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Entrepreneurship

Pranav Arora, Established Entrepreneur & Venture Capitalist

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Pranav Arora (born Aug 2, 1995) is an BusinessmanEntrepreneur[2]Philanthropist[3]Investor, and Venture Capitalist.[4]

Arora currently serves as the Chairman and a Board of Director of multiple, multinational companies. He is currently serving as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for JMTD Holdings[2] and Vice President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization called “The Just Funky Foundation“.

Pranav is involved in a vast number of different industries including consumer goods, investment management/wealth management, real-estate and franchise industry

Pranav attended Wooster Highschool, graduating in 2013, after graduation, he attended University of Akron for less than a semester before deciding to leave school to focus on “Highly Educated” which he started in high school, before selling his shares for undisclosed amount. The company sold containers, and officially licensed products for brands like The Walking  Dead, Bob Marley, TMNT, Sons of Anarchy, and MANY more which items were sold at Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, and over 5,000 mom and pop stores across the country,

Pranav is “Head Of Division” at Just Funky LLC, Just Funky is a premiere manufacturer of licensed and private label merchandise for the mainstream retail market. Our executives have combined 44 years’ experience in manufacturing, licensing, retail and creative development in such areas as beverageware, impulse/novelty, decor, and apparel.

Just Funky’s main goal is to create the most innovative product with unmatched quality.

Just Funky sells its originally designed, licensed products to over 30,000 stores and chains, and licenses product uses from hundreds of video games, musicians, TV shows, movies, cartoons, anime and more.

Just Funky currently holds more than 200 A-list licenses in its portfolio including Rick and Morty, Walking Dead, Pokémon, Breaking Bad, Supernatural and many others. The company’s products and merchandise are distributed through major retailing partners around the world including Spencer’s, Hot Topic, FYE, Think Geek, and Gamestop as well as through more than 15,000 independent stores and online platforms.

Pranav also serves as a Member of the Board of Directors for JMTD Holdings aswell as a manager at the firm.

JMTD Holdings is a boutique private equity fund which is focused on creating superior long-term returns for shareholders through a unique structure of diversified public and non-public holdings.

JMTD Holdings have a powerful network of investors, transaction intermediaries and domain experts that give it significant advantages in sourcing and closing deals. JMTD Holdings unites an entrepreneurial vision with the experience to turn opportunities into realities.

JMTD Holdings has interest in multiple company’s including consumer goods, manufacturing, wealth management, and has invested in Intellectual Property portfolios constant of patents and trademarks which generate royalty’s.

The above are just a small insight on Pranav Arora, and some of the company’s he is involved in.

What do you do?

That is a hard question to answer, and I think most entrepreneurs will agree when I say that everyday I find myself wearing a new hat, or playing a different roll depending on what my vision and goals are for that day.

But, I think the majority of my time is spent managing, and explaining my vision to my teams to help them understand “the dream” and listening to their pitches on how we can achieve it.

What led you to your current business?

I think what lead me into starting JMTD Holdings was my love for entrepreneurship, and love for solving problems across different industry’s. I love the fact that I’m able to be apart of, and have financial ownership in multiple company’s  including consumer goods, manufacturing, wealth management, and has invested in Intellectual Property portfolios constant of patents and trademarks which generate royalty’s.

Could you walk us through your process of developing your business?

I wouldn’t really say there was a “process” necessary of developing my company’s, but I think the most important thing is to write down your plan on some paper, and create a “plan” in which your team members and investors can understand, and relate to. Create a “map” or “road plan” your team can use to help you achieve your goals

Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning and how did you overcome it?

I think the biggest difficulty I had, and still have after all these years, is finding the right members for your team. You will only be successful if you have people working for you who have the same goals and aspirations as you. One bad hire or teammate can ruin a beautiful painting, its like one person throwing black paint over your beautiful mural, the artist spent hundreds of hours painting it in such great detail, and It only took one person , 5 seconds to ruin it all by splashing black paint. So make sure you only have the “positive” people in your team, and make sure you remove the “negative people”

What are some important lessons you’ve learnt about entrepreneurship/business?

I think an important lesson I have learned about entrepreneurship and business is the value of honesty and integrity. The most important thing is being fully transparent and honest with your clients/customers because it is the ONLY way to be successful in the long term, Being honest might not make you the biggest company today, but it sure will in a few months when people have been burned by your dishonest competitors. My customers would much rather pay me a little more than my competitors to know they aren’t being mislead and lied to. Many of the customers I had originally lost to my competitors months earlier, have come back knocking on my door begging me to help them get out of the hole the dishonest company’s had dug them into.

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  1. Any tips for achieving success?

 

I think the best 2 pieces of advise I can give for achieving success is, one, DON’T GIVE UP (no matter what), there will always be the “na-sayers” or people who will put your idea down, and tell you that you wont succeed or it isn’t possible; that’s what differentiates us from the “others”, us entrepreneurs are a different breed of people. The second best advise I can give is surround your self with the experts in the industry your working in. I personally have no knowledge about certain industry’s I am in, but because I have hired the right people, I was able to explain to them my “vision, and dream” and they were able to make it happen. A great example is, I recently became a part of the IT software start-up, and I have NO KNOWLAGE whatsoever in coding, or how software works, but I was able to explain my idea and vision to a few coders and engineers, and they were able to make my vision happen

 

 

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Dr. Vivienne Ming, Co-Founder and Executive Chair at Socos Labs

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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.)

Dr. Vivienne Ming is a theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur, technologist, and an author. She co-founded Socos, her fourth company, where she combines machine learning, cognitive neuroscience, and economics to maximize life outcomes in education and the workplace. Vivienne is also a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, where she pursues her research in neuroprosthetics. In her free time, Vivienne has developed a predictive model of diabetes to better manage the glucose levels of her diabetic son and systems to predict manic episodes in bipolar suffers. In 2013, she was named one of 10 Women to Watch in Tech by Inc. Magazine.

What makes you do what you do?
I grew up reading far too much science fiction. It always seemed not like an escape, but like a guide to a better world that we could build. When I ran into challenges later in my life and learned how easy it is for a high potential life to slip through the cracks, it was that love of science fiction that kept me thinking that something better was possible. I found a purpose in that failure that drove me to earn my PhD in neuroscience and machine learning so that I could build the worlds that I used to read about.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I have worked in several different industries. As an academic, I had a rather shocking amount of success as a graduate student with papers published in top journals and I went on to appointments at Stanford and Berkeley. Then, I started all over again when I founded an education company. When the company rose to prominence and I was giving keynotes at major education conferences, I left that behind to develop technologies for talent acquisition, healthcare, and anything and everything that made better people. My path to success was always forged by me solving problems, with a lot help from simple dumb luck.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
After founding a number of technology companies, I decided I wanted to take what I learned and share it with as many people as possible. I wanted to have an impact on global policy. Based on advice from colleagues and friends, I founded Socos Labs, a think tank that uses machine learning, economics, and behavior research to explore human potential. Socos Labs experiments with whole new visions of work, education, innovation and inclusive economies to inform more human-centered policy.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
I’ve been influenced and supported by a great many people in my life, but I cannot say that I’ve ever had a mentor or even a hero that acted as a guide for my career. I’m not belittling the value of great mentorships (my own research argues for its impact), but rather it’s equally important to recognize that a career isn’t a formulaic movie plot with predefined roles.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
My work is about making better people and helping people grow. It has always been very important to me to give people a chance who might not otherwise have the same opportunity elsewhere. I have built companies where people who don’t have traditional credentials can come and work on projects that make a difference in people’s lives. The only component I’m really looking for is potential.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
Supporting diversity is both a mission of Socos Labs and a key part of nearly every company with which I am involved. I sit on the board of companies that foster diversity and I’ve founded companies to find strategies to reduce bias in the hiring process. Creative diversity is crucial to run any high performance organization. My research show that companies should build teams in which everyone brings different, complementary strengths to the table, and diverse life experience is one of the greatest sources of those strengths.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I suspect there are many ways to be a great leader. My personal approach is perhaps naively simple: do good work and share it with the world. I am sure there are more sophisticated and effective ways to gain attention and build high-performance organizations, but my approach (which I heartily advocate for anyone else) is to focus fanatically on what you’re trying to achieve, your purpose, and find or simply create the means for your work to reach other people.

Advice for others?
Seek out problems that are so messy other people have given up on them.

That is exactly where I want to be and what my new think tank, Socos Labs, aims to explore. We partner with companies and NGOs that share in our mission and help advance a new understanding about education, workforce, health, innovation, inclusion, and so much more. Along the way I’ve learned enough to write a couple of books, How to Robot-Proof Your Kids and The Tax on Being Different, which will be out later this year. In both I discuss how we can begin to untangle many of these big messy global problems.


If you’d like to get in touch with Dr. Vivienne Ming, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivienneming/

To learn more about Socos Labs, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Ee Ling, Co-founder & CEO of Smarter Me

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Ee Ling, co-founder and CEO of Smarter Me, took a leap of faith to pursue the startup route. She is using her life learnings to better prepare the next generation for the technology-charged future.

What’s your story?
I’m Ee Ling, co-founder and CEO of Smarter Me, an edtech company. Before this, I was an Investment Banker for almost a decade, clocking 100-hour work weeks working on transactions in South East Asia. I loved every bit of it – the intensity, challenges and endless learning.
When I became a VP, I started covering the technology, consumer and retail industries – and it struck me – how much technology could improve daily lives and solve real-life problems which we have always taken as the status quo. Specifically, I was more and more convinced of the vast potential of using technology to solve real-life parenting challenges.
So in 2016, I took a leap of faith and quit investment banking to pursue the startup route!

What excites you most about your industry?
For decades and centuries, education has remained largely unchanged. The subjects taught in our parents’ generation are the same as those being taught today to our children. Yes, some schools are adopting more technology – apps and hardware – than others, and Singapore was recently ranked as being at the forefront of preparing kids for jobs of the future. But there’s still a lot to evolve and change.
The majority of children still do not have the opportunity to learn coding, robotics, entrepreneurship and digital art – key “hard skills” for the fourth industrial revolution. Beyond that, what I’m super passionate about is helping kids understand their purpose and goal in life, to discover themselves. I’m so excited about the changes that can take place in education, it’s just dependent on how open we are to driving and embracing such changes.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia is home. I was born and bred in Malaysia, and moved to Singapore almost 7 years ago.

 

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, without a doubt. The Government’s support for innovation and startups is immense, coupled with a strong infrastructure that makes almost everything possible. But if any opportunity presents itself, I would also try setting up a business in Hong Kong. It’s another melting pot of cultures and simply bustling with action.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Run your own race. Most of us grew up working towards a future that was defined by our parents (who wanted only the best for us) and shaped by society around us – but what happens then is that we do it not for ourselves, but for the recognition and validation from others.
Now I ask myself, what race am I running? I should re-define what success means to
me, and let that be the guiding principle to all my actions. It doesn’t matter what naysayers say, as long as I hold true to myself.

Who inspires you?
It may sound like a cliché, but this goes to my husband and my kids. His ‘everything is possible’ mindset has pushed me to explore business directions and my own personal development far beyond my comfort zone. Before we started this entrepreneurship journey together, I had serious doubts about the success of working with one’s spouse. We were such opposites. But I’ve come to realise that he compliments me professionally, and challenges me to be the better version of myself.
My kids also inspire me. Parenting is tough! In order to be able to guide them, I find myself needing to grow more and develop myself further and that has motivated me to keep learning.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve recently discovered Mindvalley. There are so many teachings by global thought leaders there that have blown me away. I am inspired by these life educators including Vishen Lakhiani, Robin Sharma, Jon Butcher and so many more. They are able to inspire individuals and enact changes in mindsets and lifestyle, and to make individuals more in tune with themselves. These are the true changemakers and they have inspired me to embark on the journey of inspiring young children.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I believe everything happens for a reason at the right time, and I value the experience and knowledge that I have gained through my banking days.
If there’s just one thing, it would be that I would have taken up more personal mastery courses and kept growing myself. I was too busy being busy back then.

How do you unwind?
This one’s easy. I love reading a book in bed as my pre-bedtime routine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I would have to say Japan and Bali. To me, a good holiday is defined by the food I had – so Japan wins hands down in that aspect. But Bali is the epitome of relaxation, whether you choose to be hanging out on a cliff, by the beach, or in a paddy field, and coupled with the wide variety of quality food options – ranging from local Balinese food to hipster cafes. Bali also holds a special place in my heart as it’s where I got married!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I know quite a few have said this, but I have to go with ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek. I think it’s vital to not just understand your ‘ikigai’, your “Why do I get up in the morning,” on a personal level, but also learning how to apply it to your business and communicate it to your employees and customers. It’s quite the game changer. (I’m still reading his new one – Leaders Eat Last). I also like Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, which sheds light on what makes things go viral.

Shameless plug for your business:
Smarter Me was formed to inspire children to discover, grow and live their passion.
We believe that education for children can be more relevant and realistic, to better prepare them for the technology – charged future. We believe that education can be more meaningful when children understand who they are, what their purpose in life is, and why they learn what they learn. We believe in making quality education accessible to all children.
We believe that the children of today are not yet sufficiently exposed to the skillset which they need for the future, and so this year, we will be releasing a series of curated and holistic classes which not only equip children with key skills in coding, robotics and entrepreneurship, but more importantly, with core 21st century skills which will hopefully better prepare them for the future. Do check out our site if you are a parent!

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ee-ling-lim-36ab3a29/
Email: [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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