A serial entrepreneur who believes in success as a collateral effect of passion and competence. Born in Israel and raised in Switzerland, he is always up for a new challenge and has a real knack for solving problems. Holding a Master’s degree in Economics and Information Technologies from HEC Lausanne, he has created a portfolio of 5 companies, of which 2 have been successfully acquired, giving him the time and ability focus on new venture, Popety, a Singapore-based PropTech and CashSentinel, a Fintech growing in Europe.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Israel, raised in Switzerland and my first attempt at entrepreneurship was importing denim jeans and selling them to shops and friends. In parallel, I was part of the student council and had a lot of exposure doing research projects for companies. That piqued my interest to start a career in management consulting with Arthur Andersen, this was where I met my co-founder Fred and became fast friends. 8 years later, I started my own consultancy firm, Newtone Associates, and had the opportunity to grow the business in Singapore. So here I am for 5 years now, with my family of 4. Coincidentally Fred was posted to Singapore as Group CFO for a large family business. With Newtone successfully sold to another firm, I could focus on getting Popety and CashSentinel, a fintech company based in Europe, off the ground.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I believe that today can be better than yesterday. It just takes faith and hard work. This is obviously true in business but also in relations with other beings such as family, friends, team members or clients. This is what wakes me up, hope and action.
Running a startup is full of unexpected surprises and unpredictability. It requires adaptability. Talk about the most challenging adaptation you had to make and how you did it.
Challenges are of many types in startups. It ranges from finding the right team members, raising funds, nailing down the value proposition, finding the right words to admitting mistakes and starting again. A good example is our main pivot. When we started the company, we wanted to focus on rentals only carving out agents (owners direct to seekers) and therefore named ourselves “TranspaRENT” which still is our legal name. While the MVP was built on that vision, we realised that not only rentals was insufficient but also that agents are valuable on the market. We decided to grow the scope of supported customer journeys to include sales, maintenance and empower agents on top of owners and seekers.The vision suddenly expanded and that really fired us up. To execute and ensure everything goes to plan? Now, that’s another challenging part.
Compare yourself now to when you first started out, what is/are the most important thing(s) you have learnt?
Networking is a necessity when you run a startup.You never know what opportunities may come your way. Being passionate about our vision and about what we do, I actually tend to overshare and blindly trust counterparts. This sometimes creates side effects that you only notice later such as competitors coming up with similar ideas or messages. It’s tough not to be emotionally affected, dismiss them as distractions and keep going.
While I still want to believe that people are honest, I’ve learnt to be more selective about sharing what Popety does now, especially in initial meetings with investors and other founders.
If someone from the future told you that Popety was going to fail, what would you do?
Knowing the future is a curse. At the same time, humans know that they will eventually die. It does not prevent us from doing amazing things. Do you think maybe someone from the future told Edison he was going to succeed that’s why he didn’t give up on inventing the lightbulb after trying 10,000 times? First, let’s define failure. I’ve not regretted a single day since I’ve worked on Popety and to me, that’s the biggest validation and motivation. From where I stand now, the milestones are being met on time and call me “old school”, but I always feel hard work and a little bit of luck will always get you somewhere. Perhaps not the destination we had set our hearts on from the beginning, but after some pivoting and adjustment, hardwork WILL definitely lead you somewhere. Have faith and being a startup means having the nimbleness and potential to pivot which is a strength you must always capitalise on.
What would be your message to aspiring entrepreneurs?
We’re headed to a phase where technology is going to be irreversible across many industries. If you wish to be an entrepreneur, equip yourself with the right skillset, consultancy was one of the biggest building blocks which honed and sharpened my analytical and problem-solving skills. This is vital in any organisation and it will enable you in creating something from nothing. Secondly, entrepreneurship is very much like running a long and endurance marathon. It can get lonely, but keep breathing, keep your eyes set on the road ahead and you will get there.
NUS Entrepreneurship Society will be organizing the Global Entrepreneurs’ Conference from 3 – 7 Jan 2017 and Mike will be speaking at the Opening Address of the conference.
Want to hear more from him? Join us at our conference!
You may check out Mike’s latest start-up Popety at www.popety.com.
Popety is the only property management solution that gives you access to every property on the market, automates every step of your real estate journey and connects you to reliable service providers. By leveraging on inclusive technology, it helps homeowners, seekers, tenants and agents adapt to a changing environment and interact seamlessly. Popety makes real estate transparent and efficient, as it should be.