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Edwin Tay, Co-Founder of EasyUni

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Edwin Tay is the CEO and co-founder of easyuni.com – Asia’s leading Education Portal, dedicated to connect students with Universities Globally. EasyUni attracts students from 202 countries applying into Universities in 20 countries worldwide. It has clients from 17 countries, which include brand names such as University of London, Curtin, Singapore Management University, Monash, British Council, Nottingham, Heriot-Watt and more.

Prior to that he co-founded a digital agency & e-marketing software company – NetInfinium Corporation, which he has since sold to a public listed company. In there, he led the company to winning multiple awards including Red Herring Asia Top 100, Deloitte Asia Pacific Top 500 Fastest Growing IT Company (2005/2006), AWSJ Asia Innovations Awards, MC2 Creative Awards and more.

Edwin is an Endeavor Entrepreneur – a testament to his entrepreneurship capability. He is an active mentor for Founders Institute, Cradle Coach & Grow Program and NEN Wadhwani. He gives regular talks especially in the topic of e-marketing and entrepreneurship.

easyuni home page (25nov2015)

In your own words what is EasyUni?

EasyUni is a multisided platform that enables lesser known universities and Asian students to efficiently and conveniently connect online despite time and distance constraints. EasyUni serves as a one-stop-shop to find and apply to the right university while removing the costs of using a college counselor, and the time spent attending college fairs and trawling countless websites. Students and parents can search and compare universities and courses, and apply for free through EasyUni. To date, EasyUni’s portal lists over 2,000 universities, 3,000 scholarships, and 70,000 courses in 20 countries. Simultaneously, EasyUni helps universities add  Asian students to their student bodies while reducing student acquisition costs. EasyUni generates student traffic on its portals through its close proximity to prospective students and its local market knowledge. Universities pay EasyUni to generate and verify student leads, applications, and placements through premium locations on its ten country portals. They can also pay EasyUni to manage their event and social media presence locally in order to increase their brand exposure in the region.

How did you come up with the idea of EasyUni?

The idea for EasyUni surfaced in 2008, when me and my co-founder noticed how our niece and nephew struggled to choose a suitable university and area of study. We saw the need for a portal that would provide relevant, accurate, and comprehensive information on universities and courses available worldwide.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up EasyUni?

I was first exposed to entrepreneurship when I joined Amway, a multinational that develops products and sells via direct sales, after graduating from the University of Sains Malaysia with a Materials Engineering degree. As a Research Engineer, I learned how to develop, network, and sell a variety of products. Leaving Amway after two years, I co-founded a digital agency, NetInfinium Corp, which went on to win multiple awards including the Red Herring Asia Top 100 and Deloitte Asia Pacific’s Top 500 Fastest Growing IT Companies for 2005-2006. I grew the company until 2011, after which we successfully exited via trade sale to a publicly listed company. Partnering up with my co-founder and pooling together some money to start EasyUni, we outsourced the development of our first minimum viable product over the next two years. We both worked on this idea on a part time basis. With the help of government grants, EasyUni hired its first employees and launched its portal in December 2010.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?

Similar to my previous startup – it was an exciting and challenging. Together with my co-founder, we brainstormed all the time to come out with the best ideas for everything, from marketing to business model, to sales. We also regularly talked to as many stakeholders as we could i.e. students, parents, teachers, Universities and Colleges to get feedbacks and ideas

We knew very early on that going regional then global; as quick as possible is the mission that we need to accomplish quickly. Hence all our strategies was pointing towards scalability and international acceptance. A lot of hustling was carried out at the early stages. Currently we have a team of 25 person from 7 different nationalities and still growing. They are the amazing people that helps EasyUni be where it is today.

How have you been developing EasyUni since startup?

After coming out with the minimal viable product, we quickly sought market validation by meeting all stakeholders (partners, potential clients, students and parents). It took us about a year and 3 pivots before we found a suitable and scalable business model. From then on, its about getting as large market share as we can in our home country Malaysia. We quickly overtook the incumbent competitor and currently working to increase further our dominance and at the same time, expanding our presence in a few other Asian countries.

What kind of feedback did you get for EasyUni so far?

Parents and students we talked to have consistently mentioned that the concept of EasyUni is not only helpful but also effective and timely. With the ubiquities of Internet and parents being busy with work, students typically prefer to do their research via the Internet. Our clients the universities are also putting in more marketing budget onto the online media at the expense of offline media.

What is your strategy against your competition?

There are a few local and overseas competitors and we view them positively. I personally welcome competition as it keeps the industry healthy. Plus it’s a great motivation point for our team. We don’t typically watch our back for competition constantly. Rather we look forward and think of more innovative ways on how we can add more value to both our students and universities.

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

Higher education service providers all around the world are facing intense pressure with the mushrooming of institutions. It doesn’t help when their respective government starts tightening rules for institutions to bring in foreign students (which generally brings in a large amount of revenue) and cutting down grants. We foresee consolidation would be a trend moving forward with smaller institutions either merging or being acquired by larger groups. The good news is that the number of students going into higher education is consistently on the rise every year, in tandem with the rise of population and middle class all around the world

What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

We believe that in the future ALL university and college applications will be done online, thus disrupting the current conventional method of offline form filling or personal application via university registration offices. We believe, students in the future would be less dependant on agents and counselors. Do-it-yourself (DIY) will be the mainstay when students search/compare and apply. EasyUni wants to be at the forefront of this disruption by being the portal to go to when students all over the world looks & apply to a University of their choice.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? Is it harder or easier, why?

Asian entrepreneurs typically faced a few shortcomings relative to those in the West (such as Silicon Valley). Funding and mature support structure are some of them. However I feel that there’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in Asia. With a large catchment of youthful and growing population, Asia is now one of a few bright spots for commerce in the world with a potential to be the trendsetter in the next decade. We see large amount of old money from Europe and the Americas flowing into Asia, funding new technologies and startups. Without a doubt, Asia is where the opportunity lies in the coming decade.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Speaking strictly on Internet and technology startup entrepreneur angle – some Asian tech entrepreneurs tend to get influenced by Valley style of running a company. Whilst a large number of their best practices can be replicated here in Asia, there are many that might not be suitable due to Asian culture and market constraints. On the flip side, we also begin to see many Western tech entrepreneurs making their way into Asia, bringing with them their western experience and processes, only to find that not all can be replicated as-is.

What is your definition of success?

We are successful when we played a role in preventing students from making a wrong choice in choosing their university or course. We are most proud when we hear stories of how EasyUni played a positive role and touched our students lives. We regularly get emails from students and/or their parents thanking us for helping them out and preventing them from making mistakes in choosing their course or universities. We typically share those emails out to all our staffs – just to show everyone that all their effort and work in making EasyUni the leading education portal means a lot to a lot of our stakeholders. Because of this, we also are able to attract talents. We have some staffs who tells us that they have turned down much better offers and decided to join us instead because they believed in our vision of helping students.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Right after I graduated from university, I joined Amway as a distributor. They taught me to fight for what I wanted in life. They also ignited the entrepreneurism in me. Whilst I did not gain much success in Amway, it certainly kindled my interest in becoming an entrepreneur.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

Grit. The ability to continue on stronger, despite the many trials and tribulations. There are times when you feel lonely and the people that you rely on for help and support – did the opposite. Luckily for me, I have other support system in place where I could ask for help and advise. I now surround myself with positive thinking and solid individuals that have either done it before and/or are able to ask great questions leading me to the answers.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Settle your early funding early on and get it out of your way (either by roping in a good investor or via Grants) so that you can then concentrate on building a solid base for your company

Talk to as many stakeholders and most importantly your potential clients. Listen well as they will reveal their pain points (sometimes not directly) and giving you ideas on where your product/services should be heading

Unless you have loads of cash and time, don’t try to change the world or disrupt the industry, early on. Just stick to simple tried and tested business models (that your competitors are already doing). Yes, in this case, building a better mousetrap is actually a good idea. Not everything needs to be scalable from the beginning. In fact more often than not, you would need to do unscalable activities before it can be built on to be scalable in the future.

Connect

Web: https://easyuni.com
LinkedIn: https://my.linkedin.com/in/tayedwin

 

 

Callum Connects

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings

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Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@malcolmABM

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

William Chin, Founder of Mummy’s Market

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William Chin set up Mummy’s Market. Mummy’s Market is the uncontested platform connecting parents and retailers in Singapore.

What’s your story?
After National Service, I enjoyed a rousing start to my corporate career with successful stints at events and conventions companies such as IQPC, Hannover Fairs Australia and Lighthouse Independent Media in management roles, building my experience in conventions, trade fairs and events.

However, I hit a particularly bad streak of unemployment after that, facing difficulty finding jobs because according to recruiters, I was overqualified, yet too young. In fact, at one point I was struggling so badly with my family loans that I was sharing bowls of ramen with my girlfriend for our meals, to save costs.

My financial pressures eventually culminated in my forced venture into entrepreneurship where I had to strike out my own path with a brief stint in Expomal. However, this turned out to be my next break that fuelled my current success. It was there I built up Smartkids (another wildly successful baby and child fair) before it was bought out by a bigger company. Inspired by SmartKids, I started Mummy’s Market and eventually Baby’s Market, outperforming established names in the business to take its current place as market leader.

What excites you most about your industry?
Mummy’s Market is the industry leader in baby, kids, maternity and household with 80% market share and our clients – coupled with branding, advertising and exhibiting on Mummy’s Market platforms, we are seeing a 30-60% company growth year on year despite the downturn in the economy. With attendance of over 100k consumers per fair and serving 70-80% of pregnant mums, our actual business is in data, data collection and processing from consumer fairs.

I am excited about how big data analytics from Mummy’s Market can be applied at every stage of the retail process such as data segmentation – for retailers now when mums are giving birth to sending relevant content over. This will transform and innovate the industry of baby fairs and Mummy’s Market, with the huge amount of data we process from our fairs yearly, is the forerunner in this disruption. With this, we have transformed the DNA of how digital business has always been done. Global online marketplaces are burning cash quickly to achieve big data analytics, but not us.

Another testament to Mummy’s Market’s popularity is that huge marketplaces have been trying to pass off as Mummy’s Market. It shows that we are heading in the right direction and the most exciting part is, we are only at 10% of where we want to be – a platform where $1 billion gross market value products are transacted annually around Asia in a niche market.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore, and intend to stay in Singapore to build the Mummy’s Market brand.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – if one can strategically become a leader in a small market like Singapore, its grounds to show that one’s business has an opportunity to grow further in larger countries.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“It is easy to become number 1 because the others can just copy and tweak to overtake you.
It is more difficult to STAY number 1, because you have no one to copy. You have to innovate.”

Who inspires you?
Steve Jobs – he transformed the digital age. Without the invention of smartphones, mobile computing and mobile advertising would never have grown. He changed the way businesses and consumers communicate. Without the introduction of iPhones, mobile applications would have never existed the way we are using them today.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You no longer have to lick stamps to make it sticky.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I love my life and my family. And I love the platform Mummy’s Market has created to help businesses grow.

How do you unwind?
I play with my little 1 year old baby girl.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan – cool weather with beautiful mountains and lake scenery.

Everyone in business should read this book:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

Shameless plug for your business:
Mummy’s Market has established its reputation as not just Singapore’s but Southeast Asia’s largest baby fair:

  • Nearly S$100 million gross merchandise volume transacted on Mummy’s Market platforms annually
  • 800,000 visitors at its fairs yearly
  • 80% of all of Singapore’s baby product distributors in one convention
  • 15-20% year on year increase in sales volume at every baby fair since its inception

Apart from market dominance, Mummy’s Market also has the largest database of parents and the number 1 platform for MNCs and SMEs to reach out to this audience. From exhibitions, magazines, seminars to digital campaigns and roadshows. Mummy’s Market is the uncontested platform connecting parents and retailers in Singapore.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]
https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-chin-23910a9/

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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