With such a robust startup ecosystem in Singapore, Jeffrey decided to launch GuavaPass, a fitness-based app focusing on high-quality, boutique studios and group fitness.
What’s your story?
I started my career on Wall Street before moving to the West Coast to join a women’s fashion e-commerce startup.
The lifestyle in Santa Monica was infectious and transformed me into someone who cared about living well. A SoulCycle class with my colleagues after work one day ignited a passion for group workouts within me. By the time I moved out to Singapore, I knew this is what I wanted to focus on, so formed GuavaPass alongside Rob Pachter in 2015. We were inspired to build a social community around healthy living and wellness.
What excites you most about your industry?
It’s really a feel-good industry, meaning what we do can actually change people’s lives in a positive way and make them healthier and happier. Since 2015, GuavaPass has facilitated over 2 million sweat hours, and is now the largest healthy living community in Asia and the Middle East. The healthy movement is a long-term secular trend and one that we believe is really taking off in Asia. At GuavaPass, we hope to continue making a positive impact to help inspire others to discover what they are passionate about and to develop their true potential.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m originally from Hong Kong, and grew up in various parts of Asia, including HK, Taiwan, Philippines, and Singapore. I first moved to Singapore in the mid-90s, and then again in 2014, and was amazed at the transformation. With such a robust startup ecosystem, I decided to launch GuavaPass here in 2015, after seeing a gap in the market for a fitness-based app focusing on high-quality, boutique studios and group fitness.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s a tough one, because I have grown to love so many cities throughout the region, and GuavaPass is currently operating across 12 cities within Asia and the Middle East. If I had to choose, I’d say Bangkok. GuavaPass works with an amazing selection of studio and lifestyle partners there, as with all of the other cities we are working in. Bangkok has such a vibrant atmosphere and a really unique, hip culture, which GuavaPass is really thriving in.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is definitely: “Treat others how you want to be treated.” If everyone lived by this advice, the world would be a much better place! It’s also transferable into business – at GuavaPass, we’ve been successful at creating an amazing working environment – we’re actually a lot like one giant family!
Who inspires you?
Richard Branson. He’s one of the greatest entrepreneurs that is living today.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That over 60% of gym memberships go unused! This is such a crazy statistic, and one that we are really fighting at GuavaPass. By offering a flexible approach to fitness and a community outlook, we find that our users are really making the most out of their memberships.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I currently speak English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and some broken Spanish, but wish I could speak more, so I wish I’d dedicated more time to learning new languages. I’ve found that your world perspective changes entirely when you can immerse yourself fully in a different culture. I’ve lived in various cities across Asia, and have traveled extensively across the region since launching GuavaPass, and I’d love to be able to converse in the mother tongue of some of the incredible people I’ve met along the way. It’s never too late, though..!
How do you unwind?
You may not believe me, since this is such a large part of my work life, but working out truly is my favourite way to unwind. There’s nothing more effective than a solid HIIT class when you’re running on adrenaline, or a relaxing yin yoga class when you need to relax. I’m an active member of GuavaPass myself, and still love searching through the range of classes to find one that suits my needs.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. I like to unplug from time to time. Whether it’s a scenic dinner at Alila Villas Uluwatu, experiencing the bustle in Seminyak, or just relaxing with yoga and meditation, it’s always a different experience each time you go.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Who Moved My Cheese? It’s a very simple allegory about two mice and two “little people”. You can re-read it over and over again and get something out of it each time. With time and experience, your interpretation of what everything in the story means changes. It’s timeless and relevant in many ways.
Shameless plug for your business:
Since launching 3 short years ago in Singapore, GuavaPass has become the largest healthy living community in Asia and the Middle East. We’re rapidly expanding across the region, and, as the only fitness app in the world to offer unlimited class packages, we’re the ultimate option for those looking for flexibility in their exercise regime.
We connect like-minded fitness lovers by offering thousands of varieties of premium workout classes at boutique studios across the region.
How can people connect with you?
You can now add me as a friend within our GuavaPass mobile app! We’ve recently launched this feature to enable people to be even more social through the app – they can easily visit their friend’s profiles to see which classes they’ve booked into and book themselves a spot, too! I look forward to receiving your friend requests.
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’.