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Startup Feature - Workstream

Monday Jul 01,2019 | Startup News

Compare successful founders; what do they have in common?

It might be wishful thinking, wanting the secret to success, but unfortunately, it is an instinct that can’t be trained. You either have it or you don’t, it’s the spark and this spark is ineffable.

You know that feeling you get when you meet someone and you feel immediately in awe and impressed for some reason or another?

This is not in reference to overly coiffed individuals or the trappings of the rich. Sure, those people could have the spark too, but it’s not something that pertains only to the wealthy.

 It’s the way a person makes you feel, the way they put themselves across. The way they interact with people that immediately tells you this person is different and they’re a step above the rest.

Well. That was the first impression Desmond Lim portrayed, founder of Workstream, a platform for hiring hourly workers.


Who is Desmond Lim and where does he come from?

Let us start with the basics. Desmond Lim’s roots are humble ones.

His parents are hourly wage workers and he grew up never expecting his life to be anything outside of the ordinary. For example, he always thought studying overseas was just a pipe dream for him.

“Growing up, I never thought studying overseas was possible,” said Desmond.

“Even though my peers were going overseas to MIT, Harvard, Cornell, it was never something I believed I could do.

“It was only after Hwa Chong when my peers relayed their experiences to me that it occurred to me there was more outside of my world that I could access,” he said.

Desmond attended Hwa Chong Institution, a quintessential Chinese Junior College in Singapore very reminiscent of his traditional upbringing before making his way to Singapore Management University.

Now, here comes the previously mentioned spark.

While he was attending Hwa Chong Institution, Desmond started his first business, a tutor matching platform, to pay for University as well as opening a 70 seater restaurant offering gourmet Thai Cuisine.

While many of his peers were mainly concerned about their A level scores, Desmond was putting together plans to run successful businesses (yes plural, businesses) all while attending to his education.

This drive, this spark that drives a person to grab onto opportunities when they come up is what will go on to push Desmond to the top of the heap.


So Why Harvard?

Desmond’s world cracked wide open while attending SMU.

In 2006, he was selected along with 25 other students for the inaugural Business Study Mission by SMU to travel to the Silicon Valley in the United States. This trip was offered by the Lee Kong Chian School of Business (of which Desmond was a scholar) and undertaken by Professor Jason Woodard, with whom Desmond maintains a friendship with, some 13 years later.

During this trip, they toured companies like Apple, Google, Ebay, tech giants that exposed the innovation and technology out in the valley, completely revolutionising the way Desmond saw the world.

Since that fateful trip, Desmond has graduated from SMU, worked at Merrill Lynch for 3 years and following that eye opening trip in 2006, moved to the United States.

Here is a list of some of his achievements in bullet points to avoid this becoming a very long sentence. Since then, he has:

  • Attended Harvard University for his Masters
  • Joined Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab
  • Joined Wechat as the first product manager in the United States
  • Started as a venture investor at Dorm Room Fund
  • Started Quikforce, a logistics company
  • Started Workstream, an automated hiring platform for companies hiring hourly workers, with a strong team with backgrounds from Google, MIT, Stanford, Cornell and Harvard
  • Developed his reputation as an ongoing contributing writer to Entrepreneur Media


It Really is About Having the Drive Isn’t It?

“When I graduated, it was right around the Global Financial Crisis, so it wasn’t easy trying to find a job,” said Desmond.

“I applied to a wide range of jobs from Jamba Juice to Walmart, over 300 jobs within a 6 month period before receiving my first job offer.”

“It takes persistence and hard work, but it pays off if you push yourself”, he said.

His tenacity to keep trying despite the lack of response is the same quality he applies to all aspects of his life, from landing his first job to running his start-up ventures.

See the thing is, with people like Desmond, they don’t wait around for things to happen. While you’re sitting in front of the computer questioning if you should apply for a job, people like Desmond have already applied and followed up with the HR rep.

While you’re standing in a room wondering if you should introduce yourself to the person next to you, people like Desmond are already chatting with a group of interesting and vivacious people and exploring potential opportunities with them.

People like Desmond are always on, always thinking, always exploring, and that’s what sets them apart from everyone else.   


What Now?

Since graduating from Singapore Management University, Desmond now runs his own start up, Workstream, closing major franchises like Jamba Juice, McDonalds and even F1 in Singapore.

He’s also a contributing writer to various media publications, Entrepreneur Media being one of them.

Desmond’s team started with 5 people and has now grown to more than 30 within a year. We’re talking about people from all over the world, China, Singapore, San Francisco, Boston, Ukraine, to name a few.

What becomes clear while speaking Desmond is the passion that he holds for his work and Workstream. This clearly shines in every word he speaks and it is this passion and his spark that will carry him and his vision through to the top.


Workstream is part of the Business Innovation Generator (BIG), an incubation programme at Singapore Management University designed to nurture entrepreneurs through knowledge transfer and a strong support infrastructure.

Find out more about Workstream here. 


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