“I was born in Singapore and raised by a single mother as an only child so I was independent from the start. At age six I enrolled in an arts programme and when I was 12, I went to a fine arts school as my secondary education. That’s when I started my first business selling my own artwork.
During high school I started to really love physics and space. That’s why I chose to enrol in Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft when I was 20 years old. But before that I was in the army for two years and I was the platoon leader of 40 soldiers in the combat engineers’ division. In the army you deal with people from all walks of life so the skills that I learned there were about how to manage power and relationships, but also how to lead with conviction and diplomacy. Right after that I came to TU Delft in 2017. I completed my bachelor’s degree and have started my master’s in Management of Technology.
I was a little older when I started my bachelor’s degree after completing my military service so I was ready to push myself further than just studying. Most students try to collect as many internships as they can, trying to work towards what they want to earn. For me, at this stage I was working towards what I could learn that would stay with me my entire life. I think you should look at it as who can I learn from because now is the time to discover, fail and explore, instead of rushing towards a company to work for just because their reputation adds to your CV.
‘I’ve lived with farmers in Laos, Vietnam and China’
My very first pitch was during the second year of my bachelor’s in front of 700 people. The idea was just two weeks old, but we beat companies that were already two years old. That’s when we got our first funding to start a company. I started Pyropower because in Singapore we had a lot of voluntary trips to farming communities around South East Asia. I’ve lived with farmers in Laos, Vietnam and China and I am really passionate about agriculture and improving the lives of farmers around the world.
I was quite interested in airflows and aerodynamics and I tried to apply that concept to my passion, which led to the design of an efficient pyrolysis reactor. With Pyropower, the idea is to help farmers manage their organic waste with a bioenergy device. They put their waste in and get clean energy and a material called biochar out, which is a natural way to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and improve soil conditions. It not only helps with climate change on a global scale, but also farmers with income and food security. In one year, Pyropower grew to four co-founders and 10 team members with projects in the Netherlands, Spain, Indonesia and Malawi.
I recently started another company called Reef Support and the idea is to use satellite data to help aquafarmers and coral nurseries manage their reefs more effectively. In our first month, we have raised EUR 14,000.
I will finish my master’s in a year and a half. I feel the Management of Technology programme is really synonymous to an MBA programme, but it’s more geared towards understanding that technology itself is the key driver for pushing a business forward. To me, this transition from aerospace, a technical field, to a business field really sets me up to launch. I’m spending these two years as a personal incubation period, trying to learn and utilise resources as much as I can before graduation to have my companies truly survive in the real world.
I trained my whole life for being an entrepreneur without even knowing it. Through my arts background I learned about marketing, product design, presentation and pitches. In the army I learned about leadership, teamwork, organisation and discipline. In aerospace engineering I built a strong technical skillset in science and programming. With my master’s I’m going deep into business strategy and economics. I think all of these elements combined set me up to be the perfect generalist.
My plan is to return to Singapore in four to five years because the money for start-ups is moving on that little island, especially for clean tech and space tech. I also feel my background there gives me an advantage. I’m trying to build the most of what I can here and around Europe to one day bring it back home.”
Who are the people who work and study on campus? We meet them in Humans of TU Delft. Want to be featured in this series? Or do you know someone with a good story to tell? Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org