Insights from Kopi Chat with Teo Ser Luck

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From left to right: Mr. Teo Ser Luck (Nufin Data), Janson Seah (StaffAny), Alvina Fu (NUS Enterprise)

For our monthly Kopi Chat in August, NUS Enterprise was privileged to have Mr. Teo Ser Luck, chairman of Nufin Data come down to BLOCK71 to share his entrepreneur journey as well as give some insights on the start-up scene in Singapore. Moderating the Kopi Chat for this session was Janson Seah, the co-founder of StaffAny.

Mr. Teo Ser Luck is an entrepreneur and Member of Parliament of Singapore, formerly Minister of State for Manpower. Mr. Teo spent 15 years in the private sector before joining politics for 11 years.

Janson was an Analyst in an early-stage Silicon Valley VC in 2017, and has recently returned back to Singapore to co-found a stealth startup in the HR-Tech space.

Key Takeaways from Kopi Chat with Mr. Teo Ser Luck

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Mr. Teo Ser Luck and Janson Seah held an engaging conversation on the start-up scene in Singapore
  • Watch your cash flow. It is good to be optimistic but also be realistic.
  • Consider the motivations behind being your own boss. Is it for wealth, ego, freedom, or the passion for your product?
  • The product may fulfil many social objectives, but commercial viability will make it sustainable.
  • Don’t neglect big markets. You need to network and get to know people.
  • Learn to face rejection.
  • Skillsets must be complementary and in balance. An entire team of finance experts would have a detailed but boring pitch.
  • Good team chemistry. Resolving conflicts will be smooth and amicable.
  • Good product that is viable. This would ensure that the start-up lasts long and succeeds in the market.
  • Other factors such as competition, landscape, and environment are external.
  • Make sure product is commercially viable first before becoming a social enterprise. Build a social enterprise like a commercial enterprise to build returns that keeps it sustainable.
  • E.g. Xin Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh is a social enterprise that hires inmates. They improved on their product and developed it into something commercially viable. Their Bak Kut Teh’s standard is comparable to commercial outlets which allows them to become sustainable even as a social enterprise.
  • Issue with culture of embracing failure even though ecosystem and infrastructure is well-established.
  • Unlike Silicon Valley which embraces failure as a step towards progress, Singaporean culture is less accepting of failure and there is a stigma against the idea of creating a start-up, especially from parents. There is social pressure from family to simply take up a job with a stable income rather than a risky career of founding a start-up.

Watch the full video of August’s Kopi Chat featuring Teo Ser Luck here:

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comment section below. For updates on our monthly Kopi Chat sessions with entrepreneurs and technologist, subscribe to our newsletter here.

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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