We had a conversation with Vanessa Techapichetvanich, the trailblazing co-founder of Jamulogy, celebrated victor of “The Apprentice ONE: Championship Edition”, and a dynamic participant at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Innovation Academy. Vanessa shares her unfiltered and deeply motivational journey as a female founder navigating the startup landscape in Asia, alongside her extraordinary triumph in a reality show. Her story is a powerful blend of candid reflections and invaluable insights, guaranteed to inspire and engage anyone interested in the pulsating world of entrepreneurship and the challenges and victories it holds. 

What inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship?

My motivation stems from a mix of eager curiosity and a quick-to-bore temperament. I’ve always believed that my endeavors must be purposeful. As a child, my drive was primarily fueled by the desire to earn money, allowing me the freedom to spend on my interests beyond the limited pocket money provided by my parents. This entrepreneurial spirit took root early. During my university years in Tokyo, Japan, I engaged in various side projects, including organizing networking and Japanese sake tasting events. My passion for the food and beverage industry, particularly the innovative and artisanal sides of it, led me to establish my food tech venture, Jamulogy.

In 2018, you participated in Asia-Pacific Innovation Academy, organized by the EIA in Shenzhen, China. How did that impacted you with your current journey?

The experience was rich in learning opportunities, thanks to EIA’s initiative to bring in speakers and industry experts for engaging sessions. These sessions, often held in a large hall, provided a mix of one-way and interactive discussions on various topics like business development, research and development, product innovation, and marketing. Through this program, I formed connections with many incredible individuals, some of whom have become my closest friends. We share similar ambitions, regularly exchange ideas, and offer mutual support in both our professional and personal lives.

You are now living and running your business from Singapore. How would you describe Singapore as the business environment?

Singapore serves as an excellent launching pad for businesses, particularly in Southeast Asia, offering a strategic base for operations. It’s widely recognized for its robust financial infrastructure, which instills confidence in investors. This often leads to a preference for companies to be incorporated in Singapore as a prerequisite for funding, enhancing the company’s credibility in the process. Singapore’s significance extends beyond mere market access; it’s about establishing a reputable presence in a region known for its economic vitality. The city-state excels in sectors like fintech and AI research, supported by its strong capabilities and infrastructure. Additionally, Singapore is a leader in research and development within Asia, rivalled by few, with Vietnam being a notable contender depending on the sector. However, it’s important to consider the high cost of living and operation, as labor and research development expenses can be considerable compared to other regions.

And how about being a female founder in Asia? 

Vanessa Techapichetvanich-successful female founder in Asia

Navigating the entrepreneurial landscape as a female founder is Asia presents distinct challenges. When I was securing funding for Jamulogy as a solo female founder, I encountered skepticism from investors. There were doubts about my capabilities because of my gender and youth. The business culture in Asia, influenced by traditional views on gender, age, and seniority, tends to be more conservative, particularly in places like Thailand and Japan where I have experience working and raising funds.

This contrasts sharply with the entrepreneurial environment in Europe and America, where there is a stronger emphasis on empowering women and inclusivity towards diverse groups, including the LGBT community. Factors such as age, gender, and background are less of a barrier to success. In Asia, however, personal connections and networks play a crucial role in accessing opportunities and resources necessary for growth.

Facing these realities, I considered bringing on co-founders, preferably male, to navigate fundraising more effectively. This strategy stems from the recognition that gender dynamics significantly influence investor confidence in this region. Additionally, my youthful appearance has been a hurdle. Despite attempts to appear older through makeup, overcoming preconceived notions remains a challenge.

So what would be your advice for other female founders who are young going through the same thing?

My advice to young female entrepreneurs facing similar challenges is to prioritize finding a mentor and building a network that can either directly connect you to the right people or serve as the right support themselves. It’s crucial to approach networking with clear intentions and transparency. Simply put, if those you meet are unaware of your needs or struggles, they can’t offer the assistance you might find invaluable. Networking events often lean towards casual conversation, but it’s important to steer discussions toward your goals and challenges rather than sticking to light, surface-level topics.

In many Asian cultures, there’s a tendency to shy away from deep conversations, focusing instead on pleasantries. However, embracing transparency and discussing your entrepreneurial journey’s real challenges can inspire others to help. People naturally want to solve problems, so being open and direct can turn networking opportunities into meaningful connections.

Also, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. My own journey took an unconventional turn when I participated in a reality TV show, which, unpredictably, became a significant milestone. The path may be uncertain, but embracing such experiences can lead to remarkable growth and unexpected opportunities.

You are the winner of the show The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition. What led you to go for this show?

I was captivated by the first season of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition, which aligned closely with my personal and professional interests. The decision to apply was influenced by the show’s relevance to my journey and the unique opportunities it promised. Despite the casting process being quite lengthy, spanning at least six months, I saw it as a strategic move. Participating in the show presented a chance not only to enhance my credibility but also to potentially connect with a co-founder. Its widespread popularity in Asia and beyond promised significant exposure. Moreover, the experience seemed like an excellent way to immerse myself further into Singapore’s vibrant startup ecosystem, viewing it as a gateway to new opportunities and networks.

Can you tell us more about what the show was like and what did it take you to win it?

The show was structured into several episodes, this season featuring eight. Each episode kicked off with a demanding physical challenge, ranging from endurance tests in the Qatari desert to deep-sea diving and horseback riding. These initial challenges were a prelude to the business tasks, similar to what you’d see on the American or the UK’s version. The inclusion of these physical challenges was intentional, reflecting the ethos of the ONE Championship as a sports media entity, emphasizing the importance of both physical and mental strength in achieving success.

What is it like to be now working at the production company ONE?

Working with ONE Championship has been a unique experience, given its status as a late-stage startup on the cusp of going public. My role involves managing strategic projects and collaborating with the company’s C-level executives, providing a rich learning environment, especially as the company transitions to a public entity. Despite the differences from working at large tech companies like Facebook Meta or Google, ONE offers a blend of startup agility and corporate resources, enhancing my capacity to contribute effectively.

Finally, what would be your number one advice for the young upcoming founders?

For young entrepreneurs, my foremost advice is to embrace risk-taking, particularly in your younger years. When I launched Jamulogy at 26, I considered myself too old for risks, a perspective I now view as misguided. Early stages of life offer greater freedom and fewer commitments, presenting an ideal time for exploration. Additionally, understanding financial management and investment can provide a safety net, enabling you to pursue your passions more freely. Diverse skills and constant self-improvement are crucial; even a 1% improvement each day or week can lead to significant growth over a year. As a founder, the ability to wear multiple hats and adapt to various roles can greatly ease your entrepreneurial journey.