Published on 22 Jan 2022

Passion not enough: Lessons on growing a business

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, this young alumnus quickly realised that big dreams and enthusiasm alone aren’t enough to get a start-up off the ground.

Text: Samuel Lim

This NTU School of Art, Design & Media (ADM) alumnus, Mr Jake Tan (Class of 2020), founded Serial Communication, a start-up offering design and delivery of digital art projects, right after graduation together with two former ADM schoolmates.

Jake with his team that produces AR and other digital art works: (From L-R) Jake, project manager Tricia Mok, and co-founders Sheryl Sim (ADM/2020) and Ernest Goh (ADM/2018).

Serial team - photo filterHowever, it didn’t take long for him to realise he needed to learn new skills to run a business. 

As a creative practitioner, opening a studio of our expertise is a whole different ball game,” says Jake, who found it “not easy to accept” that he couldn’t learn and do it all on his own. To bridge his knowledge gap, Jake explored the NTU FlexiMasters programme in General Management, which was intensive and provided practical instructions – just what he was looking for. “The practical takeaways from each course set the foundation for my entrepreneurship,” he says.

It helped too that he could use the NTU Alumni Course Credits to subsidise the cost of the programme. Designed to equip participants with skills necessary to run modern enterprises, the five-course sequence in the General Management programme focuses on key aspects of business strategy – people management, operations, company governance, cultural intelligence, and business negotiation.

Getting in shape

National day filterHis business model gradually transformed into a comprehensive one to sustain it for the long haul and the team differentiated their roles for better efficiency. Another important skill that Jake learnt is how to do forward planning for the business. “We often hear of start-ups that fizzle out after a few years and we didn’t want to add to that score,” Jake says.

So far, the company has done several major projects, including for National Day last year where they created augmented reality filters that allowed people to join in celebrations remotely, as well as an interactive augmented reality experience for a boutique hotel in Singapore whose campaign went on to win the Best Hotel Experience Award at the Singapore Tourism Award 2021.

From having no concrete ideas to getting clear directions and practical next steps, Jake says: “If there’s anything to describe my experience  going  through the programme, I would say it was life-changing, from a business perspective.”


This article first appeared in the first issue of U, the NTU alumni magazine.