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Timothy Tiah, Co-Founder of Nuffnang

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Timothy Tiah holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from University College, London. After graduation, in 2007, Timothy Tiah, alongside his business partner and CEO Ming Shen Cheo, established Netccentric together with the launch of a blog advertising company, Nuffnang.

Throughout the years, Timothy has created and executed the monetisation strategies of the core business and has been responsible for driving the international expansion sector by launching new regional offices through joint venture partnerships. In addition, he was nominated by Businessweek as one of the 25 best young Asian entrepreneurs in 2007, whereby he was the only Malaysian representative and the youngest amongst the list of inspired nominees at age 23. Timothy also went on to win several other prestigious awards one of them being the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Award in 2009. In 2014, he was the top nominee for the Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year award for Malaysia. Furthermore, adding on to his list of accomplishments, in 2015, he was shortlisted as 20 top nominees for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Malaysia and had won the Emerging Entrepreneur awards category.

During his free time, Timothy is a profilic blogger who writes at http://timothytiah.com and people interested in following him are also able do so on Dayre, https://dayre.me/timothytiah, a mobile blogging application as well as on Twitter @timothytiah.

Tell us about your business.

Netccentric Ltd is an integrated social media solutions provider for the Asia-Pacific region. Essentially it is a digital media business which operates seven businesses in the digital advertising sector across multiple countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, China and the U.K.  We help advertisers connect with people on social media. Nuffnang is our blog advertising network and our first venture under Netccentric.

How did you come up with the idea of Nuffnang?

It all started back in 2005 when I was studying in London. I was the kind of Malaysian who was always homesick and so I read a lot of blogs back in Malaysia. I used to think blogs were a really niche thing but as I read more and more blogs and dug deeper, I realized that the traffic they collectively commanded was huge.

I wondered why advertisers never engaged bloggers and after some research, I have found that what the blogging community needed was one company to collectively represent them to advertisers. In other words, to make it technologically and logistically possible for an advertiser to reach 10,000 blogs in one campaign instead of just 10. Hence the idea for Nuffnang was born.

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

I promised myself that by the time I got back to KL after graduation, if nobody had started something like Nuffnang I would do it. As I came back, there was no start-up in relation with the idea of Nuffnang. Therefore, I turned down some job opportunities at a couple of investment banks and took the leap.

My partner, Ming Shen Cheo and I borrowed RM 75k from our fathers respectively and together we started Netccentric and Nuffnang with RM150K.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?

Yes plenty. It was a fairly steep learning curve. This was coming from a student and then running a start-up almost immediately. We didn’t know anything or anybody in the industry we existed in.

To get our first clients we could not network our way in. We just really went to knock on doors and try to convince people to give us a chance.

How have you been developing Netccentric Ltd?

Last year in June 2015, Netccentric was successfully listed on the ASX raising $12.5 million in a heavily oversubscribed capital raise.

Netccentric today has over 200 full-time staff and houses several online businesses which include Nom Nom Media, the exclusive digital reseller of Nuffnang; Churp Churp, a social media advertising network; Ripplewerkz, the design and web development arm and REelityTV, an online video production house.

What kind of feedback did you get for Nuffnang so far?

 I think Nuffnang has come a long way in revolutionizing the blogging industry. Before we started, blog advertising was a really small chunk of the overall advertising pie in Malaysia and Singapore. I believe we helped significantly grow that to what it is today.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry? What is your strategy against your competition?

Yes. We’re in a number of different businesses and different countries so we have competitors in each individual country. Our focus isn’t on our competitors but really on ourselves.

What is the future of this industry?

Our industry is a really fast moving one. Things change and progress. Social networks come and go; therefore it is really important to keep up to speed with what’s going on. One of our key focuses now is Dayre that has helped us evolve into a platform owner.

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

In businesses, we’re always bound to have our surprises and disappointments. I’ve had my fair share of positive surprises and disappointments too.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? 

Well I can speak with some level of experience from having own a company in the UK and Australia. In developing countries such as in Asia, costs tend to be lower, so it’s somewhat easier to turn a profit.

Developed countries have big mature markets but their costs are also correspondingly higher. So in these countries, we have to hit a higher minimum economy of scale if we want to make good profits.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

I don’t think entrepreneurs can really be defined by the country you come from or anything like that really. The thing about being an entrepreneur is your ability to adapt. So entrepreneurs constantly evolve to the environment they’re in, regardless of where they’re from.

What is your definition of success?

Happiness.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I didn’t really just decide to be an entrepreneur. I just wanted to start something for the blogging community and well along the way progress to become an entrepreneur.

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

Luck. In my opinion, I believe that success is 70% luck and 30% hard work.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

I would like to quote my favourite phrase which is “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters”.

Connect 

www.netccentric.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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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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