What should have been an opportunity to grow my career and enjoy my new city, quickly unravelled when I arrived at an apartment with no running water, heat or Internet.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I founded Topia after I witnessed an emerging class of globally mobile talent while working around the world as an investment banker. The catalyst was that I had a challenging experience moving from Asia to London to start my MBA program at London Business School. What should have been an opportunity to grow my career and enjoy my new city quickly unravelled when I arrived to an apartment with no running water, heat or Internet. I had moved regularly during the prior years working in finance throughout Asia, and each time it was cumbersome and frustrating. So when I started my MBA at London Business School I put the idea together for what it is now Topia. The idea has since evolved to be the first platform that brings together relocation, immigration and tax for companies to manage all types of mobile employees and individuals to engage and plan while mobile. This covers relocations, expatriates, business travellers, foreign nationals on visas and much more!
It’s often said that new ideas come from things that frustrate us. Other than the ‘frustration’ that your company solves, can you name something that frustrates you right now?
One of the most frustrating areas of my personal and professional life is the global banking system. I believe this area is in line for significant disruption in coming years. It is still far too difficult and far too expensive to make international payments and to hold funds in different currencies. There are a number of exciting companies making great strides to solve parts of the banking ecosystem, but I look forward to the day when they are all integrated into one seamless global banking solution on top of the blockchain.
What’s the best advice you have for entrepreneurs looking to raise money?
When raising venture capital funding, it is important to have a “change the world vision,” deep understanding of your market and demonstrable traction in your early business. You should prepare to answer many questions from many people on your traction, team, business model, market and value proposition. The more prepared you and your business are, the more pleasant the process is! I also advise entrepreneurs to always invest the time to learn about raising capital before they start. There are many resources on venture capital and fundraising — from books to blogs to networking events — that will help you become an expert in fundraising. Not only will this make you more credible with investors, you will feel a lot more confident going into meetings when you fully understand the landscape.
What have you learned in your career that you wished you’d known when you were starting out?
The most important thing that I have learned at Topia is how to build a great team and culture. I am exceptionally proud of the team that we have built – one with A+ players with diverse nationalities, skill sets and personalities, living our brand, or eating our dog food per se, of a globally mobile and diverse world!
What’s your favourite spot to relax, reflect and work stuff out?
My favourite spot to think is during long runs! It often takes me until around mile 5 to work through problems and start thinking clearly. I was never a runner before starting Topia, but now I run marathons, and this is my greatest form of regeneration and clarity of thought….and my greatest CEO advice!