Thomas Jeng is the General Manager of Aspire, a leading fintech startup based in Singapore. He was previously the Head of Sales there, leading the firm's expansion across Singapore and Southeast Asia. Previously, he was VP, Head of Commercial at Gnowbe, where he was responsible for leading the company’s sales, marketing, customer success, and partnerships growth.
Before joining Gnowbe, Thomas was Head of Global Business Development at 500 Startups, a venture capital firm. He successfully led the firm’s growth in markets throughout the world, notably in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Africa. Thomas was also previously the Founder and CEO of Junction, developing Expertise-as-a-Product (EaaP) on digital transformation for Asia.
He began his career in strategy consulting at firms such as Boston Consulting Group and Gartner, and holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management.
Spotlight on Thomas Jeng
Get to know Thomas in these series of questions, where he shares more on his past experiences and why he loves working with founders.
What was your first job?
I started working as an English tutor in Taiwan at the age of 11. In retrospect, the experience helped me gain confidence in shaping the way others think - something very applicable in both sales and entrepreneurship.
What's something about you or your past experience that would surprise people?
As a university student, my original career aspiration was to be a government lawyer and help shape foreign policy. Somewhat naïvely, I thought that was how I could best have an impact on the world; I've since realised that it is incredibly difficult to be in a position to influence global affairs at a macro scale.
Working with startups offers the opportunity to see more immediate, tangible results.
What’s your motivation for working with founders?
Founders are usually working to create a better world and a brighter future. Who wouldn't want to support that? But succeeding as a founder requires so many things to go right. Very few (if any) people have all the necessary skills when they first start out.
I try to accelerate their learning and avoid making unnecessary mistakes.
What’s something you’re especially good at or like helping founders with?
I support founders on B2B go-to-market and fundraising. Go-to-market topics I cover include defining and prioritising different customer profiles, structuring value propositions, and developing acquisition channels.
On fundraising, I help founders develop narratives comprehensible and compelling to investors. Taelor and CancerFree Biotech are among the startups that have successfully raised institutional money after working with me to revamp their pitches.
If you could go back in time to the moment you decided to start your first company, what advice would you give yourself?
I would advise myself to validate market demand and understand customer behaviour before I started building anything. We spent months building a product - a networking app and talent network - that was ultimately a "nice-to-have" rather than a "must-have." What I personally experienced as a major pain point was a minor annoyance (or irrelevant) for other people.
While Thomas is not a Visiting Partner, he's graciously helped us out in past Iterative's programs (he's who we go to if founders need help with sales and business development). If you're a founder and working on something, you should apply.