Entrepreneur

What 2019 Taught Me: S'pore Entrepreneurs Share Their Greatest Lessons To Take Into 2020

As the year is coming to an end, we recently looked back on the trends that impacted Singapore’s tech and startup scene.

Beyond this macro view, every entrepreneur has had their own personal experience of what 2019 meant for them.

We caught up with a few of them and asked them to share what they’ll be taking away as we cross into yet another new year.

Dylan Teo, Kiasu Foodies

Dylan Teo

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

It was definitely doing an internship stint overseas!

Singapore is a small place. It is easy to forget just how vast the world is, especially when we live in such a sheltered and regulated ecosystem.

Working in a foreign environment and exposing myself to the culture and people there allowed me to discover new technologies I never knew existed, develop new mentalities towards work and life, as well as discover unique best practices to apply in entrepreneurship.

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

Make time for those who matter.

I realised this when I was going through a particularly rough patch with work and school, only managing to pull through with the support of my loved ones.

It occured to me that at the end of the day, they’re the ones who will still be supporting us no matter what. It’s important that we do not take them for granted. 

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

To continue broadening my knowledge by meeting inspiring people and reading more!

Kiasu Foodies runs Singapore’s most subscribed Telegram channel. Read their story here!

Wong Peck Lin, Udders Ice Cream

Wong Peck Lin and David Yim, Udders Ice Cream Singapore
Wong Peck Lin and husband David Yim

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

We invested in automated equipment that can produce 4500 cups of ice cream an hour, and this enabled us to break into a new segment—airlines.

In 2019, we supplied approximately 2.5 million Udders ice cream cups to Singapore Airlines, Jetstar and Scoot.

To have Udders on board Singapore Airlines has been a dream come true for me as a Singaporean entrepreneur, considering SIA is one of our best known local icons!

This year, I also ran my first half-marathon. I’m glad I did it because at age 48, I want to know that I can still do things I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing 10 years ago.

And the only way to know is to do them!

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

When we took the leap to start supplying our Udders Ice Cream to Singapore Airlines, we had never dealt with such a large volume order before.

The Udders team really pulled together many nights to make it happen and push past any issues that arose, and this reminded me that a business is a “we”, not a “me”.

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

My wish is for Udders to be in 3 countries overseas in 2020.

Read more about Udders Ice Cream’s journey here!

Raynald Zhang, Foptics

Raynald Zhang

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

I’m super glad to have taken the leap of faith to quit my highly stable day job and venture into the unknown world of entrepreneurship (backed by some numbers of course).

My new day job is much more purposeful, has a greater impact and I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people who helped in the course of building a better business.

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

The greatest lesson I’ve learnt in 2019 is to trust my team and know they have what it takes to make things happen.

I used to be worried over every single detail, and it took up a lot of my time that could have been put to better use. Now, I put more empowerment into the hands of my team and feel less stressed and burned out myself.

It is not easy let go, but as long as solid processes are in place to minimise errors, it will work out!

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

It feels great to be challenged at work and feels even better when you know there are people in the same challenging situation with you.

We have a good, growing team who believe in the vision of the company, and I hope we can all look back at the end of 2020 knowing we have left a greater impact than we did in 2019!

I also wish for more opportunities to collaborate with other brands so we can achieve bigger things together.

Foptics is making eyewear affordable. Read their story here!

Katherine Teo, Create Collective / Dayre

Katherine Teo

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

This year we started our company Create Collective and put forth our first offering, Dayre, through an acquisition.

Dayre started as a micro-blogging app, but today with Create Collective at its helm, it stands for more than that.

It is now a dedicated space for women, where they can share authentic stories and reviews, unfiltered thoughts and experiences, and untold secrets—with a community of women who gets them and wants to be there for them.

Being able to build and grow Dayre into something so meaningful is one thing that my team and I are really excited about and proud of.

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

That self-belief and support from your team are very important.

As an entrepreneur, you may be doing something different that people won’t quite understand why and how immediately—and they will question you, challenge you, or even mock you.

You need a lot of self-belief and support to push through the doubts and keep going. 

We took a bold move to switch Dayre’s business model from free-to-use to subscription-based, and also for Dayre to stay ad-free. 

It’s understandable why there were naysayers who said we were making a big mistake when we first announced this.

But we stuck to our conviction. Three months into our soft launch, we are even more convinced that we’re headed in the right direction.

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

We have exciting plans to launch Dayre globally, so 2020 is shaping up to be a great year.

It is also my hope that Create Collective will continue to grow, make a positive and meaningful impact in all that we do, and that we’ll have fun while we’re at it!

Read about how Create Collective relaunched Dayre here!

Raena Lim and Chris Halim, Style Theory

Raena Lim and Chris Halim

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

Chris: We invested time in reorganisation and planning.

Our reorganisation allowed us to collaborate better and grow faster. Planning allows us to determine what would make a successful 2020 and design our initiatives and budgets to make that a reality.

Raena: We also invested in the automation of a lot of our processes which turned out to be essential as we are planning to scale rapidly in 2020. 

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

Chris: The bigger the organisation, the more important alignment and transparency become.

As our team doubled in 2019, we started over-communicating and repeating key points across the organisation, and it has led to a much-improved team happiness and overall productivity. 

Raena: To remind ourselves and the team why we started Style Theory.

In the midst of the day-to-day hustle, it’s very easy to forget why we are building this.

Reminding ourselves of the impact that we are making, and the future that we are building, keeps us motivated and rowing towards the same goal. 

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

For more people to be more conscious of their shopping habits and have more consideration for the environment that we live in.

Style Theory is gearing up for regional expansion. Read the story here!

Chris Hwang, The Golden Duck

Chris Hwang and Jonathan Shen

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

We bit the bullet through tough times with regional markets, and we also really reorganised our expenses this year.

It’s tough to make calls to cut expenditure but it’s these hard decisions that make good businesses.

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

I used to be a scatterbrained busybody. I would help anyone in any team with anything, even if I didn’t know how.

Nowadays, I empower them by clearing their roadblocks, then stepping back. In doing so, I can avoid getting distracted, and follow through better with the projects I’ve already started.

You can have a hundred good ideas and see none of them through, or you could have just three great ideas that you execute really well—and people remember that.

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

A greater sense of family in The Golden Duck.

Read more about The Golden Duck’s journey here!

Caecilia Chu, YouTrip

Caecilia Chu

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

Launching YouTrip Thailand with June Kuvinichkul, my best friend from Harvard Business School, was a remarkable experience in 2019.

More important than business progress, it was also the chance to put our camaraderie in action and push boundaries together in the multi-currency payments space throughout Southeast Asia.

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

As a founder, I need to dramatically reinvent myself at every stage of the business.

We were a 25-people team when we went live in Singapore last August. Today, we have grown to a 120-people team across 3 countries.

The way I used to lead has inevitably created gaps in cross-country coordination and team communications.

Though this is not my first entrepreneurial venture, it certainly is one that has the strongest momentum. So no day has ever been the same. To me, every day is “Day 1”.

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

Getting to know many more of our YouTrip users! I hope for the opportunity to host many more community initiatives.

It has been an extremely rewarding experience gathering first-hand feedback and seeing some whole-hearted support from the YouTrip community in 2019. 

I’m certainly looking forward to many more reasons to celebrate with our YouTroopers in 2020!

We took YouTrip’s multi-currency card for a spin in Japan. Read our review here!

Jaslyn Chan, IUIGA

Jaslyn Chan

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

2019 has been a year of opportunities for IUIGA. We’ve been expanding rapidly on the retail front, and opportunities to expand overseas have come up more than a few times with the increased brand recognition. 

As much as I am very grateful for all the opportunities, the burden of it is real. I had to say “No” to some. Looking back, saying “No” might have been the best thing I did.

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

As an entrepreneur, one of the worst things you can do is to build in too many directions at once. At times when we tried to explore it all at once, we almost definitely failed. 

But when we were able to focus on improving one thing at a time, we soared. This lesson reminded me every pursuit in life should be as such—one thing at a time.

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

My wish for 2020 is to continue creating value, and to bring better-for-you everyday goods to another market in SEA. 

IUIGA launched online-only diamond rings this year. Read about it here!

Zhou Junjie, Shopee

Zhou Junjie

1. What’s one thing you’re glad you did in 2019?

2019 saw the launch of our new regional headquarters at Kent Ridge. It was an incredibly proud moment for me and I’m glad I was able to be a part of this milestone.

This was made possible by every member of the Shopee team, and it brings me joy knowing that this achievement not only marks our rapid growth, but further solidifies our leadership in the region.

In less than four years, we have grown from a small office housing around 10 employees, to an office space that can hold up to 3,000 employees, while we have grown to become the leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

2. What has been your greatest lesson from 2019?

One of the greatest lessons for me was learning that e-commerce has evolved to become part and parcel of daily life.

It is no longer viewed as ‘online shopping’; e-commerce is now simply ‘shopping’.

This helped me recognise that there is a need to constantly innovate and continuously improve to cater to our shoppers’ ever-changing demands, providing them with the best experience possible.

This understanding of the consumer landscape saw Shopee introduce a suite of interactive and engaging features in 2019.

Some examples are Shopee Catch, an in-app augmented reality game, and Shopee Live, our livestreaming feature that allows viewers to directly engage with sellers and ask questions in real time.

3. What’s your wish for 2020?

My wish for 2020 is that my team and I at Shopee will continue to succeed in providing highly localised, mobile-first, and social shopping experiences that delight our users all across the region.

Check out our photo-tour of Shopee’s cool office at Kent Ridge here!

Here’s To 2020

It’s kind of unbelievable to think that we won’t just be crossing into a new year, but a whole new decade come 2020.

We are often stumped by how quickly time flies.

However, a great way to move forward is to count the things you’ve been grateful for, give yourself credit where it’s due, and most importantly to learn from past encounters!

What’s your greatest lesson you’ll be taking with you? Share it with us in the comments below!

VP Asks is a series where we gather professional and public opinions on topics that matter. Want to suggest a topic for us to talk about? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion to our Facebook page.

 

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