Learn From Leaders with Navin Danapal

Navin Danapal, Director of Southeast Asia at MOX – Mobile Only Accelerator, engages with the Asian innovation ecosystem by working with corporates and governments to form platforms to develop the region. His previous roles include senior management of Microsoft development audience, SPH Editor, and in IDG. He studied Communication Design (Information Development) and then founded a startup during the 1997 Asian financial crisis to take advantage of businesses seeking solutions when MNCs pulled out of the country.

He is a mentor for numerous bodies including Naisa Global US (DC) which grooms Asian American leaders, NASA global space hackathon, and MaGIC ASEAN program. He’s also an adjunct faculty of Laureate universities. 

He has been awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for industry tech contribution and his university has awarded him Top 10 Creative Achievers for expanding the horizon of global businesses.

Navin’s Recommendations for you

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses | Eric Ries 

Find the book

The book looks at how many of the failures in startups are actually preventable. It takes you through a lean approach that many companies are adopting, which is changing the way products are launched. The lean approach encourages entrepreneurs to continuously test their vision, rather than create elaborate but unrealistic business plans. I used to be involved in Microsoft Ventures Lean Startup Machine in my previous role and it was eye opening when we ran workshops with corporates and saw how new methodologies really helped executives approach problem statements with a simple execution rather than complex processes instead – and this was evident in LSM’s “Get Out Of The Building!” which tests assumptions and validates it instead of relying on just data alone. It’s important for founders to understand the know-hows of building a company with few resources, especially if they are in a developing ecosystem like Southeast Asia, where talent is scarce and industry maturity varies.

Five Questions with Navin

Q1: One habit that helps you keep focused and productive

Calendar to keep everything in place with time (including time zones when travelling) so you can arrange everything and budget time to splice out productivity. This includes multiple color codes.

Q2: One piece of advice for entrepreneurs in your industry

Data shows that the number one reason of failure is building an offering that pacifies the founder’s desire but not what people want, and that ego to be number one to survive overshadows the reality that sometimes you just can’t push people to want your ideas. If this even works for corporations with resources, what more for a startup with limited capabilities?

Q3: One of the most important lessons you learnt from your career

You’d be surprised what you can do if you only try – some requires you to go out of your comfort zone but don’t mistake this for the requirement as sometimes you’ll realise this only serves to test and this is something that you should not invest your time in. So if you have a vision as a startup, try to achieve it because you have no idea if you will actually manifest your dreams.

Q4: Something you’ve changed your mind about in your career

I used to think one should steer away from sectors you’re not familiar with. Later I  realised while you may not be proficient in that area, the value you bring from outside is valuable in itself to the people who contribute in that section that lack the insights and approaches you have to offer instead. This is a new learning that companies are beginning  to realise. So leverage on that!

Q5: One trait that you would like to see in people you work with

Spend some time with people who are unlike you so you know them better. With that knowledge armed, you’re in a better position to show that you are relevant to them and they will be in a situation to want to work with you because they see you are committed for it.

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