The Serial Entrepreneur: A chat with Augmentus’ Daryl Lim (Part 1)

As legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” Being an entrepreneur is among the toughest jobs in the world. Behind the announcements of multi-million dollar deals and funding rounds are years of hard work.

We are here to uncover that veil behind a successful entrepreneur. Spinning a unique twist in our “Founders X EDGE” interview series, we want to hear the toughest challenges and failures that founders had gone through on the journey to success.

We had the privilege today to sit down with Daryl Lim, Co-Founder of Augmentus. The local tech startup offers leading full-stack code-free robotic automation platform that enables anyone, even those with no robotic experience, to develop robotic systems.

Daryl is a current undergraduate of the National University of Singapore (NUS), pursuing a double major in Computing and Economics. Daryl was the Organiser and Head of Events for Ground Zero 2019, Singapore’s leading student-centric hackathon for startups, bringing together over 100 enthusiasts, developers and designers to launch tech startups in just 50 hours.

One might be surprised to find out that Augmentus was not Daryl’s first business venture despite him being an undergraduate. The avid entrepreneur was the Co-Founder of Edge Neo, a leading tech distribution startup that focuses on bringing to market enthusiast-grade consumer electronics and computing solutions. In 4 years, he grew Edge Neo to be the largest Blockchain-based digital assets storage distributor in Southeast Asia.

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?

Daryl (D): I graduated with a diploma in banking and finance. Thus, I wanted to go down the investment banking route due to the lucrative nature of it. Back in my polytechnic days, the smartphone revolution was just beginning and my friends were sharing how their phones crashed due to bugs.

Being a tech nerd, I helped them to repair their phones for a fee. Soon, it became a business and I expanded to selling small repair kits. Back then, I did not know that was entrepreneurship. It was not the hottest topic in town as the dotcom bubble just burst. My phone repair business grew and it soon became a computer distribution business which provided blockchain-based computing solutions to enterprises such as Seagate and GovTech. 

When I entered university, I was still clueless about entrepreneurship and still did not regard myself as an entrepreneur. Fast forward to today, I cannot imagine myself working in a corporate job. My internships in polytechnic were at MNCs such as Citibank and Seagate. The working environment there was average but I did not have control over my destiny and the impact I could make on society.

I am addicted to problem-solving and once I encounter one, I will not give up on solving it. This would be especially so when I believe I have a solution to it.

That led me to start Augmentus. I saw the pain points of automation and robotics. I questioned why SMEs, without robotic experience, cannot adopt these technologies. Automation and robotics do not have to be for the rich and the MNCs.  

Augmentus’ robotic arm used to pollinate and harvest Singrow strawberries

Tun Yong (TY): Did you face initial resistance when marketing Augmentus given the general perception that robots are taking over physical jobs?

Daryl (D): Whenever I share Augmentus with my friends, they do have the impression that robots are going to take over jobs. My stance is very different. Robots cannot do things humans can do. They can only do repeatable tasks, otherwise termed as the 3Ds (dump, dirty and dangerous). These tasks are what humans shun from and do not want to do.

This hypothesis has been validated overseas, in countries that have successfully incorporated robotics into the workforce. Robotics has also allowed for the reshoring of hobs. For example, Tesla just announced the opening of a new automotive factory back in the USA and provided job opportunities for Americans that would have otherwise been taken up by foreigners in China or Mexico. 

In the local context, before the 1990s, Singapore was known as the manufacturing hub of Asia. However, we are now known as the financial services hub of the continent. The reason for that change is due to our outsourcing of repetitive manufacturing tasks such as welding and drilling. We wanted to utilise our human resources more productively. 

Robots assisted in that shift. The concept of robotics increases employee productivity. For example, instead of one farmer farming 100 acres of land, he can control robots to farm up to 10 times of that within the same time frame. 

Technology is meant to augment the human profile, not to replace. Although we have to acknowledge the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and the potential it has, the current state of automation technologies such as robotics should not pose a threat to the jobs and livelihoods of humans.

Tun Yong (TY): What were key takeaways from organising large-scale events such as Ground Zero? Were they applicable for starting up Augmentus?

Daryl (D): It is very relevant but students in school clubs just want to be told what to do. However, my division was in charge of innovating new projects for NUS Entrepreneurship Society (NES). 

We organised the first student-centric hackathon, Ground Zero, and we had over 100 participants. It was well executed and I had many takeaways from it.

Before NUS, from my business venture, I knew how to run a business and generate revenue. But I did not know how to manage a team. In NES, I had to manage a team of 14 people to run this event. It was pretty challenging as you do not want too big a team as it can get messy and inefficient but do not want too small a team as we would not be able to get work done. Therefore, it was about striking a balance. 

Some considerations I had to make as a leader was how I could ensure the assigned tasks were done well while encouraging them as they dealt with academic pressures. These are soft skills that you can only gain through experience.

The soft skills nurtured at NES have been applicable at Augmentus too. Our team of 11 are incredibly focused on what we do and as the Co-founder, I strive to manage them well too.

The events environment is a constantly changing one too. The things you plan seldom execute perfectly on the ground. You have to adapt and that is what entrepreneurship is all about. When something happens, you have to adapt and pivot. 

Adapting to change is a mindset rather than a skillset. Be humble enough to know that you can be wrong and would need to change your plans. This is especially true in student-run events where the execution is not always ideal!

Interested in Augmentus and the work they do? Check them out here.

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview series, as Daryl shares his thoughts on the future for robotics and whether startups should consider joining accelerator programmes.

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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