Jian Rong Teo is a millennial who inspires millions. 23 years old this year, he is the Singapore Head for the Young Founders School. He is also popularly known as The Serial Entrepreneur, having been responsible for several establishments since he was 16 years old.
What began as ideation and observance has taken the shape of tangible entities today.
I am sitting in Ya Kun Cafe at Clarke Quay waiting for him to arrive. Completely contradictory to my imagination, Jian Rong walks in wearing a black Edge T-shirt with a pair of jeans and an attitude so modest that he treats me before we can begin talking.
Since He Was 11
“I think I was in school, maybe 11 or 12 years old when I actually came up with an idea”, says Jian Rong. He tells me that a class T shirt had to be designed, and the girls and boys had completely different ideas on how the T shirt should look.
To solve the conflict, Jian Rong discussed the needs of both parties and came up with a consensus on design. This eventually led to the establishment of Jian Rong’s first company called Imprin Tee 5 years later.
He started outsourcing his printing work through a website that he created and handled by himself. Imprin Tee later went on to have commissions by companies like Mc Donald’s Bosch and Cathay.
Inspirations and Ideologies
Jian Rong tells me that his home environment has been extremely nurturing and supportive. His father, who is also an entrepreneur, was a major source of inspiration for him. He also admires Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Jian Rong believes that technology is a boon that can be used to solve problems. His school of thought appeals to me when he declares that we do not need to be afraid of technology. In fact, we need to learn to control it and use it to benefit others.
It’s no wonder that he’s not just a Technopreneur but also involved extensively in social work for the underprivileged.
Despite his age, he has spent years voluntarily helping young aspirants. He believes that by teaching technological skills and grooming the youth, problems such as unemployment and poverty can be dealt with. He has been working on these lines for almost 5 years.
I ask Jian Rong to share a moment in his career that he will always remember. He mentions what his mentor and idol, entrepreneur Dr. Alex Lin, once said:
“He told me that it is great that you are thinking about social causes but you need to figure out how to sustain before you can help others.”
“This helped me understand that to help others I need to be at a position where I can do it. He imparted to me a mindset of a true entrepreneur.”
In July 2015, Jian Rong started Inderr – a platform that matches startups founders and angel investors. With the objective to help young aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and get funds, Inderr was Jian Rong’s vision to solve the problems of enthusiasts and resource seekers.
While he was still studying at Singapore Polytechnic, Jian Rong co-founded the Student Enterprise LLP with the objective of providing Entrepreneurship Education and Event Management skills in order to equip aspirants from Low Income Families. The purpose of this venture was to enable them to kick-start their ventures and become independent financially.
He then co-founded another company called Codesurance in order to help non-technical start-up founders in coding documents and enabling connections between founders and experienced solution architects as well as development houses.
Jian Rong also established Singapore’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Community called EDGE, whichis supported by ACE and SPRING Singapore. The motto of this organisation is to Empower, Develop and Groom Entrepreneurs at a national level.
He reveals that he has big plans for this initiative. He is now looking at sending members to other countries where they can explore and learn better in drastic incubation environments.
His Secret Formula
By now I am not only in awe of this young enthusiast’s passion to change the world using technology, I am also intrigued to know if he has a success formula. He surprises me with a prompt answer: “Actually I do.”
“There is a three “E” formula that I apply – Expose, Experience and Experiment. Expose yourself to situations and circumstances, observe and learn. Experience problems on the ground level. And finally, experiment with prototype solutions.”
Jian Rong dropped out off college this year in January. He was studying Electronic Engineering and Information Technology.
But after experiencing so much on the ground level, he did not feel the need to attain a degree. He says the key is to keep learning – it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a classroom; you can learn anywhere.
Signing off the interview, Jian Rong leaves me with a thought. He says that any aspirant who wants to make a change must know that there will be number of sleepless nights and many failures or rather mistakes.
But, eventually after all the frustration, you will have a solution. He lives with the mantra of adding value and finding solutions – making money is not primary.
In Jian Rong’s words – “Always remember, the best investment is to invest in yourself.”