CEO Series

Bad Info Killed His First Business, So His Second Shares Insider Info On The Asian Market

The Asian Entrepreneur defines itself as the world’s most authoritative non-profit digital knowledge platform on Asian entrepreneurship.

Boasting the largest database of profiled Asian entrepreneurs across the world, readers from over 26 countries constantly check in for the most up-to-date developments within Asia’s business industries.

The man behind it all

Melvin Poh is its founder and at age 27, he’s featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 2019, an annual list highlighting 30 of the top global entrepreneurs under the age of 30.

A barrister specialising in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions 7 years ago, Melvin decided to quit his profession after a personal identity crisis.

“Although a Malaysian by birth, at heart, I would consider myself an alien as I’ve spent most of my life growing up and living abroad since childhood, mostly in the United Kingdom,” he told us.

“I’ve never really lived in Asia prior to founding my business,” he said, and he thought that perhaps his longing to rediscover his roots justified his return to Asia.

Image Credit: The Asian Entrepreneur

However, pursuing his “Asian dream” wasn’t easy and The Asian Entrepreneur was founded as a result of a personal and painful failure of Melvin’s where he lost a large sum of personal savings.

He had been offered an investment opportunity by a close friend to launch a seemingly lucrative business in Hong Kong.

Having done their research on the market from existing resources, they’d thought that they were good to go.

Unfortunately, their business still failed in the end because those resources weren’t accurate and relevant enough to the Hong Kong market.

Learning from failure

Melvin realised two things after that.

First, Asia wasn’t as homogenous as often portrayed. Different Asian markets worked in different ways and couldn’t be lumped together.

Doing so would mean overlooking their idiosyncrasies and getting an inaccurate understanding of the Asian region as a whole.

When it came to approaching the region, practical and personal knowledge gained from speaking to people and learning from their insights was the way to go.

Noticing a lack of effective access to the above, Melvin took it upon himself to fill in the existing knowledge gap.

Image Credit: The Asian Entrepreneur

The Asian Entrepreneur was then founded with the goal of creating an accessible knowledge resource where people from all over the globe could access and gain practical insights from the collective of individuals based in Asia.

Focus for success

“At its core, I would say the key vertical we’re in is media,” Melvin said of The Asian Entrepreneur, “However, we are slightly different from other media companies.”

Melvin likened the platform to Wikipedia as an ever-growing knowledge platform with practical relevance, but with the content integrity of an academic journal.

Other verticals they’re involved in are: investment sourcing and consulting, publishing and community building.

“We’re currently working with notable Western publishers to produce, joint-publish and distribute larger codified texts and books on entrepreneurship from writers in Asia, many of whom are sourced from our network.”

As of 2018, they’ve raised USD$4 million in funding and launched a subsidiary publishing company.

Understanding when change is necessary

The Asian Entrepreneur started out with only 10 members as a traditional print publication in the United States.

After realising that scaling the business as a traditional print publication would have been incredibly capital intensive, they changed their business model.

In changing it, their editorial structure shifted and they now crowdsource knowledge instead of writing it themselves.

Image Credit: The Asian Entrepreneur

Not only did this introduce diversity to the platform’s content, but it also enabled the team to focus on editing and ensuring that the quality of knowledge resources remains consistent.

The platform is now able to produce content much faster while capturing popular themes and prevailing interests in the region at any given time.

Today, they have a team of 30 members who oversee a network of over 650 writers from more than 15 countries.

What he wishes he knew sooner

A mistake of his that Melvin pointed out sounded contradictory to common advice was getting too involved with his start-up.

“I quickly found myself working relentless hours which was psychologically and personally unsustainable,” he said.

In the beginning, he was the single driving force behind The Asian Entrepreneur. “Today, in absolute contrast, our organisation is driven by people leadership and structures.”

To him, people leadership means imparting your vision and being clear with your and your team’s roles.

Image Credit: The Asian Entrepreneur

“Trust your team and allow them to develop into key players in your organisation,” he advised.

Melvin also had to unlearn the idea that “you should only stick to your competence or what you know”.

After going through his own entrepreneurial journey of launching a thriving media venture, he came to believe just the opposite instead.

“Had I followed the advice of sticking within my competence, I would still be a barrister in the legal profession,” he said.

It’s important to keep our minds open to new ideas as these are where opportunities present themselves.

Advice from an established entrepreneur to aspiring ones

Critical consideration of the financial model of your business is important because it is the bedrock of operations and scaling potential, said Melvin.

Entrepreneurs are often encouraged to just go for that idea that they have regardless of whether or not it’s sustainable.

Melvin doesn’t agree with that, saying instead that “we need to be strategic and calculative in our approach to minimize failure.”

Image Credit: The Asian Entrepreneur

Simple market research at the beginning is not enough to succeed; it has to be an ongoing effort of actively educating oneself to make the most informed decisions.

Take it from a man who’s learned that lesson the hard way and started a platform specifically to help educate entrepreneurs interested in the Asian market.

  • Find out more about The Asian Entrepreneur here.

Featured Image Credit: The Asian Entrepreneur

 

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