Meet the Romanian tech advisor spurring European startups to expand into Singapore

After growing global tech businesses and relocating to Singapore, Malina Platon now shares her expertise with the next generation of tech talent.

By SGN | 11 Sep 2023

Less than a year after her first visit to Singapore, Malina jumped at the opportunity to relocate and set up a regional headquarters for UiPath, a Romanian startup worth over $8 billion today. 

She had attended a conference in the city to showcase what UiPath had to offer: robotic process automation (RPA) software that accelerates myriad business processes such as customer engagement or claims processing. 

“What really impressed me about the Singapore tech ecosystem was how vibrant and energetic it felt,” she recalls. “The level of interest in new technology was high, even though the RPA market was still very nascent. So I thought there was great potential for UiPath to set up a regional office.” 

As one of the firm’s first three sales managers, Malina was responsible for driving business growth and opening offices across Europe and Asia. Over her six years at the company, its headcount grew from 30 to 5000, with more than 50 branches around the world and a customer base exceeding 10,000. 

One region she left a deep impact in was Southeast Asia. With Singapore as her base, she launched five more outposts, hiring and training teams from scratch, developing a network of around 50 channel partners and 400 customers, and establishing UiPath as the region’s market leader in RPA.

Previous slide
Next slide

Malina built a regional office from scratch for UiPath in Singapore.

Why she chose to stay in Singapore

After a couple of years of growing the business in Southeast Asia, Malina transitioned to an APAC role, and then to a global position in charge of key global accounts, including Fortune 500 customers. Though she had an opportunity to move to the US – UiPath’s headquarters had moved to New York in 2017 – she chose to stay in Singapore. 

“One reason was COVID, and how most business was conducted remotely,” she reveals. “The other was the friendships and connections I had made. My personal life was very much linked to Singapore, and I could see myself continuing to live here.” 

She liked how multicultural and cosmopolitan the city is, and that English is widely spoken, easing communication even in her personal time. Hailing from the cooler climes and sub-zero winters of Romania, she also loved the year-round sun and summer temperatures. 

“And if my role at UiPath came to an end, I knew that Singapore was one of the best locations where I could put my passion for tech startups into action,” she says.

Malina had an opportunity to move to New York but chose to stay in Singapore.

Expanding personal and professional networks

Having moved to Singapore with few connections, Malina hoped to widen her network of personal and professional contacts. 

“Groups like Singapore Global Network bring great value especially to those who have just moved here,” she says. “The people are very friendly, and in the beginning, it helped me learn about the tech ecosystem. It’s nice to see their initiatives growing and diversifying over the years. I’ve become more involved in panels and events, which have allowed me to connect with more leaders in tech.” 

Outside of work, Malina is also active in fitness interest groups. “I do a lot of kickboxing, Thai boxing, as well as Pilates and yoga,” she shares. While there isn’t a sizeable Romanian community in Singapore, they stay connected via WhatsApp and gather on December 1st to celebrate their country’s Great Union Day.

Previous slide
Next slide

Malina meets former UiPath colleagues, mostly Singaporean, for monthly walks and hikes, exploring nature spots such as MacRitchie Reservoir and Changi Boardwalk.

In February 2022, Malina left UiPath, became a Tech.Pass holder and started a new chapter. Drawing from her experiences, she sought to nurture the next generation of tech startups and talent. 

“Having worked with a lot of talented and passionate women – mentors, friends, colleagues – who contributed to the way I see life and conduct my work, I looked for a community where I can support other women in the tech industry,” she says. 

She joined the Singapore chapter of Girls in Tech, a nonprofit network with a presence in more than 30 countries – first as a board member, later becoming co-managing director. 

“The experience has been very fulfilling,” she shares. “I get to engage with tech companies who invest in diversity and inclusion. We organise events and activities for women passionate about tech and guide them to find roles in the industry.” 

Through Girls in Tech, Malina hopes to build a culture where women in the sector are empowered to take on responsibilities early in their careers. And she believes Singapore has the right environment to cultivate this. “There is an emphasis on meritocracy here, and a lot of support from the government, enterprise and educational sectors for gender equality,” she says.

Malina joined Girls in Tech Singapore as a board member, later becoming co-managing director.

A bridge between two startup worlds

Malina has also started her own company, Global Digital Ventures, to advise European startups looking to enter Asia and Singaporean startups seeking to expand globally. 

Often, startups from Central and Eastern Europe specialise in B2B services or products, with talent that relies on technical skills. On the other hand, Southeast Asian startups tend to focus on B2C offerings like e-commerce platforms, and teams boast strong sales and marketing skills, particularly in a business hub like Singapore. 

In order for startups to be successful in Southeast Asia, Malina says, it’s critical to build local teams that know the market, the channel partners, and are able to speak the local language. 

“I always advise European startups to study the local ecosystem and be open to feedback on how they should adapt their offering,” she says. “They might come with their technical expertise, their product experience. But in Southeast Asia, each and every country has its own culture and business dynamics.” 

“Europeans have a more direct communication style. In Singapore, decision-making tends to be more thorough and process-driven,” Malina adds, saying these cultural differences can be resolved through mutual patience and openness. “It goes both ways. Our capacity to listen will help us reach a comfortable middle ground.”

Previous slide
Next slide

Malina has helped European startups such as Binalyze and DRUID AI expand into Southeast Asia.

The startups Malina works with are largely AI-related. These include DRUID AI, a Romanian conversational business application platform, and Binalyze, an Estonian cybersecurity firm. In Singapore, she advises Botsync, a manufacturer of robots for logistics, Ailytics, which enhances workplace safety through video analytics, and Smplrspace, a creator of digital twins for coordinated business intelligence. 

“Depending on their needs, their industry, and the countries they want to enter, I connect these startups with customers, partners, or VCs and angel investors to support them in their fundraising and business expansion process,” she says.

An unofficial ambassador for Singapore

Malina is in touch with many Europeans who are curious about the tech scene and the way of life in Singapore. Some of them, like UiPath co-founder and her good friend Marius Tîrcă, end up relocating to the city as well. 

“I consider myself a little bit of an ambassador for people thinking of moving to Singapore,” she laughs. “I’m always happy to share from my own professional and personal experience.” 

Tech professionals are often interested in Singapore as a place to found a startup, join an investment community, or oversee business expansion across APAC. “For people bringing their family and children here, Singapore also offers a very stable, family-oriented environment,” she adds. 

Being based in Singapore has continued to fuel Malina’s curiosity and passion for tech. “I see each and every startup that I work with as an opportunity to learn something new. Technology evolves so fast that it is impossible to know everything in this space in a lifetime,” she says. 

What drives her equally is the desire to create a better world. “It may sound lofty, but I believe that everything companies create through tech should benefit people,” she says, “be it in healthcare, education or manufacturing. Innovation should ultimately make our lives easier, better and more convenient.”

Interested to work in Singapore or start a business here?

Find out more about the new Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass as well as other work passes that may suit you.

About Malina

Malina is the founder of Global Digital Ventures, through which she advises and invests in Singaporean and European tech startups. She previously worked at Romanian startup UiPath, where she rose to the position of Global Head of Key Accounts Program. Based in Singapore since 2017, she is also a co-managing director of Girls in Tech Singapore. 

Connect with her here.

Hello, Welcome to Singapore Global Network

Already a member?
Sign up with us as a
member today
Skip to content