The DS3 family. Teik Guan is wearing a yellow shirt. Photo: DS3
For twelve years, Tan Teik Guan has been carrying the weight of the company and its employees on his back, first as DS3‘s CTO and then as CEO in 2006.
One wrong move could affect not just his 50 employees but also their families. It’s a huge burden to bear, especially since a startup lacks the stability of a large company.
“I didn’t just have my own kids to think about — all my employees are like my children,” he said.
But his reprieve finally came. In April this year, the management successfully sold the Singapore-based IT security firm to Gemalto, a multi-national corporation in the same industry. DS3 has been making profit by selling authentication software to banks.
While the specifics of the deal cannot be disclosed, he and the other co-founders, Zvi Efroni and Kelvin Teo, are happy with how it turned out.
For Teik Guan especially, who left his cushy government job to join an unknown company as the first employee post Dot-Com bust, the rewards were especially sweeter.
“Oh my gosh, it was a huge burden off my back,” he said. Read more
From left: Tien Dung Le, Jason Lusk, and Thuy Nguyen. Photo: ClickSpace
Jason Lusk first came to Hanoi to work on a freelance project but ended up becoming a co-founder of ClickSpace, one of the first coworking spaces in Hanoi, Vietnam. While there, he spent time connecting with expat talents in Hanoi: entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, and the trailing spouses of diplomats and NGO leaders. All of them were seeking opportunities to connect and work together.
Unfortunately, Hanoi did not have much infrastructure for collaboration. That was why ClickSpace was born: to provide a comfortable, contemporary workspace where talented expats and Vietnamese can work, connect and collaborate.
We spoke to Jason via email to find out more about his story, ClickSpace and his thoughts on the startup scene in Hanoi. Read more
William Vu Huynh, co-founder and CEO of Vietnamese dating site Noi.vn, has been preoccupied with one question ever since he started his venture in 2008 with Phung Tien Cong: How do you get shy Vietnamese men and women to connect online?
Being able to tackle this problem area was the key to Noi.vn’s success. While William says that many have tried and failed, Noi.vn has managed to build itself into one of the country’s largest (if not the largest) online social dating networks.
While he has declined to reveal financial figures, he says that Noi.vn has some 750,000 registered users, out of which there are 400,000 monthly actives (currently growing at 2 percent month-on-month). From all of them, over 4,000 couplings and over 500 weddings have resulted.
From this strong base — aided by funding from YAN Group and IDG Ventures in mid-2010 — Noi.vn is moving to consolidate its position by catering to different niche markets and entering even more platforms. Read more
Sometime in the middle of last year, a certain Stephanie Sutanto emailed the early stage fund that I used to run, asking for internship positions. I told her that we were no longer looking for people but SGE was. I also told her that I was scooting off the next day and would be completely uncontactable for two weeks on a meditation course so we would have to chat immediately. We did, and therein lies the story of how Steph joined us.
Now Steph is back in Los Angeles in the USA, completing her college studies but she continues to help us here at SGE.
It has been awesome having her and I thought you should know more about this dynamic young lady. And, for our readers in LA, do reach out to Steph to find out more about SGE and Asia’s tech scene! Read more
We love working with dynamic, talented and passionate folks and one of our latest additions to our team, Albert is just like that.
SGE welcomes Albert Mai on board our team, focused on scouting the Vietnam startup scene.
I first met Albert in Singapore many months ago and he is now back in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, running a startup and helping the local community grow through events. To help you to get to know Albert better, we have a mini Q&A with him here. Read more
Meng savors wine and cheese in the new JFDI premises on the fifth floor of Block 71. Photo: Yvan
Meng Weng Wong, a serial entrepreneur, founded JFDI with Hugh Mason in 2010 with a vision of nurturing the untapped entrepreneurial talent in South-East Asia. You just have to spend 15 minutes with Meng over a glass of wine to realize how imaginative, passionate and dedicated he is about this mission. His dreams are gargantuesque in scale, but, at the same time, concrete and actionable.
After graduating from UPenn, Meng spent his early career in the United States at pobox.com, where he helped to pioneer email by building the foundations that Hotmail and Gmail are still using today. He also co-founded Karmasphere, a big-data company.
Helping to create an innovation ecosystem from scratch, like Meng is doing at JFDI, takes guts and inspiration. It’s an important task: High-tech entrepreneurship, especially in ecosystems that don’t have a legacy of successful startups and communities that inspire, teach, and support, can be difficult. Read more
Fame has found 19-year-old student Gian Javelona. Soon after launching PUP Mobile Portal, the first mobile app for a school in the Philippines, he transformed from just another enthusiastic app developer, very common these days, into the latest talking point on national news.
The computer engineering management student appeared as a guest on the ABS-CBN News Channel, the CNN of the Philippines, to talk about his app. TV5, a major television channel in the country, has interviewed him as well. His achievement brought great pride to his college, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. A banner even hangs on the entry gate just outside Gian’s campus, proclaiming, “we are proud of you.”
Score one for the country’s tech startup scene. Ever since a bevy of funds, expertise, events, and passion were injected into the ecosystem this year, Filipino entrepreneurs have increasingly been put into the national spotlight. The media attention will certainly help galvanize a nation that is trying to establish itself as a rising tech startup powerhouse (read: The Philippine startup scene: Asia’s best kept secret?). Read more
Sunny(second from left) with his Imagine Cup teammates in 2011.
The first time I met Satrughan Kumar Singh — or Sunny, as he prefers to be called — I was surprised by his height. Towering almost a head above me (I’m about 178 cm), he greeted me with an easy smile as I looked up to meet his gaze. We headed to a nearby coffeeshop for lunch, seeking refuge from the scorching Singapore heat.
Sunny Singh stands tall in many ways. A two-time Microsoft Imagine Cup winner in Singapore, he represented the country in the Grand Finals in Poland in 2010 and then in New York in 2011. The Temasek Polytechnic alumnus is excited about solving problems with technology. To that end, he has turned his idea from the student technology competition into a startup called Eynteract Labs.
As we settled down, Sunny sketched out his days as an Imagine Cup participant, how it fueled his passion for entrepreneurship and public speaking, and his current predicament — a military stint that able-bodied Singapore males must serve. He took only occasional pauses to eat his lunch.
Entrepreneurs suffer in the short-term so that they might enjoy a pay-off in the future. For Aaron Hee, founder of Malaysia-based startup ChopChop, that reality takes on an extra dimension.
Recently, he gave up his investment banking scholarship, which comes with a 5-year bond, to pursue his dream of becoming a first-time entrepreneur. That decision has a hefty price — a penalty fee of RM 400,000 (USD 130,000), borne by his parents at first, which he will repay later.
“It wasn’t a pleasant experience to make this decision… the least I could do is be really appreciative for the sacrifices my parents have made,” he told SGE in an email interview. Read more
If you’re using a mobile banking app in Singapore to review your finances, chances are, it is made by Tagit. Started by serial entrepreneur Navtej Singh in 2004, Tagit is a mobile solutions company specializing in mobile banking apps.
While it struggled early on for being ahead of time, Tagit is now working with many of the leading banks in Asia.
Their extensive portfolio includes banking apps for DBS, UOB, MayBank and Standard Chartered in Singapore, Commonwealth Bank and CIMB in Indonesia, Vietcom Bank in Vietnam, Citibank in India, CBQ in Qatar, and RBC in Canada. In Kuwait, they have developed a mobile payment aggregator app in collaboration with a local partner.
This is just the beginning. Besides signing up more banks as customers, Tagit plans to go full-force into the mobile payments space by creating apps that aggregates merchants and lets users easily pay for their services. It is also working on an open platform to let developers build apps using their SDK. Read more