Jessica Choi is changing the way Asia parties through her new venture, Hirely!
What’s your story?
My passion for the Asian tech sector was ignited during my days in equities sales at Goldman Sachs (GS). The highlight of my 5 year career at GS was being part of the sales force for the Alibaba IPO. I wanted to be a part of the Asian tech story myself! I left GS and Singapore, relocated to Hong Kong and co-founded Hirely (www.hirely.asia), an online platform to connect party vendors and entertainers to party planners – simply and quickly. We deliver customized quotes to party planners so they can compare pricing, read reviews, and hire the right professionals in a click.
What excites you most about your industry?
The parties and events industry in Asia is massive, USD 320bn to be exact. It’s also one of the most crowded, fragmented and outdated industries. Party vendors, like photographers and entertainers, struggle to be found and hired consistently. We created Hirely to bring these thousands of small businesses online, including those with limited time and budget. We are excited that our technology will transform the way people find and hire services in Asia. Hirely will truly change the way Asia parties! Watch this space.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul, raised in KL and immigrated to Toronto, where I spent most of my life. Asia always held a very special place in my heart. When I had the opportunity to return after my university graduation, I didn’t hesitate for a second, even if it meant leaving my entire world behind. I’ve been back in Asia for six years now and I can’t imagine my life anywhere else. The energy is addictive and most importantly, the people I meet here are incredible. They have great ambition to create and live a better life.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong. Let me count the reasons! Ease of setting up and doing business, English-friendly, business gateway to China, clean government, low taxes and well-established law system. I could go on for forever and on top of it all, it’s an awesome city to live in.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best advice I received was to take advice with a grain of salt. I wrote an article on tech in Asia about the 7 lessons learned in my first 100 days of entrepreneurship (you can read it here) and this was right up on the list. Being an entrepreneur is extremely unnerving at times and it’s comforting to seek and listen to advice. But at the end of the day, tune into your own intuition and stay laser-focused on your vision. Take advice for what it is. Thank the advice for the advice, quickly internalize it, and move on. And you’re welcome to take this particular piece of advice as a grain of salt!
Who inspires you?
My co-founder Tom is someone I have so much respect for. Our skills and energy truly complement each other and we are a strong team for it. Tom’s strong work ethics are unparalleled and his ability to make strong business relationships with limited resources is admirable. He inspires me to not only be a better entrepreneur, but a better person. You can contact him on [email protected]. He’s always up for a great chat over a cup of coffee.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
1 in 5 startups going for venture has a female founder, yet only 6 in every 100 VCs are women. Of the USD48 billion that flowed in venture funding last year, only 7% of it went to women. But I remain hopeful, because one thing the VC industry does well is innovation. Where there’s disparity and the desire for change, there’s opportunity.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Sorry to be boring, but absolutely nothing. Sure, we took some ‘scenic routes’ here and there and made mistakes along the way, but Hirely is what it is today and we are the entrepreneurs that we are today because of them. I would not have done anything differently because the learning was so valuable. It’s easy to sweat the details, but in the grander scheme of things, every mistake is a lesson learned.
How do you unwind?
There’s nothing like a good hike that clears my mind and takes the edge off. Having easy access to the beautiful mountains is one of my favorite things about living in Hong Kong. My partner and I came up with some of the best ideas for Hirely during hikes. It must be the special combination of fresh air, accelerated heart rate and a beautiful view.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali is my paradise. There’s magic in the air up there. My perfect relaxation day would be to hike up Mount Batur to catch the sunrise, cozy up with a good book looking out at the rice paddy fields in Ubud, eat fresh seafood in Jimbaran, watch the sunset in Uluwatu and dance the night away in Seminyak. I heard Bali has a new up-and-coming tech start-up scene. I should go on a few more ‘business trips’ there to check it out.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I’m currently reading Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. It lists 19 different traction channels to try for your startup using a framework called ‘bullseye’. It forced me to think outside of the traditional marketing box and try some new channels that you normally would not have chosen for your business. Nothing mind-blowing, but I like reading books that have easily actionable points.
Shameless plug for your business:
Planning a party or event? Tell us what you need and within hours, you’ll receive quotes from curated vendors and entertainers to make your event a success. You can compare them based on their portfolio and customer reviews and hire the right one for you in a click.
Check us out at www.hirely.asia and follow our journey through our FB page www.facebook.com/hirely.asia!
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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