According to entrepreneur, Nick Gan, “we’re at the cusp of a multi-year fintech wave in Asia..” Find out more here…
What’s your story?
I started my career in finance and spent many years in the corporate world in a number of roles within credit, equities and investments. However, I always had a deep longing to create and build things and to solve real world problems.
At 30, I made the leap from employee to entrepreneur. I started and co-owned various ventures, from online e-commerce and B2B startups to functional fitness gyms.
My current venture is ApexPeak, a 2.5 year old fintech company I co-founded that has seen 4 acquisitions and raised $60m in debt and equity to date. In my spare time, I am also involved in the startup community and mentoring founders at various accelerators in Singapore.
What excites you most about your industry?
The financial services industry is facing a wave of digital disruption that is reshaping the industry. Global investment in fintech more than tripled from $930 million in 2008 to $4 billion in 2013, and then tripled again to $12 billion in 2014 alone!
I believe we’re at the cusp of a multi-year fintech wave in Asia, and Singapore is perfectly positioned to develop a vibrant fintech sector as more entrepreneurs, technology firms, accelerators, venture capitalists, investors, universities, banks and regulators come together and develop the fintech ecosystem to the level seen in the US and Europe.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Malaysia and grew up in Australia. My family immigrated to Sydney when I was seven. I moved to Singapore in 2007 for work and have settled here since. I’m proud to have made Singapore my home for the last 8 years.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is hard to beat for ease of doing business, effective infrastructure, pro-business government policies, tax-friendliness, as well as being a prime hub for excellent flight connectivity within the region and to the rest of the world.
However the high cost of living and talent shortage, particularly in IT programming and engineering, are increasing concerns that will compel business owners to find creative ways in leveraging resources in neighbouring countries.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Don’t fuck up the culture.” – Peter Thiel
Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from many entrepreneurs and leaders. Elon Musk’s childlike sense of wonderment. Lee Kuan Yew’s fearless leadership and ability to assemble a great team. Steve Jobs’ remarkable focus. Gordon Ramsay’s passion and never comprising on standards. Tony Hsieh for fostering company culture. Reid Hoffman as a product-based founder who got his start later in life. Mark Cuban’s tenacity and hustle. Jack Dorsey’s brilliant execution. These are all qualities I believe highly successful entrepreneurs share in common.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The rule of 3 and 10. Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten, said that when building a company, everything breaks and everything you put into place needs to change at roughly every 3rd and 10th steps.
When you go from 1 person to 3 people it’s different. When it’s just you, you know what you are doing and then you have three people and you have to rethink how you are doing everything. But when there are 10 people it’s all going to change again. And when there are 30 people it will change again. Same when you reach 100 people.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would tell my 20-year old self to learn to code.
How do you unwind?
I love goofing around with my 2 daughters. I enjoy hanging out with good friends over dinner and a good bottle of wine. Every now and then I head across the border to Johor, Malaysia with friends to play golf.
For fun, I run a monthly 90s r&b hip hop party, Rewind. I’m also passionate about design and in my spare time, I run a design Tumblr blog called Sartorial Pornography.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I am drawn to places which are uncrowded, have old world charm or gorgeous architecture, friendly people and hospitality, simple fresh food and natural, zen environments.
Phuket is fantastic as it’s just a 1.5 hour flight from Singapore. Kyoto is also an amazing place to get inspired and unplugged. Nothing beats sushi and a cold beer. I could probably eat Japanese food for the rest of my life!
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Good to Great” and “The 4-Hour Workweek.”
Shameless plug for your business:
ApexPeak is a working capital provider that helps underbanked SMEs in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa access short-term, fast and flexible lines of credit. SMEs are crucial to the Singapore economy and it is equally important that they get access to capital in order to grow their businesses.
How can people connect with you?
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://sg.linkedin.com/in/fintechfounder
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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