Connect with us

Callum Connects

Eugene Cheng, Creative Lead of HighSpark

Published

on

Eugene Cheng started out young selling spiders at school. He’s always been into entrepreneurship and is now the founder of High Spark – a presentation strategy and training company.

What’s your story?
Back in primary school, I started selling spiders I caught to friends. I remember it vividly – $1 for a big one and $0.50 for a smaller one. During secondary school term breaks I jailbroke iPhones as a part-time job for extra pocket money. In polytechnic I ran a brief dropshipping operation to pull in extra cash to help with school fees. You could say I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship.
The difficult time really came when my grades started slipping when I was 18. I did not meet the grade-criteria to go for the Overseas Immersion Programmes and longer-term internships. Unique opportunities became out of reach as a result and I felt very frustrated as exams weren’t my strong suit.
I made the decision to join the NAA eChallenge and [email protected] competitions after hearing about it during a lecture and everything changed. While my peers were enjoying their term breaks, I spent my days reading and working on presentation-related skills which really gave me a leg up in school.
I put some of my work on SlideShare (the very first one being: How To Be A Presentation Jedi ) and Linkedin. Suddenly, things just blew up. I started getting emails from people all over the world to create presentations including a call from a large Japanese ad agency.
Upon graduation at 19, I started SlideComet (Now HighSpark) a presentation strategy and presentation training company with my partner and classmate, Kai Xin. Fast-forward 3 years till today, we’ve had the opportunity to help companies like Nike, Panasonic, Renesas, SMU and others with their high-stake presentations and mentor startups at accelerators like Startup Bootcamp and Finlab.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s constantly evolving and the community is awesome. We’ve had the opportunity to get in touch with numerous other firms from different parts of the world – Hawaii, California, Paris, UK and Hong Kong.
The relationships are cordial and everyone empowers each other to do better because there’s enough to go around.
We get to work directly with really intelligent people from CXOs of MNCs to startup founders creating the next big thing. To have the opportunity to help these guys communicate their brilliant ideas on the big stage is really what makes going to work everyday fulfilling.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve lived here all my life. I come from a typical Asian family with Asian values which can be quite the crutch at times, but I wouldn’t trade being born here for anything else. Living in Singapore is amazing because it has become such a hub for trade and a bustling startup scene.

pasted image 0 Photo edited-52

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Is it biased to say Singapore? I honestly think it’s one of the easiest places in Asia to start and run a business. ACRA let’s you register a business within half an hour and managing tax responsibilities are a breeze. Also, you’ll hardly hear of fly-by-night businesses going bankrupt while owing you money, so it’s pretty reassuring to start here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
That nobody ever really knows what they’re doing and hardly anything is original. Whether they’re 17 or 70, we’re always going to still be figuring stuff out. It’s humbling to know that you’re not the only one confused or unsure about things in life. If you learn from the right people, age becomes a triviality and is no real factor of consideration for success.
For example, most of the sales or psychology-related books we see today are rehashes of pioneer opinions from before, and that’s fine, as long as it adds value. When we do creative work, we often have to seek inspiration from others. Something unique, might just be a combination of 5 other already existing ideas.

Who inspires you?
Eric Tachibana. During his younger days he sold his company and became rich overnight. When this happened, he became depressed. Slurping mojitos and living off the proceeds didn’t sit well with him. He wanted to work till he couldn’t anymore. Right now he’s happily working at Amazon and mentors other entrepreneurs and startups actively.
He works because he genuinely wants to, not because he’s bound by circumstance. I believe that’s the distinction that makes him such an inspiration, making an active choice to add value to others with or without additional benefit.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
A friend of mine (Mervin Soon-from the Pique Learning Lab) shared with me a book called Progressive Partnerships (coincidentally) written by Callum Laing. The stories and anecdotes on how to ‘trade-up’ with partnership and value really blew me away.
Callum shared the story of how he got to Thailand without knowing anyone and built a network from scratch, how he went to Singapore and created value in an industry of which he did not have any prior experience in as well as ‘how to make it rain’ in general. (I won’t spoil the rest!)
I gleaned a couple of lessons from it that will change the way I look at dead end negotiations and opportunities.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d start out even younger back in secondary school. Read more books, pick up more hard skills and meet more people much older than myself.
As I write this, Joseph Schooling just won Singapore an Olympic gold medal and I think he is testament to the fact that young people these days are so much more nimble and enabled to do great things regardless of age.

How do you unwind?
I make it a point to go to the gym 2 to 3 times every week to lift weights. It forces me to make time for it and helps me work off the stress. I also take solo trips to Thailand to get away from it all and get some clothes tailored.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand! For one, it’s only a 3 hour flight from Singapore which makes it a really convenient destination to get to. Food’s cheap and the people there are very friendly and courteous. There are plenty of good locations to get some work done when you are there.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Influence by Robert Cialdini. It’s a really good primer on psychological faults that occur so often in our daily lives. He talks about how to take advantage of it and also guard against it.
The principles outlined are so universal and has given me plenty of insight on meandering tough social situations as well as solving marketing related problems.

Shameless plug for your business:
HighSpark is a strategic presentation consultancy and presentation training company that helps corporate leaders ace their high-stakes presentations. Past clients include: Nike, Panasonic, Dentsu, DBS, SMU, NTU and MasterCard. We also mentor teams at startup accelerators like: Startup Bootcamp, JFDI, Finlab.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: http://fb.com/heyitseugene
Linkedin: http://linkedin.com/in/itseugene
Email: [email protected]
Personal Site: http://itseugene.me
SlideShare: http://slideshare.net/itseugene
Company Site: https://highspark.co

Twitter handle?
@itseugenecheng

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

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

Published

on

Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

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

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

Published

on

Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

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

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

Continue Reading

Trending