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Women on Top in Tech – Annette Muller, Founder at Flexy



(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.)

Here is my interview with Annette Muller, Founder at Flexy. She has an inquisitive analytical mind coupled with a very active imagination, experience varied within the technology and finance industry. She is a natural entrepreneur and learned from spending time in innovation agencies, corporates, start-ups to exiting my first business DOTNXT and moving on to founding and currently managing Flexy, South Africa’s first on-demand-working booking and payment platform.

What makes you do what you do?

I am deeply passionate about the world of work at large, and how companies and people work together every day. How value is created and rewarded. I have always been fascinated by this concept and am constantly observing humans go to work, spending the majority of their lives and time doing so actually. And yet, a lot of discontentment all round. Seeing people stuck in traffic. Seeing people in a cubicle in a corporate, never smiling. Seeing people in front of a computer for hours every day. Seeing people who are “unemployed” and all they strive for is that cubicle or the salary that comes with it. And on the other side seeing companies constantly complaining about their people, not able to find talent, not able to keep talent or motivate them. It makes me want to shake it up, and flip the concept of “Employment” on its head.

So I get up every morning, with a mission to impact and change, in whichever small way, the way companies and people work together. The way the world of employment and earning money, which is the source of so many parts of our lives work. I want to enable freedom of work, and empower people to choose what they want to do and how they do it whilst earning what they need to live the lives they want to live! And ofcourse I love creating things, especially businesses and testing business models, so knowing I get to create products, systems, processes, new markets, technology and test business models every day is what keeps me awake at night.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I think I am still rising! It is a never ending journey 🙂

I started my adventure into the world of Technology at a young age, and besides South Africa being a little “behind” the rest of the world which can be a tad frustrating, and so many of my previous start-ups and initiatives totally failed due to being premature, I am grateful being exactly where I am right now. Perseverance, learning to fail and let go quickly, trusting your intuition and a strong sense of adventure is what kept me going and still does every day.

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)

I am not quite sure what that means, usual leadership demographics? I think women lead in many ways – perhaps not in business, but leadership is not just for business. So that didn’t really feel like a “stretch” to me. I took on this startup because it is exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now, it was never a question in my mind, I was always going to build and scale a business. Female or not.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

Yes, I have mentors. And a big learning from my previous business was to have strong mentorship. Advisors. To really reach out and ask for help. No one can tell you what to do, or how to do it, but people with experience can tell you what is potentially coming around the corner and prepare you better to handle and deal with whatever comes your way. And that is the most valuable thing in having mentors. In terms of how it is a process, but for me it is all about the “trust spark” – I have to instinctively trust the person in front of me and feel a little spark to respect them as a mentor. But I have also learned, that gifts of wisdom comes in many shapes and forms, and it is really your own responsibility to extract value from every person crossing your path.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?

I like how you assume it is a “him” 🙂

I think my previous answer explains the “match” part, but one thing to add is that very practically – you have to reach out. No mentor is gonna find you. You have to reach out and say, “Hi, I would love to go for a coffee, I feel I can really learn from you and would love to meet up if you open to it”. You have to put yourself out there. And be okay with No, not everyone will have the time to give, but the right person will be inspired to help you along your journey.

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

This is always a challenge, and definitely still a learning curve for me. But one thing I have learned is to surround myself with people way smarter than myself. And typically they are easier to spot than to develop, keep and grow! One of my key practices is freedom, right now we are really experimenting with how we run Flexy as a business. It is a full on-demand and remote team. With everyone working independently and carrying a lot of responsibility and individual accountability, where leadership becomes even more important. In my limited experience, I have seen that inspired, free and happy people generally perform the best. So we do what we need to at Flexy to ensure everyone is Inspired, free, happy and constantly connecting at a human level. A business is a lot like a family on a mission to me. So keeping it transparent and open is key for me. But as I said, this is definitely a part I am very much still learning about myself ever day.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Consciously support it! It has been proven that diverse thinking, backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, cultures together opens up opportunities and solutions to problems a lot faster and more effectively. And I personally enjoy variety, in all aspects of life, including the humans I surround myself with every day.

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

I don’t think there is one general rule of thumb, and leadership again for me sits at a higher level than specific to an industry. But I do believe that one element specific to the technology industry is this concept of “Real-time and open source leadership”. For me that is something I consciously weave into my leadership style, everything happens in real time and the idea of “open source” transparency at all levels, no formalities in my camp! It is a new kind of leadership based on a new flat world we finding ourselves in, that isn’t the typical dictatorship style many of us have been exposed to over the years.

Advice for others?

Right now I am all about The Future of Work and trying to understand how companies of the future will manage their on-demand workforces. The world is changing very rapidly around us, and the next generation of people [ and machines! ;)] coming into the “workforce” will have very different expectations. Independence. Instant Everything. Flexibility. Variety. and most importantly a strong desire for Purpose.

My advice is to get up close and personal with your real skills, creativity, intuition, decision making, leadership skills because all the robotic jobs coming from the industrial revolution will be replaced with machines and robots moving forward. Previous industrial revolutions have shown us that if companies and industries don’t adapt with new technology, they struggle. Worse, they fail.

So Flexy2.0 is what we are hard at work behind the scenes right now, geared to launch in South Africa in late August – as the first on-demand workforce management tool that will make this transition for companies and individuals alike, from the industrial age to this new on-demand world we live in.

To learn more about Flexy, 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.

Callum Connects

Jason Feng, Co-Founder of Pillpresso



Mr. Jason Feng is re-engineering the healthcare industry.

What’s your story?
I am an engineer at heart. I enjoy the process of problem solving and have been actively developing innovative solutions to existing problems. Me and my co-founder settled on the problem of poor medication adherence among the elderly. This was a problem which struck a chord with us because we all have loved ones who have to take multiple medications on a daily basis. The complex medication regimen, coupled with declining cognitive abilities of the elderly tend to exacerbate the lack of medication adherence, which may lead to disease relapse and hospital readmissions, ultimately increasing the burden to caregivers and the society.

What excites you most about your industry?
The problem of medication adherence is not a new one in the healthcare industry. In fact, lack of medication adherence is a well-researched problem in many countries. Solutions which have been developed to address this problem face three major issues:

  • Entrenched mindset within the healthcare system, many of which are used to and unwilling to change from the legacy systems which were implemented decades ago.
  • Complex nuances in healthcare delivery across different countries, making it hard to “copy” and “paste” solutions which have worked well in other areas.
  • Because poor medication adherence is multifactorial, and many solutions focus solely on a few aspects, and do not employ a holistic approach.

Nevertheless, entering this industry at this time excites me because we are in the midst of a global shift in healthcare models; one where the industry is moving away from a service-based model, towards a more value-based model. This shift means that traditional players such as insurance companies and pharmaceuticals are under increasing pressure from patients and payers to demonstrate the value of their products under real-world use. Medication adherence data is one crucial missing link in this puzzle to deliver better care to patients. Being able to build a business around these incumbents and pioneer a new way of care is something which I look forward to.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean. Most of my experiences throughout my life have been in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have not worked in other Asian countries outside of Singapore, so I can’t comment on other Asian countries too much. Singapore has a relatively low barrier for starting a business, and all business rules and regulations are clear and transparent. The startup ecosystem is also rather comprehensive and easily accessible. Being a small country, Singapore has a very limited market for products and services. However, due to its size and efficiency, it serves as an excellent test bed for new ideas. Being a travel hub, travelling to other Asian countries is cheap and easy.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Fail fast, fail often. The greatest lessons are never learnt through success.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Successful launch of Falcon Heavy and the recovery of the 2 side cores. The way the 2 cores landed was like something you’d only see in CGI. Very well calculated.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Applied for NOC (NUS Overseas College)

How do you unwind?
Go rock climbing.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Nepal. I’m an outdoors guy. Being able to trek around the Himalayas is probably the best form of relaxation for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Creative confidence, by the Kelly Brothers

Shameless plug for your business:
Pillpresso is an award-winning health-tech startup that aims to improve medication adherence. We’re developing a medication management system that empowers seniors to manage their medicines independently and deliver proactive healthcare in the community through technology. Comprising individuals with complementary skills across business, engineering and medicine, our team is driven by a desire to improve healthcare and the human condition.

Grand Prize Winner of the 2017 Tech Factor Challenge

Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 Modern Aging

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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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Will Financial Liberalisation Trigger a Crisis in China?



The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been liberalizing its financial system for nearly 4 decades. While it now has a comprehensive financial system with a large number of financial institutions and large financial assets, its financial policies are still highly repressive. These repressive financial policies are now a major hindrance to the PRC’s economic growth.

The PRC is at the beginning of a new wave of financial liberalization that is necessary for supporting the country’s strong economic growth. The country’s leaders have already unveiled a comprehensive program of financial reform, which includes 11 specific reform measures in three broad areas: creating a level-playing field (such as allowing private banks and developing inclusive finance), freeing the market mechanism (such as reforming interest rate and exchange rate regimes and achieving capital account convertibility), and improving regulation.

But could financial liberalization lead to a major financial crisis in the PRC? What would be the consequences for financial stability as the PRC moves to further liberalize its financial system? If the PRC repeats the painful experiences of Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand, then it might not be able to achieve its original goal of overcoming the middle-income trap.

International experiences of financial liberalization, especially those of middle-income economies, should offer important lessons for the PRC. In our new research, based on cross-country data analysis, we find that financial liberalization, in general, reduces, not increases, financial instability. This powerful conclusion is valid whether financial instability is measured by crisis occurrence or by fragility indicators, such as impaired loans and net charge-offs. The only exception is that financial liberalization does not appear to significantly lower the probability of systemic banking crises, although it does lower the risk indicators for banks. These results have higher statistical significance and are greater in magnitude for the middle-income group than for the entire sample.

The insignificant impact on banking crises, however, should be interpreted with caution. One of the possible explanations is that under the repressed financial regime, the government supports banks with an implicit or explicit blanket guarantee. This reduces the probability of an explicit banking crisis, although the banking risks may be even greater because of the moral hazard problem. In fact, government protection of banks could also increase the probability of a sovereign debt crisis or even a currency crisis before financial liberalization.

If financial liberalization significantly reduces the likelihood of financial crises, especially in middle-income economies, then why did some middle-income economies experience financial crises following liberalization? We further investigate whether the pace of liberalization, the supervisory structure, and the institutional environment matter for outcomes of financial liberalization.

We obtain three main findings. First, an excessively rapid pace of financial liberalization may increase financial risks. The net impact on financial instability depends on the relative importance of the “liberalization effect” and the “pace effect.” In essence, what the “pace effect” captures could simply be the prerequisite conditions and reform sequencing that are well discussed in the literature. Second, the quality of institutions, such as investor protection and law and order, also matter. International experiences indicate that investor protection can significantly reduce the probability of financial crises. Third, the central bank’s participation in financial regulation is helpful for reducing financial risks during financial liberalization. This is probably because central banks always play central roles in financial liberalization, especially in the liberalization of interest rates, exchange rates, and the capital account. If a central bank is responsible for financial regulation, its liberalization policies might be more cautious and prudent.

Our research findings offer important policy implications for the PRC. (1) Further financial liberalization is necessary not only for sustaining strong economic growth but also for containing or reducing financial risks. (2) Gradual reform may still work better than the “big bang” approach, and sequencing is very important for avoiding the painful financial volatilities that many other middle-income countries have seen. (3) The government should also focus more on improving the quality of other institutions, especially market discipline, to contain financial risks. (4) It is better for the central bank to participate in financial regulation. The new regulatory system should focus exclusively on financial stability and shift from regulating institutions toward regulating functions. It should also become relatively independent to increase accountability.


About the Author 

This submitted article was written by  and  of Asia Pathways, the blog of The Asian Development Bank Institute was established in 1997 in Tokyo, Japan, to help build capacity, skills, and knowledge related to poverty reduction and other areas that support long-term growth and competitiveness in developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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