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Entrepreneurship

Dan Khoo, Malaysian Youtuber

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Dan Khoo is a prominent Youtuber from Malaysia, he is the founder of DanKhoo Productions, a renowned Youtube channel where he publishes his work. Originally an Economics degree graduate from the London School of Economics, Dan’s life took an unexpected turn when he decided to embrace and share his passion for making films. Via Youtube, Dan’s incredible talents for acting, producing and directing films were discovered by the nation. Along with other Youtubers, he spearheaded the “Youtube Boom” of Malaysia, a period which marked the emergence and rise of locally produced Youtube entertainment within the country.

Having been on such an extraordinary journey, Dan Khoo is here to tell us his story from when he first picked up his camera and the insights he developed since.

Dan, when did you decide to shoot films?

It’s actually more like an unintentional thing. Although, this is what I do now, I didn’t set out to make shooting films my career. I think in around 2011, I just decided to buy a camera and started to shoot some videos. At the very beginning, I sort of had in mind what I wanted to shoot so I got a camera to shoot it but even then I didn’t picture myself doing it full time. I thought I would just do all of this for fun.

At which point did you decide to take it up onto Youtube?

There wasn’t anywhere else to put it on, that I knew of. Youtube was free anyway so I just decided to try to put some of my earlier works there. Of course, it didn’t become a hit straight away, it just eventually more and more people started to recognize it.

When did you realize the videos have become hits?

I guess it was sometime in the start of 2012, I met with other Youtubers in Malaysia. I’m sure you’ve heard of them, like Jinnyboy. We consider that the first boom. We got together and started appearing in each other’s videos and then we started appearing on newspapers and stuff. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, people actually recognize this.’

Did you expect the results at all in the beginning?

When I started, to reach 100 subscribers was like: ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be nice?’ Then after I reached it, I was thinking to myself: ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to reach 1,000?’ I thought ‘Surely, impossible.’ Then I reached it eventually. Then, ‘How about 10,000?’ I thought: ‘Okay, it’s going to take a few years to reach 10,000’ but I reached it anyway.

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Did you face any major challenges trying to break into the Youtube scene?

Right now because people see us as the standard, so they are trying to break into the market. When I started there was no market. So there was nothing to break into. So we became the market. I didn’t want to break into anything, I wasn’t trying to prove anything. So I just went in for fun.

What can you tell us about the Malaysian youtube scene?

We are quite close because we do the same thing so its pretty fun to work with each other and sometimes, we just throw ideas. Its a really fun community if you don’t try to take things too seriously.

What do you think are the major differences between the Malaysian Youtube scene and the American Youtube scene?

I think the U.S. is definitely a bigger market. In Malaysia, the boom just happened recently. There are more people getting introduced to this industry. Even, for example, clients; Not everyone knows that it is a very good platform to get your brand out. If you are talking about Youtubers in Malaysia and the U.S., I think there is still quite a distance because all the big things happen in Hollywood they say. So you can make it there, you can make it everywhere.

Would you say there is a secret to making a good Youtube film in Malaysia?

I think you have to understand what people would like to watch. Sometimes things that may be funny to you, you have to take a step back and view it from a third person’s point of view to see if it is funny. I just upload videos and notice the views. If there are more views, it means people tend to like it more. Before, I was doing a lot of love stories, there views were okay, they were high digits. Then I just tried out humor and the views went up to 6 digits, so I realized that people like that.

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What are some lessons do learn from being a Youtuber?

Because there are many types of Youtubers, I can only share based on what I am. So, for someone like me, which is almost like a one-man-show, given I write the script, I settle the actors; it really builds you as a person on a wholesome basis. You learn everything. You learn from the scratch to this and that, to clients. So, it’s a very hands-on job and its a humbling experience because you get to meet all kinds of people and do all sorts of great things.

How is a typical week like for you?

I normally sleep late and wake up late. Sometimes, I miss breakfast or lunch. I often meet clients, if not, I am usually at home writing scripts or editing videos. Usually at night, depending on what events, I just hangout with my friends.

Does the release of the ‘Magical Blackout’ video mark the beginning of more videos that satirize Malaysian politics?

Not really. I rather not go towards the political if I can. Unless, if I really can’t resist it, like the blackout. I couldn’t resist it. I just had to take a jab at them because when I heard there was a blackout again, I was like: “Oh man! Not again!” I had to say something. I just did it on the spot and they called me a cyber-trooper and they called me a lot of things. People couldn’t believe I released it so fast.

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What are some personal principles that you hold dear?

Sincerity. I try to be a good person, I try not to make enemies. A friend is always better than an enemy. It has obviously affected my career as a Malaysian Youtuber as well.

So what are your future plans?

Build the brand and make more videos. Expand my network and hopefully fly over to the U.S. to shoot one day, collaborate with the Youtubers there. I have some contacts arleady. So when I am more established with abit more free time, I will probably head towards there, L.A.

In your opinion, what is the key to success for a person building a career or establishing a venture?

For me, I would just say: “If you want to do it, just do it.” Stop thinking about what it is, stopping you or what can’t you do. That is because, for me, I just went out and did it.

Any parting words of wisdom for our readers?

Just pursue your dreams and don’t let anything stop you.

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Connect with Dan and DanKhoo Productions today:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DanKhooProductions
Website: http://dankhoo.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dan_khoo
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DanKhooProductions

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Laina Raveendran Greene, Co-Founder at Angels of Impact

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Laina Raveendran Greene, Founder of GETIT Inc. and Co-Founder of Angels of Impact, an impact network focused on women social entrepreneurs helping to alleviate poverty. She is an entrepreneur and social impact investor, whose passion is female empowerment, and enabling women to be key agents to help alleviate poverty in Asia.

What makes you do what you do?
As a minority female Singaporean from relatively humble beginnings, I have never taken anything for granted. I learnt early on that I have to work doubly hard to overcome the “glass ceilings” but if I persevere, I can succeed. That is why I chose to focus on helping women-led social enterprises as I know how hard things are for them and I hope to make things a little easier for them.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I rose by being courageous enough to push against the “glass ceiling” and seizing opportunities open to me no matter where they were. Early on, I realized I would have better opportunities overseas, so I worked in many countries, including Switzerland, USA, and Indonesia and used these opportunities to learn and open new avenues for myself. I now come back to Singapore with many more networks and skill sets.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
Yes, as a minority Singaporean, it may appear that I am not the usual leadership demography in Singapore. In my own way, however, I think I have amassed my own international accolades and work experience such as serving as the first Secretary General for the Asia Pacific Internet Association, CEO of one of the first few tech startups in Singapore in the early 90s, being on the International Steering Committee of the Global Telecommunication Women Network, and most recently selected as one of the 2nd cohort of Edmond Hillary Fellows in New Zealand.

I am now moving to the next phase of using these networks and skills to help other women to social enterprises, which seem to be exactly what I want to do in my next phase of life (after more than 25 years of global work experience).

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? 
It was harder in my younger days, as one of the few women in tech to find mentors but today I do.  Men were reluctant to mentor me for fear of rumors.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him? 
I found my mentor when I was taking an executive program at Stanford. He was one of the keynote speakers and I went to talk to him. Intrigued by my background, when I asked if he would mentor me, he said yes. I meet with him at regular intervals and I always ensure I have put his ideas to test before reporting back to him. I feel that I value his time if I do actually listen and act on his advice.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
The key qualities I look for is an eagerness to learn and humility to be open to new ideas. Also, when asked to be a mentor, I usually give homework and see how proactive they are. Only the ones who do their homework, take the advice and act on it, are the ones I actively mentor.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and unconsciously support diversity, as I see the importance of diversity on true innovation. You never get anything new, talking to like-minded people. It is always good to have different perspectives to create new ideas. I am also an active supporter having faced racial and gender discrimination in my life and want to ensure that others are given a better chance.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
A great leader to me is one who has empathy and humility, and a genuine spirit of service. Today’s challenges such as climate change and social injustice, requires many players to apply their knowledge and skills to solve and have a sense of ownership in solving these issues

Advice for others?
The only advice I can think of is do what you are strongly passionate about. You need to persevere to succeed so it helps if you truly care about the endeavor you are working on.

If you’d like to get in touch with Laina Raveendran Greene, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laina/

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Callum Connects

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

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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