5 tips on surviving the competitive start-up industry in ASEAN

How to survive the start-up industry in ASEAN!

By SGN | 27 Sep 2019

As the APAC head of Wahed Inc., the world’s first robo-advisor Halal-focused investment firm, Syakir Hashim (above) is responsible for building up its business capabilities in Southeast Asia.

Pearly Tan moved to the US seven years ago to attend grad school at UC Berkeley. She met her husband, Brian Drayton, a business owner, while working as a journalist during her first weekend in America and now has two kids! Pearly is the web editor for Facebook Business News, runs a family business in Berkeley and volunteers with various non-profit organisations. Whenever she feels homesick, Pearly tells stories about Singapore to her children over home-made chicken rice.


Work with a mentor

Entrepreneurs should find opportunities to network and meet with people who have managed to achieve similar goals that they have set for themselves, shares Syakir. “From hearing their experiences, you can sort of figure out which parts of your plan can remain and what needs to be changed.”For Syakir, he met his mentor, Mr Shafie Shamsuddin, when he won the competition organised by Yayasan Mendaki in 2013. And the pair’s strong ties have only continued to grow since then. Syakir points out, “We have continued to keep in touch ever since and he has continued to guide my life and business journey.”


Find your calling as an entrepreneur

For the unacquainted, a social entrepreneur is a person who identifies a potential social issue and builds a business model that solves this issue while making profits to further the business’s impact.Syakir says he went into social entrepreneurship because it allowed him to see the positive impact resulting from his work. And besides solving a social issue, running the business can also be a financially rewarding experience, too.“[It’ll make you feel like] you can’t wait to get out of bed to do work [because] you’re on a mission.”


... Or find a niche industry that’s ripe for disruption

Syakir didn’t venture into the Fintech sector by happenstance. He studied the industry long before deciding to establish his own startup in the field.“I feel like the finance industry is ripe for disruption and there are too many opportunities in the Fintech space which can be worked on to give people better, cheaper, and faster access to financial services.”By entering an underserved niche, the start-up will be in a good position to make the most of the demand and grow.


Don’t wait to take the plunge

Time is of the essence when it comes to going into a start-up business so Syakir urges all budding entrepreneurs to make the leap to self-employment as soon as they have studied the market conditions and made the appropriate business plans.

And when they do, Syakir advises that settling the business’s financing matters should be their first order of business. “Make sure you find your way towards financial sustainability in your business as quickly as possible so you don’t have to rely too much on external funding because they may or may not come.”

While pursuing his studies in NUS, Syakir served as the president on the NUS Entrpreneurship Society, where he actively promoted the idea of becoming a technopreneur to his peers.

Never lose sight of your dreams

Running your own start up can be an arduous journey that will likely be filled with disappointments and setbacks. But through it all, start-up owners will find success if they remain focused and motivated to achieve their goals.

While Syakir was reading Global Studies with a focus on Business and Transnational Cultures in Southeast Asia at the National University of Singapore, he would often pass by ‘the Silicon Valley of Singapore’. These offices — blocks 71 to 79 — at Fusionopolis, have been earmarked as an incubation ground for start-ups.

“When I first entered NUS and started making trips to the Kent Ridge campus either via MRT or cab, I will pass by the Silicon Valley of Singapore during my trips. During those instances, I often wonder when I can get involved in the scene and begin living my start-up life.”

It was this steadfast focus in achieving this vision which motivated Syakir to continue chasing his start-up dreams despite the challenges.

Grooming tomorrow’s entrepreneurs — today

On a broader scale, Syakir is also passionate about what can be done to instil a stronger sense of entrepreneurship among Singaporean students from a young age. “The best way is to build a stronger entrepreneurial spirit in our young through the educational system which can help to encourage them to take risks and get involved in business.”

That said, Syakir, who is currently based in Malaysia, still reckons that Singapore is a great place for budding entrepreneurs to establish their start-up. He points out that Singapore has one of the most matured start-up ecosystems in the ASEAN region. And scaling one’s business isn’t too big of a challenge given Singapore’s proximity to neighbouring markets like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Syakir enthuses, “Ideation workshops, accelerators to late-stage investors are easy to come by here in Singapore. It is a great place to be!”

Widening your social circles is vital to becoming a successful entrepreneur, so join the OS in Tech LinkedIn group to connect with other like-minded individuals in Tech.

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