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Andrew Yap, Founder of InnoBay Group

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Andrew Yap, Founder & Managing Director of InnoBay Group Pte Ltd, is married with a boy & a girl now in their lower primary school. The couple affectionately calls their kids the M&M – their names being Michelle and Michael.

He graduated with an Engineering degree from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. After graduation, even though Andrew knew his passion is in the business aspects of a Company rather than hard-core technical function, he believed the experience from hands-on engineering would be invaluable foundation for his career and joined a European multinational company which is a major World Leader in providing semiconductor solutions.

Having garnered some years in engineering, he started his sales career with a local company in engineering & industrial arenas which he felt would provide him with more exposure to macro understanding of how a Company is run with opportunities for more multi-tasking. There, he spent eight years and rose to be a General Manger while the Company grew and got public-listed on the Singapore Exchange. He was then head-hunted to be the General Manger in the subsidiary of another Mainboard-listed Company on the Singapore Exchange.

In 2014, Andrew left to start InnoBay Group Pte Ltd which is a Digital Marketing, Web & Mobile Applications Development firm. He says “ We also provide Market Entry and Executive Search services which are not only areas which I have tremendous passions but they also complement each other to cater to our initial group of targeted customers. “

In your own words what is Innobay Group all about?

As the Company’s name InnoBay suggests, we aspire to be a working environment where our team members are entrepreneurial innovators who are ever challenging themselves to step up and to thrive in being empowered and inspired by the work they do to add quality and value to the services we offer our clients. Through their thirst for knowledge and passion for acquiring and leveraging new tools and technologies, we hope for each members in the team to find personal fulfillment in what they do while meeting the Company’s goals.

What led you to start Innobay Group? 

Marketing and sales have always been my perpetual interests though I have to thank my previous CEO to consolidate my passion with the then emerging digital marketing channels and tools when I was tasked to do marketing for the whole Group beyond just the business entity that I was running. That was the start of my ferocious readings and attending of talks and seminars in those related fields.

That pursue was momentarily interrupted when I was head-hunted to run another Company. With the chance to finally complete my exposure to the various engineering industries to better facilitate my life’s plan to satisfy my entrepreneurial yearnings in the next couple of years; I overcame the difficult decision to leave the Group that had given me much career growth and a boss who had given me so much opportunities, especially in scouring the globe for niche technologies.

The interest in digital marketing had meanwhile turned into a main, serious “hobby”. It became ever clearer how significant the digital or the fourth industrial revolution would affect the way we relate to each other, and it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that even our way of life wouldn’t be the same as the various digital, physical and biological systems converge.

With the strong support and encouragement of my spouse, we know there wouldn’t be a more opportune time to embark on my entrepreneurial pursue. The rest as they said is history.

Could you walk us through your process of starting up?

It was expected prior the start-up that the day-to-day challenges would abound exponentially as you now have to take care, pretty much silo especially at the very start, say coming up with the design of the office, to setting up of the ever more important processes, systems, core values, desired culture of the Company and the list certainly goes on and on. We also have to play the role of say, accountant, lawyer, IT administrator when such professional supports were readily available in-house with just a call away when one is a professional manager running a fully established Company until more human resources come in.

However, being a highly calculated move planned over time and the valuable experiences garnered in running in separate occasions as General Manager of subsidiaries of Mainboard-listed Groups on the Singapore Exchange certainly helps though never enough in retrospect. It comes with new learnings and new understandings.

Much time was also dedicated to recruitment efforts with emphasis on certain traits of team members which I’ll talk more in my reply on lessons I’ve learnt about entrepreneurship below.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning?

Generally, main challenges are getting things moving concurrently in the beginning. I would borrow this seemingly light-hearted sharing from my previous CEO when I was still a young executive – that when at a decision-making cross-road amidst uncertainty but know you have to make, just proceed with the little more comfortable option and just continue moving instead of staying put. Better visibility may just surface as you start moving. Then along the way, have the flexibility to fine-tune steering the course. Having said that, however, on certain other circumstances, it may just be best to pause for the “storm” or issue to be sorted out and pass on its own instead of fighting it head-on.

Also, though very much a cliché, persistence and resourcefulness cannot be less emphasis in my opinion. It also helps to have the mindset that there’ll always have some form of alternative routes to everything rather than hitting a wall means the end.

What is your long term plan?

We are primarily a digital marketing and web/mobile apps development agency providing consultancy and development services to our customers. We would continue to horn our expertise to ride the digital revolution with the aspiration to provide best in class omni-channel marketing solutions.

That would be our first engine of growth that allows us to always keep abreast of technological development. The next engine of growth would be the development of our in-house retail software/application products. In fact, we have just launched two products as further detailed below.

The first is AceLancer Bay, a marketplace for freelancers and independent contractors to be matched with individuals or companies requiring the services of the former. Services could range from plumbing, photography to software development.

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In this new digital age of sharing” or “on demand” economy, society is evolving to see freelancers not as a compromised option but as a variable career of choice. Singapore, for one, is seeing a growing pool of freelancers with the conservative estimate given in Parliament earlier this year by Mr Ang to be about 200,000. Mr Ang is a Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

We do not just provide mobile apps platforms in ios and android but importantly a web portal with a forum to engage and build a community of freelancers and independent contractors who can market their services, network, make contacts and even collaborate to leverage on synergies of their various skillsets to take on more challenging projects that one in silo would otherwise not be able to take up.

This forum is in fact one of the more significant aspect of our integrated online platforms with members sharing their challenges such as payment issues or setting of prices instead of being exploited when less informed. Equally important is the positioning of freelancers as professionals as they must also up their game, no less.

As a matter of fact, as suggested by the name of this integrated platform, AceLancer Bay aspires to be the platform, a home of sort, for serious and well-respected professional freelancers whom we call AceLancers rather than be vulnerable individuals with limited resources.

We also aspire for the community in the forum to grow such that even resources now pretty out of reach to individual freelancers such as legal advisory access to be shared and readily made available to the community besides training, financial planning and so on. Perhaps a constructive union of sort in time to come.

On the business front, with uncertain economic conditions looming, more employers are driven to in a way, “share” available pool of independent contractors and freelancers to fulfill their project delivery obligations and stay competitive and afloat in a global economy to ride out storms. When the going get tougher, more people might be displaced and freelancing may become an option grown out of necessity for some individuals to better cope with their loss of jobs. They may seize the opportunity to turn the situation around to make it a sustainable career option.

I would say we are in good position with our governmental agencies rolling out initiatives anticipating the raise of this new work force and also in keeping pace with the aspirations of a new generation.

In closing this section, this project is not only about apps & platform development but also incorporates and leverages on the knowledge of our recruitment business and passion to hopefully lend a constructive impact to the new work force.

The second App I want to share more is AceConnectMe, an application now available for download in ios and android app stores.

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In essence, the idea came along when I was personally having frustrations managing the storage of physical business cards despite the availability of business card scanning and storing apps.

With practically everyone holding a smart phone in certain, if not most part of our civilizations, why have the existence of business cards at all and why take the trouble to scan them at all when we know most of these scanning apps have their limitation in identifying and sorting out the various content. Some form of corrections and intervention are still required.

With various features on our app such as a choice of displaying your photo or taking a short introductory and more unforgettable video of yourself, one could be recognized even years after a quick meeting and exchanging of this ‘business e-card’ somewhere in the World, all with just the pressing of a few buttons on your phone.

Besides the unprecedented convenience our app can provide us with, we are also playing a part of saving trees and hence our environment when we no longer need to print tonnes of physical business cards.

Let’s meaningfully disrupt the way we exchange our contact details!

What are some important lessons you’ve learnt about entrepreneurship?

First of all, I cannot agree more that people is no doubt one of the main keys to the success of any businesses. As far as possible, as least in our lean and mean business model, finding people who do not just want a job but people who has adequate desire to build a career and people who are willing to challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zone.

Very often, when presented with the same environment and conditions, “career-builders” would be able to sniff out and seize opportunities to better themselves and leverage to make the best use of the existing platforms available to them. The other way is to find faults, excuses with everything which is pretty much non-productive nor help one at all.

Secondly, I feel one must be ready to relearn the ways of doing things as an entrepreneur even if you are tempted to think you know a lot. Would be wise not to let prior experiences dictate your thinking process completely.

Next, having some sincere mentors work wonders; to help seek out blind-spots. People who have been there, on such similar routes and done that. The breath of decision making ranging from the most mundanely small on a daily basis to significant ones that will have significant impact to the business are pretty different when one is a professional with support from a larger management team. Having someone to share your thoughts occasionally hence is a sure help. My spouse has been a good advisor to stir me away from many blind-spots as well.

Last but not least, putting processes and systems in place involving the continuous inputs from the team and adapted out of necessity of new circumstances; converging from the vast backgrounds and experiences of various members rather than pluck-and-play one that you had been using and familiar with as business conditions are unlikely able to be the same.

In my opinion, a Company is as good as its processes and systems which are essentially its backbone; besides certainly its people; all evolving as the Company goes through its different stages of development.

Any tips of advice for achieving success?

I wouldn’t think I’m in a position yet to give any tips on achieving success. We are still a work-in-progress. Rather, I could share what I believe are probable success factors.

Uninspiringly, I would want to first start with saying that luck does plays a part. I am constantly grateful and appreciative of the opportunities and the good things that happened that numerous people had given me along the way; while taking the loads of frustrations and disappointments in stride as they come as far as possible.

However, the caveat is that opportunities become useful only to those who can see them and already prepared in having the skill-sets and so on to take them on.

Again, it’s also about having the right people in your team – people who possess the desire to learn and better themselves, demonstrate enthusiasm for their work, trustworthy and responsible.

Next, having and upholding core values are important in my opinion too. Our company’s core values are abbreviated as A.I.R. which I consider as important and indispensable as the AIR we have to breathe – Attitude, Integrity and Results.

I believe our Attitude pretty much shape our lives. It affects what opportunities may be tossed out at us and if we may catch them. It ranges from professionalism to perseverance etc, to the commitment given to what you want to achieve.

As for having Integrity or being recognized to have that – it opens doors. By all means be shrewd and savvy but not compromise on your integrity. Everybody can cheat but not everybody can see the value of not giving in even to temptations for short term small easy gains.

Results in my opinion is not just the financial bottom-line which would be intertwined with the quality of our work, the mindsets of the team for high competency, excellence.

Connect

Company Website: www.innobaygroup.com

To contact Andrew: www.linkedin.com/in/andrewyapsingapore

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Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

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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