Three founders from Taiwan and Hong Kong share where they find their drive, their confidence, and their voice.

Women Founders II: SkyREC, Lootex, and Xen Capital

Women Founders II: SkyREC, Lootex, and Xen Capital.

In the first part of our new series highlighting women founders, we spotlighted three Japanese female founders who shared their experiences in Japan. Today, we’re moving across the Pacific and interviewing two founders who reside in Taiwan and one more in Hong Kong. According to Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2020, Taiwan ranks 12th out of a total of 58 economies for creating progressive working environments for women entrepreneurs, while Hong Kong comes in at 15th.

Cate Xie, co-founder of SkyREC, and Justine Lu, co-founder of Lootex, reside in Taiwan, and Katrina Cokeng, the co-founder of Xen Capital, hails from Hong Kong. We’re grateful to all three for their will to share their journey as a female founders in Asia.

Cate Xie, Co-Founder and CMO of SkyREC

Cate Xie has won and placed in many global pitch events, including IVS2018 LAUNCHPAD. She values problem-solving skills. Her company SkyREC, provides services to 170 countries around the world with an artificial intelligence security system called AiMS, which analyzes video and data for smart city safety management.

(Cate Xie, Co-founder and CMO of SkyREC)

(Cate Xie, Co-founder and CMO of SkyREC)

As a woman founder, what is one challenge you faced starting or running your company, and how did you overcome it?

In most cases, being an entrepreneur means the resource you have to start or run a company could be very limited.

It is certainly a huge challenge to achieve high growth on users or reach high sales revenue in a short period of time without enough money and resources in the beginning, but this is what the entrepreneurs have to deal with every single day.

Product-market fit is crucial. Develop the prototype with speed and good quality, then let the markets tell you what to improve. Remember, only when you develop the product to the ultimate, you will gain sustaining and loyal customers.

Marketing is another key. Find innovative ways to spread your brand or product based on the behavior of your users. For example, Google Ads is for sure a good tool, but it might not be the most effective way to help you reach B2B customers.

(AiMS: Autonomous Security System Driven by Cutting-edge AI)

(AiMS: Autonomous Security System Driven by Cutting-edge AI)

Finally, be proactive and aggressive to grasp every opportunity to show what you have done to your families, friends, team members, investors, or the public. If one single person among these audiences gets touched by your idea, then you open the door to the business.

For entrepreneurship, I would like to share with you one of my favorite quotes by Benjamin Mee from the movie We Bought a Zoo: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

What is a piece of advice you would give to a fellow female entrepreneur who is just starting out?

First of all, forget about the term “female entrepreneur.” Keep in mind that you’re an entrepreneur just like other people of different genders.

Leave tradition behind. You can choose the life that you pursue as long as you’re happy with confidence. Marriage and raising children is wonderful, but it shouldn’t be the only option you have in this life if you don’t feel like it.

Secondly, don’t limit yourself. If you target to build an incredible career, there is no limit to what you can do. The only thing keeping you from reaching your potential is a lack of self-belief.

Lisa Su, the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has been proven as a great role model that both gender and race cannot stop a person from being extraordinary.

Finally, keep it simple in private life. Since you have to stay focused and rational all the time at work, try to keep your private life as simple as possible to avoid unnecessary troubles that could distract or depress you.

Can you name three traits you have that you think have helped you on your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?
  1. Persistence

First, persistence. Startups are not for everyone. The challenges on the journey you face could easily beat you down if you are not determined to succeed.

As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller Outliers, it takes a person 10,000 hours (approximately five to 10 years) of deliberate practice to become an expert.

Only when you become an expert in the field, you can either lead the market or be an important role in it to keep your company long alive. And by that time, you will have enough data or revenue to expand more business or raise more investments for the next stage.

2. Teamwork

Working as an entrepreneur is not a one-man show. A person cannot achieve everything without the supports of team members.

Be a leader to the team, not just a manager. A leader creates a vision and influences the team to hit the goal, while a manager often supervises and manages the team.

Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter and better than you. Hiring people smarter and better than you to join your team gives the team a chance to feed off each other, share knowledge and expertise, and coach and mentor each other. It raises the bar for the whole team and helps to satisfy their cravings for personal development.

3. Flexibility

Experienced entrepreneurs understand that the world and the environment in which they operate are constantly changing. While entrepreneurs must focus on the end game, they must adapt their strategies and offerings to meet changing market conditions.

Most of the time, the challenges are from the outside world including the capital and user markets. And occasionally, the conflicts from the internal team could ruin out everyone’s efforts as well.

Therefore, the key to solving the problem is to keep flexible and make quick responses to the problems that come to you. Just like the core value of SkyREC: “Find the solution, whatever it takes.”

Justine Lu, Co-Founder and CEO of Lootex

Believing in the future of NFTs to transform the art industry, Justine Lu used her marketing experience in the game industry to launch an NFT marketplace in 2018 when NFTs were still not well-known. Lootex, which issues and sells wildly-popular NFTs, surpassed USD $1.8 million in monthly transactions in November 2021.

(Justine Lu, Co-funder and CEO of Lootex)

(Justine Lu, Co-funder and CEO of Lootex)

As a woman founder, what’s one challenge you faced starting or running your company, and how did you overcome it?

When I started Lootex in 2018, people barely knew about blockchain or even NFTs. It was hard to deliver this new technology and concept to them. So I started writing my own blog, trying to explain NFT in a simple way.

Whenever I gave speeches and pitched the idea to the public, I would get direct reactions from people. I would take notes on what I could improve, adjust my wording back-and-forth [for clarity]. Hundreds of practices brought me confidence to tackle the live Q&As and large audiences.

From these interactions, the public’s wild imagination about NFT have sometimes even [inspired] me to come up with fun ideas [that] turn into our new features.

2. What is a piece of advice you would give to a fellow female entrepreneur who is just starting out?

Picture the vision you want to see in the future. If you clearly know what your core value is, it’s going to be the North Star to guide you whenever you face a dilemma.

“It’s only about you and who you want to be, but not [about being] someone’s daughter, or sister, or wife, or mother.”

(Lootex team)

(Lootex team)

3. Can you name three traits you have that you think have helped you on your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?

1. Empathy

It helps me to think from different angles. We are not a working machine. Empathy and care are what makes us human.

2. Honesty

Face your own strengths and weaknesses honestly. No one is good at everything. The more you know yourself, the better you can plan your strategy and your tactic, and [bring you] closer to achieving your goals.

3. Trustworthiness

As [I] mentioned before, no one is [amazing] at everything and no one has the bandwidth to do everything. Sometimes you’ve got to trust your team and count on them. Also, remember to be the reliable one they can rely on as always. Trust goes both ways.

Katrina Cokeng, Co-founder of Xen Capital

We have introduced stories behind Katrina and Xen Capital, the alternative investment platform Headline recently invested in. As a women founder in FinTech, a field where the majority of business owners are male, she knows what it’s like to be a minority in a boardroom, but she doesn’t let that daunt her.

(The center is Katrina Cokeng, Co-founder of Xen Capital.)

(The center is Katrina Cokeng, Co-founder of Xen Capital.)

As a woman founder, what is one challenge you faced starting or running your company, and how did you overcome it?

Dealing with rejection. Every founder, especially while fundraising and prior to finding product-market fit, hears a lot more “no’s” and reasons why your idea is not good enough or why your business model won’t work.

It’s a fine balance of believing in yourself and your purpose while listening to the feedback and making your product better. It’s hard not to be discouraged and lose faith along the way.

What is a piece of advice you would give to a fellow female entrepreneur who is just starting out?

The fact that you have taken the step to start a business is the hardest part, it requires a huge leap of faith and embracing of risks. Hold on to that purpose and stay true to your vision, no matter how many people tell you that you’re not good enough.

Sometimes that self-doubt may even be coming from you. Being a founder is difficult; being a female founder is arguably harder. Finding a good support system as being a founder is often a lonely job.

(Courtesy of Xen Capital)

(Courtesy of Xen Capital)

Can you name three traits you have that you think have helped you on your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?

  1. Perseverance

As an entrepreneur, you need some element of irrational optimism. You are trying to create something completely brand new while having to prove yourself every step of the way. I have always been someone who does not take no for an answer and can find a way to persevere when the cards seem stacked against me.

2. Seeking advice

I have the benefit of having a great set of advisors and shareholders who can bring a different perspective and extend a helping hand. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it is not a sign of weakness but of strength to recognize when you need to do so.

3. Learning from failure

The early stages of any startup require a lot of experimentation and testing in order to find a product-market fit. Failure is part of the process, and one of my strengths has always been a willingness to try things out and see things from other perspectives.

*This interview has been edited for clarity

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