1. What's your story?
I was born and grew up in the Washington, DC metro area for a majority of my life. I began starting companies at around 18 years old and have pretty much been doing form of that ever since. Shortly after my first job out of college, I went to work for a startup (at least at that time) called Palantir, which took me through most of my professional career and brought me to Singapore. In 2016 Lee Sult (CTO & Co-Founder) and I had the idea to use our expertise to start our own company with Horangi. We had been brought into KITRI (Korea Information Technology and Research Institute) to help them train the “Best of the Best” Korean Cyber experts. Once we engaged with them and they used the first version of our product we knew we had something and given that we were both there and working closely with them we decided to name the company “Horangi”, which is the Korean word for Tiger.
2. What did you want to be as a child?
I used to go back and forth between wanting to be a Veterinarian and an Astronaut, but after taking some programming classes in high school I got much more into computers and building websites/businesses.
3. Tell us something unique about yourself!
My grandfather was the CEO of a large MNC in the US, he always used to tell me about finding your equator. I guess I sort of found it here in Singapore (literally), but what he actually meant was finding balance in your life. I think that's one thing that I am continually working on as Horangi grows.
4. Why did you decide to move to Singapore and start Horangi?
I was actually moving back to Singapore from a short stint in New Zealand and while most of our clients at the time were in Korea, it made a lot more sense, in the long run, to base the company in Singapore.
5. What do you notice about the different tech/working environments between US and Southeast Asia?
Access to different problems and people, while working in the US, a lot of the problems you see most companies solving are 1st world ones, meaning they solve problems that might make a difference in doing something faster or with more convenience. While this wasn’t the case with Palantir, I do see a lot of companies in this region solving real problems in the Fintech and Consumer space that are quite unique and actually make the lives of millions of people better.
6. What's the most exciting thing about building a startup in Southeast Asia?
In a lot of ways, as you venture from market to market, you are starting a new mini company. With cultural differences across regions, you have to sit back and learn as much as possible before jumping right in, but that process is the most exciting.
7. What has been the biggest lesson you learned since you started Horangi?
Sales is a really important part of your business and its really hard. Having come from Palantir where they had few to no sales people for the majority of the time I was there; I thought it wasn't necessarily crucial for a successful business. I was wrong and quickly had to learn how to do it myself and coach other team members through this process as well.
8. What do you do to stay on top of relevant news/ trends in the startup world?
Read a lot and listen to podcasts. I love reading Crunchbase, the Information and I am an avid listener of SAASter. I actually prefer these types of information over reading books mainly because they are short but informative and I can do something else while listening.
9. What piece of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Find people at a similar stage in your entrepreneur life cycle to become friends with and then find more who have been there before. I always like to derive insights from people who have experiences in similar situations as myself and using those insights to help drive my decisions within my own context. It's difficult because sometimes you may not be able to follow the advice of others which can cause you to screw up and look awkward or be right and look like a trailblazer. At the end of the day, it's important that you make your own decisions and stay accountable to yourself and your team.
10. If your life was a book, which book would it be?
Hopefully one that’s not out yet, because I am less than half way through.
Interested in reading more about Paul’s day to day activities in Horangi? Check out a glimpse of his daily life in this blog.