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Kelly Low, Co-Founder of Breakout

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Kelly Low graduated with first class Degree in Electric and Electronic Engineering from Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. After graduation like many graduates, Kelly was invited to join a management trainee program in a multinational company that offered opportunities to work in Europe. Kelly took up the challenges and completed an intensive one and a half year program abroad. After completion, Kelly worked on handled project deployment across 80 countries and have managed projects worth up to hundred thousand euro. Having vast working experience across three continents including America, Europe, and Asia, Kelly is able to bring in new ideas and concepts from a global perspective to implement into the local context. Desiring a greater challenge, Kelly decided to pursue her own startup and co-founded Breakout, a real life “escape-game” which she will be talking to us about today.

breakout

In your own words, what is Breakout?

Breakout is a realistic escape game center consisting of various themed rooms, all of which are equipped with uniquely designed storylines and mind-boggling puzzles that must be completed within an hour.

Breakout is also the first character based escape game in the world where participants can choose their special abilities to tackle different tasks in the game room. We stand out because our rooms are crafted with delicate attention to detail, so players feel immersed in exciting, thriller movie-like settings. Our aspiration is to make our players be the main character in a scene out of a movie. Breakout brands itself as premium and exclusive, emphasizing on friendly and efficient customer service.

How did you come up with the idea of Breakout?

One of the co-founders, Johnny Ong traveled to China in August 2013 and encountered the escape game industry while it was at it early stage. He tried one or two of these games and got hooked but at the same time, he thinks there is so much more improvement could be done to make the game more immersive and surreal. When he came back, he shared with a bunch of friends on his experiences. After hearing his idea, I did more researched on the industry and convinced the other that this might be something we could work on together.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Breakout?

When we first started off, all of us are the full-time worker in the corporate world. We used to spend 4-5 hours daily after our working hour in one of the shopping mall’s food court on brainstorming our idea for the product. As we only have limited resources at that time, we plan out everything in details. We know that we can’t afford many mistakes during the construction of the room hence, we did a lot of details planning.

It was a hard time but I would say a sweet moment as it was the time we really go to know each other better. I still remember how we used to spend our time discussing till the mall closes its door to visitor every day and even the food court staff could recognize us as we are always the last people to leave the place. This lasted about half a year before we finally are able to secure a mall that is willing to take us up.

In May 2014, we open our door to the public. During that time, we were testing the water to see how our product is being accepted by the public. All of us agreed that we shall still be working in our full-time job except Johnny who will be leading the operation team in full force in Breakout.

Within 3 months of opening, we have been growing rapidly and was voted #1 things to do in Kuala Lumpur in TripAdvisor and has set the bar higher for the reality escape game industries in Malaysia

Then, we have been approached by many interested parties to bring our brand abroad. As we are very new then, we have turned down a few parties, as we wanted to make sure we could still provide the same quality, if not better throughout all outlets.

Within 5 months of opening, all of us agreed that it is time to make the leap of faith and join in full force to develop and expand the brand. We go through vigorous activities to come out with our franchise package and operational module. We wanted to make sure all of our outlets would be able to provide the same kind of prestigious and unique reality escape game experiences as we did in our first outlet. We now have outlets in Malaysia, Canada, United States and South Korea and are looking forward to further expand to Europe, Middle East, Australian and New Zealand.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

I believe that every startup will have it own difficulties while I consider ours as quite interesting. In the initial stage of the startup, Johnny and I started with 3 others friends. Although all of us are working in the corporate world with a stable income, we are no big player in term of finance and experiences in the retail world. We had approached many shopping malls in hope to get a retail store but we got the rejection one after another. Within 2 months time, 3 other friends gave up on the startup. Johnny and I were devastated at the point of time. I had a chat with Johnny to see if he still want to continue with this despite all the rejection and the lack of capital. Luckily he said yes and to be honest if Johnny was to say no, I would have given up too.

At that point, both of us still believes in our vision, however, we might need to approach the situation differently. We went back to ground zero. First with selection of our partners, we know that we will not be able to go far with just two of us in the team, hence on that day itself, we literally pull out our phone and go through all our contact one by one to screen through potential people whom will believe in our vision and will make the team stronger. We prepared a presentation of what it is and our vision of the startup. Within a month or two, we have got Ken, Gavin, and Kawai that believe in our vision. All of us have our own forte and different skill set which make us a more versatile and successful team.

How have you been developing Breakout since startup?

It started off as an idea to bring in new, creative and unique experiences to the Malaysian community. We want these unique experiences to be an inspiration for people to do more to break out from their mundane life and comfort zone. From this idea, we created our company vision, which is to inspire new possibilities and breakthroughs in the creative industry.

We also believe that good products and excellent customer service are crucial in sustaining and expanding our business. Hence, we put in a lot of effort and emphasis in making sure our games and product are of high quality to our customers. By doing this also, will enable us to create a value-generating and sustainable business model to our franchisee.

What kind of feedback did you get for Breakout so far?

For the past 2 years, we had received a lot of good feedback from the customers regarding on our quality games design with strong storylines, unique experiences of our character based escape games and excellent feedback on our customer’s services. Although with all these good feedback, we know that we can’t rest on our laurels, and our commitment is to give our best to our customers.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

Yes, we do face a lot of competition in these industries, locally and abroad. However, I think competition is important to make sure we could further grow this concept to another level. We are not the first player in the industries nor the biggest yet, but we aim to be the best escape game company in the world. For Breakout Escape Game, our strategy is to focus on our overall core business innovation to fuel our expansion plan. There are three segments we will be focusing on in improving our core business, namely our product innovation, leaner operation and lower production cost.

What can you tell us about the industry?

This industry is fairly new but is a rapid-growth business concept in Europe and America. We notice there are a lot of newcomer into the industries, some are growing but some, unfortunately, are already experiencing closure due to saturation and lack of innovation.

To grow and expand in this industry, we need to be more creative and are willing to spend more resources on developing quality gameplay, investing in new technology and bring in more surreal experiences to our players.

What is the future of this industry?

I think the industries are very much in its initial stage still and there are a lot of gaps which we can close and create a new breakthrough in it. For Breakout Escape Game, we plan to invest more into new technology to create surreal experiences to our players. Our plan is to build dynamic rooms with multiple outcomes that can change based on the players’ reactions and strategies. Breakout is also looking into creating a more lean and uninterrupted gameplay for players through the development of a unique in-game application that will tell the story and lead the players throughout the game without outside distractions. In addition, Breakout is looking into creating more interchangeable puzzles at a lower cost.

Was there anything that disappointed you initially?

I wouldn’t say is a disappointment but it helps us to shift our mentality in our business venture. During the initial stage, we don’t have much capital to start with. Our strategy was to start to work on the other things first and then to see if we will be able to secure a loan down the road. As the concept are quite new and there is no proven “success stories”, we didn’t manage to obtain any loan at all. End up, each of the founder pledge around USD 9,000 to start the business. The amount is really not much but we have to work with what we had. So we are really careful in using the capital and have to be “creative” in some case to get the most of what we had.

It looked like a disappointment at first, but looking back, I am glad we didn’t manage to secure a loan at our initial stage. It is because it does really helped us to shape our mentality and commitment when our hard-earned money are at stake.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

I think it is easier to be an entrepeneur in Asia as we are experiencing so much growth right now in Asia and with the advancement of technologies, it helps us in getting more information at the shortest time and turning it into opportunities.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

I noticed that Asian entrepreneur are very much communial based while Western entrepreneur are more individualistic in their entrepreneurship practice due to the differences in culture and practices. In general, it affects the way entrepeneur runs the business from decision making to take the next step forward. I do think both sides have it pro and con but with globalization, I think this shall not be the subject that drives us further but instead helps each other to become a better entrepreneur.

What is your definition of success?

For me, success means fulfilling my life purpose of creating love and joy to humanity.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I always wanted to challenges myself to be better in work and life and entrepreneurship are able to provide me the platform to do so.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

Willing to take full responsibilities in making you vision a success

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

I always asked myself this questions every time I am in doubt: “Will I regret not doing this if today is my last day?”

Connect

Web: www.breakoutescapegame.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/breakout—real-escape-game

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/breakoutmy

Callum Connects

Rishabh Singhvi & Varun Saraf, Co-Founders of Why Q

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Surprised by the lack of delivery services available for local Singaporean hawker stall foods, Rishabh and Varun started their own delivery service.

What’s your story?
Varun and I moved to Singapore in 2008 and soon turned into foodies. After completing our studies at SMU, we worked in corporate offices in the Singapore CBD for 4 years. Here, we faced the problem of long queues and found it hard to find feasible delivery options on a day to day basis. We made it our goal to help others like us, so they don’t face the same problem of finding affordable yet tasty options to eat their daily meal. The name asks all those queuing up at food courts and hawker centres a simple question – Why Queue … when we can bring Singapore’s favorite hawker food to you?

What excites you most about your industry?
The Hawker culture is the most exciting and intriguing part of the food industry in Singapore. It is deep-rooted in the local Singapore culture. There is rich variety of cuisines available under one roof, food is delicious and very affordable. We were very surprised how this part of the food industry was completely ignored by other food deliveries.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and brought up in India and have been staying in Singapore for the past 10 years.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
The ease of running a start-up and the professionalism makes Singapore my favourite city for business. It has the most business-friendly regulations, low start-up costs and takes only a week to register and get your business going.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos

Who inspires you?
Hawker Uncle and Aunties are our Hawker Heroes. Most of the stalls are family-run businesses. The dedication and hard-work that they put in is commendable. They come to the hawker centre at 3am to start preparing food for the day and leave only in the evening after cleaning and washing everything.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
We are leaning so much about our hawker partners through our #HawkersOfSG series, inspired by #HumansOfNewYork. For example, one of our hawker partners was into advertising (until the 2008 recession started, after which he started one of the most popular hawker stalls in the country) while the other used to sell and ride Harley Davidson bikes (and now sells black pepper rice bowls). Their stories and how they turned into our Hawker Heroes continues to inspire us and blow us away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I think I haven’t reached that stage in life yet where I look back and want to do things differently.

How do you unwind?
Watching and playing football 🙂

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, definitely. One of the most beautiful and chill places.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Shameless plug for your business:
Cheapest and largest Hawker Food delivery in Singapore.

How can people connect with you?
On whatsapp at 90268776 or email at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
We’re on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whyqsg/ and Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/whyqsg/

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

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

Continue Reading

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