Back in 2014, Seah Ying Cong, Oswald Yeo and Looi Qin En founded Glints, the three of them kick-starting the highly successful jobs portal that has helped many young people find jobs since.
Glints targets young people to help them acquire relevant career skills and experience through internships, part-time jobs, and real projects, while simultaneously easing the hiring process for employers of young people. According to the founders, running a start-up has taught them a lot of real world skills that they are sure they would never learn from schools.
Realising and recognizing that there is a whole lot out there for them to learn, they decided to be part of the IDA-supported Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI) for the mentorship it provides. At 21, the trio are the youngest entrepreneurs accepted into the program so far.Oswald and Ying Cong have also co-authored and published a book titled “Singapore Start-up Guide” together with renowned entrepreneur Derek Sivers.
In the latest news, Glints announced that co-founder Looi Qin En will be leaving the company. But fret not, the separation ended on good terms. You can find out more about it here. Till now, Qin En remains undecided on the next move he is going to make.
In this exclusive interview, Digital Senior is honoured to sit down with the three of them to find out how the road has been, three years on, and what’s it like growing a start-up from the ground up.
1) What was the inspiration behind Glints?
We started Glints to help our friends discover careers they love – but the story behind our beginnings are simpler. It began with connecting our friends to start-up internships, offering them a different experience from the traditional banking or consulting internships. After hundreds of conversations with our talents, we then realised the more pressing need to enable career discovery and career development, which has led Glints to where we are today.
2) Share with us the challenges you faced growing Glints? How did you manage to go undiscovered growing a business while serving the army?
We did not start out with the intention to build a business — rather, we experienced a problem to be solved ourselves (that is, discovering interesting internship opportunities). We then connected our friends running start-ups to friends looking for internships, and that was how Glints started 4 years ago.
At every phase of growth, we encounter different challenges. Right now, we are focused on growing Glints in Indonesia, as Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s largest market and half of the 250 million population are aged 30 and below. That’s a huge opportunity for us.
3) What was it like studying in your respective universities? (Stanford University, Wharton School of Business and University of California Berkeley?)
While we were at school, we were trying to juggle our studies along side Glints. That was clearly not working out, so we had to make the hard decision to give up our scholarships, step out of school and build the business. The results of that have shown for itself, and we have no regrets.
4) What was the greatest takeaway in a) university b) working in the start-up scene/culture?
To be brutally honest, we have not completed our studies. In actual fact, we haven’t even completed freshman year. The three of us applied for a leave of absence from school and have no plans to go back to school in the near future as we really want to focus on building our company.
During university days, our time was focused on building the start-up, doing our studies and hanging out with friends. It was super busy for us and ultimately, we did not have time to do well in the start-up or studies which was why we had to make the difficult decision of putting our studies on hold.
We also wanted to expand in the United States (US), initially, but found that it wouldn’t work. We had no competitive advantage (in terms of understanding of market, networks, etc) and our competitors were much more well-funded. There was little product market fit which was why we decided to focus on Singapore and Southeast Asia.
The greatest takeaway from building a start-up is to be relentlessly resourceful – there are many times when there aren’t enough resources, but something still has to be done.
Relentlessly resourceful means being super laser focused on what we wanted to achieve and telling ourselves that we have got to achieve it, no matter what it takes.
5) What plans do you have for Glints five to ten years down the road?
We aspire to be Asia’s number one career discovery platform.
6) Looking back, what is one advice the three of you would give to your younger selves?
One piece of advice that we would give ourselves would be to focus on the user, and not be short-term focused. There were decisions we made in the pursuit of short term revenue that led to a less than ideal user experience (at one point we had all financial service companies hiring on Glints — AIA, AXA, Manulife, Great Eastern, Prudential, IFA).That led to a lose-lose for the employers and our talent.
7) What advice do you have for young undergraduates looking to entrepreneurship as a career?
Build a company because you have a problem you want to solve, and because you want to create impact. It’s a marathon, not a sprint — and many times, you work towards a milestone thinking that life gets better or easier after you achieve the milestone. It doesn’t. You constantly get challenged beyond your comfort zone, and that’s what you signed up for!
More About Glints
Founders: Oswald Yeo, Looi Qin En and Seah Ying Cong
Total Funding at hand: $50,000 from private angel investors and $25,000 from Joyful Frog Digital Incubator
Source of Funding: Private Angel Investor and Joyful Frog Digital Incubator
Start of Operation: Jan 2014