Singapore is known for its booming economy and high standard of living, with a vibrant business landscape that attracts entrepreneurs from all over the world. With a population of just over 5.5 million people, the country has produced some of the wealthiest individuals in the world. 7.5% of Singaporeans are of millionaire status and is expected to grow to 9.8% by 2025.
What we can learn from
With 21.4% of the surveyed population intending to start a business within the next three years. Singapore ranks among the top few entrepreneurial nations in the world. Every successful person has an interesting backstory and I would like to shine some light on their accomplishment. Hopefully, there may be some individuals who are inspired to work hard to be successful entrepreneurs in the future.
Wee Cho Yaw – Chairman Emeritus of United Overseas Bank
Wee Cho Yaw is the chairman emeritus of UOB (United Overseas Bank), one of the largest banks in Singapore. He is the 4th wealthiest person in Singapore with a net worth of over $6 billion. Wee took over the family business in the 1970s. Since then, he has overseen its growth into a major player in the finance industry. UOB is now recognized both in Singapore and internationally.
Wee started his career in the banking industry at the age of 19 as a clerk. He worked his way up the ranks, gaining experience in various departments and positions, including foreign exchange, credit analysis, and operations.
In 1970, Wee became the Managing Director of OCBC, and in 1979, he became the Chairman of the bank. Under his leadership, OCBC expanded rapidly, both domestically and internationally. He oversaw the bank’s expansion into Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and China, transforming OCBC into a global banking institution.
His astute business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, and willingness to take risks attributed to his success in the banking industry. He had a reputation for spotting opportunities and making strategic investments that helped grow the bank’s business.
Apart from his success in the banking industry, Wee was also a philanthropist and a patron of the arts. He donated generously to various charitable causes and was a strong advocate for education, healthcare, and the arts. Numerous awards and honors have recognized his contributions to the banking industry and Singapore as a whole. The President of Singapore awarded him the Order of Temasek (First Class) in 2013 and 2014, and the Singapore Business Awards named him the Businessman of the Year.
Kwek Leng Beng – Executive Chairman of Hong Leong Group
Kwek Leng Beng is the executive chairman of Hong Leong Group. A diversified conglomerate with interests in real estate, finance, and hospitality. With a net worth of over $8 billion, Kwek has been involved in the family business since the 1960s. and has been instrumental in expanding its operations both domestically and internationally.
Kwek’s family had a background in trading and finance, and he learned the basics of business from his father and grandfather. He attended the University of London, where he studied law and economics.
After completing his studies, Kwek joined his family’s business, which had expanded into real estate development. He quickly demonstrated his business acumen and was given increasing responsibilities within the company. In the 1970s, Kwek spearheaded the development of Hong Leong Garden, a large-scale residential project that helped establish the company’s reputation as a major player in the real estate industry.
Kwek’s strategic vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and willingness to take risks. These are the key attributes to his success in the real estate industry. He had a reputation for identifying promising investment opportunities and negotiating deals skillfully.
Goh Cheng Liang – Founder of Nippon Paint Singapore
Goh Cheng Liang is the founder of Nippon Paint Singapore with a net worth of over $10 billion. He is one of the largest paint manufacturers in Asia. Founded in 1962, General Paints grew rapidly and was later renamed Nippon Paint Singapore. Goh’s business acumen and leadership skills helped the company to expand its operations throughout Asia and eventually become a global paint manufacturer.
Goh was known for his ability to anticipate trends in the market and for his emphasis on research and development. Under his leadership, Nippon Paint Holdings developed numerous innovative products, including low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, which are better for the environment and human health.
Numerous awards and honors have recognized Goh’s contributions to the business world and Singapore as a whole. The President of Singapore awarded him the Public Service Star in 1999 and the Public Service Star (Bar) in 2014 for his contributions to the country’s economic development.
Eduardo Saverin – Co-founder of Facebook
While Eduardo Saverin is most recognized for his involvement in the founding of Facebook. He is also among the wealthiest and youngest billionaires in Singapore, with a net worth of over $14 billion. The Brazilian-born entrepreneur moved to the country in 2009 and has since invested in several successful startups, including the popular ride-hailing service Grab.
Saverin attended high school in Miami, Florida, and later went on to study economics at Harvard University. It was during his time at Harvard that he met Mark Zuckerberg, the future founder of Facebook. The two became friends and decided to work together on a new social networking site, which would eventually become Facebook.
In 2004, Saverin provided the initial funding for Facebook and became one of its co-founders. He helped to develop the company’s business strategy and was responsible for attracting new investors to the platform. However, Zuckerberg’s relationship with Saverin soon soured, and he forced Saverin out of the company in 2005.
After departing from Facebook, Saverin sued Zuckerberg for breach of contract and fraud, claiming that Zuckerberg had unfairly cut him out of the company. The two eventually settled out of court, with Saverin receiving a significant sum of money in exchange for relinquishing his ownership stake in Facebook.
Despite his rocky relationship with Facebook, Saverin has continued to be successful as an entrepreneur and investor. He has invested in several startups and has co-founded several companies, including Jumio, a mobile payment and identity verification company, and B Capital Group, a venture capital firm.
In 2012, he renounced his US citizenship and moved to Singapore, where he has become a prominent advocate for social entrepreneurship and has pledged to donate a significant portion of his wealth to charitable causes.
Zhang Yong & Shu Ping – Founders of Haidilao International Holding Ltd.
With a net worth of over $15 billion, Zhang Yong and his wife Shu Ping are the richest people in Singapore. The couple founded Haidilao International Holding Ltd. It’s a popular hot pot restaurant chain that has become known for high-class standard food in China and around the world. The company went public in 2018 and has continued to see impressive growth, with a market capitalization of over $50 billion.
The company’s backstory is pretty inspiring to hear about. Founded in 1994. Zhang Yong was born in Sichuan, China, in 1970, and grew up in poverty. As a child, he sold vegetables to help his family make ends meet.
After graduating from high school, Zhang Yong started working as a welder, earning a meager salary. However, he was determined to succeed and went on to study management at a vocational college.
After graduation, Zhang Yong worked as a manager at several restaurants, where he gained experience and knowledge about the food industry. In 1994, he founded Haidilao with his wife Shu Ping, and several friends in Jianyang, Sichuan.
Haidilao’s early years were tough, with the restaurant struggling to attract customers. Zhang Yong and his team worked hard to improve the quality of the food and service, offering complimentary snacks and manicures to customers waiting for a table.
The innovative customer service approach proved successful, and the restaurant began to attract a loyal following. Haidilao expanded rapidly, opening new locations across China and eventually expanding overseas.
I like to think that most of our entrepreneurs have a tough history and that they learn to become better entrepreneurs. Success is not as easy as what Youtuber constantly flex. There is no one-way ticket to instant wealth(unless you win a lottery). It takes years of dedication and understanding of a business to be good at it. The best lessons are those learned through hardship, and I believe many people have experienced it themselves.