VINCENT HA & ALTHEA LIM
Vincent is passionate about businesses and the idea that entrepreneurs can shape and impact societies for the better. From an early age, he found opportunities to make money and developed a knack for spotting trends and generating business ideas and models. Despite graduating as the Valedictorian of the Class of 2009 at Singapore Management University, Vincent dedicated himself to the building of businesses that could one day provide him with the platform shape and impact Singapore and the world.
Today, he is on a journey to build the media conglomerate of the future.
Gushcloud is the leading Celebrity and Influencer Marketing Network in South-East Asia. We work with brands and agencies to engage celebrities and influencers with large audiences on Twitter, Instagram, Blogs and YouTube to create and broadcast compelling branded content to their fans. This supercharges marketing campaigns and drives real business results for our clients.
Gushcloud has managed more than 1000 influencer marketing campaigns for 250 clients across the last 3 years helping them reach, engage and excite their target audiences.
Vincent Ha exemplifies business leadership in the local social media marketing industry. His constant drive at business opportunities has evidently matured the way he pursues goals in an even more strategic and efficient manner. His passion to lead young influencers in making a significant impact and contribution to Singapore and the marketing industry is truly commendable. Through the interview, I have learnt plenty of new knowledge about the technical aspects of the marketing industry on social media platforms. His demonstration of the depth of knowledge in both the industry and on running an influential business had made this the most educational and empowering interview experience for me.
Q1) What is the nature of your business?
Gushcloud is an influencer marketing network. We connect brands to social media celebrities with large following on various social media channels such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even YouTube. When they engage these influencers, they create content for their brand. For example if SingTel is going to launch a new phone, influencers will go for the launch. They will take Instagram pictures of the new phone, sample it out for a couple of months to provide a review. Basically Singtel would then pay us for the entire engagement and we pay our influencers.
Q2) When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I always knew I had it for business because even in primary school I was already doing some money making businesses like selling rare marbles and book rental business. I always had a knack for spotting opportunities. I would rent a book for two dollars a week and then rent them out to schoolmates for fifty cents a day.
It was in JC that I realised being an entrepreneur was something I truly wanted to do for the rest of my life. Which was why at that point of time I was taking triple science, and I decided to drop physics because it was not necessary anymore. I got into SMU and won a double award with a lot of business initiatives. I then joined a business case club and ran café for 2 years which I conceptualise together some partners and we turned it into a profitable business. I also did my own video production company as a freelancer then, I started doing videos for friends, clubs, societies and word of mouth got it going, and I started doing it for other brands and corporates. My skills naturally led to my first business partner, Willie, who is running Big 3 now, it took a long time to build up but today it is one of the top three video production companies in Singapore. In 2010, I took a step back to do another business, a proprietary training fund. It did not succeed unfortunately but we learnt a lot, and that experience motivated us to develop the Barnett group digital agency with my current partner, Althea. All these experiences gradually led to Gushcloud. Throughout the entire journey, it has just shown that doing business has always been in my blood.
Q3) How did your family show their support?
My parents supported me by giving me a silent consent. It just shows me that they just want me to be happy, and do what I felt is right for myself and my family. When I had to start my business and in tough times of business where we needed funds, my parents stepped forward to loan me twenty to thirty thousand that made a difference.
Q4) What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
We stumbled upon this as previously I was doing videos and creative media businesses, and my co-founder was involved in the events and youth marketing industry. We learned that a lot youth marketing success is driven by alpha males and females. Back then, we did not know what we had, but knew there was something there, as we were using them to get their friends as a way to engage people to come down for parties and events. When we started the Barnett group, we crystallized the idea that influencers are core part of the digital marketing mix for brands. Barnett was a social media marketing agency. We help companies to grow their Facebook presence through influencers’ participation in their Facebook pages, getting them to blog on the brands, and before we knew it, we as young social media company are already winning big brands like Citibank, National Library Board and Nanyang Polytechnic.
Q5) How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business?
Start-up capital is easy, as there is a lot of grants in Singapore. The challenge is about how to succeed after the company is set up. Our perspective on business is not to raise funding just for the sake of it. If we do any of the fund raising it is strategic- How do we find investors that really add value to us in the form of giving access to new country market, letting us up in status of statures and then be able to draw connections with other entrepreneurs within their portfolio. These are main strategic considerations. Our philosophy for the business is simple, we try not to spend what we do not have, and everything is bootstrap. It is about how we grow within our means and generate cash flow to finance our own investment and growth plans. That is the main truth to gushcloud when we had our capital, thinking about money changed, but that in the end we pivoted back to services and we realised that actually the safest option for us as business owners is to have healthy cashflow. With that, you can keep changing with the tides and times when you will always have a business that feeds you and your employees. This is the same perspective that we adopt for Gushcloud today, we moved away from start up thinking to building a more sustainable business.
I believe a lot in the right people and having the brains as well as heart. There are a couple of characteristics we look for, first, the person must be of relative intelligence, because we’re working in the marketing, advertising as well as technology industry. You need to change with the seasons and times, which requires mental strength. If you are smart, that gives you a greater leverage, because you lack the experience but you make up in terms of intelligence. The second, which is far more important than intelligence is actually the heart. Heart matters a lot because you can actually replace intelligence, but finding the right person with the right heart who believes in the vision and is willing to fight for not just himself but for the rest of the team as well as the company, I think that is a bit more rare. This is why it is hard for us to find to a person who is very strong in both. I can replace intelligence, but heart will spend more time to replace, that is why we focus a lot on retaining employees.
How we actually do recruitment is through the usual channels but the final say I would usually defer it to Althea. Reason being she has got a stronger gut for people. As much as I like the person’s resume, when I introduce him to Althea, she sees a different side. For example, the person may not be treating the family well thus not a good fit, or he/she may not be the most intelligent but really cares and fight for the team. The person that fits into the company and our culture would make a good hire. Currently, we have a lot of people applying every day to work as an intern or full timer, so manpower is not a problem. What we are looking for right now are the people who can help us bring the whole company to the next level, say bank chief officers or even organization developers.
I think entrepreneurs by nature are sales people. So the first two sales people are me and Althea. Good thing about sales is that there are a lot of people out there, it’s all about grooming them, teaching them the ropes, and they learn the process and go off with it. So that has never been an issue infact that is our strength. We are really good at sales and creating revenue opportunities, because we genuinely sell good products and services. Even before we launched gushcloud.com, brands were excited when we just made presentations and they were willing to pay thousands for such services.
Marketing and Advertising
We are a marketing and advertising firm, so we are a product that does that so that is not an issue when we are working with the influencers whether is it micro or macro, the product inherently sells itself. For us, when we sell to the clients we are also marketing ourselves at the same time, as it is a Business to Business (B to B) service. In the case of B to B, the right channel is a face to face meeting. You cold call, meet them to present and part of them will go on to be your clients. Through the last five to six years, we have already been establishing these client bases of agencies and brands through Barnett, Big 3. So naturally when Gushcloud was formed, we did not have to start from scratch. We did a lot of cold calling to introduce to people about our product and services, but to us it was a very simple process.
Q6) What do you think is the reason people would like to work for Gushcloud?
I think we have something special. We pride ourselves in being people who matters that create things that matter. Our values are not just about building a business that makes money, but we are actually trying to build significance. In the sense that we are all looking at Gushcloud to build it up as a regional or even global company that sets an example for other entrepreneurs and start ups. People here all believe that we are on the way or even already making impact, and that excites them because as a young person, the last thing you want to feel is insignificant or not valued. But over here, everyone feels that they are being valued and a part of this whole big engine that is moving the company towards achieving the vision to be the largest influencing network by 2017.
Q7) What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
When I was fund raising for Gushcloud before we made our first dollar, I had to pitch to some strategic investors in Malaysia, and at that point of time I realised I only have six dollars in my account. Both Althea and I were about to be literally broke because we spent our cash on operations and hiring employees for the business. We then got a call from one of the investors we spoke to months ago to meet again, not thinking much of it, turns out they said “We are not sure about your idea but we want to invest in you both as people” and they just gave us a check for five hundred thousand US dollars. Our jaws just dropped that moment. It is very interesting rollercoaster journey. It is an up riding roller coaster, always up and down but it has a curve that keeps going up.
Q8) Why is the company named ‘Gushcloud’
It was a month and a half process of me shouting out to the 5 of us a name. Often it would get rejected and shot down by the pioneer team. I came up with more than 50 names like likesify, crowdsify, peoplelike, peoplesugar and more. Finally one day I shouted out "Gushclouds" with the idea that it is about human clouds gushing about brands and generating word of mouth. The team liked it because it checked all the boxes.
Althea made the final tweak. She said 'let's drop the 's', billion dollar companies do not sound like 'Twitters' or 'Facebooks.' It is Twitter and Facebook and they sound more solid because there is only one. Thus we had the name Gushcloud with the idea that the brand will revolve around the word 'Gush’.
Q9) What is your company vision and mission? How do you convey these to your company staff and team members?
Our vision is to be the largest influencing marketing network in Southeast Asia by 2016. Something is clear about wanting to be a very visible and significant leader. This significance has been there throughout as we want to be people who matter and people who impact the world. I believe that entrepreneurship is very important to Singapore, that where Singapore is today is because of the fruits of the entrepreneurs from the 1960s to 1980s, this is the first group of entrepreneurs who worked hand in hand with the government to build all the leading organizations such as Far East, Capitaland, banks and such. However, I see that there is a lack of that in the next generation. This is why I am working work with my fellow entrepreneurs in this cohort (1980-1990). We are the next batch to hold the baton to provide employment and significance to Singapore. The reason that for this is because I believe for a country to earn its rights to survive it must do two things. One is to export products and services that the world would use and cherish, and secondly it must be able to export culture. If not, when in times of need, no one would offer help as you were unable to be significant in their eyes.
Hence, I am exporting products and services making Gushcloud a regional and recognised Singapore top company. I am starting to see that I can actually impact the culture part as well, as we are starting to create a lot of content with these young influencers on various social media platforms, these are cultural exports in the forms of videos and entertainment that I hope will put Singapore and Southeast Asia on the map.
We have this vision for an entrepreneurial class. Althea and I desire to start a foundation to advise the cause of entrepreneurship as well as education in Singapore. We have an idea of how much money would need to start this foundation, which is the reason why we’re trying to move Gushcloud to a stage where we can actually build a foundation for not just Singaporeans but South East Asians as well.
We have four values that works as a quadrant and helps with our decision making process. The top of the quadrant consists of ‘Growing people’ and ‘Fostering a better workplace’. This is all about people, how they grow and how they want to work for the same team and environment. As a young person you would leave the workplace once you feel that you are not growing in terms of skillsets and opportunities. Fostering a better workplace is to develop an environment that people enjoy working in. The bottom of the quadrant is made up of ‘Achieving financial success’ and ‘Building significance’. Achieving financial success is important to bear fruits to get more resources to invest in new initiatives. Building significance is about why Gushcloud needs to be a global company in order to bring Singapore forward and be an example within the entrepreneurial class.
A good decision is one that combines one thing each from both the top and bottom quadrant. For instance, our gentlemen campaign, which is aimed to make people gentlemen on the road by changing the way they drive. This pet project is our way to use influencers to make Singapore roads better. Even though it does not achieve any financial success, it grows people and also builds significance for the company, hence makes it a good decision.
Resilience and Overcoming Adversity
Q10) What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
At the initial success of Gushcloud, we knew If we as young social media company can win big clients, what more a fresh up start from a university? They could start up and disrupt us. That is when we started to formalise the idea that perhaps the future of marketing is in technology and what can we do as first step of technology. The first thing we did is to create a platform that automated a lot of these influencers engagement process. The idea was if we created a platform, a dot com, that can engage one million micro influencers that have a reach of close to two to three, hundred friends, then get them to broadcast a message for a brand, that may be immensely powerful and disruptive to traditional advertising. Unfortunately the plan did not work out as such. In 2012, when we were getting some success from Facebook influencers, Facebook asked for the Application Programme Interface (API) because they wanted to launch the sponsored newsfeed, so created a need for us to fall and pivot. Our golden goose was killed overnight, that time we were growing healthy revenue to grow and sustain the business, even planning to expand to San Francisco. But when that happened with basically went back to square one.
Q11) How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
We spent a few months doing soul searching trying to figure out our pivot. We came to our toughest times when cash was literally being burnt, we were trying to figure out a new source of revenue. The turning point came when our dear friend who was advising us, told us we only had one month of cash left. We were faced with two choices, one was to shut the business down. We rationalised that if we shut the start-up down, no one would think any less of us because failures do happen at the start of businesses. The other option was the idea of getting all the employees to take a thirty per cent pay cut and ask them to go beg for money. So we needed at least one hundred thousand dollars, and cut off as much unnecessary expenditure as possible like shutting down the US office. It took both pride and asking the employees to do the unintentional to take a bet on us.
At the point of time, when we decided to go with the harder option (the pay cut). Althea came back to Singapore and broke the news and asked the employees if they were willing to take the cut, if not the company would be unable to keep them anymore financially, surprisingly everyone took the pay cut as they believed in the vision that we set out, which is to be the largest influencer marketing platform that changes the way digital advertising was done. As they believed that, there were also a lot of uncertainties like when their next pay check coming, but they took a leap of faith with us.
The second thing we had to do was to be personal guarantors of our loan. That was pretty scary for us, because I had a house, so if the business was to fold, we would have ended up with nothing, I will have to tell my wife I’m sorry we lost our house.
After we did the two things, things were still tough but we had a plan. We had a plan to turn the business around. So we went back to what we were good at, how we worked with influencers and engage them on behalf of brands, it was manual process, a service the brands wanted. When we told the brands we were expanding to include a service like this, they were actually really excited for Gushcloud as that was something they still wanted more of.
So we started offering influencer marketing services again to the brands in the form of using only the premium influencers, a smaller group of people but with a significant larger number of followers. And that is how we build the business from 2012 to 2013. At 2013, we crossed the breaking mark, and that helped us to survive, I also finally get to draw salary out of the bank after 2 years of no salary. Since then things has been going really well for us. 2013 was really good year and 2014 we have already exceeded what we set out to do.
To sum the whole story up, how did we come out w Gushcloud? It was a journey of many different things, many developments, through all of that, what we recognise here are a couple of things. One is Christianity as I believe in God, that everything is by appointment and there is a grace that goes through it. The most important thing is really about the people. Reason why we are here today is because of the sacrifices of my staff, family, hostiles, relatives, co-founder and I. All these sacrifices have led to where we are today. No doubt to go to the next stage, there is a lot more to ask from our current and future employees, but I think this is what will run through for the rest of our time doing business. It is always going to be about the people, and people are what makes or break the company.
Q12) 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?
The answer is about people. It is what makes us want to fight for it at the risk of losing our own houses and taking pay cuts. At that point of time we already saw the vision of the company impacting the world, and that our employees have spent a year and a half with us, it would be a crime if we just closed it down as it would have dashed their hopes and dreams, because of the blood sweat and tears they put in our business. It would be a bigger let down to them if we just close it down. They fought for us when we started, so we have to push on now to fight for them, and giving up was not fighting for them, but taking the harder route begging for money and wriggling in the business was what we felt was fighting for them. The core motivation starts with the people we work with.
Q13) When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
When our clients started paying us and were happy with the services and became recurring clients. When we did the pay cut in November, by February we got revenue coming in. It shows there is something that is growing steadily.
Q14) What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
I do not think we have achieved that much yet, we are still at the beginning. For now we are at least profitable, able to provide good opportunities for the employees and run the company. A milestone would be successfully rebuilding the business from Year 2011 when we nearly closed down. The next milestone would be the 2016 goal, we have to expand to other countries and build each country to a certain revenue point, and beyond that we have to build certain capabilities. We are at this stage now getting resources to prepare for the next stage in terms of expansion to other countries, as well as looking into how we can build our people in a different sort of way compared to when we were a start-up. One of the things we realised today is that we have to build growth opportunities within, people who previously joined us went ‘I don’t mind taking a ride with you for one and half years’, are now coming to ask “What is my career progression”. These are the things we have to think about right now as we have grown to a company of a certain size.
Q15) How do you promote learning within your Company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?
A lot of it now is one to one mentorship, both Althea and I spend a lot of time on our key middle managers, people who have been with us since the start. Our growth opportunity for them is to bring them from an executive to being a manager with their own team under them. Becoming a manager, someone needs to show you how to do it, you need to internalize it, and then take on that role and grow it into your own. We realize that we are all still relatively young, the average age within the company is around 23-26 years old. We are still very young as compared to other company’s staff age, this is why we have to spend more time in training people. The good thing is that the culture is like a school. As my co-founder has experience in tutoring and her desire to teach young people and belief in education, a lot of our organisation structure is like a school in the sense that, there are always lessons, homework, readings to do, and that became imprinted on our middle managers, they get the idea that they need to teach their subordinates and peers. This helps us build a very strong structure for our organization growth.
The one to one mentorship extends down to even the interns and executives, because we are still a relatively flat organization, even though we have a middle management here. There are some mass lessons like indoctrination, sharing the values and systems, teaching them how the marketing industry work, we call it the agency family tree, teaching them the history of agencies and how to know which agency is under what, which brand are under what and how do you know the difference between media, creative, PR agencies. Each batch of staff and interns will go through it, it used to be Althea and I who teaches it, now it is the middle managers. Eventually we are planning to come up with a management trainee program.
Q16) As your vision is to be the leading marketing influencing network by 2017. What is your role as the leader in this industry?
We see ourselves as both a marketing services provider as well as a media owner. Influencer marketing is unique as the influencer is both the content creator and from the audience as well. The trend we are seeing is that spending on brand content and influencer marketing is increasing quite significantly. As the budget allocated more and more for branded content, we are in the position to help the companies to allocate the money into the right spending on the credit content in terms of social media channels. The big agencies are already looking at us as strategic partners of content, working together to figure out using influencers strategically. More of this will happen even in economic countries like Philippines and Indonesia where we are both becoming the leader and educator, educating agencies the benefits of using influencers and content creators.
Q17) In your opinion, what is a good and ethical business? How do you think this helps you in your Company/ business?
As you expand your business to Southeast Asia a lot of opportunities come where you have to make grave choices. Our values are Christian, so we draw certain lines. We do not mind paying people commission fees to help us advance the business as long as it clear and clean. But, if someone ask us to advertise for special services spa or to date an employee, that is when we will draw the line and reject these offers. To be honest we have turned down projects in very large numbers because of our values system. How can I face my people if I do not even have the integrity to make these decisions? We expect a lot from our people, in the same way we expect from ourselves, so we need to walk the talk.
Q18) How will you describe your working relationship with your customers, suppliers and service providers?
We try not burn bridges or make enemies. If clients are unhappy, we do put in the best effort to resolve the situations and never leave it as a sour relationship. Even if it is sour at some point of time we will come back to the client to mend and build it. So far all our relationships with our clients and agency partners have been very good. So much that they treat us as their friendly consultants and paint the ideas off from us, and we have very good conversations with them.
Q20) Can you share the working terms (e.g payment terms) that you have established with your suppliers?
Generally it is a give and take, thirty days credit term, they may take sixty to ninety days to pay, then we will call to give a gentle reminder. It is a push and pull.
Q21) How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
Generally, both of us are doing the same thing, it is like Google and Apple producing smart phones. The way we solve the problem can be similar, but strategy wise there are slight differences. We try to build a very big network of agency partners and influencers even though they may not be exclusively signed to us, and that has helped us to build our business fast. Helped us grow from a ‘nobody’ to a leader in the industry, due to the willingness to work with as many people as possible even if they may be smaller businesses or competitors to us. This could be what differentiates us, I know that competitors tend to be more inclusive, they do not want to work with other competitors, whereas we look at competitors as working partners, because we cannot convert the whole world, but everyone has different niches they fill up. Another edge we have is our people. Since we are in services industry, a lot of it is about likability and clients’ relationships with you.
Q22) What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
Youtube Influencers. We were always looking at Facebook, Twitter and Blogs, but video itself requires a significant investment because it has production process. So we created a new joint venture with the video production company which I am now a signed partner. This has been a business that has been bearing fruit. This investment has been a right bet as we are now building up a whole new video business that in respect with content creators and brands, that brands are excited to spend on, so we know we hit the gold mine. The video production has only been going on for several months in fact, the good thing about this is that it is so new that everyone is trying to figure out how to grow this industry, so even if our competitors are doing it its fine, they do in the way they think they are solving the problem, and we do it in the way that we think its solving our problem. Eventually It is anyone’s game.
Q23) Where or who do you get your business ideas from?
If you look at the way we are structured now, we have so many smaller companies (Big Tree, Gushcloud etc) here put together in the same group, we spend a lot of time talking to each other and bouncing ideas off each other. I am usually the guy who comes out with most of the ideas, then I will send ten out, seven will be shot down, three will be good, and finally we will decide to focus on one. I do not have a specific mentor, but a network of friends and even our investors who started out with us they still are our bouncing points who gives us their opinions as and when we have new initiatives.
Q24) What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Through government education programmes and even the whole start up scene visibility, people think it is really cool to start a start-up. That has created a problem as well as a good thing in the sense that stigma against people who come out to be entrepreneurs have dropped significantly. With that said there are also a lot of people getting into it for the wrong reasons. They think the entrepreneurship journey is sexy or if they start a business they are an entrepreneur from day one, but I think that it is a little bit more than that. To me, Entrepreneur is a personality as well as a person type, I say that because very few of us will get it right the first time. Since you won’t succeed the first time you cannot come into business living with that one idea you think will succeed. Once it does not succeed, are you going to go back and get a job or are you going to start up a new business. The term entrepreneurship is best defined by people who has gone through that experience, starting up, building the business up and then moving on or continue to grow the business to greater success. Until you have built your business to a certain stage, or failed once and build another business, I think it is very hard to call yourself an entrepreneur.
Q25) What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?
We are all people who don’t give up. Each of us has moments where we face a lot of doubts. So I think entrepreneurs must have the capacity and the fighting spirit. Every entrepreneur have a different set of strengths, but the one thing that keeps us going is the idea that you don’t actually give up.
Q26) In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why? (e.g. Educational qualification, work experience, family influence, attitude, etc)
I believe that those who are given the opportunity to attend university should do it. Not because it is going to equip you for your job, but it is going to equip your mind to expand your capabilities to absorb information so that it helps you. When it comes to entrepreneurship, besides the fighting spirit, you need to be able to spot opportunities. If your first business fail, you need to pick yourself up and move on if not you might end up running out of cash or having to take a job to sustain yourself and your family. I think being able to spot opportunities is quite key. This ability is able to transcend even at your initial beginning. Once your start your business, to grow your business to the next level you need to spot opportunities for growth. Spotting opportunities goes across all different business functions. Example, opportunities to optimise employment processes. Hence, talent and opportunities spotting is all key.
Q27) Who or what motivates and inspires you?
I respect Tony Fernandez. He is what really defines an entrepreneur. The way he sees and believes in an opportunity and fighting to make it happen despite everyone saying it is crazy. On top of that, he did not take his time, he built it up really quickly across the last ten years- Air Asia, as well as all the other businesses to form a formidable group. I see that he still has room to grow, I see his vision of building a group of companies that basically own most of the things in Asia, be it hotels, telecommunications and even transportation. I think it takes guts and I admire that a lot, as well as his ability to turn that vision into reality. In US, I admire Jack Dorsey who create Twitter and Square. I admire his ability to create something out of nothing and vision future solutions and turn those into big businesses. A local entrepreneur I admire is George Quek of Breadtalk for never giving up and pushing forward.
Q28) 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.
From the start, the philosophy is that we are not here to waste anyone’s time, we are here to make a big impact. The execution is what we have grown, through trial and error through that years that has helped us to get a bit wiser. Finding out how do you invest your time in right activities that helps your employees to create the biggest impact. Throughout the years it has always been about how do we build that impact and significance. The ‘how’ part has grown in terms of our wisdom and experiences. For example, how do you know you need to manage cash flow? Because you run into a situation where you are almost running out of cash. As for how do solve that problem? That is a different story.
Q29) 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?
This is a tough question to answer since our market is in different countries. Is it easier in Singapore and Malaysia, yes it is. Is it easier in Indonesia and Philippines? No it’s not. It is getting easier in Singapore because our clients are savvier, they understand what we are offering, they are recurring customers, it is easier for us to sell and make money. Same goes for Malaysia, the industry is developed, digital expenditure is relatively high in Singapore and Malaysia versus Indonesia and Philippines. Indonesia and Philippines is not as easy as we are battling both educating people the digital importance, and why they should spend on content creator influencers. It has been an uphill battle in terms of the two countries.
Q30) What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
Think carefully a bit more. It is not an easy journey, preferably talk to as many existing entrepreneurs as possible. Most of them will tell you their story, and in the story you will find that there is a lot of hardships and sacrifices and a lot of plans that has gone array. Knowing these stories will help, so when you go in, you go in with your eyes open. Not discouraging them from taking a leap, but I just feel that they should leap with their eyes open.
Q31) Use two words to describe your entrepreneur journey
Fulfilling and Exciting. It really is very exciting. We once had to jump out of a cab because the driver wanted to bring us to a place to extort money and we once pitched in a KTV night lounge to an investor with PowerPoint presentation, so it was really interesting.
Q32) Why did you choose each other as your business partner?
Althea and I have known each other since our days at ACJC where we were schoolmates. However, we didn’t really interact with each other until I was in University where I did freelance video work. Althea initially engaged me to be her videographer at the youth parties and events that she would organise.
Over time, we began to form a good working relationship, creative synergies as well as a strong trust in each other and expectation of excellence. When the opportunity to build a proprietary trading fund came along from another partner, I took the leap of faith to build that business together with her. While the first business we entered into did not work out, our combined experience in events, social media and content creation led us to create a digital marketing agency. Since 2009, we have been business partners.