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From IT to Ice Cream: One Man's Entrepreneurial Quest for Happiness

Article from Singapore Management University (SMU) based on a talk I shared at their Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Published on 1 Dec 2010.

Serial entrepreneur Wong Toon King almost remained a civil servant. Armed with a government scholarship, Wong was poised for a promising career at the then National Computer Board (now Infocomm Development Authority) when he graduated with a degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His four-year study, characterised by the famed university's gung-ho spirit of "pioneering, innovating and taking on the world", had left a deep, lasting impression.

Wong returned to Singapore at the start of the information technology era. He was tasked to be an 'IT Architect', where, among other projects, he helped draw up the IT2000 nationwide broadband master plan. So it seemed he was all set to play a key role in the country's IT sector, but then came a "jolt". At a MIT class reunion, a former classmate told Wong he was giving the hard-to-enter MIT doctorate programme a miss, so as to jump on a "once in a lifetime opportunity" start-up.

Wong was spurred into action. Convinced of the internet's potential to take off in a phenomenal way, he started his own internet company, SilkRoute Ventures, while he served out the remainder of his scholarship bond – and the rest is history. SilkRoute Ventures became one of Singapore’s largest internet companies of the 1990s, and Wong, a poster boy for IT entrepreneurship. Within a few years, he made enough money to pay off his scholarship.

Next came a string of awards, including 'Asia’s Internet Visionary of the Year' in 2000, the 'World Economic Forum’s Global Leader of Tomorrow', and the 'National Youth Award for Entrepreneurship' in 2001. Wong subsequently sold SilkRoute Ventures in-part to Hong Kong-listed telecom, media and property conglomerate, PCCW, controlled by Richard Li, son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing. Wong also found time to co-found an online media company, Asia Content Ltd, which was later listed on NASDAQ, the tech-heavy stock exchange that is the magnet for high tech companies all over the world.

Today, Wong, 44, is chairman of the Z Group, a privately-held collection of companies started by him in areas as diverse as technology, sports and lifestyle. In 2005, he became the “happy owner” of The Happy People Co, the Singapore franchisee of Ben & Jerry’s, a popular ice-cream brand from the Unites States. Wong, a former medal-winning national fencer, also co-founded a fencing school.Ice cream, épées and broadband networks do not necessarily gel together, but they all represent important landmarks of Wong's entrepreneurial journey, which he shared at a recent talk organised by SMU's Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

See full article here

Reproduced with thanks to SMU.

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