Things They Don’t Tell You is a weekly online column that dives deep into the lives of Prestige 40 Under 40 class of 2020 laureates, where they share little-known stories and offer insights on things that go under-the-radar. This week, we get candid with Ng Yi Ming, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Tribe, a blockchain accelerator.
Tribe started in a prata shop on Jalan Besar. There is this place that my co-founder Ryan and I used to visit for prata, as it was near his previous office. We visited often with our friends, many of whom were start-up founders. We would discuss many of the issues they faced, particularly when it came to funding and network support, and that was when we came up with the idea for Tribe Accelerator.
My father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs, so there was much talk about business and entrepreneurship around the dinner table. While they were both in very traditional businesses, the values of hard work and perseverance they taught me have been extremely useful to me as they were to them.
We recently passed the $1 billion milestone, in terms of the value of start-ups and companies that we have backed. From a raw numbers perspective, this is pretty impressive. Honestly, I never dreamt that we’d work with such great companies and founders when Tribe first started. Having great partners and backers, including the Singapore government as well as leading corporations such as AXA, BMW Group Asia, Citibank, ConsenSys, EY, IBM, Intel, Nielsen, PwC, R3, Temasek and Ubisoft, is also huge for me.
However, I think a more satisfying achievement is seeing some of the solutions that our start-ups have created, helped in a small part by Tribe. We have played a role in helping consumers track their food from farm to table, know the history of the second-hand cars that they purchase, facilitate faster medicine deliveries, and more. Seeing these solutions happen in real time is inspiring.
There is still a perception that blockchain is all about cryptocurrencies. They are different, Blockchain is a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) where information is duplicated and distributed across an entire network of computer systems. While cryptocurrencies are based on blockchain technology, they are essentially digital/virtual currencies that are secured by cryptography.
I thrive on the energies of people and love making connections that lead to magic. These could simply be great conversations that make someone’s day or striking game-changing business deals that make a difference in people’s lives.
I love swapping stories and ideas with people who have a completely different background and outlook on life. I meet a lot of people in my day-to-day work and I enjoy connecting people where I think value can be created. I am also passionate about expanding access to deep technology in order to drive positive social change, this includes enabling access to education and supporting people to learn new skills so they can improve their lives. Turning this into a pay cheque is a personal achievement for me.
I’d rather be shot than lose human interaction. It is people that make the world special and I cannot imagine a life without meeting others and socialising.
Listen more and be humble. In business you will meet many different people, each with their own pressures, deadlines and targets to meet. If we try and see others from their perspectives, I think we would all be calmer and more understanding of each other.
It is so important to be able to be patient. One of the things I have learnt running a business is the need for patience, great things take time to build and sometimes, it is better to take things more slowly.
I know this sounds very cliche, but failure is such an important learning opportunity. I have learnt that there is no need to be scared of failure, that failure often leads to bigger and better things. I think failure is only bad if you allow it to consume you, and stop you from doing what you really want to do in life.
Fear is a route to success. Fear drives me forward, keeps my feet on the ground, and keeps me motivated. The day I become complacent and comfortable is the day I really worry!
I have learnt that in life, change is the only constant.
I’d tell my younger self to be prepared for change, that my expectations will change and to enjoy the ride!
“Don’t let success go to your head, nor let failure go to your heart.” This phrase has helped me stay grounded.
Elon Musk and Warren Buffet are my heroes. Musk is a polymath and new-age CEO who is able to think outside of the box and offer insights from a different perspective. Buffet has an uncanny ability to identify trends from a financial markets perspective.
Singapore is freedom. What I mean by that is Singapore provides its residents with economic freedom — we can establish companies, buy and sell goods more or less freely, not be burdened by heavy taxation and regulations, etc. We are also free to travel almost anywhere on the island safely, free from physical harm. These basic freedoms are often under-estimated, or at least taken for granted, but I am thankful for these freedoms every day.
While travelling in Europe, I tried to navigate through a pretty dangerous city in the wee hours looking for supper. My friends and I nearly got mugged.
I have a weakness for local food. I love the lor mee at Tiong Bahru and har cheong gai (prawn paste chicken) at Upper Thomson. I will happily travel across the island to satisfy my cravings!
God forgive me, but I’ve been consuming too much sugar over the years, thanks to my sweet tooth.
(Main and featured image: Prestige Singapore; all other images courtesy of Ng Yi Ming)