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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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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

Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

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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