Keith Tan, Co-founder of Wonderlabs Foundation — Build People, Build Technology, Build Value
Wonderlabs Foundation focuses on providing development and training opportunities to youth in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Their first programme is the Career Launchpad Programme, an 8-month industry-specific training and development programme to equip financially disadvantaged youth with employable tech skills and provide them with a career path towards financial independence.
Wonderlabs Foundation is one of the inaugural recipients of the Lotus-NUS Fund in 2017, in support of start-ups that are founded by Singaporean entrepreneurs and are involved in social enterprise projects. Keith Tan, co-founder of Wonderlabs Foundation and an NUS Political Science graduate, shares with us about his journey as an entrepreneur.
What motivated you to set up Wonderlabs Foundation?
We were motivated by two things. One is the opportunity; the tech sector is the fastest growing hiring sector in Indonesia, but there is insufficient talent. Two is the social opportunity to radically change the lives of people for the better just by providing them the right skills and a job to put those skills to work. We, in Singapore, are in a privileged position to have gone through a high quality, and industry-relevant education. We want to use this privilege to create a training programme that offers those same benefits to our programmer participants.
How did you plan to compete with your direct competitors, and how did that plan play out?
We do not think of them as competitors. We are each offering slightly differentiated services to different segments. Besides, Yogyakarta alone is nearly 4 million in population, so there is more than enough market space for even more players to come in. We are each doing our bit to train, educate and create employment. The economy requires a private-sector solution.
What is your most memorable experience as an entrepreneur?
There have been many happy experiences as an entrepreneur, such as having my last company acquired. But the absolutely most memorable experiences are always the failures. For me, it was the time that I lost SGD 30,000 in a matter of hours. We had invested in an event business and had spent a ton on preparing a club for the night, but barely anyone showed up on the night. We sadly had not sold enough pre-sale tickets. This incident is burned into our memory. I learned that money is binary — you either make money, or you lose it.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
I spend about 2 hours a day learning. I read articles and books, and reflect on how they apply to my life. I constantly re-read the seminal “Win Friends and Influence People”. One needs to be constantly reminded and to fight our most instinctive impulses. As I spend most of my time in Indonesia, I also devote time to learning the language, history, and culture of my adopted country.
To learn more about Wonderlabs Foundation…
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Ready to develop your social enterprise idea?
NUS Enterprise has a host of events and funding opportunities to equip you on your journey.
The Lotus-NUS Fund provides seed funding of $25,000 for start-ups powered by a social mission. We’re looking for social impact driven start-ups that (i) Are looking to grow beyond the ideation or technology prototyping stage
(ii) Have a positive social and/or environmental impact in Singapore or overseas. Submit an Executive Summary to us at https://nus.edu/2wDQ3Rq
Other programmes that we run include the the DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia , and the NUS Start-up Runway, which supports start-ups at any point of your entrepreneurial journey. More information on the Social Venture Lab @ NUS is available at our website.