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Entrepreneurship

Takayuki Miyauchi, Co-founder of Sassor

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With interaction design, service design as his area of speciality, Takayuki has always approached product, software and hardware development from a design perspective. Takayuki co-founded a company, Sassor, which actively develops mobile services along with other products, that caters a user’s characteristic traits or behavior record.

The Asian Entrepreneur is joined by Takayuki today, as we talk about his experiences as an entrepreneur and what he hopes to achieve with Sassor.

What exactly is Sassor?

We are a service design company working in the Internet of Things.From design to hardware engineering we design services for attractive and new user experience.

How did you come up with the idea of Sassor?

Originally, I had been interested in creating the lifelog at home in line of my researches. I had been living with other persons in the form of room sharing, but the power consumption was considerably high although we were either at the laboratory or the office for almost whole day. This was the reason that we created the prototype for analyzing what was caused to make the power consumption very high. Finally, we found out that the server installed at home was the root cause of the high power consumption.

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

My co-founder, Shiuchi Ishibashi, was my high school classmate and and we went to the same graduate school and at that time we thought to create a startup. But at the beginning we were just talking that we hoped to do something after the graduation. About few years ago, we applied to the E-idea competition (British Council) for a trial to explore some possibilities, and that resulted in the prototype of Energy Literacy Platform. After that, we brushed it up to become our present service by joining with another program (Open Network Lab) and taking advice from them.

How has it been like managing the business since?

At first, we were planning to release a product for consumer. But we had a big earthquake in Japan, we faced serious shortage of electric power. At that time, our product’s prototype were brought up in media, we were going to product them small-scale and sale it for a limited time by advancing the schedule of development. There were many contacts from restaurants after marketing, we got to know that visualization system of electricity for store takes many costs for implementation and operating, to make matters worse, it has poor usability. So we observed the operation of the staffs at the stores which had given us inquiries, performed hearings among them, made prototypes for the stores for testing and verifying, and repeated several times such processes to finally produce the current shape of service.

Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup?

We had to develop a prototype of our service without any income, but we were very much supported by our friends around us.

How was the initial reaction from the consumers?

The reaction of the market was very positive. Actually they got a system of visualization less expensive and easier to use which had been conceived to be very expensive. Those who inquired in th early stage promptly introduced it.

 Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

There have been competitors, however, the existing system is expensive and inconvenient to use. What we will do is to enhance the quality of daily services and to achieve the reduction in operating cost for the customer satisfaction.

What can you tell us about the industry?

We have been providing the market of IoT with the services but are still in the early stage. Hardware and net gadget are getting increased, however, there have probably been a few which are absolutely necessary services for daily life.

How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?

The prospects of IoT are still young and can be expanded in the future. We see making things will get closer to your life, and you’ll be surrounded more and more by various loT devices. Because it is simply exiting for us to put ourselves in such an environment.

If you could, would you change anything about your approach?

If so, what?We actually began to learn manufacture after we started, so we had hard times before we successfully made a product. I wish I would have learned more about the manufacturing methods much earlier.

What do you think about startups in Asia?

Recently, We feel start-up venturing abroad aggressively and the team also has become international, so we perceive that nationality of the founding of the company has been unrelated.

What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?

We do every work from stylize to hardware design by ourselves, carry out service development with taking care about usage of the entire service design.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Originally, we were studying into the loT field. But if you stay within the laboratory and just keep on studying, you seldom have a chance to have somebody use the stuff you’ve made up.We started to think we should make the stuff into products that can be used by many people; the products we made as we thought them fun and useful, that is why we decided to startup a business.

What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?

To believe my own vision no matter what the others may say about it.

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

To materialise your own vision, to believe your own instinct and to have a trustful partner.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?

When you have a vision that you want to materialise, you can even enjoy difficulties. When you have a trustful partner, your agonies would be halved. smarter than you are. However if you keep an open mind, listen to as many smart people, and then act on it, then you will succeed.

One common trait of very successful and smart pioneers is that if you can get timeshare with them, they will impart invaluable advice freely. Accept the advice with humility. Note they are most likely smarter than you are. If they affirm what you sense then you are on the right track. If they do not, then something needs to be re-callibarated. Do this soon. And succeed.

 

Connect
Website: http://www.sassor.co.jp
Personal Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/takayuki.miyauchi
Twitter: www.twitter.com/t_38
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/takayuki-miyauchi/1b/586/b4b

Entrepreneurship

Science is the Next Big Thing in Startups

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From pharmaceuticals to petrochemical processes: Newcomer companies and investors and investors alike are setting their sights on science. How the start-up scene moves beyond the mobile apps bubble…

For the last two years Silicon Valley analysts and venture capitalists are anticipating the burst of yet another bubble. This time, under the risk are the mobile start-ups which constitute the biggest share of the market. Out of 50 companies listed in Forbes’ “the hottest startup of 2015” (by valuation) only six companies are based on innovations in other-than-mobile area, one company provide cleaning services, while the rest are diverse mobile apps.

Meanwhile many products listed can be barely called innovative. A significant proportion of the listed start-ups are texting apps, apps for people search (starting from business partners to life partners) or delivery services. While those services can definitely facilitate one’s life, in general they differ from their predecessors by only a narrower audience.

Many venture investors expect stagnation if not decrease on the markets, which is why they start to transfer their capitals from start-ups offering customers software to start-ups offering specific solutions for existing businesses. Such companies are expected to demonstrate more stability in the near future.

The Market for Mobile Apps Might be Saturated

Back in 2012 a talented entrepreneur could walk into a venture capitalist’s office, say his startup was a mobile-first solution for pretty much any problem (payments! photos! blogging!), and walk out with a good-size seed investment. “That pitch was enough to get going,” says Roelof Botha, a partner with VC firm Sequoia Capital. “It’s not enough anymore.”

“I think investors are bored with investing in another messaging app. And our idea is crazy enough that it might just work. ”, has declared in 2014 Nadir Bagaveyev a founder of a start-up using 3-D printers to make rocket engines. By 2016 the company attracted investors funding sufficient to launch its first rocket.

Pharma and Biotech Start-Ups in High Demand

Currently the most successful science-based start-ups are the companies offering innovative solutions in the field of pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies. It’s noteworthy that despite the previous revelations and even judicial proceedings the list of the most expensive start-ups still includes Theranos, blood analyzing laboratory, whose story did not descend from the main pages of the global leading media from 2014.

It first amazed the audience with its fantastic take-off and then with its collapse. One of the crucial parts of the success story of this start-up is its fundamental difference from the majority of the services produced in the Silicon Valley. Unlike the others, it was not a story of yet another beautiful gadget for communication or mobile app, but the story of the scientific idea which intended to conquer the world.

The great success stories in other scientific areas are now happening on occasional basis. However certain facts allow to predict that the situation is to change soon. One of such factors is growing interest among the big corporations to attract innovative solutions from outside to develop their businesses.

Given the accelerating pace of scientific and technological development of the world, the activities of internal R & D departments are often turn to be insufficient to ensure stable development of innovative business. Outsourcing of the R&D may become the efficient mechanism to stimulate the growth of the company. And high-tech start-up can certainly benefit from it.

Start-Up Technology for the Petro-Business

In December, 2016 world leading companies in the field of gas processing, petrochemicals and chemicals announced their intentions to enforce their R&D capacities by attracting start-ups. 3M, AkzoNobel, BASF, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Henkel, Honeywell UOP, LG Chem, Linde, Sibur, Solvay and Technip together created a global stage for startups and investors.

“The petrochemicals industry can and must rely on the potential of open innovations to facilitate further inventions and implementation of new solutions in all major application areas, from construction and medicine to packaging and 3D printing. Thanks to the participation of international partners, IQ-CHem is now the largest global project within the industry which attracts innovative solutions and provides for their implementation into practice,” said Vasily Nomokonov, Executive Director of Sibur, a company which coordinates the project.

Positive Experience in Chemicals and Beyond

Some of the listed companies have already gained positive experience in working with start-ups which may have driven them to elaborate a systemic approach to attract innovative companies.

At the beginning of 2016, SIBUR and RRT Global start-up reached an agreement to build a pilot plant for isomerization based on RRT Global technologies in Sibur’s Industrial Park SIBUR “Tolyattisintez”. According to Oleg Giyazov, co-founder and CEO of RRT Global cooperation with a large corporation bring significant advantages to his company.

“By cooperation with Sibur we get a huge industrial experience that enables us to develop technologies and solutions better fitted to the market demand. This advantage is often not given due attention, but we, on the contrary, see significant opportunities in it. Currently, RRT Global cooperates with several companies around the world” he said.

Another petrochemical leader BASF enjoys successful cooperation with Genomatica start-up. In 2013 BASF started the production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock (renewable BDO) using Genomatica’s patented process and in 2015 the license was expanded to the Asian market.

Unlike traditional forms of cooperation between a start-up and a venture capitalist, a cooperation between start-up and a relevant corporation allows to minimize the risks associated with investing in a potentially promising idea where the key word is “potential” (but not “guaranteed”). While delivering services in the same field as the start-up the corporation gets an opportunity to more effectively and accurately estimate the market value of an innovative idea and to support its implementation.

Structural Changes Ahead: Outlines of A Coming Market

In the short term prospective, possibly in 2017, the global start-up market will face structural changes – both in terms of start-ups professional orientation and of funding mechanism. In the future science-based start-ups will dominate the market and will change our lives at a deeper level than the way of sending a text message or searching the restaurant for an evening meal. To be more concise this is already happening in the pharmaceutical industry, and the other scientific areas are to follow.

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About the Author

This article was written by Dominik Stephan of Process Worldwide. See more.

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Callum Connects

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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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