While headlines would have us believe that start-up success lies solely with an industry disrupting killer idea, one Singapore-based entrepreneur has a strong qualifier to that – noting that for any new business venture while ideas are critical, your success in applying them consistently come down to drive and discipline.

Swedish-born Nellie Wartoft of online talent platform Sapio believes that her own strengths in managing a start-up comes from a strong sense of get-up-and-go. “One motto I try to live by is that motivation comes and goes, but discipline is what will get you through the lows,” she says. “Even when you’re feeling demotivated, you still have to get things done and drive business. So falling back on self-discipline is key.”

Wartoft, co-founder and COO of Sapio, has lived in in Sweden, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, yet has been settled in Singapore since 2011, where she and her co-founders observed a gap in the market for a platform providing actionable insights on genuine talent opportunities, delivered from those with hands-on experience.

She says her previous experience as a recruiter gave her an insight of how many people aspired towards a path they didn’t understand. “When I asked them how they would achieve those goals, they had no idea,” she says. “So I realised that there was an opportunity to introduce my clients who had achieved their goals, and for them to share their experience with those people who had such great aspirations.”

Through a combination of guerrilla marketing and pop-ups in the right places, Sapio started hosting events with different content and speakers who shared their experience and journeys. “Now people with those life-goals come to the Sapio community and meet people who have already done it,” she notes. “We are focussed at the moment on careers, business and personal finance.”

Having had visibility on the job market previously, Wartoft was still pleasantly surprised by the Lion’s City’s new business environment, particularly when it came to sourcing ‘tech talent’ for her team.

“When you’re a corporate recruiter, you don’t always see an appetite from candidates to work for a small company,” she notes. Yet particularly for those aged between 18 and 35 years, any perceived lack of stability or lack of a 360-degree role, seemed to be eclipses by the values and ambition of the company. “People are actually enthusiastic about buying into a vision and a brand that they believe in.”

Discipline aside, what does Wartoft see as the other qualities fundamental to successful start-up managers? “Persistence and Curiosity,” she notes without hesitation. “If you are resilient to change and persistent in your drive then you will achieve your goals.”

“And in the same way, if you’re constantly curious, asking questions, challenging the status quo and looking for feedback, you will learn so much faster than making assumptions.”


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