Dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Southeast Asia”, Singapore is home to a flourishing startup scene. We have 31 startups that have achieved unicorn status — or have a US$1 billion valuation — with more than half of these startups being set up in the past two years. When we zoom out, startups across the region have seen a 40% increase in terms of growth in 2020. 

There is little doubt that building a successful business entails hard work, and this has become even more challenging in today’s macroeconomic environment. The ability to rally a team, and harness every member’s strengths is key to scaling the business for success. 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Rachel Lim, Co-Founder and Executive Chairwoman of fashion brand, Love, Bonito, and Abheek Anand, Managing Director of leading venture capital and growth investing firm, Peak XV Partners in a recent episode of “At The Table”, a series where we bring together thought leaders in their respective fields to discuss some of today’s hottest topics.

You can watch the full episode here.

The conversation was illuminating, to say the least. We delved into the secrets to starting a company, the growth journey towards scaling up, and what it takes to support talent and teams in reaching milestones and successes. 

Here are five key takeaways from our conversation.

Authenticity is a hallmark of true leaders

True leadership stems from authenticity. Forging meaningful relationships and being an integral part of your team helps to close the gap between you and your team. During our discussion, Rachel highlighted that in a world where we often look up to leaders like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, entrepreneurs sometimes feel the pressure to mimic their styles, instead of finding their unique paths.

Rachel says, “I learned the hard way that trying too hard to emulate a leader I wasn’t meant to be, was a mistake. I believed that to be a great leader or entrepreneur, I had to possess the same qualities as these successful figures. However, embarking on a journey of self-awareness and discovery helped me shape my leadership style into something authentic, genuine and reflects who I really am today.”

Rachel Lim, Co-Founder & Executive Chairwoman, Love, Bonito

Find strength in resilience

While we often hear about successful entrepreneurs who seized opportunities at the most opportune time, the reality is that the market is unpredictable. As Abheek highlighted, “The best founders are the ones who are incredibly resilient in the face of the downs, and are able to double down on the things that are working in challenging times.” This is something Abheek firmly believes in, and uses the quote by motor racing legend Ayrton Senna to illustrate this.

Whether you’re navigating the startup rollercoaster or your career path, the key to overcoming tough times is resilience. The most accomplished entrepreneurs and professionals are not those who do not fail but they are often the ones who embrace setbacks as opportunities to pivot, learn, adapt, and emerge stronger than ever. 

Knowing and articulating your “why” is key

In a book I read some time ago, The StartUp of You by Reid Hoffman, he says that “the person passionate about what he or she is doing will outwork and outlast the guy motivated solely by making money”. He’s absolutely right. At LinkedIn, we are mission-driven – we do well, and we do good. Having spent a decade there, I have seen first-hand what’s possible when you work with a team that shares your passion and purpose. It isn’t just a fancy tagline, it is the heartbeat of our organization and one that provides a competitive advantage. 

Our purpose empowers our people to make the right choices every day for themselves, each other, and our members. Ahbeek sums it up, “Missionary organizations almost always are more successful in the long run than mercenary ones.”

When times get tough, a clear sense of purpose is like a lighthouse that guides you through the storm. It is a driving force that keeps all entrepreneurs moving onward and upward. Rachel agrees, “Entrepreneurship is like a marathon and it is undeniable that there will be tough times. But what keeps me going is having a clear conviction and purpose of why my products and services exist.”

Feon Ang, Managing Director, APAC, LinkedIn

Embrace change and cultivate a growth mindset 

In the fast-paced world of startups, having a growth mindset and being adaptable are the keys to success. In other words, as your business landscape changes, change with it. To illustrate this, Rachel quotes author and futurist Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

So, it’s not just about accepting change, but actively embracing it for growth and looking at challenging times as a real opportunity to take stock of what’s working and what’s not, where the areas of growth are, in order to stay agile. “It is important for founders to have an ability to be very customer-centric while being market aware. This means to be aware of where the market environment is so you can adapt a business strategy that plays into that market environment,” says Abheek.

Abheek Anand, Managing Director of Peak XV Partners

Invest in yourself, and a team you can rely on 

As I spoke with Rachel and Ahbeek, a fundamental principle stood out – successful entrepreneurs are not made overnight. The path to success in the ever-evolving startup landscape is a gradual process of self-mastery, personal growth, resilience, and continuous learning. Honing your skills, persistent effort and a deep commitment to your goals will be integral to your success.

Further to that, entrepreneurship is not a journey you can embark on alone. It’s important to bring the right people with you on the journey and place them in the right roles, in order to succeed. It is also a two-way street – employers have to understand the motivations of their employees and ensure their needs are met so the team can grow together.

Remember that overnight success is oftentimes a rarity. By understanding your purpose, embracing resilience, and unwavering dedication, I hope that these tips can help to transform your aspirations into reality.

Feon Ang is the Managing Director, APAC at LinkedIn.

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