Creating sustainable businesses with passion & swank

Rina Neoh, Co Founder – Mercatus Capital Pte Ltd

Rina Neoh is a seasoned executive with a proven track record in setting up and developing companies across Asia Pacific. Rina was featured in the Top 10 Asia’s most inspiring ‘Women of Asia’ in Singapore in September 2013. In 2006, Rina co-founded Mercatus Capital Pte Ltd, a homegrown incubator and venture accelerator that seeded and incubated more than 45 startups in Asia. Rina currently holds strategic management directorships and equities in various entities which includes advisory firm focusing on funds raising and M&A.

Rina spent more than 18 years in both the corporate and entrepreneurial world, delivering multi-million dollar returns from small business enterprises which she helped to incubate, mentor, invest in or promote. Passionate about startups, Rina dedicates her free time in mentorship with Cherie Blair Foundation & IdeasInc.

Rina graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science (Hons) and obtained an overseas MBA degree in International Business. She spends her free time advocating “greenfield” businesses, promoting social entrepreneurship, women empowerment and volunteerism work. She is an avid photographer, a curious traveller, a passionate mountain trekker and a wellness practitioner. Rina loves to read and the latest book she is hooked upon is ‘World Order’ by Henry Kissinger.

About your entrepreneurial journey

“My first work experience started at the age of 14 when I served as a shampoo girl (in-between attending classes) in my mother’s salon. Interestingly, this is where I learned the rudiments of small business enterprise and the importance of understanding human psychology. I understood the importance of knowing your customers, they needs and their wish. Early in my career at a subsidiary of IBM, I honed up my skills in solutions selling, preparing complex tender bids and managing A-list accounts, including winning prestigious accounts from the government and private sectors in Singapore.”

The Inflection point

“My entrepreneurial journey started in 2006, when I co-founded Mercatus Capital Pte Ltd, a home-grown incubator and a venture accelerator based in Singapore. Through our own angel networks, Mercatus Capital provided seed capital to promising new small ventures, with more than 45 startups seeded and incubated in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, India, China and Hong Kong.

My experiences as an angel investor and start-up incubator helped develop my passion for strategic marketing, product branding, information systems, business development, venture capital financing, investor relations and high-level business negotiations — skills which I bring to every business I acquire or advise during my career.  I have been instrumental in two IPOs in the Australian Stock Exchange and have executed complex cross border mergers and acquisitions. My operations background and systems perspective helped me in setting up and developing start-up companies across Asia Pacific, including brick-and-mortar and technology-enabled enterprises. I have developed a knack for incubating new businesses, finding new markets, creating unique value propositions and creating sustainable revenue streams.”

Most challenging assignment

“My most challenging assignments were the strategic management roles I held in various start-up companies, such as Mercatus Capital, NEST Capital, Adiaco Advisors, RxR Capital, Synapse Global, Unlimited Brands, etc. They are all essentially in different industry.

In addition to serving as director or investor in various companies, I find time to serve as business coach and adviser to several business advisory boards, universities and government bodies, such as Startup Peru, UTAR Malaysia, Lianas Rising, Student Connect, Communi-T, Cherry Blair Foundation, among others. I guess when you love what you’re doing, it is no longer work.”

Experiences on being a woman entrepreneur

“Being a woman entrepreneur has never been a problem for me. I believe that people appreciate your confidence, competence and creativity, regardless of your gender, age or status. As business leaders, women should not be afraid to express their ideas, take ownership of the situation and assume responsibility for results.”

Challenges faced

“I don’t believe that there is a “glass ceiling” that limits a woman’s ability to become successful. The key is to focus more on our strengths, rather than our weaknesses, and to trust our instincts more. In my experience, I believe that success is an inside job. You can be successful in whatever you do if you believe you can. Managing your mind is the key to success. If you can’t manage your own mind, how do you manage others?”

How do you believe in making dreams come true?

“Bill Gates once said, if you’re born poor it’s not your fault, if you die poor it’s your own fault. I believe that the size of your success is measured by the depth of your desire, the size of your dream and the strength of your determination. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you must be willing to pay the price for success by breaking through your own comfort zone and working towards the achievement of your dreams. 99% of success is hard work, maybe the remaining 1% is luck.”

Setbacks faced and lessons learnt

“Personally, not all the investments I went into were blockbuster success. To invest in start-ups, you must have intestinal fortitude and everlasting patience. To become a successful entrepreneur, you must develop three things: first, the agility to spot opportunities before others do; second, the resilience to bounce back from failure quickly; third, the tenacity to hang on and not to give up easily.”

“Women are the better halves”. Your views on this.

“I think what’s better than being the “better half” is being the “best complete”. Women can be the best in whatever they do without having someone to complete them. Women entrepreneurs have the best of both worlds: they are able to work with reason while keeping their passion. In today’s world, it’s no longer true that women must work twice as hard as men to achieve half of what they get.”