What made you want to venture down this new path?
During my time consulting at McKinsey and through building Zalora, I've seen up close the huge capabilities that new technologies bring to disrupting existing industries and how they can impact the world. With the rise of so many great companies out of Asia like Traveloka, Lazada, Grab, GO-JEK, there is a huge potential for entries. The business landscape in Asia has never been better primed for new startups.
We tapped into our networks to find out where we could play a hand in this process. Speaking to Venture capitalists (VCs), accelerators and other programs globally helped us refine and create a program that helps founders build companies from scratch. We are focused on championing the individuals that join us, supporting them with our world-class network of advisors to build the next generation of great technology companies in the region.
The process is simple - if you believe you are talented, have a lot of drive, and want to build a great company, then apply to us and we'll help you connect with the right co-founders, refine your business model, and source capital, to help you build the next global giant out of Asia.
What are your goals for Antler, how do you see the company growing? Where do you see Antler in the next couple of years?
My main purpose is to turn top talents into great founders of great companies. In our inaugural cycle in July 2018, Antler will support 50 startup founders in Singapore. Right now, my immediate short-term goals are to focus on getting the best talent signed up for this. Despite having only launched recently, we have received an overwhelming number of applications and are doing our best to give each participant the required attention and support.
In the next two years, we hope to build 100-150 innovative tech companies out of Southeast Asia. We want to see founders that we brought in, having built successful technology businesses in the region and through that, having positively impacted economies. There are also plans to expand across Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific and to be able to replicate our business model effectively in different markets.
I feel fortunate to have a team of dedicated individuals with me who are just as excited about helping to build great businesses as I am. Each with an invaluable skill set to effectively assist in the Antler program. We are also building up a star-studded, global network of the best advisors and partners who themselves have built successful and impactful businesses in Asia and the world.
Antler is much more personal and hands-on compared to regular accelerator programs. What is special about the way you do that?
There are two main defining areas. First, is the relentless focus on talent across three groups of people: Helping you build a strong founding team with complementary skill sets; Successful mentors who are passionate about getting involved in new businesses; Investors who offer access to early-stage funding.
Second, our deep dive approach towards the ideation process. We support founders through our intensive five months program that aims to equip teams with the right skills and processes to build the foundation of their companies. In addition, we offer unlimited access to great minds who have journeyed down the same entrepreneurial path and have done exceedingly well for themselves. This is a priceless experience for anyone who is just starting up, to be able to tap into such a diverse and talented pool of advisors from day zero. All of whom are very eager to help you actualise your vision.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there who are considering your program?
1. Think big - everything that has been built around you that you truly appreciate was built by a team that thought big. Aim to truly change the world and slowly you will do it.
2. Don't wait - no great entrepreneur regretted starting too early. Never let the fear of striking out keep you from trying. The most important thing is to make a decision to begin and commit to it.
3. Invest time in sourcing for the RIGHT co-founders. Keep it to no more than one or two people. A lean and efficient core team works better than a large group of similarly skilled peers. It is important that these individuals perfectly complement your skill sets and share your vision. It is also imperative that you get along on a fundamental level as you'll be spending countless days/months/years together.
4. Allow yourself to be powered by your ambitions and solve an issue that needs to be resolved. Fill a "gap" in the market and always prioritise the end user in mind when refining your processes.
5. Speak about what you want to build and achieve to as many people as possible. Unless you have a magic formula to cure cancer or free cold fusion, it's likely that someone has thought about what you're building before. The more you discuss it and gather constructive feedback, the smarter your solutions become.
6. Get support from people that inspire you. We live in a highly connected time where you can reach out to anyone. If you are resourceful enough to utilise the right channels for your purpose, it will be easy to build up a network that you can tap on.
7. Realize that all great companies fail on the way to greatness. The important thing is how you handle situations when you hit those barriers. Great companies power through their difficulties. The ones you've never heard about gave up. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, indeed all great founders, struggled many times on the way to building great companies - they succeeded to a large degree through sheer perseverance and creatively thinking up solutions
What are the top five things that you look out for in founders - how do you know when you've found the right ones?
1. Someone with great ambition and vision. A motivated self-starter who is able to work towards actualising their ideas.
2. A clear "spike", for example, is something an entrepreneur really excels at. It can be coding, products, a specific industry, leadership, or similar. Your strongest asset and something that becomes your defining factor.
3. Drive and tenacity. We are looking for people who will run to the ends of the world to achieve their vision. Daredevils and creative thinkers who are able to circumvent multiple barriers to entry and any challenges that are typical for startups. Great founders like Elon Musk didn't build SpaceX and Tesla without overcoming huge challenges. We are looking for similar levels of drive and tenacity in our founders.
4. We care about people with integrity - those who possess intrinsically strong principles and who value a larger altruistic purpose over monetary gains. observe the highest ethical standards
5. We allow the team and our founders to take ownership of their chosen domain and aim to support them in their areas of strength. Therefore, we look for aspiring founders that foster a collaborative mindset to grow their ideas.
Being a founder and owner of more than one global company, what was the biggest lesson you learned?
My biggest takeaway is the old adage - you will never succeed if you do not try. Looking back on my career and accomplishments, I would not have been able to achieve anything without the willingness to dedicate my time to pursuing an innovative idea that hasn't been tested in the market.
If you have the right drive and ambition, you're working on an idea that really makes sense, and you have a great team and/or support system, you will make it. Yes, there's a lot of hard work and execution required along the way, but ultimately, this is how all great businesses start.
Why the name "Antler"?
The intention was for the name to be associated with strength, given that the company is all about building "power teams". The narrative as to why the name was chosen is that antlers start from the head, almost as an extension of the brain. They then grow out into multiple branches which can symbolise the different industries Antler supports and the companies it helps build. After all, they are still attached to one single structure.