Connect with us

Callum Connects

Sinuhe Arroyo, CEO of Taiger

Published

on

Find out how this entrepreneur harnesses disruptive technologies and can help solve your information access problems with a Virtual Assistant…

What’s your story?
I moved to Austria in 2002, after the burst of the .com bubble, to complete a PhD in Artificial Intelligence. After my studies I worked for a software vendor that we took public and completed the acquisition of a target with moneys raised. Upon completing that project, I decided to take the research I had done during my PhD and build Taiger from a cow farm in the Austrian Alps. Today we are present in 4 countries, solve some pretty hard information access problems applying AI and have top-notch customers such as Sony DADC, Grupo Santander, BBVA or HDB in Singapore.

What excites you most about your industry?
The tangible life changing aspect of what we do. IT has grown to be present in all aspects of our daily life, from professional to personal aspects. The field and the technology, both in terms of hardware and software, are still in its infancy. Yet in this short period of time it has come a long way. I am excited to see what the future will bring, particularly taking into consideration that every major breakthrough is happening at shorter time intervals than before and they all help to develop the next one. I think we are not far from seeing really intelligent software do things for us that until now we could only dream of. Contributing to the development of these life changing technologies is what excites me.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My girlfriend is Vietnamese, my business is growing fast in Singapore where we intend to establish our regional headquarters and I love this part of the world where there is so much opportunity for growth.

3.Dr_Sinuhe_Arroyo

Logos Taiger Black Horizontal Large

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
While I only know a portion of the key Asian business cities, I have to admit that Singapore is my favorite business destination in Asia without any doubt. It is efficient, well organized, driven, precise and down to earth. Decision makers embrace disruptive technology and are not afraid to try new things, which makes it ideal to nurture innovation and fast change.

In addition to that, the government’s support and determination to build a global business hub are admirable. This favors the overall business climate and the establishment of regional and global headquarters in the city. Also the strong focus on advancing all IT aspects and profiting from what technologies have to offer in all fields is remarkable. Not to mention the support offered to young and start-up businesses.

At the human level the city is accommodating to the foreigner. Having lived in three continents now, I can say that getting settled is easy and does not require complex administrative procedures. Everything from getting a mobile phone to sorting out utilities can be done easily and staff are attentive and willing to assist.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To be successful one needs, aptitude, attitude and luck. Without any of the three it is hard to attain your goals. I fully agree with this and would add that hard work is also important. With hard work eventually one creates the necessary circumstances to be successful.

Also a good friend and founder of a number of businesses once told me, that building a firm is like running a marathon at a 100 meter pace. I have to admit the wisdom in it, particularly in the earliest phases where resources are scarce and key staff members need to wear several hats.

Who inspires you?
Many people. I look up to professional athletes and successful business people alike.  Overall I admire and get inspiration from people that set a life goal and are tenacious enough to pursue it and achieve it. Those that live their lives to the fullest according to their beliefs, and who are not afraid of departing from the norm to make a difference.

I admire the life philosophy of extreme skier and philosopher Andreas Franson, the physical ability of mountain runner Kilian Jornet, or the unassuming and hardworking attitude of 5-time Ironman World-Champion Craig Alexander. In business I truly admire Hana Dang, who is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Vietnam, building her success against great personal and professional odds, out of nothing, in an impoverished country. Or, Le Hoang Lan who after completing her MD degree went on to work for Prudential and ended up building the business in Vietnam from zero to several thousand employees, then reinventing herself as serial entrepreneur. Or, Travis Kalanick, Uber founder, by the simple and effective way his company is changing for the better. Something as obvious and important as the way we move around cities, creating tons of value for its users across the world.  

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
One thing that I found particularly interesting is that disruptive innovations and technologies that have a deep impact on our lives occur at much shorter intervals now than before. Take writing, then print, then telephone, then production chains, then space travel, then the internet, then solar panels, then 4d printing, then driverless cars, etc. The time gap between one and the next is getting shorter and shorter. The fact is, each one contributes to bring on the next. This increasing innovation creates virtuous cycles, posing the question of how far technology can go, and whether we would be able to really control it. Recently, The Economist ran an article on AI where Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and other relevant visionaries and academics listed “the development of artificial intelligence, as be the biggest existential threat humanity faces.” If we look back and see how computing power and software have evolved in the last 30 years, both industries still being in their infancy, what the future holds could either be amazing, if we harness it, or scary.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Building a business is a learning process and no matter how much experience you have, I think one always makes mistakes and would have liked to do things in a different way. When we started Taiger we relied heavily on public funding sources. If I had to do it all over again I would probably have sought VC funds earlier. Building an enterprise-grade solution requires heavy funding and often the timing of public sources, at least in Europe, is not necessarily aligned with firms’ needs. Also, moving out of Austria earlier would have been advisable. The administrative overhead there one needs to see to believe, plus being a foreigner always played against us since their society is very closed and conservative.

How do you unwind?
I love to practice outdoor sports. Lately I am caught up with ironman. Having to do some sport everyday helps me release work tension and gives me balance in my personal life. It also helps me eat healthier and be more energetic. Before, when I lived in Austria, I did a lot of skiing and mountaineering. I climbed Mt. Blanc, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo among others. Going to the mountains helped me clear my head and be back on Monday with a positive attitude and focused mind. I also enjoy scuba diving, sailing and I am working on getting my airplane pilot’s license.  

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I am still discovering Asia. From what I know, I love Vietnam and Thailand for relaxation. Phuket is a fantastic place to enjoy food and relax at the beach.  Da Nang in Vietnam has some of the most spectacular beaches I have seen in my life, and the seafood is pretty amazing too. On weekends I travel to Saigon and catch up with friends and family. A very fun place to party, full of interesting places to eat, drink or simply enjoy. I love the harmonic chaos of the city traffic and positive vibes of the people. And of course, the fresh coconut, my favorite drink.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, is an excellent example on behavioral economics explaining the strengths and pitfalls of the unconscious and how they apply to business.

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, an excellent view on how operations should be managed and the bottlenecks it must overcome.

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford, a very interesting introduction to economics, economic thinking and decision-making.

Shameless plug for your business:
Taiger is software vendor specialized in applying AI to hard information access problems. Our Virtual Assistant is used at contact centers replacing humans to solve users’ enquires. It gives the feeling of a human being at the other end of the loop, being able to interact both in written and oral communication. We also commercialize an enterprise-grade search engine that overcomes the limitations of traditional keyword-based search engines in corporate environments. All our products and solutions revolve around the application of Natural Language Processing and semantic technology, fields where we count on world-class experts and a number of patents.

How can people connect with you?
All my contact details are in LinkedIn. Best is to drop me an email, I tend to travel at least once per quarter to Europe and the US to check on the business, so chances are my local Asian cell phone is off. My email is: [email protected].

Twitter handle?
@Taiger_CO

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

CallumConnects

Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

Published

on

Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

Published

on

Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

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

Continue Reading

Trending