University dropout-turned-start-up founder to share experiences at forum

Mr Oswald Yeo is one of three co-founders of Glints, an online talent recruitment and career discovery platform.
Mr Oswald Yeo is one of three co-founders of Glints, an online talent recruitment and career discovery platform.PHOTO: GLINTS

SINGAPORE - When Mr Oswald Yeo dropped out of University of California, Berkeley, to run his start-up full-time in 2016, his family and friends thought he was out of his mind. 

"They thought I was crazy. But my friends in the United States were cheering for me because I had funding," said the 25-year-old.

"It was interesting because I got to see the contrast between two cultures. But I have no regrets because I've learnt so much along the way," he added.

He may have left university after just six months of studying business, but to Mr Yeo, it is real work experience that counts the most. In fact, he found a three-month start-up boot camp that he attended in 2015 "more useful" than the time he spent studying.

"Whatever I was learning was such a far cry from the three months of real business experience. So I decided to leave to focus on our company," he said.

Mr Yeo is one of three co-founders of Glints, an online talent recruitment and career discovery platform. More than 9,700 companies have signed up with Glints, which has raised more than $3 million in funding since 2015.

"We believe that higher education is so much more than what you learnt in the classroom. It's about the real-world experiences like internships," he said.

Mr Yeo will be one of the speakers at a forum - Disruptions in Education (DisruptED) - co-organised by The Straits Times and the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM).

About 400 people are expected to attend the event this Saturday (Feb 3) at the SIM Global Education campus in Clementi Road.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information, is the forum's guest of honour.

The panellists include Ms Kristina Kaihari, counsellor of education at the Finnish National Agency for Education, and Mr Ben Nelson, the entrepreneur who founded Minerva, a company whose goal is to reinvent higher education by stripping it down to its essence, eliminating lectures and tenure for faculty.

They will be joined by seasoned education administrators - Mr Lee Kwok Cheong, chief executive of SIM Holdings, and Dr Charles Zukoski, provost and executive vice-president for academic affairs at the University at Buffalo, New York.
The half-day forum, moderated by ST's head of training and development Lydia Lim, will end with a discussion on young people taking the path less travelled in higher education, to be led by Mr Yeo and ST's senior education correspondent Sandra Davie.

Said Mr Yeo: "University is still relevant - there are soft skills and networks you can build up from school - but it's not the only path."

In fact, what prompted him and his partners to start Glints was the gap they saw between education and employment. Their firm - which has 300,000 young people in its database - helps users identify the skill sets needed for their ideal jobs, and find the relevant avenues such as courses and internships to acquire these skills.

"A lot of people were going through the four years (of university) and finding a mismatch between what they learnt and what employers wanted," said Mr Yeo.

"Don't just study, get more real-world experience."