Alexander Lim from Cudy - Interview
Posted on August 13 2018
Read this insightful interview with Alexander Lim of Online Tuition Start Up Cudy.
'What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?’
That I know that everyday I’m investing in myself through how I spend my time being an entrepreneur. I am not a time-waster. It’s one of my pet-peeves when someone else is wasting my time or when I feel that my time was wasted.
To me, time is the most precious commodity. You can never get it back, unlike money. My value of time motivates me to get out of bed every morning. To know that my time awake would be used for activities that will pay dividends in the future and to save me even more time to do more makes me get out of bed in the morning.
Knowing that the sweat that goes into the activities today will pay spiritually, mentally and possibly financially makes a lot of difference. Also, knowing that many people are counting on you to make it happen is another motivation for me to get out of bed.
Of course, the occasional free-flowing ideas do also wake me up early from bed. Haha.
Why and how did you and the team start Cudy?
The concept of Cudy first came about from my experience as a student who wasn’t academically adept.
From secondary school, I was a tuition kid. But I still did not know how to learn. I have yet to discover my learning style and all I did was cramp information, which resulted in poor grades. I dreaded studying, like most students do.
Most students try to emulate the lifestyles and habits of top scoring students but very often it doesn’t work out as planned.
It was only during Junior College when I gave it my best shot but at the same time I felt that the environment was against me. I knew I had to go back to finding tutors that suits my style of learning. I started finding tutors on my own. But that’s when I saw the gaps in the market. It was fragmented. It was opaque. It took me multiple trial and errors to find a suitable tutor, but by then it was already too late. The house was built on weak foundation. It crumbled. My grades took a nose-dive.
What if I could help students find suitable tutors fast, make important information transparent and accessible, make classes convenient and more affordable, and at the same time help people understand their style of learning?
That’s when the idea rang a bell. And that bell was a calling for me ever since. Since then, the concept has diversified into more branches once we thought newer, bigger and again.
Cudy Connecting Online Students and Tutors
‘What does an average day look like for Cudy?’
Everyone is assigned to tasks and its never ending (which is a good sign that we are not brain dead yet). We start at 9.30am, taking into consideration for people who live far from the office (sleep is important) and we end at 6.30pm (but usually most people would voluntarily stay past that time to continue grinding).
Everyone knows what to do now and what to do next. There are only a few times when people ask around “eh, what to do next?” And that’s when I go into overhaul-OCD mode and make our task management systems even more efficient.
We will have lunch as a team at noon and dinner together for those who have plans to stay through the night. Sometimes we will also hunt for free buffets from event catering surpluses. Who doesn’t… right? Okay, probably many people.
For Cudy, every day is tough, draining and stressful. Not a doubt about it. But its filled with new things, new discoveries and new experiences which makes our day worth it.
The Cudy Team at the National Museum of Singapore
What inspires you?
My family, successful entrepreneurs and the individuals who might say that “you won’t make it” provides me the long-term inspiration.
The day-to-day hustlers that I see around the co-working spaces that I am in gives me the daily inspiration.
My team for trusting my judgements and when they are willing to make personal sacrifices to build the venture with me.
The students, parents and educators that tells our team that we have added value to them or by giving us positive words of encouragement generates inspiration. After all, the hard work from our team goes into building the venture that is meant for them. Any small signs that we have exceeded the expectations of the people we do it for does go a long way for our team.
What do you enjoy most about running your own company?
If the SuperSuperDope readers were expecting “freedom”, they would be disappointed. I read Tim Ferriss’s 4-hour workweek – it depends on how big your ambitions are and your ideal timeline towards success. The bigger your ambitions and the shorter your timelines, it would lean more towards the 4-hour sleep-a-day.
Think about it, if you are running your own company, you are “serving” others by solving other people’s problems as an entrepreneur. Solving the problems of customers – to make a profit. Solving the problems of society – to make an impact. Solving the problems of your employees – to achieve operational efficiency. Solving the problems of your company – to ensure the ship does not sink.
I would define “freedom” differently. Becoming an ambitious entrepreneur requires a change in lifestyle. There isn’t such a thing as “work-life balance” for these special breed of people as it would imply that “work” and “life” are opposing forces, which would mean that one has to find an equilibrium between the two. If you manage to comfortably find a stable and routine work-life balance, I might say that you are not ambitious enough or you not achieving your fullest potential. Achieve work-life integration instead.
If you are enjoying your work, it isn’t “work”. It’s fun; exciting; meaningful and rewarding in the long run – and it becomes life. Have a change in mindset. Delay gratification. Build habits. Find companions amongst entrepreneurs. Find meaning in what you do. View entrepreneurship as a journey in life-changing journey – one that shapes you into a better and capable human being.
“Life” itself is already brutal and short. Don’t spend the rest of your days regretting what you did not do. The bad times would refine your character and make you stronger, and the good times will lift your spirit and confidence – now that is a meaningful life to live.
So, what do I enjoy most about running my own company? Life.
Alexander Lim CEO + Co_Founder of Cudy, 'If you are enjoying your work, it isn’t work'
Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?
I started the venture with my sole partner. He was working on the technical side and I was working on the commercial side. After a few months starting the venture, we incorporated into a company and got incubated by an accelerator program by pitching ourselves as a technology startup. A few days before the first day at the accelerator program, he left the venture due to personal reasons. At that time, in my mind, it went something like: “so… I just started a technology company, got into an accelerator program and I currently have no technical partner or skills. What an in-your-face introduction into entrepreneurship…” The best part was that I was starting out as a freshman in University too (2 weeks after).
I had two choices: to quit or to continue. I continued, and not only did I recover. I had built a core team from the ground up all over, got a new co-founder (Sean Lam– currently the CTO of Cudy), grew the team, expanded the vision, commercialized the business and now after 1 year, I grew the company to where it currently is today and I won’t stop here.
Since then, and after many episodes of hurdles and problems (I won’t go into that here) that could have possibly made me throw in the towel, I became someone that is always prepared, ready and unfazed at any challenge no matter how big it perceives to be.
My mindset now is that everything can be solved – you just have to persist.
One word of advice: surround your social circle with like-minded entrepreneurs with similar roles in your venture. After a long day, it helps to talk to someone who understand what you are talking about and going through as an entrepreneur. If entrepreneurs make 5% of society, don’t expect that you can find a lot of people who shares similar experiences and someone that can relate to you.
To give you a good analogy that would be familiar to Singaporean males: it’s like explaining and reminiscing your National Service days to your girlfriend or girl-friends. It hardly ever works.
Join an incubator or co-working space and find entrepreneur clusters around you and meet new people. Share your idea and vision. No other growth entrepreneur working on their venture has the time to “steal” your idea anyway so don’t worry too much about sharing (a common mistake for new entrepreneurs).
What do you think are the biggest challenges for Cudy?
Challenge? What challenge? Let’s solve it together.
“We are working hard but we can work harder.” is what anyone in my core team would say. Some people might believe that the number of hours you put in determines how hard you work. It may be true to a certain extent, but I also study about the importance of sleep (my interest in the topic was probably from my time in Junior College when I was finding excuses for myself to sleep more).
Only less than 1% of the population can survive on little sleep and function perfectly fine. So, I always encourage my team to sleep so that they can think better and work more efficiently than staring into blank space, feeling moody and having a clouded creative mind. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But don’t get me wrong. Time is always against us. We just use our time efficiently in a sustainable manner for the long run.
I would like to add that your biggest challenge is only relative to how big your ambitions are. If you have small ambitions, you will have small challenges and vice versa. So, if you have big ambitions, be prepared for big challenges.
As the Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Naveen Jain said: “If you want to make a hundred million dollars, then solve a one-billion-dollar problem.”
Any advice for your previous boss?
“If you ever meet someone as overly ambitious as me, do me a favour and make me resign, or I’ll be leaving soon to start a venture anyway.” Is what I would say. Sounds arrogant, I know, but I think it’s the truth for most cases.
Entrepreneurs should be out there adding value in society, and they will do a better job as an entrepreneur out there than being an employee. Sometimes they just need that life-changing trigger, that inflection point in life, or that push in life to make them courageous enough to realise or become what they are made for.
Our company always prefer hiring interns who are entrepreneurial in nature. One interview question that I always ask is if they want to start their own business or want to be an entrepreneur. I always prefer to take those individuals in and to show them the raw life of being an entrepreneur, mentor them and make them experience the chaos while adding tremendous value to the company.
In just a few short few months, one or two may tell me that they want to leave but most will stay through till the end and crave for more – they become addicts. At the end of the internship, I will ask them the same question as I did before, adding in a new sentence: “So, do you feel more confident and readier now?”
It’s always “yes”, so I’ll reply “then go for it.”
Are there any brands, business’ or business leaders that you admire?
I admire many business leaders – especially the ones who are awe-inspiring and visionaries in the public’s eye while being branded as “tyrants” back in the office.
It’s only when you read biographies of Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk then you realise that you’re not the only crazy and demanding leader. It’s not that you want to be, but because it’s necessary or either that you get shaped into it during the tough times of starting up.
Leading a growth start-up is not easy. It requires certain traits such as protectiveness, competitiveness, assertiveness, passion, confidence, independence and to an extent, aggressiveness. And to quote the over-used ambition extinguisher: “9 out of 10 startups fail”.
In such a cut-throat market environment, it does take someone crazy, bold and daring enough to venture into open waters with that statistic. So, don’t expect your growth entrepreneurs to be nice all the time in the office.
Byjus, VIPKID, Ruangguru, Snapask and a few other education technology companies in the world that are making a difference in people’s lives through education are admirable and I have high hopes for Cudy to join the league.
What would you like to achieve Professionally in 6 months / 1 year / 5 years?
What I can disclose is that in six months’ time, we would like to complete our next fundraising round, have even more students and educators on board, release the cool features in the pipeline for our users and to continue to impact the lives of students and educators by empowering them with our products and services, and at the same time to inspire them through our commitment and dedication.
Over the next one year, we aim to have created value for our thousands of users and delivered value to our supporters and backers. We will also be launching our platforms across Asia.
In five years’ time, we would be ready for an IPO and to keep our fundamental values strong while still growing the company rapidly.
Any advice for talent looking to set up their own hustle?
Read, read and read. Learn how to learn.
If you are a healthy individual without much socio-economic problems, the only limitations that matter are your self-imposed limitations in your mind.
Start living in the Now. All your worries and fears are about the future which doesn’t exist and may never.
You will never be in a state of mind whereby you feel most prepared. Even if somehow you get there, it’s likely that the window of opportunity is no longer favourable.
If money is your immediate concern, go get yourself a job instead as most probably you would be cash-strapped or maybe even in debt during the first years of being an entrepreneur.
There’s a misconception that Entrepreneurs take huge risks. I think we should rephrase it to be: “entrepreneurs manage risk.” Entrepreneurs do not take uncalculated risks. They know how to play the game or they know how the game works, but they don’t win every time. It’s like how professional poker players can’t win every single time, but when the moment arrives and the probability is high, they seize the opportunity by putting all-in. That’s when the big break comes or it was a major bluff.
What is your favourite quote?
This is a tough one to choose.
I always believe that by having solid personal systems and processes, it will translate into success.
“Goals have an expiration date. Systems are forever.” - Patrick Bet David
Visit us at: https://www.cudy.co
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