From Jackie Lee's recollection, a shopping trek through Sim Lim Square was less of a leisurely jaunt, and more of a jungle bashing exercise.
As a young engineering student then, Jackie was tired of seeing the everyday IT consumer navigating the lanes of this IT shopping complex to hunt down the best deals for computers and tech gadgets. He recalls being like "all the other DIY enthusiasts" who wanted to build a computer for family and friends, but loathed the hard work behind securing the best computer parts for his budget.
After the third year of his engineering course, Jackie had a choice: He could put his $3,000 savings in a low-budget holiday before starting his industrial attachment, or he could plough that money into some decent computers, and start an online community reviewing hardware.
"We were supposed to do an industrial attachment at some MNC, or something that is related to the course of your study. So we thought that since we liked computers so much, why don't we start something and be attached to our own startup for a good six months," Jackie says. "If it is successful, then we can continue to build the business. If it's not, then we go back to school. There's like, no risk."
Jackie is better known as the founder of online portal HardwareZone (HWZ), which tells us which choice the young, plucky entrepreneur settled on. "A bunch of my good friends came together, and we started solving the problem."
"My bank account was down to less than $10. I knew we had to pivot."
Before angel investing clubs were fashionable, Jackie and his friends also managed to swing a cool $1.5 million from family, friends, and other early-stage investors, who bought into the idea of a website to be run by 20-somethings. For the son of a vegetable seller, it was a heavy responsibility but one that also gave him freedom to put his idea to a proper test.
Except then, he and his partners quickly burned through $1 million.
The website crossed its first 100,000-visitor mark over that six months, but no revenue was streaming in.
"I remember that my bank account was down to less than $10," says Jackie. "At that moment, I knew we had to pivot."
With his problem-solving mindset kicking in, Jackie turned to what he knew best: organising IT content in a monthly magazine format and getting computer manufacturers to pay for advertising in his publication. His pivot morphed into a successful regional expansion of a media business in five markets in Southeast Asia.
Eight years later, he sold the business to Singapore Press Holdings, fulfilling returns to his angel investors, and securing a sense of financial freedom that is miles off from the days of having less than $10 to his name.
Surviving to play tomorrow
"It sounds quite bad, but it wasn't that bad because I was a student entrepreneur. The worst case was, 'All right, I go back to school and complete my degree'. My parents didn't need me to bring back any money," recalls Jackie.
"The part that concerned me was the funding that we raised from angel investors, and family and friends. I felt quite responsible about it, but it didn't petrify me. I just needed to iterate a lot faster and be a bit more careful. It was a gamble that paid off. It saved the firm and we found that revenue model."
What’s actually scarier is the "worst" product he bought — a leveraged product sold to him by a banker. He calls such products backed by a "get rich quick" mechanism that can easily wipe the investor out if the market turns against him or her.
"The whole idea of investing is about surviving so that you can play tomorrow" says Jackie.
"Endowus is a really good friend because he gives you trusted, good advice."
He much prefers the easy way in which Endowus allows clients to dollar-cost average into a globally diversified portfolio, and allows the market to drive it up higher for the next 20 years.
Endowus helps you find success, but it’s the wrong place to seek out "get rich quick" fixes.
In line with his favour for patience in investing, Jackie is spending more time learning about value investing, espoused by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. The father of two boys continues to contribute time to volunteering, having spent a decade now committing hours to causes such as helping families and individuals to deal with problem gambling.
"When I came into money, a few good things happened," he says. "I have the freedom to do whatever I want every day. I can keep my calendar free. I can spend more time with my family. I can choose those times to volunteer for causes I believe in."
Jackie started HWZ as a service for the everyday consumer looking for an IT community for advice. He finds a like-minded friend in Endowus, and appreciates the fee transparency that the platform provides. He likes the focus on being broadly passive in the investing approach, so that he can concentrate on other endeavours.
"Endowus is designed specifically to be transparent about what you are paying and what trailer fees are being rebated to you. They fight every day to bring down that cost," he says.
"Endowus is a really good friend because he gives you trusted, good advice. He brings you the best deals out there from the jungle and makes sure that it is at a good price."
Seek out financial freedom with a trusted friend — begin your investment journey with Endowus today.