Introduce yourself, what are you currently engaged with?
I am currently leading the government and public sector engagements at Shopify, an eCommerce platform. In my role, I work with policy makers, government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, and even universities in supporting and scaling SMEs.
How do you engage with startups? How do you help founders with their entrepreneurial journey?
I engage with startups by mentoring, advising, investing, and teaching Lean LaunchPad entrepreneurship program at SMU’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
What's the best and worst advice you’ve heard?
Best: Don’t hire too many senior employees just because you just raise a bunch of money
Worst: With more money, a startup can grow exponentially
What are some of your highlights as a mentor? Were there any partnerships or synergies formed between startups and yourself?
I love connecting founders with others who can help the founders grow their business even more. I enjoy getting to know founders in a personal way to hear why they do what they do and how they define success. Once a while, I meet a phenomenal entrepreneur that just lights the room with his/her presence. I call it the “it” factor - it is hard to quantify it but I just know when I see it.
What made you want to become a mentor at Plug and Play? What do you love most about mentoring?
I have been a fan of Plug and Play since my younger days growing up in Silicon Valley. PnP is an iconic brand - many of the world's famous startups came out of it. I recalled my first visit to the PnP HQ in Sunnyvale and was in awe observing the wall of former residents, showcasing who’s who in the Valley that once took up a residence at PnP. I am honored that I have been asked by my former NUS colleague and friend Xander Khoo to be a mentor at PnP. I hope I can further increase my contribution to the PnP network and community.
What I love the most about mentoring is that I can help founders not repeat the same mistakes that many others, including myself, have done. I have to thank my own mentors who helped me along the way. I see being a mentor is a way to pay it forward. I also like that I can play a small role in the founders' entrepreneurship journey. Entrepreneurship is often a lonely journey - not that many people truly understand the ups and downs of starting, growing, and scaling a startup - thus, being there for each other is how we can encourage and support entrepreneurship.
Before joining Shopify, Jonathan was the Country Head of Google for Education Next Billion Users (NBU) initiative, the Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Centre and the Overseas Colleges at National University, and the Executive Director of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation at Singapore Management University (in which Jonathan pioneered the university’s accreditation as Asia’s first Ashoka Changemaker Campus). Jonathan has also worked with and advised the governments of Singapore, Cambodia, Canada, New Zealand, and Indonesia on various matters related to entrepreneurship and innovation.
Deep-rooted in entrepreneurship, Jonathan has co-founded and supported several start-ups across sectors in Silicon Valley, Manhattan, Singapore, and Jakarta, raising funding from Y-Combinator, 500 Startups, and others. As a global speaker and media commentator, Jonathan has given lectures and talks across six continents and written articles for Channel NewsAsia. Jonathan received the European Foundation for Management Development Case Writing Award for documenting an innovative social enterprise in Bali. His TEDx talk at Harvard about the importance of a mission-driven life was featured by Voice of America.
Jonathan is a graduate of UC Berkeley, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
About Tech Nation International Growth Programme
The Tech Nation International Growth Programme 2.0 is part of the UK Government's Digital Trade Network, which helps innovative UK tech companies access trade and investment opportunities across Asia Pacific and forge new partnerships in these exciting new markets.
Tech Nation, the growth platform for UK tech, is working in collaboration with Plug and Play to deliver this cohort of the international programme in Southeast Asia. The programme will give selected UK scaleups insight into Southeast Asian markets, creating access to the capital, customers and the talent network in Singapore and the wider region through Plug and Play’s introductions. Deeper understanding of the markets is also delivered through various content workshops that provide these UK tech scaleups with localised knowledge across a spectrum of areas, from talent acquisition to business development and sales, as well as connections with local companies. The UK scaleups on this programme will also engage with Plug and Play initiatives such as the Investor Day, Innovation Showcase, Plug and Play APAC flagship event, APAC Summit, and a unique demo day for the programme.
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