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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”.

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www.netccentric.com

Callum Connects

Elizabeth Wu, Co-founder & COO of Trehaus

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Elizabeth Wu is making work-life integration a reality for working parents in her new family friendly coworking space.

What’s your story?
I co-founded a coworking space in Singapore that comes complete with a child-friendly facility. We’re the first of our kind here and we’ve been making work-life integration a reality for working parents since we opened.

What excites you most about your industry?
We are the first of our kind, and there’s no other coworking space like us. Sure, there are plenty of coworking spaces in Singapore, but we are the pioneers of championing ‘BYO-kid’ to work by creating a conducive workspace and enriching kids play, all under one roof.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I’m a local through and through.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, of course! It’s safe, well-regulated and has a diverse community. Barriers to entry for starting up a business is low, and generally there is good support for small to medium enterprises and startups, which is great.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Life is short. Do stuff that matters.” I think I decided to do “stuff that matters” a long time ago and that’s why I became an educator. When motherhood beckoned, I decided again, to do “stuff that matters” by staying home to be with my kids. Then, I began to desire a meaningful career while raising my kids. So, I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, because I am governed by wanting to “do stuff that matters!”

Who inspires you?
So many people inspire me. My members at Trehaus inspire me with the things they do and the changes they make. But if I have to pick someone, it would be Elim Chew, founder of 77th Street; who is a seasoned entrepreneur. She started from humble beginnings, went through setbacks and never said never to new journeys in entrepreneurship. I love that she always looks for ways to give back to society and mentor the next generation with her wealth of wisdom and experiences.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I learned the 5-by-5 rule recently: That is, ‘if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset by it.’ This helps me puts things in perspective, and I try to remember this every time the urge comes to dwell, to brood, to beat myself up or to sweat the small stuff.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely be more careful with the people I hired to build the team. I’ve learned that it is important to find and build an entrepreneurial team that will plough and work hard alongside the founders. Like Jack Ma once said, “Don’t hire the most qualified candidate. Hire the craziest.” I should have done that right from the start. It would save us so much time and heartache.

How do you unwind?
I take long walks to clear my or I go for a fruitful session of self care, like yoga or a massage.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I really enjoy getting out of Singapore to the outskirts of Bangkok to live amongst the locals. My family of 5 used to do that each December; just taking off to live amongst the locals where street food is aplenty and warmth and hospitality is everywhere. I enjoy their slow pace of life and how simple things can be.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

Shameless plug for your business:
Trehaus is Singapore’s first ever family-friendly coworking space that lets you build a career while prioritising family. If it takes a village to raise a child, then Trehaus is the modern village where you will find a robust community and supportive ecosystem that lets you be an involved parent – never missing a single milestone in your child’s early years – and at the same time do efficient and productive work. We’ve made magic happen in what we’ve created!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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

Mark Winterton, General Manager of InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay

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Mark Winterton has dedicated his life to achieving unparalleled and extraordinary guest experiences in the hospitality industry.

What’s your story?
I’m a seasoned hospitality professional with over twenty years international experience launching luxury brands, repositioning existing brands and driving innovation for some of the world’s most successful hotels.

As General Manager of InterContinental® Singapore Robertson Quay, I’m responsible for the strategic positioning of the property as the next generation of the InterContinental hotel brand and have been spearheading the hotel since its opening in October 2017, with the goal of achieving a unique and unrivalled market positioning as Singapore’s most luxurious residential hotel.

I started my career with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®) in 1995 and have since been dedicating myself towards achieving perfection. I find immense fulfillment in leading my team towards achieving extraordinary and unparalleled guest experiences.

What excites you most about your industry?
The hospitality industry boasts an extremely dynamic landscape, and we are always seeing new hotels opening alongside the entry of burgeoning brands. This growth has, over time developed positive competition and generated positive driving forces that have elevated the overall standard of the industry in Singapore. The industry has a dynamic landscape. There are many opportunities to bring the right people together and create amazing teams to launch or reposition hotels. The process of creating teams, inspiring individuals and then working together to bring a project to life is where I find the excitement lies.

What’s your connection to Asia?
The lure of Asia has always been very strong for foreign economies and companies, with great accessibility to new opportunities, customers, consumers and clients. My first foray into Asia was back in 2007, when I launched Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore. Following that, I was also based in Bangkok for a couple of years for the rebranding of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. Over my years in Asia, I have had the opportunity to truly immerse myself in new cultures, establish new connections with key counterparts and friends; and these have further solidified my interest in and strengthened my connection to Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Commonly known as the gateway to Asia, we’ve been blessed with a stable government, a sound political economy and a comprehensive infrastructure for reliable business operations. With tremendous efforts put in by the Singapore Tourism Board towards elevating the city as an attractive venue for visitors, the growth of Singapore as a key MICE destination, coupled with a cosmopolitan pool of talent, Singapore remains my favourite city in Asia for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You can never be 100% ready for a new role.” I believe that there will always be room for growth and learning on the job. As long as a person is 80% ready for a new role, the opportunity should be extended. I am a strong believer in the development of people and the grooming of talent, and this piece of advice has allowed me to take more chances on people I’ve worked with and developed over the years.

Who inspires you?
Simon Sinek, a speaker with TED Talk.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I don’t think I can pinpoint just one lesson learnt recently, as learning is an ongoing process. No matter how small a piece of knowledge may seem, it should be valued. Everyday is a journey of learning and development.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing at all. I don’t believe in regrets and everything that has happened thus far, has had a part to play in who I am and where I stand today.

How do you unwind?
Spending time with friends over relaxed conversations and wine or working my green fingers in my balcony garden.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. It’s one destination where I’ve always returned to, simply because it offers me the same level of comfort and familiarity each time I return. It’s where I can feel most relaxed, yet still be able to enjoy the vibrant dining scene.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

Shameless plug for your business:
Officially opened on 12 October 2017, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is the first international luxury hotel brand situated at Robertson Quay. Set amidst a dynamic, sophisticated neighbourhood along the Singapore River, known for its dining options and arts houses, the luxury residential-inspired hotel has been carefully curated by world-­class designers, architects and culinary purveyors. Located minutes away from the CBD, the hotel still maintains a stylish but laid back, relaxed feel in the leafy, upscale neighbourhood of Robertson Quay. The hotel offers 225 luxurious studios and suites, including an expansive Penthouse, which has unparalleled views of both the Singapore River and vibrant city via floor-­to-­ceiling windows.

The residential-­inspired property combines elements from Robertson Quay’s industrial and intriguing past with sleek contemporary finishes whilst seamlessly blending into the residential surrounds. Light-­filled room interiors have been designed to magnify the familiar comforts of home where guests may enjoy bespoke amenities such as a specially designed in-­room cocktail kit.

Established as part of a holistic dining and lifestyle destination, the hotel boasts a wide range of restaurant and bar concepts. Flagship restaurant Publico, representing the central core of Italian culture, is a multi-­concept dining destination comprising a variety of Italian experiences under one roof – a neighbourhood deli and bar and a ristorante with adjoining terrazzo by the river. Other highlights throughout the hotel include New York institution Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener, and a bar and dining concept from the team behind Izy Sushi. Over 40 other dining options await at the hotel doorstep, in The Quayside precinct.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markwinterton1/

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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