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Gabriel Chan, Founder of Skipmenu

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Gabriel Chan, serial entrepreneur is revolutionising telephone and customer service industry with his new app, Skipmenu.

What’s your story?
I graduated from Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada. I am an inventor and serial entrepreneur. Among the technical startups I co-founded and led were social bookmarking app Soeie, collaborative notebook platform Thinkpanda, sports-betting decision-support system Sportschimp, peer-to-peer marketplace for school notes and exam prep material Notewagon and cross-platform classroom and lecture management suite Coursemodo that was bought in 2014 by a Fortune-500 multinational in a bid to enter the ed-tech space. As the Skipper-in-Chief of Skipmenu, I understand every aspect of the business and technology and oversee its overall strategy and development.

What excites you most about your industry?
There has been no innovation on the most used app on your smartphone: the phone, nor has there been any innovation on call centre technology. This whole ecosystem has reached a plateau for a while and is ripe for revolution. We are excited to set the new standard for the future of telephony and customer service solutions.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My ancestry is Canton (Guangzhou) and I have relatives all over the region, including Hong Kong. I was also “forced” to attend Chinese school as a kid, like most overseas Chinese growing up in Canada.

Skipmenu_iPhoneSE_01 Skipmenu-Logo Skipmenu-App-Icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I should be cheering for Hong Kong, but sorry, Singapore seems to have a healthier startup scene. The Singapore Government has razor sharp focus and the resolve to get stuff done. The Hong Kong Government is good at crisis management and fighting fires, but does not seem serious about growing the startup ecosystem here. Perhaps it has other priorities.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t make assumptions. And that you’ll be dead soon, so you have nothing to lose:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
I have not worked with Steve Jobs but I have worked with a terminally-ill engineer. It puts this excerpt from Jobs’ Stanford 2005 Commencement Speech in perspective.

Who inspires you?
Võ Nguyên Giáp (VNG) is one of the greatest military leaders of all time, though no one in the West knows about him because he was on the “wrong side of history.”  Despite overwhelming odds of success and very little conventional resources, this former history teacher assembled and trained a team (Vietnam People’s Army) that would go on to defeat the Japanese, then the French, then the Americans. They employed endlessly creative strategies, tactics, logistics and life hacks to ultimately win. Running a startup is guerilla warfare: odds of success laughably low, fighting against the establishment and a life of sacrifices. VNG is a reminder that the struggle could be won by being relentlessly resourceful and pervasively persistent.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Computer programs that can write themselves. Dynamic Program Generation interprets raw human language into intent and generates a program itself to react to the input. This is how Viv is approaching sentiment analysis. This is the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 3.0 and this may be the beginning of Skynet. GG, humanity!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You mean if I could time travel or jump into a parallel universe to a younger me with my current consciousness? The answer is obvious: jump straight into entrepreneurship right away!
A younger me had many conflicting opinions from adults, advisors and so-called experts. This is fine, because a younger me needed to discover myself: discover my likes, discover my dislikes, discover my bottom line, discover my passions. Self-discovery is a part of life. All the failures, triumphs and plot twists contribute to my identity today.
So I would obviously do everything differently or “better,” and if/when this question is asked, I would still answer the same.

How do you unwind?
There is a punching bag in my office. I also like any sports or physical challenges, because pushing yourself to the limit is the best way to discover and redefine yourself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Kansai region of Japan. If you like the big city, stay in Osaka. If you like to immerse in old Japan, get lost in Nara (especially Wakayama and Ikaruga). If you like to explore the wilderness, go out to surrounding areas. If you like food, don’t miss the Kobe beef. And of course, Japanese hospitality to visitors are legendary.

Everyone in business should read this book:
If you are in the world of startups, you need to read the Torah and the Bible of our culture by Steve Blank: The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owner’s Manual. They are both related and the former is the predecessor to the latter and both are authoritative summaries of how to not waste time.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie also made an impression on me.

Shameless plug for your business:
Skipmenu is a smartphone app that serves visual phone menus. Skipmenu helps callers skip through automated phone menus in seconds by showing all the options on the screen. Released in 2016 May, Skipmenu offers users access to over 1000 hotlines and growing. Skipmenu is available on iOS and Android in Canada, United States and Hong Kong and will expand in the next few months to the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn — please do not send me a generic message, but rather remind me where I met you or why you’d like to connect. I believe that everyone should have at least one chance to make an impression so don’t be shy.
http://linkedin.com/in/gabchan

Twitter handle?
@changabriel
@skipmenu

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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