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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

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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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