Anna Haotanto is the CEO of The New Savvy and Director at Tera Capital, a private investment firm.
She is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment, and children’s issues.
Anna has single-handedly raised a mid-six figure funding for The New Savvy within 2 years of operation.
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
1. Please share a bit about what you do.
I am the CEO of THENEWSAVVY.COM – Asia’s leading online platform that focuses on financial and career issues for women.
We empower women to make smarter financial decisions.
The New Savvy has 320,000 monthly page views, 25,000 email subscribers and has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Business Insider, The Peak, Fast Company, The Straits Times, Yahoo among others.
At the same time, I am also a Director at Tera Capital, a private investment firm and part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and heads the Women in FinTech committee.
I am also the current President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni.
I am passionate about finance, education, women empowerment, and children’s issues.
Hence, I regularly teach and mentor children and adults on financial prudence and investments, facilitating their ability to be better informed when making financial decisions.
2. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was 5, a ballerina. As a teenager, a football player.
After experiencing the financial crisis and seeing how my family struggled, I started learning Finance and fell in love with it.
I wanted to work in the financial industry as I was very passionate about it.
I was lucky to have the opportunities to work across different verticals in Financial industry.
Strangely, having my own business was the last thing I wanted.
3. What were you doing before starting this business?
I have close 10 years of experience in the financial sector including wealth management, private equity, research as well as corporate and investment banking.
My previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai.
I graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).
4. How did the idea for your business come about?
There are 2 major inspirations for The New Savvy.
First, due to my family financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money.
I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization sparked off my wealth-building path.
The idea of making my money work harder for me fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month.
As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.
I am lucky to have the opportunity to study and work in Finance.
I learned financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was 21.
While I am no expert, I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.
Second, when I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or have any earning capabilities.
That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.
If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me, it would work for many women too – which was why I started The New Savvy.
5. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Coming from a finance background with very decent earning power, it’s difficult to turn into an entrepreneur.
I was giving up a good five-figure income and some people told me not to be naive and “get a real job”.
That affected my morale.
For a long time, I was wondering if I am just impetuous or silly.
Should I just continue earning money and be in banking?
There’s a societal pressure, especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen and I am doing this mostly to help other women.
I become more conscious of my expenses.
When you are working in a corporation, you work within a budget.
You don’t think of a lot of other expenses.
I use to spend money on watches, bags, and dresses.
Now, I am very careful about how I spend.
Every dollar matters.
I tend to think, “What can this buy me in my business? “
I’m passionate about financial literacy and how it can transform lives.
This feeds my soul, and the rewards are probably intangible, I am happier than before.
6. How did you get funded?
When I first started, all investors reject the notion that ‘Asian women’ is a sufficient “addressable target market.”
Most of them dismissed me thinking that it’s just another blog.
Or, they think that I am limiting myself by focusing only on women.
Many told me not to make it as broad to ensure that we get more website hits.
Maybe it’s true because I know that if we target men, I might have 200k unique users by now.
My investors are 2 family offices, which was a conscious effort on my part.
7. How do you go about marketing your business?
We are lucky to have coverage from Forbes, CNBC, Business Insider, The Peak, Fast Company, INC, The Straits Times, Yahoo among others.
That helped us in increasing our reach.
We focus on Search Engine Optimisation to ensure that we rank well in Google search.
We also do social media marketing, running marketing campaigns every quarter.
We also work with partners such as MAS, CPF, Singapore Exchange, Far East and produce quality content.
8. Could you describe your first sale and how it came about?
We have never gone out to do sales. Most of our revenue are inbound queries.
The New Savvy focuses on making Finance more relevant and engaging for women.
I think brands see value in that.
Women investors are an untapped market, and I believe The New Savvy is the perfect gateway to reach these savvy decision makers.
Something that we are changing in 2017!
9. Describe/outline your typical work day?
Cliché but I don’t have a typical day!
I don’t have a structured schedule as I travel a lot.
Every week, I always make it a point to set goals and priorities.
In a week, I focus on what I want to achieve, what I need to clear and who I want/need to meet.
I meet a lot of people and sometimes, it gets overwhelming as I have high introversion.
Working for your own start-up can be exhausting, so it’s important to get support.
And when things get too much, I sit alone and get my me-time.
I always make it a point to exercise and read.
Those are my indulgences.
10. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
The other day I was giving a talk, and a lady said “The New Savvy is exactly what I am looking for.
My dad is retrenched, my mom is sick, and my family is in dire financial situation.
I need to learn how to be better at my finances.”
I literally teared in front of her.
I’ve met many strangers at different events who told me that they read and LOVE The New Savvy.
Many women wrote to me, sharing with me their lives and financial situations.
Most women I knew always tell me that they know financial knowledge is important and they have wanted to learn but kept procrastinating.
So when they know about The New Savvy, they are more motivated to be in charge of their finances.
Every of this feedback and sharing is precious to me as they are my motivation when I am thinking of giving up. I hope to keep empowering women financially.
11. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell her?
A clear focus and direction on what you want to achieve.
A detailed plan on how you are going to achieve those goals.
Focus on important objectives instead of glorified achievements.
Don’t compare yourself with others.
Only do it to improve your offering.
Be very tight on finances, spend lesser than you budgeted because you always need more money.
12. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?
“Start a business because you are passionate about it.”
I am very uncomfortable when people throw passion as a reason to start a business.
Starting a business is extremely hard work. 90% or more startups fail.
You have to put in 120% in your business.
Even then, you might fail.
When things get tough, and you are on the verge of failing, passion might not be enough.
I think what is more important is to combine the passion with a systematic process to ensure that your idea is executed well.
Sometimes, you also have to depend on timing and luck.
13. What’s your business focus for this year?
My strategy, from day one, has always been: To provide value, focus on users’ needs, learn and keep improving.
For 2017, we are having a women-only personal finance conference, in partnership with Singapore Exchange (SGX).
I am excited about that as many women have written and asked us to conduct courses on investments.
In terms of the content, we have 38 categories in 3 areas of focus: technical articles, lifestyle pieces, and inspirational stories.
- Technical articles are informative, must-know Finance concepts in bite-sized to make it more palatable to readers.
Eg: What’s the difference between ETFs and mutual funds, Bonds 101, Which Real Estate in Singapore Should You Purchase?
- Lifestyle pieces are fun articles that discuss issues plaguing the modern women. All of them include a finance or female empowerment angle to them.
Eg: When Women Earn More Than Men In a Marriage, 10 Financial Questions You Should Ask Your Date, How to measure your cost per wear for clothes…
- Inspirational stories include stories of individuals breaking barriers, speaking up, living authentic lives. We also have interviews sections where we question our subjects on their occupations or businesses, financial planning and thoughts on women issues.
We will always focus on valuable content and insights.
The New Savvy doesn’t do trending topics as we feel that there are others that do it better.
We focus on our expertise: finance, women, and empowerment.
We are also developing bite-sized financial online courses and looking at holding workshops for financial education every two months.
14. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Don’t dwell on unpleasant things.
My mind is inundated with things to do, tasks to complete and I’m constantly thinking on how to improve The New Savvy.
I don’t have the time to think of unhappy incidents or disappointments.
I just can’t afford it; I don’t allow myself to be mired in unconstructive thoughts.
15. Is there an app or tool you can’t live without?
Whatsapp! I use it too much! Haha.
For work, I use Mailchimp a lot as we send weekly eDMs to our 30,000 subscribers.
I’ve also recently discovered Basecamp for work. It’s pretty intuitive to manage teams and disseminate information and workflow.
Connect with Anna:
Question: Any other entrepreneurs that you like me to interview? You can also leave a comment below.