13 July 2016

Business success is based on building a wide network, passion, time, and multiple failures

Foo talks about key learnings from his trip to the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016, which was sponsored by Shopee.
Foo talks about key learnings from his trip to the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016, which was sponsored by Shopee.

Alex Foo, Co-owner of Starteur, a psychometric profiling tool targeted at entrepreneurs, has three tips on becoming a successful entrepreneur. The insights, shared during a Shopee University session, are the fruit of a visit to Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 in the US, held from June 22 to 24, as well as Foo's own experience as a budding entrepreneur. Shopee, Garena’s e-commerce platform, sponsored Foo to GES 2016, reaffirming the company’s philosophy in developing Singapore’s next generation of budding entrepreneurs:

· Network, network, network.
The 21-year-old entrepreneur lives by the ethos “who you know is more important than what you know.”

Foo, who is about to read Computer Science at the National University of Singapore, noted that at GES 2016 all the speakers were very willing to share tips and tricks. "They are confident that no one else is doing it, or even if someone else is doing it, they're not doing it as well as them," he said. "The more you give, the more you receive; the more you grow, the more your business grows."

He said that Shopee University is an ideal platform for Shopee merchants to share and learn together. The initiative to develop entrepreneurs was launched by Shopee this year. "When you learn from the same people who are doing what you want to do then you grow much faster," he said.

Foo also observed that business partners who complement an individual are important. "It is very important to pick who you spend your time with," he said. "When you gather the right people together, you learn from your experiences, you grow as a community,"

· Embrace failure.
A key difference between Silicon Valley and Singapore is that US entrepreneurs are more inclined to taking calculated risks, giving them that competitive edge. In contrast, Singapore entrepreneurs are more cautious about failure because of the fear of being perceived negatively, and are less willing to lose large financial sums. "Failure is something that Singaporeans fear quite a bit. But I think it is something that we should embrace," Foo stated. "In Silicon Valley 80% of the computer science students want to start their own company... for Singapore to overtake Silicon Valley we need to overcome this perception of failure. It is the whole mindset, of this leeway to try new things and to fail.

"Failure is a lot of rejection, it's knowing that 80% of your results are from 20% of your efforts.. you are basically taking a gamble. It is all about taking calculated risks, knowing all the facts before you take the decision, then you stick to it, and learn from it."

A Shopee merchant attending the session noted that people in Singapore are generally afraid of sharing their resources, ideas, and methods, just in case others steal them. "It is difficult in Singapore; people are not there yet. Shopee started Shopee University (the community), and it is very rare," he said. "If online sellers gather together, put their minds and resources together, they can achieve unbelievable things. That was my experience in China."

Foo emphasised the importance of community when it comes to failure: "When your friends fail, when you share each other's failures, and you're not ashamed of your failures, are open to laughing at yourself, can share suggestions, when you have this front-and-back fount of energy, you grow the fastest."

· Have passion for what you do.
A common misconception about entrepreneurs is that they are only in it for the money. GES 2016 showed Foo how having a passion for what you do trumps profit-making. "Love what you do, because that takes you the furthest," he said.

"A lot of people around my age don't really know what we want to do, we just go with the flow," Foo added. "It is important to know what you want to do because you can start gathering the right people around you (early). If you love what you do, it is very easy to come back (after failure)."

"The experiences were instrumental to my growth as a business owner and I had the opportunity to interact with successful entrepreneurs across various touchpoints. Shopee University gives me the platform to connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs in Singapore and serves as a launch pad for more robust business ideas. Through this initiative, I am confident that we can empower the next generation of entrepreneurs and send a bigger contingent to GES 2017," Foo concluded.

At the Shopee University session Foo also talked about how success comes from data. "The goal of a startup is not to be a startup. It should evolve into a sustainable business, with steady revenue. To get there, it should be about data. What do customers want and what can you sell to the next guy?" asked Foo. "If you don't observe what happens, it's just a gamble."

He noted that with tools like Google Analytics, business owners can track geographical interest in their websites and other data that can help them make rational decisions, such as targeting their brand towards countries where there is already interest.

He also advised attendees to keep on improving their offerings. "It is a neverending process of trying and testing.  There is no growth when everything is by luck. When you leave things to chance then you also grow by chance," he said.

Foo also debunked three myths about entrepreneurs from his experience at GES 2016:

· Entrepreneurs are only in it for the money.
Entrepreneurs should look at money as an enabler. Do good, work and money will come naturally.

· Entrepreneurs are self-serving.
Most entrepreneurs love what they do and want to develop the best product to make a change in the world.

· Entrepreneurs know it all.
Entrepreneurs are always hungry for knowledge and are seeking the best ways to improve their offerings. In an increasingly competitive landscape, it’s either step up or ship out.

Shopee will be rolling out training and development workshops by Foo in the near future. Chris Feng, Chief Executive Office of Shopee said, “Shopee University stands grounded in the ethos that anyone can be an entrepreneur. We are proud to have sponsored Alex for this global event and even more so because he shares the same ideals as us. To empower budding entrepreneurs of the new economy, we remain committed to enhancing our community with initiatives such as Shopee University.”

Apart from acting as a community to share entrepreneurial experiences, Shopee University’s curriculum is developed based on the best practices of Shopee’s top sellers’ e-commerce skills. With its ethos grounded in empowerment through tools, Shopee University offers courses ranging from photography to online marketing and even search engine optimisation.


Shopee is available for download for free on the App Store and Google Play across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Read the WorkSmart blog posts on: GES 2016, Shopee's fulfilment strategy in Malaysia and a Shopee University session on photography in Singapore

Read the Suroor Asia blog post on Shopee Malaysia's commitment to mompreneurs

Hashtag: #ges2016, #shopeeSG