How to survive that bump in the road

Find out how mentors and cheerleaders are essential to any startup.

How do you pick yourself up after a fall?

What do you do when your company hits a speed bump?

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Mr Kelly Choo, co-founder of Neeuro, says startups should have the right mentors and cheerleaders to help them succeed.

For start-ups to succeed, they need to find the right mentors who can offer timely advice based on their years of experience in that space,  said Mr Kelly Choo, the co-founder of technology company Neeuro.

It also helps to have cheerleaders who share your vision.

Speaking to an audience largely made up of IT developers and start-up entrepreneurs at the first anniversary celebrations of BASH (Build Amazing Startups Here), Mr Choo warned that typically start-ups need to brace themselves for numerous setbacks in their journey.

“Many will encounter what I term as micro-failures, bumps in the road, but it is important never to give up. Having the right mentors and partners will help you succeed as well as having cheerleaders, be they family or friends – people who will help point you in the right direction and keep you going.”

A quick backgrounder: BASH is an initiative by Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL) which offers a range of accelerator programmes and helps link start-up to mentors and financiers. 

Started a year ago, it is largest integrated co-working space for the tech community and facilitates linkages for more than 3,000 start-ups from over 50 nationalities.

One of the pillars of BASH is to give start-ups international exposure, which could prove inspirational in much ways than one.

Mr Choo described how his first visit to Silicon Valley during his polytechnic days inspired him to venture into IT even though it was not a trending field back then.

“If you are a start-up based here, I would encourage you to go out there, attend events overseas and meet people, make that investment to travel because it will really help to open your eyes.

When he was in Silicon Valley, he met a venture capitalist who told him about Google, a company quite unknown at the time. “He advised me to go into search engines. I did and started my own company with backing from my parents but I found that I wasn’t quite ready for something like that. I lacked the experience and time as I was about to enter National Service.”

Data Is Your Business

Later during his university days, he founded his second company and had the opportunity to attend an overseas attachment in the United States. 

After graduation he worked as a teaching assistant at the National University of Singapore, where he picked up skills in designing Facebook apps.

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Mr Kelly Choo: Data is very powerful. If you can develop data that no one has, that will set you apart.

“Looking back, I realised that while I knew a lot about e-commerce and technology, there were many things I didn’t know like business development, sales, branding or marketing. I had many ideas about things I wanted to do, but then I met my mentor, Mr Eddie Chau, and he inspired me with his idea to start a business which eventually turned into Brandtology."

"So I put my plans on hold and focused on this venture.”

The company specialised in using social media analytics to help businesses understand what people are saying about their brand. Started in 2009, Brandtology expanded internationally and was sold off three years later.

Mr Choo said that in today’s highly competitive world of IT, getting the right data could give start-ups an edge. 

“Think about data because data is very powerful. If you can develop data that no one has, that will set you apart.”

Which explains how he found his way into his latest venture at Neeuro, which uses neurotechnology and gamification to collate actionable data to improve cognitive functions and mental well-being.

His parting advice for young entrepreneurs:  Don’t neglect their health.

“When we started off, we were working 18-hour days and people were taking turns to get sick. So you need to look after your health and pace yourself, and this is where your mentors and cheerleaders can help to keep you grounded.”

Main image (top) adapted from Speed Bump Sign by Antwonw at en.wikipedia under CC by 2.5.