and know HOW to bring it to life. Don’t forget that a WHY is just a belief, HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief and WHATs are the results of those actions. No matter how charismatic or inspiring the leader is, if there aren’t people in the organization inspired to bring that vision to reality, to build an infrastructure with systems and processes, then at best, inefficiency reigns, and at worst, failure results. In this rendering the HOW level represents a person or a small group responsible for building the infrastructure that can make a WHY tangible. That may happen in marketing, operations, finance, human resources and all the other C-suite departments. Beneath that, at the WHAT level, is where the rubber meets the road. It is at this level that the majority of the employees sit and where all the tangible stuff actually happens.

As I mentioned in my previous blogpost, I struggled to identify the “why” to incorporate it into Frontier’s purpose statement.

Why is it so Hard to describe “WHY” ?

  • The Brain makes it hard

“The Limbic brain comprises of the middle two sections and is responsible for all our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. This area of the brain is responsible for all human behaviour and all our decision making. It is where our emotional connection takes place, and it has no capacity for language. It is this disconnection between these areas of the brain that makes it so difficult to articulate our feelings. Simon talks about how when you meet ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs Right’, how hard it is to put this feeling in to wordsSource

  • Because it’s a “Founder’s Why “ and the company is just one way of expressing it
  1. Shows Bill Gates as someone whose “WHY” in life is to remove obstacles to ensure that everyone can live and work to their greatest potential.
    Living through the computer revolution, he saw the computer as a perfect technology to help us all become more productive and achieve our greatest potential.
    Now he still believes that if we can help people, this time those with less privilege, remove some seemingly simple obstacles, then they too will have an opportunity to be more productive and lift themselves up to achieve their great potential.
  2. In the case of Apple, which is the main example Sinek uses in the book , he says Apple was a way for Steve Jobs to challenge the status quo and think differently,  just as what he did in his Hippie days

A comment I have is, this is a look-back, historical way of bringing everything together. I don’t think Bill Gates ever thought about his WHY when he started Microsoft or would articulate his current WHY the same way as Sinek has implied his “WHY” is now.  But it’s not a criticism, because again, it is something inherent, not something that can be communicated easily.

Is it enough to have a great “WHY”?


“WHY” people need “HOW” people to succeed 

WHY types have the power to change the course of industries or even the world, if only they knew HOW.

WHY-types are focused on the things most people can’t see, like the future. HOW-types are focused on things most people can see and tend to be better at building structures and processes and getting things done

HOW-types don’t need WHY-types to do well. But WHY-guys, for all their vision and imagination, often get the short end of the stick. Without someone inspired by their vision and the knowledge to make it a reality, most WHY-types end up as starving visionaries, people with all the answers but never accomplishing much themselves.”

Bill Gates, for example, may have been the visionary who imagined a world with a PC on every desk, but Paul Allen built the company. Steve Jobs is the rebel’s evangelist, but Steve Wozniak is the engineer who made the Apple work. Jobs had the vision, Woz had the goods.

“HOW” people can be successful Entrepreneurs but not change the course of industries.

Although so many of them fancy themselves as visionaries, in reality most successful entrepreneurs are HOW-types. Ask an entrepreneur what they love about being an entrepreneur and most will tell you they love to build things. That they talk about building is a sure clue that they know HOW to get things done. A business is a structure—systems and processes that need to be assembled. It is the HOW-types who are more adept at building those processes and systems. But most companies, no matter how well built, do not become billion-dollar businesses or change the course of industries. To reach the billion-dollar status, to alter the course of an industry, requires a very special and rare partnership between one who knows WHY and those who know HOW.

The exercise of trying to figuring out the “WHY”  and  “HOW” helped me understand and prioritize what I need to do for myself and frontier.

At the end, after reading through the book, what I realized is that it’s not about incorporating a WHY into a purpose statement as I was originally trying hard to do, but rather about communicating that WHY in a broader way through all our communication as well as making sure the HOW happens and is reflective of the WHY.

“Start with Why “ by Simon Sinek: My Reflections By Amal Sanderatne

“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do…By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”

 “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

Extracts from Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”

Inspired by these words I’ve been trying to improve Frontier’s purpose statement in relation to it, to incorporate WHY Frontier exists, but found it quite difficult to pin down one clear reason.

Then, I read the book. Though it was badly written and very repetitiveit was only after reading the book, with its specific examples that I understood the reason why articulating it was so hard and in fact that it is not important to “directly” put it into a grand “purpose statement”.

The companies highlighted as having a great “WHY”in his book, use it inherently, but don’t really have it in their “purpose” statements. This understanding, did not come directly from the book but after I actually researched further into it.

The real message for me is the importance of communicating your “WHY” in different ways as opposed just having it written in a document, giving it primacy in your communication and with that taking the actions (the HOW’s) needed to realize the “WHY”.

Even in the book and the video, it is not about expressing it as a “purpose” but rather as your “Belief”. My own view is that the words “Why/Purpose” is also often misinterpreted and thus have to be careful in making “WHY” a “Purpose”

In a small segment of the book, he talks about where this fits in a public declaration

“The vision is the public statement of the founder’s intent, WHY the company exists. It is literally the vision of a future that does not yet exist. The mission statement is a description of the route, the guiding principles—HOW the company intends to create that future.”

Thus for me, what I could try to say is I that I believe in the primary value of time as our most precious and finite resource. Therefore, I believe that anyone dealing with me or Frontier should be making the best use of their time. And we must strive to ensure that this belief is reflected in our HOWs (the way we do things) and that this is communicated properly to all stakeholders.

Please refer to my next blog post which explains Sinek’s concept in detail, aided by examples from the book for a better understanding of this concept.

More Explorations into the Startup Culture by Frontier Team


As a part of our continuous learning on the ‘startup scene’ two of us from Frontier visited Singapore in August 2014. Among the few events we selected to attend was the ‘Start up Grind Singapore’ which gave us insights into some real life experiences faced by entrepreneurs in startup ventures.

The Start Up Grind event series was initiated in April 2012 by Son Le Thanh, a professional software developer with more than 10 years experience in the field of IT. Son launched this event series, which gathers a consistent crowd, to share startup experiences and foster new networks. The event we went to in August was attended by many who shared the same passion and interest in pursuing their innovative ideas into startup businesses and faced similar problems.

This time the event was hosted by Julian Lee, CEO and Founder of Ambi Labs. Ambi Climate is the flagship product of Ambi Labs, and it was the winner at Echelon Hong Kong Satellite 2014.  Ambi Climate is a smart air-conditioning system that aims to deliver personalized indoor comfort through the smart phone.

Lee in his insightful discussion stressed on the fact that when going forward with a new idea one must always keep in mind that original ideas have to and will keep on changing. Hanging on to the original ideas may sometimes not push a business forward. Furthermore, the best ideas don’t always seem realistic at first. Careful molding and refining it to see what people actually like will drive the idea to a success. This we found was very much in line with what we experience inside the startup culture at Frontier, where we too follow a pattern of constantly changing and updating of our strategies in the direction of the client requirements.

Lee emphasized on the use of a lean startup structure to support the constantly changing focus and warned to avoid too much investment in a particular direction or decision and ensure flexibility among the team.

Accordingly one of the important things we took out of Lee’s discussion was the importance of having a solid team for a startup. He stated that it was normal to experience phases equivalent to the early stages of a married life where hardships are experiences that help match the expectations of the parties involved.

He also talked of how pricing for a startup should always start from the point of what the customer perceives the cost of the service is rather than from our internal point of cost. Another point was the importance of first creating a good online presence before focusing on promoting the product individually from one client to another. . The event was conducted in a way which allowed us as the participants an opportunity to talk and network with individuals who inspired us with insights that we could relate to.

Another opportunity we got during our short stay in Singapore was to explore ‘Block 71’, a renowned area in the Ayer Rajah industrial estate. This is an initiative by the Singapore government to foster startup businesses. Currently, the area operates with close to 250 startups and participants got an opportunity to see first-hand how a few of them worked.

Productivity Hacks, October: The Anti-To-Do, Eisenhower and Eye-Stress Hack


Being big on workplace innovation, we’re also pretty addicted to ‘productivity porn’. This is our attempt to translate that addiction into ah, something productive. So starting today, every month the Frontier blog will give you the lowdown on a few productivity hacks tried out by team members.

The Anti to-do List

We’ve all had those days. Really busy days on which we look back and struggle to remember what exactly it is that we did that kept us so busy. We look at the depressingly un-ticked boxes on our to-do lists and wonder where all that time went. This can leave us feeling frustrated and empty, regardless of the fact that the day may actually have been good and useful.

Enter the ‘anti to-do list’ concept. It is pretty simple. In addition of keeping a list of things you have to do, also keep a list of things you have done. This simple step can have mind-blowing consequences as your brain at the end of yet another exhausting but seemingly unfulfilling day looks at your anti to-do list and realizes that hey, my day wasn’t such a waste after all.

I like to include every little thing I do on it. Spoke to a contact for a good 30 minutes on work related matters? Put that down, it’s great network building and learning. Browsed Facebook for 3 hours instead of getting on with your work project? Put that down, it’s great er.. market research.

In addition to telling you exactly what you did and giving you that warm glow that arises out of knowing that you spent the day well, the anti to-do list can also tell you exactly where your time is going. Allowing you to cutback and expand on various areas as appropriate.

The Eisenhower Hack

Like all influential men, Eisenhower also said and did a few profound things that seem simple and obvious in retrospect. Find yourself needlessly checking email instead of getting along with an urgent piece of work? Or perhaps you get absorbed in your immediate tasks too many days a week to get in a good workout session or two. Well, Dwight Eisenhower Nailed A Major Insight About Productivity, and maybe his tips will help you and I organize ourselves better.

The following matrix is worth looking at.


The biggest quadrant we all tend to ignore is that one marked ‘important yet not urgent’. Working out, spending time with family etc can give us long term benefits that’ll keep us happier and productive over the long haul.

In politics, for example, current U.S. President Barack Obama has dinner with his family when he’s in the White House and works out for an hour every morning. His logic was always, ‘The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time’.

The Eye/Head Stress Hack

This is something I learned from an eye specialist a couple of weeks ago. My eyes would get teary, not out of grief but presumably out of weakening eyesight. I also started getting migraines and dull aches in my temples and throbbing headaches. Obviously I thought I needed glasses, but it turns out my ailments were a simple result of imagination (in other words, I was crazy) and stress.

To help my eyes and migraine, my doctor gave me one single hack, and so far it seems to be working brilliantly. He told me to take a break in-between every 20 minutes of work. Go out and focus your eyes on something natural and far away, instead of something unnatural (i.e. my computer screen) and close by. After just about two weeks my eyes now feel restive and relaxed and my headaches are reducing.

Apparently, it’s a common problem. The 20-20-20 rule is something a colleague told me about later; “working at a computer or even staring at a small cell phone screen for long stretches at a time can lead to eye strain, blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches — a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). You can avoid this by following the 20-20-20 rule”. i.e. look away from your computer screen every 20 minutes at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

As for psychological stress, well the only hack for that is to relax. Don’t let work affect your emotional well-being.

Innovation Learning

While Frontier offers very little ‘training’ in the traditional sense, we do encourage “learning”, and that too often in areas not directly related to the work we do. Team members carry out regular ‘learning presentations’ where they impart knowledge to each other based on their own specific areas of interest. We also regularly send team members to regional workshops and conferences quite early on in their stints; a reward mechanism that also broadens and expands knowledge and experience.

Most of this learning has very little to do with the actual work Frontier does. Rather than being nonsensical, we believe this approach to learning forms the core of what we are about. As the authors of The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators point out, the key to innovating is engaging in ‘discovery activities’.

Innovators combine elements of various ideas and practices that other people don’t put together. They draw connections that cross boundaries, linking concepts from one discipline or culture with those from another. To build your associative skills, try “forced association,” linking objects that don’t logically fit together. Use metaphors to highlight associations. Assemble a “curiosity box” of random items and try to relate them to jump-start your creativity

Innovators make a point of meeting people whose lives and training give new and different perspectives. This is one way to “build a bridge into a different area of knowledge.” Innovators look at different disciplines that solved similar problems and borrow from their ideas. Travel builds bridges to multiple perspectives; living abroad builds even more.

Many innovators seek forums or events that promote interdisciplinary discussion and creativity, like the Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) conferences. These gatherings bring experts and interested thinkers together to discuss topics that intersect with several of the forum’s broad, complex fields. Attend a conference outside your field, or join a networking group for innovation

Innovative organizations extend their discovery processes to an institutional level. For example, instead of just hoping that their employees network, Google and Procter & Gamble swapped staff members for a few weeks so they could see how the other company worked and experience each other’s processes. Some firms have contests or tournaments in which people outside the organization give or build ideas, sometimes in response to specific challenges. Innovative companies offer materials, time and funding for prototyping.

Forward-looking firms believe “innovation is everyone’s job.”While most companies focus on incremental change, these firms invest heavily in “disruptive innovation.”

Keeping ourselves constantly refreshed with diverse experience is a primary way in which we grow and improve. Simply restricting yourself to one field is not possible any longer. Fields today are merging and diverging at an unprecedented, unpredictable level. Staying on top means keeping ahead of the pack, and that means learning from any and every source that catches our interest.

Going ‘Da Vinci Code’ With Our Research

At Frontier we rarely use conventional methods of forecasting and modeling such as Technical Analysis. However, during a recent ‘Frontier learning trip’ to Singapore Thanuri and I had a chance to attend a workshop on Harmonic Trading held by the Singapore based Harmonic Forex.

Here are some key insights gained on using Harmonic patterns for currency trading from the workshop and through our own subsequent research into the subject.

Harmonic trading, a branch of technical analysis, utilizes price patterns and Fibonacci ratios to determine trend reversals in financial markets. The assumption made here is that trading patterns/cycles repeat themselves and therefore this can be used to predict future price movements. The key steps are to first identify price patterns with the use of Fibonacci ratios, and then determine entry and exit points in a trade with the assumption that the same historic price pattern will follow (Please refer Harmonic Trader). However, it should be kept in mind that these patterns do not replicate with 100% accuracy.

An important branch of study under Harmonic Trading is the use of Fibonacci ratios (a very popular theme in culture, hence the Da Vinci Code reference) . These ratios are derived by the following Fibonacci sequence discovered by Leonardo de Fibonacci de Pisa.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233…

This is a simple sequence where each successive number is the sum of the previous two (0+1=1, 1+1=2, 2+3=5…). However, the primary ratio derived from this sequence, better known as the Golden Ratio, is deemed to be a universal ratio applied in many forms of study, such as aesthetics, architecture, painting, music etc.  As the sequence advances, it brings about a constant relationship between the numbers. For example, if a former number is divided by the latter the answer is approximately 0.618. And if the latter is divided by the former, the answer is 1.618. Harmonic Trading utilizes many number of ratios either directly or indirectly derived from these primary Fibonacci ratios.

Following are some of the ratios used in Harmonic trading:

Primary Ratios: 0.618 & 1.618

Primary Derived Ratios:

0.786 = square root of the 0.618

0.886 = fourth root of the 0.618

1.13 = inverse of the 0.886 (1/0.886)

1.27 = inverse of the 0.786 (1/0.786)

Other Ratios: 

0.382, 0.50, 1.41, 2.0, 2.24, 2.618, 3.14, 3.618

Source: Harmonic Trader

These ratios are also used in determining support and resistance levels of price movements under technical analysis.

In Harmonic Trading these ratios are used to identify Harmonic Patterns which help determine trend reversals in price movements. There are number of price patterns which conform to certain Fibonacci ratios which signal bullish or bearish trend reversals in the market. (E.g Gartley, Bat, Crab etc.) With the help of a Fibonacci retracement tool, which usually comes with any trading platform, one can identify such patterns in price movements and determine their market entry/exit points.

For further reference on this subject:

While we don’t plan to use technical analysis anytime soon at Frontier, as we usually look at market fundamentals, we  believe it is very important to expose ourselves to ideas and techniques very different to our own. Perhaps over time we will look to see if technical and ideas like this might be useful to add on to what we already do.

Frontier Team: Border Crossings in 2013



In 2013, more of us sought out invaluable exposure especially in the ‘start-up scene’, which we entered with our venture into information services with ‘Frontier i’. While the start-up ecosystem is rapidly growing in Sri Lanka, we discovered the broader region offered myriad opportunities for the same. So almost all team members with over a year’s work experience at Frontier found themselves participating in international conferences and workshops in 2013.

In January, Thareef and Abdul, two of our economists, took part in the CFA India Investment Conference  held in Mumbai, India. The event provided them with the rare chance to hear world-class experts give their insights on the global economy; learn about the latest developments in the practice of investment management; and discuss forward-looking investment strategies. Experiencing the beauty and wonders of Mumbai for a few days afterwards was a special treat.

Two start-up events held in Singapore in February were attended by Amal, our CEO. The first event, Unreasonable at Sea, promoted tech start-ups which focused on solving social problems. Although not directly related to Frontier, Amal found it to be a very inspirational and humbling experience. See pictures here.

In Start-up Grind Singapore, Amal participated in a fire-side chat with Steven Goh, the CEO and cofounder of Mig33, a global mobile consumer internet company and a Director of BellDirect, the first online stock broker in Australia. But what caught Amal’s interest was his first visit to Block 71, a place full of start-ups and investors, which (as he puts it) opened his eyes to how innovation and startups happen in Singapore.

After that it was the Startup Asia 2013, which was held in Biopolis, Singapore in April. Our equity analyst Ashika together with our strategy implementer Tharini took part in this event. The two-day event was more of a discussion where speakers shared their views about startups, startup eco systems and related topics like Startup Opportunities in Southeast Asia,  Twitter in Southeast Asia, Women in startups etc. The experiences shared by the founders and co-founders of startups from different parts of South East Asia were insightful and inspiring. The opportunity to interact with some of these figures and being able to witness some start-up pitches was the icing on the cake.

In May, Amal again visited Singapore to participate in four start-up events; Startup Singapore Awards Ceremony, Pollenizer, Startup Clinik and Talk on Platforms. Of the four what Amal saw as the most interesting and useful event for Frontier was the Startup Clinik where he got the opportunity to discuss our new products with a Singaporean entrepreneur.

Shiran, our economic analyst and equity analyst Kulunu took part in Echelon 2013 which was held in Singapore in June. This was a forum which discussed issues relating to creating a successful startup. It also consisted of a pitch event showcasing some of the best ideas/startups in the Asian Pacific region.

Our two analysts, who both have entrepreneurial ambitions, were inspired by the knowledge and insights imparted in the forum relating to starting up a business, grasping something of the level of drive and passion required to launch a new enterprise. They came back with valuable insights useful in helping to instill the startup culture in Frontier along with ideas to help the firm grow.

The firm’s growth has gone hand in hand with the intellectual growth and expansion of outlook and perspective of its people. 2014, and hopefully the years to come, will continue to add similar value to the firm and the team.