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Yuen Tuck Siew, Co-Founder of Saving Plus

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Yuen Tuck Siew founded RinggitPlus.com in 2012 and has grown the business from a two man lean startup to Southeast Asia’s first full stack fintech solution provider for customer acquisition and management. Starting off with an online financial comparison website and a goal to help Malaysians get more for their money, he adapted the business model to the local challenges of the region’s emerging market economies. Siew lead the company through a successful merger with SaveMoney.my, Malaysia’s largest money saving community, and the launch of KreditGoGo.com, the Indonesian business JV with Celebes Capital.

Described as a “general who runs a tight army”, Siew is responsible for driving Saving Plus’s long-term strategy and consumer-centric focus. He has a fundamental belief that consumers should be able to apply for any financial product, anytime, anywhere and from any device. Not content with financial comparison alone, his mission is to build Saving Plus into the Amazon of Financial Services, Earth’s most customer-centric company.

Siew graduated from Oxford in 2004 with a degree in Modern History and started his career at Citigroup Investment Bank. After three years in Corporate Finance and Leveraged Finance, he joined Kynikos, the world’s largest short-only equity hedge fund, to cover global banks. Siew returned to Malaysia in 2010 to join Redberry Media Group where he was responsible for setting up their integrated media solutions.

In your own words what is Saving Plus?

Saving Plus provides end-to-end technology solutions and platforms for banks and insurance companies to acquire and manage customers online. In addition to our own personal finance and comparison websites RinggitPlus.com, SaveMoney.my and KreditGoGo.com, we also provide technology-driven outsourced application fulfilment services. My vision is to enable consumers to acquire any financial product anytime, anywhere and on any device and I started Saving Plus to make that a reality.

How did you come up with the idea of Saving Plus?

When I was living and working in London I never had to step into a bank branch – I managed all my personal finances online through sites such as http://www.moneysupermarket.com/. I took it for granted that all my banking and insurance needs could be dealt with online. When I came back to Malaysia in 2010 I had a real shock when I couldn’t do anything online! I believed that consumers in Malaysia and across Southeast Asia would benefit from an online service that helped them to get more for their money by comparing financial products online.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Saving Plus?

My co-founder, James Barnes (who is now the Group COO) and I started in a borrowed meeting room. It was just the two of us. There was nothing special – we just get to work. Our top priority was to hire a lean team to build the MVP. Between interviewing candidates we split our time between product development and business development. I started seeing clients before we even had a website up.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during start-up?

Recruiting: this was especially difficult when we did not even have a website. We didn’t have any secret sauce to solve the problem – we just kept interviewing. Even today hiring the right people is still our greatest challenge.

Business Development: persuading banking clients to work with you when you’re a start-up with no track record was tough. Most clients really weren’t interested at all. Again, there was no secret sauce – I just kept going until I found people who were willing to give us a shot.

How have you been developing Saving Plus since start-up?

We have very simple goals for our product that are very hard to achieve – we want to help our consumers get more value and better a service than anywhere else. So, for example, applying for a credit card or personal on RinggitPlus.com should be more convenient than going to your bank branch.

What kind of feedback did you get for Saving Plus so far?

I believe the growth in our business really speaks. Today our business is four times larger than this time last year. We could not have done this without adding significant value to our clients and consumers.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

Absolutely. I believe all technology businesses are facing stiff competition today due to the continued rapid growth of internet penetration and incredible growth in funding from venture capital. Our strategy is to stay focused on our consumers and make sure that we continue to provide best-in-class value and service.

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

Online financial comparison alone is not a viable business across Southeast Asia. Banks and Insurance companies do not have the know-how, infrastructure or people to manage digital customer acquisition themselves on a scalable basis. To be successful and sustainable I believe you need provide a full-stack solution and that’s exactly where we come in. We are the only player in our industry that can provide a single integrated end-to-end solution and platform for banks and insurers to acquire customers online.

What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

I will continue to invest in our product to ensure it continues to provide a best-in-class experience to our consumers. I also make sure that the business balances short and long term priorities. We devote significant resources to projects that we believe will help us win next year and the year after.

What are your thoughts on the Malaysian start-up scene?

We are seeing great advances in the local start-up ecosystem from all stakeholders. I don’t have hard statistics but I believe more technology start-ups are getting funded and growing into successful and sustainable businesses. Overall I believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the digital economy – bigger and better things are yet to come.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? Is it harder or easier?

I’ve not been an entrepreneur anywhere else so it’s hard to say! One challenge we have in Southeast Asia is the need to conquer several different markets with different cultures and different business landscapes. If you have big dreams you can’t just win in one market.

What are the challenges that Malaysian entrepreneurs face?

I believe Malaysia is a great country to start a business. Compared to the rest of Southeast Asia we have good infrastructure, good rule of law and good talent. If you are trying to raise venture capital funding then one challenge you may encounter is market size. Some investors are more interested in larger economies and populations such Indonesia and Thailand.

What is your definition of success?

That’s a good question. I don’t have a strict definition. In terms of the business I am constantly pushing to provide a better service to more people. There’s no line in the sand which I can cross and say “I’m successful” because there’s always room to improve and grow. That scares some people but it excites me.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I have done three distinctly different things with my career – I started off in the service industry in corporate finance advisory, moved over to the investment industry in a hedge fund, then I joined a family business in management. I always wanted to build a business that could improve the lives of every Malaysian. I loved the jobs I’d had in the past but none of them enabled me to make this kind of impact.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

This is a huge question! I’ve seen many different entrepreneurs with different strengths succeed for different reasons. In my opinion, the three most important traits for entrepreneurial success are:

a. Belief – you need to stay committed to your vision in the face of constant rejection and roadblocks. If you don’t truly believe in what you’re doing then don’t expect anyone else to either.

b. Understanding – you need to be able to understand and interpret data and people so that you can separate the signal from the noise and focus on what really matters. One bad strategic decision based on misunderstanding your company’s performance data could easily kill a young start-up. On the other hand, if you can see the real cause of a problem that no one else has figured out then you have a huge advantage.

c. Communication – if you cannot communicate your vision, strategy and plans you’re dead before you start. Successful entrepreneurs have to manage investors, employees, clients and partners. All of this comes down to good communication.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

For your vision you have to dream big, but when it comes to making it happen, the devil is in the detail.

Connect

LinkedIn: https://my.linkedin.com/in/ytsiew
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ytsiew
Websites: https://ringgitplus.com/en/, https://savemoney.my/, https://kreditgogo.com/

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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