Connect with us

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Bárbara Ximénez Bruidegom, Founder at Shutta

Published

on

(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 Bárbara Ximénez Bruidegom, Founder of ShuttaShutta allows you to scroll through your videos and live photos, frame by frame, to capture the perfect moment and save it as a photo without losing any resolution. Any video stored on your phone is available automatically within Shutta. Videos taken with your phone are immediately accessible, or you can sync your GoPro or professional camera footage to your phone and simply save your favorite photo moments, in print quality resolution, back to your phone.

She has experience in business management roles, working in a wide variety of industries in Amsterdam, London, Dubai, Madrid and Ho Chi Minh City.

Shutta_Logo-WTT


What makes you do what you do?

Believe it or not, this question baffled me more than it should. Why would anybody in their right mind choose to work 80 hours a week, with no leave, meanwhile earning – at least for the first few years – a fraction of the pay for triple the responsibility and worry? Like many other entrepreneurs, I didn’t seek out this path, it presented itself to me. But, there is something immensely rewarding about having ultimate responsibility for every failure and every success. The buck stops here, there is no passing it on. It is a very sobering thing, and the responsibility can weigh on you at times. But, it is also extremely liberating. In return for assuming full responsibility for literally everything, you get the freedom to make your own decisions, to explore, to discover. That really appeals to my insatiably curious side, the part of me that is happiest when learning something new, and, for me, this freedom more than outweighs the hard work, long hours, and bad pay.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I started out my career in finance/business administration and only entered the IT arena when I took a job at PeopleSoft in Amsterdam in the nineties. I had grown up in a scientific family and had always been surrounded by computers and tech, but it was my first introduction to big data – although, of course, nobody used that term back then. I was fascinated by the insight and the power that systems and data bring to business, and I still am. I think, however, that the path that has led me to where I am now has been more of an epic trek through a mountain range, with many highs and plenty of deep lows, rather than anything you might classify as a rise in the industry. It has been a great journey so far, though, and I can still see many peaks up in the distance that I would love to scale.

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)?

An opportunity presented itself, I recognized it, and I was up for the challenge. Right place, right time, right attitude.  I think it is as simple as that. Whether anybody else would see it as unusual or a stretch never crossed my mind. I am very aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and that, thanks to this, I was fortunate enough to grow up believing that glass ceilings are there to be shattered. After all, they are made of glass and not titanium. Look around you, look back, and you will find plenty of people that have achieved mind-blowing things, despite having to beat much harder odds than I ever had to deal with. If you want it, go out and get it.

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

My father spent his entire career at the European Space Agency, truly working at the forefront of science and technology, in an industry where even the smallest mistakes can have disastrous consequences. He was a very tough taskmaster and didn’t accept anything less than excellence; in his eyes doing your best simply wasn’t good enough. I credit him for teaching me that it is easy to be passionate about the things you are good at, but that it takes grit and determination to become good at the things you are not passionate about. Of course, if you can manage to become good at something you dislike, you have also converted it into something new to be passionate about.

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

Besides my father who pushed me to try harder and go further than I ever thought I’d be capable of, there have been many advisors and sounding boards along the way. If you want to succeed you need to buckle down, but there is no need to be a hero. It is important to seek advice and to learn from experts around you; it is not efficient to reinvent the wheel over and over again. You’d be surprised how many of the experts that you hold in the highest esteem have the courtesy to offer their advice to someone that they have never met when they recognize passion combined with the humility to ask for help.

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

In my experience, it all starts with being able to spot the talent in the first place. At Shutta, we have a hiring method that is quite different to the standard question and answer sessions, and it rarely fails. During the recruitment phase, we focus on getting the most balanced picture of a candidate possible; assessing everything from knowledge and ability to resilience, ambition, and people skills. Essentially, we are looking for that little spark of genius. When it is spotted, it is also well documented, and by the time the candidate joins the team, we have a clear idea on how we can best empower each candidate and in which areas they need support; how we can help them discover their own genius. From there on in, and outside of formal assessment periods to establish personal development plans for the year ahead, I think it is vital to be on the floor and work directly with the people that, together, make up your company. It is the only way to stay in touch with everybody’s needs and ambitions, which is vitally important when you try to align company goals with personal goals.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Looking in from the outside, I wouldn’t blame anyone for looking at us and seeing a group of misfits. One of the greatest benefits of our selection process is that we are forced to look beyond the mere facts of a person’s life and see the individual beneath. Shutta is developing all manner of innovative solutions, from computer vision and machine learning to marketing methods that are up to 60 times more successful than the current digital marketing benchmarks. We need people who can look at an existing problem and come up with a new way of solving it. This means that, if we want to find people that look at the world from a slightly different angle, we must treasure quirks and peculiarities. A (fortunate) fringe benefit is that this quest has quite naturally led us to have a very diverse, but very tight and collaborative team.

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

Forget about being a great leader. Aspire to be a great person, the greatest person you can be; intellectually, emotionally, socially, at all times and in every aspect of everyday life. I think that we have all experienced the exhilarating feeling of being “in the zone” when everything seems to flow naturally and with absolute ease. I believe that we get to that zone the minute we let go of our tendency to focus on the end goal and instead focus simply on the task or situation at hand. When people find their own zone(s), they also find their own talent, or what I call their own genius. And when we start spending as much of our lives as possible in that flow, we will naturally progress to become the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.

Advice for others?

Be curious, be hungry, be passionate, and be humble. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have under your belt, you’re never done developing into a better person than you were the day before. Be flexible and be well prepared. Plan everything to the minutest detail, then accept that nothing will go according to plan. The purpose of your preparation is not to be in absolute control of a situation, it is to allow you to recognise deviations and to make adjustments accordingly. Most of all, enjoy the ride. Have fun, laugh a lot, and don’t take it all too seriously. Life is the ultimate adventure, and you only get one shot at it, so aim for a life of happiness, not success.


To learn more about Shutta, please see http://shutta.co/.

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

Andrew Schorr, Founder of Grata

Published

on

Taking a different route throughout his life, Andrew Schorr ended up in China and started several businesses.

What’s your story?
I moved to China after I graduated from college in 2004. English teaching was the easiest way to get there, so I looked on a map and picked a small town in Hubei, because it looked to be more or less in the middle of China. I was the only foreigner there.

Back then, everything was about the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, so I moved to the capital after my year of teaching. Pretty soon after arriving, I met the co-founder for all three of my companies. We decided to start a company together the first day we met. He has now moved back to the US and builds flight software at SpaceX.

Our first company, an online city guide, was re-purposed into our second company, GuestOps, a web concierge platform. We sold GuestOps to most of the major international hotel brands in China and still operate it. The genesis of our latest company, Grata came from looking at the intersection of hotels and WeChat in 2012, when WeChat was just starting to blow up. Grata expanded from hotels into a live-agent customer service console.

What excites you most about your industry?
Our thesis with Grata has always been that what is happening with WeChat in China is the future of messaging platforms globally, and as an international team building on WeChat, we would be well-placed to capitalize on that trend. It’s taken longer than we expected for the industry (and us, for that matter) to get there, but finally, we’re starting to see messaging as a platform to get better traction in other markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian. I grew up in Texas, where all my friends studied Spanish in school. I studied German for no reason in particular. I took a similar path in college: Chinese and Japanese seemed like languages that not a lot of people who look like me studied. I was one of only two students in my third-year Chinese class.

Concur conference in San Francisco, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. (Photo by Paul Sakuma, Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Shanghai. I should live there, but Beijing has been home for so long. I take the night train down to Shanghai every two-three weeks to meet with clients. Domestic flights are way too unreliable here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t plan too far ahead; otherwise, you plan yourself out of good opportunities.

Who inspires you?
Has anyone said “Elon Musk” yet? Barack Obama would be another.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The gravitational waves recently detected from neutron stars colliding, were so subtle as to only affect the distance from earth to our closest star, Alpha Centauri (4.24 light years away) by the width of a human hair. Perhaps in another life or in the future, I’ll be an astronomer, but a telescope doesn’t do me much good in Beijing.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
When I give advice to students looking to get into entrepreneurship, I advise them to work for a post-Series A startup first and learn from a company that’s already doing things well. I learnt everything on my own, which is slower and you pay for your own education. If you work for a startup that’s small in the beginning, you risk learning bad habits.

How do you unwind?
I Hash! The Hash is a drinking club with a running problem. The Hash attracts good people from all walks of life and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a great way to meet fun-loving people all over the world. It’s also how I met my co-founder, our first lawyer, and my girlfriend.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia. A fantastic beach and where I first learned to scuba dive.

Everyone in business should read this book:
For business in China, Tim Clissold’s, Mr. China.

Shameless plug for your business:
Grata does WeChat contact centers for many top-tier brands in luxury retail, travel, financial services and hospitality. We started developing on WeChat before they even had an open platform. Grata provides the most value for large enterprises with complex routing and content demands for their contact centers.

How can people connect with you?
Check out www.grata.co or email me: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
My personal handle is @andrew_schorr and we tweet about messaging from the company handle @grata_co.

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

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

Published

on

Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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

Continue Reading

Trending