(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Here is my interview with Anne Cheng, Founder of StartUp Nation. Anne is experienced in a field of Innovation, Process Engineering, Risk Management and Digital Strategies. She is also an Executive Director of Operations at Portfolio Builders Pte Ltd.
What makes you do what you do?
Currently, I am a founder of StartUp Nation, which invests in other technologies, and we have more female founders within our portfolio than most traditional portfolios.
I started the company because as an entrepreneur myself, I realized that most entrepreneurs can do better with a little bit of help, guidance, and resources. We started to develop methodologies for different parts of a business and soon were able to offer these as a service on top of our investment monies. Today, this process is called Venture Building. Back then, it was just good risk management policies.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I don’t think I’ve “risen” in this industry. We have taken a back seat this year, managing our current portfolios instead of focusing on more deal flow. It’s a private portfolio of investments, so there’s nothing much to it.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
In the investment industry, there’re plenty of people to look up to – great investors who have backed great companies, and known when to sell out at the right time. I follow a few Asian investors who practice mindfulness – it can be fascinating studying their stoicism.
I don’t really have a mentor other than my mother who was in this industry before me and has seen businesses rise and fall with the changing of the times. I also have been mentored by several peers as well as elder family members, including Dr. Gabriel Oon who contributed greatly to Singapore’s healthcare industry and Justin Lee who runs the Emerald Hill Group. There’s always a lot to learn if you are willing to sit and listen.
How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
I didn’t really make much of a match – they happened to all be in my family.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I think human development is a very personal relationship with each colleague or team member. A lot of my folks start out as interns and shadow me for a period of time. Over time, I’ve gained a lot of insight into how to manage people better, and I’m still learning about how to be a kinder person through the people who work with me.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
As an Asian gay woman, I consciously support diversity in my company, where hiring policies are based on merit and attitude. We also support female founders in our portfolio and have learned to become stronger as women who help women going through the journey of entrepreneurship whilst juggling our other roles as mothers, daughters, and sisters.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
If you need a direction, it’s forward. And this goes for almost everything in life – if you don’t keep moving forward, you’re regressing. So keep on keeping on, because it all adds up – getting marginally better daily at what you do makes a difference.
Advice for others?
I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be up to next – I’m on a journey of self-discovery and self-love at the moment so I’m not particularly focused on the business at this time. My only advice would be “Above all, love.”
To learn more about Portfolio Builders Pte Ltd, please see https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/668261.
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