By Sadia Roohi
Luxury media title, Tatler Asia, has identified 300 young remarkable leaders who are shaping the future of Asia on its latest Generation T Asia list. Among the trailblazers are Ms Jane Wang (MAE/2009), CEO of robotics startup Roceso Technologies; Mr Benjamin Chua (RSIS/2013), CEO of home-grown cleaning technology company Speco and Mr Ted Chen (EEE/2012), CEO of sustainability tech company Evercomm Singapore.
These under-40 entrepreneurs saw new opportunities in the market and started their own business to offer innovative products and services with new-to-market value propositions. They share their inspirations and challenges on their entrepreneurial journey.
Using wearable tech to help patients heal
Jane Wang (MAE/2009)
Co-founder and CEO, Roceso Technologies
Studying at NTU was a gamechanger for Jane Wang. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering minoring in business and entrepreneurship, Jane launched her business venture after realising there was a market gap in the upper limb rehabilitation process for patients with neurological disorders such as stroke.
She has always been interested in healthcare tech and decided to start Roceso Technologies with three co-founders in 2016. Their flagship product, the EsoGLOVE™, is touted as one of the lightest hand rehabilitation and exoskeleton devices in the market.
“We wanted to focus on neurorehabilitation technology and developed wearable soft robotic solutions to help patients with limb impairment. The product can be worn daily so patients can carry out their rehabilitation in the comfort of their home,” explained Jane.
Looking back on her NTU journey, she likes that mechanical engineering gave her a strong technical foundation in product development, while accounting and marketing modules helped her to assume the role of a CEO.
As with many entrepreneurial pursuits, the journey comes with its own set of challenges. One of the challenges was the limited size of the Singapore market and slower adoption in locally made technologies. Hence, the company decided to first explore the overseas market in Taiwan in 2019. They were looking to enter Singapore in 2020 after receiving the necessary approvals from Singapore's Health Sciences Authority.
“Another challenge we faced was translating the research prototype to a product for mass manufacturing. We were eventually supported by Enterprise Singapore and other partners to find potential partners in Singapore and overseas for these processes,” said Jane.
Jane hopes to take Roceso Technologies to more countries as well as expand its product offerings and acquire new technologies for neurological diseases.
To fellow alumni who wish to start their own business, Jane advises: “Try to work on a real problem that you really care about. Only a solution for a real problem will have a market. Only something that you care about will keep you going at difficult times.”
Breakthrough in antiviral protective coating
Benjamin Chua (RSIS/2013)
Founder and CEO, Speco
When Benjamin Chua started his cleaning and disinfection company, he structured it as a social enterprise so that he could hire marginalised workers.
Today, Speco is not only known as a company with a heart but also an innovative one. Most notably, Speco created a proprietary technology with Speco® active ingredient that provides up to 180 days of antiviral protection on surfaces.
“The company adopted an impact business model to create specific positive outcomes for our workers as well as for the environment,” explained Benjamin.
The main challenges faced by the company were to gain trust from its clients as well as to protect Speco’s intellectual property. He said: “How do we prove that a social enterprise is able to develop one of the most innovative solutions that the world has ever seen? We must be willing to work hard to prove ourselves and let our clients know that we are not selling just a pipe dream but a tangible benefit.”
Speco is a B-Corp certified company with socially responsible practices. Among its employees, more than 50% are retrenched mature workers, ex-offenders and persons with disabilities, and Benjamin intends to continue upskilling them.
Sharing an example, Benjamin said: “One of my staff was an ex-offender and has been working with us for three years. During the pandemic, he led his team to conduct pro bono disinfection at nursing homes. Recently, he showed me a photo of him receiving the long service award for being a prison volunteer. It was a proud moment for me as he is a changed man and is now an advocate for a better social ecosystem.”
Teaching companies how to cut down on emissions
Ted Chen (EEE/2012)
Co-founder and CEO, Evercomm
Ted Chen is honoured for enabling businesses to become more sustainable. Founded in 2013, Evercomm helps emission-intensive companies leverage the power of technology to reduce energy consumption and decarbonise without sacrificing production.
He said: “We help organisations accurately compute their carbon emission, match them to the right decarbonisation solution providers, secure green financing and manage carbon credits for them to support their net-zero journey.”
“Evercomm is all about using technology to accelerate credible climate action in Asia,” said Ted. “I have always been interested in sustainability. Most of my classmates work in the oil and gas sector. However, I didn’t want to contribute towards emissions and thus started Evercomm.”
He believes that his engineering degree specialising in power system and renewable energy, as well as his master’s degree in technopreneurship, coupled with mentorship he received from NTUitive, played a critical role in his startup journey.
For Ted, it is important to run a company profitably. He remarked: “One should focus on solving a real problem with a sustainable and scalable business model. And don’t start a business venture that relies solely on external funding, a business owner must be able to generate good revenue and keep cost manageable.”
While Evercomm is currently present in Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan, Ted has set his sight on expanding to 14 more countries, mostly in Asia, by the end of next year.