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Christian Yan, Chief Operations Officer of Nanoleaf

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Christian Yan is looking to the future with plans to launch new and exciting innovations in 2018. His efficient lighting business, Nanoleaf is set to expand and “revolutionize the way we illuminate the world.”

What’s your story?
My name is Christian Yan, Chief Officer of Operations at Nanoleaf. I was born in China, later immigrating to Toronto, Canada where I grew up. There, I attended the University of Toronto to study electrical engineering. At UofT, I discovered my passion for sustainability and green technology, as I worked to develop a solar car with my best friends Gimmy Chu and Tom Rodinger.
Following graduation, I flew back to China to support my family’s business that grew from a trading company to a full fledged manufacturer of high-end bathroom appliances. I managed our top accounts and oversaw the operation and management of 200 factory employees. It was these crucial first years in China where I gained a solid understanding of operations, supply chain logistics and doing business in China.
2012 presented the opportunity to start a company with my two aforementioned colleagues. Tom’s idea of building an ultra efficient light bulb, as a way to leverage technology to address the environmental crisis reunited Gimmy and I to start prototyping the “Nanolight”. In 2013, we debuted our Kickstarter campaign as “the world’s most energy efficient light bulb” and received immense community backing, smashing our $20,000 goal by 13x fold, garnering media and VC attention alike. Upon receiving initial funding, we have since released 6 fully certified products to revolutionize the way we illuminate our world and crossed into the realm of consumer electronics.
Our classic series bulbs are supremely efficient and brilliantly designed bulbs that set the standard in lighting quality
Our smarter series includes the Nanoleaf Ivy – an ultra efficient smart bulb that can be controlled with your voice through Siri or Amazon Alexa. Our newest product – the Aurora, is a set of nine triangular shaped panels that can be illuminated to the tune of 16.8 million colors through your smartphone. Both products are compatible with Apple HomeKit.
Right now our focus is preparing for a busy last quarter in terms of maximizing sales while preparing the launch of new and exciting innovations in store for 2018.

What excites you most about your industry?
The competition of the industry. Smart lighting is projected to be worth $47.1B USD globally by 2020 and the door is wide open for competition. While industry giants like Philips and Cree have garnered most of the attention, the agility and steadfast commitment of our small team has caused significant disruption in their market for them to take notice. Despite our brief history, our efficiency standards are unparalleled, design unmatched and innovative approach to problems a staple part of our culture. We are proud to be the smallest and youngest company that Apple is partnered with on their Apple Homekit Platform.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Tianjin, China and moved to Toronto, Canada with my parents when I was 6. After graduating uni, I moved to Hong Kong to help out with the family business. For the last 10 years and most of my adult working life, I’ve been living, working, and travelling throughout China and southeast Asia. Thanks to my parents’ influence, I am able to speak Mandarin with native-like fluency even though English is undoubtedly my mother tongue. Language proficiency along with an intuitive understanding of both cultures has been critical in bridging the gap between my Chinese and Canadian associates, customers and investors.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is an international city and financial hub of Asia with lower regulations and close proximity to China. There is a culture of speed and efficiency that can be witnessed at every level of customer service and business. English is an official language which is an oasis for any western foreigner visiting or working in Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. – Gustave Flaubert

Who inspires you?
I am proud of our small but elite team of performers and they inspire me on a day to day basis not just to do more, but be better, stronger, smarter, and faster in business and life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Recently there seems to be a lot of talk about how “hardware is hard.” I hate when people complain about how “hardware is hard”. Hardware is hard because people don’t take the time to understand their product and customers. Hardware is hard if you are not willing to engage with the local suppliers and get your hands dirty to make sure things work properly. People underestimate what it takes to run a successful company and then wonder why companies like Jawbone and Pebble go belly up, both of which did an amazing job at the beginning but could not sustain.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
In reference to my uni career, I would have done more practical hands on projects instead of theory and books.

How do you unwind?
As a business owner, improving the company is always on my mind. I enjoy networking and meeting like-minded entrepreneurs as a fun and natural way to continuously learn and unwind in an informal setting. Evenings and weekends are committed to spending quality time with my fiance, our new puppy, and dragon boat practice. I recognize the importance of adequate sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet and manage my social life around those parameters in order to maintain more than just an image of success but to fuel my body to be at my best.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I have been going to Phuket (South East Asia in general) quite often in the last two years for diving. Sometimes people in Shenzhen and Hong Kong forget how lucky we are geographically. We have such quick access (and cheap flights) to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Going to these places once a while allows me to get some perspective in life by observing how people in those countries live and are happy with their lives. It really makes me wonder, what are we doing all of this for?

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Big Pivot

Shameless plug for your business:
The Nanoleaf Aurora is on display and being sold at the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMa) in NYC, SF, and Tokyo. The Aurora is also featured in over 800 Best Buy stores throughout North America and over 100 Apple Stores Worldwide. We have also partnered up with local distributors in 40 countries! Look for us a Apple Store near you or check out our webstore on how you can get your hands on a set of Nanoleaf Aurora panels!

How can people connect with you?
E-mail: [email protected]
WeChat ID: christian_yan28

Twitter handle?
@nanoleaf

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

Jason Feng, Co-Founder of Pillpresso

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Mr. Jason Feng is re-engineering the healthcare industry.

What’s your story?
I am an engineer at heart. I enjoy the process of problem solving and have been actively developing innovative solutions to existing problems. Me and my co-founder settled on the problem of poor medication adherence among the elderly. This was a problem which struck a chord with us because we all have loved ones who have to take multiple medications on a daily basis. The complex medication regimen, coupled with declining cognitive abilities of the elderly tend to exacerbate the lack of medication adherence, which may lead to disease relapse and hospital readmissions, ultimately increasing the burden to caregivers and the society.

What excites you most about your industry?
The problem of medication adherence is not a new one in the healthcare industry. In fact, lack of medication adherence is a well-researched problem in many countries. Solutions which have been developed to address this problem face three major issues:

  • Entrenched mindset within the healthcare system, many of which are used to and unwilling to change from the legacy systems which were implemented decades ago.
  • Complex nuances in healthcare delivery across different countries, making it hard to “copy” and “paste” solutions which have worked well in other areas.
  • Because poor medication adherence is multifactorial, and many solutions focus solely on a few aspects, and do not employ a holistic approach.

Nevertheless, entering this industry at this time excites me because we are in the midst of a global shift in healthcare models; one where the industry is moving away from a service-based model, towards a more value-based model. This shift means that traditional players such as insurance companies and pharmaceuticals are under increasing pressure from patients and payers to demonstrate the value of their products under real-world use. Medication adherence data is one crucial missing link in this puzzle to deliver better care to patients. Being able to build a business around these incumbents and pioneer a new way of care is something which I look forward to.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean. Most of my experiences throughout my life have been in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have not worked in other Asian countries outside of Singapore, so I can’t comment on other Asian countries too much. Singapore has a relatively low barrier for starting a business, and all business rules and regulations are clear and transparent. The startup ecosystem is also rather comprehensive and easily accessible. Being a small country, Singapore has a very limited market for products and services. However, due to its size and efficiency, it serves as an excellent test bed for new ideas. Being a travel hub, travelling to other Asian countries is cheap and easy.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Fail fast, fail often. The greatest lessons are never learnt through success.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Successful launch of Falcon Heavy and the recovery of the 2 side cores. The way the 2 cores landed was like something you’d only see in CGI. Very well calculated.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Applied for NOC (NUS Overseas College)

How do you unwind?
Go rock climbing.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Nepal. I’m an outdoors guy. Being able to trek around the Himalayas is probably the best form of relaxation for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Creative confidence, by the Kelly Brothers

Shameless plug for your business:
Pillpresso is an award-winning health-tech startup that aims to improve medication adherence. We’re developing a medication management system that empowers seniors to manage their medicines independently and deliver proactive healthcare in the community through technology. Comprising individuals with complementary skills across business, engineering and medicine, our team is driven by a desire to improve healthcare and the human condition.

Grand Prize Winner of the 2017 Tech Factor Challenge
https://www.opengovasia.com/articles/8072-top-4-grand-prize-winners-for-3rd-edition-of-ageing-in-place-tech-challenge-announced-in-singapore

Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 Modern Aging
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/3-teams-receive-s-125-000-of-seed-funding-for-elderly-friendly-i-8246318

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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Elizabeth Wu, Co-founder & COO of Trehaus

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Elizabeth Wu is making work-life integration a reality for working parents in her new family friendly coworking space.

What’s your story?
I co-founded a coworking space in Singapore that comes complete with a child-friendly facility. We’re the first of our kind here and we’ve been making work-life integration a reality for working parents since we opened.

What excites you most about your industry?
We are the first of our kind, and there’s no other coworking space like us. Sure, there are plenty of coworking spaces in Singapore, but we are the pioneers of championing ‘BYO-kid’ to work by creating a conducive workspace and enriching kids play, all under one roof.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I’m a local through and through.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, of course! It’s safe, well-regulated and has a diverse community. Barriers to entry for starting up a business is low, and generally there is good support for small to medium enterprises and startups, which is great.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Life is short. Do stuff that matters.” I think I decided to do “stuff that matters” a long time ago and that’s why I became an educator. When motherhood beckoned, I decided again, to do “stuff that matters” by staying home to be with my kids. Then, I began to desire a meaningful career while raising my kids. So, I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, because I am governed by wanting to “do stuff that matters!”

Who inspires you?
So many people inspire me. My members at Trehaus inspire me with the things they do and the changes they make. But if I have to pick someone, it would be Elim Chew, founder of 77th Street; who is a seasoned entrepreneur. She started from humble beginnings, went through setbacks and never said never to new journeys in entrepreneurship. I love that she always looks for ways to give back to society and mentor the next generation with her wealth of wisdom and experiences.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I learned the 5-by-5 rule recently: That is, ‘if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset by it.’ This helps me puts things in perspective, and I try to remember this every time the urge comes to dwell, to brood, to beat myself up or to sweat the small stuff.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely be more careful with the people I hired to build the team. I’ve learned that it is important to find and build an entrepreneurial team that will plough and work hard alongside the founders. Like Jack Ma once said, “Don’t hire the most qualified candidate. Hire the craziest.” I should have done that right from the start. It would save us so much time and heartache.

How do you unwind?
I take long walks to clear my or I go for a fruitful session of self care, like yoga or a massage.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I really enjoy getting out of Singapore to the outskirts of Bangkok to live amongst the locals. My family of 5 used to do that each December; just taking off to live amongst the locals where street food is aplenty and warmth and hospitality is everywhere. I enjoy their slow pace of life and how simple things can be.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

Shameless plug for your business:
Trehaus is Singapore’s first ever family-friendly coworking space that lets you build a career while prioritising family. If it takes a village to raise a child, then Trehaus is the modern village where you will find a robust community and supportive ecosystem that lets you be an involved parent – never missing a single milestone in your child’s early years – and at the same time do efficient and productive work. We’ve made magic happen in what we’ve created!

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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