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Darren Chua, Co-Founder & CEO of Markedshot

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Darren Chua

Darren Chua is on a quest to enable individuals of all levels to be rewarded for their photography through his business Markedshot.

What’s your story?
I am an average kid from NUS majoring in Computer Engineering. Always wanted to be an entrepreneur but didn’t want to rush things.
During my 3rd year in college, I embarked on a NUS Overseas College program where I spent 1 year interning and studying in Shanghai. I was extremely fortunate to meet 2 of the most important people in my life, Brendon and Kim McQueen. They were my bosses and mentors from my internship company. I interned at Curves, a 30 minute fitness center for women only, a franchise brand from the USA. What’s a computer engineer doing at a gym for women, I hear you ask? Well, I wanted to put myself in a country that I knew little of and an industry that I knew nothing about. This turned out to be the best decision I made and maybe best decision of my life.
I was exposed to every aspect of the business, from logistics to manufacturing to growing new markets. It was an experience like no other. I continued being part of Curves way pass my internship until my graduation from NUS.
My time at Curves enabled me to be all rounded in terms of business, technology, marketing and almost all other aspects of the business.
As, I was always passionate about harnessing technology to improve business processes, I went on to be an IT consultant for a local Singaporean ERP company. I had a great time learning and helping traditional businesses adopt technology and using ERP systems to automate their workflow. As my role was to analyse and propose the best approach to any project, this allowed me access and insights into every intricate part of my client’s business. Every client offered something new to learn and allowed me to apply my knowledge and deliver results.
I love filmmaking and photography as well. I took on freelance video and development projects on the side and collaborated with a few friends from college to help them out with their work.
That was when I caught the startup flu again. I never wanted to rush entrepreneurship for the sake of doing it. I always knew the moment would present itself in the future. My buddy and now co-founder, Nur Iman Izam from NUS started a discussion regarding a platform for photography. We decided to go ahead and launch a MVP on the appstore. Users grew to a thousand in a month and we decided to launch on Android and a web version. We hit 10 thousand users in less than 3 months from launch which got us really excited.
I quit my fulltime job, decided to give my startup a 100% of my resources and I never looked back since.
Currently, I am on my quest to enable individuals of all levels to be rewarded for their photography action through Markedshot.

What excites you most about your industry?
Almost everybody owns a smartphone, why not earn some money or rewards for the photos that you’re taking?
Everyone is uploading photos and contents about their daily life. What they eat, where they go brands they love, things they buy.
We know brands would die for data and contents that are organically created by their customers.
Our mission is to enable brands to market the voices of their happy customers.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I love Asia. Being born in Singapore, I am fortunate to have friends of different races, religions and from different countries. It is that very diversity that makes Asia a really special continent where every country or city is unique in its own ways.
For any brand that wants to expand in Asia, it would have to harness content to be local, authentic and relatable to users in the respective countries.
That’s where we want to help brands expand across Asian countries.

Darren Chua & Wife

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It would have to be Taipei.
During my days at Curves, I was often in Taiwan as that is our biggest market. It is a country that retains historical ties with China and yet is very much influenced by the Japanese culture. Working with the locals has been really eye-opening. I find Taiwanese people extremely hardworking and intelligent and it’s always a pleasure to be working with a Taiwanese team.
My startup is currently also part of AppWorks, the biggest accelerator in Taiwan. My experience there has been awesome and very rewarding.
Last but not least, my wife is Taiwanese as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be sincere, be honest and walk the talk.
I think we are remembered not by the things one said, but often by the things one did.
Being sincere and having a no BS policy has not only helped me in my startup journey but also forged great friendships within a very short period.

Who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration comes from my Curves mentors, Brendon and Kim McQueen.
They taught me countless lessons that are applicable in life as well as business.
I learnt what it takes to be a good businessman, son to my parents, husband to my wife and also parent to my future kids.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The beauty of life is that we never stop learning. I am constantly learning from my everyday experiences and through meeting people from different backgrounds.
As I recently got married, I learnt to enjoy and cherish the “now” moments and to pay attention to the little things that matter to my partner.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would strive to be a film director or a chef.
Being born in Singapore, there wasn’t much emphasis given to the arts. We were encouraged to be engineers, doctors or accountants at a young age.
What would the world be without music, art and film?

How do you unwind?
Putting my phone and tech gadgets away. (means my wife locking them away)
Going on movie dates and nature walks with my wife.
Family time is important as well.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand.
The beaches are great, food is great and people are amazingly friendly.
Hence the name, Land of Smiles.

Everyone in business should read this book:
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Having great interpersonal skills might be the tipping point.
Humans are by nature social animals.

Shameless plug for your business:
Markedshot is a crowdsourcing platform for businesses to acquire user-generated content directly from thousands of photographers or their fans and customers.

Darren Chuan & team

How can people connect with you?
If you love linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/darren2424/
If you love to stalk: https://www.facebook.com/darren2424
If you love stickers: Line id: darren2424
Or just the old fashion email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/markedshot

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

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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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