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The Perception of Success

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Success is easy to describe isn’t it? It’s a simple word with a straightforward meaning. Only it’s not. Not to me, not anymore. If you are at the beginning of, currently immersed in, or at the end of, the tricky business of building a startup, then I suggest the word ‘success’ should not be so simple and straightforward for you either.

Here’s the thing; a few years ago, way back at the beginning of my time in startup land, I could quite confidently (and probably incorrectly) have rattled off what success would be – what it would look, sound, and smell like. Then the goal posts shifted, the path twisted and things changed.   This happened again and again. The road markers to ‘Success-ville’ were all pointing unexpected directions – kind of like navigating using the launch version of Apple Maps.

This was a very uncomfortable experience (also like using Apple Maps). It seemed as though, since I had not arrived at the original destination in a timely manner, the opposite of success must have happened. Right?

The opposite of success, as everyone well knows, is failure. In startup land, failure can be a badge of honour – the spoils of a hard battle fought. It teaches lessons, toughens you up for the next fight and generally puts hairs on your chest (proverbially…last time I checked anyway). ‘Fail fast’ is part of the startup catechism along with ‘scale’ and ‘pivot’ and ‘attend events where there is free food’, however, I wasn’t there yet.

I kept pushing ahead through the twists and turns long after I probably should have hit the dump button; partly because I was convinced our business model was missing something critical (we ended up overhauling our revenue model and completely rethinking our go-to-market strategy), partly because I am stubborn to a fault, and partly because somewhere along the way I realised that the concept of success is utterly and completely malleable and subjective.

Before I came to this realization though, feeling like I was on the slippery slope to fail-town was highly unpleasant. At this point all the people around you in startup land seem like they are having a lovely time enjoying their own success (insert vision of smug, laughing people clinking champagne glasses and riding ponies).

Two people are Image credit: Pexels

Two people who have clearly just sold a startup.
Image credit: Pexels

I would listen with mild–to-serious envy to tales of huge user uptake, outrageous download numbers, media write ups and (hushed, reverential tone) actual revenue. Of course, amongst this fug of success there were those who very wisely took the fail fast card and moved on to the next project. I couldn’t do it. Somewhere along the way, my original picture of success had faded and suddenly I was free to be less rigid in my personal perception of success versus failure.

I was not failing fast, nor was I success-ing fast. I was (and still am) making my way inexorably down the startup path. Just because I cannot yet hold up a healthy revenue sheet in glee or tweet at Apple thanking them for featuring our app does not mean that I am not notching up successes.

Success can look like a compliment – or constructive feedback – from a potential customer. It could be scheduling a meeting with a mentor or finally making that phone call you had been putting off. It could look like a new database or some sweet new code if that’s your thing. It could even just be not giving up and going to work at that coffee shop down the road.

I am in no way suggesting that all business goals be wantonly thrown aside for an aimless meander through startup land. That’s a little too confronting for an achievement-driven Virgo like me. What I am saying is that whilst you are on the dark and often torturous path to actually achieving those goals, it is much easier, and kinder, to keep your perception of success fluid.

That means when you hit that nasty dank place sometimes called tech-failure sometimes called co-founder dispute or a dozen other unpleasant names, then you can salvage a modicum of comfort from small successes. Even on the worst day, you can remind yourself that you’re still success-ing overall and move on to the next step and one day, when you least expect it, you may look up and realize you have arrived exactly where you set out to go via the really long way around (thanks again Apple Maps).

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About the Author

This article is written by Simone Perkins, contributor of The Tech Street Journal. Simone is Co-Founder and CEO of The Perch Project. She has had the pleasure of working on Perch within the startup space in Brisbane for the last 3 years. Simone likes to drink shamefully un-craft beer and really dislikes the term ‘CEO’. See more of The Tech Street Journal.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

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

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

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

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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