Professional services organisation EY has named three recipients of its 19th EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) 2020 Singapore awards. From these three category winners, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Singapore will be named on Nov 9 at a virtual event graced by K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law.

The three recipients are Richard Koh Seoh Leng, founder and CEO, M-DAQ, named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year — Financial Technology; Leong Jia-Le, Eric, managing director and co-founder, Mlion Corporation, named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year — Industrial Solutions; and Ian Ang, co-founder and CEO, Secretlab, named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year — Consumer Products.

Koh of M-DAQ has over three decades of industry experience in infocomm and technology, treasury and e-commerce. He founded the capital markets financial technology start-up back in 2010. “It is an unexpected honour to represent both the fledging Singapore FinTech community as well as the past and present members of M-DAQ family,” he says.

Under his leadership, the company has been profitable since the beginning of 2018 with a gross transaction value of $10 billion and revenue of $46 million — with a notable growth spurt of 1,000 times between 2015 and 2018. Thus far, it has raised $82 million in equity and still has $56 million in reserves as at the beginning of 2020.

Mlion, led by Leong, is a foundation steel company that has won projects across Asia. The company is just over seven years old and its revenue has hit more than US$64 million ($87.7 million) — up from US$2 million when it first started.

Leong calls winning the category award a validation of the sacrifices made by his family and loved ones who have supported and journeyed alongside him over the years, as he goes through the ups and downs. “The most defining lesson that I have learnt is facing up to problems and admitting your mistakes to your customers and stakeholders. When delivering solutions for a large infrastructural project, at times, we may make mistakes or overlook an area. However, it is the honesty and openness to take responsibility that will allow customers and stakeholders to trust you again in the future and continue to build on the relationship with you,” he says.

As an avid gamer, Ang of Secretlab spotted the need for gaming seats dedicated to ensuring absolute comfort and unparalleled support. The company’s products have been sold to more than 500,000 users across the world.

“I have always believed that Singaporeans are in a great position to sell global consumer products because of our natural exposure to both Eastern and Western cultures. Today, our chairs are raved about globally but we’re not stopping here. We will continue to invest in R&D and improve on our products to perfect the user experience — that is the only way to thank our fans who have supported us on our journey,” says Ang.

Passion, purpose and innovation

The three entrepreneurs were selected from close to 50 nominations by an independent judging panel chaired by Png Cheong Boon, CEO of Enterprise Singapore. “The winners come from diverse backgrounds but are all driven by a sense of passion, purpose and innovation. They have been quick to spot a niche in the market and venture into less chartered waters to bring their ideas to fruition against the odds. Importantly, they have shown strong business acumen and clear strategic vision, which has enabled their businesses to not only make a mark locally but overseas as well,” says Png.

Besides Png, the other judges are Elaine Yew, senior partner and Asia head of board practice and global head of leadership advisory at Egon Zehnder; Susan Chong, CEO of Greenpac (S), and a previous EY Entrepreneur Of The Year — Sustainable Solutions category winner; Freddy Boey, deputy president (innovation & enterprise) at the National University of Singapore; Aw Kah Peng, chairman of the Shell Companies in Singapore; Ganen Sarvananthan, co-managing partner of TPG Capital Asia; and Ron Sim, executive chairman and CEO of V3 Group and EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2003 Singapore.

According to Max Loh, Singapore and Brunei managing partner of Ernst & Young LLP, the three winners embody this year’s theme of “The Unstoppables”. “True entrepreneurs do not shy away from unconventional paths and challenges. They forge on relentlessly, fuelled by their vision and conviction, as they seek innovative approaches to create products and services that help the world to work and live better,” he says. “Creating long-term value through their business and for their stakeholders takes grit and resilience that transcend doubt or fear — and that is the entrepreneurial spirit that stands out in our winners this year,” he adds.

Besides the three winning entrepreneurs, EY has given out two other honorary awards. Duong Ba Tran, chairman of Truong Hai Auto Corporation (Thaco) in Vietnam, has been named the winner of this year’s EY Asean Entrepreneurial Excellence award. Duong, a former apprentice, founded Thaco in 1997 and has since grown it into a leading mechanics and automotive company with a headcount of some 20,000. It has also diversified into other industries such as agriculture and forestry, construction and investment, logistics, as well as commerce and services.

Award for Hong Leong Group

Hong Leong Group, one of Asia’s largest and most successful conglomerate, is recipient of this year’s EY Family Business Award of Excellence. The company was founded in 1941 by Kwek Hong Png, father of current executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng, who has shown foresight by leading the forays into new businesses such as manufacturing in China.

Hong Leong Group is better known for its property and hospitality business, especially via its listed subsidiary City Developments, which has turned from a loss-making firm into a multinational company with presence in 106 locations across 29 countries and regions.

Yet, besides property development and hotels, Hong Leong Group has two other core businesses: financial services and trade and industry, and assets worth some $40 billion. A third generation of Kweks are helping to carry on the family legacy. “At Hong Leong, family has always been the core of the business. Whether bonded by blood or a common vision, we will carry on a legacy that continues to inspire generations,” says Kwek.

The EY Family Business Award of Excellence was launched in 2013 and each year’s winners are jointly selected by knowledge partners, Business Families Institute @ Singapore Management University and the Wendel International Centre for Family Enterprise, Insead. Previous years’ winners for this award include Far East Organization, the Kewalram Chanrai Group, BP de Silva Holdings, Eu Yan Sang International, Jebsen & Jessen (SEA), Tolaram Group and Sing Lun Holdings.

“Family enterprises are an important segment of our economy, and many draw strength from their ability to preserve company culture, tradition and values while maintaining corporate governance and the entrepreneurial spirit,” says EY’s Loh. “The success of Hong Leong Group built over the decades demonstrates that a combination of strong family bonds and a shared vision is key to harmonising both commercial and family interests, which has enabled them to thrive and succeed over generations,” he adds.

The Edge Singapore is an official media partner of the awards. Other partners and supporters are the Singapore Exchange; Portfolio; The Business Times; Action Community for Entrepreneurship; Enterprise Singapore; Singapore Business Federation; and SkillsFuture Singapore.