As Jessica Herrin, Founder and CEO of Stella & Dot shared, “You have to see failure as the beginning and the middle, but never entertain it as an end.” Being an entrepreneur is difficult. Overnight success does not appear in an entrepreneur’s dictionary.
As part of the “Founders X EDGE” interview series, we speak to entrepreneurs who have walked through the journey of starting up, to gain an unbiased view of what it truly takes to be one.
I had the privilege today to sit down with Vishnu Saran, Founder and CEO of Invigilo Technologies. Invigilo is a video analytics platform that seeks to analyse and process video footage from construction sites to identify potential safety hazards and production delays, thus saving time and money.
Vishnu is an alumnus of the prestigious NUS Overseas College (NOC) Silicon Valley programme. A material science and engineering graduate, he had previously founded Nucleate, an education startup, during his time in NUS.
Upon graduation, he explored the VC space as a business analyst for 4 months before venturing out and starting Invigilo.
Tun Yong (TY): What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Vishnu (V): I view it as doing something to creating value to society. It can be through developing ideas and solutions to positively impact the community. Entrepreneurship, in essence, is using your skillsets and ideologies to provide solutions that generate value for others.
It is also a lot about self-discovery and many people don’t realise that you learn a lot about yourself through entrepreneurship.
Tun Yong (TY): Was entrepreneurship always the dream job in your life? Or was there a turning point in your life that set your mind on pursuing entrepreneurship?
Vishnu (V): From the very beginning itself, from high school onwards, I have already wanted to be an entrepreneur. I joined business case competitions in my Junior College (JC) and started an electronics parts reselling platform then too. Moving on, I also started Nucleate, an Ed-Tech startup, in Year 2 at NUS.
In fact, I wanted to study overseas in the United States. However, I was drawn to the NOC programme in NUS and decided to study locally before heading over to the US for internships and work. Hence, one of the main reasons why I picked NUS was for its NOC programme.
Though I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, this passion took a turn in my time at NUS. In Year 2 or 3 of university, I started to take a strong interest in Science. I was always a science guy and loved physics and chemistry immensely. Hence, I wanted to pursue a PhD and started to work towards preparing for it.
The turning point that drove me back to pursue entrepreneurship came during the NOC programme. I headed over to Silicon Valley and that was when the entrepreneurial spirit within me was rekindled. I deep-dived into the scene again and found great joy.
I previously had the impression that a PhD was necessary to build a deep-tech startup, which was what I wanted to do. However, I soon realised it was not necessary and realised that all I needed was my desire and passion.
After graduation, I did not dive straight into setting up my own business. Instead, I joined a VC firm for 4 months before starting up Invigilo. Therefore, the true turning point was in High School or JC, where I fell in love with idea creation and coming out with innovative solutions.
At Silicon Valley, I rediscovered my passion for startups due to the fun and challenging nature of it. The feeling at the end of the day when you create solutions that value-adds to others is truly different and is what inspires me to be an entrepreneur.
Tun Yong (TY): What inspired you to start Invigilo and why did you decide to focus on the construction sector?
Vishnu(V): Invigilo was the result of several factors. Firstly, I was already helping a couple of my friends in a startup. They were manufacturing smart helmets and using IoT devices to track locations and other features. There was where I got my experience in the construction industry.
Afterwards, I worked full-time in a VC that was focused on the medical landscape, therefore it was not related to the construction industry at all.
Soon, I chanced upon this competition called the “InCube Challenge”, where we stay inside a glass cube for 4 days and we engage in design thinking to come up with solutions.
Coincidentally, the theme for the competition was smart construction sites. We won the competition with a similar idea to what I am currently working on with Invigilo, and that was where the idea for Invigilo started.
During the challenge, I soon realised that the construction industry was huge and full of potential for new, innovative solutions. Hence, I decided to focus on it and build up Invigilo in the construction domain.
Tun Yong (TY): How influential was the NOC Silicon Valley programme in building you both as an entrepreneur and as a person?
Vishnu(V): I grew a lot as a person during NOC. Before embarking on NOC, I was a happy, playful and happy go lucky type of person. Though I am still an ambitious person, I was overly ambitious back then and took on many projects and was easily distracted.
It resulted in me not being able to devote my 100% into my projects. After NOC, I soon realised that one should be focused on a few key projects and aim for depth, not breadth, to achieve effective results.
Throughout NOC, I gained some key learning points too. Firstly, initiative and ownership. I started taking more initiative and ownership. I started devoting my best to the tasks assigned to me.
Instead of putting in half-hearted effort for a myriad of tasks, I focused on giving my best for the few tasks that I took on. I still am ambitious and set very high and unrealistic goals but do manage to hit them anyway. Even if I don’t, the quality of work would still be high.
Secondly, I learnt a lot about communicating technical ideas to a non-technical audience. This is especially important in today’s digitalised world and at Invigilo too, where it involves deep-tech and is tech-heavy.
I also learnt that having passion is temporal. When people share, they are passionate about something, it is often a culmination of multiple factors. I have learnt that you must be aware of the factors that contributed to this passion to truly understand your desires and ultimately, ensure that the passion is for the long-run.
Lastly, for aspiring entrepreneurs that are incredibly ambitious, like me, it is important to accept that you do not win everything in life. You must choose your battles wisely as you win some of them but lose out on some too.
Interested in Invigilo Technologies and the work they do? Check them out here.
Check out the second part of the interview series here, as Vishnu shares how he juggled both studies and starting a startup and the difference between Silicon Valley and Singapore in their startup culture.
This interview is part of our “Founders X EDGE” series where we seek to hear the insights of youth entrepreneurs to demystify the scene and empower youths to turn their ideas into reality. Do reach out to us if you are interested in being featured alongside other great, young minds!
Tun Yong Yap
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