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Mario Berta, Founder of FlySpaces

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Mario Berta is the founder and CEO of FlySpaces.com, a tech-start up that empowers SMEs to get access to flexible office and retail space. Mario is a professional Speaker with more than 5 years of experience in helping Corporation with their digital transformations.

Previously, Mario served as a Senior Consultant to PLDT Global and had a stint as Nova Founder’s director for growth, a tech incubator and VC firm that boasts among its investor Richard Li (among HK’s richest tycoon) and Asia Regional Co-Founder of Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi, which saw immense growth under his leadership. His wealth of experience is also topped up by the fact that, he was also a contestant in “The Apprentice”.

A true global professional with extensive experience in leadership, strategy, innovation and expansion, Mario is passionate about empowering and enabling people, developing businesses, and supporting companies and institutions all around the World. The FlySpaces.com is a venture embedded with Mario’s drive, values and beliefs and he shares with us his story today.

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In your own words what is FlySpaces?

We self brand ourselves as the “Airbnb” for office space, we are a market place for short-term commercial rentals.

How did you come up with the idea of FlySpaces?

I had to go through the immense pain of finding an office myself multiple times in my previous ventures, and dealing with Landlords.

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

We started in the Philippines, which is also our operational HQ, well Philippines does not score high in “easy place to do business” but again thanks to my previous experience it was relatively easy. Then we set up operations in Singapore, which is our Holding and where we have a small office. Most our team is in Manila and it was my team in my previous times in Rocket Internet and Nova Founders.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

Difficulties in building a start-up (of any industry) are ordinary administration! Mostly now as we are new concept we need to educate the market on adoption, if we had to build a “simple” e-commerce company it will be easier, as people are buying items on-line all the time. We are telling businesses to find office space in a different way they are currently searching and using the office space differently. So most is education.

How have you been developing FlySpaces since startup?

We experienced tremendous growth and traction challenge now is to keep up with growth. As many companies we might pivot a little our business model in the future, but is more on the space acquisition side hence not a radical pivot.

Wish I could disclose more on the company direction but I can’t at this stage.

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

People love it ! We save so much time and money for SMEs (which are our primary customers), should be a no brainer for an SMEs to make a fix cost like office space variable, so they scale it up or down based on their business.

But some customer still think we actually own a co-working spaces that’s why we do not put our address on our business cards !

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

There is not ASEAN platform like ours as of now, our competitors are the local players (so a localize platform in MY, another one in Sing etc..). The big American guys are focusing in the US, Canada and Australia. We wanted the first moving advantage that in a market place is critical for success.

In a way we compete with our own merchants to find the leads before them. But we can provide an seamless solutions for SMEs to find office space without having them going merchant by merchants, and our price by mandatory-policy are the same as customer will be going to merchants directly.

What can you tell us about the industry?

The best example is having the World’s 3rd most valued start up operating in this space (WeWork), investors they are also betting that companies will change the way they occupy their office space, and WeWork, which is a “full chain” player, is a great example. The continuous growth of players like Regus (which is our partner) and co-working spaces in this part of the world is the sign that this trend is hitting the SEA region.

What is the future of the industry?

I believe companies will look at office space as more commoditized thing, we will still need developer to build amazing and sustainable buildings but what it will change will be how spaces will be occupied hence monetized. Big Corporations will always take conventional big offices, but the SMEs that always made about 90% of the companies and employ 70% of the work force in any economy will look at office space differently.

As tech and asset free players, we can easily adapt to changes, not event WeWork could be as agile as we could be. Even with if everything goes according the plan (which never does) for WeWork takes at least 18 months to find a space, do the JV, lawyers’ negotiations, start construction, launch the space. We acquire spaces over 1 skype phone call.

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

Of course! Asia is still not a first mover market, when we talk to big developers instead of looking at us as en opportunity to learn and diversifying their risk, they look at us as potentials treat and this is sooooo common in this part of the world. But I am convinced that once a trend hits Asia it moves 10x faster then other places in the World, due to their tech savvy and young populations. A great example is Capital Land, doing a JV to build their first co-working space. The trend has started!

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

Thanks for this question! I am a great fan of Asia, I think there is not OTHER PLACE in the World better than Asia to be and to be an entrepreneur. When I took some “sabbatical” time after my times in Rocket Internet I travelled to Latin America (only part of the world I did not know) and yes is a great place all over from Mexico to Colombia and Brazil, but still light years away from the vibrancy of the Asians’ megalopolis. Buenos Aires, San Paolo, Bogota are not even close to Manila, Jakarta or Hong Kong in terms on what is happening at every level.

Nonetheless Asia still face some challenges mostly related to finding talents, but the hard working mentality of the Asian’s people is nearly-impossible to find it in other part of the World.

I am native Italian but I have spent a considerable amount of time in Spain and other EU countries and I always tell my University mates and child-hood friends that their only problem is not having problems at all. Europeans are accustomed to very accommodating policies by their governments (some one more than others).

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Back on to my point of the question above is talent related.

I think there are 2 main issues that are still road-blocking the boom of an entrepreneurship spirits in this part of the world.

  1. Is Socio-Economic:-

Most of the middle class in the SEA’s region has just in this decade (a side from SG and HK of course) reached the comfort zone, meaning only recently they can finally afford a car and finally afford a home, it will take time for these middle classes to evolve and be willing to leave this comfort zone. The economies are doing so well that any good-educated person can get a very decent job from the big conglomerates which control basically most of the sectors the SEA’s economy, Philippines top 40 families represents 88% of the country’s GDP for instance. Even us we compete with the big telecom to hire ops managers and marketing managers, we offer a great working environment but much less money than a telecom, instead they can offedr a telecom working environment but more money, more benefits, more stability, less work loads, etc.

  1. Cultural:-

The very essence of Entrepreneurship is based on taking big risk, thinking dramatically out of the box, being a hassle, not taking no for an answer, being perseverant, not respecting rankings or procedures. Now, these are threads that I do not see in this part of the world yet, a part from rare cases.

As mentioned before SEA’s economies are dominated by the Tycoons, these guys where the only ones following the “non-rules” if you look at their past you can see these common threads.

Every single conglomerate in this part of the world is trying to build a sort of “innovation center” in within its organization and they are all dramatically failing cause there are recycling their own people to do that. I.e. If you want to build a innovation center of a bank you need to hire NON banking people and so on.

China I think is the exception there is a tremendous entrepreneurship drive, but I am not an expert on China.

What is your definition of success?

I think you can tangibly defined success but you have to use your own metric, in my case is very simple is money, but money is a result of a lot things that you did very well. I would like to see Flyspaces becoming a 1 Billion dollar company because of the prestige that comes with it and the market recognition of changing how the world use office space. I do not really need 1 billion in my bank account as long as the company does well and the employees are “infected with our culture”

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

It was Rocket Internet’s fault! (Better to say merit). Rocket is the best school of entrepreneurs in the world. I enjoyed every single day I worked there. They allow me to build a company as I was it was mine (at least at the beginning), they finance it and they also pay me to do so. Thanks to rocket I shifted from a corporate person to an entrepreneur, I will never be grateful enough to them for that. And at some point like many former rocket we decide to build our own ventures, that bing jump of the cliff not that big anymore.

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

I believe most of them are the ones I mentioned above, but one: being great recruiter, nowhere in the world like in Asia you need a strong team, if you are an A player you hire an A+ player and so on, hire people that are better than you than can complete you.

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

Let’s Do It!

Connect

https://web.facebook.com/mario.stark.16

https://ph.linkedin.com/in/marioberta

www.marioberta.net

Callum Connects

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings

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Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@malcolmABM

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

William Chin, Founder of Mummy’s Market

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William Chin set up Mummy’s Market. Mummy’s Market is the uncontested platform connecting parents and retailers in Singapore.

What’s your story?
After National Service, I enjoyed a rousing start to my corporate career with successful stints at events and conventions companies such as IQPC, Hannover Fairs Australia and Lighthouse Independent Media in management roles, building my experience in conventions, trade fairs and events.

However, I hit a particularly bad streak of unemployment after that, facing difficulty finding jobs because according to recruiters, I was overqualified, yet too young. In fact, at one point I was struggling so badly with my family loans that I was sharing bowls of ramen with my girlfriend for our meals, to save costs.

My financial pressures eventually culminated in my forced venture into entrepreneurship where I had to strike out my own path with a brief stint in Expomal. However, this turned out to be my next break that fuelled my current success. It was there I built up Smartkids (another wildly successful baby and child fair) before it was bought out by a bigger company. Inspired by SmartKids, I started Mummy’s Market and eventually Baby’s Market, outperforming established names in the business to take its current place as market leader.

What excites you most about your industry?
Mummy’s Market is the industry leader in baby, kids, maternity and household with 80% market share and our clients – coupled with branding, advertising and exhibiting on Mummy’s Market platforms, we are seeing a 30-60% company growth year on year despite the downturn in the economy. With attendance of over 100k consumers per fair and serving 70-80% of pregnant mums, our actual business is in data, data collection and processing from consumer fairs.

I am excited about how big data analytics from Mummy’s Market can be applied at every stage of the retail process such as data segmentation – for retailers now when mums are giving birth to sending relevant content over. This will transform and innovate the industry of baby fairs and Mummy’s Market, with the huge amount of data we process from our fairs yearly, is the forerunner in this disruption. With this, we have transformed the DNA of how digital business has always been done. Global online marketplaces are burning cash quickly to achieve big data analytics, but not us.

Another testament to Mummy’s Market’s popularity is that huge marketplaces have been trying to pass off as Mummy’s Market. It shows that we are heading in the right direction and the most exciting part is, we are only at 10% of where we want to be – a platform where $1 billion gross market value products are transacted annually around Asia in a niche market.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore, and intend to stay in Singapore to build the Mummy’s Market brand.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – if one can strategically become a leader in a small market like Singapore, its grounds to show that one’s business has an opportunity to grow further in larger countries.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“It is easy to become number 1 because the others can just copy and tweak to overtake you.
It is more difficult to STAY number 1, because you have no one to copy. You have to innovate.”

Who inspires you?
Steve Jobs – he transformed the digital age. Without the invention of smartphones, mobile computing and mobile advertising would never have grown. He changed the way businesses and consumers communicate. Without the introduction of iPhones, mobile applications would have never existed the way we are using them today.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You no longer have to lick stamps to make it sticky.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I love my life and my family. And I love the platform Mummy’s Market has created to help businesses grow.

How do you unwind?
I play with my little 1 year old baby girl.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan – cool weather with beautiful mountains and lake scenery.

Everyone in business should read this book:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

Shameless plug for your business:
Mummy’s Market has established its reputation as not just Singapore’s but Southeast Asia’s largest baby fair:

  • Nearly S$100 million gross merchandise volume transacted on Mummy’s Market platforms annually
  • 800,000 visitors at its fairs yearly
  • 80% of all of Singapore’s baby product distributors in one convention
  • 15-20% year on year increase in sales volume at every baby fair since its inception

Apart from market dominance, Mummy’s Market also has the largest database of parents and the number 1 platform for MNCs and SMEs to reach out to this audience. From exhibitions, magazines, seminars to digital campaigns and roadshows. Mummy’s Market is the uncontested platform connecting parents and retailers in Singapore.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]
https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-chin-23910a9/

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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