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Innovative Asian Entrepreneurs

Varun Chandran, Founder of Corporate360

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I am 33; I was born and raised in a small farming village called Padam in Kerala, India. I dropped out of college early. I was a national level footballer in India, captained Kerala youth and university football teams. I spent 10 years working for some of the world’s largest software companies such as SAP & Oracle in India, US and Singapore. Work brought me to Singapore in 2008; Presently, I live between San Francisco & Singapore running Corporate360 global operations.

In your own words what is Corporate360?

We offer a SaaS based marketing data cloud software to help B2B marketers discover sales leads, ideal buyer contacts, technology installations & competitive intelligence. Our data-as-a-service cloud helps B2B sales reps close deals faster, eliminate sales research, accelerate pipeline creation, beat competition & maintain CRM data accuracy.

How did you come up with the idea of Corporate360?

It was incidental. The idea was triggered from a business problem I faced in my previous job. My friend and ex boss – Prasanth, who is now VP in NTT Data, inserted the idea of entrepreneurship and motivation in me. He changed my career, I am thankful to him.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Corporate360?

We self-funded to start the company and remain bootstrapped. We relied on open source technologies and leveraged cloud infrastructure to get off the ground. We built the product and started sharing with our potential customers to learn feedback first and improvised it accordingly. I am confident that the practical validation of any product should come from customer adoption, revenue and repeatable business. We are entirely focused on that.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

The hardest part is finding the right talent. It’s important to build a collaborative yet performance driven team culture. We don’t do interviews; we give specific tasks for a few weeks to mutually ascertain job fitment and cultural compatibility. We don’t hire normal job seekers; we look for candidates with entrepreneurial attitude, innovative thinking, passion and commitment in what we do.

How have you been developing Corporate360 since startup?

We are always learning from our data-to-day experience to innovate products and improvise our short to mid term goals. Our ultimate objective is to help our customers grow their business. In the long run, we want to be a global leader in marketing data and sales intelligence software space.

What kind of feedback did you get for Corporate360 so far?

We have more than 200 clients now, generating multi million dollars in revenue. Some of the world’s technology companies, enterprise start-ups, successful digital and telemarketing agency partners use C360 for total addressable market analysis, competitive displacement campaigns, predictive analytics data modeling, marketing campaigns, and cross-sell initiatives. We secured a number of international awards including the best lead generation software in Asia and best new marketing data product in US, which means our products have gone through serious and vigorous testing by analysts and customers.

What is your strategy against your competition?

B2B marketing tech industry is highly competitive. Every player has some differentiators. The addressable market is huge. Despite numerous marketing technology advancement, identifying sales leads has been very difficult to predict. We built a global data platform from the ground up with industry specific features. Our data platform brings in 75% high probability of discovering sales leads. We offer a low-cost data subscription model, which allows B2B marketers to avoid repeated, flat fee based, static list purchases for marketing campaigns. Our platform is data science technology enabled, combined with human intelligence, data privacy compliance validated and comes with ongoing data accuracy maintenance support real-time. Our product is a modern, all-in-one data cloud for B2B marketing campaigns. We are one of the very few companies in the world with this new business model and we are the first and only one in Asia with a global data platform.

What can you tell us about the industry?

The world is transforming into a digital economy. There is so much data being generated. Information is available everywhere and easily accessible more than ever before. In near future, all enterprise data will be on cloud. Traditional data re-seller and flat fee based data business model will be outplaced by Data science enabled technologies, which will play a significant role in marketing decision support for businesses.

How do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

Relevancy, accuracy & compliance will be the vital factors for B2B marketing data products. We introduced a transformative business model for the B2B marketing information industry. Creating awareness through value based messaging to educate our audience and reduce skepticism is critical. We are working hard to help marketers make informed decisions to switch from traditional list sourcing to adopt modern data-as-a-service cloud.

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

An entrepreneur’s journey is full of ups and downs. It’s a part of life. Work stress always transforms into a positive energy to do better and do more.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

Asia is a dynamic market with great opportunities. The startup space here is at a budding stage. The quality of startup eco-system is improving. The freedom to apply creative thinking to build innovative products, non-reserved attitude and a fearless mindset would define an entrepreneur’s journey regardless of his location.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

I run a global business. I don’t know if there is any such regional difference in entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur should be able to build businesses catering to global markets from anywhere. Startup ecosystem in San Francisco-Bay Area is extraordinary.

What is your definition of success?

The ability to change lives and make a difference with your work

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I found an opportunity and took the risk.

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

First, understand customer problems and then build products & services to solve them. Focus on customer adoption, revenue and repeatable business; nothing else can validate your product better.

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

Learn something new every day, Make a difference with your work, Travel the world

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Anna Gong, CEO of Perx Technologies

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series of Women Founders, CEOs & Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Anna Gong, CEO of Perx Technologies, a leading mobile customer engagement and loyalty software company headquartered in Singapore.  Anna was born in China and grew up in the U.S., and has been in the tech industry for nearly 20 years. She has worked at large and startup companies before taking over the leadership of Perx in November 2014.

perx-logo


How did you rise in the industry you are in?

With pure perseverance and an undying passion for success. All because of the fear of letting my parents’ big sacrifice go in vain. They came to the U.S. with $500 and 2 young kids (my sister and me). They sacrificed their careers as established academic and healthcare professionals. I wanted them to be proud and while growing up in the U.S. where it’s full of dreams and hopes. I took on many challenges and tried many things to prove that I can achieve success and greatness but not without hardship, obstacles, and major discrimination challenges.

From the day I graduated from college, I started my career in the tech industry. I have never once let a mostly male-dominated industry discourage me. I also did not let rejection of opportunities discourage me either. I optimistically persevered and even acted like one of the boys to fit in and disguised my femininity at times. I was not afraid to face challenges, push backs and lean into difficult situations. I always knew if I didn’t take those chances, the opportunity would pass me by.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you? (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics.)

I wouldn’t say I wasn’t the usual leadership demographic. There are more and more tech companies being led by females, but it still has ways to go to be on the same level playing field as men.

I was actually recruited into this role by the board and I took it since I knew the mobile technology was a hot area to get into and it was a great business model. However, when I came in, I discovered that this company needed a whole new face lift, an entire shift in the way we did business to ensure we could achieve sustainable and repeatable success.

I therefore “refounded” the company and developed a whole new culture, technology platform, business and service model. You now see a different Perx. Perx 2.0.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

This is one of the more common challenges with companies of all sizes. It has to start from the foundational ingredients such as core values and culture. Then it’s leadership and how well you instill and practice ownership, accountability but yet still make it a fun, creative and challenging environment.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

I now unconsciously support it. I believe in and embrace diversity but at the end of the day, I aim to hire the best person for the role and not the best gender.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

I’m not sure if there’s any single handbook that teaches you to be a great leader but there are things that I believe in and practice. You have to have great vision, strong purpose, and core values that the company can buy into, support, and love by. Focus focus focus and be transparent. Lead from the front line and lead with compassion and empathy.

Advice for others?

Don’t be afraid to fail and seek advice from your community. You cannot do this alone and being a CEO is a lonely job. Find one or a few mentors. This is absolutely essential to our success and our sanity.


To learn more about Perx, please see http://www.getperx.com.

Are you a startup looking for investment? Come join me at Expert Dojo’s “Q4 Investor Festival – Where Startups Meet Investors” in Santa Monica, from October 24 to 28. Details at http://expertdojo.com/events/biggest-startup-pitch-event-usa-5-days-focus-get-startup-funded-investor-festival/.

For information about the first ever “Latinx in Tech Edition”, please see http://www.kaporcenter.org/event/startup-weekend-oakland-latinx-tech-edition/.
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Innovative Asian Entrepreneurs

The Ming Brothers, Founders of The Ming Thing

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We’ve seen you guys all over YouTube but tell us a bit about yourselves.

Ming Han:

My name is Ho Ming Han, but people usually refer to me as just Ming. Currently, I create a lot of online content, act and direct. But I grew up the typical asian child way – studied hard in school and learned piano at the same time. I studied to be an architect since young but when I started the degree, I really learned what passion was and I didn’t have that for the subject. I dropped out and somehow ended up in a Psychology degree, finished it and loved it.

I’ve always appreciated the arts and actually started performing with my brother in a band since we were in high school and college. So when YouTube began for us, it was a new way to express ourselves and let out our creativity as well.

Ming Yue:

And, I’m Ho Ming Yue, or more commonly known as Ming Yue or Ming. One of the Mings from The Ming Thing, I love creating and highlighting the little things in life that we usually tend to oversee. My passions are music, film, tech & gadgets, and people.

In your own words, what do you guys do on YouTube today?

Ming Yue:

I think the easiest way to describe what we do is to call it what it is. Content creators. We make content that we share with people through the internet that hopefully people enjoy and can relate to.

Ming Han:

I would add that my team and myself write, create and produce different forms of content (usually videos) for internet use. Along the way, I get the chance to speak and consult different groups of people about matters related to online and social media as well as creative work in its new forms.

So how tell us about your YouTube story. How did it begin?

Ming Han:

Along my thesis year in my degree (my final year), I randomly decided to vlog about the horrible carpark situation in my university at that time. That required me to start a YouTube channel that I randomly named “dmingthing” because it rhymed with my name and “themingthing” was taken, so I had to use “d” instead.

Amazingly, my first vlog did amazingly well. I had a few thousand views overnight for a totally new channel (which was very very surprising). I tried a two more vlogs and it was at that time I got contacted separately by two different people, Raffi and Bryan. They were both pretty good videographers and both offered to try making videos with me. We shot “Shit Boyfriends Say” and “Alone, Forever” and released them one after the other and even more mind-blowingly, both went viral with more than hundreds of thousand views. A huge level up from the few thousands that the vlogs had.

So we looked at ourselves and said, hey.. this is working out. The rest was pretty much history.

Ming Yue: 

I still remember when I was still in England studying, Ming Han started up the channel to complain about his university’ carpark situation. He made a few more videos and when I came back to Malaysia and I joined him and we started putting all our ideas into little videos on the channel.

We’ve always been storytellers since kids, with pretty imaginative minds, so I think we saw YouTube as a way to bring those ideas and stories to life from inside our heads.

Could you guys tell us about the process setting up and growing your YouTube channel?

Ming Yue:

Ming Han made a vlog, and then some short videos with Raffi & Bryan, and then we started to put in a little more effort in those videos. We made a web-series and then more videos.

I guess the channel’s growth was something that just happened, and not something we focused on. We really just wanted to create.

Ming Han:

Honestly, I can’t really recall a “proper” process of doing all that. We just made videos and made some more videos and kept doing that! We’ve never really concentrated on the growth of the channel because we really just focus on writing and making better videos that we’d like to watch. So it was pretty nice having friends and viewers commenting and saying “Hey, you just passed X number of subscribers!” or “Your video has X views!!!”. Yeah its pretty weird but we get told how our channel is doing. Haha.

Were there any major challenges that came with trying to develop the YouTube channel?

Ming Han:

Definitely. When we started, it was really tough getting the right locations to shoot. Doors weren’t really open to us and we literally didn’t have much money at all to book places. Equipment was also really limited. For the longest time we didn’t even use any lights. But really, overcoming this was all about knowing how to use what you have. If you’re good at being resourceful with what you have and become as skilful as you can with the current setup you have, you can make things happen.

Ming Yue:

Also, Ming Han never had any prior training or knowledge in shooting videos, and so Bryan & Raffi were a big part of the channel, bringing their know-how and experience to the table.

Perhaps some memorable difficulties were that we had very limited resources and man-power, which is something we still face today. But we’ve learnt to make do with what we have, and it’s become something we live by today as well.

Where is all of this going? What can we expect from you guys in the near future?

Ming Han:

Nowadays, its more about developing the types of content we make. We’ve always held to the practice of trying new things. So we always take any chance we get to explore a different way of shooting or a different style or writing. Anything that in turn, develops our skills and abilities as well. All this is to make sure we keep growing to do bigger things in the future, be it 5 years or 15. We definitely wanna make bigger forms of content – TV series or even movies.

What are your thoughts on the Malaysian YouTube scene?

Ming Yue:

We’re in a rather interesting point of growth for YouTube here in Malaysia. We’ve actually got quite a few YouTubers that have been around for a while as well.

I think we need to be more courageous when it comes to getting on YouTube, both for creators and as an audience. There’s a lot of talk as to how our Malaysian entertainment scene isn’t on par as countries in the West, and it’s definitely a personal challenge to see that change. YouTube is rich in diversity in the States, and it’s something our local scene needs as well. Not everyone needs to be a comedy-video maker or short-film maker.

If there are people who want to make music videos, or even videos about growing vegetables, I say do it. Being Asians, it’s our strength and weakness that we’re cautious in the things that we do, and critical if it will be a success. But I think if there’s anything we can do that’s different to Asian culture, is to take a risk. As creators, we need to dive into what we’re doing and believe in it, and as content creators, we do just that; create. And as an audience, we need to be more trusting of our local content and creators. That’s going to be the biggest push that Malaysia needs.

Ming Han: 

I think its very very different. Much younger than the scene in U.S. and very segregated because of how diverse our culture is. Over there its simple and straightforward because everyone communicates in English as their main language. But here, we have all kinds of languages and dialects and cultures. Its tough to make something that caters to everyone! But its a great challenge! Haha!

What are some of the key challenges that Malaysian YouTubers face?

Ming Han:

I would say the general creative culture in the region would be the main challenge. People value and treat creativity very differently here. Its still extremely difficult for new YouTubers to make YouTubing their full-time job. Mainly because its tough making a living for it. So many people just do it on the side or maybe don’t even start at all because its tough. Even we face challenges working with bigger brands and corporations. Its an ongoing hustle trying to help educate and change their perspectives regarding online content and how its different from traditional content (newspapers, TV, radio). But I guess that’s part of how a new scene grows. And I’m thankful to be part of that.

Ming Yue:

A lot of people we’ve spoken to at events and workshops always ask one particular question when we talk about YouTube. It’s, ‘How do I start?’. And there’s really only one answer to that, it’s, JUST start.

Again, maybe because of our Asian culture, we’re a bit more timid, a bit more reserved in many ways. And I think that doesn’t have to be the case on YouTube. We treat YouTube as a playground to do whatever we want to do and can think of, and that’s the thing that the local scene needs to remember. I think that it’s not about the number of views or subscribers, or how viral a video gets or even how big a channel grows, it’s about content. At the end of the day, it’s content that keeps an audience coming back. We need to just put ourselves into what we create, and not worry about the rest of it. That’s probably a challenge in itself.


Many people find your viewers incredibly funny and entertaining, what is your secret recipe to great YouTube videos?

Ming Han:

We always make videos that AT LEAST we find “watchable”. Haha. Our main “standard” would be ‘would we enjoy it?’. I guess that’s the first step to our recipe. But to really get into that, its about being aware to what’s going on around you. Our country is absolutely rich with all kinds of comedy and stories to be told because of how rich our culture and diversity is. Its really about watching and listening to what is happening around you and making a good story out of that. Or making fun of it. Heheh.

Ming Yue:

I don’t think there’s a recipe for great videos, because if there is, we definitely need it.

Ming Han and I are the ones who come up and write the videos and I guess we both have a similar source of inspiration for it, and it’s life. We love seeing something or someone react to life and that’s what we try to put into our videos. It’s the way we react to life in ways we may or may not notice.

We recently learnt that you guys have also started CORE Studios, tell us about it.

Ming Han:

Basically, that’s the entity that we set up to do more formal work and bigger work. TheMingThing on YouTube has become our image and face into the online social media world. CORE would most probably be the engine behind it. In CORE we work on different things at once. Mostly different videos most people don’t see online because they’re for other brands and people. But you can expect a bigger team. CORE is where we get new people into the team, train and shape individuals and then with that bigger manpower – create bigger things.

What are your personal opinions on Malaysian entrepreneurship?

Ming Han:

I personally think Malaysia is a great place to begin any entrepreneurship. Its a comfortable country with affordable-ish living costs. Its not too high-stress in terms of really needing to get a job, but I find our countrymen very laid back compared to many other countries I’ve visited. I think as Malaysians, we’re always looking out for something that can help our people. And that’s what Malaysian entrepreneurship is mainly based on – serving the citizens of this country better. Be it better food, better clothes or better services, I love that its strongly and uniquely based on the needs and wants of our country.

Ming Yue:

I think it’s booming and has a lot more potential than we realize. People are starting to take risks, trying to ride the trends and really just create something for themselves. As a nation, I think it’s only going to get better in the coming years with the amount of great ideas that are coming out from the people.

Why did you guys decide to do what you do?

Ming Yue:

Passion. That’s probably the biggest influencing factor in why we decided, and even still do what we do. We absolutely love what we do and we love seeing the way people respond to it; the good the bad and the ugly.

Ming Han:

I would say that it really chose us, instead of the other way around. It just worked! And kept on working. So we kept doing it! After university ended, I was already getting a few jobs here and there to make videos for telcos and different brands. So instead of applying for a more normal (and secure) job, I decided to try this out for a year with Bryan and Raffi as a real job. And that year kept on extending!

What are your definitions of success?

Ming Han:

I’ve noticed this definition changes from time to time. But right now, its about doing what you do, effectively and excellently. To a point where people can’t deny you’re good at what you do.

Ming Yue:

I think to me, success is being able to step back from whatever you’re doing and be content about it. Not so much because you’ve achieved or completed something, but because you’re able to let go of what you’re doing and look above it, knowing that there’s just so much to be grateful for.

Any parting tips and words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?

Ming Han:

Take the leap. Its always a risk, but big things are always scary. I believe the younger you are, the more you should try. Of course, entrepreneurship can start at any age but start young. So you make more mistakes and learn quicker. When you’re able to be more flexible and mouldable. Just go for it.

Ming Yue:

Do it. Really, just do it. The biggest thing holding us back from succeeding, is the fact that we don’t even try. Get out there, ?igure out what you love doing, do it, and love that you’re doing it.

Connect with the Ming Brothers:

TheMingThing – YouTube

The Ming Thing – Facebook

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