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Women on Top in Tech – Kari Wu, Co-Founder of Screen Door Labs



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

Kari Wu is the Co-Founder of Screen Door Labs, which extends human perception by integrating cutting-edge technologies including augmented reality glasses, drones, and sensors. Kari used to be an international television news reporter for TVBS before founding Screen Door Labs. As an international reporter, she has traveled to more than 20 countries, developing relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. In her search for optimized business models to help people make informed decisions, she completed her MBA and MS in Media Ventures at Boston University and has interned with several virtual reality startups.

What makes you do what you do?
Social impact has been a core of my family for generations. My grandfather was a police officer, my father is a politician, and I became an international news reporter. As I traveled, I interviewed tech and social entrepreneurs around the world and began internalizing their stories; what are the successful patterns and approaches to building a great team able to bring products and services to the world. Inspired by their stories, I later interviewed a diverse range of entrepreneurs and published a book, Startup Fever: How Can Failures Prepare You for Success, but I felt the need to push forward and learn more.

I came to America to learn from its vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. I earned my MBA/ MS in Media Ventures from Boston University at the same time Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality were starting to come online. Seth Persigehl, a friend of mine (and later my co-founder), got a call about public safety’s needs for a team communication system. I saw a path for business, emerging technology, and my international experience to come together and help save people’s lives. I couldn’t pass that by.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I started my immersive media career from virtual reality. After helping a VC with due diligence of a VR medical device company, I realized the power of AR/VR/MR. I was still working on my MBA but I soon found an internship at the Emblematic Group, working as Nonny de la Peña’s intern much like Palmer Luckey did years ago. Nonny’s journalist background and her social impact VR productions spoke to me. I also kept myself as busy as possible by going to many hackathons, meetups, and conferences in the immersive media industry. I talked to as many people as I could and asked for trends, insights, what works and what doesn’t (both technical wise and business wise). The AR/VR/MR industry is young and open, with different people from different industrial and demographic backgrounds. It’s through talking to people and going to events that I navigate myself in the industry and grow as fast as possible.

Why did you take on this role/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 embraced challenges growing up. More precisely, I need challenges. I strive to learn new things and find new challenges to tackle. I’ve been told that I couldn’t do something so many times in my life and I have proved that I can do them, and do them well. I would be lying if I told you I’ve never felt scared when embarking on new endeavors, plans, and initiatives, but I love the process and they help me to become a better person on both personal and professional levels.

I am not part of the usual leadership demographic which helps me to be even more fearless. When I started my career in the U.S., I had talked myself down because I am not white, I am a female, I am not an American, and English is not my mother language. Even going to events standing next to people was daunting. However, I pushed myself, and soon I found that there are some perks, too. I am an odd case so people either remember me better or not at all. Thanks to many talented and diligent entrepreneurs who share some of the categories I fit into, people sometimes even associate me with some great minds. Last but not least, the software business is a global business. The fact that I am from Taiwan, speak Mandarin Chinese and had been to many countries provide us with a great potential in terms of partnership and market opportunities.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have several mentors I trust and look up to in tech and life. As a former reporter, I make sure I talk to experts based on specific questions. I keep in touch with my former supervisors, professors, co-workers, and friends, so when I am not sure about who may be the best person to reach out, I have a group of people who know me well and can point me to the right direction.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
I would say most of my mentors become my mentors because I keep following up with them, sharing information they may be interested in and telling them my stories. I email my mentors our company updates, industry news, my personal learning, thoughts, and sometimes more; it all depends on who they are/how much time they have and what type of relationship we have. Most updates are done through emails and social media and sometimes in-person meetings and calls. I think being able to tell our stories with messages, emails, and videos help me stay at the top of my mentors’ minds.

As a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I do it by asking questions. What are they good at? Why do they want to help our startup? What do they see themselves doing now and at a future date? What does it take from us and from them to get there? What’s their expectation in terms of time and financial rewards? I have a fairly good sense of how people think and what they care about (again, thanks to my reporter career!); my understanding can be even closer to the fact when I have conversations with them. We are still a very small startup and I cannot brag about growing our talent pool yet, but I believe there are always ways to do things that meet both individual goals and company goals. Figuring that out is my job. That is also how we grow as a team and making sure all the investment dollars are leveraged to the greatest extent.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I love diversity and care about equality from my heart. Without diversity, the world is too boring. Without equality, I do not know how to justify the rights I have. Born and raised in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, I was much more of a mainstream Taiwanese. In college, my first reporting story was the gay parade and my first feature story was about immigrants from China and Southeast Asian countries.

Living in the U.S., such a diverse country, I suddenly became part of the minority and it’s eye-opening to see things from this angle. The level of cultural/gender awareness a lot of people have here is impressive and respectful. For that, I try my best to do the same and payback to the community whenever I can. I have the privilege to get help from many people and I know how deeply and eagerly they want to see me thrive. I started to feel how they feel after starting to navigate some connections of mine in their career exploration.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I had read articles about the importance of being a genuine person in the business. I started to know more and deeper about what that means after getting into the world of startups. It’s all about connecting the dots and navigating yourself and your company towards the right directions. If you are not a nice and genuine person, no matter how much money you have or how strong your skillsets are, people may not be on your side for long. Those who stand out at the end of the day are those who get people’s hearts and minds.

Advice for others?
Everyone has different strengths – look for someone who understands your strengths and can bring the most potential in you. Being a leader itself is having to keep growing as an individual and having the great cycle of “feedback-growth” is tremendously helpful.

If you’d like to get in touch with Kari Wu, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Screen Door Labs, please click here.

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Science is the Next Big Thing in Startups



From pharmaceuticals to petrochemical processes: Newcomer companies and investors and investors alike are setting their sights on science. How the start-up scene moves beyond the mobile apps bubble…

For the last two years Silicon Valley analysts and venture capitalists are anticipating the burst of yet another bubble. This time, under the risk are the mobile start-ups which constitute the biggest share of the market. Out of 50 companies listed in Forbes’ “the hottest startup of 2015” (by valuation) only six companies are based on innovations in other-than-mobile area, one company provide cleaning services, while the rest are diverse mobile apps.

Meanwhile many products listed can be barely called innovative. A significant proportion of the listed start-ups are texting apps, apps for people search (starting from business partners to life partners) or delivery services. While those services can definitely facilitate one’s life, in general they differ from their predecessors by only a narrower audience.

Many venture investors expect stagnation if not decrease on the markets, which is why they start to transfer their capitals from start-ups offering customers software to start-ups offering specific solutions for existing businesses. Such companies are expected to demonstrate more stability in the near future.

The Market for Mobile Apps Might be Saturated

Back in 2012 a talented entrepreneur could walk into a venture capitalist’s office, say his startup was a mobile-first solution for pretty much any problem (payments! photos! blogging!), and walk out with a good-size seed investment. “That pitch was enough to get going,” says Roelof Botha, a partner with VC firm Sequoia Capital. “It’s not enough anymore.”

“I think investors are bored with investing in another messaging app. And our idea is crazy enough that it might just work. ”, has declared in 2014 Nadir Bagaveyev a founder of a start-up using 3-D printers to make rocket engines. By 2016 the company attracted investors funding sufficient to launch its first rocket.

Pharma and Biotech Start-Ups in High Demand

Currently the most successful science-based start-ups are the companies offering innovative solutions in the field of pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies. It’s noteworthy that despite the previous revelations and even judicial proceedings the list of the most expensive start-ups still includes Theranos, blood analyzing laboratory, whose story did not descend from the main pages of the global leading media from 2014.

It first amazed the audience with its fantastic take-off and then with its collapse. One of the crucial parts of the success story of this start-up is its fundamental difference from the majority of the services produced in the Silicon Valley. Unlike the others, it was not a story of yet another beautiful gadget for communication or mobile app, but the story of the scientific idea which intended to conquer the world.

The great success stories in other scientific areas are now happening on occasional basis. However certain facts allow to predict that the situation is to change soon. One of such factors is growing interest among the big corporations to attract innovative solutions from outside to develop their businesses.

Given the accelerating pace of scientific and technological development of the world, the activities of internal R & D departments are often turn to be insufficient to ensure stable development of innovative business. Outsourcing of the R&D may become the efficient mechanism to stimulate the growth of the company. And high-tech start-up can certainly benefit from it.

Start-Up Technology for the Petro-Business

In December, 2016 world leading companies in the field of gas processing, petrochemicals and chemicals announced their intentions to enforce their R&D capacities by attracting start-ups. 3M, AkzoNobel, BASF, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Henkel, Honeywell UOP, LG Chem, Linde, Sibur, Solvay and Technip together created a global stage for startups and investors.

“The petrochemicals industry can and must rely on the potential of open innovations to facilitate further inventions and implementation of new solutions in all major application areas, from construction and medicine to packaging and 3D printing. Thanks to the participation of international partners, IQ-CHem is now the largest global project within the industry which attracts innovative solutions and provides for their implementation into practice,” said Vasily Nomokonov, Executive Director of Sibur, a company which coordinates the project.

Positive Experience in Chemicals and Beyond

Some of the listed companies have already gained positive experience in working with start-ups which may have driven them to elaborate a systemic approach to attract innovative companies.

At the beginning of 2016, SIBUR and RRT Global start-up reached an agreement to build a pilot plant for isomerization based on RRT Global technologies in Sibur’s Industrial Park SIBUR “Tolyattisintez”. According to Oleg Giyazov, co-founder and CEO of RRT Global cooperation with a large corporation bring significant advantages to his company.

“By cooperation with Sibur we get a huge industrial experience that enables us to develop technologies and solutions better fitted to the market demand. This advantage is often not given due attention, but we, on the contrary, see significant opportunities in it. Currently, RRT Global cooperates with several companies around the world” he said.

Another petrochemical leader BASF enjoys successful cooperation with Genomatica start-up. In 2013 BASF started the production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock (renewable BDO) using Genomatica’s patented process and in 2015 the license was expanded to the Asian market.

Unlike traditional forms of cooperation between a start-up and a venture capitalist, a cooperation between start-up and a relevant corporation allows to minimize the risks associated with investing in a potentially promising idea where the key word is “potential” (but not “guaranteed”). While delivering services in the same field as the start-up the corporation gets an opportunity to more effectively and accurately estimate the market value of an innovative idea and to support its implementation.

Structural Changes Ahead: Outlines of A Coming Market

In the short term prospective, possibly in 2017, the global start-up market will face structural changes – both in terms of start-ups professional orientation and of funding mechanism. In the future science-based start-ups will dominate the market and will change our lives at a deeper level than the way of sending a text message or searching the restaurant for an evening meal. To be more concise this is already happening in the pharmaceutical industry, and the other scientific areas are to follow.


About the Author

This article was written by Dominik Stephan of Process Worldwide. See more.

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Callum Connects

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters



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.

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.

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

Alternatively, you can connect with me:

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:
Download free copies of his books here:

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