Ned Philips believes that the phrase “Build it and they will come” could not be more wrong. Being the Founder and CEO of Bambu, a B2B Robo Advisor based in Singapore that offers digital wealth services, Ned shares that as the Founder one needs to sell a lot to succeed.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am one of the older founders in start-up world. As a 50 year old, I realised that opportunity doesn’t come around that often and so am thoroughly enjoying this new adventure. I am originally from Scotland but have been living in Asia since 1991. I lived in Hong Kong until 2003 and have been in Singapore since then. I worked in FinTech before knowing what FinTech actually was. In 1999, the brokerage I was working was purchased by E*TRADE, one of the very first online brokers. It was a great experience to be part of a business that was transforming an industry. The changes that the wealth business is going through feels similar in many ways to the E*TRADE era.
What is your business venture about?
We are building the best robo advisory technology available and selling it to every business that wants to offer wealth products to their customers. We are a B2B2C business so our customers pay us to use our software. The end user of our software is an individual customer of the company we build for. We target financial institutions – asset managers, banks brokers; and non-financial institutions – telcos and eCommerce – to enable them to integrate and benefit from the shift in digital wealth.
What is your mission at the outset?
Bambu was founded to be Asia’s leading B2B robo-advisor. Our mission is to provide wealth management products to businesses that enable their customers to save and invest for their future. We believe every individual deserves the best financial advice irrespective of his or her personal wealth. We also want to change how wealth is delivered. We don’t believe that simply moving the current practises online is the answer. We have to create new and innovative ways to engage the customer, that include using data to personalise the portfolio to match their goals
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I spent one year as a consultant for 8 Securities in Hong Kong in 2015. In that year it was very clear that the demand for robo advisory was going to grow very quickly. Also it was evident that the B2B business model was more sustainable than B2C. Coming from E*TRADE I could see so many similarities between the development of broking from offline to online and what is about to happen to wealth in the next 5 years.
What is unique about your business?
Bambu does not build a one-size-fits all product. Acknowledging every company has different needs and expectations, Bambu customizes their products to meet these differing needs.
We build wealth products for companies who have never been in wealth before.
Bambu has introduced a collaborative research program into applications of Deep Learning and Neural Networks in Finance with Dr W.A. Phillips, my father, who has been involved in Neural Networks since the 1970’s. We have a unique team working on this with scientists from Singapore to Frankfurt to Scotland.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
Repeat business is an essential part of success. Clients stay with you for two reasons: delivery and service. Delivering tech projects on time and to specifics is key to our success and our absolute focus. In addition, we know that customer service is essential for any start-up. Large banks need to feel that the service from a start-up is above and beyond from what they would get from any large players. Bambu will always go the extra mile to provide unparalleled customer satisfaction and service.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
Our biggest obstacle is focus. We are lucky to have started Bambu at a prime time where demand outstrips supply. Everyday we get requests to build for clients. We have to ensure we meet the demands of all the potential and current customers out there.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
You need to continuously sell your idea and never stop. The phrase “build it and they will come” could not be more wrong because no one is coming. You have to go out, get them and be absolutely relentless. At this point, not only are you the founder but also the chief salesperson as well. It is all about doing hundreds if not thousands of meetings to get a chance at success; it’s binary.
I believe if you have done 1,000 meetings without sealing a deal, you have the wrong idea. Too many start-ups pitch about 100 times, get no deals then give up. You should aim for 1,000 at least and not give up.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
People wise: it’s my team. They believe in me so I believe in them. There is simply no way we can let each other down and it is inspirational for me that they placed their utmost trust in me.
What’s next for you and for Bambu?
Continuously selling, innovating and growing. The start-up world is about continual forward motion. Never wanting to take our foot off the accelerator as we have it jammed to the floor right now and plan on keeping it there.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Yes! This is the most fun I have ever had at work. We are lucky that our timing has been spot on and that I have such a great team. For anyone out there wondering about start-up world. Give it a go. It’s the best adventure you can have.
Hock Lai has 17 years of experience in the financial sector, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
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