Working in sales, running successful restaurants and his latest venture, Aurora Media are what keep Terence busy. He shares with us some interesting insights into technology, life and being an entrepreneur.
What’s your story?
When I was young, my brother and I sold laminated badges and bootlegged music to schoolmates at school. We then ate hot dogs at the then popular Fire Disco at Orchard Plaza.
In my teenage years, I worked as an office boy, pizza delivery, night security, bartender and swimming teacher. I went full-time into insurance sales at 24 and never looked back. I now also run two successful F&B businesses. Momma Kong’s is a Chinatown restaurant that has received rave reviews. Lonely Planet wrote that we serve Singapore’s best chilli crab. I also manage, with the award-winning actor and incorrigible good guy Pierre Png, 3O1 Bar & Kitchen in the up-and-coming Canberra Road area.
My newest venture is Aurora Media, which invests in media assets locally and globally.
What excites you most about your industry?
I like the creative energy, the potential to challenge boundaries and yes, I also like the glitz.
I used to enjoy watching that HBO series Entourage. Didn’t you?
In addition to this industry being fun and glamorous, it is an established and proven industry for more than 100 years and is still considered a sunshine industry with incredible growth opportunities, especially in Asia. The ever-growing demand for quality content from networks and distributors has far outpaced its supply with better and newer technologies that continue to enhance the consumer experience and make it easier and cheaper for consumers to access media content.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m born and bred Singaporean with most of my personal and business roots in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Growing up in the rollercoaster 1980s and 1990s taught me to work hard and be smart with money. It also gave me a sense of reverence for the blood, sweat and tears that people shed, for the ups and downs of individual lives and to treat people with respect and fairness no matter who they are now and where they came from.
Southeast Asia will always be my ‘kampong’ and I am thankful to be part of the next phase of the region’s journey.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore and this is not a homer pick!
I like the intelligent infrastructure, the ease of business, the strong government support for entrepreneurship and the fact that talented people from around the world continue to be attracted to moving to Singapore because they believe they can make a better life for themselves here.
In my opinion, this is unsurpassed anywhere and the smart ones will make full use of that.
Another important factor is that I can’t stand to be away too long from the local food I grew up eating. Ok, this last part is a homer pick.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Man is man.” However you read or understand it, it is pretty much the answer to everything, business or personal. Brilliant!
So my group of friends heard this from an intoxicated person at a pub one day and our lives have never been the same again since. This simple yet profound revelation.
Who inspires you?
Many people inspire me. My family and especially my 3 beautiful kids. They remind me everyday how little time I’ve got left to achieve the perfect life balance.
Other people who inspire me include the current Pope Francis, Mother Teresa and Gandhi
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That Donald Trump has a legitimate shot to be America’s next President!
Pundits thought that Trump was a television celebrity whose foray into real life politics would be brief. Instead, it is the other way round – Trump has pulled American politics into the realm of reality television. As the Republican Party establishment has found out, to its painful embarrassment, conservative politics is now living in Trump’s reality TV world.
On another note, I find the developments and successes of new technology mind-blowing. The ones that still get me are VR, AI and Nanotechnology. Who would have thought all these even possible just a few years ago? I feel that the pace of new inventions and applications will keep coming at us at an ever-accelerating speed.
The challenge now will be to constantly upgrade and be in-synch with the changing landscape so that we don’t fall behind.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
In all my years in sales and business start-ups, I’ve always taught and reminded myself to never to question the past with ‘what if’ or ‘if only.’
Clichés like ‘I don’t regret what I’ve done, only what I’ve not done’ and ‘live in the present not the past’ don’t really do it for me anymore.
I’ve come to discover that there’s a lot to gain from carefully revisiting bad decisions made, firstly to admit that it was my fault and what should have been done differently.
In fact, on hindsight, I would definitely do many things differently. From stressing myself out too much during my school days over the passing of exams, not being home on time for dinner with the family and not making it to a session with friends because I thought I was too busy. Well if I had to really choose one and only one, it would be to buy last week’s winning ticket.
How do you unwind?
Spending with family and close friends usually do it for me. My version of relaxation usually involves long open highways and wide and open spaces preferably in cool climates. Quiet and secluded places do it for me as well. I have a group of nature loving friends who love to off-road in our Land Rovers and camp out in difficult-to-access nature spots in Malaysia where we just hang out without any mobile or data connection. These times, when we actually ‘fall off the grid’ makes all the difference in helping me consolidate my thoughts and re-energise for the next push ahead.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. The people and culture are so friendly and wonderful. Outside of the more common locations like Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand still has so much to offer with her relatively less busy towns and small villages like Pai in Chiang Mai. I have many friends who work and live in Thailand as well and the hospitality has been nothing short of amazing.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil.
Bill Gates calls Kurzweil, “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence,” but Kurzweil has long been regarded as an eccentric outsider by most. This perception changed when Google hired him in 2012 to build the most ambitious artificial intelligence capability the world has yet to see. In 2013, Google bought Boston Dynamics, an incredible robotics company with deep links to the US defense industry. In 2014, they acquired Deepminds, which developed the AI program that defeated the Go champion Lee Seedol earlier this year.
Recently, while discussing the development of a documentary film on next generation biotechnology and nanotechnology, we debated whether Kurzweil will be remembered as the Da Vinci or the Rasputin of our era.
Shameless plug for your business:
We are committed to building Aurora Media into one of Asia’s most innovative and profitable media assets investment firm.
Media is an all-encompassing industry that is really more complex than it appears and also a lot more profitable than it appears. One of our key approaches is to de-risk the investment structure, while pushing the envelope on the innovativeness of the content.
We are also unusual in that if you look at our investment portfolio now, you will see Hollywood blockbusters with Oscar winners attached, as well as more cerebral documentary films on ecological conservation and nanotechnology. If a project is strong in its financials, in the content, in the core team, we will consider it – we are ecumenical like that.
How can people connect with you?
They can look for me at the grungiest billiard table in Singapore from midnight, the last Saturday of every month.
Alternatively, drop me an email at [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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