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Forbes: Native Son

"While I was the chief spokesman and focus of the media, nothing happens in a startup without a great team. All that we achieved in SilkRoute, ECnet and our group of net companies was due to the awesome team of Mak Chee Wah (CFO), Kirpal Singh Sidhu (COO), Felix Tan (Director Biz Dev't), Leong Choong Cheng (co-founder ECNet), Chui Fung Yee (Corp Dev't), Yew Tuck Wai (CEO, Latitude), Dawn Tan (Finance), Ng Aik Phong (BD), James Hatcher (US), Oguchi (Jpn), KV Soon (Mal), Mohan Mirwani (Corp) and of course my co-founder of SilkRoute Ventures Hoo Shao Pin and advisor Jek Kian Jin. And the all inspiring Philip Yeo. There were many more heroes that when I have more time, will take the effort to list. Apologies for now to all but always grateful." - TK

Andrew Tanzer - 03 July 2000, Forbes Magazine.

Wong Toon King was headed for a brilliant career in Singapore’s elite and powerful bureaucracy. When he was 17, the National Computer Board, charged with promoting and developing information technology in the city-state, plucked him out of the system and sent him to MIT in the U.S, where he earned a degree in computer science and engineering and was captain of the fencing team. {Later he brought home silver and bronze medals from the 1993 Asia Games.} After returning to Singapore, Wong worked at NCB on IT 2000, a master plan to offer universal broadband access to all of Singapore, the first nation to do so.

But he quickly grew restless. “I realized that if you build a New Age highway, you need it to be vibrant and dynamic,” says Wong, now 33. “That can happen only if you have entrepreneurs taking risks.” So in 1994 he quit the government. With $75,000 of his savings and money from three partners, he formed SilkRoute Holdings, a holding company that invests in, develops and operates Internet businesses. {Today his 53% stake is worth $57 million.}

At the time it was a bold move in risk-averse Singapore. Entrepreneurship was not seen as a higher calling. Moreover, by having bolted before fulfilling his eight-year required service to the government, Wong had to pay back $75,000 for his overseas education.

SilkRoute jumped online early but with mixed success. One of its first ventures was Latitude, which developed websites for such clients as Singapore Airlines and Tiger Beer and is the leading local designer of sites. A web magazine attracted readers but no advertising a recruitment site ran into pressure from the government-owned newspaper It wouldn’t place its classified advertisements on the site.

ECnet, a B2B supply chain management service launched in 1996 that focuses on high-tech manufacturing, could be more promising {Wong refuses to disclose revenues or losses}. An Internet-based platform that links electronics manufacturers with suppliers–from purchase order through fulfillment–the service enables such incompatible resource planning systems as SAP and Oracle to communicate with each other. This year ECnet also launched a digital marketplace for electronic components used in PCs and consumer electronics. It gets revenues from subscription, usage, transaction and other fees.

There is no shortage of backers for ECnet. Last year Wong raised more than $30 million in two rounds of venture capital financing from the likes of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Doll Capital and 3i. Hewlett-Packard, a customer of ECnet, acquired an option to convert up to 2.5% of ECnet in its next round of funding. {SilkRoute maintains a 38% stake.}

For the original article on Forbes, read here

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