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40 must-read Asian founder stories in 2013

Willis Wee
40 must-read Asian founder stories in 2013
40 must-read Asian founder stories in 2013

In 2013, we are fortunate to have the chance to interview multiple CEOs and founders across Asia. In this year-end review, we have consolidated some of our must-read founder stories for 2013 in one single page. I’m pretty sure you will find them useful. Enjoy.

1. Razer CEO tells students it’s okay to get an ‘F’

Quote from Min-Liang Tan, CEO and creative director at Razer:

At every point of time I was wasting my time I was learning something, doing something really constructive for the future.

2. Le Hong Minh and his VNG Story

Quote from Le Hong Minh, founder of VNG:

In a technological company, the process is an iteration. You don’t really have a clear answer. You will never have answers, only directions. You will meet a lot of questions, challenges, and trials, and you can only do your best.

3. Why Vserv co-founders took more than 12 Years to start their own company

Quote from Ashay Padwal, co-founder and CTO at Vserv:

Before we got the first round, we had gone through two to three meetings with each of over 30 VCs.

4. Adi Kusma shares founding story of Biznet and urges startups to be their own chefs

Quote from Adi Kusma, founder of Biznet Networks:

The value proposition of your product must be clear, whether it is better pricing or it is more convenient for people to use your product.

5. How IP Mirror’s female founders attain success with zero funding

Quote from Janna Lam, founder of IP Mirror:

Be honest, sincere, and hardworking. When you are honest and sincere, people can feel it. It’s not a bed of roses when you run your own business. You always have a lot of problems but there’s always some principles you need to keep to in order to be successful. After thirteen years, I’m still as hardworking as before. I work more than my staff. I want to lead by example as this will motivate the others to do likewise.

6. Singapore’s records $50 million yearly revenue; Founder shares his story

Quote from Patrick Linden, co-founder of Dealguru Holdings:

It is important for entrepreneurs to stay firm to what they believe in. And if you need advice, go to the right people who have been there and done that rather than those who don’t fully grasp the reality of entrepreneurship.

7. Indonesia Jatis Group co-founder shares his two-decade-long startup journey

Quote from Izak Jenie, co-founder at Jatis Group:

Getting good partners for startup is crucial. I like Warren Buffet’s investment theory for this. If you know from the outside that there may be trouble, then don’t get involved. Because once you get in, it’s difficult to get out. Similarly, in finding partners, if you foresee potential problems in working with them, then don’t get started.

8. How InMobi grew from a startup to a giant mobile ad network company

Quote from Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO of InMobi:

As a company what we faced was to showcase and tell people that we have a great product. People expect great products coming out of Silicon Valley, innovations coming out of Silicon Valley and probably didn’t expect that innovation to come from an Indian company.

9. The story of a hacker-turned-entrepreneur who sold his company to Google

Quote from Chester Roh, serial entrepreneur:

We have a strong conviction. At the time in Korea, blogging wasn’t new. But the quality of the content wasn’t that good. With search, we need quality content and Tatter & Company is providing all this quality content. So our strategy is clear. We are not taking care of all bloggers but we are taking care of high quality content creators.

10. How Streetdirectory founder picked himself up and rebuilt

Quote from Firdhaus Akber, founder at Streetdirectory:

Entrepreneurs need to understand that they may not be successful on the first time, most aren’t. One needs to learn to pick themselves up and try again when they fail.

11. No funding, no rich daddy, founder of M-Stars in Indonesia started up his way

Quote from Joseph Edi Lumban Gaol, founder of M-Stars Group:

On some occasions I had to borrow money from family and friends when the cash flow was low, especially to pay employees. This was one of the toughest challenges psychologically, as I had to pledge my credibility to them and spend sleepless nights making sure cash flow was positive and that loans from friends and family weren’t defaulted. Remembering those days now still makes me smile.

12. Serial entrepreneur Paul Srivorakul: His admax and Ensogo story

Quote from Paul Srivorakul, serial entrepreneur:

Figure out what is the real problem and it’s always the hard problems. Be very clear on what you want to do with your company before you even build it

13. The founding story of MOL

Quote from Ganesh Kumar Bangah, founder at MOL:

I saw an article that the Singapore government wants to turn Singapore into a Silicon Valley. They should encourage students to drop out.

14. Compete with telcos? You must be crazy! Singapore startup MyRepublic is doing just that

Quote from Greg Mittman, co-founder at MyRepublic:

When we go to meetings, everyone will pound their fist on the table and say, “This is our company and we are going to be bold, we are going to get it right, damn it”. It creates an attitude of ownership and we function like a family-owned business. We are one family.

15. The Nuffnang founders’ story

Quote from Timothy Tiah, co-founder at Nuffnang:

We felt that dealing with investors and term sheets consumes a lot of time. Time we could use to focus on our product. We were already profitable and we could grow without taking in any investments. Ming and I also believed at the time that Nuffnang being small and nimble was an advantage that could make up for our lack in size.

16. Doing an enterprise-facing startup: Words of wisdom from Deskera

Quote from Shashank Dixit, CEO and co-founder at Deskera:

Entrepreneurs in Singapore should think Changi and not block 71.

17. How Tokopedia is building Indonesia’s Taobao

Quote from William Tanuwijaya, CEO and co-founder at Tokopedia:

When we started our company, the e-commerce ecosystem was non-existent [in Indonesia], and we thought if no one starts to build a proper e-commerce ecosystem, then it will never improve.

18. The startup story of App Annie

Quote from Bertrand Schmitt, founder and CEO at AppAnnie:

We like it in China and China is a fast growing market. It is hard to get into the market so starting in Beijing is easier.

19. The story of Zopim: Struggle and sacrifice on the way to startup success

Quote from Royston Tay, co-founder of Zopim:

Unless I get full commitment from all of you, I’m going to leave the company.

20. IAHGames founder went from distributing junk mail to running a $25 million games publisher

Quote from Roland Ong, founder and CEO of IAHGames:

Local developers tend to develop and think like Singaporeans. But there are vast differences in how gamers behave, and that affects the way games are developed. That’s why locals need to expose themselves more, and I’m starting to see that happen.

21. How KakaoTalk grew from a startup to a giant mobile platform

Quote from Sirgoo Lee, Co-CEO at Kakao:

We pride ourselves on being innovators, trying new things and being willing to learn from others. We look to our users and keep learning from feedback. We are willing to upgrade and change our service to maintain the leadership in innovation. You can copy features and design. But you can’t copy the spirit and philosophy of the company.

22. JFDI: The frog’s story, secret sauce, and challenges

Quote from Hugh Mason and Meng Weng Wong, founders at JFDI:

Bring your company to us and we will either make or break your company in a hundred days. If we make it, that’s cool. If we break it that’s cool because you can move on to do something else. You give your best shot in the 100-days.

23. The founding story of Wanchat Padungrat’s Pantip

Quote from Wanchat Padungra, founder at Pantip:

Maybe I’m too conservative. I don’t believe that internet [business] needs a lot of money to run. Because we can do internet business with a very small [investment].

24. How V-Cube makes enterprise tech sexy

Quote from Naoaki Mashita, founder at V-cube:

We [..] hope our success will promote and inspire more enterprise technology companies in this region.

25. How The Mobile Gamer (TMG) hustles for growth in Southeast Asia

Quote from Alvin Yap, founder and CEO at TMG:

Have at least six hours of sleep each day. It keeps you healthy and enables you to run the company better.

26. The PropertyGuru story, as told by co-founder Steve Melhuish

Quote from Steve Melhuish, co-founder and CEO at PropertGuru:

The leading online property portals are like a cash machine, a really good business. I thought that the business model works outside of Singapore, but there was nothing like here.

27. Being a CEO eats into you, says Tan Teik Guan of recently-acquired DS3

Quote from Tan Teik Guan, CEO at DS3:

Jumping is really scary. You can jump up or, more likely, jump into a hole. But if you don’t make these decisions, your company will become mediocre. These decisions will eat into you when you’re eating, sleeping, and bathing. It dominates your life.

28. Stephanie Chai of Luxe Nomad: I’m earning less than in modeling, yet strangely happier

Quote from Stephanie Chai, founder of Luxe Nomad:

Did modeling help? Most definitely. Living in different countries while not knowing anyone teaches you how to be adaptable. And that quality is crucial in a startup environment; you better learn to move with the times, and fast.

29. Lenddo CEO says building a startup isn’t easy but passion is key

Quote from Richard Elridge, CEO for Asia of Lenddo:

Everybody who has a startup understands difficulty. We tackled a big problem and we knew it was gonna be hard. We have the passion for that and we kept pushing through, despite the challenges we faced. If it was easy someone else would have done it.

30. Builk’s Linna Kanoknitanan: a COO is like a midfielder in a soccer team

Quote from Linna Kanoknitanan, COO of Builk:

Understanding others doesn’t only apply to customers, but the team as well. I constantly remind myself to always check what the team wants. This is to make sure they are happy to deliver what the company needs. Understanding people around me is the key to success.

31. 3 big problems with the Thai startup ecosystem

Quote from Yod Chinsupakul, Wongnai’s CEO and co-founder:

Building a team is one of the most challenging things. We want efficiency and not just adding to the number of people to the company. It’s not just about finding a developer. You have to find one that believes in the project.

32. Plateculture founders: the concept might be feminine but we’re a very masculine startup

Quote from Reda Stare, founder of PlateCulture:

We believe in the six degrees of separation concept. The people you need will always cross path when the time is right.

33. Computerlogy’s Mimee: Aung San Suu Kyi and Sheryl Sandberg are my idols

Quote from Mimee, Computerlogy’s business development director:

You must ask yourself whether you’re ready to be an entrepreneur or not. The startup trend is booming at this moment, but don’t just think it’s elegant.

34. Anphabe’s CEO, one of Vietnam’s rare female tech founders, speaks out

Quote from Thanh Nguyen, CEO of Anphabe:

If we desire to succeed in business, we should create meaningful and useful products or services for customers first and relentlessly satisfy their needs.

35. Through the dark times of Indonesia: the journey of Toto Sugiri

Quote from Toto Sugiri, serial entrepreneur:

When I quit my job, five of my guys followed me to start this small company. At the start, we only had money enough for ten months of operation. If we didn’t get any money within the ten months, we would have run out of money and needed to find jobs together.

36. How Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of billion-dollar Palantir, built his winning team

Quote from Joe Lonsdale, founder of Palantir:

Optimism is believing in the best likely scenario. You can’t trick someone into working for you (or, more accurately, you probably can initially, but it’s not a sustainable long term strategy). Optimism isn’t about fooling anyone, it is about truly believing in a mission and sharing this passion with others.

37. Six months ago this startup set out to change popular media in Taiwan. And it’s slowly happening

Quote from Joey Chung, CEO of The News Lens:

We’re actually doing this. That’s the one thing I can say now that I couldn’t have said two months ago. This is actually happening.

38. CEO of Vietnam’s biggest e-commerce site reveals his secrets to success

Quote from Nguyen Ngoc Diep, CEO of Vat Gia:

Always think as consumers. Observe and meet their needs. Don’t completely copy successful foreign business models. Learn and customize them locally.

39. Forget Vietnam’s Lazada and Zalora, makes 10,000 deliveries per day

Quote from Nguyen Thanh An, CEO of

In this market, if you go too fast, the cost will be way too high. Once we understand the market and customer, then you can hit the market harder.

40. Jack Ma’s last speech as Alibaba CEO

Quote from Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group:

A lot of people complain about yesterday. We have no power to change yesterday. But this very day, 30 years later, is what we can control and decide. Change yourself, take baby steps, and stay determined for ten years. I thank the times of change and everyone’s complaints. Because when everyone is complaining, that is your chance, an opportunity. It’s only in times of change that someone can be clear of what he has and wants, and what he needs to give up.

(Editing by Terence Lee, Image credit:

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