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Gabriel Chan, Founder of Skipmenu

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Gabriel Chan, serial entrepreneur is revolutionising telephone and customer service industry with his new app, Skipmenu.

What’s your story?
I graduated from Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada. I am an inventor and serial entrepreneur. Among the technical startups I co-founded and led were social bookmarking app Soeie, collaborative notebook platform Thinkpanda, sports-betting decision-support system Sportschimp, peer-to-peer marketplace for school notes and exam prep material Notewagon and cross-platform classroom and lecture management suite Coursemodo that was bought in 2014 by a Fortune-500 multinational in a bid to enter the ed-tech space. As the Skipper-in-Chief of Skipmenu, I understand every aspect of the business and technology and oversee its overall strategy and development.

What excites you most about your industry?
There has been no innovation on the most used app on your smartphone: the phone, nor has there been any innovation on call centre technology. This whole ecosystem has reached a plateau for a while and is ripe for revolution. We are excited to set the new standard for the future of telephony and customer service solutions.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My ancestry is Canton (Guangzhou) and I have relatives all over the region, including Hong Kong. I was also “forced” to attend Chinese school as a kid, like most overseas Chinese growing up in Canada.

Skipmenu_iPhoneSE_01 Skipmenu-Logo Skipmenu-App-Icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I should be cheering for Hong Kong, but sorry, Singapore seems to have a healthier startup scene. The Singapore Government has razor sharp focus and the resolve to get stuff done. The Hong Kong Government is good at crisis management and fighting fires, but does not seem serious about growing the startup ecosystem here. Perhaps it has other priorities.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t make assumptions. And that you’ll be dead soon, so you have nothing to lose:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
I have not worked with Steve Jobs but I have worked with a terminally-ill engineer. It puts this excerpt from Jobs’ Stanford 2005 Commencement Speech in perspective.

Who inspires you?
Võ Nguyên Giáp (VNG) is one of the greatest military leaders of all time, though no one in the West knows about him because he was on the “wrong side of history.”  Despite overwhelming odds of success and very little conventional resources, this former history teacher assembled and trained a team (Vietnam People’s Army) that would go on to defeat the Japanese, then the French, then the Americans. They employed endlessly creative strategies, tactics, logistics and life hacks to ultimately win. Running a startup is guerilla warfare: odds of success laughably low, fighting against the establishment and a life of sacrifices. VNG is a reminder that the struggle could be won by being relentlessly resourceful and pervasively persistent.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Computer programs that can write themselves. Dynamic Program Generation interprets raw human language into intent and generates a program itself to react to the input. This is how Viv is approaching sentiment analysis. This is the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 3.0 and this may be the beginning of Skynet. GG, humanity!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You mean if I could time travel or jump into a parallel universe to a younger me with my current consciousness? The answer is obvious: jump straight into entrepreneurship right away!
A younger me had many conflicting opinions from adults, advisors and so-called experts. This is fine, because a younger me needed to discover myself: discover my likes, discover my dislikes, discover my bottom line, discover my passions. Self-discovery is a part of life. All the failures, triumphs and plot twists contribute to my identity today.
So I would obviously do everything differently or “better,” and if/when this question is asked, I would still answer the same.

How do you unwind?
There is a punching bag in my office. I also like any sports or physical challenges, because pushing yourself to the limit is the best way to discover and redefine yourself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Kansai region of Japan. If you like the big city, stay in Osaka. If you like to immerse in old Japan, get lost in Nara (especially Wakayama and Ikaruga). If you like to explore the wilderness, go out to surrounding areas. If you like food, don’t miss the Kobe beef. And of course, Japanese hospitality to visitors are legendary.

Everyone in business should read this book:
If you are in the world of startups, you need to read the Torah and the Bible of our culture by Steve Blank: The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owner’s Manual. They are both related and the former is the predecessor to the latter and both are authoritative summaries of how to not waste time.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie also made an impression on me.

Shameless plug for your business:
Skipmenu is a smartphone app that serves visual phone menus. Skipmenu helps callers skip through automated phone menus in seconds by showing all the options on the screen. Released in 2016 May, Skipmenu offers users access to over 1000 hotlines and growing. Skipmenu is available on iOS and Android in Canada, United States and Hong Kong and will expand in the next few months to the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn — please do not send me a generic message, but rather remind me where I met you or why you’d like to connect. I believe that everyone should have at least one chance to make an impression so don’t be shy.
http://linkedin.com/in/gabchan

Twitter handle?
@changabriel
@skipmenu

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Jonathan Oh, CEO & Co-founder of Supplycart

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Jonathan Oh’s enquiring mind and love for learning has led him on an entrepreneurial journey, with him starting Supplycart which helps businesses manage their offices better.

What’s your story?
I am a person that just can’t sit still. I was always intrigued by how the world spins and how people connect. Spending a lot of time outdoors, I had an affinity with exploring new paths, thus leading me to become a serial entrepreneur with experience in creating, operating and building new companies. I am a firm believer there is so much to learn in the world and I love talking to people about ideas, what they are passionate about and what drives them.
Starting off my career in the medical industry, I realised I had a flare to create something that mattered, something that impacted other people’s lives. After exiting my first company in 2014, I continued my journey with two other ventures with a purpose to look towards impacting businesses in the region together with like minded individuals, and here I am.

What excites you most about your industry?
Being able to part of the SME tech industry and seeing how technology is moving SMEs to go digital to improve workflows and efficiencies is an exciting space to be in. Users are consumers. More and more, they are familiarising themselves with using technology in their everyday lives. We foresee the SME space to be the next area where adopting new technology would become vital for any organisation to remain relevant. As I have dabbled in this industry for close to nine years now, I am really looking forward to working with more people in the business community to make a change.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Born in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to go abroad and I realised there was so much to do back home. Spending time in Melbourne, Australia for a couple of years and recently Silicon Valley, it has provided me with experiences and insights into the difference a multicultural community can make. It also made me aware that Asia is still a very culture driven economy, as each country has its unique differences. I believe that the time is right to be in Asia now. We are a growing economy and a lot of exciting stuff is happening in this region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Malaysia. I believe Malaysia is still a very attractive destination for business as it’s close to other neighbouring countries within the region and travelling between the countries is easy. There is also proper infrastructure in place, an affordable cost of living and a sizeable pool of talent. The government also has numerous initiatives for technology companies to apply for MSC status that permits companies to hire foreign companies without restrictions. Malaysia is the perfect launchpad to start growing businesses regionally. From a culture perspective, we are multicultural, which promotes diversity in business and language is never a barrier here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The difference between a businessman and an entrepreneur; one does a markup and the other creates value.”

Who inspires you?
I would say the people around me inspire me. I wouldn’t narrow it down to a particular person but lump it up with family, workmates, entrepreneurs and friends. From my eyes, everyone has a certain drive, a certain glow and strengths that sometimes they do not see, and that inspires me. I believe the journey to success is never alone, it’s with people.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Something recently that blew me away, made me realise, visually about how much time I have left. I was reading and stumbled upon the writer doing this. This might sound morbid but I drew a horizontal line and started plotting the year I was born all the way up to when I think I might go. It showed me that I have spent 25% of my life growing up, I am going to spend another 55% of my life working and the final 20%, maybe retirement. It got me remembering all the milestones I have achieved and to be thankful for and above all, how I want to spend the 55% of my life doing what matters the most.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe that I am exactly where I need to be because of the experiences I have had before. Thank god for the journey so far. It has been filled with ups and downs, new experiences and people along the way these have moulded me. I guess a small thing, if I had my time again, would be to pick up playing a musical instrument which I think still possible now. You are never too old to learn anything.

How do you unwind?
Unwinding for me would be spending time with my family and my two little boys. The little ones are such a bundle of joy. Reminding myself to have balance in terms of not missing the early years with them. Other than that, having coffee with other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and learning from them is also another way I unwind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
A term I would use would be “cuti cuti Malaysia.” This means heading to a local destination for some R&R to save on the cost of going on overseas to travel. Top of my the list would be heading to a farm or the jungle with clear river waters and a waterfall all to myself. Staying the night, out in the open under the stars, with a campfire and heading back to nature. The other option would be taking a boat to one of the furthest islands in Malaysia, just before the border of Indonesia, to get away from civilization.

Everyone in business should read this book:
I would actually recommend two books that everyone in business in the early years should read. ‘Founder’s Dilemma’ and ‘Start with Why.’ After being in a couple of businesses and many mistakes later, I came to realise the importance of starting it right. Both these books address the whole mind-set on what founders need to have from selecting who is it we start a business with to why are we starting the business. The business foundation is built from the founders and moving forward everything is built from there. Sometimes we are so into the business that we forget we need to be on the business as well. I would have definitely avoided a couple of bumps if I came across these much earlier on.

Shameless plug for your business:
Manage your office better, that’s our motto. We are always on the lookout to work with organisations, suppliers and partners in this field for partnerships and collaborations.
Supplycart is a B2B procurement platform addressing a need for a change in the way companies manage their office supplies, products and services. We enable suppliers and companies to adopt digital technology when selling and procuring for their business, resulting in a more efficient and productive workforce.
Supplycart provides an easy to use, convenient platform that streamlines the whole procurement process by allowing users to quickly order and reorder, receive instant quotations, obtain quick approvals from necessary approvers and fulfilment items are coordinated/planned to ensure a timely a speedy delivery.
Businesses can now focus on the more important matters in growing and sustaining their business while leaving managing the office to Supplycart. Our vision is to be the number 1 office platform for businesses across South East Asia. “Your office will never be the same again.”

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ohjonathan/
e : [email protected]
w : www.supplycart.my

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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Callum Connects

Trung Nguyen, Founder & Managing Director of Advertising Vietnam

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Having initial success with his first start up in the ad industry, Trung Nguyen went on to start other ventures in the ad world in Vietnam. He now has the largest agency community in Vietnam.

What’s your story?
Three years ago I got my first job in the advertising industry. I worked for a local agency in town, and I fell in love with the creative industry. In June 2015, I founded Agency Life Community in Vietnam. It quickly became the most engaging community in the ad industry. The main content focuses on entertainment. After six months we had over 30,000 organic followers, now we have 120,000 followers.

Because the industry had been good to me, I decided I had to something for the industry to help the industry be better. So, I opened http://AdvertisingVietnam.com – a creative industry ad site which keeps advertising informative, creative and inspiring.

After more than a year in the ads industry in Vietnam, I figured the industry needed a better solution for the recruitment of good staff. Given I own the largest advertising community platform, why don’t I utilise Agency Life to help connect talent with ad agencies. So, I founded job site, AdJob.Asia in January 2017.

What excites you most about your industry?
The ad industry is a creative one with very passionate people who are always challenging themselves. The exciting part for creatives, in the morning they might be working on a baby brand and in the afternoon they are answering a beer brief. There is so much diversity. Every day is the new journey.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am Vietnamese.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Thailand. The Thais are the kings of the creative industry in SEA. Thai ads are very smart and creative.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do what you love.

Who inspires you?
My friend, mentor and partner Mr Nghi Nguyen, founder of BrandsVietnam.com. We started our businesses at a similar time. He doesn’t see us as a competitor but rather, he believes that we share the same passion and we are working to provide better knowledge for the ad community.
Mr Nghi also guided me a lot when I first opened the business. I am inspired by his vision to make our marketing industry better.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Our business is a startup company and as a founder I do everything from operations, business development, planning and strategy. However, this is not the good way grow our business. You have to share the workload – find a co-founder or hire a great employee to help share the workload. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Quit my full time job sooner.
During the first year of running my business, I was still working as an ad manager for an agency. However I lacked focus at work due to the overload of work and it affected the company I used to work for. I strongly recommend people who have an idea to start their own business, quit their job early on and focus 100% on it from the get go!

How do you unwind?
Play with my cat.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love to travel throughout all of Asia. I enjoy new places and meeting new people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Carpenter: A story about the greatest success strategies of all.

Shameless plug for your business:
AdvertisingVietnam.com is a site where you can quickly update yourself on the advertising news in Vietnam. We have 15,000 unique monthly readers who are professional people in the advertising and communications industries.

The Agency Life, https://www.facebook.com/agencylife is largest agency community in Vietnam. This is the right place for ad agencies to share their creative work.

AdJob.Asia now has more than 160 agencies in Vietnam who use our services. We are a leading recruitment service for the advertising industry in Vietnam.

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trungnx26
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trungnx26/

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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