Ambitious entrepreneur, Philippe Joly, has simultaneous and disparate careers in Blockchain Technologies and in the Movie Industry
What’s your story?
My story is slightly unconventional as I am running two distinct careers in parallel. On the one hand, I am a technology entrepreneur and have been for the best part of the past 15 years, heavily involved in the startup world with a mix of successful and failed ones (but nothing ventured, nothing gained), and on the other, I am actively pursuing a movie career both in front and behind the camera. As they say “find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.” Well, I got lucky, because I found two.
Prior to leaving the corporate world, I had a career in senior management in Europe. I grew up in France and then left to live and work in a few countries for over two decades before finally settling in Hong Kong, where I now reside.
What excites you most about your industry?
As an entrepreneur, my “industry” is a vague term, but there is one constant in all my ventures, they are technology startups. I love technology, and I always seek new ways to use it to solve problems. I find it very gratifying when a product or service that came out of your head, is being used by people you don’t know, in order to help them do something that they could not do before. One of my early ventures was a pioneer in mobile privacy, which attracted over 2 million users, which, back in the pre-smartphone era was very exciting. I am currently focusing my latest venture on blockchain technologies to solve digital identity problems. That is a rather complex field but it is also very stimulating.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I have always been fascinated by Asia, from a young age, influenced mostly by a passion for martial arts, and for action movies. I first visited Asia when I was 18, traveling across South East Asia on holidays. I fell in love with the area immediately. I had never thought about living overseas before. Paris was my home back then. But that trip put Asia on my mind as a potential place to live.
A few years later, I worked in Central Asia, based in Almaty. It was a different part of Asia, but still a strong reminder of my attraction for the region. Fast forward 10 years, and I ended up in Singapore and Malaysia with my first tech startup. It was then that I realised that I would end up living in Asia. I knew it, I felt it. Europe had already lost all its appeal for me by then. It is what eventually happened 5 years later when I landed in Hong Kong, which is now my home.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Despite the recent unrest in Hong Kong, I still feel that Hong Kong is my favourite place in Asia to run a business. This place has so much to offer in terms of geography, taxation, weather, lifestyle, and people. It has pros and cons of course, like any other place, but as a bridge to such a large market as Mainland China, I cannot think of any other places offering the same opportunity. I explored Singapore for a while, and while I liked the buzz of the place and the entrepreneurial spirit, I still find HK a better fit for me to both live and do business from.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I was fortunate enough during my career to have worked with, and for, billionaires and many highly successful business people, from whom I have learned a lot about management, business, and entrepreneurship. But it is from training courses with the likes of Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, or my good friend Owen Fitzpatrick that I think I got my best advice, which was: ”Take care of the seconds, and the minutes will take care of themselves.”.
Many people chase money and focus on the wrong things. They jump over some very important steps. They don’t realize that by focusing on doing the right things right, money follows by itself.
Who inspires you?
I always have admiration for the hardest workers in the room. In my professional life, and especially since I became an entrepreneur, I got used to good work ethics and hard work. Naturally, I value these traits in others too. With that in mind, I get inspired by people with unlikely success stories, people who started from nothing and made it big through hard work, sacrifices, and dedication. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson inspires me in the entertainment field for a plenitude of achievements. In the business world, Gary Vaynerchuk inspires me with his straight-talking and views on business that I share and relate to.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Some of my early trips to Mainland China, a decade ago, changed my understanding of the world and my value system. When I first visited Shenzhen and Guangzhou, I realised that the entire world was basically built there. Whatever I bought for 10 euros in Milan or Paris was made for 10 cents in Asia (China or other). This was a real and palpable eye-opener for me.
The second thing that blew me away was how far ahead Asia was, in terms of payment mentality and behavior, compared to Europe or the US. I saw homeless people and grannies at street markets (traditionally cash places) using QR codes for Wechat Pay payments in China. It was mind-blowing.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Everything happens for a reason, but if I could tweak one thing, I think I would have settled in Asia earlier than I did. There are a buzz and a dynamic here that I never felt in any other country in Europe. I opened more opportunities for myself in Asia in 10 years than I could have in a lifetime elsewhere.
How do you unwind?
When I am not running a business, I am often filming, so I do have a busy schedule at times. I see unwinding in two ways. Of course, like most people, I can unwind with relaxing activities to contrast with the busy work life, such as a little staycation, time by the pool, good food, and good company. But if I really want to take my mind off work, I also like to unwind by getting busy on something unrelated and challenging, either physically or mentally. For example, last year I went on an intensive two weeks Muay Thai training camp in an academy in Bangkok. It was ideal for me to take my mind off work and life, but was certainly not a relaxing way to unwind.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Any place with a pool or a beach would do for me, and there are plenty of them in Asia, just a few hours away from Hong Kong. I do not have real favourites, but if I have to choose, I particularly like Thailand and Vietnam. I like spontaneous getaways, not planned too long in advance. The digital world, especially in Asia, makes it so easy now to search and book anything in just a click.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I’d be tempted to plug my own book on startups, but that would be cheeky, wouldn’t it?
Jokes aside, a book I really enjoyed was The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I would recommend this book especially if you are constantly globetrotting for business. I got a lot of value out of it and applied quite a few things from it.
Shameless plug for your business:
I created a messaging platform called www.clicksumo.com to help brands communicate efficiently with their customers via SMS to promote, notify, update, alert, remind, inform, sell and much more.
We currently serve luxury and retail brands across the APAC region, but our SaaS platform can empower businesses of all sizes in any industry with a powerful and low cost messaging tool. We take all the technical burden away from them, so they can just login to the portal and focus on their campaigns.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ 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 and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.