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NUS Students & Alumni Received Top Prizes At Taiwanese Entrepreneurship Competition

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Singapore – Two Singapore teams, consisting of students and alumni from the National University of Singapore (NUS) received prizes at the 2014 Global Talentrepreneur innovation & Collaboration (GlobalTiC) Award last week. Novelsys received the top prize for the Youth Pre-Start-up category, having competed against 11 other teams from Asia, Europe and South America. Called the JohnnyTiC Award, this included US$2,000 in prize money. Jayden Ooi, from Collappe was awarded the Best CEO, in recognition of his leadership performance and strategic vision. The GlobalTiC Award was held from 18 to 21 August 2014, in Taiwan.

“Our heartiest congratulations to Novelsys and Collape for representing Singapore and NUS so well at this year’s GlobalTiC Awards. Both teams won the Start- [email protected] 2014 business plan competition earlier this year – Novelsys under the Business Venture category and Collappe under the Infocomm category. This made them eligible for the GlobalTiC Award and NUS Enterprise nominated them to join, so they could compete against winning start-ups from around the world. We provided coaching and mentoring to help the teams in this international arena, in particular with their commercialisation and investment plans. Both teams demonstrated maturity, confidence and vision for their start-ups,” said Dr Lily Chan, CEO NUS Enterprise.

From L to R: Kenneth Lou, CEO and Co-founder of Novelsys, Kelvin Tan from NUS Enterprise and Jayden Ooi CEO and Co-founder Collappe. Photo source: NUS Enterprise

Novelsys ampereTM – Reinventing the mobile charging experience

Novelsys (http://www.novelsys.co/) was founded in 2014 by three NUS students – Kenneth Lou (NUS Business School), Delane Foo (NUS Division of Industrial Design) and Mark Keong (NUS Department of Electrical Engineering). They have taken a year off their studies to work on the company, to develop ampereTM, the world’s first wireless charging sleeve for mobile phones. Users simply drop their mobile phone into the sleeve and it charges wirelessly on the go, making it more convenient than bulky power-banks that require wires.

In addition to the US$2,000 GlobalTiC prize money, Novelsys has already received $15,000 in prize money from [email protected], $10,000 from the NUS Enterprise Practicum grant and $5,000 under the Philip Yeo Innovation Fellows Programme. Moving forward, they plan to apply for government grants and launch a crowdfunding campaign by the end of 2014. Novelsys targets to begin shipping their product by Q2 2015, focusing on the U.S. and South East Asia markets. Novelsys aim to position themselves as the leading wireless charging solutions provider, creating an eco-system for wireless charging in the future.

“Competing at the GlobalTiC was a fantastic experience. Over the past year, we have honed our pitch and presentation skills – through [email protected], the Practicum grant and most recently with mentorship provided by Kelvin at GlobalTiC. This event had great networking opportunities – we hope to work with one of the judges in the future as a potential manufacturing partner,” said Kenneth Lou, CEO and Co-founder, Novelsys.

Collappe – Reimaginating Mobile Messaging for Collaboration and Productivity
After observing that many NUS students use standard mobile messaging apps for project work, the Collappe (www.collappe.com) team decided to create a chat- based mobile app that would boost collaboration. Their solution encompasses the simplicity and convenience of a mobile messaging app, as well as the productivity of today’s desktop solutions. Centred around a mobile chat interface, Collappe provides users with the ability to perform project coordination, task assignment and meeting scheduling. A minimal viable product has been developed and is undergoing closed beta user testing within the university. It has currently been well-received and its full launch on both the iOS and Android Stores is planned for Q1 2015.

Collappe is founded by a group of NUS alumni and students, Jayden Ooi (NUS School of Computing alumni), Joey Wang (NUS Faculty of Science alumni), Ivan Chong (NUS School of Computing alumni), Rax Suen (NUS School of Computing alumni) and Weilson Tan (NUS School of Computing undergraduate). Incubated and supported by the NUS School of Computing, they have been awarded a $10,000 NUS VasCo grant, as well as prize money of $15,000 for being the Infocomm Champion at the recent [email protected] competition.

“We made Collappe for students. However during the GlobalTiC Awards event, we received positive validation from industry professionals as well, who suggested the potential for corporate usage. We may explore this further in the future. The competition has opened up bigger networks for reaching out to overseas students in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India. Winning the Best CEO prize was only possible due to the strong team. We want to adopt a mind-set of looking at things differently, in meeting changing consumer behaviour. In this way, we always stay relevant to our customer needs,” said Jayden Ooi, CEO and Co-founder Collappe.

The GlobalTiC Award (http://www.globaltic.org) started in 2007, and is an international competition for talented entrepreneurs who have won national or regional level business competitions. The award has two groups; New Start-up Companies and Youth Pre-Start-ups, with both Novelsys and Collape applying for the latter. Teams must fall within five industries; 1) Social Enterprise, 2) Creativity & Culture, 3) Internet, ICT & Cloud Computing, 4) Green Technology, and 5) Biotechnology & Nanotechology. The GlobalTiC Award aims to foster a stimulating environment for entrepreneurship, by providing incubation, internship, investment and business networking opportunities for its participants.

About National University of Singapore (NUS)

A leading global university centred in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise.

NUS has 16 faculties and schools across three campuses. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.

NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 24 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore’s fifth RCE. NUS shares a close affiliation with 16 national-level research institutes and centres. Research activities are strategic and robust, and NUS is well-known for its research strengths in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences and natural sciences. It also strives to create a supportive and innovative environment to promote creative enterprise within its community.

About NUS Enterprise

NUS Enterprise was established in 2001 to provide an enterprise dimension to NUS teaching and research involving the University’s students, staff and alumni. It nurtures talents with entrepreneurial and global mind-sets, and promotes the spirit of innovation and enterprise through a wide variety of programmes and activities. These fall under four focus areas: Entrepreneurial Education, Active Industry Partnership, Holistic Entrepreneurship Support and being Asia’s Thought Leader for Innovation & Enterprise.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

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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