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e27: Venture Into The Upper Echelons

The e27 team at the Echelon Asia Summit.

The e27 team at the Echelon Asia Summit.

My internship choices are oftentimes pragmatic – to make my future less uncertain, by working in companies of different sizes and industries, and on this occasion to also take a break from the business school ) – and although I leave each stint no less certain of what lies ahead, and perhaps even sceptical of my contributions, I always receive much more than I give. In e27 (“Entrepreneurs 27”, with 27 representing the median age of entrepreneurs, according to an essay by venture capitalist Paul Graham), a media and events startup housed in Block 71, I have been exposed to the bustling tech ecosystem in the region, challenged with demanding roles and responsibilities within e27, and played a small part in a business conference which brought together 2,500 startups, investors, as well as corporates.

Yet there were days when the going was tough. Really tough. In the mornings the questions and updates overwhelmed, in the afternoons the meetings drained, and by the evenings I scrambled to complete tasks. After the weekends my inbox brimmed with email conversations, and the enquiries piled up as the Echelon Asia Summit in June neared. Furthermore within the first four months of the year (and of my attachment) the company organised over 20 events across Asia-Pacific, and at times the team was stretched, and we barely had time to catch our breaths between these events.

Unreasonable customers were rare, but all it took was one to ruin a week. And in this vein criticisms were met with grace and humility.

Amidst these challenges we soldiered on, and the e27 culture of rigour and fun stood firm. With my experience in non-profits and community service, the projects team seemed like the right fit, and while there was a hint of arrogance in the beginning when I thought my impact would be immediate, I was humbled as I learnt fresh marketing strategies, familiarised myself with new web-platforms, and tried my best to be a better team player. Sometimes I was granted too much autonomy, making decisions without due consultations, yet no matter the circumstance – whenever I felt exhausted or frustrated – the team was there. As it was in The Learning Lab and HSBC Singapore, the passive me did not necessarily deserve such support, but the guidance and mentorship were forthcoming.

I’m not sure if I’m suited for the sector of tech startups, but its appeal is evident. While it is physically quaint, the work environment is casual and relaxed (unless large-scale projects or events are in the horizon). In this environment the hierarchies are also flatter, guaranteeing close access to the management team, and involvement in decision-making processes. And beyond these practical considerations the motivations to work for – or even establish – a startup are often aspirational, with ambitions to scale in a fledging industry thought to be spearheading innovation in Singapore.

These aspirations were shared by many of the entrepreneurs we met, especially through the TOP100 programme, when the e27 team travelled across 14 qualifier cities to hear hundreds of pitches about exciting products and services. Managing the programme from start to finish was meaningful. From the get-go I had neither strong interest or knowledge in technopreneurship, and these presentations or pitches were littered with terms like “disrupt”, “potential”, “the [insert success tech corporation] for [a dissimilar lifestyle or purpose]”. Despite the context of a competition, I enjoyed the many conversations I had with them.

The story of e27 is no different. Stiff competition exists – as they do everywhere – and it has only strengthened aspirations to do better.

School beckons, and after six months of intense undertakings a break is in order too. The best work attachments nudge employees out of comfort zones, empower them with the relevant skills and knowledge, and challenge them with new mindsets within the team. I leave the company no less sure of what to do with my future, yet will trudge along with new relationships, a little more cognisance of startups or products in the region, and – above all – a heart filled with gratitude.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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