Interview with Sam Al-Schamma, FundedHere’s 38th Mentor.

I was first introduced to Sam during FundedHere’s 1st Anniversary on the 28 March 2017. Back then, he was invited as a guest. Today, Sam has joined us as the 38th Mentor in FundedHere ecosystem!

Sam had spent a successful 25 years with Intel before venturing out. He is currently the director of 2 companies: Smart Solutions International and Flight Experience Singapore. He also sits on the board of many other companies such as NetSpec Global Pte Ltd, ECOSOFTT, e-Home Automation International LLC and Extramarks Education India Pvt. Ltd.

In my interview with Sam, he shared his passion for mentorship, his experience working in different cultures and his take on business and technology trends in the next 5 years.

Sam Al-Schamma. A natural leader and people-connector. Sam enjoys making positive difference in the relationship he forms.

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

If my life was a book, it would have to be called “From Sand to Silicon” as I grew up in Saudi Arabia and had over a quarter century of successful career at Intel Corporation (as you know the basic ingredient in all the microprocessors is Silicon).

Share your experience on how working in different countries has shaped your business perspective

Working in different countries, I realize there is a great difference in culture. There is a need to understand that with different cultures, you need to be flexible and adapt to it.

Misunderstandings become very problematic and common when you don’t put yourself in the other person’s shoes or if you don’t understand other people’s cultures. Working with locals is the key to understanding them and helps the business. There is a need to understand a market and the people first before deciding if you want to enter the market.

You should also constantly reinvent yourself. Don’t get attached to transient things, like job titles, cars or houses. These things always change. Do not get comfortable, or there will be no growth. For example, I was holding a very comfortable GM position, but I decided to help launch a new low cost phone in Kenya, something very different and challenging. Actually, the product was sold out during the first week of its launch (back to understanding the market and what the people want).

One of the biggest challenges I’ve found would be mapping out the cultures within a company, especially when expanding into other countries with different cultures. There is a need to understand those differences and adapt.

What kind of technology and business trends do you foresee in the next 5 years?

Technology is moving fast. At the current pace, this is what I predict the world will look like:

1. Cloud Technology.

Everything is moving towards the cloud. Communication is faster, processing power is better and storage is cheaper, and IoT devices will generate tons more data, so everything will be in the cloud. Analytics from this data utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to conclude and reason ideas, will create a whole new set of applications and usage models that benefit the end users. An example would be Silver Spring Networks, an IoT Solutions company that I advise on middle east markets. They create, smart city infrastructure for the Internet of things. Turning street and traffic lights into smart devices that communicate. Analytics helps produce more sophisticated predictions from the data collected from the traffic and people movement patterns.

2. Artificial intelligence (Ai)

Jobs will change because of AI and I foresee many jobs being replaced (or completely morphed). For example with the advances of AI that goes into driverless cars, you can expect taxi and Uber/Grab drivers’ roles changing drastically. They do not need to physically drive their cars anymore, instead they become operators of the cars which will go around by themselves picking up and dropping off passengers, and while today they can only operate one car at time, in the future they can manage multiple cars from the comfort of their home.

3. 3D Printing

3D printing will eventually change manufacturing, supply chains and even retail as we know it today. The convenience of 3D printing will be the future of retail, where people would not go to stores anymore to buy for example an Phone cover, instead they just need to order it online and pick it up at a 3D print shop (aka retailer) nearby. No need to manufacture them say in china, then ship them to Singapore, it is made in our own backyard.

What inspired you to come onboard as a FundedHere mentor?

The startup scene is extremely exciting. The risk taking attitude and courage of entrepreneurs are admirable and their energy levels are attractive. It is so different from the corporate world, where people constantly measure risks while an entrepreneur simply says, “I’ll figure it out.”

Your Mentor Philosophy?

Build on everyone’s strength, help them to find their strengths that complement each other so you can add value to the team where you perform best and are happiest. Also, micromanaging is a talent killer. We need to empower people with knowledge and resources so they can do their job with least intervention. It is more effective that way.

Besides mentoring, flying is another of Sam’s passion.

What do you think of Singapore’s startup scene versus other countries?

Singapore has a lack of innovation but not a lack of funding. Although Singapore is great as a high-tech manufacturing destination, most of the startups I saw are “Me Too’s”. These startups are only repurposing ideas or copying ideas. There is room for more original and innovative ideas.

There is a need for more emphasis on innovative and creative education so we can change this by blending academic competency with creativity. If you’re not a creative person, partner with someone who is. In the long term however, I think the innovative ideas will come flowing in as I do see changes in Singapore’s education system emphasizing creativity.

What do you look at when evaluating startups?

Gut feeling… It’s a combination of the right business model, creativity and the right people. There is a need to have both. People need the right attitude and there need to be the right approach. You must have both technical and soft skills to succeed.

Why do you like Singapore?

I like the people, they are friendly especially when they get to know you. The food is great and I love the weather (I like it when it rains, I didn’t see much rainfall in the desert). Also, everything works in Singapore: education, healthcare, financial system, government. Efficiency is cliché but Singapore is showing the world that it can be done.

This article was published by FundedHere. FundedHere began operation in March 2016 and is the first homegrown Singapore-based platform to offer equity and debt-based crowdfunding. For more information, please go to www.fundedhere.com