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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

Brad Adams, Managing Director of Ocean Grown Abalone

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Ocean Grown Abalone’s, Brad Adams is revolutionising abalone production in a clean, green and sustainable way off the south west coast of Australia.

What’s your story?
I grew up in the remote town of Augusta in the very south west of Western Australia where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean.

My family have a long association with aquaculture and the fishing industry. I’m a 3rd generation fisherman and my father founded the commercial wild abalone diving industry in Flinders Bay in the 1960s.

I followed an aquaculture route, and after I completed my studies in Tasmania, I returned home to start the development of a new technique of growing abalone.

After close to 20 years researching, developing and inventing a new technology, OGA’s sea ranching technique was born and the ‘abitat’ was developed.

Sea ranching is an aquaculture technique where hatchery bred juvenile abalone are placed on OGA designed artificial reefs, ‘abitats’, which are placed in the ocean and left to nature to grow for 2-3 years until they reach a marketable size. They feed and survive in the wild.

The abalone produced from the sea ranch is identical to the highly sought after wild catch product, but has the competitive advantages that only aquaculture can provide. OGA can supply year round to meet market demands to whatever size or product specification the market requires.

Importantly, the sustainability of the abalone using the sea ranching technique is proven and monitored on an ongoing basis. Monitoring the ‘abitats’ and the sea ranching technology is paramount to OGA.

What excites you most about your industry?
That we can grow a premium seafood product which is highly revered in Asia, in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. The sea life we are seeing in Flinders Bay now that the reefs are down is incredible. We are seeing many different types of fish which were no longer in the bay as well as plenty of sea grass creating an underwater sustainable ecosystem.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am born and bred in Augusta in WA. OGA exports premium greenlip abalone to Asian markets including Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong. It has a strong seafood (especially abalone) culture developed with Australian exporters over many years. Also the buyers are great; relaxed people who enjoy having a good time showing you their amazing city.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only live once, so always follow your passions.

Who inspires you?
Andrew Forrest – his single minded purpose and determination, and how he uses his wealth to improve the lives of others.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories per hour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
There are many things I would do differently if I had today’s hindsight as foresight, however all my mistakes, successes and decisions have made me the person I am today. I am comfortable with that.

How do you unwind?
I am a keen surfer. Being at one with the ocean is important to me.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Lembongan, Indonesia. Great waves, great food, great people

Everyone in business should read this book:
Grit – Angela Duckworth
“Success is the result of passion and persistence, not talent and luck.”

Shameless plug for your business:
OGA have developed the world’s first commercial greenlip abalone sea ranching facility. We build our own artificial abalone reefs (called abitats) on our leases in the pristine waters of Flinders Bay. We place hatchery reared juvenile abalone on them – then let nature (with a little help from our divers) do the rest to produce this marine delicacy. A totally natural, ‘wild-harvest’ product. Because we have some control of the process we can harvest to market demand to whatever size the market requires. We call this aquaculture technique sea ranching.

This video explains the business in 7 minutes: https://vimeo.com/225797022

How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected] or
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oceangrownabalone/

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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Lex Na, CEO of Bountie Pte Ltd

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Lex is the founder of a digital agency, a couple of e-commerce businesses and he has just started a gaming, tech, blockchain business, Bountie.io which is his main focus.

What’s your story?
I’m a workaholic, not because I’m forced to but I absolutely love the grind. I may be conditioned due to my previous gaming experience. We as gamers have to play long hours everyday to level up as the difficulty increases. Everything I do right now is a step towards the greater good.
I’m the founder of a boutique Digital Agency and a couple of e-Commerce businesses. I have been in tech for more than 10 years. Those businesses are currently automated to hand to my partners so I can solely focus on Bountie.io.

What excites you most about your industry?
Bountie is in the Gaming/eSports/Technology/Cryptocurrency/Blockchain industry. It’s a combination of all the things I love to do and have been doing since I was young. Right now it’s at the forefront of the world’s economy.
I love the crazy pace, the hype and the future of this industry and it’s drawing the best and the brightest, the upcoming generation that will be the leaders of our future.
Everyday there’s something new, different and revolutionary happening.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I have been to most parts of Asia and I have been learning and observing other cultures, languages and lifestyles. I have also been to Europe and America. I still love the diversity here.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s one of the many cities that’s truly efficient, meritocratic and frictionless. The only con is that it’s too small! Other than that, I love Singapore. We have great infrastructure and support. Low corporate taxes as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Live each day as if it’s my last. By Steve Jobs in his 2005 commencement speech in Stanford. Although I didn’t receive it personally, I took it to heart. I listened to that speech multiple times, sometimes putting it on repeat whilst I was working. I really believe in giving everything I have every single moment of my life. Because life is so fragile, you’ll never know when your last day is. So I live everyday without regrets.

Who inspires you?
As above, Steve Jobs. He has an amazing story. I read his biography, watched a keynote presentation by him, saw the movie about him. His ideology and way of life inspires me. His attention to detail and perfectionist mindset, resulting in a legacy that’s still impacting our lives until now.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It was from someone whom I just knew for an hour. He told me that if I can find happiness in the same thing that makes me sad, that’s when I truly would be happy. I didn’t understand until he explained further.
An occurrence may result in a few reactions to a person. You can either look at the positive side or negative side, both are dependant on you personally. For example, a difficult boss may result in you becoming a more detailed employee, but you only think about how miserable your life is under him.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would do all this again, if not I wouldn’t be at the stage where I am at currently and where I will be in the future. I believe every single step of the way resulted in who and what I am presently. The tough times I have been through, regardless of how bad it was back then, made me stronger. If I could go back and change it, take the easy way out, I’ll be a softer person now.

How do you unwind?
I have been practicing yoga and meditation for about 3 years now. These two activities allow me to slow down and maintain a sane mind from my 14-16 hours of work, Monday to Sunday. I would strongly encourage anyone interested to try a “Calm” mobile app, it has free content for you to try before purchasing their premium content.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Langkawi Island in Malaysia. I unknowingly booked a flight there for my wife’s birthday about 2 years ago because it has a Starwood Hotel (I’m a platinum member). When I reached there I understood why it was one of the best islands to visit in Asia. The best experience I had was the island hopping on jet skis. We could ride fast and there weren’t caps like other touristy places and across huge distances with the guide. The waters were also clean and clear. A perfect getaway.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. One of the many books of our time that would remain as a timeless classic for entrepreneurs and business owners. Great interview questions which reveal deep insights into the inner workings of each and every one of his guests. He also asks some similar questions to multiple guests, from there the reader is able to distinguish that there isn’t one fixed method that the successful people follow, but each of them have a different path. So follow the ones that resonate with you and you’ll still be able to reach the point of success.

Shameless plug for your business:
1. Advisors and Mentors – Industry experts who have been there and done that. We need your wisdom and guidance through this challenging path.
2. Investors – In order to achieve what we aim to in our projected timeline and pace, we need more money to give us the runway and fuel to do it.
3. Team members – We are expanding at breakneck speed, from 2 guys to now 24 people working to make Bountie a success. But in order to increase the speed of growth, we need more “A” players who share our vision and are willing to work hard together to make this happen.

How can people connect with you?
It’s usually the case if you want to reach out to people in a company, by emailing [email protected] So make a guess, drinks on me for the right answer.

Twitter handle?
Unfortunately I do not have Twitter nor Instagram. I do have Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lexfromhotmail) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/lexna/) if you wish to connect via social. From there we can connect and chat further!

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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