Young Singaporeans to watch: A platform for good

JANELLE LEE, 27 Co-founder and chief product officer of bantu
JANELLE LEE, 27, Co-founder and chief product officer of bantu

Janelle Lee, 27

Co-founder and chief product officer of bantu

Ms Janelle Lee is passionate about human behaviour, technology and social good. An avid volunteer, she started social tech start-up bantu in 2018, with the goal of designing easy-to-use technology to help non-profit groups in Singapore digitalise.

Till date, bantu's cloud software has served hundreds of organisations ranging from social services to arts groups to family service centres - including Samaritans of Singapore and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities.

Last year, bantu won $50,000 as the Social Enterprise Start-Up of the Year under the President's Challenge for leveraging technology to collate and analyse volunteer data - an innovation that has improved the engagement and retention of volunteers.

Ms Lee's friends describe her as fearless, compassionate and dedicated.

Annabelle Kwok, 27

AI poster girl

By the age of 25, Ms Annabelle Kwok had two successful artificial intelligence (AI) companies under her belt.

In 2016, she co-founded SmartCow, which makes industrial grade hardware for AI processing.

She had started the company to sell off excess components she had bought to build a processor board for herself while making robots.

In 2017, she went on to found NeuralBay. The start-up specialises in vision analytics, using AI to recognise humans, objects and text.

Ms Kwok, a mathematics graduate, believes that AI should be accessible and affordable to those who need it.

She sold NeuralBay in January this year, and is now heading the regional AI, data and analytics team at Prudential, looking after 13 Asian markets, including China and India.

Beyond AI, she has many interests: circus tricks, film-making, hardware hacking, mixed martial arts and windsurfing.

Evan Heng, 23

Founder of Zenith Education Studio

Mr Evan Heng rejected an offer to study geography - his dream course - in Britain last year and instead incorporated his tuition company, Zenith Education Studio, the next day.

The young tuition centre now reaps a six-figure yearly profit and has expanded from just 40 junior college students last year to over 350 this year.

Passionate about teaching since junior college, Mr Heng - who is a first-year undergraduate at NUS Business School - drew inspiration from the success stories of others. He had thought that setting up his own centre and running multiple programmes was unfathomable, but seeing others do it gave him the motivation to try it himself.

A student-oriented company, the centre goes beyond classroom lessons and includes 24/7 academic support, perks - food, excursion and prizes - and free extra lessons and consultations when required.

Grace Chia, 30

CEO and co-founder of BeeX Autonomous Systems

BeeX builds the world's most powerful underwater vehicles that pack superior "intellect" and physical propulsion into a compact size.

Its chief executive officer Grace Chia believes engineering can make underwater inspection work safer and more environmentally friendly.

BeeX uses marine robots to inspect port infrastructure, ship hulls, floating solar farms, and underwater foundations of offshore oil and gas jackets and wind turbines. Divers hence do not have to be put at risk for such work and carbon emissions from diesel vessels deployed for such missions are cut.

The underwater craft allow autonomous surface vessels to recharge without returning to port. Operators intervene from shore only when necessary.

Ms Chia's work involves building prototypes that are reliable and scalable.

BeeX was the first Singaporean team to ever compete in a global autonomous marine robotics competition held annually in the United States.

Jervis Isaiah Ng, 24

Head of a "young and dynamic" team of real estate agents

At age 21 in 2017, Mr Jervis Ng started dabbling in the real estate line to pay off school loans while doing a double degree at Singapore Management University.

In less than four years, he has built up his 40-strong JNA Real Estate - one of the fastest-growing millennial real estate teams, and the youngest one under Propnex Realty. The team has sold over $100 million of properties.

Mr Ng said he has found his passion - bringing value to clients and helping them build their property portfolio and accumulate inter-generational wealth.

He added that he finds fulfilment in seeing his young team grow to become adults who can provide for their families.

Jonathan Ng, 29

Founder of food tech firm SinFooTech

Believing he could create positive change, Mr Jonathan Ng founded food technology start-up SinFooTech in 2018.

Its newest technology creates beverages from unwanted soya whey, a by-product of tofu manufacturing that has little commercial use and can cause water pollution if improperly disposed of.

The firm will launch a new product, Sachi, locally at the end of the year. Touted as a low-calorie alcoholic drink crafted for health-conscious casual drinkers, it has notes of crisp apple cider, fruity Moscato and full-bodied sake.

The drinks which SinFooTech creates can vary in flavour, are gluten-free, contain antioxidants and have less calories than other wine alternatives.

The firm is aiming to expand its technology overseas.

Kuah Chew Shian (left), 27 and Lisa Tang, 25

Founders of restaurant Kausmo

A mission to save food rejects - oddly shaped or irregular-sized fruit and vegetables - led to the birth of 16-seater restaurant Kausmo last year.

Its two millennial co-founders - Ms Kuah Chew Shian and Ms Lisa Tang - were concerned enough about the food waste problem in Singapore to repurpose "aesthetically filtered" ingredients into tasty and delicious meals.

The two are graduates of Temasek Polytechnic's culinary and catering management programme.

Overstocked ingredients, overripe produce and underrated cuts of meat, along with locally grown greens, also find their way into Kausmo's dishes.

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From activists and artists to singers and scientists. Here are ten rising stars – five Singaporeans, five from overseas and all under the age of 30.
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2020, with the headline Young Singaporeans to watch: A platform for good. Subscribe