M17 Entertainment Group's Joseph Phua On The Lessons That Shaped His Leadership Approach

By Chong Seow Wei

M17's non-executive chairman has led the firm to become the largest live streaming and social entertainment company in Asia

Tatler Asia

In 2012, tech entrepreneur Joseph Phua was studying for his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business when dating apps such as Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel launched in the US. Coincidentally, he had just come out of an eight-year relationship and was looking to widen his social network.

Fascinated with these “technology-enabled dating services”, he decided to try some of them but soon realised “none of them suited my habits and preferences as a single Asian man”.

So he chose to build his own platform that catered to the Asian community.

After completing his studies in 2013, he returned to Singapore and launched location-based dating platform Paktor with his primary school classmate, Ng Jing Shen. Paktor quickly gained traction and now boasts over 20 million users across eight markets in the region.

See also: Asian Dating Apps Are Hungry For Your Love

In 2017, the company acquired Taiwanese hip-hop artist Jeffrey Huang’s live streaming platform, 17 Media, and formed M17 Entertainment Group, where Joseph is non-executive chairman. Last November, the Pavilion Capital-backed company acquired live streaming platform MeMe Live. The deal boosted M17’s share of the live streaming market to over 60 percent.

Here, Joseph discusses the decision behind 17 Media's acquisition and the lessons that have influenced his leadership style.

Ensure your values are aligned with key partners

"The decision to acquire 17 Media was because the vision of its founder, Jeffrey Huang, aligned with mine. We both want to radically transform the way social entertainment works as well as ensure our end users get a lot of value from using our services.

Essentially, Paktor’s dating services and 17 Media’s live content provide the same solutions: we connect people in real-time and provide them with entertainment."

See also: 5 Tips For Finding The Right Co-Founder

Tatler Asia

Always be kind

"As a kid, I’d follow my mum around as she worked as a kitchenware salesperson. Back then, I didn’t understand why she’d thank people who were rude to her, but what she said still stays with me today: 'Learn to be a good person before you learn to do business.'"

Look beyond your desk

"I deal with work stress by resting my mind. I’ve also learnt to pull myself out of a situation to look at the bigger picture, and remind myself that [what’s stressing me out] is just one thing in my life. There are many other things that have gone my way to celebrate about."

There’s nothing that cannot be done, but you need to consider the costs and consequences at every step
Joseph Phua

Always consider the consequences

"I believe there’s nothing that cannot be done, but you need to consider the costs and consequences at every step. That’s the greatest lesson I’ve learnt as a leader thus far."

It's a marathon, not a sprint

"If there's one thing I'd like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs about the entrepreneurial path, it is that it's a lifelong journey. Enjoy every step of it and cherish everyone you meet along the way."

See honourees from the Entertainment category of the Gen.T List 2019.

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