An interview with Cherie Tan, founder of Mogul Tech International from Singapore
BEAM 7 Feb, 2018
A young entrepreneur who started out her journey during her student days, Cherie's passion for design and programming eventually led her to offering freelance services and starting out her very own company.
Today, Mogul Tech International provides a broad array of services ranging from UIUX, Web, and Mobile Design as well as Marketing and Branding services in Singapore.
Below is our interview with Cherie:
1) How did you get started? What was the primary driver for starting your whole venture?
Starting a venture - or being an entrepreneur - wasn’t something that I’ve always wanted to try or do. It’s something that is innately who I am. It’s what makes me happy, and it’s what I will do for the rest of my life.
Ever since I could remember, I’ve always wanted to build a team of different talents from all around the world. It began with freelancing as a web designer in my teenage years.
Being born and raised in Singapore, and having gone through the public education system, I knew I wanted to be, and could be, something different.
A lot of my time outside school (and I’m known for skipping classes) was spent on my computer, either working on a new design on Photoshop, or coding a webpage with some new frontend design skills I learned in the past week. I share my work online - mostly through Neopets (virtual pet site) and DeviantArt. This gave me a great opportunity to be visible within the design and development community.
Getting to know so many other designers and developers who I could connect with through emails and IM, I was thrilled to see the work and talent of people displayed all across the web. Being able to sell my web design and development services also pushed me in the direction of entrepreneurship and helped me understand very early on that I had to, and want to be, financially independent.
In college, the number of project requests I was receiving became overwhelming. I formed a team of freelancers from around the world that I’ve built relationships with over the years, and began managing projects and clients, building design and software solutions for local and international clients. About a year into this, I incorporated the company.
Today, I run a UI/UX design, branding and marketing business with remote team members all over the world. Mogul Tech International embodies the spirit and culture that I’ve learned to value and embrace while I was freelancing design projects with a team.
While I’m not working on my business, I’m busy juggling a series of small projects that include building an edtech product, writing a fiction book with my best friend, and getting involved in the global startup scene by helping entrepreneurs get started on their journey.
2) You have been heavily involved in designing and marketing solutions for 9 years, how much has the industry evolved since the time you started?
Web design and marketing has changed immensely since I first started about 9 years ago. New technologies replace the old, and design trends come and go.
Overall, the industry has certainly reached a stage of maturity and saturation of “good” designers. Having worked with several startups, I’ve met a great deal of “good” designers who could easily roll out a decent looking application design with the best and most recent UIUX practices.
However, to find a designer and developer who stands out is increasingly harder to find. This person is someone I’d call a talent: someone who goes far beyond the practical design know-how’s, who is insightful, places creativity and practicality at the forefront, and whose work ethics are impeccable.
3) You have been traveling around many countries around the world, what are the differences in terms of entrepreneurial culture between other parts of the world and SEA?
The entrepreneurial culture is defined as the collective manifestation of the go-getter attitude. In this sense, it does not differ much from other parts of the world and SEA.
Many brilliant and talented individuals around the globe share this trait, and serves as a common, mutual ground between SEA and other parts of the world.
However, within this culture - and I’ve noticed this in just about any entrepreneur community any where around the world - you find people who have very different definitions of what it means to be an entrepreneur and what it’s like to be one.
4) What are some of the biggest obstacles you face in running a business like yours?
Communication within the team.
A cultural fit is not something that I look for in a team member. I highly appreciate differing views and opinions that more often than not brought us to coming up with better solutions.
However, ensuring that our remote team is constantly communicating openly and honestly is difficult. The more important issue that stems from this cause is that private conversations and DMs between team members can often escalate into larger problems that normally go unseen and unheard until it finally blows. In order to overcome this challenge, people who manage remote teams have to have the essential skill of being able to read between the lines exceptionally well.
Video calls and off-the-record talks are highly encouraged, as messages relayed through text can be misinterpreted as being offensive, aloof, etc.
5) You have started your entrepreneurship journey at very young age, are there any challenges faced as a young entrepreneur?
Absolutely. An atrocious amount.
From people who don’t take you seriously, to people who make it their primary motive to discourage you from your work just because you’re younger and “more successful at business”, I’ve met them all.
The biggest challenge as a young entrepreneur is to know very clearly what your goals are and work towards it with steely determination.
Often, we find ourselves distracted by the 999 other ideas we have. True innovation and real work only happens when you focus on `1, a belief that I’ve come to share with the late Steve Jobs.
6) What are your tips for newer founder/startups that are starting out?
Never be complacent or ignorant - not for a week, not for a day, not for an hour - no matter how big that safety net is.
If you can live on cereal for two weeks and still remain optimistic because you working towards a bigger purpose and goal, then start your company.
7) What is your plan to grow Mogul Tech International in 2018?
We’re currently building our team in China and Hong Kong to offer marketing services for small and enterprise companies who are interested in doing business in China.
8) What is the best piece of advice you can give entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Read biographies, read history, read historical speeches that changed the world. Keep self-help books to the minimum.
Unless you’re working towards being / are already a social media influencer, ignore vanity metrics on social media.
If you spend more than an hour each day responding to comments on social media (Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), this attention on social media is highly distracting.
Why on earth would a CTO have time to make one long emotional post on LinkedIn every single day? Even if the person posting this on his LinkedIn feed is his personal assistant, what kind of message does this send across to people who are serious about their work and purpose?
Focus on doing good for the world - not for vanity sake. Don’t start working on your startup idea or business idea because its exciting. Start because you are willing to sacrifice your life for the greater good by spending most of your life working towards it.
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