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Jonathan O’Byrne, Founder of Collective Works

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Jonathan is creating one of the most exciting communities of small business owners here in Singapore.  Having watched what he has built over the past couple of years, I am very excited to see where he takes it over the coming years.  If you are thinking of opening an office in Singapore, checking out Collective Works must be your first priority!

 

What’s your story?

I’m a lifelong expatriate. I was born in Europe but moved overseas when I was very young. I have since lived on three continents but spent 20 years in the Middle East. It is a thriving part of the world that has undergone phenomenal change in the past thirty years. That palpable sense of progress changes societies – it makes people optimistic and hopeful for the future. I think that’s why I enjoy living and working in Singapore where there continues to be even more rapid progress.

What excites you most about your industry?

Living as an expat means I understand more than most the importance of community: When you move frequently or live in a third-culture environment you constantly lose people from your life. That puts you in the position of needing to rebuild and reconnect more than most.

Architecture is a powerful influence on wellbeing and from a young age that fascinated me. What excites me most now is what happens at the confluence of community and great design because you are putting people into such a resource rich environment. With talented people, in a space designed to enable you and simplify running a business we become a serious catalyst for many of our clients.

What’s your connection to Asia?

On the face of it I have no explicit connection to Asia other than my business. What you can’t see is the resonance I feel with the drive for progress and achievement that can be felt here. There is an energy in Asia that you don’t get anywhere else, that’s why I choose to live and work here.

jb

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

That would be Singapore. Singapore is a well-known and respected business hub. It is well positioned in the region, it has a stable currency, a British legal structure and English is the national language. Combine those factors with a government that actively encourages entrepreneurship and the well-educated population and you have a great environment for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

“A DIY mentality will kill your business.” It’s profound on a number of levels and as a perfectionist it was a difficult lesson to learn. It speaks to your perspective and vision – if you always look inside your business you can never look ahead, so you can’t lead. It speaks to trust – if you can’t trust people to help you, you will never move forward. And, it speaks to humility – if you always think you are the best person for the job then your ego blinds you to other’s abilities. To summarise, the antithesis of a DIY mentality is to look forward, trust, embrace your team and focus people on their strengths.

Who inspires you?

I draw inspiration from a lot of people. Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive and Ingvar Kamprad are all people I admire for their commitment to bringing the highest levels of design to the masses. Intrinsic in all three is an understanding of human need and behaviour and I admire the insight behind the decisions they make. I follow Marissa Mayer quite closely she is fearless for taking on Yahoo, her ruthlessly data driven approach is strong and she is a very inspiring leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

I’m a big fan of crowdfunding – I love some of the new projects that are coming through where people are trying to change the landscape of the cities they live in through these initiatives. Examples would be the Kickstarter swimming pool for the Hudson River in New York that filters the water and provides recreation and its sister project for the Thames in London. It’s such a transformative movement; forget voting get people to pay for things that they want changed and you get more engagement and real prioritisation.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

What I would do differently isn’t a chain of thought that I dwell on. If I’ve learned anything from being a business owner, it’s to make the best decision at that point in time and not to focus on what cannot be changed. I’ve learned from my tangents and benefited from the experience. So long as you use your life experience to move you forward you shouldn’t dwell on what you’ve done. The only thing you should ever regret is wasting time and that is something I’m rarely guilty of doing.

How do you unwind?

People are a big source of energy and catharsis for me so a dinner and a glass of wine with friends is a sure fire way to unwind. There are few things better than the experience of sharing war stories and having a good laugh with trusted friends. Exercise is also a significant part of how I manage stress.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?

Hong Kong. I know it’s an unusual choice for relaxation but the urban grittiness is such a contrast to Singapore I find it really refreshing. I get refuelled by the energy of cities so I always come away from Hong Kong inspired. I love the fusion of people and the eclecticism. Hong Kong is a city of contrasts it is ugly and beautiful, hard and soft, personal and anonymous. It also has a fantastic art, design and fashion scene, which seals the deal for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:

Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell. That said, I quote The Tipping Point often around the office, probably because of the social nature of my business. The Tipping Point is a wonderfully observed study of the social side of paradigm shifts and Outliers is a study of exceptional performers. His books are incredibly well researched and profoundly insightful. The essence of commerce is understanding and relating to people so I think Gladwell will really open your eyes in that arena.

Shameless plug for your business:

Collective Works is an award-winning business ecosystem that focuses on Entrepreneurs. Our Goal is to improve the drive, creativity and social interaction of small businesses. In under two years we’ve built one of Singapore’s premier entrepreneurial communities with Membership of over 85 companies from more than 20 countries. We have developed a unique portfolio of spaces including coworking, private offices, meeting, lounges and event space to cater to every eventuality. With three expansions since launch we now operate a 10,500 square foot facility and we’re not stopping there.

How can people connect with you?

Website www.collectiveworks.com.sg

Facebook www.facebook.com/collective.works.asia

LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanobyrne

Twitter @collectiveSG

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

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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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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