Recently appearing in Forbes 30 under 30, Cynthia Siantar, Co-Founder of Call Levels is making a statement in the red hot Fintech industry in Singapore. Call Levels also recently started a tie up with local giant DBS Vickers to bring their technology to Vickers users.
LadyBoss catches up with Cynthia on her story behind Call Levels and where they are taking it to the next level.
Cynthia on Call Levels
Why did you take the plunge to being involved in a startup?
I spent four years in finance, mainly in investment banking in both Hong Kong and Singapore. Like many other young bankers, I started asking myself if I really enjoyed what I’m doing, did I see myself doing the same thing for the next 10 – 15 years. Instead of complaining and not doing anything about it, I chose to leave my then *comfort zone* and jolt myself into re-discovering what really motivated me.
My journey into startup was neither deliberate nor well planned. I wanted to try something completely different, and when the opportunity to be involved in BlastOut (a geo-located social media app) presented itself, I spontaneously jumped right into it. Most people didn’t realise that my official initial role with BlastOut was that of a part-time QA tester, but once I put my mind into it, I didn’t stop there and never looked back.
BlastOut pivoted into Call Levels 1.5 years later….
What are some of the main challenges in this business?
There are many challenges which startup founders typically face: talent acquisition, increasing user traction, building towards a sustainable business model, monetisation, fund raising, facing rejection, embracing uncertainties and the list goes on!
How many people do you lead in your team? How do you remain on top of things with so many staff moving at a high pace?
We have 10 Full-time employees right now. The key is hire a great team and stay really focused to our vision and mission. Empowering our employees such that they can contribute to Call Levels without me having to micro-manage all the time helps me become a more affective manager.
How many users do you have on Call Levels at the moment?
We have more than 100,000 users.
What’s the idea when you started Call Levels?
“Call Levels” is a commonly used term in the trading floor, it stands for “Call me back when the price reaches this level” and price monitoring is one of the basic service salespeople offer to their priority clients. However, most market participants do not have this level of access to this service of price monitoring, which in itself is oftentimes inefficient and expensive.
We created Call Levels such that each individual is empowered and the information gap closed. Our “make or break” financial monitoring service is open to all players, big and small. Powered by the cloud, built with proprietary monitoring technology and combined with an extremely simple and intuitive user interface, Call Levels lets everyone access finance information on-the-go at the ease of their fingertips.
What plans of monetization do you have in mind?
Our partnership with DBS Vickers is revenue generating and we are building API such that more companies can utilise our monitoring technology in exchange for a fee.
What are your plans for Call Levels in the next 5 years? What’s your ultimate vision for Call Levels?
We watch the financial markets or any form of fluctuating data so that our users do not have to. We reach out to the users in whichever platform they are most comfortable with (whatsapp bots for example!) in any parts of the world.
What do you think about the call for a sustainable business versus raising to keep growing?
I’m in the camp of building a sustainable business with strong fundamentals rather than raising money to burn it all. Raising external money is necessary to scale and grow quickly, but that shouldn’t be the ultimate aim.
What do you feel about the Fintech scene in Singapore?
The activities surrounding Fintech has definitely increased tremendously since we first started in Sep 2014. Back then, no one in Singapore knew what was “Fintech” then and we had to tell people we are a mobile app developer creating a single finance app, Call Levels.
Singapore Fintech is still in its early stages with more than 90% of Fintech startups in seed or early growth stage. Singapore is one of the world’s leading hub for wealth management, has great infrastructure and strong government support and these elements are crucial to transforming Singapore into a global Fintech hub.
Women in Finance
How many percent of your users are female?
Do you find that women in general shy away from investments? And if so, what do you think is the reason?
That seems to be the case and the data indicates that, for example about 15% of traders in Wall Street banks are women. Most common reason people assumed is the lack of confidence that women have to become a good trader.
How do you think women can be better with investments?
This applies to both men and women, to be a good trader one must stay disciplined to the investment process.
What motivates you personally?
Cliché as it may sound, I love it when users tell us that Call Levels is helping them become more effective and relaxed traders! Making a positive impact, user by user, is what motivates me.
What advice do you have women who are aspiring startup entrepreneurs?
At the start I found that “Don’t think too much and just do it!” worked pretty well for me. Throughout the journey, always “Hustle and stay humble” and “don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it”.
Back To Call Levels..
How did you get a partnership with a major bank being a startup? What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who wants to seek out corporate partnerships?
Mr Lim Kok-Ann, CEO of DBS Vickers is one of Call Levels’ earliest users. When he he happened to hear about an initial meeting with Call Levels, he saw it as a fortuitous opportunity to attend the meeting himself and understand first hand how to respond to long-standing customers’ request of providing price monitoring service on mobile.
The partnership took about 1 year to launch and there were many “make or break” moment during the entire negotiation process. In order to overcome the uncertainties, we never lose focus on growing Call Levels on our own and as we grow in our user base we strengthen our position as a partner.
An advice I would give to other consumer startups is to be careful not to put all their focus into securing the partnership, because if that deal is pulled, you might have nothing to fall back on. Being able to work with corporate partners at an early stage is indeed very flattering but don’t make the mistake of changing your vision just to cater to 1 partner. Instead, always consider what’s best for your users.
Is there any intention to incorporate portfolio monitoring into Call Levels?
One of the ultimate goals we have at Call levels is to be able to monitor any fluctuating data points for our users. So yes, portfolio monitoring service is in our pipeline.