WONG HONG TING
Wong Hong Ting started web developing as a kid and has been in love with technology since. Following his trip to Silicon Valley, his passion for IT was rekindled, leading to the development of a mobile app called sgmalls, which got more than 50,000 downloads. Today, he is the Co-Founder of 2359 Media.
2359 Media is Asias leading mobile consultancy based in Singapore with the government, major publishers and multinational companies as their portfolio clients. 2359 Media is a venture-back company with investment from SingTel, the National University of Singapore and SPRING Singapore.
Hong Ting's passion for IT stood out during the interview and his determination and commitment to make the business work greatly inspired me.
- What is the nature of your business?
We are in the business of product consultanting for clients looking to marry IT solutions with their businesses.
- When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business?
My Co-Founder, Wenhan, and I spent 1 year in the Silicon Valley. Following that, we created an app called SGmalls which had about 50,000 downloads in 2008. In June 2009, we incorporated the company. As for me personally, I come from a family of academics. Like them, Im also driven to create social change. They do it through research and I do it through my business.
- What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
Most importantly, technology has always been my first love. I started web developing in primary school, but as time went on, the flame kind of fizzled out. The trip to Silicon Valley rekindled that flame and it was also about the time when smart phones were kicking off. Many felt that the smart phones were just going to be another fad, but I knew for sure they were here to stay. Till now, smart phones are one of the most widely used electronics.
- How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
The start up in itself was a lot more knowledge intensive than capital, thus, we didnt need much capital. However, as we decided to expand and hire employees, we applied for funding from YES.
- What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
In the first few years, it was comforting being in the company of fellow poor entrepreneurs. Thankfully, there were customers that wanted to help and brought us along by putting us in the right direction. I also realised there were intrapreneurs, people who were trying to make changes within the company itself. This people were mostly middle management who wanted to embrace technology and try new things for their companies. So we were slowly seeing a shift in the landscape.
- What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
When we started out we watched many other enterprises getting burnt and it didn help that there was the fear that smart phones would join the list of fads. Also we had a very small pool of talent to pick from. There werent many institutions imparting the kind of skills we were looking for.
- How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
We just had to believe in ourselves and add value to our customers through our consultation process. We worked had to work harder. As for talent, we hired people we felt were promising and trained them further. As time went on, we had our staff with more experience helping the less experienced ones out.
- Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
There was once when were very low on funds and cash flow was tight. We had to be transparent with our employees and tell them the truth. Thankfully, many of them stepped up and were willing to defer their salary till the next month. Seeing the loyalty and commitment to the company was very heartening. So I supposed that it did have a silver lining.
- Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
1) Commit and do it. Give yourself a realistic timeline and a chance to succeed. Dont give up too easily.
2) It is necessary to think global. Not only in terms of market size but also the dynamics between how things work in the different countries when you want to do business with them.
3) Hiring well and retaining talent is important as well. You shouldnt be afraid to reward talent by paying well.
- When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
When we developed the app SGmalls and saw it reach more than 50,000 downloads, we realised we had a winner.
- What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
There have been many proud moments, but if I were to name one, it was in January 2011 when Singtel Innov8 invested $1million in us.
- How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
We differentiate ourselves by marrying business needs and wants with technology. Not only do we sit down with the business looking for our expertise, but also the consumers of the business, to better tailor our products.
- What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
Internal friendly competitions and bounties like I mentioned earlier. Also, we promote staff as soon as we think they have proven their mettle.
- Where or who do you get your business ideas from?
I read a lot and try to constantly be learning.
How much have your business grown since you have started? In terms of $ revenue, customers base, number of employees and number of branches? (rate of growth in percentage or numbers)
What do you see for your business in the next 2 to 5 years amid the current market condition in 2009, and does it include any plans for expansion?
We intend to have a more scalable model, and patent our consultative process. We are already expanding into the region, so we hope to see more regional growth.
- What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
It is the route if you love challenges and has a steep learning curve. Running your own company requires you to be multidiscipline.
- What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?
Persistence, and never take no for an answer. I think it is also important to rock the boat every once in a while when things are stable. It is also very critical to treat everyone as a smart person with some form of intrinsic value.
- In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why? (eg. Educational qualification, work experience, family influence, attitude, etc)
The Can-Do attitude is important and integrity is very important if you want to go far.
- In your opinion, what does it mean to have the 'spirit of enterprise'?
The spirit of welcoming challenges and making a change to the world.
- Who or what motivates and inspires you?
The people I work with are definitely the greatest source of motivation and inspiration for me.
- What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
As mentioned earlier, persistence, welcoming challenges, and not taking no for an answer. Our generation seems to be crushed too easy. We need to learn to take things in our stride.
- Can you share some of the more significant events / incidents that affected or shaped your business philosophy and the way you conduct your business? i.e. SARS, new competition or shifts in market behaviour and trends, etc.
There isnt exactly any one event. We are constantly trying to assess and evolve.
- With the changes in the market today, do you think it has become harder or easier to succeed in business? Why do you say so?
Neutral actually. I think in every market regardless bull or bear, businesses have been developed and have thrived. I think it all boils down to embracing challenges and working hard.
- What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
1) As cliche as this is, really; just do it.
2) listen to your customers.
3) socialise and network