NEF has a “premier” programme called the ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. This award annually gets about 1500 nominations across all 10 ASEAN countries.

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a private foundation based in Malaysia called “The New Entrepreneurs Foundation”. We have been around since 2012 and we help a lot of founders across South East Asia via programmes like ideation, accelerators, coaching, talent matching, fund matching and connect-the-dots for partnerships for tech startups.

What excites you most about your industry?
Personally, I am a “geek” and a serial entrepreneur. Being able to work with so many like-minded personalities and working with innovators and disruptors makes working in the tech eco-system very exciting and appealing. Even more when we get to work with partners across south-east Asia, China, Europe and the Nordics.

What’s your connection to Asia?
New Entrepreneurs Foundation has a “premier” programme called the ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. This award annually gets about 1500 nominations across all 10 ASEAN countries and is celebrated nationally in each of those countries. MyNEF then facilitates these national winners to compete at a regional scale. But it doesn’t stop there. The best of ASEAN get to compete at the prestigious Global Startup Awards – with former winners included companies like SuperCell, RunTastic which have gone on to become global companies.

All ASEAN level finalists also get their “pitch-deck” made by us and individually matched with regional VCs, PEs and Angels based on these investors’ focus-sector, investment appetite and possibly “chemistry” with the startup.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
If I had to pick a city in Asia for business expansion – I would pick Singapore or Hong Kong for expanding a business as these cities have international business communities. These cities have global companies and VCs and potential partners that startups need to work with and to take them to the next level.

But if I was a startup, I would start in Kuala Lumpur or Guangzhou. Both cities have a slightly laid-back culture that is not too punishing for early stage companies. Plus they are relatively cheaper to Singapore and Hong Kong for you to maintain overheads, but they have sufficiently mature ecosystem for companies to be seeded, cultivated and grown, and will not be short on innovation culture and tapping on raw talent.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The best business relationship is the one based on trust and a handshake”

Who inspires you?
Gosh … so many people inspire me. I would look up to Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella – mainly because they are true innovators. But people with critical minds such as Jerry Seinfeld, and David Letterman equally inspire me for their gift of expression.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That Guangzhou is pretty amazing as a city – hungry to connect with the outside world … yet have advanced so rapidly in terms of their economic growth, innovation growth and social growth all on their own. They may have the “might of China” – but their Asian values are still very strong and makes them very appealing to work with. It BLEW me away!!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Start my entrepreneurship journey waaaaaay earlier! hahaha!

How do you unwind?
I love movies, books and going to the spa. I watch all kinds of movies, I love children’s books and classic literature, and a good spa with nice ambience and service.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Koh Samui is beautiful, very nice beaches and great Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Business Model Generation” and Simon Snek’s “Start With Why”. Everything starts here.

Shameless plug for your business:
Nominate Yourself for ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards and begin your expansion into regional partnerships, customers and investors.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?

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’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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