Starting a new journey is never easy, especially during a global pandemic. An entrepreneur has some characteristics that go beyond what you can imagine. An entrepreneur is someone who can take risks, self-motivated and passionate in his goals. Being one would need a lot of positive energy and discipline in executing every step.

In the period where many businesses are struggling or failing, it takes guts to start something new amid turmoil and unknown. Not surprisingly, one of my good friends, Irene Chan who is someone with this kind of guts and tenacity is ready to take on such ferocious challenge.

 Thank You for the time, Irene. Can you tell us more about yourself?

Thank You for giving me this opportunity to share my adventure today. I have been in the IT Industry as a Business and Product Manager for more than 10 years. I love fast cars, hiking and travel.

Working in the corporate for many years, I began to wonder, what can I do to start contributing to society. As when I get to understand myself better, I realised I love being a mentor. I then sign up as a Career Mentor, sharing my own experiences and advising the youths on anything regards to stepping into the work society.

That brings me to start my new adventure of Drive Ride Buddy.

This is amazing. What is Drive Ride Buddy?

With advance technologies, many of us can access information right at the fingertips.

My partners and I co-founded this company at the start of 2020, wanting to build a credible trusted automotive ecosystem through modern digitalized business processes. The 3 of us are car lovers. Each of us has different likings but one in common: Japanese Fast Cars. This brought us together to form the founding team.

Drive Ride Buddy (DRB) is a platform that we approach with 3 strategies: Complete, Convenience and Community. We hope to deliver better service experience to users and automotive merchants. We are now at the pre-seed funding stage and we are looking forward to launching the app in the Quarter 4 of 2020.

It must be impossible to find funding during an economic downturn. How did you manage to find investors and convince them to invest in Drive Ride Buddy?

For a start, we used our savings and started pitching to friends who are supportive of our business ideas and concept. We are very thankful for their support as this allows us to launch our app in 2020.

To prepare for the next funding stage, we took part in accelerators programs. To create awareness and establish creditability in the industry, we have joined many virtual pitch sessions by e27 and Tech in Asia where we gained tips in how to improve our pitch content and understand what investors are looking out on.

Currently, we have not started to talk to investors or ventures to invest in our project. However, we are identifying and preparing to connect them. We are confident that our investors will be able to visualize that DRB can improve user experience and contribute to overall eco-system in the automotive industry.

The automotive industry may seem like a dying trade, however, it remains as an essential service, one that we required daily. With DRB, we aim to “Bring the Sexy Back” to those who neglected it.

Isn’t it a risk to start a new business now amid the pandemic? How do you mitigate your risks?

Starting a new business at any point in time is a risk. Being an entrepreneur is about weighing the risk and willing to learn from setbacks. Most importantly, we need to stay focus and be agile to the market situation.

For me, I will list out the potential risks and action plans accordingly. Some risks are never able to mitigate, while some are unexpected, I will take them as a part of my learning journey.

It is vital to identify what are the key components impacting our business, our customers, merchants and the market. We asked ourselves, what are the risks and is it something we can bear with consequences if we cannot mitigate it. There is a lot of strategic planning with contingency plans behind the scene.

For example, we wanted to conduct surveys with our merchants because this will help us to shape what features that serve them better. Unfortunately, Circuit Breaker kicked in with a few days’ notice and immediately, we changed our methods of conducting surveys face to face to phone interviews. This affected our beta app launch in June, so we decided to do a full launch in Quarter 4 instead. It gives us more time to work with our developers. This is where we leverage on the situation and turn it around to make it beneficial for us.

It is not easy to start a new business during this period. What motivates you?

Haha! You’ve already mentioned that I have guts and tenacity! That together with a burning passion to succeed. Perhaps due to the environment, I grew up, I am taught to be independent and disciplined in getting things done right. Many times, I have to learn to motivate myself too. Of course, work experiences and a good mentor counts in shaping who I am today.

This is the reason I inspired to be a mentor to the youths. Allowing them to listen to what others have been through, is not something unusual to what they are experiencing themselves today. I hope to inspire them to be able to broaden their vision and be courageous to take on challenges in life. This is very much aligned to the reason why I co-found Drive Ride Buddy.

This platform will allow our youths to participate in the startup journey and contribute back to our society. We want to groom our next generation in the field of business technology.

Many youths whom I spoke to, have similar perceptions that being in the technology industry is all about technology and engineering roles. Personally, I am not in any of such positions. In my own experiences, like sales, operations management, product development, are which exposes me to business management. Me embracing leadership comes naturally in my next career step.

Talking about youths, I read that Drive Ride Buddy collaborate with Republic Poly students on a project recently. Can you please share more on that?

Most Polytechnic Students in Singapore will need to complete a Final Year Project. One of our co-founders applied for this Industry Collaboration Program with Republic Polytechnic and Drive Ride Buddy got selected.

We started by sharing the DRB business concept and objectives. The students are very knowledgeable in UX Design and Application workflow. They have given us ideas and suggestions on how to improve the UX design of our application, and also conducted surveys with customers and merchants independently with their list of questions. 

We have meetings with them to review their progress and providing guidance to look at different perspectives with business acumen. Sometimes, their way of thinking surprised us and they are willing to speak up and defend their ideas which I appreciated.

It is my first time collaborating in such a program. I am humbled to know they were selected to showcase the DRB project in their Annual Graduation. It was indeed a fulfilling experience to share our learnings in different areas. This is exactly what I believe that age does not matter when it comes to imparting knowledge.

Well said! I noticed that the youths today are more dependent on parents and parents are more protective of their child too. With the inspiration, you have just shared, it is a great vision to endeavour. Share with us, what have you been occupied during the lockdown?

Thank You, Kally. During the Circuit Breaker aka lockdown in Singapore, like many others, I am exercising hard to get to my ideal weight and keeping myself tone up. I have also tried cooking some dishes which I learnt from Youtube. So far, my top liked dishes are Seafood Tom Yum Noodles and Mapo Tofu.

Other than putting the puzzles together for DRB, I have spent some time reading a couple of books. One I would like to recommend to the readers here – Zero to One, by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters. The book gave me great ideas about starting a new business and concept notes on what to consider and look out for.

I have also taken up a Basic Bahasa Indonesia Course. Never stop learning and getting new knowledge! Now I can converse and write in Bahasa Indonesia confidently.

Congrats on using your lockdown time so positively! Please share with our readers one hard lesson you have learned during your entrepreneurship.

The hardest lesson is getting out of my comfort zone and having faith in myself. There will be people who will dissuade you to continue to pursue your passion with negative stories on the competitiveness of the business world.

Take what you hear from others with a pinch of salt, deduce the situation yourself, always seek for the second opinion but keep in mind, if everyone refuses to take risks and instead be a round peg in a round hole, there wouldn’t be Tesla, Apple, Google or Microsoft.

Stop. Take a moment. Think about what our world will be like without them now.

A quote from Richard Branson – “Entrepreneurship is about turning what excites you in life into capital so that you can do more of it and move forward with it”, that I strongly agreed. I am so motivated every day when I woke up, embarking on this new adventure.

Thank You very much, Irene. This is an inspiring conversation that draws to an end. I wish you the best of luck in Drive Ride Buddy.

You can know more about Irene’s new adventure at:

LinkedIn: Irene Chan
Instagram: @mmintene_chankayan
Website: Drive Ride Buddy

24 replies on “Being an Entrepreneur during COVID-19

    1. Thanks for your comment, Raymond. Currently, in some places of South East Asia, second wave is not here yet (hopefully and keeping our fingers crossed). Right now, Malaysia and Singapore are trying their best to curb the second wave.

      Like

  1. Congratulations. You need courage to open a business, and the pandemic does not allow you to spread your wings, for rapid development, also uncertain profit, and you have to pay the bills. I wish you success.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Kally, this is a well-written and helpful article. The interview questions were good and the answers were interesting. Although I am retired and don’t want to start a business, I enjoyed reading your article.

    I would also like to thank you for reading my work.

    Liked by 1 person

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