Last month, Penny’s Daybook featured a business savvy dudette with a knack for original creativity in craft work. This December, we move on to another inspiring entrepreneur who believes that if you’ve got a good idea, you can be one too. Our spotlight is on sharing that passion for entrepreneurship with others. Come sniff the trail with us as we speak to Ryan Lou, a man driven by ideas and the reality of “impossible is nothing”.
By Penny C
Inspiration and determination – we need both as we take the first step towards our journeys in achieving goals. Whether our aspirations lead us into starting businesses, creating a name for ourselves in various industries or even hoping to make it big in the entertainment industry, we’re pushing ourselves with the same objective in mind –becoming the best that we can ever be.
Ryan Lou is part of the team behind Budding CEOs, a web portal that brings together youths and first time entrepreneurs. Budding CEOs is set on inspiring spirited individuals to take the leap or lead entrepreneurial lives, no matter what industry they might be in.
This Christmas edition of our entrepreneur special, Ryan shares with us how his own entrepreneurial spirit urges him to encourage others to believe in themselves. Read on and realise that if we’re daring enough, we can really make things happen.
Hello Ryan! So first question: Which clear, or perhaps, unexpected path in life led you to what you’re doing now? What really made you ignite this business idea?
It probably started out after I spent a year in Silicon Valley in 2007 and had the opportunity to interact with famous entrepreneurs. The culture there is very unique in that CEOs of big companies are more than willing to talk to you and share their experience. Some of them even feel that while they are mentoring you, they are at the same time, also learning something from you.
Budding CEOs was a by-product of that inspiration. We’re building a platform that would allow some of these synergies and spirit of sharing to be captured in an online eco-system. The idea of the platform is to allow users to develop entrepreneurial skills that would help them excel in creative or innovation teams in their workplace or in their own start-up / businesses.
New businesses are coming up on and offline, comment on this trend and what do you think differentiates a good one from a successful one?
I think it’s a good trend. When the economy is not doing too well, new businesses that are more nimble tend to surface and take off.
The other trend I would be happier to see is that the start-up culture gets more noticed in mainstream media (which is why I really appreciate the opportunity to do this interview with Penny).
I think the key to building a successful business is really to think big. This is especially important in Singapore, with its small market size. To me, thinking big involves picking a market that has huge growth potential, picking an idea that is scalable and setting yourself up mentally to see your business grow. For many new businesses in Singapore, this will require a more international outlook or at least a plan for expanding outside of the country.
Many people talk about goal setting and envisioning success. I’m a believer in that. I think it’s very important to think about what success would look like to you, everything from what your lifestyle would be like then, how you would pay it forward and who you’ll want with you to share in your success.
How would you encourage/inspire individuals who want to pursue their ambitions of owning a business, or just pursing unconventional interests?
I would quote Richard Branson’s book title “Screw it, Let’s do it”. Society has a unique way of putting obstacles in the way of people who try to do things differently. The late Randy Pausch, Carnegie Melon professor who literally delivered ‘The last lecture’ says obstacles are there for you to see how much you really want it.
Considering the sacrifice, adversity and self-doubt that you will face as you take the path less travelled, it’s really important to make sure that your pursuits are something you find worth doing. When you find a calling that’s right for you and you really put your heart into it, then I think nothing can stop you, even if it might take a while to get there.
How do you overcome obstacles and prove naysayers wrong?
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” Thomas Alva Edison”. I quote Thomas Edison and the importance of not giving up despite adversity.
Negative comments can be helpful feedback though. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. They can be a source of fuel to keep you going and they help remind you that the path forward is not going to be easy.
While people can question your dream, you should not let it affect you. If ever you feel that the path forward is too overwhelming, just take that one next step forward. Sometimes, overcoming obstacles is just as simple as doing what you have to do that very day.
Of course it is also important not to give way to self-doubt. I would say, surround yourself with people that are also doing something similar to you, people who are pushing the envelope of what they’re doing. Also, make sure you have people that are supportive of you no matter what.
These are the people that may not be in the same situation as you, but are eager to see you successful. These are really the people you want standing beside you when you’ve achieved success.
Before building Budding CEOs, how different were your personal goals as compared to now?
I think my personal goals were always the same, start businesses. Budding CEOs is another foray into achieving that goal. I guess I was really bitten by the start-up bug and will be more than happy to be doing this for a while.
That aside, taking the path less travelled also comes with its sacrifices, it has made me accept that some of the other personal goals will have to wait. That’s a hint to the single ladies out there :)
What’ the best and worst thing about doing what you’re doing now?
Right now, we’re mainly operating out of the home. We’re currently still self-funding the business which requires us to keep our overhead low. That’s probably both the best and worst thing. It makes work convenient, especially when you can be comfortable as you put in the long hours. The downside is that you have to constantly remain disciplined especially with all the distractions available.
What inspires you?
I read a lot and am always inspired by people who challenge themselves to be the best at what they do, not just in business. I was recently inspired watching Singapore Idol. Both Tabitha Nauser and Sylvia Ratonel were quite an inspiration, their determination and talent are there for everyone to see. I’m hoping for a first female Singapore Idol.
Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?
Yup, I’m in a unique position where because I’m focused on web technologies, we can very quickly act on and implement an idea and cross our fingers that it’ll take off. The other project I’m working on now with my co-founder, is a web-based software to allow users to build professional looking websites without programming knowledge. Our goal is to make web design even easier than it currently is.
What’s one thing we should know about you?
I like to wow people :)
Your site brings together entrepreneurs and stories of perseverance and passion. So what’s yours?
I would relate entrepreneurship to a roller-coaster ride. When you just start and you get that eureka moment, you start out on a high. You’re eager to tell everyone you know about the idea, it helps you develop the idea each time you talk about it but you sometimes get feedback from people that make you question yourself. After a certain amount of time, that early adrenaline boost wears out, and if you’re still around then, I think that’s quite a story of perseverance. I’m glad to be there.
I would share another story though. It’s more a dream shared by myself and some of my start-up buddies. We believe it’s time that a Singaporean start-up really takes the world by storm and put Singapore on the start-up map in the world. It doesn’t necessarily have to be our own companies, even though we really hope it would be, but we really think Singapore’s due a great start-up story.
What’s one experience that has touched you the most in your line of work since Budding CEOs?
I remember sharing the basic idea of Budding CEOs with someone and on hearing the idea, they remembered a friend in Vietnam who is very interested in entrepreneurship but did not have as much access to it in their home country. They suggested that through our platform, these people will be able to get involved in the community and maybe develop an opportunity to work for a prominent start-up outside of their country.
I’ve been telling that story every since to illustrate the kinds of opportunities that we hope our users will have access to when we launch the platform in 2010.
What’s your best memory of 2009?
Probably making the decision to start Budding CEOs, it was a decision that has re-energised me and put back a lot of zest in life.
What’s your Christmas wish and how do you intend to celebrate Christmas this year?
This entire Christmas is about meeting old friends and getting a good rest before we really get the engine started all over again. I think it will be sort of like the ‘calm before the storm’.
My Christmas wish… How about a few
1. Budding CEOs launches with a bang!
2. The first female Singapore Idol (Slyvia Ratonel)
3. Get featured on Penny’s Daybook (haha)
What are you looking forward to in 2010 (personally and also for Budding CEOs)?
2010 is shaping up to be a much more productive year for me. We’re looking to launch the main product for two ideas that my co-founder and I are working on. When we get Budding CEOs up, I think a lot of opportunities will open up for start-ups and our users.
Describe to us a day at work for Ryan Lou.
The great thing is that most of each day is a surprise. I still do try to devote my time to tasks that matter most that day. My secret to staying productive… Keeping the television on in the background, it keeps me seated at my chair.
What’s in your mixtape?
Heh… Performances from Tabitha Nauser and Slyvia Ratonel from Singapore Idol (Seriously!), besides those I listen to all sorts of music, these days I’ve been listening to movie scores like the one from the movie “The Holiday”.
A little something special from Ryan!