Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Driving Mr. Lee

Adrian Lee Chee Full and Paul Tan Wen Jie are the founders of These local boys graduated from SoC with degrees in Computer Engineering (Adrian) and Information Systems (Paul) about three and a half years ago. When asked about their worst experience with public transportation, they chose the feather-ruffle-less route of declining to respond. Because Paul was too busy, in this interview, we get to hear from the one half of the team who enjoys climbing and crawling around the top of buildings, and reading anything that the web throws at him.

Adrian (left) & Paul at their office in the SoC Incubation Centre

What do you do now? 
Paul is the Co-founder (Technical Development) and I am the Co-founder (Business Development). The nature of the start-up requires us to don multiple job hats so there are non-obvious responsibilities too. Paul is also our HR manager, CFO, Accountant, and De-bugger, and I am our PR, SysAdmin, Intern Herder and ‘Bugger’. 
What we found to be really useful for job segregation was to divide tasks into internal and external affairs. He would do the 'internal' and I would do the 'external'.

What inspired you to do this?
We wanted to start a car rental business ourselves. Once we sat down to do the numbers, we realised that we just don’t have enough capital to start one. Instead, we decided to put our tech skills to good use and help 'improve' the car rental industry in Singapore. Why? Back when we started, Google and Facebook were common online services that everyone used. Yet, for car rentals, consumers had to look up Yellow Pages and Newspapers. That is when we thought it would be a good idea to aggregate all these car rental businesses and put them online. 
Two years plus down the road, we have some kind of a solution to fix that (above), so we are dedicating our effort to look at improving land transport in the region. For example, we think it is ridiculous how transport is done in Singapore. If you needed to get from A to B, you would either take public transport or buy a car. Why don't more people consider car rental, car sharing or car leasing? Our goal is to improve that situation. 
A little part of us is still amazed how two guys can have a tiny impact on the lives of others and that pushes us work hard. The world is changing every moment. Housing, finance, jobs, are being redefined in ways we never thought possible. It is amazing how the last decade was all about having "information right at our fingertips" and now, the new era of democratized business is upon us. Today is the world where business is done at the “you-and-I” level instead of big giant faceless businesses. Think Kickstarter for small-business-world-customers, think AirBnB for short-term stay, think Kiva for micro-loans, think Task Rabbit for freelancing. 
While we are not comparing ourselves to the [aforementioned] greats, we believe we can help the land transport scene to really catch up to the information era and change how people think of land transport locally and regionally.

Describe your SoC experience.
Filled with happy memories of a lot of talking and laughing with friends (with the occasion swears at the computer screen). Without a doubt, we had the best time being part of the Computing Club. Paul was the EVP and I was the club President. The committee was made up of by some of the best individuals that we had ever worked with. The work was it owns reward. [However,] in my opinion, it was really tough to prove to the student body that the Computing Club cared for them and acted in their best interest. I guess over time, by reaching out to one student at a time, that opinion changed slightly for the better.
[The staff and faculty members that made the biggest impressions on me were] Ms. Toh [Mui Kiat] and Prof. Khoo (then Vice-Dean for Undergraduates). Add the number of work hours both Paul and I put into our start-up every month and we can't even match half of what they put in for the students in one week. That is genuine care for student and love of work, right there.
If only students think of NUS as less of a certification centre and more of a place for limitless opportunities. Love chess? There is a group for them. Love religion talk? There is a group for that. Love origami? I am sure there is a group for that. Want to represent NUS in some competition in Oslo? I am sure that is happening sometime this year.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
Being an introvert, I hate crowds and I must present with 101% confidence to large audiences all the time. Boo.

Quick-fire! Worst movie you’ve seen this year?
It is a toss-up between Non-Stop with star Liam Neeson or Robocop by the new guy Joel Kinnaman. The first movie is predictable and the genre is overdone. The second movie just killed Robocop for me because it is supposed to be R not PG13. The rating change meant removing the darker side of the show and that stinks.

Most interesting use of or development in technology this year?
I am inclined to say Bitcoin or Wearable Tech or IoT but that is so predictable. Instead, I will go with the increased reach of Internet with the commoditisation of cheap Android boxes. It is amazing that everyone can pick up some cheap tablet and start to access the Internet (+Apps). All ages, all income categories, all regions, all demographics can now have instant access to knowledge!

Best design?
I am going to say Singapore. Extremely well thought through but so very tiny...

Three ultimate dinner party guests?
Adrian: Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Sim Wong Hoo (I would say it is a toss-up between Mr. Sim and Elon Musk for the third choice).

Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email

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