David Wong set up a golf app, Deemples to connect golfers around the globe.
What’s your story?
Born in KL, went to the US to get a finance degree, started my sales career selling books door-to-door in the US, then food and then onto vacuum cleaners back in KL. The last 9 years was all about digital advertising media, from social media, to analytics technology, launching businesses across Asia Pacific based in KL, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore.
Golf was the thing that made me look forward to every weekend, however getting around was never easy since I had to find people to play with.
It didn’t help that I was always moving countries, so there were never a permanent group of golfing friends. I needed a solution, so I decided to build something myself.
We built the Deemples Golf App and tested it in Malaysia and Singapore to much success. Golfers had finally found a solution to a common problem.
What excites you most about your industry?
It’s very hard to explain why golf is exciting to a non-golfer, but the most exciting thing about the golf industry is just being able to play it! That’s the main motivation that drives us to continue to help golfers play golf whenever and wherever they want to.
Aside from helping existing golfers, since only 1% of the population plays golf, sharing that joy of golf to non-golfers, enabling more people to pick up the sport also drives us everyday.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m born and raised in the Malaysian public schools. I speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay, which helped when I was based for 4 years in Beijing and Shanghai and 2 years in Singapore where I was in a regional role opening markets in Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Australia.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Shanghai in China. It has become the capital of the world in the last few years and the sheer size and opportunity within it eclipses many of the largest cities in the world, both for business and pleasure.
Both Shanghai and Beijing are often the national HQ for a lot of large corporations, but aside from these 2, other cities in China cannot be taken lightly as they’re the size of small countries!
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Don’t just think of making money, think of solving problems, this will drive you much farther than money, and in turn the money will come.” Ava Yu, entrepreneur and friend from Shanghai.
Who inspires you?
No specific person, but I do have a lot of people I admire, that have come from nothing but believed in something, worked hard at it, and made it happen, both as an entrepreneur or an employee.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That a big chunk of “e-commerce” in SEA is still done in a manual way. Most of the e-commerce that we hear about in the region is related to brands like Lazada, Redmart, Taobao, Shopee, and MatahariMall, where payments are done online through these retailers. However, in rural areas, “e-commerce” happens through Instagram, Whatsapp, Wechat and FB messenger and the cash transactions are done “offline.”
After some trust is established between buyer and seller through IM, the buyer will then go to a nearby ATM, deposit the cash into an account provided, take a picture of the bank-in slip, and then send it to the seller. While products are still marketed through online channels, transactions are taking place offline. Very “carousell!”
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I cherish all the experiences I’ve gone through, good/bad/stupid, to get me to where I am today.
Am I satisfied? No.
Could I have done better? Probably.
Have I always pushed myself? Yes.
What’s more important, is what I can do from here. There’s only so much brain bandwidth, so thinking about the past is useless when you can’t change it. I try to focus on what I can do today, and plan on what to do tomorrow.
How do you unwind?
Play golf! Aside from that, do a lot of other activities – wakeboarding, running, working out, swimming, going out to listen to some jazz performances, catching up on TV series.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Anywhere along the beach in Thailand. I love beaches, Thai food, Thai massages and Thai hospitality.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I rarely read books, I know I should read more but I rather just get summarised versions from articles. I’m very trashy when it comes to books, last 2 books read were Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, both by Kevin Kwan. The former is currently being made into a movie, which I’m looking forward to watching.
Shameless plug for your business:
When business is up, celebrate with a golf game, when business is down, play some golf since there’s nothing to do. And if no one can play with you, just get on Deemples and find others to play with. For all you know you might meet your next business partner, next client, next supplier or next wife.
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’.