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Kelly Low, Co-Founder of Breakout

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Kelly Low graduated with first class Degree in Electric and Electronic Engineering from Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. After graduation like many graduates, Kelly was invited to join a management trainee program in a multinational company that offered opportunities to work in Europe. Kelly took up the challenges and completed an intensive one and a half year program abroad. After completion, Kelly worked on handled project deployment across 80 countries and have managed projects worth up to hundred thousand euro. Having vast working experience across three continents including America, Europe, and Asia, Kelly is able to bring in new ideas and concepts from a global perspective to implement into the local context. Desiring a greater challenge, Kelly decided to pursue her own startup and co-founded Breakout, a real life “escape-game” which she will be talking to us about today.

breakout

In your own words, what is Breakout?

Breakout is a realistic escape game center consisting of various themed rooms, all of which are equipped with uniquely designed storylines and mind-boggling puzzles that must be completed within an hour.

Breakout is also the first character based escape game in the world where participants can choose their special abilities to tackle different tasks in the game room. We stand out because our rooms are crafted with delicate attention to detail, so players feel immersed in exciting, thriller movie-like settings. Our aspiration is to make our players be the main character in a scene out of a movie. Breakout brands itself as premium and exclusive, emphasizing on friendly and efficient customer service.

How did you come up with the idea of Breakout?

One of the co-founders, Johnny Ong traveled to China in August 2013 and encountered the escape game industry while it was at it early stage. He tried one or two of these games and got hooked but at the same time, he thinks there is so much more improvement could be done to make the game more immersive and surreal. When he came back, he shared with a bunch of friends on his experiences. After hearing his idea, I did more researched on the industry and convinced the other that this might be something we could work on together.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Breakout?

When we first started off, all of us are the full-time worker in the corporate world. We used to spend 4-5 hours daily after our working hour in one of the shopping mall’s food court on brainstorming our idea for the product. As we only have limited resources at that time, we plan out everything in details. We know that we can’t afford many mistakes during the construction of the room hence, we did a lot of details planning.

It was a hard time but I would say a sweet moment as it was the time we really go to know each other better. I still remember how we used to spend our time discussing till the mall closes its door to visitor every day and even the food court staff could recognize us as we are always the last people to leave the place. This lasted about half a year before we finally are able to secure a mall that is willing to take us up.

In May 2014, we open our door to the public. During that time, we were testing the water to see how our product is being accepted by the public. All of us agreed that we shall still be working in our full-time job except Johnny who will be leading the operation team in full force in Breakout.

Within 3 months of opening, we have been growing rapidly and was voted #1 things to do in Kuala Lumpur in TripAdvisor and has set the bar higher for the reality escape game industries in Malaysia

Then, we have been approached by many interested parties to bring our brand abroad. As we are very new then, we have turned down a few parties, as we wanted to make sure we could still provide the same quality, if not better throughout all outlets.

Within 5 months of opening, all of us agreed that it is time to make the leap of faith and join in full force to develop and expand the brand. We go through vigorous activities to come out with our franchise package and operational module. We wanted to make sure all of our outlets would be able to provide the same kind of prestigious and unique reality escape game experiences as we did in our first outlet. We now have outlets in Malaysia, Canada, United States and South Korea and are looking forward to further expand to Europe, Middle East, Australian and New Zealand.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

I believe that every startup will have it own difficulties while I consider ours as quite interesting. In the initial stage of the startup, Johnny and I started with 3 others friends. Although all of us are working in the corporate world with a stable income, we are no big player in term of finance and experiences in the retail world. We had approached many shopping malls in hope to get a retail store but we got the rejection one after another. Within 2 months time, 3 other friends gave up on the startup. Johnny and I were devastated at the point of time. I had a chat with Johnny to see if he still want to continue with this despite all the rejection and the lack of capital. Luckily he said yes and to be honest if Johnny was to say no, I would have given up too.

At that point, both of us still believes in our vision, however, we might need to approach the situation differently. We went back to ground zero. First with selection of our partners, we know that we will not be able to go far with just two of us in the team, hence on that day itself, we literally pull out our phone and go through all our contact one by one to screen through potential people whom will believe in our vision and will make the team stronger. We prepared a presentation of what it is and our vision of the startup. Within a month or two, we have got Ken, Gavin, and Kawai that believe in our vision. All of us have our own forte and different skill set which make us a more versatile and successful team.

How have you been developing Breakout since startup?

It started off as an idea to bring in new, creative and unique experiences to the Malaysian community. We want these unique experiences to be an inspiration for people to do more to break out from their mundane life and comfort zone. From this idea, we created our company vision, which is to inspire new possibilities and breakthroughs in the creative industry.

We also believe that good products and excellent customer service are crucial in sustaining and expanding our business. Hence, we put in a lot of effort and emphasis in making sure our games and product are of high quality to our customers. By doing this also, will enable us to create a value-generating and sustainable business model to our franchisee.

What kind of feedback did you get for Breakout so far?

For the past 2 years, we had received a lot of good feedback from the customers regarding on our quality games design with strong storylines, unique experiences of our character based escape games and excellent feedback on our customer’s services. Although with all these good feedback, we know that we can’t rest on our laurels, and our commitment is to give our best to our customers.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

Yes, we do face a lot of competition in these industries, locally and abroad. However, I think competition is important to make sure we could further grow this concept to another level. We are not the first player in the industries nor the biggest yet, but we aim to be the best escape game company in the world. For Breakout Escape Game, our strategy is to focus on our overall core business innovation to fuel our expansion plan. There are three segments we will be focusing on in improving our core business, namely our product innovation, leaner operation and lower production cost.

What can you tell us about the industry?

This industry is fairly new but is a rapid-growth business concept in Europe and America. We notice there are a lot of newcomer into the industries, some are growing but some, unfortunately, are already experiencing closure due to saturation and lack of innovation.

To grow and expand in this industry, we need to be more creative and are willing to spend more resources on developing quality gameplay, investing in new technology and bring in more surreal experiences to our players.

What is the future of this industry?

I think the industries are very much in its initial stage still and there are a lot of gaps which we can close and create a new breakthrough in it. For Breakout Escape Game, we plan to invest more into new technology to create surreal experiences to our players. Our plan is to build dynamic rooms with multiple outcomes that can change based on the players’ reactions and strategies. Breakout is also looking into creating a more lean and uninterrupted gameplay for players through the development of a unique in-game application that will tell the story and lead the players throughout the game without outside distractions. In addition, Breakout is looking into creating more interchangeable puzzles at a lower cost.

Was there anything that disappointed you initially?

I wouldn’t say is a disappointment but it helps us to shift our mentality in our business venture. During the initial stage, we don’t have much capital to start with. Our strategy was to start to work on the other things first and then to see if we will be able to secure a loan down the road. As the concept are quite new and there is no proven “success stories”, we didn’t manage to obtain any loan at all. End up, each of the founder pledge around USD 9,000 to start the business. The amount is really not much but we have to work with what we had. So we are really careful in using the capital and have to be “creative” in some case to get the most of what we had.

It looked like a disappointment at first, but looking back, I am glad we didn’t manage to secure a loan at our initial stage. It is because it does really helped us to shape our mentality and commitment when our hard-earned money are at stake.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

I think it is easier to be an entrepeneur in Asia as we are experiencing so much growth right now in Asia and with the advancement of technologies, it helps us in getting more information at the shortest time and turning it into opportunities.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

I noticed that Asian entrepreneur are very much communial based while Western entrepreneur are more individualistic in their entrepreneurship practice due to the differences in culture and practices. In general, it affects the way entrepeneur runs the business from decision making to take the next step forward. I do think both sides have it pro and con but with globalization, I think this shall not be the subject that drives us further but instead helps each other to become a better entrepreneur.

What is your definition of success?

For me, success means fulfilling my life purpose of creating love and joy to humanity.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I always wanted to challenges myself to be better in work and life and entrepreneurship are able to provide me the platform to do so.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

Willing to take full responsibilities in making you vision a success

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

I always asked myself this questions every time I am in doubt: “Will I regret not doing this if today is my last day?”

Connect

Web: www.breakoutescapegame.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/breakout—real-escape-game

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/breakoutmy

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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