From obtaining $1 million in seed funding from investors for several of her companies to speaking at two TEDxSingapore seminars, the self-taught programmer has come a long way since launching her first company back in college.
Given everything she’s achieved, you’d think Krystal’s job in the startup space was done. After all, she’s accomplished a lot, particularly in light of the fact that just two per cent of tech startups in Singapore are founded by women.
However, from speaking to Krystal, we learned that there’s still so much this entrepreneur wants to achieve in making the startup scene in Singapore a little more inclusive and diverse for fellow female founders.
Below, she shares her best tips for female entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses, gets real about her personal struggles and spills on her latest venture — a social experience app called Tickle.
1. Breaking The Mould Is Daunting But It Can Be Rewarding
“I believe the scale that technology brings is at once democratising and enabling. Now, its power is vast and limited only to our imagination, so the real question is, ‘What battle can I fight with this power?'” says Krystal.
“Over the years, I’ve observed with deep irony how technology has created a web of connections while simultaneously forming a different sort of distance. We can communicate a message in milliseconds, and because we can, we communicate less sincerely. So my battle is using technology to create genuine connection, hopefully making people happier at scale. Admittedly very lofty,” she muses.
She then goes on to talk about the businesses and applications she’s created with her team.
“Some platforms I’ve created with teams of talented people are: ZipTrip, a big data travel algorithm predicting price over time, in an effort to allow people to travel more (as we know, travel is lethal to narrow-mindedness); Wander, a travel app for singles so they could enjoy mutual interests together for a short span of time — which pivoted to a chat universe for like-minded people to chat in groups and bring humanity into digital interaction; and now, Tickle, a platform for original experiences by everyday experts; to bring people together and share time, skills and stories meaningfully. The journey has been full of glorious successes and failures, but the goal has always stayed the same.”
Reflecting on her journey, Krystal is also aware that the tech industry in Singapore lacks diversity.
“I’ve raised funding in an industry where only two per cent of funded companies are by women, and to further support my companies and myself, I’ve worked for large corporates as an engaged speaker and consultant to help inspire companies in the areas of human connection, entre/intrapreneurship, facing fears, and lifting limiting beliefs and unpacking diversity and inclusion within their top leadership.”
2. Stick To Your Guns
Krystal’s childhood has undoubtedly affected her leadership style.
“I grew up with not much at all so that came with some unhealthy beliefs about money, like ‘don’t spend’, ‘cheap is good’, but taken to an extreme. So, I was able to stretch our dollar really far. That made me look like a responsible CEO — a cool juxtaposition against the yacht-hiring, boozing CEOs in the [Silicon] Valley.”
However, she acknowledges that being tight with purse strings wasn’t always the most efficient thing to do. “Guess what? I should have spent more; on talent, on marketing, maybe even on an assistant so my time could be freed up to do critical work. It’s a hard one to override,” she explains.
“[So one of the biggest things I’ve learned is to have] motivation and culture. You need to inspire, remind, be a model, show empathy, be decisive, all at the same time, all the time. It will attract the right talent and that will be what builds a successful company. The heydays of the alpha male are over.”
“People want to be seen, understood, appreciated. They want purpose, cooperation, safety. These require an expansion of the traditional masculine leadership styles, if you want to be an effective leader. Less posturing and more truth. Most importantly, it’s about authenticity. You can’t play charades forever. So you have to know yourself and show that honestly. Most people have no idea where to start. I now run workshops for corporations teaching frameworks around this and diversity to help teams excel in a radically uncertain future. It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone, and being aware is a big first step.”
3. Never Rest On Your Laurels
Krystal then talks about how she started getting into the tech sphere.
“It actually started with Flash animations. Then I wanted to make something look better, so it was Photoshop and Fireworks (design). Then I wanted to put it online so it was Dreamweaver. And I wanted to have website effects and one thing led to the next. Before I knew it, it was an easier way to make money through school as a web freelancer than a lot of the other gigs. That said, I don’t code much now beside the odd website. Coding is a beautiful combination of structure and imagination. I think if women have even a bit of interest, they should try it out. Building something in code can be very rewarding.”
4. Be Prepared To Face Rejections
Being a female entrepreneur isn’t always easy, though.
“I think resilience is the most talked about quality now, and for good reason. Entrepreneurship is a bag of surprises, and with resilience, you’ll be able to push through your own journey and even enjoy parts of it. Building resilience helps you overcome the naysayers and the rejections, fight the fires and get up the next day bruised and battered to do it all over again. Humility is also a big one — don’t be afraid to ask questions, to build a strong network of support and mentorship, to learn and unlearn and relearn,” Krystal shares.
5. Take A Day Off Every Once In A While
Besides championing for diversity in the tech scene, Krystal is also an advocate for mental health awareness. In personal blog posts, she’s also talked about her struggles with depression.
“Mental health is not just feeling overwhelmed in the workplace — that’s just day-to-day. Depression is an illness and much bigger, and seeking help for it is important. Having a support system of family (chosen and born with) helps. Taking care of your needs to recharge is important, too. I just take the space.”
6. Understand What Drives You
“Every one has different drivers, so identifying your unique drivers, and reminding yourself of them, can help to motivate you. Productive is different from busy. So do the most critical, most important thing, first thing. The rest of the day will follow,” Krystal’s best advice was.
Watch Krystal speak at the 2012 TEDxYouth Talk in Singapore above!
Interested in learning Python, Data Science or Ruby On Rails? Consider signing up for one of our courses, here.