Khai Lin Sng, co-founder and CFO of Fundnel, used to believe that asking others for assistance is a sign of weakness. Leaving her stable job at JP Morgan to start Fundnel in 2015 had put her under tremendous pressure to prove herself—failure simply was not an option. But as she encountered roadblocks while building her company, her attitude changed. Trial and error, she realized, burned precious time. Eventually, she learned to ask for help.
KrASIA recently interviewed Sng to hear about her drive, her passionate support for animal rights, and whether she had any regrets in her past decisions.
KrASIA (Kr): Can you tell us a little about yourself? What does your typical day look like?
Khai Lin Sng (KL): I was born and raised in Singapore, and grew up with a penchant for numbers, which served as an impetus for me to pursue a degree in economics and then a career in investments.
My last position was at JP Morgan. That’s where I met Kelvin [Lee], my co-founder and CEO, and the source of inspiration for Fundnel. For that, JP Morgan will forever hold a special place in my heart.
I live in close proximity to the office, so my typical morning starts with a 15-minute stroll. I greatly treasure this moment; it sets the tone for the day while I run through my list of tasks. These tasks vary from providing guidance on executing a deal in our pipeline, to vetting an article by our communications team.
While it may not happen on a daily basis, I do also make it a point to spend a fair amount of time with each department head. The casual coffee or wine session helps me understand their progress or setbacks, and allows me to serve as a sounding board for radical ideas.
Kr: How has your previous experience at financial institutions, such as JP Morgan, Citibank, and CIMB-GK Securities, shaped you and helped you in running Fundnel?
KL: To a fresh graduate, nothing about running a business comes naturally, certainly not business continuity planning, nor the employee claims system, nor compliance. These examples are but a small segment on a staggering list of things to complete, to ensure your business is operationally sound. My stint at these multinational companies provided me with exposure to organizational structure and functions, and, in turn, gave me a nice springboard into entrepreneurship.
Above all, I was incredibly fortunate to have been involved in a variety of equity, debt, and M&A capital market deals, which allowed me to build a strong foundation in the world of investments. While Fundnel operates in a different vertical, several divisions of the business, including our deal management process, were built upon my experience.
Of course, as former investment bankers, we are inherently adept at identifying and presenting the salient points and statistics in a manner that would draw the attention of investors. This has helped Fundnel facilitate 41 transactions—comprising capital raising efforts by SMEs and funds.
Kr: What is the most memorable achievement for you in your career so far?
KL: Over the years, we have seen multiple companies that we facilitated flourish, and go on to impact the communities they operate in. In 2019 alone, we amassed a transaction value of USD 120 million, our best year yet. Imagine what our entrepreneurs can do with that money! On the other end, we assist investors in achieving their investment goals. Bridging the gap in the private capital markets, between investors and fundraisers, brings unparalleled satisfaction.
Kr: What are the challenges that you face as a woman founder in the startup space in Singapore?
KL: I have faced my share of prejudice. It is still common to have clients ignore my presence at meetings in favor of my male colleagues. It affected me when I was younger, but with experience, I know that if you enter the room well prepared, listen intently, and speak with confidence, you will earn the respect you deserve.
The industry also remains heavily reliant on connections. Forging relationships with other female professionals has helped me open many doors—there are plenty of industry- and function-specific groups today. I’m very lucky to have mentors guide me throughout my career. Some of the best learning experiences are in fact from intimate conversations within this close-knit support system. It’s heartening to know that despite coming from different backgrounds, there is kindness in this world, and women do support women!
At Fundnel, we alleviate potential intangible gender biases in our recruitment process, so that candidates can compete for opportunities with an equal footing. We apply the same principles to assessing funding viability of private companies, with the intention of encouraging female entrepreneurship and leadership. We also actively render our support for relevant events.
This article is part of “Profiles in Tech,” a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of people who are the driving force behind South and Southeast Asia’s tech startups.