My Startup Addiction
I suppose I am not the only one who feels this way –I’ve been passionate about startups for more than a decade. It started in 2007, maybe earlier, but the details escape me. I built the cheesiest website ever, attempting to nurse an idea into fruition. I was still a young banker and had seen that there was an opportunity to build a website and sell solutions for a specific market. I begged my mother to give me a loan of $10,000 and blew it all quite quickly–I’m unsure what I spent it on.
Needless to say, that startup failed. I went on to fail many more times, working on most startups as side hustles, while I built my banking career. Finally, in 2008 and then in 2009, I exited two small companies –selling the first to a cornerstone client, and the second, to a competitor. I thank my days in the banking industry for teaching me the basics of corporate finance, which enabled those exits.
In 2009, I was offered a position with the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Singapore Management University. Within my first week on the job, I was shocked that there was an entire ecosystem to help support the growth of startups. Those were the early days in the Singaporean entrepreneurial ecosystem –Tech In Asia’s founder Willis Wee was still blogging under the name Penn Olsen, Darius Cheung had just exited tenCube to McAfee, Roger Egan had just started RedMart, and a few friends I knew were building an application called Viki.
But that was where I got bitten by the startup bug –I thought about how many startups could benefit from having a strong operational infrastructure, from understanding accounting to building the right contracts, and how I was willing to contribute to their growth through my almost basic knowledge in finance and go to market and business development.
A month shy of my thirtieth birthday, I started Start Up Nation. Through Start Up Nation, I met thousands of startups globally, from Turkey toThailand, from the university circuit in the UK to hosting Start Up Grind with my friend Son. At our peak, we had 82 live portfolio companies and had networks in 23 countries. I coached in the Startup Leadership Program and met many startups that today are leaders of industry.
In 2016, my cofounder and I started the process of winding up the operations of Start Up Nation –it was untenable for us to work together any longer, and we needed to take our time to become ourselves again. I wandered for a bit, took a break, and in 2018, worked with the folks at YPO and consulted with a variety of medium to large enterprises across the globe.
If my days at Start Up Nation helped me build good businesses, my days at YPO helped me build greatbusinesses. I learned about what it took to lead better, scale, and build the right infrastructure for growth.
I suppose one can never quite bury one’s passion. My nephew Bryce says that my unwavering passion for startups rubbed off on him. He spent his entire career in the startup space and has a huge passion for building value in the startup arena. Fifteen months ago, I jumped back into the startup space, with Supercharge Lab. I know in my heart of hearts that startups can solve the world’s biggest problems –after all, every corporation that now dominates our lives, started somewhere.
Supercharge Lab’s solutions help to drive value for other startups, building their product–market fit to helping them drive early adoption. We have helped startups find their early investors, and founders find their cofounders. Today, while we serve larger enterprises alongside our core market in the startup space, I am thankful for the lessons that my startup addiction has taught me, and always will be.