Young and courageous

They are young and they have gumption. Aaron Corbett talks to four NTU graduates who quit stable jobs to enter the heady world of start-ups

Ted will save you energy

Ted Chen is the CEO of EverComm, and at 25, also the youngest in his company, which helps large firms pinpoint energy wastage.
Uses data analytics to identify cost savings for companies with hefty energy bills
Founded: 2014
Founder and CEO: Ted Chen (School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Class of 2012)
Business locations: Singapore and Taiwan
No. of employees: 7
Spot opportunities

“As an undergrad, I studied power systems and renewable energy. After graduating in 2012, I worked as a researcher at NTU for a year. The idea for EverComm came from the data I collected at work. Studying the data, I noticed inefficiencies in energy usage and began talking to energy experts to find out more.”

Think big

“Wanting to commercialise EverComm, I left my job as a researcher and secured seed funding from an angel investor to start the company. From there, the business grew to the point where we could demonstrate to government agencies that we had potential. Last August, we secured a $500,000 grant. We also have Fortune 500 clients in Singapore and Taiwan, and we’re exploring opportunities in Thailand and the US.”

Get a good mentor

“One of my mentors is Assoc Prof Gan Woon Seng from NTU, who taught me the basics of data analytics when I was an undergrad. He also hired me as a researcher when I graduated. We clicked because we’re both big on commercialising ideas. I also get a lot of advice and help from NTUitive, which is NTU’s innovation and enterprise wing, and a minority shareholder in EverComm. When I was a student, they also sponsored my trip to Stanford University for a business competition.”

Hack it at hackathons

“I spent so much time at the hackathons organised by NTUitive that they gave me a desk there (laughs). These events, as well as business plan competitions, were how most of us got involved in the start-up scene, but my grades suffered. Thankfully, I did very well in the minor in entrepreneurship, which pulled my grades up, and I’ve just completed a Master’s degree in technopreneurship at NTU.”

Young gun with a big job

“In our Singapore office, we have seven people. I’m the youngest. When I started the company, I didn’t worry about cash flow. But when I began hiring people, I realised that families were dependent on the monthly salaries I was paying. They have bills and mortgages to settle, and some of them in their 40s and 50s have kids. It’s a big responsibility, so managing cash flow is a priority.”

Focus on the business, not the product

“When you start a business, your default mode is ‘fail’. Your challenge is to put in place a plan to change that mode to ‘success’ in the shortest time possible. If you just focus on developing a product, your failure rate is going to be high. What I like about entrepreneurship is that you have to look at all aspects of a business.”

No complaints

“When I was a researcher, I had to do some things I didn’t particularly enjoy, like writing papers. Now that I’m running my own company, I can focus on things I like to do, like networking and speaking to customers. At meet-ups with my former university mates, they often complain about work – I don’t have that issue.”

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Photos: Dios Vincoy JR