I studied mechanical engineering at the National University of Singapore. Just before we graduated, we all went on overseas exchanges.
Some of my friends went to Silicon Valley, and realised people celebrate their birthdays there by volunteering to build houses for the homeless. After going to the Netherlands, I realised people in Europe see giving as something enjoyable.
For example, people raise a lot for the London Marathon: over £100 million (S$177.8 million) every year. Everybody signs up and starts a fundraising page, and when they train for it, their friends and family make micro donations.
(Related: Charity Begins At Home)
I thought: Why aren’t we doing anything like this back home? People across all spectrums of society wanted to participate more, but you need access before you can help. I believed charities could be more efficient if they adopted technology, because young people don’t like to fundraise face-to-face.
Everybody was hanging out on Facebook all the time, so I said: ‘Why don’t we build something like that?’ So GIVE.asia was born as a free crowdfunding platform.
We partnered with sports events like the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon to launch the Run For Good programme. And we partnered organisations across Asia, because everybody wanted to do the same thing — but, back in 2010, it was very tough to build a crowdfunding platform and make it sustainable and easy to use.
Our platform could aggregate everybody. When some partners asked if they could take a piece of it and run it on their own, or when others copied our new features, we were happy. We don’t mind sharing, because fundraising needs are so big. We are definitely still growing.
At the beginning, I knew I had the capacity to do something to help, and it would be such a waste if I didn’t try.
Today, it’s the unbelievable kindness in people that keeps me going. They make that leap of faith and donate, over and over again. They show me that charity really is something enjoyable, because you get to be part of the change that you want to see.