Collide With Singapore’s Largest Community of Good Doers
What’s your story?
I did my MBA at Tsinghua Uni in Beijing. During my research, I discovered that in the mid- nineties, pharmaceuticals went to central China to buy blood. Villagers sold their blood and illegal blood stations mushroomed. These underground stations practised the wrong procedures — and whatever could go wrong, went wrong. Up to 90% of the villagers were infected with HIV due to this.
This made me realise that the saying ‘Give a fish, feed a day, Teach to fish, feed for life’ was not enough.
So I set up Social Collider in 2018 to fulfill my vision of a marketplace for people to “sell the fish.” Hopefully, this will help the beneficiaries to live better, as well as a life of dignity.
What excites you most about your industry?
The impact entrepreneurs (social, environmental, animal, and others) are making because they are driven by purpose and passion. Everyone has stories about why they do what they do. Some of these stories are touching, some enlightening. All are inspiring.
There is growing interest in Singapore and SEA in this movement, and I am glad to be at the forefront of this.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Everything! I was born in Singapore, my mum is an Indonesian Chinese and my dad is Singaporean Chinese. And I have roots in Fujian, China. The solutions I provide are Asia focused, and I intend to bring the playbook to China and SEA moving forward.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Beijing – people are receptive to new ideas, there is a huge population to pilot the ideas, and there is this vibrant drive and buzz I don’t feel in other countries. The infrastructure is amazing and people are very well-informed in the space that I am in. Of course, it helps that I spent three years there.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Two pieces actually:
- There are two most important times in your life. The first is when you were born, and the second is when you found out what you were born for.
- Be like the seed in the desert. Whenever there is rain in the desert, the buried seeds burst into flowers immediately. This is because the seeds have had so much sun and heat for many years, they just need the rain to sprout. In life, the rain is like the opportunity. We need to ready ourselves so that when the rain comes, we seize the day and blossom immediately.
Who inspires you?
The founder of Chi Heng Foundation, Du Cong, is the source of inspiration for me. Cong is a brilliant Hong Kong American. He went to Harvard and was a high flying investment banker. When he got to know of the AIDS situation in China at the end of the 20th century, he gave it all up to set up CHF to help the children and villagers.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
More a fun fact, but it makes me think for a while. All fetuses start off as females. That’s why males have nipples. Nipples don’t serve a function on males. So why all this discrimination against gender, age, race, religion, etc., when we are all the same?
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. My experiences are necessary for me to do what I am doing. So unless I have the experience that I have now, when I am 25, nothing changes. And, if I can retain my experiences when I am 25, then I make sure I market myself properly and network more.
How do you unwind?
Looking at my size, you probably won’t believe that I enjoy going for 8-10km walks and jogs. I do that almost every night and this helps me to focus. Of course, it doesn’t help that I grow super hungry thereafter. Eating good food (good may not be expensive) makes me very happy and relaxed too!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Tokyo. Specifically, Mt. Mistuke, at Ome district, on the outskirts of Tokyo. I have grown to enjoy staying at temples lately. And at Mt. Mistuke, there is a guesthouse beside this shrine. It offers unparalleled views of snow capped mountains in winter and hiking trails of various difficulties nearby.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“A World of Three Zeros” by Muhammad Yunus. For too long, capitalism was powered by Milton Friedman’s theory that as long as a company follows a country’s laws, the executives should do whatever within their means to grow the shareholder’s equity.
This resulted in many of the problems we see nowadays. From climate change to exploitation of labour, there needs to be a change in the mindset of doing business if humans are to last the next thousand years.
Shameless plug for your business:
Social Collider is an aggregator for impact organisations, where we understand the gaps and needs of the impact organizations and try to bridge the gaps for them. We provide a co-work space, an academy and an e-commerce platform, which form the basic structure of an ecosystem.
Want to be connected to Singapore’s foremost impact entrepreneur and see how you can work a win-win strategy between society and business? Ping me!
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ 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 and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.