Startup O Stars is a series that captures stories of authentic tech entrepreneurs from Asia, to share their insights, learnings, tips & resources with the community. It aims to foster a deeper understanding of these journeys, direct from the trenches.

Edmund Louis Nathan


This was what Edmund Louis Nathan woke up to on 31 March 2016, two years after his deep dive into entrepreneurship. Edmund and his co-founder Ernie were now at a crossroads – accept failure or fight on. At this moment, Edmund called on all his resolve acquired from a 15-year career in the Singapore air force. “I went back into survival mode,” says Edmund of those difficult times, harking back to 10-day exercises in the jungle. The skills of brainstorming strategy, making do on 2-3 hours’ sleep, and overcoming adversity proved remarkably relevant in this new jungle. The ability to generate that extra push became Edmund’s greatest strength on his journey.

Here, he shares with Startup-O Stars his greatest learnings and lessons from launching his company, SGeBIZ and its products.


What does start from scratch look like?

Edmund left the Singapore Air Force in 2014 to follow his dream of being an entrepreneur. In undertaking this bold move, he believed that the culture of innovation in the SAF would allow him to adapt well in the world of business. Further, he was inspired by the journey of his father, who had run several small companies since 1979.

With his ear to the ground, he soon spotted an opportunity in the B2B space, which he felt had not evolved as rapidly as e-commerce and B2C. He conceived his company’s flagship product, Ezyprocure, a cloud-based procurement management system, to greatly reduce the administrative hours required to manage this tedious and manual process of sourcing, invoicing and reconciling.

Having germinated his idea, he embarked on a journey to educate himself rapidly in this new sphere. As a complete newcomer to this field with no mentors to lean on, he began an aggressive process of reading, listening, and talking to people to use his military experience to challenge the status quo.

Customer acquisition in the early days was also an arduous process. With no track record in the business, Edmund resorted to cold calling F&B establishments. He would pitch his solution to any member of staff that was available, in the hope of being referred to a manager. The process eventually brought about his first major breakthrough. He took a calculated chance and visited a restaurant that was renovated, as he expected that decision-makers would be on site. The gamble paid off and he was given 5 minutes to pitch to the manager – and his first customer was officially on the rolls.

“There is no such thing as a customer that is too small.”


How to recover from almost crashing and dying

Despite having a product that he believed in, 2014-2016 was a period of “nearly crashing and dying; and then turning it all around,” says Edmund, of the early days. To turn it around required a change of marketing strategy and an end of the inefficient process of cold calling. The new approach was a top-down driven approach of targeting F&B chains at their headquarters. Further, they refined how they pitched their product, ensuring that a solid value proposition could be explained in under 10 seconds.

Ezyprocure is built on SGeBIZ’s core philosophy of maintaining solid customer relationships. “There is no such thing as a customer that is too small,” says Edmund, who makes the effort to remember each customer by name. To ensure that he dedicates the lion’s share of his time to his customers, Edmund sleeps just 5-6 hours a day and devotes 2 hours to his family. The rest of his day, he is proud to state, is dedicated to SGeBIZ, its customers, staff and partners.

“Competition keeps us relevant.  It is not to be feared.”


An initial victory can inspire a cascade effect

As another valuable by-product of their tenacity, windows for new revenue streams opened up once Ezyprocure was underway. Their experience in running Ezyprocure revealed further gaps that SGeBIZ could fill to the benefit of all stakeholders. Industry norms around payment terms were a pain point for vendors and buyers alike, necessitating cash flow constraints at both ends. Therefore, they devised Ezypayment, a product to solve this problem for their clients while gaining a new revenue stream of these recurring payments.

Having designed this product, they sought a partnership with UOB to build a robust and secure payments product. To get the new initiative off the ground, Edmund approached their new partner much like he does his customers – with a win-win mentality. Having shared his vision, they then brainstormed various paths to achieve synergies and achieve buy-in. And thus, a new revenue stream was born that continues to grow impressively.

Next in the pipeline is Ezysource, a sourcing platform that will allow SGeBIZ to leverage their network of customers and their vendors. In addition, SGeBIZ is working on an e-invoicing product, to round out their array of services built from the ground up.

"Funding involves knowing what investors look for, and balancing your needs with theirs.”


Changing gears from survival to scaling

Despite having clawed his way out of losses, Edmund is keenly aware of the ongoing need to innovate and upgrade. “Competition,” he says, “keeps us relevant. It is not to be feared.” In fact, he believes that early movers have an inherent advantage over imitators – that of a macro-level vision of strategy. Thus, there will always be competitors who seek to imitate a successful strategy, which is why he is determined to continuously innovate to pull ahead.

In order to do so, Edmund has continued to focus on customer and partner relationships. “We always have time for our customers,” he says, of the need to fight complacency at this juncture. In this endeavour, he is appreciative of his 30-strong team, who he says allows SGeBIZ to thrive as a customer-centric business.

Optimally managing his growing team remains an ongoing mission for Edmund, who has seen his leadership shift from a military style to a more startup-friendly style. In this regard, he has learned to move away from a transactional towards a transformative outlook, with the long-term aim of nurturing and developing his team.

Finally, Edmund is now in a much stronger position to raise funding to expand his team, his product offering as well as a geographical footprint to further their presence beyond Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. The path to doing so involves raising funds, and he is happy to have found mentors for this process. “Funding involves knowing what investors look for, and balancing your needs with theirs,” he says, to explain the need for expert guidance in this arena.

“We always have time for our customers.”


When you are prepared to lose it all, you will push boundaries

SGeBIZ’s story is one of an inspiring turnaround – having generated profits for 2017, 2018 and 2019 following their year of trial by fire. As part of his push to educate himself on all things entrepreneurial, Edmund had read that the first 3-5 years in the life of a startup are the most volatile. He took this advice to heart, having designated 31 March 2017 as his make or break; a challenge he met with the dedication of his team and support from family and trusted advisers. With resilience, determination and a steep learning curve under its belt, SGeBIZ has found its footing on an impressive growth trajectory comprising new products and geographies.

Startup-O is South East Asia’s leading platform for startup assessments, investments, and venture building. It was created with ‘Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs’ ethos at the core of its design. The assessment platform coupled with venture funds helps with systematic discovery & investing in high traction tech startups. These promising growth startups are selected through a transparent process which is a blend of multi-stage online evaluations conducted by seasoned global experts & proprietary ranking algorithms on the platform.