He’s building from Singapore for the World

Steve Leonard is the Founding CEO of SGInnovate, a revolutionary effort by the Singapore government to prove, launch and scale deep technology companies backed by scientific research. With over twenty-five years of global experience working for top technology companies and Government bodies in various leadership roles, he has committed himself to the mission of supporting the most ambitious and capable individuals commercialise their expertise.

In just fifteen months since its launch, SGInnovate has become a household name in Singapore’s tech ecosystem through its multifarious portfolio of companies and immensely popular events in blockchain, healthcare, big data to name a few. In this  conversation, he reveals his thoughts on tech entrepreneurship in Singapore, how he handles the inevitable obstacles that come his way, and why mindset is the most important enabler of innovation.

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Not Your Average 24-Year-Old

Looi Qin En is unusual, to say the least. He doesn’t just think out-of-the-box, he refuses to acknowledge the existence of a box.

When in school, he worked with Singapore’s premier research organisation, A*STAR, to publish 13 papers on human-computer interaction. Shortly after, he was offered a place at Stanford with a full scholarship. He would begin in two years’ time, after completing his National Service (NS). But with Qin En, norms, rules and conventions often get thrown out of the window. By the end of two years, he had built a company called Glints, and was well on his way to raising half a million dollars in seed.

He still went to Stanford, only to return 6 months later. He would focus on running Glints full-time. Stanford could wait. It turned out to be a decision he wouldn’t regret. Glints went on to become a massively successful career discovery and recruitment platform that helped more than 250,000 youths across South East Asia find internships and graduate job opportunities from over 10,000 companies. This year, he also featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia.

In October this year, he stepped down from his role as COO at Glints. He now plans to complete his degree at Stanford come January 2018. But classic Qin En, he couldn’t not do something in the meantime. So he joined a pre-seed startup accelerator in Singapore called Entrepreneur First (EF). This was around the same time that I joined EF too, and that’s how we met.

I don’t write about everyone I work with. But Qin En intrigued me. He’s extremely smart, hacky, and tremendously competitive. And yet, he’s also immensely supportive and insightful. Despite his gargantuan success, he’s unexpectedly modest. Heck, he even has a killer sense of humour.

So Qin En, as you leave EF, this interview is my parting tribute to you.

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The Future of Restaurant Cooking and On-Demand Food Delivery Services

Yesterday, my friends came over for dinner. Uninspired to cook and unexcited to go out, we decided to order in from UberEats. We sipped on Pinot Noir and munched on Pringles, waiting eagerly for Naan and Chicken Tikka Masala from this new restaurant called Chulha Chaunka.

We waited for an hour and a half, till we received a notification that our order had been canceled. I called the restaurant, they said the delivery boy had left ages ago and they knew nothing of it. Then I called the UberEats helpline. They found out that the delivery boy had a flat tyre on the way and had to cancel the order as a result. Rest assured, your credit card shall not be charged; the service operator told me.

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Artificial Intelligence to Interview Candidates

impress.ai is a deep technology startup founded by Sudhanshu Ahuja (CEO), Vaisagh Viswanathan (CTO) and Amrith Dhananjayan (COO). The idea is to provide recruiters with an AI-powered platform to help evaluate candidates. The result? A ten-fold improvement in hiring time and efficiency. Currently, the service is offered to enterprises, startups and individual recruiters who can use it to build a customised chatbot-based job application. The embedded machine learning algorithms adapt to the organizations’ preferences over time, thereby simplifying their work. Started only in late 2016, Impress has already managed to secure an undisclosed amount of funding from the Javelin Startup-O Victory Fund to develop their virtual HR assistant further.

In this interview, Vaisagh talks about the inception of and technology behind impress.ai, what it means to be a tech entrepreneur, and more. Here is an excerpt from our conversation. Served with a shot of Espresso, of course!

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