HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY

Balvinder Singh, managing director of Tootpay Sdn Bhd, had the golden opportunity to present his ideas to investors and delegates at Echelon 2014 in Singapore after coming out tops at the Malaysian satellite event.

Balvinder didn’t falter when judges started asking him really difficult questions about his solution which aims to bring mobile banking to a larger community of users, especially those without smart devices.

He shares his experience with Rockin’ Cradle. 

1. What was the experience like?

Balvinder: It was totally awesome. Just nine months ago, we were not even into “pitching to investor” mode. We had been doing typical presentations to potential clients. The whole journey itself had been very educational and had profound positive change in our outlook.

2. What did you hope to gain from Echelon?

Balvinder: We went in with the aim to introduce our solution to as many people as possible – investors, resellers, technology partners, bankers, etc – and we got an overwhelming response.

We managed to generate leads from various levels of people and from various countries. The two days at Echelon had given us more traction than the previous three conferences we attended. The quality and variety of people who approached us was phenomenal.

3. You went on stage to present to potential investors. Tell us about your experience?

Balvinder: Truthfully, I was very nervous. It was not only because I was facing potential investors, but also more than 1,200 people (that’s 2,400 eyes)! All our anxiety somewhat disappeared thanks to the professionalism of the organisers. For anyone who wants to experience what we just experienced, JUST DO IT! We have very limited platforms of this sort in this region. If the opportunity comes, just grab it!

4. How did you feel when the investors started to question you and when you weren’t selected for any of the awards?

Balvinder: I believe in being ethical and that includes to never tell lies. Lying is simply wrong! Also common sense tells us that you take up more energy when you lie because when you do, you need to keep track of what you’ve said.

When the investors asked me a specific question, I could have lied and probably won an award but I believe it is important for startups to never lie or take advantage of their assumed lack of knowledge in a certain field.

Because I didn’t try to cover up anything, I had a small “debate” with one of the judges. That probably cost me the award. But on the plus side, investors respected my honesty and understood my shortcomings as a human being. The bottom line is that we came to expand our network and we achieved just that.

5. What were the three lessons you learned from Echelon and how will you use these lessons to bring your business forward?

Balvinder: Some of the lessons I learned:

1. Ignore titles and salutation. Pompousness is the enemy of the start-up community. If you want to succeed as a start-up, ignore people’s titles and salutations, accept people as they are, and treat everyone with respect and kindness.

2. The essence of our solution is making “meaning”. We do know that we are in the business to make money, but we are also equally excited that our solution can have a profound impact in people especially in the developing nations. Our solution is not something nice to have but an essential tool to enable people to be part of financial inclusion. Financial inclusion not only benefits the poor financially but also health wise. The more we spoke with people from other parts of the world who attended Echelon, the more convinced we are with regards to our social responsibility.

3. Finding the surest and fastest method to reach the goal. During the ongoing discussions with people who approached us, we have been lucky to get advice and insight from other participants. Such advice enabled us to review and change our approach in raising funds and we’ve also made changes to our investor decks.

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LIFE LONG LEARNING

Co-founder and CEO of Easyuni Sdn Bhd, Edwin Tay had the opportunity to rub shoulders with investors and delegates at Echelon 2014 in Singapore. Many came by his booth to learn more about higher-education search portal, Easyuni. Edwin speaks about his experience of exhibiting in one of the biggest start-up conferences in the Asia Pacific region.

1. What was the experience like?

Edwin:  Echelon KL and Singapore was excellent. Especially Singapore as it was the grand finale for their Asia tour. The number and quality of people attending was good (to a point that it was over-crowded). We met a few venture capitalists (VCs) and entrepreneurs from around the region. We also met up with a few old friends and a number of new potential partners too. Overall, it was a highly successful trip for us as we managed to further promote our brand and fly the Malaysian flag there. Furthermore, we achieved our mission to see relevant VCs and secure a few new partnerships.

2. What did you hope to gain from Echelon and did you gain it?

Edwin:  We took part in Echelon in the first place because we saw it as a good platform to showcase our brand regionally. We certainly managed to do that (being selected as one of the Top 62). We also took part because we knew VCs from around the region would typically be at these events in their search for quality companies to invest in. We met quite a number of VCs there and our experience with them was good. Had a lot of insights and some of them even discussed with us on our business moving forward. Hence, it was definitely worth our time, effort and money.

3. You had a booth at Echelon. Tell us about your experience? Were there a lot of people curious about EasyUni and did you get any constructive comments from the public? Can you share them with us?

Edwin: Yes. With our booth, we had the platform to showcase our brand and our services more effectively to the attendees. We had a fair share of traffic coming to our booth. It was a mixed crowd of VCs, potential partners, fellow exhibitors, media and students. Because our standee was quite descriptive, visitors typically already had an inkling of what we do. Hence the discussion was more towards where are the areas of co-operation, finer details about our business, sharing of experience and the likes. Yes, a number of bright ideas were pitched to us too and we gladly took them (into consideration).

4. Did you meet any investors that can bring your business forward? Were there any other solutions that you think might compliment EasyUni? How do you see yourself working together?

Edwin:  We met more than 10 potential investors during the event and they all are in a good position to bring our business forward. There were also other exhibitors that have the technology that could complement our services and we are currently in discussions to identify opportunities for collaboration.

5. How do you think you might have impressed investors at Echelon? 

Edwin: Investors I met at the event were impressed with our traction and growth rate. They were also happy with our business model and saw the growth potential moving forward. A few did not proceed due to reasons such as we are too mature or too small for their portfolio mandate. Some did not proceed for reasons of their own but we made sure we handled all discussions and negotiations professionally.

6. What were three lessons you learned from Echelon and how will you use these lessons to bring your business forward?

Edwin: The main three lessons are
1. Echelon is a great place to look for investors. Any aspiring technology entrepreneur should consider it.
2.It’s also a great place to make new contacts and there are a lot of media personnel around too.
3.  Quality of talks in Echelon is good. There is no harm investing in extra tickets to bring your key management team along.