Entrepreneurship and You: Dr Mark Hon
In this feature of the Entrepreneurship and You series, we caught up with Dr Mark Hon.
If you have been in the startup ecosystem for some time, or have been to some of ACE’s events, you might have bumped into Dr Mark Hon who is easily recognisable by his tall stature. A university professor turned serial entrepreneur and accredited private investor, Dr Mark Hon has a wealth of experience in leading early-stage companies from ideation to IPO.
He is the chairman of ACE and past chairman of the Business Angel Network South East Asia (BANSEA). He also serves on the evaluation panels of public sector funds that support entrepreneurship. In the private sector, he has formulated R&D commercialisation strategies for The Boeing Company, consumer electronics procurement road maps and mobile application strategies for France Telecom, and acquisition strategies in the energy sector. He has served as c-level officer at a publicly traded company, and economic index expert to a Swiss bank.
In this interview, we delved into a deeper understanding of Dr Mark Hon’s entrepreneurial journey and the advice he has for our entrepreneurs.
Tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey, how did it start?
When I was younger, I was fascinated with the inner mechanics of trade and how “the game” is repeated on a daily basis between different parties. I have often asked myself “what if” and why things cannot be done better or faster. You can say curiosity led me to entrepreneurship.
What are the challenges you have faced, how did you overcome it?
Talent acquisition. There is a very small group of people who can execute tasks really well. They lead by example and are a necessity for ventures to succeed. We spend a lot of time recruiting and grooming these high potential team members.
What inspires you to be an entrepreneur?
When I was younger, the initial focus was on value creation. Today, being a community stakeholder comes with the opportunity to pay it forward; in other words, to empower more founders to launch sustainable businesses, create jobs and deliver value to customers (as opposed to simple wealth accumulation).
Who influenced you the most in your entrepreneurial journey?
My team members. The startup journey is a long road march and it should be done with a group of people you enjoy working with. The notion that we believe in the vision enough to show up for work, rain or shine, is motivation to keep moving onward together.
In your startup journey, what is the best advice you ever took?
Mental resilience to recover from setbacks is important – my favourite Winston Churchill quote is: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
What are you doing now, and what are you up to next?
I am looking at ways to scale venture building to cities that need it.
Given the amount of commitments you have, what is one productivity tip you swear by in your busy schedule?
Break your day down into morning/afternoon/evening “time zones” for tasks (email, sports, community, family, etc) and try to stick to it.
As ACE’s Chairman, in what ways do you hope to help startups through ACE or other means?
I hope Singapore founders see ACE as their go-to resource and business chamber that will champion the interests of Singapore-based startups in the areas of market access, funding, government policies and industrial partnerships.
What is your vision for the Singapore Startup Ecosystem?
We have to empower our talent pool to effectively participate in the growth trajectory for ASEAN states as value creators. ACE will continue to create opportunities and make it easier for our Singapore-based startups to access these regions through our programmes.
If there is one advice you need to give to entrepreneurs, what would that be?
Spend time to understand yourself and know what ultimately drives you. Entrepreneurship may not be for everyone and it is perfectly fine to be in rewarding careers as a teacher, engineer, doctor, artist, mathematician, graphic designer, musician, and be great at it! Singapore is a small country and we need diverse areas of talent to function well as a lively, liveable city.
The Entrepreneurship and You series is a collection of inspiring stories from people who have made a difference and played a part in the entrepreneurial scenes. In every feature, we will ask the person of interest a series of questions for him or her to share his/her success strategies and advice for fellow entrepreneurs or founders-to-be. We hope that through this series, we will be able to inspire more people to be part of the startup scene.