After a successful digital agency exit, he is looking disrupt the finance industry

Interview with Founder and CEO at Pealo: Prakash Somosundram

I first heard of Prakash from my friend Clement.

He was aware of my interest to share my knowledge with the younger local entrepreneurs community and told me that I should get in touch with ACE.

ACE stands for Action Community for Entrepreneurship. You can find out more about them from their website.

Prakash serves as the Vice Chairman for them, in addition to running Yolk, a Digital agency based in Singapore with offices around ASEAN that he co-founded in 2001.

With 15 years of digital and social media experience, he had worked with clients such as Microsoft SEA, Singapore International Foundation, BMW Asia, Canon SEA , Sharp Vietnam , Ministry of Information Community and Arts and Media Development Authority.

In late 2010, Yolk was acquired by WPP and he led the integration with Grey APAC.

Following a year in sabbatical , Prakash started Pealo as a boutique agency that aims to help SME business owners to see their dreams come true.

1. Please share a bit about what you do.

I am a serial entrepreneur. My wife says I am someone who would rather work 400 hours a week for myself than to work 40 hours a week for someone.

I am currently the founder of Pealo a Fintech start up that aims to make Capital more accessible to SMEs and Start Ups.

I have a mix bag of success and failures with my past ventures.

My last company was called Yolk and it was acquired by WPP in December 2010 and we became part of the Grey network .

Beyond corporate work I am also actively involved in grassroots work. I am the Vice Chairman of Action Community for Entrepreneurship ( ACE ) where we look at Start Up Eco System development in Singapore. I am also serving as District Councillor in the North East CDC.

At home I have two fast growing “Start Ups ” who are my 3 and half year old son who believes in defying gravity and my 1 and half year old daughter who is constantly breaking my heart with her unique magic.

 

2. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was in Primary school I wanted to be a fire man. Started fires in the playground and got into alot of trouble with the authorities.

Growing older I wanted to be a vet. Brought home lots of strays and got my parents and family upset with me.

But since young I was trading something or another. Its either fighting spiders, modified Tamiya cars , erasers with country flags, comics or trading cards.

Guess that is where I honed by sales skills and always dreamed about running a business.

 

3. What were you doing before starting this business?

After being acquired by WPP our earn out period was 5 years.

Fintech Pealo Founder & CEO Prakash Somosundram

However after 3 and half years I decided that it is time for me to go on a self enforced sabbatical. I spent a year without income and working on a 4 day work week.

Half my time was spent doing consulting work and the remaining 50% of my time was saved for helping companies pro bono.

It was during this period that I started helping companies to raise money and found the whole process broken.

Valuations were off the hook , Information asymmetry , etc. I really felt that there has to be a better way to doing things.

Secondly during my sabbatical I also took the opportunity to meet with as many SME owners as possible. I found out that many of them were unsure about alternative financing and we decided to figure a way to solve this.

 

4. How did the idea for your business come about?

One of the things that I did during my sabbatical year was to go for Floats in Palm Ave Float Club.

For those that are not familiar this involves floating in a tank with very dense salt water for 90 minutes without any light or music. They call is a sensory deprivation tank and it really helps you to focus without any distraction.

During one of sessions I had a vision of how we can build a business which is focused on helping other businesses to achieve their dreams so that they can scale to the next level.

Pealo’s logo is inspired by the Flower of Life and our hope is that through the work that we do we hope that we will help a 1000 businesses to bloom and the network effect would be phenomenal.

Pealo was an inspiration that came from the collective effect of the pain points I had helping companies to raise capital and the insights that I got from business owners on the challenges that they experienced in trying to scale their business.

 

5. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship may seem glamorous but there parts of the under belly that no one talks about.

When I was building Yolk I was single for a long time. It was either I could not afford to have a girlfriend or I was so distracted running a business that I had little time for romance.

So one repercussion of this sacrifice was that I married really late in life .

Along the way you also lose friendships and relationships.

 

6. How did you get funded?

With Pealo we raised close to S$400 000 at a pre seed stage to build the platform that we are working on.

Fintech Pealo Founder & CEO Prakash Somosundram featured in the newspaper

Once I had developed the idea and business plan for the platform I approached a good friend I used to go to college with.

As a banker you saw how our idea could fill the gap of serving companies that are currently viewed as unbankable.

He brought two of his friends who are ex Investment Banker and they invested and joined the company as directors.

 

7. How do you go about marketing your business?

With Pealo we took a very different approach to marketing.

Through my years of being part of the marketing industry I felt that consumers generally are getting tired of being sold propositions.

So instead of focusing on the different products and services that we were marketing we decided to focus on building a narrative for our business.

The first piece of marketing material that we put out was a manifesto video which talked about our vision and shared more about the impact that we aim to deliver through the work that we will do.

It was a little abstract for some people but there are those that got it immediately and they are still with us as customers.

 

8. Could you describe your first sale and how it came about?

They say Word of Mouth marketing is the most powerful marketing strategy out there.

We have always focused on how we can build ourselves to be a key person of influence in what we do.

So our name popped up when a few guys were having dinner , we followed up on the lead and we closed the opportunity in 6 weeks.

 

9. Describe your typical work day?

I try to wake up early and start my day by 5 am so that I get a head start with emails.

Rest of the day is usually packed with internal meetings with the team and external meetings with clients.

What I do is to divide my days on locations.

Two days of the week I will be in Launchpad all day.

Two days of the week I will travel to visit clients.

Found this the most efficient way to manage my money and save on parking haha.

 

10. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?

We introduced one of our clients to get listed in NASDAQ OMX in Stockholm about 3 weeks ago.

Fintech Pealo Founder & CEO Prakash Somosundram ringing the listing bell

Seeing them ring the bell when the counter got launched was a surreal experience.

I have worked with this team for some time now. From helping them to leverage on grants to ideas around helping them grow their business to now seeing them being part of an IPO.

 

11. What was the lowest point for you in this business?

We recently helped a client to raise money for their business and we had a small celebration after the investor had agreed on investing into the business.

However Brexit came along and the client was on the wrong side of the market and decided to withdraw the investment into our client’s company.

Big Lesson ? Never count it until you see the money in the bank !

 

12. What’s your revenue numbers over the past year?

We only started monetizing our platform from April 2016 so I would say that we are still a pre revenue start up

 

13. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

The person who greatly influenced me in my approach to work is my God Pa.

Fintech Pealo Founder & CEO Prakash Somosundram at SIBL awards

He is my mentor and I grew up under his guidance.

When I was young I used to work in his magazine sticking stamps and doing menial labour.

As I grew older he tasked me to do sales and that was where I cut my teeth with sales.

Going door to door and also hustling during exhibitions and road shows.

Much later when his company needed a website I put together a few friends and delivered the project that started my career in the web design business.

The first project that I did for him was an Insurance super mart.

It was way ahead of its time but even now that idea is really hot ( Insuretech )

The greatest influence my god pa had on my career was how to a connector of people and ideas.

If we actually help people to achieve their ideals we get to succeed in business and that has been my mantra in business.

Lastly my god pa is a great public speaker and I also envision myself as him when I am giving a talk.

 

14. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him?

Honestly I will tell him to stay in school , get a degree , graduate , work for someone who respect for 5 years and leave when you are ready with your business plan and you have developed knowledge and network in your field.

I do not regret quitting school to start my journey as an entrepreneur but I must say that it has been an obstacle to me in life.

 

15. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?

Money is the root of all evil

Something that came from the bible and used in every day conversations..

But people fail to realise that the full phrase goes ” The Love of Money is the root of all Evil”

Money is never evil when you can use it to bless others.

I have been spending the last couple of months unlearning some of the concepts I have about money and to see how that changes the way that I am happy.

 

16. What’s your business focus for this year?

My main focus with Pealo at this stage is to scale to the next level of our development.

Fintech Pealo Founder & CEO Prakash Somosundram at Echelon

We are building a network marketplace for SMEs

A social network where they can access a whole range of corporate development solutions to scale the business to the next level

 

17. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?

15 minute calls and 45 minute meetings. Anything longer we are wasting each other’s time

 

18. Is there an app or tool you can’t live without?

All my meeting scheduling is done using an AI that is developed by a local start up called Mimetic.

Our virtual assistant is called Grace and since I started using her towards the end of last year it has been a life saver.

She helps me to schedule and fix meetings while I am out hustling with clients. Amazing yet simple service.

I cannot stop talking about her. Sometimes I think my wife gets jealous.


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