In January, I was given the chance of a lifetime to sit down and have a chat with the Founder and Managing Director of Sciosity, Mr Ryan Beckmand. Sciosity is a multi-award winning, multinational virtual reality development firm that Ryan founded back in 2015. In just two short years, Ryan has managed to expand his company across Australia and Singapore and his company is one of Asia Pacific’s fastest growing EdTech/VR Companies.
What does Sciosity do, you ask?
Well the simple answer is that they are currently on a mission to revolutionise skill based learning by allowing the integration of virtual reality, artificial intelligence and analytics to the academic sector. In addition to that, his vision has also spread across to police and medical sectors as well!
I was lucky enough to have had a good two hour chat with Ryan who is an extremely hard worker and made for great company over the phone. He is not only the founder of a startup that is doing extremely well, he also has international speaker, startup mentor and social impact advocate on his belt. He is also known to have won multiple awards and honours across Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States of America, and he is still in his early twenties!
When we spoke, most of the interview questions revolved around the question of “Why Singapore?” and “How Was It Entering The Singaporean Business Economy” because we wanted to show everyone how Singapore reacts to startups. We also asked Ryan to share some insight on how he became successful in Singapore and for any advice he would give up and coming entrepreneurs.
Why Singapore? Well, it was mainly because the economy of Australia is considered small although it’s a big country. Where I worked, there’s not many educational institutions that would take in the services my company offered coupled with the fact that there is also a small amount of budget allowed with our military and police contractors.
That was when (July 2016) I realised that I needed to flip to a much larger economy somewhere where my company could make a significantly larger impact. I needed to expand for the benefit of my company. I looked at multiple places across the globe and I looked for countries that offered the appropriate benefits to support the things that I wanted to do. I wanted to also be able to find contacts without the usual constraints that I would have faced back in Australia.
I first started with Silicon Valley – as you know it’s incredibly saturated, it was unwise for Sciosity to expand there at this stage as it was saturated with too many startups already. I also decided to talk to a lot of my friends and contacts who recommended places like Germany, United Kingdom, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong and finally Singapore. I started researching and realised that Singapore was my best bet. It was because it not only offered a lot of potential customers, there was incredible support by the Singaporean government and it was also well-known for it’s great startup success stories.
Singapore’s venture capital infrastructure was the most sophisticated in the world and the 2017 projection calculated that Singapore was going to overtake London. It has a strong financial hub and raising funds will be easy and it will be done the right way.
There’s something called the Spring Program – that put millions of dollars into startups, especially in innovative education, which is what my company does. It’s so much easier to get capital from the government and when weighed with other places, Singapore’s customers base has expanded extraordinarily. Singaporean citizens are very receptive towards technology and Singapore is has a totally intangible yet innovation centric economy. There was just so much more traction in Singapore when compared to my home country of Australia.
When comparing Singapore to the rest of Asia Pacific, a lot of the other countries in Asia Pacific did have areas that offered supportive networks and infrastructure. Places like Shenzen has funding support for devices, gadgets and hardware for example. However, Singapore had more dependance on my area of expertise. The whole Singaporean attitude towards technology and the dependence on my line of work, it became the most obvious choice. There are so many available accelerator programs so it’s not hard for startups to do extremely well in Singapore.
We finally expanded into Singapore in October 2016. I wanted to fully expand into Singapore and I had been thinking about it for two months. It was hard to ask everyone who worked alongside me to move their lives, but I’m already making the arrangements to move myself into Singapore permanently.
It was easy to start my company in Australia but the acceptance of technology and innovation is somewhat behind Singapore. Singapore’s attitude towards technology was extremely developed and it just looked like the next best step.
Well, yes and no. Some things are definitely more expensive. When it comes to the legal side and accounting, it’s significantly more expensive here in Singapore compared to Australia.
However, in a more general operations sense, getting an office here is cheaper. There are some areas of jobs that are cheaper to hire people for back in Australia, but back in Australia it was a little bit more complicated to hire someone that had expertise in my line of work. For Virtual Reality (VR), it was challenging because few people knew how to develop VR back in Australia, most of them are self-taught and charge exorbitantly when you try to hire them for a project.
Here in Singapore, more people know how to do it. It all comes down to what you’re spending your money on.
A lot. On paper in a legal context I felt that it would be easier to hire an independent entity to handle it for us. We got an accounting firm to do it for me. We also needed a local director because you need a Singaporean to be a director to be the contact point for the branch in Singapore. You can’t set up a company in Singapore as a foreigner and not have a Singaporean there.
Well, compared to Australia, the problems I faced in Singapore were a lot easier to fix. I built a great reputation in Perth but when you do want to expand to another country, it will be challenging. But I don’t think that it was too hard. One thing might be the fact that it was a little hard getting exposure. It was definitely challenging to prove to be special in Singapore when it has so many awesome startups.
When I was in Australia, I was one of only three VR companies that did VR for education. Here in Singapore, I am one of the few companies that works with VR in the way Sciosity does. To be honest, there were no really major speed bumps. They were mostly internal, like getting co-workers here to Singapore.
What I wish I had known – is to say that if I had realised the things I did realise about Singapore and it’s VR space, alongside its government policies and operations, I would have expanded there a lot earlier. I could have probably saved 8 months generating revenue in Singapore. It is so much easier to find clients in Singapore.
It was extremely challenging. I can’t stress how much of a challenge that was. For obvious reasons, when you start at the age of 20, you don’t know much of anything. What I went through was a massive learning curve. From things like operational functioning part of it down to something extremely simple like basic business etiquette.
In the VR client base area, decision makers are usually at the ages of 45-65 years old. I was younger than their interns so it was hard to be taken seriously by them. I had to immediately exit the student mindset, the thought that I was a small fish. My biggest challenge was to get rid of that mindset of being a student and start becoming a peer. I had to show that I was worthy of the respect, so I needed a more executive mindset. What I did was I had to read up and research a lot before I went for meetings. Being as young as I was did hinder my ability to be taken seriously enough to execute sales.
I looked at the amount of money I was spending to fund my degree and I wanted to drop out all the time. It always came down to the decision of writing an assignment that won’t be relevant to my career or write a business proposal that will bring in $100,000.
However, I was 2 years into my degree and decided that I could not leave it then. I did not want to be another dropout entrepreneur, I wanted to show people that you can get a degree and have a successful startup at the end of it as well.
I struggled for a long time. It all comes down to time and focus. Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. If you put time into one thing, that will do better and then anything else will not be taken care off either. In the course of the day you have to do the taxes, or do something that has a deadline or be fired the next day. It just feels like you can easily pay more attention to something else. I struggled with those for a very long time but I feel like I am a lot better at it now.
My biggest lesson in time management and the art of focusing is to not care about the small things or things that don’t have a direct affect to what you are currently doing. Some can be delegated while some can be let go in general. I learned how to delegate and looked at the point of doing certain things. That is what helped me be able to juggle so many things at once.
I can only speak for Australian startups only but I feel that this can apply to anyone. Firstly, when someone decides to start a company, they launch this idea – this idea can be inspired by friends and colleagues.
But, you must remember to never start a startup without thinking globally. Always think global. Think and plan quickly about how to get your product to other countries and make your product known to the world.
Throughout the interview that lasted a good hour and a half, Ryan was nothing short of helpful. He introduced the way he entered the Singaporean market and opened up his story to us that allowed for a long and concise interview. We do hope that the success story of this 22 year old entrepreneur will inspire you to work harder and realise that age doesn’t matter. You can achieve anything that you set your mind to!
ThunderQuote is the most comprehensive business services portal in Singapore, Australia and ASEAN , where hundreds of thousands of dollars of procurement contracts are sourced every month by major companies like Singapore Press Holdings, National Trade Union Congress and more.