For Ee-Ling Lim, entrepreneur and Head of Business Development at 500 Startups, empowering a next-gen of thinkers is her life purpose
In our Dare to Dream series, we invite 12 inspiring individuals who have courageously stepped out of their comfort zones to dream about a future they can truly call their own.
Co-founding an education company and working with startups was a career pivot that Ee-Ling made after questioning the impact of her prior role in investment banking. #Daringtodream led to her quest to redefine education for youths and support other startup founders.
Committed to investing in today’s youth, the mother of two shares how knowing who she is has helped her make decisions, and her hopes for her daughters to do likewise.
How did you wind up doing what you are doing today?
I started my career in investment banking, covering consumer, retail, healthcare and technology in Southeast Asia. As I interacted more with tech companies and saw the spark and drive that these tech founders had, something just snapped. I started questioning if I was creating impact that made sense or had meaning to me. Whose life was I changing? No one’s. That was when I felt I wanted something more: to leave and create impact.
Choosing to start an education company was inspired by my two kids. I realised that the learning they were going through did not differ that much from my time at school; I saw education [in schools] as remaining stagnant. That was what made me start Smarter Me, where I also run Young Founders Summit, a startup incubation program for high school students in Asia, providing them with education and mentorship to launch their own startups.
The ability to create impact by providing founders – be it at 500 or through Young Founders Summit – access to mentorship, networks, and capital so they can unlock growth and create impact, is why I do what I do.
Is there any setback that you’ve learned from, that has led you to where you are today?
The biggest life-defining moment would be losing my dad suddenly when I was 18. I only realised recently that my need to achieve and my drive to perform can be attributed to wanting to make my father proud, even if he’s no longer here.
I’ve definitely learnt a lot from launching my own startup, and many of these translate into the advice I share with founders today. Today, we teach aspiring founders on the need to conduct proper user discovery, validate the problem, and to run experiments before building anything. It seems like this goes without saying and makes so much sense, but this was not a process I was aware of back then.
What does your dream future look like to you?
My heart lies with the youth of today. I see myself being surrounded by self-accepting and confident children whose lives I know I was able to touch and whom I encouraged to find their own purpose.
What’s a habit, belief or behaviour that has positively impacted your life in recent years?
For me, it’s really journaling. It’s my anchor and not only does it allow me to be more present and intentional (as an outcome of reflecting on my day, week, and month), it also helps me in decision making. I’ve found that writing helps bring clarity to my thought process.
Secondly, being intentional in how I spend time, and being present with people.
Also read: For entrepreneur and co-founder of The Kind Friend Jamie, #daringtodream is about living in alignment with her values
What advice do you wish you had been given earlier?
I wish I took time and made the effort to know myself better. Why am I wired a certain way, and how do I embrace that to become a better version of myself?
Secondly, learning that there is a difference in time versus energy. To consider whether or not I have the energy (rather than time) to do things, and whether saying yes would drain my energy or replenish it.
Do you have any dreams for your daughters?
To know who they are, what their values are and, through that, for them to design their own life [filled with] meaning and happiness. They don’t have to do anything else to make me proud!
Where does your concept of money come from and how do you think that has impacted your relationship with finances?
My biggest revelation around money came after my dad passed away – we were not in any financial difficulties, thanks to insurance, and thankfully, my mother was working. But that instilled the importance of financial independence in me.
Hence, I have a pretty balanced outlook where I do save and invest in a mixed portfolio, but I also spend on experiences because you just never know when life will be cut short.
What do you find most complex about money?
Money becomes a lot more complex when you consider it and plan for it, [either] as a couple or as a family unit. You and your other half could have very different money personalities, or want and value different lifestyles and have different retirement plans. Aligning on that takes a lot in a relationship!
Complete this sentence: “My favourite Autumn app feature is….”
The ability to have my investments, property and insurance details in one place, and have the app update me on refinancing rates.
What are little steps our audience can take today to move towards their dream future?
Spend quiet, thinking time with yourself. Ask yourself: What drives you, what matters to you, what values do you hold dear – knowing these have helped me make decisions. Know that you don’t have to always take drastic steps (like quitting your job), unless what you’re doing now is totally in conflict with your values.
Start small. What is one thing you can do today that will move you one step closer?
Follow Ee Ling’s #DaretoDream journey on our socials. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Enjoyed this article? Take your little step today – write your dream pledge card for 2022 here.
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