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03Aug 2013

It was a heated topic of discussion in Mar 2013, where an article called “i.JAM revamp?…” from SG Entrepreneurs summed up the articles written “i.JAM needs to be sweeter” by Murli Ravi and another by Jeffrey Paine of which I had no ability to read due to a password protection.

There were many points from the articles I read, but the focus  I wish to highlight in this article is the $1,000 allowance/salary a month that the i.JAM Reload Tier 1 grant has set on the founder. If you wish to know more about the founder’s allowance, you should get a good idea after reading the articles that I have highlighted above.

AGA has to date reviewed over 90 applications since we started in July 2012 and likewise, we faced a series of challenges in obtaining Tier-1 approvals from MDA IDMPO. But to their credit, I am very proud to have worked alongside with them. Despite the lengthy and detailed submissions, the team at MDA IDMPO have not fallen short of being supportive, superbly efficient in their administration and helpful in many ways than one.

So with this understanding in place, let’s talk about the $1000 allowance.

I can confirm with you that any entrepreneur who wishes to sign up for the i.JAM Reload Tier 1 funding can get access of up to S$50,000 in claims. In this Tier-1 claim, entrepreneurs are only granted S$1000 allowance per month if they commit 100% of their time to the project. No allowance can be claimed for non full-time entrepreneurs.

It is without a doubt S$1000 can barely pay for much for an entrepreneur. With food and travel expenses alone, you can jolly well forget having any extras to survive. You might even have to cough up your own extra cash to pay for the expenses.

Does that suck? Totally! But is that part of entrepreneurship? Totally! I was reading up on the humble beginnings of www.hungrygowhere.com, where the founders literally received NO PAY for the first stage of their start-up. These 3 Singaporeans, of which one founder is an old schoolmate of mine, let passion drive them to succeed. I used to joke that when they had no money and were hungry, they had no where to go!

These entrepreneurs aren’t alone. There are endless stories of how many entrepreneurs, here in Singapore and worldwide, who had no income for many months before seeing a turnaround. I myself had that same situation when I first started out.

Entrepreneurship is not a step-up to your career. I had an applicant who came telling me that he will start his start-up if it pays him $300 more than his last job. He told me his new wife will kill him if he took any pay cut. I politely reminded him that entrepreneurship is about risk-taking and not expecting life to be rosy with a cushy increase in income. We all want to succeed in life, but entrepreneurship is high-risk, high-returns. You need to accept the high-risk reality of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is about preparing for it and getting support, emotionally and financially. Every time before anyone who plunges into entrepreneurship, they need to ask themselves first, do they have a minimum of 6-12 months savings, as well as the support from their families and loved ones? Entrepreneurship isn’t a solo mission, but having the support of loved ones. It is a high-risk step and you need to ensure you have your pillars ready to handle the unexpected.

Tier-1 should not extend beyond 6 months. The objective of Tier-1 funding has to be re-iterated. Tier-1 funding is only meant to get the entrepreneur to develop a minimum viable product. It is not meant to be a long-term goal to give the company consistent funding. That is why there is a limit on the founder’s allowance. If you think about it, if there are 2 founders who claim S$1k each for 6 months, $12k is already paid out to the founders, which leaves very little left to do anything else. If founders focus on claiming more allowance and having little funds to do anything else, you would question the objectives of the founders.

i.JAM Reload is a grant, not investment. It is also a misconception that i.JAM Reload is used as part of the investment, ie, the total S$150k grants from MDA is included as part of the investment quantum. I can confirm that at AGA, we do not include the i.JAM Reload grant as part of the investment. This grant belongs to the start-up and we do not lay claim to it in return for shares. The only claim we make is the S$100k investment we make at Tier-2. Basing on this, entrepreneurs must remember that the founder’s allowance is a grant. Grants have their specific restrictions to ensure a specific direction and objective is achieved.

i.JAM Reload is Singaporean taxpayers money. For those who have not understood the recent climate, the Singapore government is now, more than ever, very particular on how taxpayers money are being used. There have been way too many cases of fraud and embezzlement of government fund. As a Singaporean myself, I hold the government accountable to the taxes I pay. So if you find the applications tedious and detailed, do remember that applicants are taking funds from Singapore. And here in Singapore, we are detailed in the usage of public money.

I hope this helps de-mystify the $1000 allowance per month for founders. I do hope that with this, we will see more applicants coming forward with a better understanding of how the grant works. Here’s wishing all entrepreneurs the best in your endeavours.

Christopher Quek is a resident mentor at AGA. This was drawn from his blog.

03Aug 2013

by Christopher Quek

In Echelon 2012, young upstart Brian Wong, founder of Kiip, mentioned that start-ups should not hire people who have kids. Reported by Sg Entrepreneurs, Wong explains that people with kids will not be able to commit full-time to the business, as compared to those who have no family commitments.

I wasn’t there at the event, but having a short lunch talk with John Fearon, another panelist,  gave me his two cents worth. He has a family to watch over and what motivates him is his family and his drive to succeed. I didn’t have much to comment at that time but it did get me thinking, was I a better entrepreneur when I was single or am a better one now, having a child and another on the way?

Brian Wong reminds me of my earlier days. When I graduated and returned from overseas, I was filled with bombastic, youthful, arrogant energy, thinking that I was armed with a degree, I knew about just everything. I worked till wee hours in the morning in the office on various projects to get the company going, hiring like-minded people like myself who were young and single. What made me more bold was to continue taking up every possible business opportunity to learn more and experience more. I worked hard and clocked many hours. But did I truly reach my goals during those years. Sadly, I fell short of these goals.

Was I a good entrepreneur as a single? As I reflect the last 6 years of entrepreneurship before I married Mrs Right, I found myself taking very big risks (which a number didn’t pay off), working towards things that were not long-term and ended up with failures. Was it due to inexperience? Maybe. But let’s compare the difference here when I became married.

I got married at 30, 6 years after I graduated. I found myself realising life isn’t all about myself. I wish I could work wee hours into the morning, on weekends and committing time to my entrepreneurial pursuits, but that changed. Family time with the wife was important and it meant giving up opportunities that I would like to do. It becomes even more difficult when you have a kid. And being a hands-on father, I found myself in need of extra help from the grandparents to chip in while I get time-out to work.

What has changed between singlehood and being a family man? When I was single in my 20s, I gained the chance to learn as much as I could. I also was very brash and didn’t concern myself with consequences of my business decisions. But now being a family man, I found myself thinking ahead for the family, what decisions I make will impact the future and security of my family. I took that mindset back to the businesses I run now, and I find myself doing the same, accessing the different outcomes and being more sensible in my decision.

When you have a screaming kid who is difficult in putting her to bed, you learn patience. No matter how much she cries and how long it takes, you know you will reach that end-goal, getting her to sleep. It may tire you out but you find the satisfaction knowing that you can reach that goal. This is something I also learnt and brought it back to the business.

Talk about finances. Family finances are the hardest as you need to place your children as priority. You start to reduce your personal expenditure on yourself and focus on saving for your children. In business, I found myself making simple decisions to save on non-essentials but pour in more money into marketing, which is the same as a child. Both are investments for growing the business and your future respectively.

So the eventual answer to my question, do entrepreneurs with family make good entrepreneurs? I am inclined to say yes, based on my personal experience. Family entrepreneurs, as I call them, may not have the quantity of time to work on, but the quality of time spent is well-used. This is of course whether the family entrepreneurs knows how to use his family experience and take it back to the business he or she runs.

So if you are an entrepreneur who is single and running head-on to grow your business, it doesn’t hurt to have a partner who is a family man. The combination of quality and quantity time may just produce a very successful spark of an idea!

Christopher Quek is a resident mentor at AGA. This article was drawn from his blog.

01Aug 2013

Hi everyone!

Welcome all to the Angel’s Gate Advisory (AGA) web portal! After many months of dragging and procrastinating, we are now finally proud to establish a website of information. It has been quite silly as everyone that we meet, we repeat ourselves again and again about what we do and what our purpose is. Finally, we can now say, “just go visit our website. Everything is just there!”

Anyhow, as the tagline goes, “Entrepreneurs building Entrepreneurs”. AGA isn’t your typical incubator. We are not experts in finance nor experienced VCs or angels. We are your typical entrepreneurs who gone through the worse and worst of times. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint hearted. We failed many times, only to learn from the past mistakes and pick ourselves up again for the next fight, which leads to a higher chance of success.

We hope that AGA will be the start of a fresh new perspective. And it is a start of a social cause to build an ecosystem where successful entrepreneurs return to help new budding entrepreneurs avoids the traps and pitfalls that they faced in the past. In this way, we can see higher chances of successful entrepreneurs being honed.

On top of this information site, we will be interviewing and inviting various Singaporean and Singapore-based entrepreneurs to provide their perspectives, hoping that these nuggets of anecdotes will inspire and enrich the development of our entrepreneurial community.

Cheers!