Dr Wong Mun Yew, Founder of Imagene Labs

What’s your story?

I am a venture capital investor and medical doctor with healthcare operational experience before starting Imagene Labs; with stints in US Silicon Valley venture capital fund Formation8 Partners, Singapore government fund EDBI and Asia’s largest healthcare group Parkway Pantai. I was based in the US and China for different roles. Imagene Labs was founded 3 years ago while I was a Venture Partner with Formation8 Partners which fund seeded the Company. Imagene Labs was built with the knowledge that everyone has their own genetic makeup and needs, and the conventional one-size-fits-all approach to wellness is changing. Following the footsteps of personalised medicine in healthcare, we offer consumers personalised and customised preventive health and wellness products and solutions, based on their genetics and beyond.

What sparked this innovation?

The wellness industry, which is worth US$4.3 trillion, is ripe for disruption. The rising trend of using genetics to personalise and customise wellness products and services is the first wave of this disruption. This is driven by both consumer’s demand and the development of science and technology in the field of personalised wellness. The growth in the wellness genetics dataset is underpinned by the same expanding genetics knowledge that has driven the development of personalised medicine more than 15 years ago when the human genome was decoded.

Think about it — if you as a consumer can cut through all the marketing noise and zero in on the right products and receive actionable lifestyle advice that is tailor made for you, why would you not? It simplifies your life, saves your time and money from product experimentation, and even saves the environment by lowering product throwaways.

What were some of the obstacles that your company faced during its initial years and how did your team overcome it?

There were scepticisms when we first offered our genetic test services and products 2.5 years ago. Gradually, we educated the market and won many customers over with our credible science and effective customised products. Our repeat customers are a testimony that our vision is right.

What was the experience like to expand so rapidly over the last 2 years from Singapore to neighbouring countries and even China?

Wherever we presented our products and value proposition, we always received positive responses, with many customers eager to sign-up on the spot. The reason our products and services are liked and used by customers from multiple different countries gave us the impetus to improve and do better. In fact, we get many inbound requests that we must prioritise and focus our expansion to countries with sizable markets and favourable regulatory environments.

How different is the Chinese market vs Singapore market in embracing your company’s innovation?

The Chinese domestic customers are just as enthused and excited about our innovative products and services. With the fragmentation and multitude of wellness products and services in the market, the attraction to the promise personalisation and customisation helps the Chinese consumers to cut through the noise and use products that really work on them.

Name one of your most memorable learning experience of your entrepreneurial journey

Treating both your customers and employees rightly with dignity and respect is key to success for any company.

What do you think should be the most important characteristic of a startup and its team to possess?

I will suggest two: adaptability and perseverance.

What are you working on right now that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

We are extending our current products into the healthcare market and developing real innovative products and solutions that will transform this sector.

What is your company’s five-year plan? Any market expansion plan in the pipeline?

We are focused on Asia for now, including the China market. We plan to enter the US and EU markets in the medium term.

Looking back, what advice would you tell your younger self?

To paraphrase Nike: Just do it. With a caveat: Work with the right team, right advisors, right partners, and at the right timing.