How Entrepreneur-turned-”Accidental” VC Nicholas Chan won Over Mentors As a Teenager (Part 2/4)

14 Oct 2010 in Interviews

How Singapore Entrepreneur-turned-”Accidental” VC Nicholas Chan Won Over Mentors As a Teenager from John Exley on Vimeo.

Fearless. Different.
Stirring up the pot is not a foreign concept to Nicholas Chan. In a culture like Singapore’s where authorities are followed without question and open confrontation is almost nonexistent, the 31 year old serial entrepreneur turned “accidental” venture capitalist (more on this in segment 3) stands out from the pack with his strong opinions.

He draws a distinct line between those who teach entrepreneurship and those who start companies:
“The difference between an academic and an entrepreneur? An academic gets caught up in the details. An entrepreneur knows what needs to be done today and finds a way to get it done.”

Nicholas is currently the Founder & Executive Director of Singapore-based early stage venture capital firm and startup business incubator Azione Capital. His background is quite different from what one might call the ‘typical venture capitalist’. At 17 years old he was unable to get into a university, his family was struggling, and he didn’t know if he was going to be able to eat from day-to-day. He took this need for survival and used it as fire to fuel his ambitions. In segment 1, he talks about how his early days as a teenage entrepreneur fighting to make it.

In this segment, Nicholas talks about what specific lessons he learned through his mistakes as a very young entrepreneur. Instead of learning the traditional way via academics in the classroom, he was forced to learn-by-doing.

But this is where it gets interesting.

Mentors. One very important factor in his success as a young entrepreneur? As mentioned: mentors. Nicholas had some very successful mentors when he was struggling as a teenager trying to make sense of the business landscape in Southeast Asia. I asked him about the process of how he got those mentors and what specific lessons they taught him.

Got an idea for a startup in Singapore and want to get Nicholas’ attention? Email him: Or, follow him on Twitter. Or? Connect with him on LinkedIn.

*NOTE: Special thanks to my friend Lai Wing Sheng for helping out by managing the camera! Also, apologies for the dark lighting, in segments 3 and 4 we fixed this issue.

Below are a couple notes I took:

1. Learn-by-doing what you can’t learn in classroom: what is actually happening in a guy’s mind in a negotiation. In the battlefield. The dynamics of understanding a negotiation.

2. The steps to take and the process of how he won over the CEO of Sim Lim Company (Mr. Soon Choo Teck) and President of K.S. Lee & Associates ( Mr. Lee Keh Sai) as his mentors. The value of each mentor has continued to grow…they both eventually came to sit on the Board of Directors for Nicholas’ VC firm Azione Capital.

QUESTIONS: Do you have a mentor, and if so do you have any tips on how you got her/him as a mentor and what you’ve learned from her/him?