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Vincent Chow, Chief Executive Officer of En-trak

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Vincent Chow has developed an Energy Management System to engage people in saving energy. Based in Asia, he is hoping to educate about energy conservation to large numbers. “With 4.5 billion people in Asia, we’ve only just begun our journey – bigger things await us and we’re ready for them!”

What’s your story?
In 2012, my team and I developed our first real-time, Energy Management System for schools to inspire and engage students to understand when, where and how they are using electricity in their school. This concept achieved instant success and was quickly adopted by hundreds of schools in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.
Emboldened by the positive market feedback, we further developed an enterprise version in 2013. This was awarded the Hong Kong Green Innovation Award. En-trak was formally incorporated in August 2013.
En-Trak continues the mission to build innovative solutions to create a more sustainable future including En-trak™ Paper Management System to encourage users to reduce paper wastage. Our latest invention is our patented En-trak™ Smart Lighting which was awarded the Best Innovative Research & Development conferred by the distinguished Singapore infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) and in 2016, the company was awarded the Singapore Apex Sustainability Award.

What excites you most about your industry?
Our team works incredibly hard to design in the most effective manner to present boring technical energy data to a non-technical audience. It is only when people can understand the impact of their action, will they then be able to take action.
We conduct lunch-time seminars with our clients and when we see their reaction from their energy usage data, their expression tells us we are doing the right thing. As a result, many of our clients achieved energy savings of up to 30%, almost effortlessly. This is what excites us the most.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean based in Hong Kong. Our company is very Asia focused – we are currently in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Australia. We’re now well positioned to be the leader in the Asia Pacific region for energy IoT.
Our energy management solution is tracking 100+ million kilowatt-hours annually, sending out alerts and reports daily to help our customers reduce energy use. Our new, patented Smart Lighting solution is rapidly breaking the paradigm of zonal, offline lighting control for businesses, opening up huge new possibilities for lighting optimisation through wireless control of individual fixtures.
We are confident that our committed adherence to creating practical, scalable and sustainable solutions will be the core driver for our growth as a company. With 4.5 billion people in Asia, we’ve only just begun our journey – bigger things await us and we’re ready for them!

DSC_0174_crop_tu Vincent Chow 4

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
We are currently active in six cities in Asia – Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Melbourne, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Each city offers unique challenges and opportunities and each have their good and bad sides, so it is difficult to pinpoint my favourite.
I enjoy the convenience of Hong Kong where one can have really quick and easy access to various business support services, including proximity to a large manufacturing base in south China. In Hong Kong, there is a very strong “can do” mentality. Whenever there is an issue or problem that needs resolving, Hong Kong people tend to start cracking on their own without waiting for help.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“We have no money, we have to think.” We have this internal motto in our company to remind us that every problem can have multiple solutions and we should think hard for a solution, as if we haven’t got the money. It is easy for people to solve problems with money.
For example, when En-trak first started, we were very careful with what and how we spent our money. I believe there is always a workaround solution. I am not saying we shouldn’t spend or invest. I am advocating that one should spend wisely and always know why we need to spend.

Who inspires you?
Richard Branson. I read a lot about his story and that of other successful business people. What intrigues me about him is the story about him making use of the British Telecom telephone operator to make free calls to get in touch with big corporate guys. When he was bootstrapping, he found a loophole where if you tell the operator that you were trying to dial a number and it fails somehow, the operator would help to make the call for you and even tell the other party that a Mr. X from Company X is calling you on the line. This not only allowed him to make free calls but also sounded like a big corporate guy calling.
I think in life, we have to have some ingenuity and be a little ‘street smart.’ I am not advocating we should break the rules, but one should not be afraid to try things out.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
In our view, too many companies focus on making the largest possible impact while using cool new technologies but they neglect business common sense. For example, in a recent project our Smart Lighting solution helped a major multinational company reduce their office lighting use by over 70%. A competitor claimed they could reduce their lighting energy use by 90% – but at five times the cost!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I don’t believe in turning back time. Some of my friends ask me if I knew I would do well in business, would I have ventured out earlier? In short, my answer is no. I learnt a lot about corporate management and business planning when I was working in large corporations. These experiences taught me how to do or not do certain things.

How do you unwind?
Travelling and golf are some of the things I do in my spare time. Travelling often opens new perspectives and inspires me to try new ideas. Golf, on the other hand, allows me to tune out the noise in life and just be in the moment on the fairways.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan – the attention to intricate details and the amazing food. The Japanese take pride in the work they do and food they prepare, I marvel at their dedication to their crafts. I can travel to any part of Japan to see beautiful designs incorporated into their everyday lives and enjoy meticulous meals anywhere.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston. It is a relative old book. It talks about the many lesser known journeys of co-founders of many technology startups from the early 70s. The lessons described in the book are still relevant to those who want to start the business journey. I recommend everyone who wants to enter this adventure to read it.

Shameless plug for your business:
Return on investment is key – so we maximize that return and minimize the investment with smart product design for our clients within 2 years. We at En-trak have a firm belief that sustainability is for everyone. That’s why we created solutions that are practical and scalable. Our clear value propositions do not require a customer with a green heart, a windfall source of funding, or special government regulations. We focus on a common element across the globe – cutting operating costs.
Whether it’s about energy efficiency or employee productivity, all organizations have a fundamental interest in reducing costs while maintaining or increasing output. By ensuring our customers cut operating costs, we make it possible for every company to become sustainable.

How can people connect with you?
Find me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/drvincentchow/) or via Email [email protected] and visit our website at https://www.en-trak.com/

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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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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