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Khailee Ng, Founder Of Says.com

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Khailee Ng is a technology entrepreneur who co-founded GroupsMore, a leading group buying company acquired by Groupon in 2011, and SAYS.com, a regional social media advertising and news network. In October 2013, following the completion of the merger of Says Sdn Bhd with certain subsidiaries of Catcha Media Berhad, Rev Asia was formed and Khailee was appointed Chairman to the Board of Directors. Khailee has also invested in numerous startups in Malaysia and the USA, and mentors young startups as entrepreneur-in-residence with the global seed fund and incubator 500 Startups, as well as Founder’s Institute.

He studied business and marketing in California at San Francisco State University and University of California Berkeley, and University of Technology, Sydney. His success at a young age earned him the HSBC Young Entrepreneur Award (Best in Asia) and an invitation by the US State Government into the prestigious IVLP, joining notable alumni like Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Mahathir Mohamad.

Today, The Asian Entrepreneur is priveleged to speak to Khailee Ng about his work and views on Asian entrepreneurship.

says_founder

What exactly is Says?

Says.com is a social news network. We curate different news sources into a single news story and our readers share it through social media to reach more than 2 million Malaysians monthly. Half a million of these readers don’t read any of the top 4 online news portals. The social media generation seems to really dig our approach.

How did the idea for Says come about?

Our friends and I realized that:

1. To get the full story surrounding a particular piece of news, you have to visit many different sites

2. Most news websites are full of words, and carried very few pictures or video

So we created a news site that summarized the words into ‘bullets’, but gathered all the images and video together

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

We stared doing one thing. Kept doing many things. And never stopped.

What has it been like managing the business since?

The team that manages Says.com is young, driven, super smart, creative and make for brutal executors. They take great care of the business, ensuring the workplace is an environment where the very best people want to work, an environment that sets people free to do what needs to be done.

Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup? 

A lot of entrepreneurs brag about how hard their life was, and the media loves writing about this. My view is that difficulty is relative to the size of your ambition. If you think small, small problems affect you. If you think big, it takes a big problem to affect you. When things are tough I’ve always encouraged my team to think bigger and find new solutions. I’m fortunate this has made things easier rather than more difficult. The tough times we go through are short lived and we always end up looking at them as just another day at work.

Was it hard to build the visitors base initially for your website?

The first 12 months was slow. We spent a lot of time winning our readers over one story at a time, challenging our assumptions, and iterating on our product and approach. During Malaysia’s 2013 General Elections, we received a lot of really positive feedback on our coverage. Eventually, people got hooked on our style of news. A considerable number of our stories would get up to hundreds and thousands of reads in a week. And now we’re growing so fast, we see a chance to beat the traditional news websites and be number one.

What is your strategy against your competition?

Our only competition is our complacent selves. We focus on being better than we were the month before.

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

News that isn’t shared across social media isn’t news worthy. The real front page is not the front page of a newspaper the paper’s landing page – it’s what people see when they load their Facebook or Twitter.

How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?

That’s not a concern of ours. We want to stay valuable; value creates relevance. Too often people associate relevance with being new or current. We focus on what drives value in news. We’re not the fastest news source, we don’t even have exclusive reporting, but we have the most complete account of a news story, displayed in an easy to view format that can be scanned at speed. People get a lot of value very, very, quickly. We try to do this better and for more people, and the way we deliver this value might evolve as content consumption habits evolve, but we focus on being valuable.

What does the future hold for Says?

You may see our approach translate to more verticals, and to more markets, if our approach adds value there.

 What do you think about startups in Asia?

Many startups in Asia are trying to answer big problems and go after big opportunities. I invest in many of them via the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm 500 Startups – I take care of their Southeast Asia fund – and am really excited about where all of this is headed.

What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?

I am very skeptical of advice and conventions people lazily accept as true. I like trying to understand the deeper truth behind situations. People think I’m just being a contrarian, but really I’m just being curious.

What is your definition of success?

You wake up feeling you’re doing exactly what you’re meant to be doing that day.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I didn’t. I like creating things. Business just happens to be a useful vehicle for achieving that. It’s a means of gathering resources, people, and energy to create things I can’t create on my own.

What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?

They are the biggest limitation to their own successes. The moment they grow their thinking, grow their access to resources, grow their access to knowledge, their businesses will grow too.

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

There’s a whole bunch of things one can only start to describe, but continuous learning does stand out as the one thing people overlook from time to time.

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Connect

Website: http://khailee.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/khailee

Facebook: www.facebook.com/khailee

Twitter: https://twitter.com/khailee

Callum Connects

Jason Feng, Co-Founder of Pillpresso

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Mr. Jason Feng is re-engineering the healthcare industry.

What’s your story?
I am an engineer at heart. I enjoy the process of problem solving and have been actively developing innovative solutions to existing problems. Me and my co-founder settled on the problem of poor medication adherence among the elderly. This was a problem which struck a chord with us because we all have loved ones who have to take multiple medications on a daily basis. The complex medication regimen, coupled with declining cognitive abilities of the elderly tend to exacerbate the lack of medication adherence, which may lead to disease relapse and hospital readmissions, ultimately increasing the burden to caregivers and the society.

What excites you most about your industry?
The problem of medication adherence is not a new one in the healthcare industry. In fact, lack of medication adherence is a well-researched problem in many countries. Solutions which have been developed to address this problem face three major issues:

  • Entrenched mindset within the healthcare system, many of which are used to and unwilling to change from the legacy systems which were implemented decades ago.
  • Complex nuances in healthcare delivery across different countries, making it hard to “copy” and “paste” solutions which have worked well in other areas.
  • Because poor medication adherence is multifactorial, and many solutions focus solely on a few aspects, and do not employ a holistic approach.

Nevertheless, entering this industry at this time excites me because we are in the midst of a global shift in healthcare models; one where the industry is moving away from a service-based model, towards a more value-based model. This shift means that traditional players such as insurance companies and pharmaceuticals are under increasing pressure from patients and payers to demonstrate the value of their products under real-world use. Medication adherence data is one crucial missing link in this puzzle to deliver better care to patients. Being able to build a business around these incumbents and pioneer a new way of care is something which I look forward to.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean. Most of my experiences throughout my life have been in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have not worked in other Asian countries outside of Singapore, so I can’t comment on other Asian countries too much. Singapore has a relatively low barrier for starting a business, and all business rules and regulations are clear and transparent. The startup ecosystem is also rather comprehensive and easily accessible. Being a small country, Singapore has a very limited market for products and services. However, due to its size and efficiency, it serves as an excellent test bed for new ideas. Being a travel hub, travelling to other Asian countries is cheap and easy.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Fail fast, fail often. The greatest lessons are never learnt through success.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Successful launch of Falcon Heavy and the recovery of the 2 side cores. The way the 2 cores landed was like something you’d only see in CGI. Very well calculated.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Applied for NOC (NUS Overseas College)

How do you unwind?
Go rock climbing.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Nepal. I’m an outdoors guy. Being able to trek around the Himalayas is probably the best form of relaxation for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Creative confidence, by the Kelly Brothers

Shameless plug for your business:
Pillpresso is an award-winning health-tech startup that aims to improve medication adherence. We’re developing a medication management system that empowers seniors to manage their medicines independently and deliver proactive healthcare in the community through technology. Comprising individuals with complementary skills across business, engineering and medicine, our team is driven by a desire to improve healthcare and the human condition.

Grand Prize Winner of the 2017 Tech Factor Challenge
https://www.opengovasia.com/articles/8072-top-4-grand-prize-winners-for-3rd-edition-of-ageing-in-place-tech-challenge-announced-in-singapore

Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 Modern Aging
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/3-teams-receive-s-125-000-of-seed-funding-for-elderly-friendly-i-8246318

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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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Entrepreneurship

Will Financial Liberalisation Trigger a Crisis in China?

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been liberalizing its financial system for nearly 4 decades. While it now has a comprehensive financial system with a large number of financial institutions and large financial assets, its financial policies are still highly repressive. These repressive financial policies are now a major hindrance to the PRC’s economic growth.

The PRC is at the beginning of a new wave of financial liberalization that is necessary for supporting the country’s strong economic growth. The country’s leaders have already unveiled a comprehensive program of financial reform, which includes 11 specific reform measures in three broad areas: creating a level-playing field (such as allowing private banks and developing inclusive finance), freeing the market mechanism (such as reforming interest rate and exchange rate regimes and achieving capital account convertibility), and improving regulation.

But could financial liberalization lead to a major financial crisis in the PRC? What would be the consequences for financial stability as the PRC moves to further liberalize its financial system? If the PRC repeats the painful experiences of Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand, then it might not be able to achieve its original goal of overcoming the middle-income trap.

International experiences of financial liberalization, especially those of middle-income economies, should offer important lessons for the PRC. In our new research, based on cross-country data analysis, we find that financial liberalization, in general, reduces, not increases, financial instability. This powerful conclusion is valid whether financial instability is measured by crisis occurrence or by fragility indicators, such as impaired loans and net charge-offs. The only exception is that financial liberalization does not appear to significantly lower the probability of systemic banking crises, although it does lower the risk indicators for banks. These results have higher statistical significance and are greater in magnitude for the middle-income group than for the entire sample.

The insignificant impact on banking crises, however, should be interpreted with caution. One of the possible explanations is that under the repressed financial regime, the government supports banks with an implicit or explicit blanket guarantee. This reduces the probability of an explicit banking crisis, although the banking risks may be even greater because of the moral hazard problem. In fact, government protection of banks could also increase the probability of a sovereign debt crisis or even a currency crisis before financial liberalization.

If financial liberalization significantly reduces the likelihood of financial crises, especially in middle-income economies, then why did some middle-income economies experience financial crises following liberalization? We further investigate whether the pace of liberalization, the supervisory structure, and the institutional environment matter for outcomes of financial liberalization.

We obtain three main findings. First, an excessively rapid pace of financial liberalization may increase financial risks. The net impact on financial instability depends on the relative importance of the “liberalization effect” and the “pace effect.” In essence, what the “pace effect” captures could simply be the prerequisite conditions and reform sequencing that are well discussed in the literature. Second, the quality of institutions, such as investor protection and law and order, also matter. International experiences indicate that investor protection can significantly reduce the probability of financial crises. Third, the central bank’s participation in financial regulation is helpful for reducing financial risks during financial liberalization. This is probably because central banks always play central roles in financial liberalization, especially in the liberalization of interest rates, exchange rates, and the capital account. If a central bank is responsible for financial regulation, its liberalization policies might be more cautious and prudent.

Our research findings offer important policy implications for the PRC. (1) Further financial liberalization is necessary not only for sustaining strong economic growth but also for containing or reducing financial risks. (2) Gradual reform may still work better than the “big bang” approach, and sequencing is very important for avoiding the painful financial volatilities that many other middle-income countries have seen. (3) The government should also focus more on improving the quality of other institutions, especially market discipline, to contain financial risks. (4) It is better for the central bank to participate in financial regulation. The new regulatory system should focus exclusively on financial stability and shift from regulating institutions toward regulating functions. It should also become relatively independent to increase accountability.

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About the Author 

This submitted article was written by  and  of Asia Pathways, the blog of The Asian Development Bank Institute was established in 1997 in Tokyo, Japan, to help build capacity, skills, and knowledge related to poverty reduction and other areas that support long-term growth and competitiveness in developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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