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Karena Belin, Co-Founder of W Hub

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Originally from Germany, Karena has had a strong connection to Asia. From completing her studies to starting her corporate career and her family, she has now settled in HK and pioneered her first start-up. Where to next for this young woman?

What’s your story?
The short version: I am an optimist who loves making a positive impact on the world. Hence after arriving in Hong Kong, I was easily contaminated by the energy and passion of entrepreneurs and decided to dive into the startup ecosystem to help it grow.
The long story before that; I was born and raised in Germany and USA, with German and French diplomas in business and administration. I worked 15 years for Procter and Gamble in various roles in finance, sales and management across Europe, North East Asia and greater China. My responsibilities included product launches, portfolio management, business planning, organisation re-design and Gillette integration.

What excites you most about your industry?
The people I meet. As Colin Wright puts it perfectly: “Few things are as sexy as a person who’s passionate about something.” I love the energy and passion of entrepreneurs and their teams. They are motivated by a common mission or crusade to make a positive impact on their communities or even society at large. I am impressed by their resilience and can do attitude, and the way they think in terms of solutions rather than barriers. And, I am excited about the technologies, disruption and progress I am discovering.

What’s your connection to Asia?
It’s a love story. Asia has helped me grow professionally, personally and as a family. My first trip to Asia was in 1998 to Singapore and Indonesia for my mid-term internship. After that, I discovered Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam whilst holidaying. Excited by the cultural diversity and friendliness of people in Asia, I was happy to transfer with Proctor and Gamble to Japan in 2005, where I had two lovely daughters with my partner. At the end of 2011, I was transferred to Hong Kong and my third lovely daughter was born. This is where I eventually decided to quit corporate life.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Hong Kong! The ease of starting a business, the convenience and safety, rule of law, highly connected population and internet penetration, the strategic position of Hong Kong for a startup since it is in a 5 hour radius of half of the world’s population, next to Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta – the manufacturing powerhouse of China and the world. But again the most impressive part are the people. Hard-working, open-minded, friendly and eager to connect. Networking is in everyone’s DNA here!

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Feedback is a gift!” Once you change your attitude to receiving input, including critical or negative feedback, you see the opportunity for change more clearly. With this comes realising the benefits of “first trying to understand before being understood.” If you combine this attitude with the conviction of “where there is a will, there is a way,” you realise the virtues of learning early and fast (including failing) versus pretending to be right for too long.

Who inspires you?
It depends for what. For raising happy children and having wonderful family time, definitely my mum and dad!

For business… A combination of my first managers who taught me; a) feedback is a gift, b) instilling trust to gain back trust, c) staying true to myself and d) who doesn’t dare, doesn’t win attitude (which I probably take today as “act as if you have nothing to lose).” Thank you Tim Seager, Beatrice Dupuy and Richard Re for these lessons! And last but not least, my co-founder Karen, relentless, resilient and resourceful!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That you can start a new career at 40!
Since I began my startup journey 2 years ago (first as a “side project” to my day job), my learning curve was again back on an exponential growth rate! Sometimes, I feel like I have just graduated from university and have started my first job – perhaps due to a few sleepless nights?!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! Did I mention that I am an optimist? I truly benefited from my experience in a great company with a huge focus on training and development. Today, my advice to youngsters is a bit more mixed, since a lot of companies had to scale back on employee development due to cost pressure. And disruption and innovation are not necessarily well taught in very large corporations these days.

How do you unwind?
How do I “what?” I basically don’t, I am a busy bee. Partially with no choice, having three sweet little girls at home. I love to be close to them and involved in their school and activities. I am acting as VP of Events of the Parent Faculty Organisation (PFO) at the Hong Kong International School (HKIS) and on the Parent Advisory Group (PAG), enjoying being surrounded by an inspiring and passionate faculty and parents. I also fell in love with my WoW team (Women on the Way-Up) from the AWA. They are motivated and inspiring ladies, passionate about driving diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hokkaido in Winter for skiing!
The best way for me to clear my mind and thoughts is to have a combination of a physical work-out, speed in descending the hills and beautiful landscapes and wide perspectives! Topped with excellent food and a relaxing hot bath (onsen), I’ll sleep like a baby afterwards …. And then starting this all over again the next day –  back on the slopes!

Everyone in business should read this book:
For personal motivation and effectiveness I truly recommend “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I also liked the perspective of “Strengths Finder 2.0,” encouraging people to leverage their strengths rather than spending too much time step-changing weaknesses. As a person passionate about startups, I have obviously read Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One” and I like the simplicity in which he clusters sustainable competitive advantage that allows for monopoly type market positions to be divided into four areas: Technology, Network, Scale and Branding.

Shameless plug for your business:
Our passion and mission at W Hub is to help startups grow and bring their business to the next level. We believe in the power of meaningful connections, so that’s what we foster and drive. We connect startups to talent to build their TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More), startups to other startups to share wisdom, build synergies and collaborate and last, but not least, we connect startups to smart money. And we do that by showcasing not only the product or services of a startup, but more importantly the passion and team behind it.

How can people connect with you?
Very easily! Approach me during events, catch me in a Starbucks, connect via LinkedIn and Facebook or just shoot me an e-mail. I might not reply in 24 hours, but I will reply!

Twitter handle?
@BelinKarena

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

CallumConnects

Callum 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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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