May 4, 2018

In this series, we explore the different forms of courage and how each person’s definition of being fearless changes at various stages of their life.


I have to admit that when I sat down to write my story, it was quite difficult to isolate various periods in my life when I felt courageous. It’s not like I’ve fought wars, saved lives or displayed any particular act of heroism. Yet, after mulling over it for some time, I came to realise that courage doesn’t need to be a monumental act—in fact, we all display moments of courage on a daily basis, be it finding the strength to overcome a work challenge or taking on a new hobby or interest.

With this ‘new’ definition in mind, I was able to identify certain times in my life when I pushed boundaries and followed my intrepid appetite for adventure as well as new experiences—forcing me to be out of my comfort zone. An early example was during my teenage years, when I packed my bags to work in Central America for 6 months, which included a stint living in the jungle with the Belize Defence Force.

Fast forward to today, those adventure-seeking days have now been replaced with a new set of opportunities that require a different kind of courage. The most significant leap was a few years ago, when, after spending nearly a decade of my career in a big corporate job, I made the decision to forgo a stable income to launch my own business, CardUp, an online platform focused on the payments technology space.


The decision was a difficult one, trading off what had previously been a very defined path in life, for an entirely blank canvas where it was up to me to create my own destiny. I had to consider the financial risk too, having been accustomed to a certain quality of life, and I knew it might be years before I’d have some sort of stability again. However, I thought to myself: life is short; what I really want to do is to create meaningful things, feel a greater sense of purpose and achieve satisfaction in knowing that I’m fulfilling my vision.

At the time, although the decision to jump into the unknown seemed like a big one, it soon paled in comparison to the challenges that came my way once I launched the business. I’m sure many fellow business owners will probably agree—the entrepreneurial journey is filled with highs and lows, and one has to find the strength to persevere, despite countless setbacks.

I had many naysayers who told me that my business model wouldn’t work. And that made me question if I was being delusional or if I was simply the only one who saw the gap in the market. Knowing when to take someone’s feedback and make adjustments to the business versus finding the courage to stay true to my original mission has been a constant balancing act.

Furthermore, as with many new products in the Fintech space, we needed to collaborate with banks, payment networks, regulators and a host of other institutions that make up the industry. From the outset, one of the biggest challenges was getting these various institutions on board, simply because the model was so new and the concept was unheard of in this region. This was a critical step for us, in order to operate successfully and be trusted to manage millions of dollars of consumers’ money. Up against regulators and large corporates, we had to stand our ground as the new kid on the block, prove customer demand for our solution and continually overcome the odds stacked in the favour of larger companies.

A month and a half ago, we raised S$2.2 million, which will be used to expand our operations by serving small- to medium-sized enterprises. With courage and grit, we are getting increasing recognition for our business model from industry players and the vision for CardUp is now coming alive. To quote Ruth Gordon, “Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.”