CEO Stories

Lost and Founded Series - Dennis Goh

Dennis Goh, Founder of HungryGoWhere, feels he could have made it as a C-grade stand-up comedian had HungryGoWhere gone nowhere.

Author: DBS BusinessClass, Administrator of DBS

Dennis Goh, Founder of HungryGoWhere

Dennis Goh can’t sing for nuts – but that won’t curb his dreams of recording an album someday. The passionate and unabashed digital entrepreneur, Founder of HungryGoWhere and Partner at Venture Capital firm Wavemaker also believes in harnessing technology to create convenience and promote positive change. In 2006, Dennis founded HungryGoWhere.com to engage a burgeoning community of food lovers in Singapore and allow smaller restaurants to stand a fighting chance against the big players – and sold it for a tidy $12M just six years later. Dennis then proceeded to spearhead SingTel's international digital media expansion before moving over to Wavemaker to continue supporting and mentoring the next wave of entrepreneurs. Believing that humour is underrated in entrepreneurship, Dennis also feels he could have made it as a C-grade stand-up comedian had HungryGoWhere gone nowhere –and pities his would-be audience. Fortunately for us, Dennis graduated from the school of hard knocks with flying colours and now regales us with his war stories.

  

People say you are “Dennis Goh, Founder of HungryGoWhere”. Who do you say you are?

A very curious soul. The irony is that the more things I do (and the older I get), the more I realise there are so many more things to learn and experience. I particularly enjoy listening to all the war stories of entrepreneurs out there who have gone through the school of hard knocks

 

What was the best moment in your start up life? It was so good you wanted to fly BusinessClass somewhere with someone, and pop open the most expensive bottle of champagne there.

My co-founders and I could not afford to pay ourselves a salary in those tough and extremely painful first 2-3 years. Not only that, but our savings were being wiped out as well. Hence, I will never ever forget receiving the first pay check after years in the wilderness. Even though the amount was not big, I cannot describe that amazing feeling of joy, relief and gratitude. I even took a photo of that pay cheque!

 

Have you ever cried? Or what was the lowest, crappiest moment in your start-up life? You wanted to give up everything. You wanted to kill someone. (During your start-up career of course) Tell us more!

I cried when several restaurant owners in the early days told me to snail mail them my HungryGoWhere pitch deck….because they had no emails! What on earth am I doing in this industry????!!!!!!!

I also cried when in the first few weeks, numerous people (after I gave them my name card/mobile phone number) called me and asked “Are you Dennis from HungryGo.com? HungryWhere.com? Wheregothungry.com? Wait a minute, what is your website name again?”……oh man, more branding needed……

 

What secret did you hide from your co-founder or partner or parent for the longest time? Why?

I dared not tell people that I was running out of money, at the lowest point of the entrepreneurial journey. It would have made a lot of concerned friends and relatives worry unnecessarily, as I was determined to keep going.

 

What’s the most eccentric thing about you? If VCs found out, they won’t have signed the term sheet then. But hell with that now.

I like to entertain people and make them laugh. And if I have to play the clown sometimes to get everyone to lighten up, I would do it. Maybe I would have become some C-grade stand-up comedian or talk-show host, if my entrepreneurial career did not work out….imagine how painful that would have been for the audience………for that, you should be thankful that HungryGoWhere succeeded =)

 

What are you up to today? What gets you up in the morning?

Doing investing professionally with Wavemaker, an early stage VC fund. I will always be fascinated on how we can use technology to help make the world and people’s lives a little better.

 

How do you keep yourself physically and mentally fit for start-up life?

Exercise (not too tough), watch what I eat (very tough!) and don’t stop reading. Although I read a lot now using digital devices, I still feel there is something truly magical about holding a book in your hands and reading it. You can just call me a closet dinosaur =)

 

Offer a life hack (or two) to a young founder.

Humour is so, so underrated in entrepreneurship. While it is important to take everything seriously, do not take yourself too seriously. Laugh at your mistakes first, and then learn from them. You will enjoy your entrepreneurship journey so much more that way.

 

Movie or song that best describes you.

對面的女孩看過來 – the version by Ah Niu. Love the video – completely describes how seriously I take myself, LOL

Translation of lyrics:

The girl from opposite looks over

The performance here is very exciting; please don't try to act ignorant,

The girl from opposite looks over,

Don't be frightened off by my looks, I'm actually very cute.

Who would understand my loneliness and sadness?

Please glance over, humour me.

 

I look left and right, up and down, every girl is actually not easy.

I think and guess, but a girl's heart is weird.

 

The lonely boy swats left and right

Why is there still no one who loves me, it is so frustrating?

The girl from opposite looks over,

A lonely guy needs you to give him a little more love.

 

Favourite quote.

“Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone” – Who am I to judge, when I myself am so imperfect. I now realise how important it is to give and receive grace.

 

Who and what inspires you?

Jesus Christ inspires me – I have a lot to learn from him, where grace is concerned.

 

Tell me about Dennis Goh in 2030.

Maybe recording a music album finally after all these years of dreaming? I cannot sing for nuts, but hey, why let that stop you? Haha

 

Published Date: 20 May 2015

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