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Women on Top in Tech – Melissa C. Guzy, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Arbor Ventures

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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.)

Melissa C. Guzy is the Co-Founder and the Managing Partner of Arbor Ventures, which is focused on investing in FinTech, Big Data, and Digital Commerce with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv. Arbor invests in companies that have a regional or global reach. Melissa has more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and as a venture investor, across Asia and Silicon Valley, and has been recognized as one of the Top 200 FinTech Influencers in Asia 2018. She has been a guest lecturer on the Venture Capital Industry at the University of Florida, Hong Kong University, Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She serves on the Board of Directors of the HKVCA and is Co-Chair of the HKVCA Venture Committee.as well as on the Board of Innovation for the Hong Kong Securities and Commodities Commission. Melissa is a Hopkins Fellow and participated in the Women’s Leadership Program at Harvard University.

What makes you do what you do?
I get up every morning with an aspiration to change the world. At Arbor, we are fortunate to partner with some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, We get to participate in their journey, helping entrepreneurs build great companies. At Arbor, we have built Asia’s largest Financial strategic network to help our entrepreneurs and we are continuously driving forward to support entrepreneurs and maximise impact.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I’ve been in the Financial/Investment space for over 20 years, both as an entrepreneur and heading up a large SIlicon Valley firm in Asia. I’ve seen both sides of the coin – an entrepreneur who joined a venture firm – VantagePoint, I then started Arbor Ventures to return to my entrepreneurial roots as I wanted to help others pursue their dreams.

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 enjoy building things from the ground up and being part of the journey. At Arbor, I get the opportunity to invest in and engage with exceptional entrepreneurs who are looking at ways to change the FinTech landscape, whether they are aiming at being local leaders in Asia, or companies from across the globe with world-class technology applicable to the Asian market.

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 was very fortunate to have a few mentors and even now I reach out to them for advice, from a cross-section of the industries I’m involved in.  One never stops learning unless they choose to stop.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her? 
It was by circumstance, each one of them enables me to have a sounding board, and we have developed strong relationships over the years, and these relationships are invaluable in continuing to learn and develop.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Venture Capital is a mentoring business and I try to give the same feedback and challenges to our team. Natural curiosity is a key element of any VC. It is key to us to mentor both talent within the company and Arbor’s portfolio companies. It’s a key driver in building successful companies. Additionally, for anyone – whether man or woman, who have achieved success in any field, I believe it is essential to give back and nurture talent both in your own field and other areas.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
Diversity is important. The world is diverse and it just makes good business sense to have a diverse team. At Arbor, this is something which is a big part of who we are. In the company, there are seven nationalities, from a broad range of disciplines. By having a diverse team you get different skill sets and viewpoints, reflecting the complex global environment we live in today.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
To be humble with success and generous with your time to inspire others. I believe it’s key to understand both your strengths and weaknesses and work with your team and colleagues to push everyone forward and continue learning.

Advice for others?
Pursue a passion, expect to work incredibly hard, and when you succeed be generous with your time to mentor others.


If you’d like to get in touch with Melissa C. Guzy, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-guzy-52b86747/

To learn more about Arbor Ventures, please click here.

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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