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Jonathan Gonzalez, Editor of Quaint Quarterly

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What’s your story?
I am Mexican, born in France, and raised in the various countries in which my parents were sent for their diplomatic careers (Brazil, United States, Singapore, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, Taiwan). Moving around the world every few years made me quite adaptable to changing environments, a characteristic that is reflected in the fact that I have worked in many different industries. I have done field work with NGOs, research with multilateral organizations, business development with private firms, data analysis with financial institutions, creative work with advertising agencies, and writing in news magazines. Overall, I love meeting new people and learning new skills.

What excites you most about your industry?
I have just recently set a foot in publishing, an industry that has always fascinated the avid reader and book collector in me. I find publishing to be particularly interesting in Singapore because it is much richer and diverse than most people think; there are a lot of interesting and talented people out there who write books, illustrate stories, create poems, open book shops, or organize readings and meet-ups. They may not be as visible as shopping outlets or as financially powerful as banks, but I feel they are just as important in helping Singapore attain its global leader status.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I first arrived in Singapore in 1997 when my parents were sent here. In 2004 I came back for an exchange year at NTU and then in 2010 I moved back with my wife. You could say that many of the roads I have taken in my adult life have somehow led back to Singapore, where I know I can reunite with all the local friends I have made over the years and connect with new people who have just settled here.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Throughout my career in Asia, I have only ever done business in Singapore, where I already have many friends, ex-colleagues, and business contacts. This position has given me a solid base to launch projects, develop partnerships, and seize opportunities that may not have been available to a foreigner elsewhere in Asia. The fact that English is widely spoken, that transactions are secure, and that public institutions are accountable also creates a very favourable environment. True, there are some discouraging bureaucratic constraints along the way, but I think learning to navigate the system is an important part of doing business, whichever the country.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The main lesson my parents have always taught me is that I should always do things well. Whether it is a school project, a career plan, or simply a hobby, there is no point in starting something you will not finish, in doing something you will not be proud to have your name on, or in undertaking something that will not live to its expectation. This does not mean striving to do everything perfectly or not accepting failure as part of the learning process, but making sure that all projects and tasks are done with all the energy and effort that they deserve.

Who inspires you?
My parents are my biggest inspiration for many different reasons. They do not come from a long line of diplomats or business men. They did not attend fancy private schools. They did not have start-up capital to start a business. They did not have any savings that would buy them time to find their true calling. They started their careers wherever it was that they could start and worked hard to acquire the skills that little by little took them closer to their objectives. Whether it was finding scholarship programmes to go to university or learning languages to be able to move, they seized the opportunities that were out there and made them their own.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
On top of reading all types of books and magazines I come across I also watch all sorts of TV shows and movies. I have just recently watched the entire Marco Polo series which is highly entertaining despite its fair share of narrative imperfections and historical inaccuracies. The show got me hooked on learning more about the history of the Mongol Empire while its soundtrack led me to discover a few very interesting musicians who combine traditional throat singing with hip-hop and jazz.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
From a business point of view, I would perhaps try to save precious time by being more familiar with administrative processes and bureaucratic red-tape. I spent a lot of time discovering things as they came up or relying on someone else’s advice, when I could have avoided a lot of headaches by anticipating potential roadblocks and planning accordingly.

How do you unwind?
Most of my free time is devoted to music. If I’m not organizing events with my friends from the Kilowatt Soundsystem I’m listening to new artists on music streaming sites, if I’m not visiting vinyl record shops I’m organizing and classifying my new music into playlists for upcoming parties.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Sadly I have less and less time to travel for leisure, but as a city guy I am a big fan of exploring huge capital cities and getting lost just wandering around with headphones on. I find Bangkok, Tokyo, and Seoul to be ideal for that.

Everyone in business should read this book:
I know a lot of people don’t have time to sit down to read for a couple of hours, so I will recommend a couple of podcasts: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and NPR’s Planet Money. The first one touches on all sorts of topics (history, war, mythology, religion) and includes details that history books often skip over in order to keep things clean and simple. The second one discusses amazing stories, people, or events within the worlds of business and finance.

Shameless plug for your business:
The latest project I am working on is Quaint Quarterly, a new independent print journal focused on long-form articles and eye-catching illustrations. Curated from the four corners of the web, all the content is handpicked for readers who want to read challenging and insightful materials in a well-crafted format. From opinion pieces to academic papers, from amateur photographers to award-winning painters, the work of the featured thinkers, writers, and artists is a snapshot of all the incredibly thought-provoking content that can be found online and yet does not necessarily reach all constantly-connected people. Issue number 01 is on the topic of Nostalgia and future issues will focus on other compelling concepts such as Progress, Identity, Appetite, Desire, and many more.

How can people connect with you?
Anyone who is interested in purchasing a copy of the magazine, submitting content, or looking for sponsoring/advertising opportunities can send me an email to [email protected] or simply follow the Facebook page to find out about news and events.

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

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

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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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Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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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

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