Being adopted by Asia in the tech start-up world, Ignacio Martin is working on his latest venture with business partner Takeshi Hui, Smartcasual@work
What’s your story?
I graduated from Computer Science with a masters degree in Business administration at the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca in Madrid, Spain. I started my career in my hometown and moved to London two years later to start working as a consultant for Adobe, where I had the chance to sit side by side with some of the smartest developers I’ve ever met. I learnt a great deal about agile development and delivering top quality software. During my almost 5 years in London I worked for clients like BSkyB and Danske Spil (in Denmark) and then shifted to building financial software, first for Morgan Stanley and later for HSBC. In 2011 I moved to Hong Kong for the first time. I then took a year off to travel around South America and Europe and eventually came back to Asia, this time to start my adventure in the startup world with a fin tech company in Singapore. This company eventually relocated me to Hong Kong again. In 2014 I decided to start my own company with a co-founder and we have built several products together. Right now we are focused on Smartcasual@Work.
What excites you most about your industry?
Ever since I started my company we have been trying to help consumers to solve daily problems. We created a peer to peer currency exchange platform and an online to offline networking app. I would love to create a product that people find really useful and somehow make a difference in consumer’s lives.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve been in Asia almost 5 years now and ever since I first moved Asia, it started to grow on me. My passion to discover more and more places and learn about new cultures on this side of the world has taken me to travel to over 10 Asian countries. I am now building my personal life around Hong Kong and Singapore, so I’d say that Asia has adopted me for the long term.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
In terms of opportunities I think there is no city like Hong Kong. Businesses here operate at a different speed than anywhere else and as long as you are willing to be on your toes the city always offers you the chance to hop on the right train. Having said that, I find Singapore a better place for startups. I think the work the Singapore government is doing is really good and there is a stronger sense of community in Singapore. There seems to be more collaboration between startups than in Hong Kong, where companies need to work towards their own goals or they will very quickly fail due to how expensive it is to stay there.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I would say the best piece of advice I ever received was not with words but with actions. When I first started in the start-up community I meet a lot of doers; people that had an idea and didn’t just sit around and wait for their world to align to start it, but instead they took action immediately and started the execution. I learnt from them that ideas are worth nothing and you have to actually get your hands dirty and start working on it. If your idea is not good enough, the only way to find out is fail fast and get onto the next one.
Who inspires you?
I find inspiration in many people from different aspects of life. My parents and siblings are an incredible example and influence when I think of the way I want to live my personal life and how I want to grow a family. Professionally I admire each and every entrepreneur that has managed to make a business out of nothing because I can now appreciate how hard that is, sometimes I think of all these people who have fought hard to get where they are and that gives me the strength to keep going.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I have been doing scuba diving for a few years now, many times in the Philippines. I recently discovered that one of the common sea snakes in the area, which with I have dived many times, is extremely poisonous. A single bite is enough to kill a human being and there is no antidote for its poison. So, if they bite you it’s guaranteed death. Luckily the species are not aggressive and most of the time they are scared of humans and swim away.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have started travelling earlier. Travelling has radically changed the way I am. It has opened my mind in ways that I didn’t think possible. It has helped me find myself and understand that it is ok to be out of your comfort zone.
How do you unwind?
If finance and time permit it, I just travel. If possible to a new destination where I can find a bigger cultural gap and learn something from it.
If I have to stay in Hong Kong then I play sport to unwind. I play for a football team here and I practice squash with friends. I also play video games sometimes and yes, FIFA is my favourite game.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
This is a hard one, I could mention at least 10 different places, but today I’ll say, Philippines and Indonesia. They offer countless possibilities for scuba diving, the people and service are very nice and it’s easy to fly from Hong Kong.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I haven’t read many books about business, but I think “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries is a very good one.
Shameless plug for your business:
We believe that the right candidate is not only someone with the desired skills, but especially someone who believes in the company’s goals and fits in the team. Smartcasual helps companies showcasing their work culture and sourcing candidates through their employees’ networks, building stronger relationships between employer and candidates.
How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected]
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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