Overcoming gender gap: Singaporean female entrepreneurs pummel their way through the ceiling
Did you know that the founders based in Singapore are the youngest in the world according to the 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem Report? With the Government of Singapore taking active steps to promote entrepreneurship, there exists a thriving ecosystem for aspiring entrepreneurs to flourish in. Against the global average of 16 percent, if one looks at the founders’ demography in Singapore, 12 percent of them are women.
In July, Dell released the 2017 Women Entrepreneur Cities Index (WE Cities) report, which lists the top 25 global cities fostering High-Potential Women Entrepreneurs (HPWEs). On this list, Singapore stands at the eighth rank for supporting HPWEs and is the eighth best city globally for women.
We look at some of the women entrepreneurs who have been thriving in the country for a long time and have made a name for themselves and their business, others who are a few years old in business but are nevertheless doing great work, and last but not least, founders of young businesses who are rapidly gaining a foothold into the startup scene.
Ayesha Khanna, ADDO AI
A Harvard University graduate, Ayesha Khanna is the CEO and Co-Founder of ADDO AI, a data science and artificial intelligence consultancy firm. An expert on smart-city product development and innovation, she has also authored a book, Straight Through Processing. Headquartered in Singapore, ADDO AI also has an office in Berlin. Ayesha splits her time between Singapore and Berlin and is an advisor to two startups, Octa (a chatbot for young travellers) and Arro (a delivery bot for sports).
An active philanthropist, Ayesha’s charity venture 21C GIRLS supports and encourages young girls in Singapore to take up coding.
Cynthia Siantar, Call Levels
Call Levels, a financial asset tracking tool was co-founded in 2014 by the 30-year-old Cynthia Siantar. Featured on the Forbes 30-under-30 Asia list in 2016 in the finance category, Cynthia has numerous awards to her name.
Cynthia, who spent four years in investment banking in Hong Kong and Singapore, in an interview shares how she decided to move out of her comfort zone when she realised that she could not be an investment banker for the next decade or so. “I chose to leave my then ‘comfort zone’ and jolt myself into re-discovering what really motivated me,” she told LadyBoss.
Elim Chew, FastFast
Serial entrepreneur Elim Chew established herself with the local street fashion apparel chain 77th Street which shut operations after 28 years. Elim has a YouTube channel and has also invested in a few restaurants. Her latest venture is FastFast, a courier delivery startup which she started in August 2015.
Gillian Tee, Homage
Gillian Tee gave up her career in Silicon Valley to set up Homage, a venture which provides home-care solutions for senior citizens, in 2016. Earlier this year it closed $1.2 million in a seed round from 500 Startups’ Southeast Asia Fund, Golden Gate Ventures, and SeedPlus, a fund affiliated with Jungle Ventures.
While in Silicon Valley, among other things, she co-founded Rocketrip (a startup aimed at reducing travel costs) which raised US $18 million in funding. She eventually gave it up to settle in Singapore and work towards setting up Homage.
Krystal Choo, Wander
Krystal is the CEO and Founder of Wander. This tech woman has won a host of awards and recognition and was on CMO Asia’s Top 50 Women Leaders List last year. Started in September 2016, Wander is a community messaging app for like-minded people to find fellow travellers. In an interview to YourStory, she spoke about how persistence is key to success. “Entrepreneurship is an industry of romantics – we all believe in an idea that is somehow better than the status quo – and usually the only differentiator between the dreamers and the doers is persistence,” said Krystal.
Lyn Lee, Awfully Chocolate
During the Asian financial crisis, Lyn quit her career as a lawyer to start Awfully Chocolate, a cake shop which is now a pan-Asia franchise. Talking about her early days with Awfully Chocolate, Lyn said that apart from her family, not many believed her venture would survive. “‘Doomed to fail,’ that’s what everyone said. They gave us three months and they said ‘you’ll be finished’,” she told BBC in a 2010 interview. Two decades later, Awfully Chocolate operates chain stores in 10 different locations.
Nalinee Chinowuthichai, InvoiceInterchange
Nalinee is the Co-Founder of InvoiceInterchange, an online financial solutions provider which helps businesses grow. Nalinee previously worked with RBS Bank and HSBC before she branched out to start InvoiceInterchange in 2015.
Nicki Ramsey, CardUp
Nicki is the CEO and Founder of CardUp, a fintech company which is changing the way people make and manage payments. Launched in late 2015, Cardup was recently selected for Mastercard Start Path 2017. Nicki has previously worked with American Express and Deloitte.
Roshni Mahtani, Tickled Media
Roshni Mahtani grew up in an affluent family in Singapore. Her father was a businessman, but when the family got hit by the Asian financial crisis, she went to work at the age of 15. She is the Founder and CEO of Tickled Media, a digital platform for content on parenting. She is also an angel investor and has invested in a few more startups.
Violet Lim, Lunch Actually
Started 13 years ago in Singapore, Lunch Actually is a dating service for professional singles. Today it is also present in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Jakarta. Violet, the CEO and Co-Founder, started the company with her now-husband Jamie Lee. This month Violet and Jamie launched Viola.AI which uses AI and blockchain technology to develop a lifelong relationship advisor named Viola.
Val Ji-hsuan Yap, PolicyPal
Started in 2016 by Val, PolicyPal leverages AI to allow customers to buy, manage, and optimise their insurance. Val was featured this year on the Forbes 30-under-30 Asia list for Finance and Venture Capital. Val has previously worked with PwC as a Risk Assurance Consultant in London where she also completed her higher education. She has also worked as Assistant Vice-President at OCBC Bank in Singapore.
Do you know any other women from Singapore who should be on this list? Share your responses in the comments section.