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Adrien Barthel, Co-Founder & CEO of Sleek

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Carrefour brought Adrien to Indonesia, and Luxola brought him to Singapore. In Singapore, Adrien Barthel saw a unique business angle to help businesses incorporate their company, and Sleek was born…

What’s your story?
I landed in Indonesia at the end of 2010 as the Head of Ecommerce for Carrefour Indonesia. I built from scratch the platform, bought 5,000 grocery products online and made them available in Jakarta and Bali with home delivery.
After two years selling rice and diapers (literally) in this huge organisation, I decided to move into a smaller one. I joined Luxola, a small Singaporean based ecommerce company selling cosmetics, as their Country Manager for Indonesia. I spent 6 months in Jakarta opening their first office and hiring a local team and then moved to Singapore to become the Group CMO.
Long story short, in the period 2013-2015, we did two rounds of fundraising, expanded to 11 countries (Southeast Asia, Australia, NZ, HK, India, UAE) and opened offices in various cities.
In July 2015, we exited to LVMH-Sephora, to become the ecommerce arm in the region for the cosmetic retailer Sephora.
Over the last two years, I had the opportunity to invest in a few companies in the region and help them structure their financial holdings in Singapore. I discovered how simple the regulation was around company incorporation in Singapore, but how difficult and painful it was to deal with local corporate secretary. Prices aren’t clear, the providers aren’t customer centric and they’re not digital at all.
I decided to address this issue and launched Sleek; a corporate services platform allowing entrepreneurs to incorporate a company in Singapore, manage its governance, tax/accounting filing, registered address and the employment pass applications. Our pricing is crystal clear and at a fraction of the market rate given that everything is automated thanks to the platform, bringing added value to the customer.

What excites you most about your industry?
The fact that we’re bringing a truly innovative solution to the market compared to what exists today.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I discovered China in 2008 just before the Olympics, spending a few months in Beijing for an internship. I then roamed the SEA region in 2009 on a diving trip and was blown away by the chaos in the cities. Chaos brings solutions and then opportunities for entrepreneurs. It’s a great region to be in. I have dozens of ideas every single day!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I would say Jakarta. I hate its traffic, but love its people, and I have made very good friends there. Networking is a national sport in Indonesia, it helps move things faster than they would usually go.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I think AB testing is probably what drove my life for the past 7 years.

Who inspires you?
Great adventurers like Joseph Kessel, or more recently Sylvain Tesson because they are able to leave everything behind them to face the unknown, discover it and embrace it. To a certain extent, entrepreneurs are static adventurers, as they break barriers and explore new grounds.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That we’ll most likely see someone walk on Mars by 2030. It’s far and close. Close in terms of time. It’s far in terms of the distance and the tech behind such an accomplishment goes way beyond what has been done to date.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have jumped into the startup world earlier right after business school, instead of having my first experience as a corporate.

How do you unwind?
I run a lot! It really has become a drug for me. I need my shot of endorphins every two days otherwise I’m nervous and difficult to live with.
I also started to meditate a while ago. I thought it was another hippie hype, but it actually works. It doesn’t make me smarter, but it has definitely changed my way of managing my stress.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I’d say Nusa Lembongan off the coast of Bali. It’s a nice spot to disconnect from the frenzy of Singapore, and also a great diving spot.
Also, I’m a huge fan of skiing and I unwind when I ski. As the snow conditions on Mount Faber and Fort Canning in Singapore aren’t the best, I like to go to the Japanese Alps for the powder and the unique runs.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, or From Zero to One by Peter Thiel.

Shameless plug for your business:
Call people or schedule drinks, it’s faster than spamming them and you get to interact for real!

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn mainly

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.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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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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