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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.

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Company Website: www.innobaygroup.com

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

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Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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Arthur Lam, Co-Founder of Synergy

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Arthur Lam’s business, Synergy offers B2B energy saving solutions.

What’s your story?
I am Arthur Lam, Co-Founder and Vice Chairman at Synergy (1539.HK). I was born and raised in Hong Kong until I was 13. Then, I lived in boarding schools in Melbourne and California during my high school years. After that, I attended the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 2008.

Upon graduation, I came back to Hong Kong and worked for a hedge fund. The financial crisis in 2008 wiped out a big part of the industry and gave me a chance to rethink and reposition myself. After the financial crisis, companies stopped spending and everyone was on cost-cutting mode. As an entrepreneur with an engineering background, I co-founded an energy management company called Synergy, offering B2B energy saving solutions. The idea is simple – clients don’t have to pay anything upfront, we do all the engineering and upfront capital investment. In return, we share part of the savings we create for the client over a period of time. We first started with energy saving lighting technologies based in Hong Kong. We are now also in the field of cooling & refrigeration, solar PV and battery storage with operation in over 10 countries. Synergy is one of the first and few energy management companies listed on the Main Board of The Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
On the side, I started a student co-living space with about 80 rooms.

What excites you most about your industry?
Sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency are some of the few industries that can ensure the continuity of our existence! We do not need to quantify the potential market size to justify our effort to provide a more sustainable future for the next generations. Practically every nation and business leader have pledged to work collaboratively, trying to undo the harm we have done to the planet for the past century. As a result, more energy efficient technologies and solutions are always in demand.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My great grandparents were from Chiu Chow and Shunde. I was born and raised in Hong Kong until I was 13. I spent 3 years in Melbourne during middle school before heading to US for high school and college. With Synergy, I was able to travel and work in China and most of the major cities in Asia such as Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok. Besides Cantonese and English, I speak Mandarin and took 4 years of Japanese during high school. I’m also trying to pick up Bahasa slowly.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Every city has its own merits and it is extremely interesting to learn about the intricacy of cultural diversification and different ecosystems. As a business owner, I believe in top quality service. No other city would exemplify world class service better than Hong Kong with respect to speed, quality, effectiveness and robustness of the financial and legal system.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Life is a journey – you come to this world to enjoy life, to be happier and healthier – Jack Ma

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I am always amazed by the rapid advancement of technologies and innovations around the world. Everyday there may be a breakthrough coming up in different areas. One thing I learnt recently is the possibility of extracting clean water from air anywhere! Previous technologies require very high energy input, high cost and certain environmental conditions such has high humidity levels to extract water from air. However, MIT and The University of California provide a new method which has the potential for use in any locations. They developed a foam-like material that draws moisture into its pores and is powered entirely by solar heat. Today there is another commercially available product which is also a self-sustaining system, using sunlight to generate electricity to drive a cycle of condensation and evaporation that can produce 2 to 5 litres of clean water per day. People now may obtain drinking water anywhere with no external energy usage and this may solve severe water shortages in some areas in the future!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would love to learn more languages and learn how to code better. These are two important skill sets which I find very useful wherever I go.

How do you unwind?
On weekdays, I try to visit the gym at least 2-3 times a week after work. A good workout definitely helps to de-stress. Occasionally, I have the luxury to play a round of golf with my father or friends after completing a major project.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Sipadan, Malaysia is an amazing place for scuba diving.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Book of Changes “I Ching”. I make most of my business decisions based on the philosophy from the book.

Shameless plug for your business:
Victoria Park is one of the most famous parks in Hong Kong and it has about 3,500 trees. The amount of energy we have saved in the past 8 years is equivalent to planting 1,000 Victoria Parks worth of trees from the carbon emissions we saved.
Synergy is ranked 2017 top 100 most potential public listed companies in China by Forbes.

How can people connect with you?
Linkedin: Arthur Lam
Email: [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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