If you are new to Invigilo Technologies and Vishnu or missed our first interview here, here’s a brief introduction of what they do.
Invigilo is a deep-tech start-up that develops IoT and video analytics platforms to boost worksite productivity and safety. Their products can predict safety issues and prevent accidents from happening as well as prevent potential delays at construction sites. More than just saving time and money for construction firms, Invigilo aspires to build the next generation smart construction site.
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 were some differences you observed between the US and Singapore startup ecosystems given your experience working in both?
Vishnu (V): Silicon Valley (SV) is more advanced in terms of social interactions and culture. The culture in SV is a lot more embracing and nurturing. It readily nurtures anyone willing to join the ecosystem. So, the key difference I noticed was that people were more open and willing to share and help one another in SV. Though this is true in Singapore too, it is not to the extent that is seen in the States.
In SV, people take full ownership of their products, tasks and responsibilities. I had seen first-hand numerous instances where my colleagues stayed up till 4am to work on their projects in labs. I would go back to the office the next day and I would see them lying on the office couch. They had not gone home and had pulled an all-nighter to complete their assigned tasks. That was how dedicated they were.
There were also more team bonding sessions too. We had events such as “Lunch & Learn” every day where we would discuss cutting-edge technologies over lunch. There was where I learnt the most during my time in SV. I had a diverse range of colleagues and each one of them was incredibly passionate about their field and shared so much about their various tech interests. They came from the big tech companies such as Tesla and NASA to work in the incredible startup where I interned at. Just interacting with them daily provided me with such great insights.
The “fun” element was more evident in the SV scene too. There was a weekly activity where we took turns to organise a team game for the company. We also had visits to tourist attractions all over the country. It makes you feel like part of the team and family. However, in Singapore, being an intern, you are shut off from many aspects of the company due to proprietary reasons.
There is value in Singapore too. Back home, I learnt the importance of technical skills. In SV, you can easily find your way through by speaking well. However, in Singapore, they focus more on your skills. There is a greater emphasis on “walking the talk” here too. Though it is somewhat true in SV too, the focus back home is greater. You get a larger proportion of people who can both talk and execute well.
I think the startup culture in Singapore is growing. At Invigilo, we build our culture upon inclusivity. I have already drawn up plans for my office space and hope the fundraising round would be sufficient for me to execute my idea. Therefore, more startups in Singapore are emulating those in SV.
SV was also affected by the recent thaw in US-China tensions in the tech space and thus is on the decline too.
One more key difference I can share is that in Singapore, there is a lot more key emphasis on academics, operations and cost. In the US, the focus is more on growth, experience and fun.
Tun Yong (TY): You started Nucleate, an educational startup, during your time in NUS. How hard was it juggling academics and starting up? Any advice for aspiring student entrepreneurs?
Vishnu (V): I started Nucleate as a form of experiencing entrepreneurship. I truly believe that we cannot keep learning through the textbook, we should get our hands dirty and do it. Therefore, my key advice for student entrepreneurs is to go for it! Just start.
It was tough starting up and studying. I have always loved multitasking, thus I enjoyed having many things on my plate. Thus, time management is very important. Till today, I have not mastered the art of time management. Time is finite. You can always find small pockets of time to complete tasks if you plan your time well.
It is crucial to have a good team to support you. As a student entrepreneur, many of your teammates are your friends and it is beneficial to the team dynamics. For those who start after school, like me, your team would consist of more than just friends. There will be people you just met and acquaintances too.
Having friends on your team is a double-edged sword too. You need to draw the line between friendship and professionalism. Therefore, I would advise student entrepreneurs to set a clear distinction of how work should be split between the team. Furthermore, they must accept the fact that disliking one as a teammate does not equate to disliking one as a friend.
Setting expectations right is very important. People should not feel cheated. You should not promise things that you cannot deliver, which is very common for student entrepreneurs. Live realistically.
Do not form too big a team too. I have noticed that student entrepreneurs tend to have big teams of 6-7 co-founders. The co-founding team should have a maximum of 3 people. Anything more than that makes it difficult to reach a proper consensus and proceed forward. My Nucleate founding team consisted of 5 members and it was already a challenge to juggle it. Therefore, it is key to keep the team lean.
Interested in Invigilo Technologies and the work they do? Check them out here.
Stay tuned the third part of the interview series, as Vishnu shares on the pivots made by Invigilo during the pandemic and top traits an entrepreneur should have to succeed.
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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