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Thanh Van Dang, CEO & Founder of SavvyCom Software

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Thanh Van Dang believes, “If I can do it, you can do it better.” She is fascinated by the tech industry and how quickly people are adapting and using technology in their lives. Her business savvycom is a tech business using mobile applications.

What’s your story?
I grew up in a small village and started working to earn an income when I was a child. My life changed the day I enrolled in University, and got a full scholarship to study my IT degree at the University of Sydney, Australia. Four years of studying and living in Australia, meeting different people from different cultures has nourished my dreams and my passion in technology. I have always questioned how to make an international product using Vietnamese engineers.
After graduating, I came back to Vietnam with the dream of building a better Vietnam. I have worked across several roles such as Researcher, Coder, Project Manager, Business Developer, Consultant, Country Representative and even Assistant , but my passion for a technology product has always been there. I decided to start my own business with four people in 2009 when the global economy was still impacted by the echoes of the financial crisis years ago, and the Vietnamese economy was not on the bright side.
Many difficulties and obstacles along the way brought me down, but I believed I was going in the right direction. Savvycom was born in 2009 to provide beautiful mobile applications.
As an entrepreneur who is passionate and believes in a beautiful life enabled by technology, I enjoy sharing and adding value to society. I want to encourage people and women in specific to do what they do best, chasing their dreams and passions. “If I can do it, you can do it better.”

What excites you most about your industry?
Information Technology has developed rapidly and changed people’s behaviour in an innovative way. People are starting to use mobile devices more frequently than before in the workplace and to do housework, and it is becoming a necessary thing in modern life, driving more innovations to catch up with the development of intelligence. In the golden age of technology, the mobile technology revolution continues to develop dramatically and changes every minute. We have to change ourselves to adapt with it or we’ll be left behind.

What’s your connection to Asia?
We provide innovative mobility solutions in healthcare and education.
We also partner with startups and fast growing businesses in Asia – Singapore, Japan, Korea and Myanmar.

Favorite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city for business. This amazing city is an Asian tech hub where many big technology companies came together and relocated such as Google, Youtube, Apple, etc. Singapore is different from other cities in Asia, even though its land size is the same as Vietnam’s Island – Phu Quoc, the value of technology’s innovation starting from here is priceless. I have also met many bright minded people through networking in Singapore. That’s why Singapore is my favourite city for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The way is found when we go,” and an “idea is only an idea.”
When you start, you might not see clearly its end or how to do it. So, just get started, you’ll find the way to do it.

Who inspires you?
There are two people who inspire me the most. They are Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg inspires me with his youth, creative mind, passion and dare to think, dare to work. On the thorny way to be successful in Facebook to the the present, he had to go on his own in some parts when all his colleagues left and did not believe in him. Mark still kept his beliefs, passions and hopes in what he thought right and changed the world in an innovative way.
Bill Gates is the greatest person ever. He has not only been successful in business, creating the personal computer revolution, but also, he cares a lot about global health. Bill Gates with his wife, has spent time and money in researching vaccines to help thousands of people around the world to have better lives.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I listened to a speech by Mark Zuckerberg at a Harvard ceremony in 2017. He delivered such a valuable speech to the millennial generation, creating a renewed sense of purpose and connecting people around the world. Zuckerberg inspires me and drives me to make a positive impact on the global community.
His message is encouraging. Mark explained in his speech a really powerful message about how you come up with your own idea and you shouldn’t be afraid to take it, even if it is not fully formed, as it becomes clear as you work on it. He also said, “it is good to be idealistic. But be prepared to be misunderstood”. There are some people who might slow you down, however, you need to believe in what you think it is right.
My journey with Savvycom seemed like an idea at first, not fully formed, but I believe it will become what I want it to be.
Nowadays we are living in the golden age of technology. We know the role of technology in changing people’s lives innovatively and connecting people is easier than ever. So, let’s do what we do best to make the world beautiful.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t change anything, because everything came to me naturally and at the right time. I have enjoyed the journey which has brought me unexpected things along the way.

How do you unwind?
I usually read books. I also listen to other people’s stories that inspire and drive me.
I have my small lovely family with whom I enjoy my time the most. We go together to the northern villages of Vietnam where I grew up. I have found many brilliant children that need our support for a better future. We enjoy learning from them and helping them as much as we can through sharing our experiences and encouraging them to live better.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
My Vietnam. I love our suburban places, my hometown where you can see mountains next to mountains, feel the fresh air and live a wild life. All of it, I could not find in a busy city.

Everyone in business should read this book
Value Proposition Design – by Alan Smith, Alexander Osterwalder, Greg Bernarda, Gregory Bernarda, Trish Papadakos, and Yves Pigneur
Good to Great – by James C. Collins
The Fountainhead – by Ayn Rand

Shameless plug for your business
Savvycom – Vietnam’s most trusted app developer and T]tech co-founders. We make apps successful by providing more than just development. We help market, scale and improve your app idea, effectively acting as an extended CTO.
Founded in 2009 by a small team of passionate people, Savvycom now has a balanced blend of technology skills and domain knowledge of seasoned IT professionals, powered by a passion for IT.

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

Twitter handle?
@thanhvandtt

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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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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

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Callum Connects

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

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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

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