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The balancing act of being business partners and buddies

Written by Derren Teo Published on 

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Many teams would “break up” after realizing that they were not suited for each other. Our journey was similar, but we patched up after every break-up.

Foreword: in a previous article, Surer had shed light on how the growth of their startup was accelerated during the COVID-19 lockdown so they could apply their solution to help insurance intermediaries navigate an arduous, inefficient workflow that was made worse by the pandemic.

Speaking of arduous journeys, the business-building efforts behind Surer and the dynamics of working in a three-man team involved a steep learning curve.

Divergence: The unintended first step

My co-founders, Renfred and Gordon, are brothers. Gordon has been one of my closest friends for over 15 years. The camaraderie was there right from the get-go. We often met at our favourite kopitiam (coffee shop) and had fun chatting about our dreams for the business.

The kopitiam we hang out at. It is aptly named 白家, the first and last characters in the Chinese idiom 白手起家, which means starting from nothing. Photo courtesy of the author.

We visited a corporate secretary firm to incorporate the business. I remember the office felt more like a fast-food restaurant than anything else—take a ticket, wait in line, speak to a staff in one of the many booths. No reception, no nice ambient music. This was the first of many mismatches between expectation and reality!

The corporate secretary firm. On the bottom left corner of the picture is a queue ticketing machine. Take a number, wait in line, speak to a person at one of the booths. Photo courtesy of the author.

The first question we had to answer was this: how would we be splitting the equity?


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