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Inner Workings of Startups: Aneace Haddad – Vitamins, Painkillers, or Cocaine

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(This is one in a series of articles and interviews about the inner workings of startups: what makes their leaders tick, what do they consider makes great leadership, what do startups do to attract investors, etc. )

Serial Entrepreneur, Executive Coach, Dream Interpreter, multiple Patent Holder, Ex-Software Engineer:  Aneace Haddad (www.aneace.com) is a business leader  who is comfortable across different roles, industries, disciplines, and organizations. We recently had an opportunity to meet him in Singapore and discuss startups, leadership, creativity, and his analogy of startup offerings as Vitamins, Painkillers, or Cocaine.


Hi, I’m Marion Neubronner, and I’m reporting for Asian Entrepreneur. And today, we are interviewing Aneace Haddad, who has been in the startup arena for some time. And I wanted to see what he has to teach us about his startup leadership.

Tell us more about yourself and the current startup that you’re in.

So, real quick about myself. I’ve been in startups for 30 years. My last big one, I created in France in 1996. Grew that to 30 countries, over 130 people. It was credit card marketing software. We had a million merchants onboard. Sold that in 2007, just before the crash. And then created a new one, my latest startup, my more recent startup. Basically doing the same thing as before, but using social media and Amazon web services. So where I needed 130 people before, now, if it’s doing the same 30 countries, probably I could do it with 10 people. So it’s a lot faster, a lot simpler, a lot more modern with social media. Basically brings Facebook to the point of sale.

Alright. And the name of this lean startup?

Taggo. [www.taggo.me] So that way, merchants can recognize their fans at the point of sale just by entering a mobile number, whereas usually you have to show your phone, which shows that you’ve liked the place, and it doesn’t capture any data.

Taggo,me_Logo

Here, we give them a little access on the point of sale, where the cashier could say “Are you a fan?” The customer says “yeah” and then they enter the customer’s mobile number to check. And that’s how the, cashier registers that you are a fan, registers the transaction, and it creates a check-in on Facebook. So, they get word-of-mouth advertising.

So basically, you’re doing a new service that combines a lot of different technologies together, and really, you’re doing well, from what I’ve gathered. You don’t even need any more funding. You’re way ahead of the game.

Yes. We don’t need any funding right now. It’s great. I mean, it’s a very tight, small, lean operation. Right now, we are looking for resellers globally, channels to market. In the past, I worked with a bank, so that’s how my last company grew. This time around, I’m looking more for ad agencies.

You came into the startup industry like, 30 years ago. I think some of us never even heard of startups until last year, right? Why startup for you? What’s the difference in the leadership that you have to do, being a startup leader? Joys and challenges?

So, for me, it’s because nobody wants to hire me. Nobody has ever wanted to hire me. I wanted to do my own thing. I don’t like copying other stuff. I don’t like executing somebody else’s plan. I love to create my own. Originally, I was a writer when I was young. In my spirit – I am a creator, I am a writer, fiction writing. And I find that startups are very much like that. It’s because you’re creating something from scratch. You’re creating a vision, you’re painting a vision. And customers follow, or they don’t. Employees follow, or they don’t. Shareholders follow, or they don’t. So, it’s a very, very creative process. And that, to me, is much more. I need to express myself. For me, it’s art. Startup work is very, very much like an art to me.

So, as a leader, what will that entail the leadership to be like, to do this art?

I mean, crystal clear vision, for me, that’s a big one. Crystal clear vision on what your purpose is, what is problems you’re trying to fix, what’s exciting about it, where is it going to go, why is the market moving in that direction, why is the technology moving in that direction, why is what you’re doing important.

So, a lot of vision that to me, it’s the same space as writing, dreaming even. So people like, Larry Page, who said a number of times, when he was 23 years old, he had a dream at night of downloading the Internet into his PC, keeping only the links. So he woke up from that, and he starting coding furiously. And that became Google. So, to me, it’s the same kind of creative process.

So, I think, there are actually many different types of startup leaders. But some of them are execution people and sales people, so they will copy some other ideas to execute and solve, and do very well. Or improve on it. Usually, it’s a minor improvement. People, like Rocket Internet, have pretty much wiped out that market. So, Rocket Internet can do it much better than any other individual startup leader.

So, to me, really, the only choice for startups is to go into the much more creative side, much more intuitive, much more creative, so that they really come up with brand new ideas that nobody’s thought of. And you want people to say, “Where did you get this idea from?” “Why are you doing that?” “That’s so weird.” And that’s where the magic happens. So it’s really creative. That’s why I like it.

I’ve never thought of it like that.

It’s art!

It’s art!

Screenshot_for_Image_Marion_Anneace_Haddad_June_2015

 

Right, I do a lot of work with leadership development. And basically, I help inform leaders how to position themselves better as a leader for their team, but also for external people. Like clients, and in your case, most startup investors. So, knowing what you know now, how would you inform a startup leader to best position themselves so that investors will invest in them? What are investors looking for?

So, I have a little framework which took me many, many years to put together with three basic questions that need to be answered in, like, five minutes.

Are you willing to share it with my people?

Yes. I’ll put it out there right now. For free.

So three big questions that needs to be answered in a pitch, that can be in like two minutes.

“So what?” – So what my startup – what it’s doing.

“Who cares?”

So if you can answer “So what?”, why it’s important, and you can answer “Who cares?” – so you really know who your market is.

And “Why me?”

So if you can answer all three of these questions, then you have a much potential for success. And you know, it’s not about the technology. It’s not about the product. It’s more about the real gut feel on why what you’re doing is important.

So, these are three questions. And then, there are three product categories that I also use to form this. So, “So what?” “Who cares?” “Why me?” And then, on the other side, when you look at whatever product or service you’re selling, always fits into one of three categories:

You’re either selling vitamins, so that’s where something that I might see or may do you good in the future, you don’t’ want to pay a lot of money for this. It’s nice to have.

Or you’re selling painkillers – so if you have a headache, you need something to get rid of the pain.

Or you’re selling cocaine – where it doesn’t really matter – people are just addicted. So, cocaine is Facebook, Apple, all these things are good, and there’s more and more cocaine coming out now.

So, if you look at vitamins, if you’re someone that is selling on a spreadsheet, you have to use a spreadsheet for ROI to convince the customer, you’re probably selling vitamins. If you don’t need much of a spreadsheet, like a very small spreadsheet, might be painkiller. If you don’t need any spreadsheet at all, you’re probably selling cocaine. So, it’s also a different leadership style for each. And different categories of buyers. So that, to me, is a very powerful “So what?” “Who cares?” “Why me?” Vitamins, Painkillers, and Cocaine.


For more information about Taggo: www.taggo.me

For more information about Aneace: http://www.aneace.com/

Callum Connects

Denise Mossis Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

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

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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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

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