If one word could sum NBS alumnus Wong Jeat Shyan up, 'determined' might well be it. A short span of 15 years saw him overcoming a multitude of challenges to create not one nor two, but three start-ups in the IT industry. Add to that the fact that this banking graduate never received any formal training in entrepreneurship and his portfolio appears doubly impressive.
Graduated with Bachelor of Business (Banking) in 1994, Jeat Shyan received multiple job offers from the banking industry but resolutely turned them down. It wasn't because he was holding out for better offers either; he had agreed to join an IT start-up then set up by his brother’s friend. Why veer off the beaten path? Appetite for adventure might provide the best answer. He shrugs and says the combination of low opportunity cost as a fresh graduate as well as the option to exit if it did not work out were sufficient to convince him. Not that he has ever needed to activate Plan B, for his success today is ample proof that he made the correct decision 15 years ago.
Jeat Shyan currently heads TalariaX, a company he set up with two other partners. Specializing in wireless communication, the firm currently services more than 800 clients worldwide, spanning industries from manufacturing to banking. And no wonder – the SendQuick system the firm developed has wide applications ranging from marketing to customer relationship management, and any firm looking to leverage on mass SMS is a potential customer.
Expanding into the American market is next on the agenda, and Jeat Shyan envisions one day being a world leader in this niche area. He has not always dared to harbour such dreams though – he stayed for only 9 months at his first job "because [he] felt that [he] did not have enough knowledge in IT."
Recalling the hurdles he had to overcome in the early days, Jeat Shyan says he is grateful for the skills he picked up as an undergraduate. Although he acknowledges the drastic differences between banking and running his own outfit, he maintains that the business degree had stood him in good stead. Modules such as marketing and business law remain useful in his line of work, especially as SMEs "cannot afford to hire consultants, lawyers or marketers."
Multitasking, however, was the least of Jeat Shyan's worries as a young man at the helm. Being "pushed to the top" at a younger age had put him on a different growth trajectory, and with that came responsibilities like troubleshooting staff problems while having no one to solve his. Payday – a day of anticipation for his peers – ironically became a time of dread and worry for him as he fretted over cash flow.
In spite of this, Jeat Shyan has no regrets, as "It's a journey and a different kind of experience." Beyond monetary returns, he says the path he has chosen has brought him greater satisfaction as the opportunity to "create something out of nothing and call it your own" would be hard to replicate elsewhere. To budding entrepreneurs, he has this to say: "Never compare material wealth with your peers, and always know where you can draw motivation."
Ever keen to nurture the next generation, Jeat Shyan continues to engage current students of NTU through the internship programme. Despite his belief in the rigour of the curriculum, he says the subject of entrepreneurship is fundamentally a hands-on one, and without practical experience, students’ knowledge would ultimately be incomplete. His enthusiasm to give back is nowhere more apparent than his role of mentor to tertiary students interested in this field.
Jeat Shyan's affinity with NTU does not end there either; in a funny twist of fate, he is today married to an NBS alumna. And what is most surprising is perhaps the fact that they did not meet through any school-related function, but through work. He recalls that his wife was then working for a non-profit organization when she knocked on his doors looking for sponsorship. Everything fell into place for them and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now the father of two, Jeat Shyan says he has no expectations that his children will grow up to take over the business. One reason he cites is the fast-changing nature of the IT industry, but a more compelling reason is perhaps his belief that his role as a parent – rather than to leave behind a legacy – is to guide his children through an increasingly volatile world. Eschewing the often-held view that academic excellence paves the way to success, he says his experiences have led him to see that alternative routes could prove equally rewarding.
Extending his advice to the present batch of graduates, Jeat Shyan says: "There's no need to be too worried if you cannot get your ideal job just yet. You never know where life may lead you."
- Write-up contributed by Ms Tan Kexin, Student Writer