Amra Naido has worked at various levels to create and execute high-impact marketing and communications strategies within the commercial and social sectors. She is the co-founder of Accelerating Asia, a regional startup acceleration program and corporate innovation consultancy.
What’s your story?
I always knew that I wanted to combine social impact and business in some way so I think my story is really just my journey discovering the best way to do that. I’m the co-founder of Accelerating Asia which is a regional startup acceleration program and corporate innovation consultancy. We work at the intersection of corporate-startup engagement, with the goal of driving corporate innovation and scaling fast-moving tech startups.
During my time in Singapore, I led UN Women and Mastercard’s global social entrepreneurship program, while heading up corporate partnerships for UN Women Singapore. Following that, I spent some time in the Philippines and back in Australia launching The Doing Good Podcast and consulting for other entrepreneurship programs and non-profit organisations. Most recently back in Singapore, I led operations and community for muru-D Singapore – a regional startup accelerator, backed by Telstra.
I’m also the Curator for the Global Shapers Singapore Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum and a regular guest on 938Now’s drive-time show – Singapore’s national English news radio station. I regularly speak about the intersection of business and impact, including at global events such as Money 20/20 (Singapore), Singularity University Impact Challenge (Poland) and the Asia Corporate Sustainability Summit (Philippines).
What excites you most about your industry?
The potential! I see so many ways for tech and impact to actually come together to accelerate both fronts. It can sometimes also be a source of frustration for me when that potential doesn’t get realised.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Well, I’m Asian haha! My mum is Chinese from Hong Kong and my dad is Indian from Zimbabwe. Although I was born in Zimbabwe, I used to come to Hong Kong very often to visit family when I was younger. After moving to Australia, Asia was of course much closer, but it was only when I moved to Singapore about 5 years ago that I really got excited about the potential for the region and understood so much more about all of its many nuances.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’m probably a bit biased, but I’d have to say Singapore! You can’t beat the fact that it’s a hub for almost everything in the region. It’s so easy to do business, most multinationals have some kind of presence here, and the government has created an environment that supports and nurtures the ecosystem. The location of the city-state also makes things easier when traveling around the region for work and the variety of food and drink options here make it easy to come home to.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
A few years ago, I was deciding whether to make the leap from Australia to Singapore. It meant leaving a full-time job for a 3-month internship in a country I had no network. After doing the usual pros & cons list, my boyfriend (now husband) asked me, ‘What is your worst-case scenario? If you’re comfortable with that, then you can do anything’. At that time the worst-case scenario for me was that Singapore didn’t work out. By the end of the internship, I’d have gone through all my savings, ended up living back with my parents, and would have to go find another job. I decided I was comfortable with that because I was already in a job I didn’t want to be in, and I enjoy spending time with my parents so the worst-case scenario, was not actually that bad. I ended up taking the leap and it changed my life. That question now guides me when approaching big decisions.
Who inspires you?
I recently volunteered as a judge for the Aidha Business Accelerator and heard from 7 incredible entrepreneurs who not only have full-time jobs as foreign domestic workers here in Singapore, but they’re working to get their businesses up and running (and in some cases expanding) in their home countries. These women are so inspiring and are currently making such a huge sacrifice for their families, which is already creating such a big impact. Hopefully, with the success of their businesses, they will go back home and create an even bigger impact on their communities. These women are a great example! I’m inspired by anyone who sets a goal and is relentless about achieving it, especially against cultural norms and social pressures.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m currently reading ‘Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use & Abuse of Persuasion’ by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson. The book goes into the history of propaganda and talks about how we live in a distorted world because we are surrounded by messaging and imagery that shapes our views. I just learnt that the Greeks & Romans used to have classes on how to argue and persuade because it was seen as an important skill for everyone in the community to have. You were expected to be well-versed in current the current political issues of the time because you could be called on at any moment to represent your community. When having to deal with issues, you also had to represent yourself in ‘court’, so being able to communicate well, formulate your argument and persuade was seen as a critical skill to have. I sometimes feel that the ability to constructively and candidly discuss many issues is lost today.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! I don’t like looking back and wishing I’d done things differently. All my mistakes have led me to where I am now. #noregets
How do you unwind?
With a beer at Taps Robertson Quay. Seriously. You’ll find me there at least twice a week. I’m a bit of a creature of habit.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Somewhere new – I’m generally not a big fan about travelling to the same places. (This is despite going to Bali 4 times already, ha!)
Everyone in business should read this book:
‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown. There’s such a huge strength in embracing vulnerability and imperfection and it’s something that I try to remember as much as possible.
Shameless plug for your business:
Accelerating Asia partners with technology leaders, corporate partners, governments and other ecosystem partners to integrate startup thinking into their organizations. We do this by supporting our partners to optimise their existing incubator, accelerator and startup programs; invest in early-stage startups; scout for and integrate emerging technology into their business; and, accelerate internal innovation teams developing products or services for internal stakeholders and clients.
Through our independent startup accelerator, The Asia Accelerator, we also support high-potential startup founders with high-impact solutions to big global problems through resources, networks and access to funding. We advocate for founder-friendly investment terms and with our experience and ecosystem in the region, are looking for startups that are up to the challenge of solving some of the hardest problems in the world. We’re planning to launch our first cohort in early 2019 so startups keen to join the program can register their interest on our website and will be the first to know once we begin recruitment.
How can people connect with you?
Drop me a note on LinkedIn!
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.