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Rabea Bader, Co-Founder of IZMUS

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Rabea Bader is the Co-Founder and CEO at IZMUS. Based in Singapore, IZMUS is responsible for the development of relevant entry points for Israeli startups, including establishing entry standards and guidelines as well as connecting key relevant industry experts. Prior to IZMUS, Rabea was the Co-founder and CEO of C.R.E Online, an outsourcing and solution specialist service provider for local and international brokerage firms and he worked as software developer for the UBS Bank and managed business development projects at D.M.D. Online. Rabbi decided to take the plunge with IZMUS when he saw a real opportunity for Singapore and he speaks to The Asian Entrepreneur today about his work.

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 In your own words what is IZMUS?

IZMUS is a bridge between Singaporean and Israeli start-up ecosystems, which brings the best technology to enable Singapore’s vision of becoming a Smart Nation.

IZMUS selects well funded and mature-enough startups from Israel through a thorough due diligence process and connects them to potential Singaporean partners (government agencies, business partners, investors). IZMUS enables Israeli entrepreneurs to enter the Asian market, effectively implement their technology, get further funding for their startup and accelerate growth. For investors, IZMUS is a platform to find investment opportunities in the niche high tech Israeli startups.

How did you come up with the idea of IZMUS?

The idea of IZMUS came up when I met Joy Phua, co-founder and co-CEO at IZMUS who is a Singaporean, at Tel Aviv University where I was studying Computer Science and Economics. We discussed the potential of introducing the Israeli technology in the strong financial context of Singapore – in view of its drive to become the hub of technology in SEA. As such, we founded IZMUS last year.

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

The initial idea was to bring Singaporean investors to Israel to meet and connect with startups there. However, after my first trip to Singapore we realized that funding was not a problem for Israeli startups. The real challenge for startups, which wanted to expand into Asian markets were cultural different in terms of language, values and approach to business.

Since Singapore is a gateway and launch pad to the rest of Asia, we decided to bring Israeli startups here and give them investment opportunities and business development in the region.

Our first meeting was with Dr Alex Lin, Head of Infocomm Investments (IIPL), the investment subsidiary of the Infocomm Development Authority. He saw the potential and helped us in establishing IZMUS. Together, we formed our business plan and started connecting Israeli startups with investors and government agencies in Singapore.  As a result, we discussed collaboration with Infocomm Investments, and signed a Memorandum of Intent, which was a big step forward for us.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

At IZMUS, we have faced several challenges in getting the best startups on board, building a strong network in both countries and connecting with investors and government.

The first challenge was that Israeli startups mostly thought of Asia as only China. Some of them didn’t know much about Singapore, for example that English is one of its official languages. Some of our clients even thought Singapore was a part of Malaysia.

Convincing Singaporean investors to switch from investing in real estate to investing in startups was also not an easy task. Luckily we found investors who believed in us and helped us reach the next level.

With the team, we overcome the challenges day by day as we are very optimistic that this business model is promising to cater to the needs of our networks and we take one step at a time.

How have you been developing IZMUS since startup?

We have been developing IZMUS a lot since we started although we have changed our focus and business model more than once.

Now we are moving in the direction of optimising and automising of all processes, and we are developing a software so that our entire network in both countries can work efficiently. We aim to provide a set of comprehensive data that will map profiles of all promising Israeli startups for investors and corporations to review and request for deeper analysis for any startup of interest. Our focus now is on Singapore but we aim to expand into Southeast Asia.

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

We are glad to hear that  we are in the right place at the right time with a right mission and  we are happy that we received many positive feedback. We have been receiving many requests from startups as well as collaboration offers from both Israeli and Singaporean corporations, investors and government agencies.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

This market is still hardly tapped, but I am aware that there is always competition. Nonetheless, we believe that having competition is healthy and it encourage us to strive to be better and learn from others as much as possible.

IZMUS is one step ahead of the competitors, we provide deep analysis done by professionals for each startup we plan to bring here. We focus on quality, not on quantity and handpick the best startups from Israel after a long selection and tough screening process.

The startups are handpicked by IZMUS’ Tel Aviv team, led by Joy; then independently assessed by the tech advisory board. These advisors check all aspects of the startup – the team, technology, financial history, viability in Asia and more. Their information and IZMUS’ assessments are simultaneously available to interested VCs and investors that have subscribed to IZMUS’ web-based application. Once they secure 2-3 serious and strategic investors/partners for the startup, the relevant company representative come to Singapore for face-to-face meetings.

What can you tell us about the industry? 

With the population of only 8.5 million people, Israel has more than 4800 startups. Since the domestic market is very small they typically focus on globalization and aim to expand into foreign markets, traditionally the US and Europe. However these startup scenes have started to become over-saturated and this is where IZMUS comes into the picture and provide another option.

I see that now Israeli startups are beginning to realize the untapped potential that lies in Asia, and Singaporean investors are shifting towards investing in Israeli startups because of their ability to innovate.

What is the future of the industry?

The future of the industry is to connect high potential businesses to suitable investors and partners and take it globally.

We are planning to advocate Startup Nation by establishing a strong Israeli tech presence in Asia via Singapore and realize Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative.

In this industry it is very important to be at the forefront of all current technology trends, to have a foresight for opportunities and react quickly. It’s also crucial to maintain the company’s reputation and image. Both investors and startups trust you to find the best match for them and their expectations are always very high.

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

When I dropped out of school and left my high-paying job to follow my passion, there were many skeptical people that tried to discourage me. But because I found something I really believe in and worked towards that direction, the confidence and strive for success stimulated me to think of new ideas and implement them. I just forget about what other people think.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? 

Being an entrepreneur in Asia is different and it may not seem like a virtue but I can see that this is changing. I feel like Asia has no place for second chances for entrepreneurs. It has its pros and cons. On the one hand it puts you under big pressure, but on the other hand you will work even harder to insure the high quality of what you deliver.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Asian entrepreneurship practices today are still very much a reflection of strong family values deeply rooted in Asian society, and the loyalty to existing social structures still remains as the rule for survival – while Western entrepreneurship seems to be more pragmatic and individualistic.

I think that Asian market is still untapped with a lot of opportunities and that provides a level playing field to both Asian and Western entrepreneurs.

What is your definition of success?

Success as I define it is to make a positive impact and a positive change.

Not only that, it’s also managing to reach your goals and not let the difficulties you face to prevent that.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I grew up in the North of Israel near the Lebanese border, where everyday was a matter of life and death. I didn’t know if the war would start the next day and felt the urge to work and succeed and make the most of my life. I believe that we are living for a purpose and I want to make a real change in the world.

Being an entrepreneur is way harder and more demanding than corporate jobs. In a startup life you always work a minimum of 12 hours a day, and you don’t have your weekends. Sometimes you find yourself surviving on canned food for a month until you close the next deal or get an investment but I believe it’s worth it.

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

Hard work, believing in an idea and in yourself, expecting the unexpected, ability to work under pressure and overcome obstacles.

You will always face drawbacks and will always think about going back to your comfort zone and earning a stable income every month. But it’s important that you believe in yourself and don’t let negatitivities obstruct you from reaching your real goal.

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

Find something you are really passionate about and follow it.

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Callum Connects

Elizabeth Wu, Co-founder & COO of Trehaus

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Elizabeth Wu is making work-life integration a reality for working parents in her new family friendly coworking space.

What’s your story?
I co-founded a coworking space in Singapore that comes complete with a child-friendly facility. We’re the first of our kind here and we’ve been making work-life integration a reality for working parents since we opened.

What excites you most about your industry?
We are the first of our kind, and there’s no other coworking space like us. Sure, there are plenty of coworking spaces in Singapore, but we are the pioneers of championing ‘BYO-kid’ to work by creating a conducive workspace and enriching kids play, all under one roof.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I’m a local through and through.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, of course! It’s safe, well-regulated and has a diverse community. Barriers to entry for starting up a business is low, and generally there is good support for small to medium enterprises and startups, which is great.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Life is short. Do stuff that matters.” I think I decided to do “stuff that matters” a long time ago and that’s why I became an educator. When motherhood beckoned, I decided again, to do “stuff that matters” by staying home to be with my kids. Then, I began to desire a meaningful career while raising my kids. So, I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, because I am governed by wanting to “do stuff that matters!”

Who inspires you?
So many people inspire me. My members at Trehaus inspire me with the things they do and the changes they make. But if I have to pick someone, it would be Elim Chew, founder of 77th Street; who is a seasoned entrepreneur. She started from humble beginnings, went through setbacks and never said never to new journeys in entrepreneurship. I love that she always looks for ways to give back to society and mentor the next generation with her wealth of wisdom and experiences.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I learned the 5-by-5 rule recently: That is, ‘if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset by it.’ This helps me puts things in perspective, and I try to remember this every time the urge comes to dwell, to brood, to beat myself up or to sweat the small stuff.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely be more careful with the people I hired to build the team. I’ve learned that it is important to find and build an entrepreneurial team that will plough and work hard alongside the founders. Like Jack Ma once said, “Don’t hire the most qualified candidate. Hire the craziest.” I should have done that right from the start. It would save us so much time and heartache.

How do you unwind?
I take long walks to clear my or I go for a fruitful session of self care, like yoga or a massage.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I really enjoy getting out of Singapore to the outskirts of Bangkok to live amongst the locals. My family of 5 used to do that each December; just taking off to live amongst the locals where street food is aplenty and warmth and hospitality is everywhere. I enjoy their slow pace of life and how simple things can be.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

Shameless plug for your business:
Trehaus is Singapore’s first ever family-friendly coworking space that lets you build a career while prioritising family. If it takes a village to raise a child, then Trehaus is the modern village where you will find a robust community and supportive ecosystem that lets you be an involved parent – never missing a single milestone in your child’s early years – and at the same time do efficient and productive work. We’ve made magic happen in what we’ve created!

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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Mark Winterton, General Manager of InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay

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Mark Winterton has dedicated his life to achieving unparalleled and extraordinary guest experiences in the hospitality industry.

What’s your story?
I’m a seasoned hospitality professional with over twenty years international experience launching luxury brands, repositioning existing brands and driving innovation for some of the world’s most successful hotels.

As General Manager of InterContinental® Singapore Robertson Quay, I’m responsible for the strategic positioning of the property as the next generation of the InterContinental hotel brand and have been spearheading the hotel since its opening in October 2017, with the goal of achieving a unique and unrivalled market positioning as Singapore’s most luxurious residential hotel.

I started my career with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®) in 1995 and have since been dedicating myself towards achieving perfection. I find immense fulfillment in leading my team towards achieving extraordinary and unparalleled guest experiences.

What excites you most about your industry?
The hospitality industry boasts an extremely dynamic landscape, and we are always seeing new hotels opening alongside the entry of burgeoning brands. This growth has, over time developed positive competition and generated positive driving forces that have elevated the overall standard of the industry in Singapore. The industry has a dynamic landscape. There are many opportunities to bring the right people together and create amazing teams to launch or reposition hotels. The process of creating teams, inspiring individuals and then working together to bring a project to life is where I find the excitement lies.

What’s your connection to Asia?
The lure of Asia has always been very strong for foreign economies and companies, with great accessibility to new opportunities, customers, consumers and clients. My first foray into Asia was back in 2007, when I launched Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore. Following that, I was also based in Bangkok for a couple of years for the rebranding of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. Over my years in Asia, I have had the opportunity to truly immerse myself in new cultures, establish new connections with key counterparts and friends; and these have further solidified my interest in and strengthened my connection to Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Commonly known as the gateway to Asia, we’ve been blessed with a stable government, a sound political economy and a comprehensive infrastructure for reliable business operations. With tremendous efforts put in by the Singapore Tourism Board towards elevating the city as an attractive venue for visitors, the growth of Singapore as a key MICE destination, coupled with a cosmopolitan pool of talent, Singapore remains my favourite city in Asia for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You can never be 100% ready for a new role.” I believe that there will always be room for growth and learning on the job. As long as a person is 80% ready for a new role, the opportunity should be extended. I am a strong believer in the development of people and the grooming of talent, and this piece of advice has allowed me to take more chances on people I’ve worked with and developed over the years.

Who inspires you?
Simon Sinek, a speaker with TED Talk.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I don’t think I can pinpoint just one lesson learnt recently, as learning is an ongoing process. No matter how small a piece of knowledge may seem, it should be valued. Everyday is a journey of learning and development.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing at all. I don’t believe in regrets and everything that has happened thus far, has had a part to play in who I am and where I stand today.

How do you unwind?
Spending time with friends over relaxed conversations and wine or working my green fingers in my balcony garden.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. It’s one destination where I’ve always returned to, simply because it offers me the same level of comfort and familiarity each time I return. It’s where I can feel most relaxed, yet still be able to enjoy the vibrant dining scene.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

Shameless plug for your business:
Officially opened on 12 October 2017, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is the first international luxury hotel brand situated at Robertson Quay. Set amidst a dynamic, sophisticated neighbourhood along the Singapore River, known for its dining options and arts houses, the luxury residential-inspired hotel has been carefully curated by world-­class designers, architects and culinary purveyors. Located minutes away from the CBD, the hotel still maintains a stylish but laid back, relaxed feel in the leafy, upscale neighbourhood of Robertson Quay. The hotel offers 225 luxurious studios and suites, including an expansive Penthouse, which has unparalleled views of both the Singapore River and vibrant city via floor-­to-­ceiling windows.

The residential-­inspired property combines elements from Robertson Quay’s industrial and intriguing past with sleek contemporary finishes whilst seamlessly blending into the residential surrounds. Light-­filled room interiors have been designed to magnify the familiar comforts of home where guests may enjoy bespoke amenities such as a specially designed in-­room cocktail kit.

Established as part of a holistic dining and lifestyle destination, the hotel boasts a wide range of restaurant and bar concepts. Flagship restaurant Publico, representing the central core of Italian culture, is a multi-­concept dining destination comprising a variety of Italian experiences under one roof – a neighbourhood deli and bar and a ristorante with adjoining terrazzo by the river. Other highlights throughout the hotel include New York institution Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener, and a bar and dining concept from the team behind Izy Sushi. Over 40 other dining options await at the hotel doorstep, in The Quayside precinct.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markwinterton1/

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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