Lost and Founded Series – Oliver Tan

Oliver Tan, Co-Founder and CEO of ViSenze, believes that it doesn’t matter if you’re a predator or the prey, you just got to keep running.


Meet the innovation enthusiast who is driven to make a difference before he kicks the bucket. Oliver Tan, Co-Founder and CEO of ViSenze, believes that it doesn’t matter if you’re a predator (lion) or the prey (gazelle), you just got to keep running. Just remember to eat while you’re at it!

People say you are "Oliver Tan, Co-Founder and CEO of ViSenze". Who do you say you are?

An ardent innovation enthusiast that solves real world problems, hence he is driven to make a difference before he kicks the bucket.

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

When our investors believed in us, and said: “Here, this is the money you wanted. Let’s go make it come true!!!” 

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

Well … my partners knew my Mandarin was not good but didn’t realize how bad it was!  When they saw me pitching in front of customers and investors in China, they literally chewed off their fingernails by the end of my pitch! 

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

That I work like a dog when I’m at it, and literally forget to eat.  Hence, whoever travelled with me has never wanted to travel with me again. I’m a lot better now, enjoying good food and company as long as they don’t get me started on work matters. 

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 startup career of course) Tell us more!

So far I’ve been pretty “lucky", although there’ve been down times - I don’t have a crappiest moment in which I wanted to give up everything. I keep going. If you have to know whether I have ever cried – yes. I cried when I attended a memorial service for LKY in San Francisco organized by the Consul General (I was away on business when he passed away). I was sitting next to the Singapore Counsel General in the hall watching the “Life of LKY” video. I thought I was doing pretty ok at first. But when he cried first, so did I!

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

Scheming next on how to disrupt a specific market segment (haha, but I can’t tell you yet!). 

What gets me up? There is beautiful sunrise picture of an African Safari I keep at home. I look at it every morning before I go to work. The story goes like this: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion also wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.” It reminds me: It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle…. every morning when the sun is up, YOU BETTER GET RUNNING!!

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

I run and run and run. It keeps me in shape (or at least maintain it!) and clears my head (I think through the week I had and think about what to do next). 

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

It is no longer important to be the most original guy in the world. It is more important to be better than the original!! I mean stop trying to be the most original idea in today’s world. Chances are someone else may have thought of it already or implemented it in some way or another. Just make sure that you are a whole lot better than the original guy who did it. That counts a lot more!

Movie or song that best describes you.

I have a few but the song that never fails to give me a nudge-in-a-tune when I need it most is “You Gotta Be - By Des Ree”   (Listen as your day unfolds. Challenge what the future holds. Try to keep your head up to the sky. You Gotta Be …….”)

Favourite quote.

"I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." - Michael Jordan

Who and what inspires you?

A courageous man called Lee Kuan Yew. I am 100% Singaporean and proud to say it. 

Tell me about Oliver Tan in 2030.

That’s 15 years from now. I see myself still at it (probably still in startup world) but more in a role that invests in or help startups grow, giving back what I have received and benefited from the generosity of others.  

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