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Sunny Tan, Founder of Maths Heuristics

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Sunny Tan set up mathsHeuristics™ after being stumped by the maths syllabus in schools. mathsHeuristics™ embraces technology thus staying relevant to today’s students.

What’s your story?
I was a mathematics teacher in Singapore since 1997 but realised that the mathematics syllabus taught in schools often left the average student stumped. I saw daily, how students were inundated with mathematical heuristics, a fact they were oblivious to. This was because these techniques were embedded in different topics and not taught as self-contained chapters. What ensued was a generation of students who were required to apply heuristics but only had a smattering of it.
Seeing this gap in the market, I left my comfortable job as a teacher in 2008 and set up my own mathematics coaching centre called mathsHeuristics™ which was set up to help students achieve breakthroughs in their study of mathematics.
I am proud to say that while many of such centres come and go in Singapore, our company has been growing, culminating with the launch of Singapore’s first “total learning solution” for mathematics. This is where we offer a suite of learning tools – classes, guidebooks, mobile app, soon-to-be-launched web videos and upcoming virtual classrooms. With students becoming digital natives, this was something that helps us stay relevant to today’s students. Additionally, by embracing technology, we give students, parents and educators 24/7 access to our expertise.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me is that Singapore’s education system is moving away from rewarding students based on memorisation towards a more holistic education. Additionally, with the clear move towards going digital, the challenge is for academic coaching centres such as ourselves to find innovative ways to keep up with these changes.
At mathsHeuristics, this is something we watch closely, continuously evolving our curriculum and teaching ecosystem in order to keep pace with the times and ensure our students learn in a way that fits them. The launch of our mobile app and virtual classrooms are a testimony to that.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a true blue Singaporean. However, I have travelled to various parts of Asia and have had the privilege to experience the unique culture that each country brings. Having also interacted with various businessmen across Asia, it is fascinating to see how each nation has its own unique business culture yet so many similar underlying principles that makes us all truly “Asian.”

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
As much as this might sound clichéd, there is no place like home. Having been a part of various startups since I started mathsHeuristics, Singapore has been undoubtedly the easiest and most efficient place to do business. Beyond the networks that I have built here, Singapore has built an entire eco-system that has been beneficial to business owners. Additionally, it has also built in regulations that have made it easy to start, maintain and build a thriving business. For example, it takes about 2 to 3 days to start a new business in Singapore, something unheard of in other parts of the world. This is just one of the many things that both Singaporeans and foreigners coming into Singapore rave about.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Simplicity is the key to success.”
In order to achieve simplicity, it is not the absence of complexity but an in-depth understanding of the situation or topic which allows it to be so.

Who inspires you?
The late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, one of Singapore’s modern founders. It says a lot when his death triggered an international outpouring of grief not just in Asia but globally. His leadership, strategic mind and tenacity as a leader in my opinion is unmatched.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I attended a seminar recently, and a speaker quoted this fascinating statement, “In today’s market, you do not build a company to last, but you build one to change.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would focus on building strong communications with my business partners. This is because I have had bad experiences where the lack of clear communication has led to the breakdown of relationships. This is something I truly regret in my early days as a businessman and something I put a lot of emphasis on now.

How do you unwind?
I jog and do weight training at least three times a week. In my free time, I go boating with friends and my business partner.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Shameless plug for your business:
From my humble beginnings as a teacher, I have been able to build multiple strong businesses. Besides the success of mathsHeuristics (www.mathsheuristics.com) which has become one of Singapore’s leading primary school Mathematics coaching centres, I have also been successful in the food and beverage industry. I am a partner in BBQ House (www.bbqhouse.com.sg) , a one-stop solution for barbequed food in Singapore and also one of the biggest in Singapore.
However, we also had our fair share of failures in business. My first business was a renovation company and closed it after 3 years of operation due to our inexperience in project management and poor cash flow management. We have also ventured into the leisure boat rental business. Also due to a lack of experience and network in the marine industry, the boat we purchased sank and we were unable to claim insurance for the boat. The business was forced to close down 2 years later.

How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 62555941 (Office)

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

CallumConnectsCallum 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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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Callum Connects

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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