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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

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

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

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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