We met up with former BLOCK71 resident and also NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) Alumni, Dixon Chan, who is the co-founder of Burpple. This leading food discovery platform saves your date, business meeting or weekend by helping you find the right places to eat. The Burpple community has over 3 million authentic reviews and so far, 5 million people have used it to find the perfect places to enjoy their meals with the people they love. We grabbed the chance to ask Dixon 5 questions about the three co-founders’ exciting entrepreneurial journey.
1. Tell us about your start-up journey.
Daniel, Elisha and I launched Burpple in May 2012. I met Elisha when we were part of the 17th batch of NOC Silicon Valley and Daniel in Singapore, where he was also solving a similar problem. We’re always thankful for the team at BLOCK71 Singapore for supporting us when it mattered most. We were probably the first hot-deskers at Plug-in and the one-north MRT just started. We remember fondly that we launched our first version of the app in the orange meeting room (not sure if it still is!) at 5am. It’s been almost 5 years and it’s been a rich journey. I’ve written more about our journey here.
2. As co-founders what are the biggest lessons you have learnt so far?
I’ve learned in the past few years that starting-up is not a game. It is not just about getting the right numbers to help you reach a benchmark so that you get to the next stage. It is first discovering the purpose behind what you and your team do, and not try to build an idea based entirely on an analogy (e.g. Uber for X, Airbnb for Y, it must work!). You and your team needs to know your purpose because ultimately this is what keeps everybody going, and the team is the most important part of a company. A good team leads to a solid product and business.
3. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Private success always leads to public success. It means that what you believe and do privately will always lead to a clear message to what you care about publicly. It sets the culture for your company. If you want to build a thoughtful culture, it starts with the founders being thoughtful in work and in relationships. If you want to set a hustling culture, it starts with the founders. Not the other way round. Because when you start, the founders make up the entire team.
4. How do you create the best team?
To me, the best team is a team that enjoys what they do. Enjoyment is a result of care shown by someone, expectations exceeded and appreciation shown. For example, why do we enjoy our dinners at home so much? It’s because your dad or mum cooks, she/he knows what you love, and she/he knows exactly how you like it. They also make sure it’s served hot so it’s the best. Your parents care for you and surpasses your expectations without you even asking for it. They are very happy as well because you appreciate their efforts.
Similarly, I truly believe that it’s firstly about the team, then the product, and then the business. Without the team, we can’t build good products and the business, which are the more popular markers of a ‘successful’ company. This is something i’ve just learned in the past 2 years and i’m still learning everyday from my team. Without the team, we would not have discovered our greater purpose- the mission to bring enjoyment to people. We do regular 1–1s and my co-founder Daniel inspires me. He genuinely cares for his team and he has regular morning kopi chats with his team. During these chats it’s usually beyond work; it’s about family, challenges and other interests. At Burpple, every employee is also covered with medical and dental (we eat alot) insurance, which I believe is the greatest investment we’ve made into the team.
From this position of care, this is naturally evident in our work culture. They are the 3 things that we’ve spoken a lot about, that’s care, expectation and appreciation. It’s all about care shown to our work. It’s not about staying longer in the office, but it’s about having clear stretches of time to do deep work, which usually produces the best work. For myself, I wake up at 5:30am daily, be at the office at 7:30am, and have a good stretch of 3–4 hours of work before my 1st meeting. This might not be for everyone, as some might do deep work in the afternoon. Second- I really like what David Heinemeier Hansson (Founder of Ruby on Rails) said. “Expectations, not outcomes, govern the happiness of your perceived reality.” It’s simple yet profound, because setting the right expectations together at the start of every task, initiative, is the clearest form of communication at work. Lastly, appreciation is the key to consistency. I think we do this best- celebrating wins small or big and be genuinely thankful for each team player’s contribution. It’s not just about getting the big win and have no wins for the next 12 months. I’m speaking as someone who’s learning these things everyday. I believe this is the culture that has brought and will bring longevity and future successes to the company.
5. If you could pick one restaurant/meal to eat for the rest of your life, which would it be?
This is always a difficult question to answer! I enjoy food too much to eat at the same restaurant for the rest of my life. But if there’s a last meal, it would be at Imperial Treasure. I was born in Hong Kong, so dim sum and beef noodles are my comfort food!
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