February 27, 2013 12:21 PM
By Carmen Benitez, President/Managing Director of Fetch Plus
Singapore skyline at night
Imagine immersing yourself in startup land and working to shake up the world as we know it. Now, imagine this world being an island that measures in length a marathon in one direction by a half-marathon in the other.
That's essentially the size of Singapore, the city-state jewel of Southeast Asia, endearingly known to both Singaporeans and foreigners as the Little Red Dot- but in spirit and scope, Singapore is anything but little! With access to half the world's population within a 4.5 hour (or less) flight, not to mention a stable and proactive government that embraces innovation and diversity, Singapore is an ideal base to set up a startup.
Living and working in a major hub such as Singapore certainly forces one to think globally -- a skill all entrepreneurs must have in spades today. Establishing a startup's home base in the center of a big, bustling city might feel overwhelming at first, but there are many advantages -- namely, better business resources, unprecedented networking opportunities, fast transportation and easy access to both talent and investors.
Fetch Plus Inc., the company I founded, based in Singapore, helps major brands and media companies leverage social media to deliver tangible business results. Here's a sneak peek into my average day in Singapore (and in the air above it) -- and some advice for other founders who find themselves in similar geographic circumstances:
1. Go global; work virtual.
12:10 a.m.--I am disembarking from an eight-hour flight from Sydney and feeling the moist air of Singapore. I realize that in four hours, my daily Scrum with our product and tech teams will take place. As a startup founder, I've learned that dev teams appreciate either working from 10 p.m. through the night, or at the crack of dawn onwards. And since I travel extensively and take night flights as a rule of thumb, we adapted our "office" to be virtual and accommodate everyone's schedule.
While we have an office in Singapore for financial operations and board/ investor meetings, and satellite offices in Australia and the U.S., most of our teams work from home. This has improved productivity and reduced the HR headaches that pop up in regular office settings.2. Engage every department daily.
5 a.m.-7 a.m.--During our Scrum, we stop to discuss some work in progress tickets (WIP). Right after, I call my sales team in Australia and my accounts team in the U.S. to make sure that their start of day/end of day is progressing as it should.
As a founder, knowing how to engage in a variety of environments across as many fields as possible yields better outcomes for the company -- especially if you're working out of multiple countries, across different continents, like we do! Getting a strong handle on virtual chats like Google Hangouts helps --something I personally look forward to using.3. Soak up the culture--founders must learn to adapt to their surroundings.
7 a.m.-8:30 a.m.--This is my "me time" -- something that founders tend to forget. As a mother of three, with my youngest just seven months, having time to squarely focus on their needs is a must. Without fail, I go for my morning walk with my youngest in tow to go for a kopi-c (local coffee) and kaya toast at the oldest coffee stand on the island.
These local treats are great reminders how much ordinary practices like breakfast can vary across cultures. I learn and adopt new ways constantly -- a great trait to practice as a founder.
4. Partnerships are key in any zip code.
9:00 a.m.-6 p.m.--My day is jammed with what I like to call "customer time." This is the time I'm devoted to staying connected to current and future customers. Today, I am off to train the sales teams of SingTel, one of our major partners in Southeast Asia. Afterward, I squeeze in some conference calls. Then, I return to SingTel, as their team has invited me to participate as a speaker at one of their conferences for small and medium-size enterprises.
Setting up actionable partnerships for your startup has to be one of the most important things you do. The onus is always on the founder to drive the business, and that includes making partner relationships profitable.
5. Nurture your network while going green.
6:30 p.m.- 7 p.m.--Catching up with your network, especially when you live in Singapore, is a smart goal. Luckily, Singapore is brimming with plenty of businesspeople and great local cafes/eateries/tech hubspots to meet them in.
For time-strapped founders, it's important to be selective about who you catch for that quick coffee. Since I tend to be more on the strategy and product side, I enjoy meeting up with friends and mentors in that area.
Singapore has done an amazing job of keeping sidewalks green, building effective sub-walkways full of shops and cafes to connect major buildings underground. There's also an extensive public transit system with some of the timeliest trains and bus lines in any major city -- a fact that's allowed me to go auto-free for three years and counting!
6. Don't forget to rest!
7:00 p.m.-11 p.m.--Finally! My last bit of downtime, where I spend time with my family and take in the lights of the city before taking final conference calls and answering pre-sleep emails.
Being in such a vibrant place like Singapore, filled with so many moving parts, makes you realize that its size is an asset. It makes you think broadly and globally about the future -- yours and your company's.Carmen Benitez is the Founder of Fetch Plus Inc, a social media technology company that specializes in developing plug and play social media SaaS enterprise solutions for brand franchises and media companies worldwide. With offices in Singapore (global headquarters), the United States and Australia, Fetch Plus is the leader in helping major brands and media companies reach local customers through social media.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.