Annabelle, Entrepreneur, Has met Barack Obama and watches porcupine videos in her free time
As kids, we all envision what adulthood would be like. As we grow into our twenties and become the adults we had once hoped to be, it becomes easy to be disillusioned with our own selves. For Annabelle, keeping the spark of child-like curiosity alive has been how she’s stayed true to herself. Her list of accolades is staggering—being invited by the Obama Foundation to represent Singapore, meeting President Obama himself and being the founder of two AI-related companies, just to name a few—but to her, true success is the freedom to chase after your dreams. The applied mathematics graduate shares with us that growing up definitely does not equate to growing sombre—there’s always space and time for a dash of fun.
Shentonista (S): So you’ve started up two companies—what’s next?
Annabelle (A): I didn’t start two companies because I wanted to be a serial entrepreneur. It’s because of coincidence. The first company I founded was a hardware company and the second one is more about software, and circumstances have led me to start both of them.
S: What’s the biggest motivation behind running your start up?
A: When developing AI software, there are certain things that can be recycled and repackaged for a different use-case without having to infringe on data privacy or patent laws. So we operate on a robin-hood model, where we “take from the rich and give to the poor.” Of course, we do this in a very responsible and figurative way! We get the data and consent from our larger clients to recycle for the SMEs. And because we want to prioritise doing the right thing, the journey has not always been easy for us—we’ve turned down money because the investor’s intentions were not aligned with our goal of doing social good, and high paying projects from clients where our technology could possibly be used in the wrong way, because we want to build things that help people and not harm them.
S: Have you ever faced any quarter-life crises?
A: Definitely; on my birthday every year. I always think about everything I’ve managed to achieve within the year—I think birthdays bring out the “Oh no, what have I done with my life?” sentiment. Usually people will celebrate their birthdays, but it puts me in a deep reflective mood.
S: You’ve done so much—does it feel like it’s still not enough?
A: It doesn’t feel like that. I feel like I mostly sit in Starbucks every day and do work, and it just doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished so much. Trust me, I waste a lot of time. I’ll end up spending time on Netflix and YouTube and half my day is gone just like that. A lot of times, I’ll find myself watching porcupine videos instead of doing any work.
S: What’s one goal you hope to achieve by the time you’ve turned 30?
A: I don’t know where I’ll be at thirty, but I know what kind of person I want to become—I hope to be someone who’s grounded in her values of humility and honesty, and become someone that people find trustworthy.
S: What does quarter-life confidence mean to you?
A: To be okay with uncertainty and knowing how to find clarity. I think self-reflection is very important—once you reach the quarter-life point, I think it’s important to take a step back and analyse where you’ve reached.
S: What does success mean to you personally?
A: Freedom to do what you want. Not in the sense of YOLO, but the freedom to love what you want to love and do the things you want to do. Freedom to spend the time on what matters to you—even if it’s watching porcupine videos. Having the freedom to choose what you want to do, to me, is the true meaning of success.
S: You’ve mentioned not having accomplished much, but what do you think has been the biggest achievement of your life so far?
A: I think it’s not losing myself, or losing sight of where I want to be. It’s easy to tunnel-vision when your head is deep into work, and convince yourself that deadlines are the do-all and end-all. It’s easy to fall into the trap of work and earning money, till you stop learning and growing. But I think I’ve managed to remain curious until now, and having that little sense of immaturity is always important to maintain that sense of curiosity.
S: What’s the biggest mystery you’d like an answer to?
A: Why people don’t have common sense ah? (laughs) I don’t understand why people can’t be more caring of each other. I understand that there is a need to protect your own assets—you have family to protect and loved ones you’d obviously prioritise. I know it’s important to take care of yourself. Humans have the capacity to love infinitely.
S: What do you think has been the secret behind your entrepreneurial success?
A: Luck. I feel that if you spell out success as a formula (as I’m prone to do as a mathematician)—it’d be luck + preparedness = success. When the opportunity opens up, and you’re prepared, you can move forward very quickly. If the opportunity opens up but you’re still not up to the mark, it gets very hard to find a breakthrough.
S: Share with us an advice you’d give to someone who’s still waiting for that breakthrough.
A: The opportunity will come to you, as long as you remain curious. Let me give you an example: if you are curious about something, and you start reading or learning about it, you’ll progress in that field much faster than anyone else in that industry. That’s the advantage curiosity will always give you. And when you get good at something, you’ll become known for it and more opportunities will open up for you. If you do what you’re told, it feels forced and unnatural. So you must always find the spirit to advance forward and seek out the opportunities.
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