From Investor to Entrepreneur: Aaron Tan Shares His Six Tips for Success
On 23rd Jan 2018, IIE welcomed Aaron Tan, CEO of Carro for a fireside chat as part of our first summer programmes info session for the year. An SMU alumnus, Aaron was an Information Development Authority (IDA) scholar who joined Singtel Innov8 ventures upon graduation. In 2015, he ventured out as an entrepreneur to co-found Carro, one of the most successful used car marketplaces in Singapore and the region.
We learnt a lot from speaking with him:
Aaron started his first business when he was 13, charging for click-throughs on a search engine he built himself. He sold it before he turned 18 – an age at which he was not even legal to sign the paperwork!
As an IDA National Infocomm Scholar, Aaron completed his degree across SMU, NUS and Carnegie Mellon University in the United States. His SMU days taught him how to be comfortable with public speaking; when at NUS, he was the only one in the computer science faculty who volunteered to present in class, after which his classmates asked, “how did you do that?”
His time at Singtel Innov8 allowed him to meet many people in the venture capital space. As a result, when he left to start Carro, people trusted him enough to invest in a largely untested idea.
Unlike Singapore, other Southeast Asian countries have many grey regulatory areas, and the financial infrastructure is still heavily reliant on cash. If not for co-founders with Thai and Indonesian backgrounds, Carro would not have the familiarity and knowledge to expand to these markets
Having a local presence in overseas markets is necessary for Carro – for example, having staff in second and third tier cities handle the cash from transactions. However, companies such as Tinder managed to build a large presence in Southeast Asian through issuing press releases and by word-of-mouth.
When asked his advice on what internships students should pursue, Aaron suggested exploring vastly different experiences – one in a corporate and one in a start-up – before deciding what career pathway to take.