The Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) provides funding support and access to networks and mentors to help promising startups. SPRINGnews spoke to ACE Startups grant recipient Mr Tan Siow Wee (below), founder of online digital music score distribution platform, Windphony, and Mr Charlie Sim, his mentor, a co-founder of Renovell, Allied Intuit Pte Ltd and Axis Intellectual Capital Pte Ltd.
SPRINGnews: How did Windphony get started?
Mr Tan: Many people often turn to reality television series and social media websites as a platform to showcase their talents to the world. Likewise, composers are also seeking that ‘one minute of fame’ to jumpstart their career. Windphony aims to breach the current convention by allowing composers to self-publish and share their music scores via our digital music score distribution platform.
SPRINGnews: How did you benefit from the ACE Startups Programme?
Mr Tan: Besides funding support, the programme also provides one important
ingredient which is often overlooked by startups – mentorship. Although getting
mentoring assistance can be a challenge for first-time entrepreneurs, ACE connected us to experienced consultants and entrepreneurs such as Mr Charlie Sim.
SPRINGnews: How were you paired with Mr Charlie Sim?
Mr Tan: We were given a list of proposed mentors who could work with us. We thought Mr Sim’s experience would be useful to our business. His expertise in the management of intellectual property (IP) rights helped us improve our approach in handling and managing the IP rights of the composers, as well as protecting Windphony from IP infringement.
SPRINGnews: What were some of the challenges in starting a business and how did the support and guidance provided by Mr Sim help you to overcome them?
Mr Tan: Some of the challenges we faced include creating and executing a winning plan for the market, financing our venture, and managing the local and international IP rights of the composers. Mr Sim helped us to identify our priorities and gave us advice on how we can maximise our market penetration strategies. He also provided guidance on IP rights management and how they are being exercised in other countries.
SPRINGnews: Why do you think entrepreneurs should consider having a mentor?
Mr Tan: Starting a business without the advice of experienced people is like driving without any rear or side mirrors. Like the mirrors, a mentor helps the driver to see whether it is safe to turn left or right. Entrepreneurs will save a lot of time and effort by learning from the experiences of their mentors.
SPRINGnews: Why did you join the ACE Mentoring Programme?
Mr Sim:Over the years, I have benefited from the advice of fellow entrepreneurs. I also find satisfaction in sharing my experience with budding entrepreneurs. When I was introduced to ACE and its framework for mentoring, I was sold. ACE’s ability to attract and select budding entrepreneurs with great ideas and business sensibility was also a huge draw.
SPRINGnews: What does it take to become a business mentor?
Mr Sim: A mentor must be able to appreciate the value of a mentee’s business and empathise with their concerns and uncertainties. A mentor must also have the ability to challenge ideas, plans and strategies, as well as stimulate thinking beyond the norm. Most importantly, a mentor must have the willingness to share ideas, and when necessary, contacts.
SPRINGnews: As a mentor, what is your role in helping Windphony grow, and what is the duration of the mentoring?
Mr Sim: My role in Windphony varied depending on the stage of growth. At this point, my role is to act as a check and balance for their growth plans and strategies, to identify opportunities beyond their current market, and reassess their planned revenue models. I am currently helping Windphony to address the issue of managing IP rights on their platform. I am also assisting them in re-assessing their business model and exploring avenues for early collaboration with overseas partners. Although the duration of the mentoring is only a year, I believe our relationship will go beyond that.
SPRINGnews: What do you hope to achieve from this?
Mr Sim:The ACE Mentoring programme provides me with the opportunity to be exposed to new business ideas and to interact with like-minded mentors. I am also excited by the possibility of building meaningful relationships with my mentees. Every entrepreneurial journey is unique and by growing with the mentee, the mentor will get to develop him or herself too.
Reproduced from SPRINGnews July 2012 Issue. Published by SPRING Singapore.