Phuay Li Ying and Albert Phuay of Excelpoint

Like many close-knit families, the Phuay clan has been travelling as a family at least once a year. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, that did not materialise this year but 31-year-old Phuay Li Ying and her father Albert, 63, have found other ways to spend quality time together while still indulging in exploration.

“Since the circuit breaker, we have discovered a love for walking and we include Mum and my two siblings as well,” says Phuay, deputy director of corporate development at Excelpoint, the regional electronics components company her father founded in 1987. They also jog together, often covering a few kilometres per session. Better yet, these bonding sessions allow them to chat about anything under the sun – except work. That’s never discussed outside the office.

While local fashionistas may recognise the younger Phuay as the founder of art-inspired apparel brand Ying The Label, few are aware that she is also her father’s right-hand woman at his company. Last month, she proudly oversaw the launch of PlanetSpark Innovation Centre, Excelpoint’s new investment and entrepreneurial arm. The accelerator, which has a co-investment value of $5 million from Excelpoint and Enterprise Singapore, aims to enable technopreneurs to make a rapid transition from concept to production and commercialisation.

“A lot of start-ups here have good technology but may lack the connections to commercialise their ideas,” explains her father, who is also Excelpoint’s chairman and CEO. “PlanetSpark is the bridge between these two segments.” Besides helping start-ups develop viable products, the accelerator can leverage the company’s extensive business presence and networks across the Asia-Pacific to forge partnerships, secure funding and sell products. The innovation centre also has a panel of mentors from both the public and private sectors to share expertise and entrepreneurship experience, Phuay adds.

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PlanetSpark is currently mentoring three start-ups, including Meridian Innovation, which focuses on temperature sensing technology. “Covid-19 elevated the demand for thermal imaging applications. We have been working with Meridian Innovation to incorporate thermal sensing into different solutions, including counting the number of people in a room.”

The innovation centre is the latest of Phuay’s efforts to “take the company legacy one step further”. She joined Excelpoint in 2015, which was around the time that she founded her fashion label. “When I started Ying The Label, I realised the harsh truths of running a business. For me, it was important to balance creativity and passion with practicality, so I had to find a job,” says Phuay. To give her the opportunity to garner practical hands-on experience, her dad offered her a role in Excelpoint.

While fashion and electronics are different industries, her love for both is rooted in the satisfaction she derives from seeing them thrive. “I am interested in building a business from potential ideas. The excitement of Ying The Label comes from creating a fashion business. With the innovation centre, I want to add value to potentially viable concepts,” she enthuses.

Her chats with her father have also imparted a guiding ethos that she has taken to heart to weather challenges. “He has a favourite saying in Mandarin: 人生不如意事十之八九. It means you should focus on one or two good things out of 10 to stay optimistic. When I feel frustrated, this is what I think about.”

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Listen to Li Ying’s radio interview with Glenn van Zutphen on Weekend Mornings With Glenn van Zutphen below.