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Aileen Sim

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Singaporean entrepreneur Aileen Sim has founded a series of successful start-ups since her first fresh-out-of-college endeavor. The idea of entering the start-up world, however, didn’t occur to her until well into her university studies. While a student at the National University of Singapore, Sim applied for an overseas exchange program, which sent students to universities and internships in key innovation hubs in the US and elsewhere. Growing up with her mother as sole breadwinner, earning about $2000 a month, the idea of receiving $1600 a month for the one-year program seemed luxurious. Her time at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied engineering entrepreneurship through this exchange opportunity, erased previous thoughts of other professions. While she had considered becoming a teacher, policewoman, or lawyer, Sim now had her sights firmly set on the start-up world.

After graduating in 2006 with a degree in applied mathematics, Sim founded her first start-up, First Meta. The company featured First Meta Exchange, an online multi-world currency exchange for trading both real and virtual currencies. The project made Sim a pioneer in the virtual currency business while still in her early 20s. Five years later, after establishing First Meta as a stable company with a sustainable cash flow, Sim left to explore other endeavors.

After traveling for six months, exploring the US, Europe, and South America, Sim decided her true passion lied in product management. Rather than diverting attention into managing a business, Sim wanted to focus on building things that make an impact, understanding technology’s possibilities and then employing them to create useful products. In 2012, she served as product lead for BillPin, a bill-splitting app. Since BillPin, she’s worked as an independent contractor, holding product manager positions with Glow, a reproductive help app; AirHelp, which provides legal help for airline passengers; and vPOST, one of Singapore’s largest e-commerce services.

Companies and Investments

AirHelp (Product Lead), Glow (Product and Program Manager), vPost (Product Manager), BillPin (Product Lead), First Meta (Founder, CEO)

Lessons Learned

When the CEO and marketers want extra features which are not must-haves or whose development will bust the launch date, I must be able to say 'no' to their requests. When developers say they can't meet deadlines, I'll have to say 'no' you can’t do that and then persuade them to work doubly fast. (Sim, on standing your ground, in a StraitsTimes profile)

The only reason why your staff stick with you is that they care about you and the product. Otherwise, when they receive offers of higher salaries, they will leave. (Sim, on creating products your employees can be proud of, in a StraitsTimes profile)

The next challenge was in finding good people. We needed people who were not only technically strong but entrepreneurial. They had to build a completely new system from scratch, which usually means a high chance of failure, and also risk not getting paid as the company had not yet secured funding at that time. We were very fortunate to have been able to find such people. (Sim, on the importance of solid hiring, in an interview with TechinAsia)

I wouldn’t say that I’m very sensitive about being female in male-dominated environments, but I definitely do think that men react differently to women than they would to other men, mostly in a good way though. For example, at networking sessions, men would almost always prefer to talk to women than they would to other men. I think that being female has its advantages. One of the things an entrepreneur has to do is stand out from the crowd. Being one of very few female entrepreneurs has helped in that aspect. (Sim, on focusing on the advantages of being a female entrepreneur, rather than the disadvantages, in an interview with TechInAsia)

Don’t give up if people tell you if yours is the craziest, stupidest idea ever. That’s what people said to me when I first pitched the idea (some still do!) One big factor that determines the success or failure of the company is how long you can hang in there. If you hang around long enough, good things are bound to happen. For those who are still thinking of starting your own business, stop thinking and start doing. Especially for young entrepreneurs, you’ve got nothing to lose. (Sim, on replacing doubt with determination, in an interview with TechInAsia)


Inspiring Quotes

Aileen Sim's Quotes

If youre in it for the money, it will only get you so far. Entrepreneurs need passion and belief that they can do something different and better for society or communities. That is what makes them stay the course.

Aileen Sim

Youve to trust that the team will do what everyone has agreed on.

Aileen Sim

Its about the mindset. Youre the creator in your own environment, in which you can make an impact.

Aileen Sim

Influential Books

Mentors

Melinda French Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer

References


Technical

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