How English helped me to make my company a huge success

Max Kortrakul is CEO and co-founder of StockRadars, a premier mobile application (app) for stock investors in Thailand. The company was one of the most well-funded technology start-ups in Southeast Asia and won an Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Award in 2014. Technology start-up companies are...

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Max Kortrakul is CEO and co-founder of StockRadars, a premier mobile application (app) for stock investors in Thailand. The company was one of the most well-funded technology start-ups in Southeast Asia and won an Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Award in 2014.

Technology start-up companies are flourishing in Southeast Asia, where a record US$1.61 billion-worth of deals were made in 2015. According to a new report released by Temasek and Google Singapore, within ten years the internet economy in the region could reach US$200 billion annually. Here, Max recounts how he recruited investors for his app and went on to build his start-up company from scratch – and how his knowledge of the English language has helped him create a company worth an estimated US$15 million…

Why did you decide to develop an app for stock investors?

  • “People tend to shake their heads at the mention of the stock market; it involves big numbers, lots of data and is high risk. I thought about investing but there weren’t any helpful tools to do so. My idea was simple: make investment easier for myself and for others in Thailand and that led to my idea for the StockRadars app.”

How did you know your idea was a good one?

  • “It was the one that kept me awake at 3am, so I put all my energy into finishing the app. Trusting your own intellect is crucial because sometimes you have to actualise your idea before you can even tell if it’s a good or bad one. If it works, then good for you. You never know, you could be standing in line to be added to the The Unicorn List – private companies valued at more than $1 billion. If your idea bombs, you can always move on and try another one.”

When you pitched your idea to investors, how did you approach it?

  • “I made sure that potential investors could see the value of my idea, not by presenting the projected numbers but by showing how much dedication, time and energy I had put into the project. When you’re able to prove that you have invested in yourself, the investors will invest in you too. I also pitched hard with facts about the importance of the product – I wanted investors to understand that if the app can balance the risk of stock investment, then we can make it less complicated for our users.”

Max pitching to investors

What was your greatest fear when you were in the meeting?

  • “I tried not to think of myself as a small, powerless business from a small country with very few successful technology start-up companies. Thoughts like that could have hindered me when I was pitching – but I try not to be the kind of person who overthinks things. Of course, you have to pitch your idea in English and that can be daunting. People often believe that you have to use big words and jargon to give the impression that you’re clever but that’s not necessarily true. Investors are people, too, and people want to listen to something simple, with clear facts. Luckily, I had learnt to speak English while I was working for an IT company in Vietnam.”

Has working in a multicultural workplace shaped the way you think?

  • “I learnt to embrace diversity. Many people speak English but will speak their version of it – Thai English, Singlish (Singaporean English), Vietnamese English, and so on. The more you understand the English language, the better communication you will have. We may not be a fully multicultural workplace at the moment but we lean in that direction. We took on interns from Nepal and England, which was great as we gained new perspectives from other cultures with different beliefs and mindsets than our own. It’s very beneficial when we’re brainstorming – and that’s how we came up with a variety of ideas to adapt our platform.”

Do you think learning English can help other technology start-up companies in Southeast Asia achieve more?

  • “English is the language that connects you to the world and if you can speak it, it means more opportunities and you’ll meet more people. There are many tech start-ups in Southeast Asia and now is the time when start-up ideas are likely to become a reality – and knowing the English language will help.”
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