Tapping on the ASEAN Region: A Chat with Reactor’s Rusydi (Part 2)

If you are new to Reactor and Rusydi or missed our first interview here, here’s a brief introduction of them. 

Rusydi is the Co-founder and CEO of Reactor School (www.reactor.school). Developing entrepreneurship programmes for youths aged 13-24, Reactor seeks to elevate the levels of entrepreneurial mastery in youths. Its mission is to be the leading startup ecosystem developer in the region, with its vision of cultivating the galaxy’s best founders.

Rusydi is a graduate from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and is also a board member of Advisory Singapore and The Young SEAKers. He previously served as a board member of *SCAPE, and was a panellist on the SG Youth Action Panel with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Tun Yong: How should young founders approach experienced stakeholders to speak about their businesses?

Rusydi: There was an instance when I gave out my business card at a startup networking event as an undergraduate and some instantly wrote me off.

I was genuinely attempting to have a conversation with him but they thought I was too young to be taken seriously.  

What helped me was to constantly develop the skills and knowledge necessary to hold a conversation. For example, before going to a fintech event, I would do my due diligence by reading up on fintech news and checking out the speakers on LinkedIn. 

By arming yourself with the knowledge, you would have the social currency to hold a proper conversation with people in the industry and come across as more credible and interesting.

Tun Yong: What have been your takeaways from interacting with youth entrepreneurs in the region?

Rusydi: I have come to realise two things. Firstly, age has no bearing on the maturity of the startup idea. I have seen students in Thailand and Vietnam develop really interesting ideas to tackle problems worth solving.

Secondly, youths across the region have a broader perspective of the problem they are solving and how they plan to tackle them. They can identify problems in their community that the government and private sector, for some reason or another, have not been able to solve.

I see that trait a lot in youths across ASEAN but that is not to say that our local founders are not good. I have noticed that local early-stage local founders miss out on seeing how they could scale their business beyond Singapore.

Whereas, when I work with Indonesian founders, they have an expansion plan that brings them out of their city. For example, they will tackle Jakarta first, followed by Bandung and then Yogyakarta.

The Reactor team at an exhibition in Jakarta

Tun Yong: Do you think the small domestic market has a part to play in this perception?

Rusydi: I have seen a lot of pitch decks where their expansion plans only involve capturing the Singapore market by the third or fourth year. However, that is not what VCs want to see.

They want to see what is the regional Total Addressable Market (TAM) and Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM) for the business. The best way for local founders to break through this barrier is to travel and interact with people around the region.

Reach out to others in the region, have calls with them to find out what is happening on the ground and how you can collaborate regionally. This would certainly help change the perception of young Singaporean founders and broaden their view.

Tun Yong: What are the traits you observed in successful entrepreneurs?

Rusydi: Firstly, bias to action. The successful ones do first and think later. They are not afraid of getting out there and cold-calling customers to speak to them.

I had seen a 16-year old Thai student – who wanted to start an agritech company – asked his father to help connect him to farmers and he spoke to them to validate his idea.

Secondly, the ability to read long-form content. A lot of youths today are accustomed to consuming short-form content such as blog posts and TikTok videos. They hardly read a book from cover to cover anymore.

If you want to build a high-tech startup, you need to have the ability to string together coherent thoughts over a long time, making the ability to read long-form content very important.

Thirdly, I recommend any student founders to pick up any ASEAN language. They should immerse themselves in the culture and learn how to work with peers across the region. 

I have noticed, through Reactor’s programmes, students who work with a network beyond themselves have been able to solve very interesting problems.

Interested in learning about Reactor and the work they do? Check them out here.

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!

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Tun Yong Yap

Passionate about start-ups that identify problems, develop ideas and execute solutions that value-add to the community. As the Content Manager at EDGE, I seek to connect with youth founders to share their story and inspire others to turn their ideas into reality.

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