Young Singaporeans to watch: The right fit

(From far left) TAN JUN KIAT, 30, JOSHUA CHAN, 29, AND LYE YI HAO, 29 Founders of ergonomic office furniture firm Ergo Edge
(From far left) TAN JUN KIAT, 30, JOSHUA CHAN, 29, AND LYE YI HAO, 29, Founders of ergonomic office furniture firm Ergo EdgeST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Tan Jun Kiat, 30, Joshua Chan, 29, and Lye Yi Hao, 29

Founders of ergonomic office furniture firm Ergo Edge

The Covid-19 pandemic turned the tables on many booming businesses, but gave new meaning to "the hot seat" for former schoolmates Lye Yi Hao, Joshua Chan and Tan Jun Kiat.

The trio founded Ergo Edge in 2017 after noticing a dearth of affordable quality ergonomic furniture on the market.

The company is on track to rake in revenue of $5 million this year, with its growth reaching record highs as many work from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The team is now doubling down on creating more of its core products - ergonomic chairs and standing desks. Their immediate focus is to create innovative products to tackle the challenges of working from home - such as a noisy environment and the lack of space - and cater to the needs of those who split their work hours between home and office.

Kuldeep Singh Rajput, 29

Founder of health tech start-up Biofourmis

Wearable tech coupled with an artificial intelligence (AI) platform by home-grown digital therapeutics start-up Biofourmis have helped monitor and manage the conditions of close to 100,000 Covid-19 patients across four countries, including Singapore.

For instance, through the use of armbands, over 20 physiological signals of patients in community care facilities in Singapore are monitored round the clock, and processed with AI to predict complications. This data helps doctors and nurses detect any sign of deterioration in a patient's condition and intervene quickly.

Biofourmis was founded by Mr Kuldeep Singh Rajput, who quit his PhD studies in 2015 to start the firm.

The AI platform also enables personalised care and disease prediction for patients with complex conditions like heart failure and cancer.

In September, SoftBank Vision Fund led a US$100 million (S$133 million) investment in the start-up.

Ng Teck Hwee, 29

Founder of Web development firm Purpleflakez

Mr Ng Teck Hwee was 19 when he lost his father in 2010. Despite falling into depression, he started a Web development business, Purpleflakez, to generate side income to support his family and pay off their debts.

It took a whole year before he found his first client, and until then he had often contemplated throwing in the towel. But the Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate, who developed a passion for Web development in secondary school, persevered, and now heads a team of five.

The company, which has served around 60 clients to date, has expanded to provide small and mediumsized enterprises with numerous IT customised services to simplify their business processes, such as content creation, server hosting support and Web solution services.

Purpleflakez has also co-sponsored a charity event, Silver Screening 2-For-1, annually from 2017 to last year. The movie screenings, which brought together volunteers and more than 2,300 seniors, were graced by film-maker Jack Neo.

Lau Jia Cai, 28

Co-founder of social enterprise TreeDots

A student exchange trip to Germany in 2016 awakened Mr Lau Jia Cai's environmental conscience. He was surprised to see that supermarkets marked down unsold inventory and products nearer their expiry date - a practice not as common in Singapore.

A year later, back here, he and two friends set up TreeDots, a social enterprise which aims to reduce food wastage by getting wholesalers and suppliers to sell unsold products to F&B businesses at discounted prices of up to 30 per cent. With its app, consumers can also buy food at good discounts.

The three founders - who were previously in the finance field - could finally pay themselves a salary last year, and TreeDots this year turned profitable enough for the team to grow from three to 60 people.

Mr Lau said he is looking forward to expanding operations into Malaysia next year, as well as the rest of South-east Asia, where cost savings could mean more to people and where a bigger impact could be had.

Daryl Yang, 27

Civil activist

A corporate lawyer by day, Mr Daryl Yang is among the most outspoken of his generation on human rights and political education.

When he was still a student at the National University of Singapore, he co-founded the student-run Community for Advocacy and Political Education, which this year produced online resources to help people make sense of their vote during the general election.

He also champions lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights, this year working with LGBT groups to co-author a report on the state of human rights in Singapore, which was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in October.

He said his experience with activism has taught him that change takes time. "We need to continue speaking up and campaigning, even if the impact might not be immediate... to shape a better future, if not for us, then for others to come."

Irie Aman, 23

Co-founder of magazine The Local Rebel

When Ms Irie Aman first spoke up on the sensitive topic of queer Muslim issues, she faced backlash and even incidents of stalking by hostile strangers.

The editor-in-chief of independent magazine The Local Rebel, which gives voice to intersectional feminist issues, said she was angry at the state of the world.

"I saw so much that could be better and wanted to be a part of the solution. I'm excited by the potential of communities to come together to demand better." she said.

Intersectional feminism explores issues faced by women of colour, or those who have a different sexual orientation, for instance.

Ms Aman is now waiting for Covid-19 restrictions to ease so that she can hold workshops for queer Muslims to understand how spirituality and sexuality go together.

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: The right fit'. Subscribe