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Chin Su Yuen: Singapore’s poster girl for start-up success

After five failed start-ups, all that bootstrapping and perseverance finally paid off for Chin Su Yuen, who’s now at the helm of her profitable and sustainable co-founded tech start-up, MomoCentral


Photos: J.Judisun Photography

Every great success starts with a motivation of goals no matter how lofty, modest or even “lame” - in Chin Su Yuen’s case.

For the co-founder and CEO of tech start-up MomoCentral, it’s about avoiding the grind of a 9-to-6 office job, and most importantly, not having to squash in the MRT to get to work on time.

“This sounds like the lamest reason ever to start a start-up but I’m still way happier (than doing the office job) because if I have to work overtime, it’s all to pursue my own dreams, you know what I mean?” (Laughs)

“My naïve thinking back then was that I could sleep and wake whenever I want to but after launching my start-up, I realised that I didn’t have time to sleep!” Su Yuen chuckled.

Growing up, the 30-year-old Singapore PR wanted to be a few things such as a doctor, an astrologist, a video game creator and later, a designer.

So before going to university, Su Yuen interned at a print design company where she learned about graphic design and animation. It was that internship stint that ignited her interest in tech and put her on the path to becoming a web developer, and eventually found her own tech start-up.

“The creative team would always propose interesting concepts that involve interactivity and clients loved them,” she recalled, “but the tech team would always shut down these cool ideas, giving reasons like a lack of resources and whatnots.”

Frustrated and saddened by the fact that the creative concepts could not be made into real designs, Su Yuen decided to take matters into her own hands.

Driven by her innate problem-solving skills and determination “to build things through coding”, she decided to take up coding and applied to study for a Computer Science degree.

“So I did it, and proved to myself that whatever the tech people said were all untrue.”

After graduating from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2010, the computer science graduate joined a social gaming start-up. Six months into her job, Su Yuen got bitten by the start-up bug and decided that she, too, wanted her own business after being inspired by her boss’ entrepreneurial spirit.

That same year, she took her final-year NUS project – an augmented reality (AR) game that was awarded the SiTF Award (Singapore infocomm Technology Federation) - and turned it into a start-up.

Using AR technology, Su Yuen built a Farmville-like SimCity game for children to play and learn English at the same time. The game became a success as schools and kids loved it but the lack of “enterprise sales experience to understand the long sales cycle of a business” eventually led to the closure of the business.

Refusing to give up, Su Yuen made an iPad version of the farming game and named it Momo Farm when the iPad 2 was launched. The fun game got very popular and pulled in “a lot of money”. However, that too didn’t prove to be her ticket into the world of start-up success due to the lack of business and marketing experience.

“The problem was, I was a marketing noob back then and didn’t know I was supposed to take the profits and reinvest into marketing dollars,” said Su Yuen, “So very quickly, we fell off the App store ranking and no one was buying our game.”

“And in between then and now, we also did a few other failed projects not worth mentioning!” (Laughs)

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