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Pawel Kuznicki, Director & Co-Founder of Capital Match

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I am a huge believer that the banking and finance industry is about to be tipped on its head.  Companies like WeChat offering banking services and then the rise of crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending services such as Pawel have setup are completely changing the power dynamic and offering business owners a much more compelling way forward.  Enjoy the interview.

What’s your story?
I started my career as a consultant with McKinsey & Company in Europe and Africa. Then I moved to Rocket Internet, global venture builder, to build their portfolio companies in Southeast Asia. Last year I started my current business, Capital Match. Capital Match is a peer-to-peer lending online marketplace to SMEs. Peer-to-peer lending is essentially banking without a bank as an intermediary – investors lend money directly to companies with Capital Match facilitating the transactions by providing credit risk assessment, legal documentation and debt collection services.

What excites you most about your industry?
Its enormous growth potential. Peer-to-peer lending industry in the US, UK or China is still relatively small compared to entire banking industry in retail and commercial banking (max. 1-2% market share) but growing very fast due to its attractive value proposition to both savers and borrowers. It is exciting to see that you can actually offer your customers service that they truly value while operating in such a mature industry.

What’s your connection to Asia?
First it was a job, but from last year it’s primarily my Singaporean wife. In 2012 I joined Rocket Internet and came to Singapore to build their fashion business in the region, Zalora. It was at Zalora that I met my future wife. We got married last year, just bought our HDB and are planning a family in the near future. My current business is based in Singapore and it will take me another 5-10 years to build it. So Singapore became my new home.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Ease of doing business, friendly tax and legal environment, corporate and financial hub for Southeast Asia, and green, comfortable living.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To have faith in your convictions and not to give up. What often distinguishes successful entrepreneurs are their belief in what they endeavour to accomplish, the risk they take to make it happen and the determination to follow through.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk. He built PayPal and is now managing three multi-billion dollar businesses: Tesla Motors (electric cars manufacturer), SpaceX (private space company) and SolarCity (industrial solar power plant developer). And he is 43. It is truly inspiring that a single man could have accomplished that much in a number of so diverse fields.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The cost of buying HDB for a Singaporean/PR couple! You cannot get it cheaper anywhere else in the world. Not in terms of total price, though it’s still way lower than in other global cities like London or NYC, but in terms of upfront payment and mortgage cost with both highly subsidized by CPF. The government makes a fantastic job helping young Singaporeans own their first nest.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have had a great life and career so far. I’m grateful for everything I got and accomplished. Perhaps it could have been better, but I don’t regret anything and just look to the future.

How do you unwind?
I watch movies with my wife, play sports and read books, although I have neglected the last one recently. I have lost my Kindle where I usually have 10-15 books open so it’s not that convenient anymore to read at any spare moment.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I really like travelling to Ho Chi Minh. A French, colonial atmosphere, great food and warm people make it a truly enjoyable stay whenever we visit HCMC with my wife.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Antifragile” by Nassim Taleb. Nassim Taleb is a mathematician turned trader turned scholar who is one of the greatest intellectuals of our times. He popularized the concept of “black swan” that stands for low probability, high impact events that only few foresee, but that become obvious to everyone in hindsight. The lesson of “Antifragile” for everyone in business is to always try to understand what those “black swans” in your life could be and position yourself to benefit from their impact, which should come at a lower cost and risk that is commonly believed. Entrepreneurs are the people who are best positioned to benefit from “black swans” or, as the author would call them, they are “antifragile”. A life-changing book.

Shameless plug for your business:
“You run a small business, need working capital but no bank wants to work with you? We will help you. Or perhaps you have surplus savings, but stockmarket seems to be erratic, real estate is either too hot or there are few attractive opportunities, and you have few other ideas how to generate healthy return? We will open ways for you to make 15-20% per year. Short commitments and no obligation.” That sounds a little bit shady, right?

How can people connect with you?
E-mail is the most convenient. I’m a little bit old-fashioned using BlackBerry but that keeps me connected to my business and private life 24/7. I can be reached at [email protected]

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

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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Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

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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