An entrepreneur at heart, Gina Heng is the founder of Miss Kaya, Singapore’s first licensed robo-advisor aimed at serving the financial needs of modern women in the Asian region. She is also the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marvelstone Group, a private investment group.
I think trusting the numbers and staying patient is the most difficult part, for often times even if an investment does not perform as expected early on, it eventually stabilises to reach our projected returns.
Prior to founding Miss Kaya and Marvelstone Group, Gina was a venture partner at Yozma Ventures (Korea) and co-founded asset management firms, One Asia Investment Partners and Leonie Hill Capital in Singapore.
Gina previously worked at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Cerulli Associates, where she covered sectors such as asset management, telecommunications, commodities and infrastructure, in Southeast Asia, China, India and Australia.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is fluent in English, Mandarin and Teochew (Chinese dialect).
LadyBoss spoke to Gina on investing, entrepreneurship and Miss Kaya.
Q: How long have you been an investor and which industry were you in, before joining Marvelstone?
A: I have been an investor for over ten years. My initial work experiences after university was a research analyst with an asset management consulting firm and an industry analyst in a bank covering different sectors. It equipped me with the fundamental skills, knowledge of investment trends, and a deep understanding of the financial markets to develop my quantitative hedge fund.
Since then I have founded two other investment companies including Marvelstone Group, which I am focussed on.
Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face as an investor?
A: I think trusting the numbers and staying patient is the most difficult part, for often times even if an investment does not perform as expected early on, it eventually stabilises to reach our projected returns.
Q: What are some metrics that an investor would use to analyse if a startup or a business would make a good investment?
A: We use different metrics for a startup and a business:
- For a startup
1) Values/Experience of the founder.
2) USP of the product/service.
3) Team members of the startup.
4) Action plans with targeted milestones.
- For a business
1) What is the core competency of the business?
2) How is the business’ earnings growing year over year?
3) Strength of the team.
4) Potential of expansion to new markets
5) Potential to apply its product/services in new sectors
Q: Have you invested in businesses run by female entrepreneurs?
A: Yes, I did invest in a few startups by female entrepreneurs, especially within my organization. Usually at seed stages.
Q: Would you recommend startups to join an accelerator/incubator?
A: Yes, if it is a new startup/founder. An accelerator can help the startup to understand and refine the business model, giving the startup an extra push of advice, connections, ideas, or partners to grow their business uniquely and rapidly.
I do believe that an aspiring entrepreneur should take that leap as early as possible.
Q: Without any capital or savings, should an aspiring entrepreneur take the leap to start their own business?
A: I do believe that an aspiring entrepreneur should take that leap as early as possible. It is often not just about the product but how the entrepreneur executes its operations and getting initial interest/buyers first.
So there are actually a lot of soft skills that go into building a business, sweat and grit.
Q: Are there any specific personality traits you feel that an entrepreneur should possess?
A: There is no special recipe – anyone can be an entrepreneur if they put their mind to it. That’s why I’d say being committed, resourceful, creative, and a go-getter are important traits to being a successful entrepreneur.
And of course, having good EQ helps.
Q: Is there an ideal number of co-founders? What skills sets are the most important for the pioneers of the company?
A: If/when you have co-founders, it is important to strike that balance in your team. There is no ideal number, but having just enough such that the various aspects of your business can be addressed with your core team is always helpful.
Pioneers should possess the traits of an entrepreneur – being driven and creative – while also having great team working and communication skills. If you are referring to main management decisions, the person leading the company as CEO will be important.
Q: Do you think there’s a reason why there are typically more male founders than female founders in Singapore?
A: This has to do with the gender gap that exists in the world today, in almost any field. It has traditionally been so that men take on the lead role in business and work, but that view has been drastically evolving.
Women have been getting more involved in the fields of their choice without worrying about societal pressures. It is difficult to balance being a business owner with family, home, and other responsibilities unique to each person, but women have been determinedly pursuing to conquer this challenge.
Q: Can you share some tips to aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: First, get started early! Sooner rather than later is always – right now at this very moment if you can! I’d also say to do tons of research. Hearing from others and new perspectives keeps things fresh and cutting-edge.
Another pointer I’d have is to keep yourself structured as you begin your journey, but never forget that passion, that impulsiveness, that thrill that got you started.
Q: What is your favourite motivational quote?
A: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ― by Norman Vincent Peale
Miss Kaya will simplify and demystify financial planning and wealth management for women and also serve as an all-in-one tool for budgeting, payments, and investing.
Q: Could you tell us more about your new venture, Miss Kaya ?
A: It all started when I saw how complex and just plain dull it was to learn about personal finance today. However, I also saw how important it was for women to understand taking care of their own finances, independently and confidently, asap. That’s why I started Miss Kaya – a digital financial services provider for women.
My key expertise lies in asset management but we do see the need to provide a holistic assessment and engagement from the start. Miss Kaya will simplify and demystify financial planning and wealth management for women and also serve as an all-in-one tool for budgeting, payments, and investing. The three focus areas – financial literacy, budgeting and transacting, and fund management – complement each other to create a sustainable and financially healthy platform for women.
Miss Kaya is a part of Marvelstone Capital, a Singapore registered fund management company which rests under the Marvelstone Tech umbrella. Marvelstone Tech is a financial holdings company which develops businesses and is continuously growing its portfolio with the vision to also include a digital bank in Asia.
Gina will be speaking at LadyBoss’ Networking Event on Thursday, February 9. Tickets are almost sold out! Get yours now!