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Kenneth Tan, CEO & Founder of Sproutfore

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Kenneth believes people should have a better understanding of the source of their food.

What’s your story?
I grew up in a family where we emphasize the quality of the source of the food. We believe that the starting quality of the food source will determine the end result. “Good source, good food.” I finally got to experience what that meant when I was living in Australia. It taught me about the value of food quality. Firstly, it starts with healthy farming practices where chickens aren’t caged or injected with growth hormones and pesticides aren’t used on vegetables. Generally, in Australia, I realised that the quality of food is much higher. That is mainly due to the local agriculture (direct from their local farmers). Quality food is what everybody needs. It is not a “want.”
It should be a culture whereby quality food should be accessible and people should know where and how their food comes from. Not surprising, people have much less information on where their food comes from as compared to where their smartphones are designed and manufactured from. Consumers should be educated on the food they consume as it empowers them to make healthier decisions for their future.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love food. Food is a universal language and everybody loves to eat good food. What excites me the most is being able to communicate with the farmer farmer or the beekeeper who grew / made your food. This is something really, really new and food traceability allows you to chat with the food creator and ask them questions about their harvest. Our team has come across merchants from farmers, pastry chefs to beekeepers. To understand more, our team actually went down personally to a farm, tasted their products (freshly plucked from the crops) and witnessed honey being taken from a beehive. This is something behind the scenes which many people and businesses have never experienced.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Previously, I held the position of Regional Director at Dragon Brand Bird’s Nest for almost four years. That gave me a better insight into the Asian market and culture as I frequently traveled and communicated with business associates in countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Cambodia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore and Taiwan. Growing up in Singapore, I love Singapore’s multi-cultural settings and the convenience of getting food, catching transport and the banking facilities. Establishing a business in Singapore just take seconds. It is convenient to manoeuvre around this city. For Taiwan, the customer service and innovation in marketing is astonishing. You can find creative packaging designs. In Asia, Taiwan is considered a place for art and design.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Nothing comes easy and the harder we work, the luckier we get. It is only the grittiest person who will survive as a successful entrepreneur. Whenever I am met with setbacks, I will always remind myself of this.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk. He went against all odds to create and lead what he believed in – SpaceX and Tesla. It is not easy to take criticism and rejections. It takes a lot of courage to move on or recover from criticism and rejections.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Mobile payments are coming to Singapore. This will create a greater opportunity for Sproutfore’s platform and optimise our QR code system. This is a huge leap for the Singapore payment system and I’m definitely looking forward to that.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I would still choose what I have chosen. I don’t regret a single decision I made or the business that I choose to be in. We never know for sure what the perfect outcome is. I am a hard believer in, ‘you will only see things when you start it and you will never see them when you wait for that perfect moment.’ This is a hard truth. You will never see a clear and perfect path for your ideal business because there isn’t any. The market changes faster than you plan. We have to act on it first and learn from our mistakes and improve progressively.

How do you unwind?
Thinking of unwinding is a bad habit for entrepreneurs.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan during winter. I love cold weather probably because it is pretty humid and hot throughout the year in Singapore. Nice food, nice place to shop and travel. My most memorable place is Universal Studios especially the Harry Potter Village, it is really amazing and Disney Sea Japan!

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
How to take charge of your life by Richard Bandler

Shameless plug for your business:
We make good quality food accessible for everyone. We make a good quality food more affordable by giving our customers a promotion code and loyalty points to offset their purchases. At the same time, consumers will be able to get more information and be more aware of the food they purchase. The hope is, it will raise the standard of food quality in Singapore as well as South East Asia.

How can people connect with you?
They can connect with me via:
Facebook @ Kenneth Tan
Linkedin @ Kenneth M.S. Tan
Instagram @ Kennethmstan
WeChat @ Kenneth M.S. Tan
Youtube @ Kenneth M.S. Tan

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

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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Callum Connects

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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