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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

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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