The CEO of a multi-million dollar homecare start-up in Singapore shares her success tips


"Building an app that can mobilize people and then scaling that as a sustainable business, that drives me. It's doing good, while doing well," said Gillian Tee, co-founder and CEO of Homage.


Gillian Tee, a Singaporean entrepreneur, returned home in 2016 to be closer to her family after spending 15 years abroad.


It was what she referred to as “the perfect storm.”


Tee had three close relatives who had chronic illnesses, and she quickly discovered the “pain points” of caring for people who require specialized care.


“Say you fell and broke your hip; the medical part is obvious. You need to find specialists, and you can do so at either a public or private hospital”, according to Tee.


“But what happens when you need to come home, when you need to transition back to your community and your home, what is the care plan? What is the right thing to even think about, in terms of proofing the home, mobility aids?”


That’s when she came up with the idea for Homage, a company that connects patients in need of long-term home care with qualified caregivers.


She said the startup has raised $45 million since its inception in 2017, naming notable investors such as Golden Gate Ventures Sheares and Healthcare Group — a Temasek wholly owned subsidiary — as well as early stage venture firm 500 Startups.


According to Tee, Homage is now worth more than $100 million.


However, this is not the 40-year-first old’s venture into business. She was working as a management consultant for Accenture when she came across a book that changed her life.


“I started out as a software developer because I was interested in building things.” “But it was the concept of application that really struck me,” she said.


Jessica Livingston, co-founder of seed stage investment firm Y Combinator, wrote the book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days.


“How do I use technology to create something that people can use and that has an impact on their lives?”


Tee’s entrepreneurial journey began with a two-year stint in Silicon Valley, where she co-founded Rocketrip in 2013. It is a website that rewards business travelers for saving their companies money on travel expenses.


Before being acquired by Mondee Holdings in 2020, the company raised $32 million, including $15 million from Google Ventures.


This serial entrepreneur shares her top startup-running tips.


1. Know your market


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Tee stated that whether developing a travel app or a health care app, the business fundamentals never change.


“You must be extremely knowledgeable about your market.” Understand your cost, growth, and demand drivers.”


Homage is currently present in three markets: Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia, where “unique characteristics” connect well to the problem that the company is attempting to solve, according to Tee.


“We looked at caregiver shortages, the nature of the aging population, and chronic illnesses — which, interestingly, are not only caused by age, but are also strongly associated with urbanization.”


While Homage’s users are not limited to seniors, the opportunity in eldercare technology is expanding as people live longer lives. According to the Asian Development Bank, one in every four people in Asia will be over 60 by 2050.


Tee, on the other hand, stated that she is “a big fan of going deep and not overspreading” the business.


“Focus is essential. We have a very clear understanding of the markets and whether we should expand to more [countries]. “However, our current focus is on expanding our current markets,” she added.

2. Build a good team 

Although business fundamentals are important, Tee advises entrepreneurs to “anchor first on people.”


This has helped Homage provide the best possible care for its clients, as well as Tee, who had no prior experience in the health-care industry.


“It’s important to lean on specialists for clinical governance and compliance. That’s why we have our director of nursing, for example, who has 20 years of experience across different medical settings,” Tee shared.


“A big part of what we do is we need to synthesize care quality with the product and technology. That’s the team you need to build — I try to do the best I can, but I bring on people who are much better than me.”


3. Focus on the ’100 good things’


Being an entrepreneur, especially as a woman, can be isolating, according to Tee.


“You get snide remarks, but they’re less frequent now that you’ve established a reputation and respect.”


However, things were not always easy at first. “For example, [a director] once told me, ‘Now I know why the newspapers feature you; your eyes are so beautiful.'”


“Like everything else I go through, this is my mantra: I have to be twice as assertive, more data-driven, and super sharp.” I believe we [female entrepreneurs] need to do more to demonstrate our point.”


Nonetheless, Tee has learned to relax and rely on the people who matter.


“There are a hundred problems, but there are also a hundred good things.” “You have to tune out the noise and be okay with the intensity,” she added.


“It’s exhilarating in some ways, but exhausting in others.” Be open, vulnerable, and transparent with your team. That, I believe, is the most important thing.”


4. Innovation drives impact


What does the term “innovation” mean to Tee? It’s all about making an impression on users.


“The Homage mission is very close to my heart. “At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than creating something from which people can derive a solution,” she said.


According to the company, Homage has provided over 1 million caregiving hours with a team of 15,000 care professionals across its three markets since 2017.


Its business in Malaysia and Australia has grown “700% year on year” over the last two years, it added.


“What motivates me is to create an app that can mobilize people and then scale it as a sustainable business.” It’s doing well while doing good.”


Source: CNBC Make It

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