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Nellie Wartoft, Co-Founder & COO of Sapio

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From the forest in Sweden, Nellie Wartoft is turning education on its head in the Asian markets.

What’s your story?
I grew up in a small town right in the middle of the forest in southern Sweden. Being obsessed with Asia since my early teens due to the rapid economic growth, sheer market size and the opportunities in this region, I booked a one-way flight at age 18 and I have never looked back.
Since arriving in Singapore I’ve spent four years in recruitment, and started two companies. The business I’m running now, Sapio, is to a large extent founded to solve the problems of economic mobility and employability – common issues I witnessed first-hand every day as a recruiter.

What excites you most about your industry?
The fact that knowledge is the foundation of everything, and with it you can do anything! “Knowledge is king” has overtaken the popular “cash is king” as a universal truth – because with the right knowledge, you can get cash! Whether it is starting your own business, shifting industries, learning a new language, saving for your pension, building new relationships or running for president – it all starts with increasing your understanding and knowledge of the area. The education industry is also exciting right now because it is yet to be disrupted – it hasn’t changed a bit in the past 200 years!

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve spent all my adult years in Asia. I went to university in Singapore and South Korea, have worked in Singapore, and have travelled to all countries in the region except three (on my list for this year!). My friends and team are from all across Asia – Singapore, India, China, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Japan and so on – and I speak conversational Mandarin.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – that’s why I’m here! The high concentration of APAC HQs and decision makers on the ground makes it a place where you can get things done and decisions made in a shorter period of time. The international talent pool, English being the business language, and the well-connected airport also adds to the list of attractive factors.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Motivation comes and goes – discipline is what will get you through the lows.”
Whether it’s starting your own business, sticking to a new fitness routine or working for that promotion – the above motto is what has got me through a lot of lows. Never rely on your motivation. Motivation is a fragile thing and requires a lot of work to manage and keep at a productive level. It is also part of the puzzle in life that you won’t feel great all the time and it won’t be easy – but that doesn’t mean you should stop working towards your goals. Discipline is your best friend through anything, because it’s the friend that turns those goals into reality.

Who inspires you?
My co-founder Ben for his ability to always think big, be crazy and never lose sight of the greater plan; Meryl Streep for using her global recognition and public voice to inspire and be a wise role model for all of us; and my mother for her patience, tolerance and showing me that there are always two sides of each coin – the world isn’t black and white.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That only 91 % of what we learn in university is applicable in our careers. I had a feeling it was a majority, but 91 % is just mind blowing. Sure – it’s good to learn for intellectual reasons too, but the majority of graduates are studying in order to get a job post-graduation. They’re hoping that all the hours and money they poured into their education will one day pay off. Turns out it doesn’t!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have started studying Mandarin earlier. At age 1 if I could have! I’m jealous of people in Singapore who grew up with both Mandarin and English as their first languages. I’ve been learning for the past five years and I’m still just a 6 out of 10 at best.

How do you unwind?
I read a lot of non-fiction books. Somehow, it seems to me that books are the only medium that can make sense out of this world! Through books I can travel and experience worlds and eras I otherwise couldn’t. I also consider it to be a luxury to be able to step inside the minds of people like Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Jack Ma and Lee Kuan Yew for a few hours for just $20!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Ubud for its fantastic range of vegan food! It’s also a great place to be close to the tropical jungle and live a simple life under the palm trees. It’s a great contrast to the concrete jungle of Singapore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Wealth Secrets of the 1%” by the economist Sam Wilkin. It’s an economic explanation of the stories of the greatest companies and most successful business people. It goes beyond the usual soft talk of motivation, risk-taking and resilience, and looks at hard facts and theories involving governments, laws and economic factors during the lifetimes of wealthy people – from the ancient Romans to John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates.

Shameless plug for your business:
Sapio is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique in-person learning experiences with experts in your community. Simply, a sharing economy for knowledge!
Whether it be a private mentoring session with a top investment banker, an evening class with an influential blogger, or a podcast with a successful entrepreneur, we connect hungry learners and subject matter experts on topics that get you ahead in life. Through content that is aspirational, accessible and actionable, you can access knowledge straight from leading experts and practitioners across the four categories: Business, Careers, Personal Finance and Entrepreneurship. We’re everything you wish you’d learnt in school!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]
https://www.linkedin.com/in/nelliewartoft/
http://www.sapio.com

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

Clairine Runtung, Investment Manager of Convergence Ventures

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Early-stage venture capitalist, Clairine Runtung, shares her story and passion for helping build Indonesia’s technology ecosystem. In her role, she helps local entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, while also finding time to coach and mentor young women in venture capital through an organisation she co-founded in early 2017.

What’s your story?
Having lived in 4 different cities within 3 different countries throughout my career working in finance, I had always been drawn to not only numbers but also diversity, people and their stories. When an opportunity came about for me to join a tech VC firm in Jakarta, I jumped at the chance, after working for a number of years in a boutique investment consulting firm, a global asset management firm and a non-profit foundation.

I currently lead the investment team at Convergence Ventures, an Indonesia-based early-stage venture capital fund. My work includes sourcing deals, conducting due diligence, reviewing legal documents and most importantly, working with my colleagues in Investment, HR and Business Development teams to support our founders. My job requires relentless intellectual curiosity, analytical and communication skills, and ultimately passion to help the shaping and building of Indonesia’s tech ecosystem.

Early in 2017, I co-founded a Young Women in VC (renamed SheVC Indonesia in September 2017, as part of the global Pan-Asian SheVC network), focused on networking, mentoring and building a community for junior to mid-level female VCs. Our local membership grew to over 20 people within 6 months, and I personally mentored 3 young women just joining the industry. Aside from tech VC, I am also involved in being a Council for Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa, a non-profit organization focusing on youth and education, as well as being a mentor and a judge to a number of local tech startup events and competition. Beginning September, I will be attending Yale School of Management to pursue a 2-year MBA program.

What excites you most about your industry?
The never-ending learning, rapid progress, and people attempting to solve real problems through technology. I cannot wait to see what will unfold within tech-VC space in Indonesia in the next 5-10 years. My team and I think we are following China’s growth trajectory though to get there we need major support from the Government and foreign investors.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. I worked for 2.5 years in Singapore. I was educated in the United States and lived there but I am still very much deeply-rooted in Asia. After grad school, I plan on moving back to Asia for sure.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Jakarta and Singapore for two extremely different reasons.
Jakarta, because the city’s urban challenge actually shapes you to become a resilient hustler. Not to mention the fact that the city has a dynamic tech VC landscape that’s rapidly evolving year by year.
Singapore, because I take pleasure in how efficient, effective and structured the city state is!

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The only way out is through”
“Leave your mark, build a legacy, no matter how tiny you think it is.”

Who inspires you?
My dad and everyone around me who was not born with silver spoons in their mouth.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It’s amazing how your body can truly adjust to the power of your mind. I have recently increased the frequency of my Intermittent Fasting routine, from only once a week to twice a week. Essentially, twice in a week I’d fast between 22-24 hours. Though skeptical and challenging at first, after a month, I rarely feel hungry/starving on those two scheduled fasting days. Interestingly, I also feel the most productive at work on days that I am fasting.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. If there is anything I’d like to tell myself over and over again, is to never regret and to look only forward.

How do you unwind?
Take a hot shower, drink a cup of tea and read a book (I alternate between fiction and non-fiction) or watch videos (I also alternate between entertaining and educating videos). On some days, you can find me winding down over a nice dinner with friends or family.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, Jogjakarta and Manado. All cities are in Indonesia.
Bali for its beaches, sunshine and the feeling of being surrounded by carefree people. Jogjakarta for its Javanese cultural and heritage. Manado because it’s where my dad was born and where my grandparents live. In my opinion, each city has something different to offer that contributes to my way of relaxing.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Golden Passport – Duff McDonald

Shameless plug for your business:
Instagram Story and straight up telling friends, acquaintances and even strangers about how awesome the work that I do is.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clairineruntung/
Personal email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@clairineruntung though I have been inactive for years. I am much more active on LinkedIn these days. Find me on IG @clairineruntung as well.

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

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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