Photo: The New Paper
At 25, Miss Annabelle Kwok is already the founder of two start-ups focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
Armed with an applied mathematics degree with a minor in entrepreneurship from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Miss Kwok started SmartCow in 2016, then left to start NeuralBay last October.
She turned down high-paying job offers from tech giants such as Microsoft to chart her own path, racking up brand-name clients in industries that range from aviation to food and beverage for SmartCow, which focuses more on hardware.
As chief executive officer of NeuralBay, a two-man outfit, she develops visual detection and recognition software for companies to help them perform tasks such as tracking window shoppers for marketing purposes.
"Technology is often expensive and out of reach for people who actually need it," she said.
Miss Kwok got a taste of the corporate world through NTU's Minor in Entrepreneurship programme (MiE), where students work on team-based projects and real-life business simulations.
After completing the MiE programme, she was selected to provide business consulting services to different companies through the Innovation Immersion Programme, a student-run global consulting association.
Besides technical skills, she attributes part of her success to the life skills she gained outside of the classroom.
Miss Kwok has always been passionate about musical theatre.
She was involved in her hall's theatre production in NTU and took acting classes when she was on exchange at the University of California, Los Angeles.
She said: "I am not business-trained at all, but acting helps me understand how to deal with people. Through acting, I learn about the dynamics of human conversation and how to build up energy in the room, among other things.
"It also helps me understand who I am because I always have to ask who I am before I assume another character."
Miss Kwok's love for long-distance running has also offered valuable lessons.
"Many start-up entrepreneurs get burnt out because they sprint at the start," she said.
"But running a business is not a short-term thing. It is a marathon, and you need to learn how to pace yourself."
As an active volunteer at Make-a-Wish Singapore since 2011, she said her experiences with the children and their families remind her that life is more than just business.
She vividly remembers the first child she worked with, whose only request was for an iPad to play games on when he was at the hospital.
She added: "It was such a simple thing, but his family was so grateful."
Miss Kwok said that in the start-up scene, it is easy to be focused on money.
"But seeing the importance of other aspects of life really puts things into perspective," she said.
This article was originally published in The New Paper.