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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

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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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