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David Chen, Co-Founder of Strikingly

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What’s your story?
I’ll try in 100 words. Went to the U.S from China when I was 15, then UChicago for Economics. In college, met a great group of inspiring friends and founded Moneythink, a financial literacy non-profit, with them. Besides Moneythink, I served as the class representative and VP of Student Government at UChicago. These two experience were my first lessons for how to start something new and how to run an organization. However, since everyone in my major wanted to get into banking, I also did my internship at Goldman Hong Kong during my 2nd year summer. It was clear that I won’t be any good for that industry. So I decided not to go back. The best thing that happened when I was there was that I met my future cofounder, Dafeng Guo, for Strikingly. We started working on things together after the internship and I also asked Teng to join. The three of us have been working together ever since. We failed the first startup project, I quitted school, and we were at 3 different locations across the world, but we stick together over Skype calls. Then we applied for YC together, failed the first time. Decided that we wanted to prove YC was wrong about their decision and went full time instead. Launched Strikingly 3.0, finally got our first paid user and went profitable. Applied for YC again and got in after we’ve proven that the market exists and we’re determined to own it. Since then, raised a round of $1.5M and stayed profitable until now. Still dreaming about helping everyone unleash their individuality by allowing them to launch anything online, a blog, a personal site, a business, or a startup. Never been more positive about the future 🙂
Our story: http://www.forbes.com/sites/morganhartley/2013/03/19/how-a-y-combinator-startup-is-born-the-story-of-strikingly/#7511abed55da
Our mission: https://www.strikingly.com/manifesto

What excites you most about your industry?
The fact that we’re empowering people to launch something new every day. Entrepreneurs and creatives are our core audience, and we made a tool that allows them to have a voice and a presence on the internet. The trend of entrepreneurship powers our industry and it’s growing fast. So riding this wave of new entrepreneurs and new businesses is exciting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Chinese. I went to the U.S when only when I was 15. Our team is right now based in China and the Philippines. Also, ever since the very beginning, we have many users and customers from Asia.

david-profile strikingly-logo

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I don’t think I can name one. I have too many. We have our R&D center in Shanghai, our support team in the Philippines, and another office in Chengdu. I love them all for different reasons. We’re also started to build teams in some other parts of China. So I really can’t name one.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Create superfans, not customers. We made that into a poster and put that at the entrance of Strikingly. This is not a technique. It’s the fundamental reason we decided to start a business, change people’s life one at a time. Focusing on this philosophy also allows us to find clarity every time we felt confused.

Who inspires you?
A lot of people, but there’s one group I owe a special thank you to – Y Combinator. It was a life changing experience and we’ve learned so much from them, about how to build an awesome product, how to focus, how to build a team culture, how to perceive fundraising, and much more. YC is the best.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
A good product is not enough, you have to know how to distribute it. We’ve seen so many bad products “made it” and that feels unfair. However, everything happens happens for a reason. No point in resenting it. I knew that distribution is important but I didn’t know how important it is. It’s hard to describe it, but you have to deeply internalize the fact that the only defensibility is that your product can distribute faster than others, period. Virality, sales, marketing, branding, whatever. Focus on growth and growth only.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Many things if I look back, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I learn so much from my mistakes as from my tiny successes. In fact, I think most of my new gained tenacity and decisiveness come from the fact that I’ve failed in new areas, instead of winning in new areas. So, yes, I think there are a lot of things I could have done better if I knew what I know now or had the same level of wisdom, but I didn’t. So I think all the mistakes I’ve made I had to make them. I hope by saying this I answered the question.

How do you unwind?
Sleep, watch movie, drink with friends, and exercise. All the usual thing. Besides all these, I think having an awesome team that you can share your worries, pressure, and uncertainty with is more important than anything else. I’m glad to say that I have a team like this now.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Singapore. My gf is there 🙂

Everyone in business should read this book:
The hard thing about hard things

Shameless plug for your business:
Strikingly allows anyone to launch a website in minutes. We have millions of entrepreneurs and creatives already launching their startups, businesses, online stores, portfolios, personal websites, blogs, etc.

How can people connect with you?
Twitter: haishachen
Also, if you sign up on Strikingly, the first email you’ll receive will be from me and trust me, I actually read the replies. So you can find me there as well.

Twitter handle?
Haishachen

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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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