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Thierry Tea, Founder & CEO of PhilJets Group

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Thierry Tea has had a successful and dynamic corporate and entrepreneurial career. From aviation to e-commerce, he is focusing on his latest start-up, WeCube.

What’s your story?
I was formerly a corporate senior executive, entrepreneur and I am now an investor across 4 Asian countries.

I was experiencing dynamic progress in my corporate career with the Airbus Group, but decided to leave my position as CEO of Airbus Helicopters Philippines and Head of Airbus Group Philippines to start my entrepreneurial life. I created Starline Global Industries in Singapore, an investment holding house that has then established PhilJets Group in the Philippines and Agama Investments in Cambodia. While PhilJets has become a leading aviation company operating aircraft management, fractional ownership, timesharing, maintenance services, training services, charter flights and recently launching GrabHeli with GrabTaxi; Agama Investments has invested in agribusiness with Parfum d’Indochine producing vanilla as well as in human resource services with Saint Blanquat & Associates and in retail with Jewelmer Joaillerie’s dealership in Cambodia. From corporate executive, I am now entrepreneur and investor with stakes in 11 companies after 3 years in the startup world. Our latest project is the launch of WeCube, our incubator which will start-up in the Philippines.

What excites you most about your industry?
While aviation is an industry I was passionate about, I decided to broaden my interests and business landscape and learn more about other Industries such as agribusiness, retail, HR services, private equity and finance and now IT and e-commerce. I believe in innovation. The only permanent thing is change, so we should always be learning. I am happy to meet and great business leaders and exchange knowledge and experience. It is an honor to have been able to partner with some of them. Nothing is impossible.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was raised by Cambodian Chinese parents who went from wealthy entrepreneurs in Cambodia to poor refugees and then middle class in the Chinatown of Paris. ‘Work hard at school, be good, family is important,’ these are the Asian values I grew up with. My first trip to Asia was at 17, to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Then, I studied in Singapore and did an internship in Hong Kong before completing another one in Shanghai. I wanted to be working in Asia and started with Airbus Helicopters in 2004 in Singapore and then the Philippines. I have now been based in Manila for 11 years and in the last two years, I’ve had many trips to Phnom Penh.

Heli&jets IMG_0532 TT PhilJets

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for its ease of doing business and winning mindset. Phnom Penh for its amazing vibrant energy and entrepreneurial spirit everywhere in the city. Manila for its new wave of start-up growth.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
There are a few. My partner Dominique Ky of TK Orient advised me, “if you are more daring, you will get anything you want.” My friend Adrien Choux, founder of the Chinese Timekeeper, told me to start my entrepreneur journey a few years ago. Jeremy Harbour of the Harbour Club said “everything measured, improve.” My wife who tells me, “now is the time to develop the business because later, we will be older and will need to enjoy it more!”

Who inspires you?
My wife Lynda, who left her corporate career in Singapore to take over her family’s rice trading business in Gabon, Africa and then decided to take a leave to give birth to our daughter Julia.

My parents, who taught me the right values in life. They know what it is to be rich, to lose everything, but who worked hard and sacrificed a lot to give me and my brother the opportunity of a better future.

Our passionate team and colleagues who give their best everyday to satisfy our clients. Without them, nothing would be possible.

As business figure, Jack Ma has shown the world what an Asian entrepreneur can do. I also admire Asian tycoons that I have had the chance to know, such as Pung Keav Se of Canadian Integrated Group (Cambodia), Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation (Philippines), Michael Kadoorie of the Peninsula Hotels Chain (Hong Kong).

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That our generation is endangering the planet at a rate higher than any previous generations. Unfortunately, there are very little remedies, since human nature puts its survival first. While Starline Global Industries and Agama Investments will contribute by putting up schools in remote areas of Cambodia to improve education, I hope the next generation will be more conscious and more caring towards the environment. We have to think of what we leave behind in this world.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
One year ago, I told myself, “If I leave this world tomorrow, my only regret is not having had a child.” This changed 4 months ago. I am having the life I wanted and I enjoy it 150%. Maybe starting entrepreneurship and a family earlier would be one wish. I would have loved my grand-parents to have met my daughter.

How do you unwind?
I used to find having a foot massage or reading a good book were ways to relax, but these have been overtaken by spending time with my 4 month old daughter Julia. It is the best way to clear my mind. Life is magical and children are wonderful in the way they learn and grow. Of course, spending quality time with my wife is also a great way to unwind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Singapore and Siem Reap are both great places. I love the mix of culture in Singapore. As I am Asian, Chinese and European. Singapore offers the Chinese desserts that we love and also the modern Asian style that suits me. Siem Reap in Cambodia is full of history and culture.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Art of War of Sun Tzu is a must. ‘It’s not how good you are but how good you want to be,’ by Paul Arden. The 2 others are Bernard Arnault’s (LVMH Group) biography ‘The Exterminator Angel’ and ‘Alibaba’s World.’

Shameless plug for your business:
Starline Global Industries is looking at investment opportunities and connecting businesses between Asia and Europe.

PhilJets is the leading boutique aviation solution in the Philippines, managing USD 20 million in assets, fractional ownership, timesharing, charter flights and also offering consultancy, maintenance services, aircraft sales and training services. PhilJets launched the GrabHeli app together with GrabTaxi.
Our new venture, WeCube is the newest incubator in the Philippines, launching the ComeOn Ground co-working space.

Agama Investments engages in creating value and developing long term sustainable activities in Cambodia, whilst also contributing to develop the image and exposure of the country in the business world.

How can people connect with you?
I can be reached on linkedin, facebook, twitter. Or through any one of our websites www.starlineglobalindustries.com and www.philjets.com

Twitter handle?
@thierrytea

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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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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