Disrupt: Entrepreneurship a brutal journey indeed
By Goh Thean Eu September 25, 2014
- Desire to 'make a difference'
- Be devoted, be focused
THE entrepreneurship journey is never easy and requires certain types of personality and select ingredients for success.
Not entirely news-breaking, but participants who attended the DNA-TeAM Disrupt panel discussion on Sept 24 came away with a much better understanding on what it takes to find success in this challenging journey.
And one or two scares too.
“Entrepreneurship is a brutal business,” said Oliver Tan, cofounder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Singapore-headquartered ViSenze Ltd, at the panel which had as its theme ‘Meet the Disruptors.’
One of the areas Tan, who came from the venture capital space, found challenging was in recruiting talents to join his company.
“You need to make them believe in what you are doing. They want to know why they need to join you, what is your dream and vision. These are the kind of questions I faced when recruiting talents,” he said.
Then there is the challenge of letting people go, or firing them. “At the end of the day, when you sit in the CEO’s chair, you must be prepared to make hard and brutal decisions,” added Tan, who skyped in from Singapore.
His fellow panellist GridMarkets cofounder Hakim Karim, a Digital News Asia Digerati50, concurred on the challenges.
“To leave a comfortable job and to start the journey can be quite scary. But it was something that I told myself that I have to do before kicking the bucket, or else I would be kicking myself,” he said.
For Hakim and Tan, one of the biggest drivers for them to embark on their entrepreneurial journeys was the desire to “make a difference.”
“It’s also about attitude. It’s not just about making a difference in the world, but also in making a difference to yourself. If it’s in your mind that perhaps this is something you want to try, then you should go for it,” Hakim said.
The third panellist, Matt Chandran (pic), founder and chief executive officer of the InfoValley Group, said that the will and desire to become an entrepreneur has to come from within, and not externally.
“You become an entrepreneur not because there are incentives or programmes by the government. You need to feel it,” said Chandran, also a DNA Digerati50.
The monthly Disrupt panel discussion and networking gatherings are organised by Digital News Asia (DNA) and the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM).
Power of devotion
Entrepreneurship, especially if your product or service promises to be disruptive, means moving into unchartered territory, noted ViSenze’s Tan. There are no road signs or markers, no templates or success stories you can draw on, he noted.
It can be a lonely journey, which is why Chandran stressed that a key factor in successful entrepreneurship success is “devotion.”
“Being devoted to what you do means, first and foremost, that you need to have some form of belief in what you do, and belief in what you are and your ability to completely and truly understand what you are trying to do,” he said.
“This is very important because that is the only way you can convince others to work [with you] in an entrepreneurial environment. If the people around you know that you are only doing a mere ‘job,’ their attitude towards you will be, ‘As long as you pay my salary … and if someone else pays me more, I will move.’
“The conviction that you build within yourself will eventually be the factor that holds together your colleagues, hopefully for as long as you can.
“So, you have now bought some time for yourself. Hopefully, by then, you are growing, you are getting bigger and making an impact, and your colleagues can see that. As a result, you can retain them longer,” he added.
Chandran’s company InfoValley has a subsidiary called iGene, which has developed a Digital Autopsy System that allows post-mortems to be carried out using 3D scans, doing away with the need for invasive surgical procedures. It has secured a contract to provide the system at 18 medical centres in the United Kingdom.
Entrepreneurs, especially during their early stages, may have many things on their minds and many goals in their sights. But pursuing them all can be disastrous, warned the panellists.
Tan (pic), for example, acknowledged that ViSenze’s technology could be used in a variety of different ways.
ViSenze is a spin-off company from NExT, a research centre jointly established between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Tsinghua University of China. The company specialises in intelligent visual recognition and search solutions.
So far, its focus is mainly on the e-commerce sector, having secured Rakuten and Zalora as clients.
“As a startup, you can be all over the place, trying to solve all the problems. If you try to do it all at once, you can easily get diluted and it would be hard to gain any traction,” Tan said.
“You need to be focus and solve one problem at a time. If you solve that problem and gain traction, it will be easier to move into other areas,” he said.
Now that the company has secured some of the region’s biggest names in e-commerce as clients, ViSenze can look further afield. One example Tan spoke about is a wildlife preservation centre that is looking at using its visual search technology to build an educational app for children.
Hakim (pic) said GridMarkets is taking a similar path. The company has engineered a platform that allows organisations with excess computing capacity to ‘lease’ it to others – the hardware owners get to make money off rapidly-depreciating assets, while their ‘clients’ get compute facilities on the cheap.
GridMarkets could have easily marketed its services to many different sectors, but instead decided to focus on three for now: Animation, engineering and finance.
Hakim said that as a startup, one’s resources are definitely limited. “You can have the best invention in the world, but at the end of the day, you still have to sell it. You actually have to go out there, meet people, and sell the product.
“Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of plenty of resources, so it is very important to stay focused,” he added.
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ViSenze's mission is to make sense of the visual web
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