Lost and Founded Series - Walter Oh

A firm believer in the anecdote “Just Do It”, Walter Oh, the co-founder of BoxGreen tell us why he left his job at DBS Bank to bring his startup idea to life, and to our stomachs.


Author: DBS BusinessClass, Administrator of DBS

Walter Oh is all about delivering happiness to people. In the form of healthy snacks, that is. A firm believer in the anecdote "Just Do It", the co-founder of BoxGreen tell us why he left his job at DBS Bank to bring his startup idea to life, and to our stomachs.  

People say you are "Walter Oh, Co-Founder of BoxGreen". Who do you say you are?

I am a dreamer and an operator who has not "made it" yet, but have made something, or at least brought an idea to life! 

What was the 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.

Many uplifting moments came from the down-to-earth emails our subscribers sent. One of the most memorable one was an email from a subscriber late at night about how BoxGreen snacks delivered some happiness into their family.

"I bought a 3-month subscription of Boxgreen for my husband but the mail for the month of October was lost on its way to his office. The BoxGreen team surprised us with their impeccable customer service by sending out another box to us.

When we received the box, we were in for a huge surprise. We were very floored by the flavours when my husband pulled out one pack of goodies after another. We polished off most of them in a sitting. We love the Pina Okinawa (edamame and pineapple mix) especially.

For once, it felt surreal to us that snacking doesn't seem so sinful at all! Even my 20 month son was enjoying some of the snacks, like the apricots and raisins that are not excessively sweet. Perfect! Thank you Boxgreen! Now, my husband and I look out for our surprise in the mail every month - very much like a little present for ourselves."

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

I've never cried in my startup life (or not yet). Entrepreneurs constantly have multiple lowest, crappiest moments but it's all about maintaining an emotional state of constant. Things are never as good or as bad as they seem. The most part of the oh s*** moments are usually self made up, and the trick is to find people who have similar experiences as you and have gotten out of those situations to give you guidance or offer you support.

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

I am a big fan of transparency and openness. If I did hide something, it would be the fact that I really don't know if what will happen to the future of the company or us 6 months from now. It is because no one can truly predict the success of a startup and more often than not, the founders are the ones throwing in the hat. There are just too many variables involved. We can only try to "de-risk" as much as we can along the way.

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.

We are still bootstrapping (surviving with our own funds) without any funding but drawing reference from the previous answer, I wouldn't have any idea about the numbers on the business plan or projections we have pitched because no one can predict that we will ever get there or achieve those numbers.

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

I spent the morning designing the discovery card for month, setting up an Instagram giveaway together with Melinda, our intern, filing the company payroll for December, following up with a couple of emails from customers and now I am replying to this email after a huge delay!

I wake up every morning thinking about ways to reduce the friction of sending quality snacks to people – making the process easier and more accessible using the internet, while providing a delightful experience.

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

I try to make time to exercise twice a week by jogging or swimming. I am also a big fan of podcasts (if you haven't, try listening to "This Week in Startups" by Jason Calcanis or StartupGrind). I read business books to feed the brain and occasionally, I play some games to unwind from real life. Lastly, I eat healthy by snacking on Boxgreen!

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

Just. Do. It. Your youth is your capital, your time is your best resource and as quoted from Steve Jobs, you are already naked, there is no reason not to follow your heart!

I quote an answer from Quora about finding your passion that is deceptively simple yet true:

The secret (to finding your passion) is simple - do not stand down there at the bottom of a range of mountains (life choices) and wonder which one you should climb because most of it is above the clouds and you do not know if you will find something on the top. Do not waste time thinking if it will fit you or if it will be the best thing to do. Many people end up wasting a lot of time thinking and wanting to do the right things so others do not make fun of them etc.. (and you end up being paralysed and achieving nothing). Just start climbing one that you find most exciting and challenging... the more you climb, the better your understanding of who you are and what you want - and more often you realize what you do not want.... Is all the time spent climbing other mountains wasted? Absolutely not... because with every mountain, I could see other bigger mountains more clearly, and every time I climb one that offered a higher challenge - a more exciting journey and a bigger reward for success awaits that you can see only from the top of another mountain... and I would not have my life any other way!

What's the movie or song that best describes you?

You got a friend in me.

Favourite quote

I'd be greedy and give two quotes:

"Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."  - The Crazy Ones

"Be a duck, remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath." ― Michael Caine

Who and what inspires you?

Tony Hsieh. Tony is the founder of Zappos, an online shoe and clothing shoe company which was sold to Amazon for close to US$928 million. The company sells a commodity - shoes, just like the one you can pick up at any mall or dozens of online sites. But what sets the company apart is Tony's focus on culture, to deliver happiness and in turn building a world-class customer service, which benefits the customers.

"At Zappos, as with all the core values, Being Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded is not a recommendation; it's the way we live. Culture is King."

Building a big company to be financially healthy and a culture that focuses on happiness is paradoxically hard. In reality, not many companies are good at doing that and culture, given that it is an intangible thing, is even harder to be quantified. So Tony is a role model for creating a delightful customer service and a reminder of how important culture is.

Tell us about Walter Oh in 2030.

I'll be 42 by 2030 and hopefully I'll have enough experience as an operator in businesses to help people turn their ideas into reality and enough liquidity, to invest in awesome companies as an angel investor.

Name 1-3 startup founders in Singapore you'll like to hear answer these questions. 

- Lee Jun Kiat of TickTock  (Recently acquired by Chope!)
- Vincent Morello of The French Cellar (PHD scientist turned wine connoisseur)
- Sung or Rifeng of Grain.sg (Consultants turned food lovers)

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