Tired of working for others, Anna Ratala founded Slush Singapore, to bring together the leading actors in the global tech ecosystem to accelerate the growth of startups.
What’s your story?
A Finnish girl living in Singapore, an entrepreneur with my heart and soul. My journey in Singapore started in corporate sales and while monthly targets sure gave me the thrills, I got tired of working for other people so I quit and became an entrepreneur. In 2016, I started Slush Singapore, a tech startup event and catalyst that helps the next generation of entrepreneurs forward. To me, it’s really been a passion project. Creating an event for 3,000 international attendees with no prior experience, no money and no clue of what to expect was crazy, to say the least. But also the best experience of my life.
What excites you most about your industry?
I’m a techie, but more from the business perspective. I don’t love technology as such but I love what it can help us create. It’s a tool to solve so many problems and create new opportunities, and that excites me. I refuse to think of technology as a threat, I believe it’s up to us humans to cultivate it for the good.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I have called Singapore home for over seven years! But when I moved here I had never even visited Asia, it was a whole new world for me. I’ve become very passionate about Southeast Asia, in particular. Many people from outside the region still see Asia as mainly China but I’ve seen the tremendous opportunities Southeast Asia has to offer in technology and especially in the startup scene. I feel privileged to be able to be a part of this journey.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, for obvious reasons. It’s an incredibly convenient city to do business in, and there are fantastic incentives for companies big and small. It’s also a great hub for regional business. And I do love the weather, honestly!
Another interesting city from a startup perspective is Phnom Penh in Cambodia. It has a young population and plenty of hungry talent, all they need is a bit of coaching and some funding and we’ll see some magic in the next 5-10 years.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
If you want something done, do it yourself. I learnt this already as a kid. We were a mid-class family with no friends in high places or anything of the sort. I worked my way up and it felt good knowing that if I wanted something, I didn’t have to rely on someone else getting it for me. I could do it myself. It was more work but I felt more in control of the outcome. Like anything was possible. It’s actually a really powerful feeling!
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by fellow entrepreneurs, especially by other strong women who are leaders or run their own businesses. I also admire globally successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson but the truth is I can’t fully relate to them. So I’m always inspired by other people just like me who make shit happen. Watching other people around me succeed is the best motivation, it gives me so much energy! I’d love to find more people whose journey I can follow through blogs or social media, so if you have good tips, send them my way.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That it’s up to you to choose your response to any given situation in life, even when seemingly you are being “treated” a certain way. I’ve always known that mindset plays a huge role but the book I’m reading now, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, explains how even actions of others are essentially under your control because you can choose your reaction. For example, nobody can hurt you or irritate you if you choose not to be hurt or irritated. Simple yet so powerful.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Absolutely nothing. I’m not big on regrets or thinking about the past. The only time it serves a purpose is to learn something from your mistakes. I recommend spending a moment on that and then moving on. The only thing that will change my life is what I do now, so I concentrate on that.
How do you unwind?
As an entrepreneur I’m a big believer in dynamic flexibility – you work when you need to work and you take time off when you need it. I’m good at this balance, and always make sure I take time to unwind, for example, have a date night with my husband or travel somewhere once a month. It gives me the mental strength to deal with all the stress and uncertainty of entrepreneurial life. I also run every morning to kick off the day. Nothing beats the feeling of beating the sunrise!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket! Many think it’s really touristy but I love its white beaches and turquoise waters. I often do a weekend getaway there with my husband. Beach is the only place where my mind rests. I’m a super extrovert and my job includes meeting tons of people and being constantly on the go and switched on. Gazing into the horizon and listening to the waves is the best contrast to that. It’s also great for dreaming about your next goals and getting inspired!
Everyone in business should read this book:
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It’s a classic in negotiation. Loved it and learnt a lot. Another great one is Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It shows how a lot of results in our life are actually powered by a habit not directly linked to the result. Mind-blowing.
Shameless plug for your business:
Everyone go to Slush, it will blow your mind 🙂 There’s one in Helsinki, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore – plenty to choose from! Also, if you’re interested in getting involved in the startup world and jump onto a crazy journey with us, drop me a note. We are always on the lookout for talented, dedicated and passionate people to join the team!
How can people connect with you?
I’m very active on social media, you can follow me on Instagram or Twitter. I also blog and vlog occasionally under Success In High Heels. If you want to professionally connect, drop me a LinkedIn invite – and make sure to include a note on who you are to give some context.
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’.