Connect with us


Women on Top in Tech – Angela Wu, Founder Member at Agenovir Corporation & Assistant Professor at HKUST



(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.)

I met Angela Wu, Founding Member at Agenovir Corporation at EmTech, Singapore 14-15 February. EmTech is the annual global emerging technologies conference hosted by MIT Technology Review, the world’s oldest and most respected technology publication since 1899. This unique event has grown into a global community which runs in the United States, Europe, South America, India, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It is the world’s most important conference on emerging technologies that matter.

She was one of the finalists of the Innovators Under 35. Assistant Professor in Hong Kong university, she is working on single-cell genomics, microfluidics, and other biotechnology development. Highly interdisciplinary work that bridges engineering and basic biology, with the goal of eventually translating some into the clinic/industry,


Founding Member - Angela Wu

What makes you do what you do?

I have a general curiosity and like to learn. My interest has always been in science. Since biology can be perceived as rather esoteric at first, I enjoyed bio-engineering as well as it applies engineering solutions to the basic science. So, I became a Bio-Engineer.

When at UC Berkeley, Professor Luke Lee accepted me into his lab and I really enjoyed it.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I had the support of many mentors, including. My father who is also an academic and provides me invaluable advice and support. One thing I did realize that helped me to advance myself, was that women need to take the extra effort to ask for what they want. I totally agree with the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Women are often shy to ask for what they want or need in their careers. I learned and trained myself to ask even when I may feel hesitant.

One example was when I wanted to do an internship in Management Consulting in the middle of my Ph.D. programme. Even though it was unconventional and not really aligned with what I was supposed to be studying, I had to go ask and fight for the opportunity because I felt it would be good for me. It introduced a different side of the world to me. The skills during that internship helped me tremendously, especially now that I am in the start-up advisory role. So, I believe there are lots of opportunities to learn and advance, but sometimes we have to fight for them.

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 beginning, I was already a non-conventional engineer or scientist. I am not a person who keeps to myself or a person who doesn’t understand people, like how scientists are portrayed in the comedy sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. I have always been extroverted and social, am organized and am comfortable in people-facing roles, and leadership roles.

Founding the startup was something new for me, and also allowed me to explore leadership positions outside of academic science. This entrepreneurial opportunity allowed me to experience different roles in a short amount of time. To me, this is exciting and fun. Also, many of these skills cross-over to how I now manage my academic laboratory.

Eventually, I want to start another company. So, this previous experience with founding Agenovir has prepared me for the future.

Who are the other mentors you had?

As mentioned earlier, my father is my life mentor. Even now, he is still providing me with advice, as well as support.

The second mentor I had was my Ph.D. advisor, Prof. Stephen Quake. He is a super inspiring person and I really admire him a lot. He taught me how to turn lab research into real products that can impact people in the world through commercialization. There are very few people in our field who is as successful as he is at commercializing his academic findings. Steve is also my co-founder at Agenovir.

On the business side, my mentor is my other co-founder Bruce Hironaka, previously CEO and Board of Directors of Agenovir. He is currently retired but has a lot of wisdom about the business world, leadership, and entrepreneurship. He is the mentor who taught me the ropes for the business side of starting a new company. Bruce took me under his wing and we continue to keep in contact. He clarified many of my non-science questions, especially those questions from the business side. Even today, I often seek his advice on how to manage my academic lab and how to be a good leader. He is also a great advocate for women, and actively mentors women like me so that we can go further in our career.

Both of my mentors, Steve and Bruce, wrote recommendations for me for the nomination to Innovators under 35 for EmTech Asia.

Have you ever gone after a mentor not consciously?

I do not usually go after a mentor formally. I do not feel there is no need to “go after” mentors; the mentor-mentee relationship happens quite organically. You can find someone you look up to and just try to have interactions with them, such as asking for their advice or opinion on questions you are unsure about. If that person offers you their time and advice, you will naturally feel supported and empowered.

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

I try to encourage women to pursue even when they have doubts. For example, I recently met a female student who was very excited about my lab group’s projects. However, when I asked her if she wanted to join my lab group, she said that she didn’t feel confident because she is not from the same scientific background, and she wasn’t sure she could make it in my group.

I told her, “If you already made it so far, why are you doubting that you can’t do the next thing you want? Take that little leap of faith, and have confidence in yourself and your abilities. You can go home, and think about the offer some more before you reply me.”

This student didn’t even hesitate, and immediately said yes. All she needed was a little bit of confidence and encouragement. Now, she is a final year undergraduate student who will join my lab as a Ph.D. candidate in a few months. She is a very motivated and talented lady. However, she still needs to build confidence to believe in her own abilities.


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

I think one example of a great leader in my industry will be my mentor, Bruce. He treats everyone with respect and in the way that you want to be treated. He does not fit the stereotype that all leaders are brutal and aggressive, despite many business cultures which will give this impression.

What it is that is making you tick?

In terms of leadership, I try to be an empathic leader of my research group and also to take their perspective. This helps me understand where they are coming from, which allows me to clarify their doubts and pain points. I generally tend to encourage the team, even when mistakes are made. I think it is not productive to just get angry and make them work hard without letting them understand the mistake and learning from it.

Of course, I am just starting out, so I am not so sure if I will be successful with this leadership strategy but I am still figuring it out. I am by no means an expert qualified to give advice.

What does Angela Wu and her research group as an STEM innovator think about everyday?

Our body contains trillions of cells, and each one contains a copy of our genome, our body’s instruction manual, telling the cells what to do, how to function. Using modern DNA sequencing technology, we can now study how our genomes dictate the functions and malfunctions of our organs and tissues. Until recently, we have studied our organs and tissues by looking at the average state of millions of cells from the organ. This is like trying to understand a country by looking at average data of the citizens of that country. We know the average age or average height of the population, but we don’t know what each individual is doing. Just like people have different jobs in a society, different cells also have different roles in an organ. Rather than viewing each cell as the average of millions of cells in an organ, we need to better understand them at the individual, single cell level. My research group creates technologies like microfluidic chips (image below), to allow us to isolate and read the genomes of each of those trillion cells in the body – Rapidly, accurately, automatically, and at scale. Using these technologies, we want to create a Human Cell Atlas – A Google Maps of the human body that catalogues the location, function and role of each of the trillions of cells in our body.

If anyone wants to ask anything about the fields I’m in, you can contact me.

To learn more about Agenovir Corporation, please see


I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.




Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?



An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.


Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.


About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy



Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook ( or visit for more information or book a 10 minute call 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:

Continue Reading