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Women on Top in Tech – Sivareena S.L., Co-Founder & COO of PregBuddy

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(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.

Sivareena S.L. is the Co-Founder & COO of PregBuddy, a care continuum platform between doctors and their expecting patients throughout their nine months of pregnancy. Sivareena started her career in 2015 at a startup called Furlenco where she managed their supply chain and operations. She co-founded the PR Cell of IIT Kharagpur and also built supply chains at PepsiCo. and CocaCola.

What makes you do what you do?
Everyday at least 100 expecting mothers are delivering their babies after using PregBuddy. We get emails from them sharing photographs of them and their babies. This is hugely gratifying for me and my team and that’s what keeps us going every day.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Healthcare in India is still at its nascent stages of technology adoption. In other industries, a lot of experimentation has been done, but in healthcare there is a lot of opportunities where technology will lead to a massive transformation. Being among the first movers in an industry is always advantageous. For the past 1.5 years, we’ve been laser-focused in the maternal healthcare space, kept listening to our 60,000 expecting mothers, working closely with our technology and healthcare partners, and have been able to identify some deep insights about this space and build a product which is loved and trusted by expecting mothers and care providers across India.

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)?
We started PregBuddy when one of my cousins underwent a miscarriage in the 4th month of her pregnancy. Her entire family went through a period of mental distress. This is when we started working in the healthcare space. As none of us were parents, we met 200-250 expecting mothers across various hospitals in Bangalore. We connected them together on WhatsApp group, and let it run for 5 months and observed what kind of support they were seeking from each other. We didn’t write a single line of code until our WhatsApp group crossed 100,000 conversations/month, which is when we decided to go full time and build India’s first peer-to-peer reassurance platform for moms-to-be: PregBuddy.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
We have Mr. Pradeep JaiSingh and Mr. Jayant Kadambi as our mentor and advisor. Pradeep is​ a renowned angel investor in the healthcare ecosystem who is also the Founder & Chairman of ​HealthStart​ – India’s 1st healthcare accelerator in India. He is very well connected with the hospitals across India which helps us scale up our business. Jayant is the Co-founder & Ex-Chairman of YuMe, IPOed in NYSE in 2013. He is an LP for VCs in India & US and well connected in the startup ecosystem. He helps us hands-on on business strategy, hiring and with his wide network.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
My co-founder, Subhadeep, got connected with Mr. Jayant via a mutual connection. We then had a couple of discussions about our product and growth strategy with Jayant. For Pradeep, we got connected via our investor network. Initial discussions help make the right connections for mentorship. Hence as entrepreneurs, you need to showcase your insights in your field, your focus for the product and your strategy to grow in the space. Also, you need to identify your strengths and weaknesses to understand how your mentor can assist you. This is what helped us onboard them as our mentors early on.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
As a co-founder, I keep myself engaged in the various technology, product, design, entrepreneurs communities, both online and offline, which is how I created a big network to reach out for spotting great talent, who is highly motivated about the problems we’re solving and is culturally fit for our team. Once we get a talent onboard, we make sure they are able to learn from each other within the team, industry experts as well as peers in their respective fields. We make sure everyone’s work is valued, respected and talked about in their own communities. This allows them to grow personally, professionally and a create a brand of their own, which takes longer time in bigger companies. We’ve followed the same strategy with our interns as well

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity and strive for creating equal opportunity. Even though we are a small team, we have a good mix in the team which came together purely based on the complementary skill set they bring to the table. Setting up heterogeneous environment through promoting a culture of tolerance, open communication, creating conflict management strategies and removing addressing hidden biases early on makes this culture drive down in the company.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
3 things: perseverance, strategic risk-taking, and awesome networking skills.

Advice for others?
I truly believe in “grabbing an opportunity which is difficult to recreate in future”. Life keeps giving you options, some are easy to decide and some makes you think about what you really want to be. Choosing the path which you think is difficult to get again will help you stay on your toes and work harder to be better.

While starting up, a mantra that helps me get going is “to be bold & ask”. The worse outcome would be a no. The startup ecosystem is so mature that everyone in this journey understands the challenges and are open to help. One cannot be an expert in all fields and the gaps are filled in by asking this network.


If you’d like to get in touch with Sivareena S.L., please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/sivareena/

To learn more about PregBuddy, please click here.

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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Daphne Ng, CEO of JEDTrade

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(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.)

Daphne Ng is the CEO of JEDTrade, a blockchain technology company focused on trade, supply chain, and financial inclusion projects in ASEAN. She is also the Scretary-General at ACCESS and Exco. of Singapore Fintech Association

What makes you do what you do?
I was introduced to blockchain technology in 2016 after I left my corporate banking career after 10 years. It was my mentor who first got me interested in this technology, which I then went on to delve further into, on its potential applications in the lending and trade finance space – domains where I came from.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Being in the space for 2 years and actively involved in the ecosystem, I was able to bring on the projects, network and a good degree of thought leadership in this vertical. Early on in the startup journey, our team faced many challenges. And to me, the key to rising above failures are two essential factors – resilience and support. While resilience is innate, I received a lot of help be it in terms of connections or advice. ‘Nobody succeeds without help’ rings very true for me.

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)?
From the start, I focused on my domain expertise in trade finance and the application construct of how blockchain and DLT can be applied to these use cases. Also, my strategy from the start was to build a technology company made up of 80% tech and engineers, which is also our key competitive advantage today. At the end of the day, deliverables are about strategy and execution, which includes building and leading an ‘A’ team.

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 many mentors, which includes our company advisors (all of whom are well-known in this industry) and mostly informal mentors I meet via my connections, and on various occasions and circumstances. Creating opportunities also means putting myself in the right place, at the right time. And in my case, these were mostly organic and genuine friendships formed from the initial connection.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
To me, a match in values is very important. It also takes humility to ask for help and be willing to listen to advice, which is important in order for mentorships to be successful – be it formal or informal.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I love this question! I am passionate about building strong teams and helping my people grow. I abide by the 3Rs when identifying talents: resourcefulness, resilience and right values. And then I invest in the ‘potential’ and this means giving them room to lead, make decisions and take risks.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
My support of diverse talents, skillsets and characters can be seen in the make-up of our core team – all helming specific roles and each bringing their own value to the table. We need the sum of all parts to build a great company.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Great leaders emerge in times of failures and challenges, never abandoning the team, and always putting the team’s interests before her own. And I consciously live by these mottos every day.

Advice for others?
My advice to other entrepreneurs: be resolute and dare to be different. If you are going to follow others, then you will end up on the same path as them. No right or wrong; but I would rather chart my own path. This June, we are officially launching our blockchain project, Jupiter Chain (www.jupiterchain.tech), which have garnered much interest in the industry, even before we made it public. We believe this project is the epitome of marrying innovation with practical implementation, and we want to be the first to truly operationalize blockchain for our ecosystem projects in this region.


If you’d like to get in touch with Daphne Ng, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daphne-ng-%E9%BB%84%E7%91%9E%E7%8E%B2/

To learn more about JEDTrade, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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