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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

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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