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Start, Move Up – Vincent Lai

By May 21, 2020July 6th, 2020No Comments

by Vincent Lai (Singapore)

My name is Vincent and I am from SMU. I converted from a student to an entrepreneur, because something amazing happened in my life just few months back. Everything came to me at the same time – the work that I have done during my internship in a bank, the people I met, the technology shift, the market shift; as if the plan was devised by divinity, I believe it is not a happenstance. So, here I am to share with you a little story of mine.

Before my entrepreneur journey began, I was influenced by my uncle who is running an ISP firm in Malaysia. He told me that I should run my own businesses if I wanted a lot of money. Of course everyone knows that to get really rich, one should be his own boss; you have the full control of what you want to do, you drive the company, you innovate, and you lead. Consequently, you take all the risk.

It wasn’t all romantic for my uncle, I have seen him go through the ups and downs in life, it can be quite scary if you lose everything you worked for when you are 40s or 50s. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. Because of my uncle, I always wanted to start a business, but I was clueless, absolutely clueless.

When I was 18, I thought I want to be a programmer (I thought it was cool). When I was 20, I aspired to be a CIO. When I was 23, my journey as an entrepreneur began, like my uncle – I became a boss of my own. It all started from the internship I had with the bank. I am lucky because I started the journey at this age.

During the internship, I had a chance to work on something really cool, cutting-edge technology, which I believe it will be the next Kondratiev wave in the next few years. It was an open source technology, we showcased it to one of the ministers of Singapore, the CIO of the bank, the founder of 77th street, Elim Chew, the Dean of my school, and some others, they were all impressed with my innovation. It shows that there is ‘something’ in this technology.

After the internship, I co-founded a company based on the similar technology. Desai, the director of SMU Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) gave me tremendous support.

Desai also introduced a business mentor to me, Mr Ng Kai Wa, who co-founded Creative Technologies. He is now my business mentor. I started to raise fund, it was an amazing experience for me as I never thought I will start a business at this age!

I raised 50k through the iJam Microfunding, we went to NYP and presented the prototype to the iJAM panel, they loved it. Through IIE, I also had several opportunities to meet with several VCs and tried to raise fund – Walden International, iGlobe, IDGV SEA, Innosight, Upsteam and Imprimatur Capital. I also met with some great soul during the Speed Dating session with Enterprise Organization (EO) Singapore at SMU.

The experience is just awesome to me! Every morning, when I wake up, I get so excited as life suddenly seems so much more meaningful to me, life is never about going to school and getting As. I think of ideas everyday and discuss with people I meet, I learnt this from Chade Meng (first Singaporean Googler), that the more you articulate the idea with others, the more you will get out of it. So, this is just the beginning of my journey as a young entrepreneur. Now I have a chance to do something I really want to do in life!

But, something not-so-good happened to me. Remember the bank I worked at previously? Now they came and say I cannot use the same technology in my company. I was in deep trouble, the bank claimed that I cannot start my company because I learnt it from them and I signed an NDA with them.

I tried to negotiate with the bank, but here is what they demanded – I need to pay royalties back to them (you won’t believe if I tell you the actual figure, which I am fine with it if the figure is ok), I need to give them back all the derivative technologies my company develop in the future, and some other ridiculous conditions which everything needs to be put down in black and white. And remember what I said earlier? It was an open source technology, which makes my case really a thorny one.

After meeting with few lawyers, strictly speaking, the bank can’t do anything to me.

For the past few months, I had been dealing with this issue, meeting with lawyers to vindicate my rights. It created a little hoo-hah in SMU as the President and Deputy President are aware of this now; the Dean of SIS and the Director of Legal Affairs of SMU are also involved in this. Put yourself into my shoe, how would you feel?

I am cognizant that entrepreneurship is tough, but I didn’t expect the hardship or some others call the challenges came so fast. But well, this is life and I have learnt so much in just these few months. Despite of the legal issue, I became even more excited and mature and learnt how to deal with people in the business. Thanks to Professor Pamela Lim, she helped me a lot and I always consult her whenever I am in doubt, she is one of the great souls I have met in this journey.

I am uncertain about what will happen in the future. Like Leonard, the founder of Tyler Project who is a friend of mine, he started Tyler and regretted initially as he wanted to be an investment banker. But now his company is doing very well and he told me he didn’t regret that he chose to walk on the entrepreneur path.

All I want to do now is to bring my company to the higher level. I am building up a prototype together with my partners to showcase to several companies. As I am in my penultimate year now, all my friends are getting internship in CS, ML, Barcap, UOB etc etc. I am the “odd” one who chose to be in the entrepreneur world. Like what Professor Pamela said, it is not about the right or wrong in decision we make in business, it is about RIGHTING the decision.

As compared to what happened in Steve Jobs’ life, what happened to me is just a very little obstacle. It is a pivotal moment for me and I will keep going in life. Like what Professor Randy Pausch said, the wall is there for a reason. With my positive attitude towards life, I will continue to strive for the best in life, the dots are connecting to where I want to be. I quote what Dr.Ting Choon Meng said when I met him, “Start, Move Up”. So now, I just started, I need to move up! Keep going, don’t settle.

Vincent Lai

Comments for Start, Move Up.
Nov 02, 2015
starstarstarstarstarStart, Move Up. NEW
by: Anonymous

Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

Oct 28, 2015
starstarstarstarstarMove Up. NEW
by: Anonymous

Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

Oct 19, 2015
starstarstarstarstaruseful post NEW
by: proofreading essays online

This post is actually a story of Vincent which belong to SMU. He was a student then suddenly he converted from a student to an entrepreneur. How did happen in his life that is the point. I have read his story which is very interesting and i think you’re smart, sharp and luckily as well. You got full benefits from this opportunity and now happy with his decision which is the main point in professional career.
Sep 30, 2015
starstarstarstarstarStart, Move Up. NEW
by: Anonymous

Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people consider worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

Sep 03, 2015
starstarstarstarstarnice NEW
by: james

Hello vincent, i appreciate you thoughts and regard of you uncle , and you agree with you uncle’s vision. that’s really nice that you start your own business with no hesitation, you are right in business your income is high. Rubber Gym Flooring
Apr 02, 2010
starstarstarstarEntrepreneurial Mentor
by: Dennis

Hi Vincent thanks for your advice to all the groups over the course, your experience as an entrepreneur has really helped alot of us avoid possible obstacles that we would have otherwise not seen.
Apr 01, 2010
starstarstarstarstarMost inspirational classmate – YOU!
by: Marilyn Ong

Hi Vincent! Every stepping stone makes you even stronger! In this class, I am really glad to know you. To me, you are someone I really look up to a lot. All the best for your entrepreneurship path! I am sure there’s a lot of colors out there despite all the stepping stones! JIAYOU!

P.S. First impression I thought you were cold so it’s pretty hard to approach you. But everytime I hear you say HeyChinaTV!, it really makes me feel hey, vincent is actually very very friendly!

May 26, 2009
starstarstarstarstarNever give up!
by: Van

Every obstacle is a stepping stone to success.

I hope you will learn though your challenges and grow stronger. Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks or chances worth taking. Never give up because there will be those who’ll always be there for you.
Mar 17, 2009
starstarstarstarstarGreat Job
by: Chun Haw

Wow, its amazing, we are always there to support, we all proud of you.
Feb 19, 2009
starstarstarstarstarStart of an amazing journey
by: Pamela

I know you have embarked in an amazing journey and I know you will enjoy it. But it does not mean that it will be smooth and all. It will be tough, but you will survive, and survive very well.

Why? You have what it takes to storm it all. Courage and passion. Thanks for the sharing!

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