By SGN | 5 Apr 2022
Jx first glimpsed the thrilling possibilities of the technology sector in his first job at the Economic Development Board (EDB), where he and his team were tasked to encourage global technology firms to invest and create high quality jobs in Singapore.
These interactions sparked in him a desire to not just work with tech but work in tech. Determined to experience the industry first-hand in the tech capital of the world – Silicon Valley – yet armed with neither direct experience nor a computer science degree, Jx had to begin figuring out a way to get there.
Carving a path to his dream job
Over the course of a year, Jx set aside weekends to connect with people based in Silicon Valley to gain some cultural fluency. He also hacked on side projects with friends, building food and productivity mobile apps that would demonstrate his passion and ability to potential employers.
His efforts paid off. Relocating to San Francisco in 2015, Jx joined cloud storage startup Dropbox in a data science role before transitioning soon after to his true calling – product management. The first product he led was Dropbox for Teams, a collaboration tool for small businesses, and he greatly enjoyed leading a team of diverse talents to build and launch a feature that impacted the lives of millions of users.
“The most challenging and interesting part about being a product manager is that you’re leading by influencing without authority,” he notes, “because you’re bringing together individuals who don’t actually report to you to work towards a common goal.”
After two and a half years, Jx moved on to Lyft in 2017 as the ridesharing industry gained momentum. His team ran the streak bonus and power zone features for drivers on the platform – incentives designed to reduce surge pricing and deliver optimal ETAs, thereby balancing the interests of drivers and passengers.
‘Unlearning’ to adapt to a new world of tech
While advancing his career in the US, Jx and his wife knew that they wanted to eventually return home to Singapore. He had been following the massive rise of tech in China and thought it might make a good pitstop before the move back. To his surprise, however, the interviewing process was a thoroughly humbling experience.
Not only did Jx have to accept a slight cut in base pay, but his Silicon Valley experience also had to be “unlearnt”, since app development and user habits are considerably different in China. As opposed to the clean interfaces of Amazon or YouTube, for instance, Chinese audiences prefer high information density on e-commerce apps like Tmall and the excitement of seeing comments flying across the screen on streaming platforms like Bilibili.
In the end, Jx landed a position at ByteDance, one of China’s fastest-growing tech firms. His task was twofold: to lead the development of a new product, Resso – a social music streaming app that has since launched in Indonesia, India and Brazil and garnered millions of daily users – and to grow their Shanghai site, which had been set up to incubate new ideas and attract international talent. During his stint, the office relocated to a new HQ and expanded from a few hundred to a few thousand employees.
Contributing to Singapore’s tech scene
Throughout his career, Jx has been consistently drawn to emerging companies at the forefront of tech disruption. In both the US and China, he joined promising ‘second-wave’ startups rather than established titans like Facebook, Google, Alibaba or Tencent.
Likewise, when he returned to Singapore in 2019 and contemplated his next move, he was attracted to Endowus, a fast-rising local startup in the booming fintech space, which has raised nearly US$50 million in funding as of March 2022.
It also felt like a wonderful opportunity to apply and bring home the expertise he had gained overseas. “Being able to contribute meaningfully to the growth of the Singapore tech scene was very motivating,” he recalls.
Since coming on board, he has looked forward to creating meaningful, quality jobs as well as shaping a great company culture and work experience for the team. “We have grown to about 120 people,” he says, “and I’m confident that these are 120 of the best technology jobs in the market.”
As Chief Product Officer, Jx is inspired by the Endowus mission to create easy access to best-in-class funds and unbiased advice for everyday investors. Their platform remains the first and only digital wealth advisor that allows clients to invest not just cash but also Central Provident Fund (CPF) and Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) savings.
What also sets Endowus apart is its ability to offer institutional share class funds with competitively low fees (as compared to retail share class funds) and its practice of rebating 100% of trailer fees to its clients – an industry first.
“Endowus is delivering access to sound advice and quality financial solutions at low cost. We want to be a product for everyone, whether they’re a young adult or an octogenarian,” Jx says.
New challenges, new possibilities
Over the past three years, it has been gratifying for Jx to witness the evolution of Singapore’s tech scene. Previously dominated by big tech, it now includes a good mix of homegrown startups and more diverse job opportunities.
Whereas Singapore tech teams used to oversee specific app features, there are now full stacks of talent – whether at global giants like Google and Facebook, homegrown firms like Grab and Carousel, or startups like Endowus – building products for the world. Endowus is currently hiring across a broad range of roles to support their operations and expansion: from engineering to marketing to investment analysis, and more.
As the startup looks to enter new Asian markets, starting with Hong Kong later this year, Jx sees Endowus addressing the biggest generational issue in Asian developed countries – that of a retirement shortfall. The team hopes to replicate the product’s success in Singapore, where it has surpassed S$1.5 billion in assets in 20 months, and where users have come up to Jx expressing their gratitude for being able to invest in a low-cost, stress-free way.
“It’s great seeing how our solutions have resonated with the public,” Jx shares. “As a product person, the most exciting feeling you can get is when your offering gains product-market fit.”
He recalls the time when, flying into Singapore and stepping off the plane, to his own surprise, he found himself saying, “Ah, feels so good to be home.”
“In one way, I’ve adopted Singapore as my home. But in another way, Singapore has adopted me,” he muses. “I’ve never been more welcomed as I have been in this country. And it’s just a great place to put down some roots and be in for the long haul.”
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Jx is Chief Product Officer at Endowus. A graduate of UPenn and Stanford, he has product management experience at leading tech startups around the world – namely Dropbox, Lyft and ByteDance.
Connect with him here.