Singapore art student turns technopreneur

630_ElishaOng3

By Melissa Law

When Elisha Ong was just 15, he crafted and coded his own stadium and jersey designs for the football computer game FIFA because he got tired of just playing the game. His design for Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium received 9,000 downloads on the very first day that he uploaded it onto a gaming forum, kickstarting a career that would lead him to spend a year in Silicon Valley and eventually co-found technology startup Burpple.

Yahoo! Singapore spoke to the National University of Singapore business school graduate over a cup of coffee at Fusionopolis recently to find out more about his experience at Silicon Valley and Burpple.

25-year-old Burpple co-founder Elisha Ong always believed that he would be an artist or a filmmaker.

An art elective programme student for six years after his Chinese High days, planned to enter Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design and Media. He changed his mind, applied to the NUS entertainment technology course, but was accepted into the business school instead.

Introduced to the NUS Overseas College (NOC) programme by a friend, Ong went to the interview completely unprepared with no clue as to what Silicon Valley was. Surprisingly, he breezed through the interview and was offered a place in the programme along with 10 other students.

Getting accepted into the programme was a much-needed turning point for the passionate designer who felt that he was underperforming in school.

“In NUS, I had reached a point where I almost lost sight of what I was doing. I was not doing well grades-wise and everyone was very competitive,” he said. “I was on the brink of giving up.”

Having never lived overseas before, Ong packed his bags and prepared to spend a year away, not knowing what to expect.

Life in the Valley

In Silicon Valley, the National Junior College alum studied at Stanford University. As part of the NOC programme, he was hired by mobile video communication startup, Qik (now Skype), as a designer.

He started out making minor changes on banners and logos, but true to his nature, Ong started to get bored and approached his supervisor to ask if he could work on more “exciting or challenging” tasks.

630_ElishaOng1

He was slowly entrusted with more and more projects, and by the middle of the year, Ong became Qik’s lead designer.

He was tasked to work on the user interface (UI) of their biggest project – Video Chat – an Android mobile app similar to Apple’s FaceTime which streams videos live on the Web as it is recorded.

One month later, Apple launched FaceTime. The passionate designer could not believe his eyes when he realised that 90 per cent of the app’s UI was similar to his.

The culture of Silicon Valley and his experience at Qik broadened his mindset and still awes him till today.

“The whole experience is more than what money can buy. You feel so privileged to be a part of it. Sometimes you’ve got to pinch yourself… you feel honoured, you feel humbled that they trust you enough,” he said, as he reminisced about the past with fondness.

Doing things differently

The designer’s achievements at Qik were not his only takeaways from the programme. Being at the centre of innovation and enterprise, Ong and Dixon Chan, his roommate, were inspired to start their own business.

The idea for Burpple came to them one day while they were out for a meal.

“I always take 10 minutes to decide what to eat. I always end up calling a friend or asking the waiter. So we thought, why not have a way where people can remember what they’ve eaten and see what friends have tried? In that way, it becomes a form of social recommendation,” said Ong, whose favourite dessert is mango shaved ice from ABC market in Bukit Merah.

So why didn’t they stay in Silicon Valley to start Burpple?

630_ElishaOng2

Comparing the business environment in Silicon Valley to Singapore’s, Ong admits that he was initially reluctant to return to Singapore, but decided to do so in the end because of the wealth of opportunities in Asia and the city-state.

“We did think of that and were in fact trying to find ways not to come back to Singapore,” he joked. “But for us, we just thought that we’ve tasted a bit of the SV culture, why not come back and fuse it with the East?”

“If you can have a success story here, if you can start something new here, you’ll make people see that it’s not always about going overseas. In terms of talent and skill set, we’re not far behind. In terms of our ability to think as well. All we need is a better ecosystem – more people to come together and congregate ideas with the willingness to share and help,” said the entrepreneur who possesses business acumen beyond his age.

Chan and Ong returned to Singapore for their last semester of school in 2010. Through a friend’s recommendation, they met software engineer Daniel Hum.

Armed with the same passion and vision, the Burpple team was formed.

Describing Burpple’s culture as “fun” and “relaxed”, Ong said that the three founders wanted to run Burpple in a “very different” way.

“We crap a lot (Singaporean slang for cracking jokes). We crap a lot about things I probably shouldn’t tell you,” joked the jovial man, as he burst into laughter.

Turning serious, he then continued, “Honestly, we’re quite stress-free. We take things very easy but we’re not slack (slang for lax). We just trust that all things will work out.”

Released in May this year, the beautifully designed Burpple app quickly gained traction among food lovers all around the world.

Within a few weeks of going live, the app that has been deemed the ‘Instagram for foodies’ was featured among the Top Food and Drink apps in Apple’s App Store. To date, Burpple has food documented in close to 3,000 cities and more than 100 countries.

Having only incorporated the company less than a year ago, Ong admits that Burpple is still nascent and is in fact going through a defining period as the team tries to find the “product-market fit”.

“The app is only a few months old and the company is less than a year old. If we want to make any changes, now’s the right time to do it,” he said. “We’re still trying to find out what’s the value that we add to people’s lives.”

“We want to move away from being just a food photo journal. Burpple is more than just that,” said the designer.

--

Get stories like this on the Yahoo app and discover more every day.
Download it now.
Loading...
  • Deals of the day-Mergers and acquisitions Reuters - 5 minutes ago

    (Adds Alere, Fiat Chrysler; updates Rackspace) Aug 26 (Reuters) - The following bids, mergers, acquisitions and disposals were reported by 2000 GMT on Friday: ** Cloud services provider Rackspace Hosting ... … More »

  • Dollar gains, U.S. stocks fall as Fed shakes 'complacent' markets
    Dollar gains, U.S. stocks fall as Fed shakes 'complacent' markets Reuters - 6 minutes ago

    U.S. stocks gave up early gains in choppy trading on Friday, hurt by a surging U.S. dollar as investors grappled with the possible timing of an interest rate hike after comments from several Federal Reserve officials, including Chair Janet Yellen. … More »

  • Oil prices edge up but OPEC giants downplay output limits AFP - 10 minutes ago

    Oil prices edged higher Friday but the market remained weak as OPEC's key producers cast doubt on the possibility of cutting output. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on Friday said his country wanted ... … More »

  • Canada, hoping to boost profile, pledges peacekeepers to UN
    Canada, hoping to boost profile, pledges peacekeepers to UN AFP News - 13 minutes ago

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government on Friday committed 600 troops and Can$450 million (US$350 million) over three years to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world. Touted by the Liberal administration as a … More »

  • Grain lower, livestock mixed Associated Press - 23 minutes ago

    Grain futures were lower Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade. Wheat for Sept. declined 17.75 cents at $3.8350 a bushel; Sept. corn lost 7.25 cents to 3.1625 a bushel; Sept. oats was fell 3.75 cents at ... … More »

  • Canada PM Trudeau to mount charm offensive in China: officials
    Canada PM Trudeau to mount charm offensive in China: officials AFP News - 27 minutes ago

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will tour the Great Wall, shoot hoops with retired basketball star Yao Ming and meet with women entrepreneurs when he travels to China next week to bolster trade and diplomatic ties, his office said Friday. … More »

  • Oil steady in volatile session, down 2 percent for the week
    Oil steady in volatile session, down 2 percent for the week Reuters - 31 minutes ago

    Oil prices were largely unchanged on Friday in a volatile session, as traders reacted to comments from Fed Chair Janet Yellen and reports of missile activity in Saudi Arabia. The market was taking its cues from the movement in the dollar, which has … More »

  • Wall St. falls after Fischer, Yellen comments
    Wall St. falls after Fischer, Yellen comments Reuters - 1 hour 18 minutes ago

    U.S. stocks were lower in a choppy session on Friday, with stocks bouncing between gains and losses as investors grappled with the possible timing of a U.S. interest rate hike after comments from Federal Reserve officials, including Chair Janet … More »

  • Stocks slip into losses in the afternoon after Yellen speech
    Stocks slip into losses in the afternoon after Yellen speech Associated Press - 1 hour 24 minutes ago

    Stocks were lower on Wall Street in afternoon trading on Friday, giving up modest gains following a generally upbeat assessment of the economy from Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Phone companies and utilities, ... … More »

  • Dutch PM Mark Rutte announces third-term candidacy
    Dutch PM Mark Rutte announces third-term candidacy AFP News - 1 hour 24 minutes ago

    Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Friday his candidacy to head the Dutch government for a third succesive term in office, as the countdown moves towards next year's parliamentary polls. "Rutte also informed his top party leadership about his … More »

  • Morales sees 'conspiracy' in Bolivia minister's murder
    Morales sees 'conspiracy' in Bolivia minister's murder AFP News - 1 hour 48 minutes ago

    Bolivian President Evo Morales said Friday there was a "political conspiracy" against his government after protesting miners allegedly kidnapped, tortured and beat to death a deputy minister who tried to negotiate with them. Defense Minister Reymi … More »

  • Yellen's case for rate hike boosts dollar; stocks surrender gains
    Yellen's case for rate hike boosts dollar; stocks surrender gains Reuters - 2 hours 17 minutes ago

    U.S. equities gave up early gains on Friday, hurt by a surging U.S. dollar after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that the case for raising U.S. interest rates has strengthened in recent months. European stocks advanced, however, while oil … More »

  • 11 Turkish police killed in PKK suicide bombing
    11 Turkish police killed in PKK suicide bombing AFP News - 2 hours 39 minutes ago

    The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Friday claimed a suicide truck bombing on a police building in Turkey's southeast that killed 11 officers and wounded dozens more. The blast came two days after the Turkish army launched an offensive … More »

  • Stada shareholder AOC says wants board change not break up
    Stada shareholder AOC says wants board change not break up Reuters - 2 hours 46 minutes ago

    Stada shareholder Active Ownership Capital (AOC) is looking to replace most of the German drugmaker's supervisory board on Friday but has no desire to break up the 120-year-old company, one of its founding partners said. AOC wants to replace six of … More »

  • Upbeat Yellen sees markets stir, but Dow drifts
    Upbeat Yellen sees markets stir, but Dow drifts AFP News - 2 hours 58 minutes ago

    European stock markets stirred Friday at the end of a tranquil week as Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen indicated there was a case for raising US interest rates. Market watchers had been waiting for Yellen to show her hand in an address to an … More »

  • British economy escapes Brexit blow, for now
    British economy escapes Brexit blow, for now Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Britain's high streets are heaving with shoppers despite June's shock vote to leave the European Union, big companies have reported few signs of distress and some tabloid newspapers are even talking about a post-Brexit economic boom. The … More »

  • RUBBER-Tokyo futures prices after evening session Aug 26 Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Following are prices for Tokyo rubber futures at the end of the Tokyo market's evening session on Aug 2016. Contract Day Volume Evening Volume * Aug 154.1 13 153.9 3 * Sep 155.6 41 156.5 66 * Oct 151.8 ... … More »

  • TABLE-INDONESIA KPB NUSANTARA PALM OIL PRICES - Aug 26 Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Aug 26 (Reuters) - Following are Indonesian prices for crude palm oil (CPO) quoted at an auction by PT KPB Nusantara (formerly known as the state marketing centre) on Monday. Buyer Volume Price Terms (tonnes) ... … More »

  • Google hires Airbnb exec to commercialize self-driving cars Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Alphabet Inc's Google self-driving car project took a step closer to market with the hire of a top executive from Airbnb, the online vacation home rental marketplace. Shaun Stewart is joining Google as a director of the self-driving car project, … More »

  • Global Economy Weekahead - U.S. jobs data to test case for rate hike
    Global Economy Weekahead - U.S. jobs data to test case for rate hike Reuters - 3 hours ago

    U.S. jobs data top economic readouts from around the world next week as global markets begin to return to business as usual following a typically quiet August with the calm broken on Friday by comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. … More »

  • FTSE gains after Yellen comments, Glencore rallies
    FTSE gains after Yellen comments, Glencore rallies Reuters - 3 hours ago

    Britain's top share index rose on Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated that a U.S. interest rate rise could come later this year, a relief for investors after last week's hawkish comments from some Fed policymakers. The blue … More »

  • Tribe trucks totem pole 4,800 miles in fossil fuels protest
    Tribe trucks totem pole 4,800 miles in fossil fuels protest Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    A Pacific Northwest tribe is traveling nearly 5,000 miles across Canada and the United States with a 22-foot-tall totem pole on a flatbed truck in a symbolic journey meant to galvanize opposition to fossil ... … More »

  • AXA prevails after U.S. trial on excessive fund fees Reuters - 3 hours ago

    U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan in Trenton, New Jersey, said late Thursday that the investors did not show that AXA breached its fiduciary duties by keeping most fees charged for mutual fund investments and back-office duties, while remitting … More »

  • Markets Right Now: Stocks slip on Wall Street Associated Press - 3 hours ago

    The latest on developments in global financial markets (all times local): 11:55 a.m. Stocks were mostly lower on Wall Street at midday, giving up a modest gain following a generally upbeat assessment of ... … More »

  • Erdogan, Putin agree to step up aid for Syria's Aleppo
    Erdogan, Putin agree to step up aid for Syria's Aleppo AFP News - 3 hours ago

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday agreed to step up efforts to ensure humanitarian aid reaches citizens in Syria's conflict-torn northern Aleppo province. In telephone talks "the two leaders... … More »

 
Recent Quotes
Symbol Price Change % Chg 
Your most recently viewed tickers will automatically show up here if you type a ticker in the "Enter symbol/company" at the bottom of this module.
You need to enable your browser cookies to view your most recent quotes.
 
Sign-in to view quotes in your portfolios.

MARKET MOVERS

  • Most Actives
    Most Actives
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.129+0.001+0.78%
    N21.SI
    1.855-0.040-2.11%
    MC0.SI
    2.84+0.02+0.71%
    C52.SI
    4.22-0.05-1.17%
    Z74.SI
    0.58-0.01-1.69%
    5TP.SI
  • % Gainers
    % Gainers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.29+0.08+38.10%
    5VI.SI
    0.36+0.07+22.03%
    BPF.SI
    0.192+0.030+18.52%
    AYD.SI
    0.27+0.04+17.39%
    BLU.SI
    0.40+0.05+14.29%
    BFK.SI
  • % Losers
    % Losers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.205-0.055-21.15%
    BTJ.SI
    0.34-0.06-15.00%
    BCD.SI
    0.39-0.06-13.33%
    AYB.SI
    0.31-0.04-11.43%
    5VP.SI
    0.24-0.02-9.43%
    BAZ.SI

Market Data

  • Currencies
    Currencies
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1.3590+0.0059+0.44%
    USDSGD=X
    1.5214-0.0053-0.35%
    EURSGD=X
    1.7842-0.0001-0.01%
    GBPSGD=X
    74.8490+0.604+0.81%
    SGDJPY=X
    5.7052-0.023-0.40%
    SGDHKD=X
    2.9614-0.0026-0.09%
    SGDMYR=X
    9,749.3018-69.2832-0.71%
    SGDIDR=X
    4.9054-0.0149-0.30%
    SGDCNY=X
    1.0281-0.0025-0.24%
    AUDSGD=X
  • Commodities
    Commodities
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1,323.90-0.70-0.05%
    GCZ16.CMX
    18.60+0.11+0.60%
    SIU16.CMX
    95.91-0.60-0.62%
    ^XAU
    2.080.00+0.02%
    HGU16.CMX
    47.330.000.00%
    CLV16.NYM
  • Bonds
    Bonds
    TreasuryYield (%)Yield Change
    1.24+0.08
    ^FVX
    1.63+0.06
    ^TNX
    2.30+0.03
    ^TYX