13th Startup at Singapore Panel of Discussion

If you haven read my post on e27 on the panel of discussion during the Startup at Singapore launch, you should:

Start-up@Singapore (S@S) had their launch at the Hon Sui Sen Auditorium of the NUS Business School, which was graced by the Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Teo Ser Luck, Director, NUS Entrepreneurship Centre, Prof Wong Poh Kam, as well as CEO of NUS Enterprise, Dr Lily Chan. Although there was a heavy rain, the launch saw a strong attendance which filled up almost 2 auditoriums.

During her opening speech, Dr Lily mentioned that S@S has to evolve and innovate so that it comes with the current situation and be exciting enough for students to come forward. This is true for S@S as there have been various business plan competitions sprouting up since the initiation of S@S. Dr Lily ended her speech with a word of advice, “Enjoy the journey, for it is the journey that truly counts.”

The launch was followed by a panel of discussion on the topic: Entrepreneurship, the Road less travelled. Moderated by Mr Alan Phua, Co-founder of Soyato, which was the 11th S@S Open Category Winner. The panel consisted of  Groupon Singapore‘s CEO, Mr Karl Cheong, Founder ofTimbre Group, Mr Edward Chia, as well as the Minister of State Mr Teo himself. Some of the key pointers from the panel of discussions are as follows:

Why entrepreneurship?

Karl : It gives me a sense of independence and freedom, other than being able to turn creativity to profits.

Edward: For Timbre, it is social mission that drives us – but at the same time it is profitable. We must make money and we must grow, so that the social mission can be amplified.

Mr Teo: It is a great journey. It is the coolest experience ever to tell people you own this and you are working on that. Something that belongs to you.

Should we wait for product to be ready before we sell it?

Karl: Validate the market before you hope into it. For Beeconomic (which is now Groupon.sg) our product is the user experience. If you have a first mover advantage, a huge market demand and if its scalable, launch it.

Edward: Balance. Version one of your product has to be good enough so that you can sell it. There isn’t a business that is not evolving so a product will “never be ready”. So don’t wait too long. Launch at the best that you can at a given time when an opportunity presents itself.. Don’t wait for the opportunity to go by because the next one might be very long away. If the opportunity arises, just launch.

Mr Teo: When do you start selling idea? From the point you have the idea. Get constant feedbacks and improve on them

How should one go about finding a cofounder?

Edward: Partners are a leap of faith. Largely it depends on gut feeling and mutual trust. Of course there must also be complementary skill sets. Take your time to look for a good one because after all, relationships take a lot of time to work on.

Karl: Complementary skills.

What kind of quality in founders do you think is needed at the start?

Karl: You must be hardworking. When I started Beeconomic, I only had four hours of sleep. You must also be prepared to lose your existing social circle. Also, you must be risk adverse and be prepared to take calculated risks, and at the same time be prepared to lose everything.

Alan: First hurdle one have to pass is parents. Parents often expects us to be doctors and lawyers but often dismiss the notion of entrepreneurship.

How to deal with competitions and copycat?

Karl: First mover advantage was key. We had deals with merchants which included exclusive clauses. Other than that, you have to scale very quickly, and work on advertising to achieve that.

Edward: Indeed, F&B is tough industry with intense competition – Timbre was differentiated in the sense that is was introduced not as a F&B company but one with a social mission, complemented with F&B. It is also crucial to diversify with relevance. For Timbre, we aim to create much deeper relation with customer and not just ask them sit down and have a beer. We brand Timbre as a lifestyle brand, and this is quite unique.

Any other advises?

Edward: Idea is an idea, but it’s the people that brings it to fruition. Just do it.

Mr Teo: Entrepreneurship is the combination of passion,determination coupled with big idea and big dreams. Follow your heart and jump to it – don’t think too much. Just do it.

Karl: Entrepreneurship derives itself from your passion, work for your future because ultimately, you dictate what your future is, identify your targeted market and its competitive landscape, couple that with first mover advantage or competitive advantages, then you can make things happen.


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