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Thierry Tea, Founder & CEO of PhilJets Group

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Thierry Tea has had a successful and dynamic corporate and entrepreneurial career. From aviation to e-commerce, he is focusing on his latest start-up, WeCube.

What’s your story?
I was formerly a corporate senior executive, entrepreneur and I am now an investor across 4 Asian countries.

I was experiencing dynamic progress in my corporate career with the Airbus Group, but decided to leave my position as CEO of Airbus Helicopters Philippines and Head of Airbus Group Philippines to start my entrepreneurial life. I created Starline Global Industries in Singapore, an investment holding house that has then established PhilJets Group in the Philippines and Agama Investments in Cambodia. While PhilJets has become a leading aviation company operating aircraft management, fractional ownership, timesharing, maintenance services, training services, charter flights and recently launching GrabHeli with GrabTaxi; Agama Investments has invested in agribusiness with Parfum d’Indochine producing vanilla as well as in human resource services with Saint Blanquat & Associates and in retail with Jewelmer Joaillerie’s dealership in Cambodia. From corporate executive, I am now entrepreneur and investor with stakes in 11 companies after 3 years in the startup world. Our latest project is the launch of WeCube, our incubator which will start-up in the Philippines.

What excites you most about your industry?
While aviation is an industry I was passionate about, I decided to broaden my interests and business landscape and learn more about other Industries such as agribusiness, retail, HR services, private equity and finance and now IT and e-commerce. I believe in innovation. The only permanent thing is change, so we should always be learning. I am happy to meet and great business leaders and exchange knowledge and experience. It is an honor to have been able to partner with some of them. Nothing is impossible.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was raised by Cambodian Chinese parents who went from wealthy entrepreneurs in Cambodia to poor refugees and then middle class in the Chinatown of Paris. ‘Work hard at school, be good, family is important,’ these are the Asian values I grew up with. My first trip to Asia was at 17, to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Then, I studied in Singapore and did an internship in Hong Kong before completing another one in Shanghai. I wanted to be working in Asia and started with Airbus Helicopters in 2004 in Singapore and then the Philippines. I have now been based in Manila for 11 years and in the last two years, I’ve had many trips to Phnom Penh.

Heli&jets IMG_0532 TT PhilJets

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for its ease of doing business and winning mindset. Phnom Penh for its amazing vibrant energy and entrepreneurial spirit everywhere in the city. Manila for its new wave of start-up growth.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
There are a few. My partner Dominique Ky of TK Orient advised me, “if you are more daring, you will get anything you want.” My friend Adrien Choux, founder of the Chinese Timekeeper, told me to start my entrepreneur journey a few years ago. Jeremy Harbour of the Harbour Club said “everything measured, improve.” My wife who tells me, “now is the time to develop the business because later, we will be older and will need to enjoy it more!”

Who inspires you?
My wife Lynda, who left her corporate career in Singapore to take over her family’s rice trading business in Gabon, Africa and then decided to take a leave to give birth to our daughter Julia.

My parents, who taught me the right values in life. They know what it is to be rich, to lose everything, but who worked hard and sacrificed a lot to give me and my brother the opportunity of a better future.

Our passionate team and colleagues who give their best everyday to satisfy our clients. Without them, nothing would be possible.

As business figure, Jack Ma has shown the world what an Asian entrepreneur can do. I also admire Asian tycoons that I have had the chance to know, such as Pung Keav Se of Canadian Integrated Group (Cambodia), Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation (Philippines), Michael Kadoorie of the Peninsula Hotels Chain (Hong Kong).

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That our generation is endangering the planet at a rate higher than any previous generations. Unfortunately, there are very little remedies, since human nature puts its survival first. While Starline Global Industries and Agama Investments will contribute by putting up schools in remote areas of Cambodia to improve education, I hope the next generation will be more conscious and more caring towards the environment. We have to think of what we leave behind in this world.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
One year ago, I told myself, “If I leave this world tomorrow, my only regret is not having had a child.” This changed 4 months ago. I am having the life I wanted and I enjoy it 150%. Maybe starting entrepreneurship and a family earlier would be one wish. I would have loved my grand-parents to have met my daughter.

How do you unwind?
I used to find having a foot massage or reading a good book were ways to relax, but these have been overtaken by spending time with my 4 month old daughter Julia. It is the best way to clear my mind. Life is magical and children are wonderful in the way they learn and grow. Of course, spending quality time with my wife is also a great way to unwind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Singapore and Siem Reap are both great places. I love the mix of culture in Singapore. As I am Asian, Chinese and European. Singapore offers the Chinese desserts that we love and also the modern Asian style that suits me. Siem Reap in Cambodia is full of history and culture.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Art of War of Sun Tzu is a must. ‘It’s not how good you are but how good you want to be,’ by Paul Arden. The 2 others are Bernard Arnault’s (LVMH Group) biography ‘The Exterminator Angel’ and ‘Alibaba’s World.’

Shameless plug for your business:
Starline Global Industries is looking at investment opportunities and connecting businesses between Asia and Europe.

PhilJets is the leading boutique aviation solution in the Philippines, managing USD 20 million in assets, fractional ownership, timesharing, charter flights and also offering consultancy, maintenance services, aircraft sales and training services. PhilJets launched the GrabHeli app together with GrabTaxi.
Our new venture, WeCube is the newest incubator in the Philippines, launching the ComeOn Ground co-working space.

Agama Investments engages in creating value and developing long term sustainable activities in Cambodia, whilst also contributing to develop the image and exposure of the country in the business world.

How can people connect with you?
I can be reached on linkedin, facebook, twitter. Or through any one of our websites www.starlineglobalindustries.com and www.philjets.com

Twitter handle?
@thierrytea

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

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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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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