Busy mum Lim Ee Ling took matters into her own hands after becoming frustrated at the hurdles she had to jump when searching for suitable enrichment classes for her children.
She recalls having to ask friends, post questions on forums and Facebook groups and glean information from social media just to find out what classes were available and which instructors were good.
“Even after shortlisting, due to the limited online information, I had to call and ask for the schedule and then make a trip there to check out the space before signing up. The whole process took days,” Ms Lim, 31, says.
She felt that the process need not be so daunting and time-consuming. So, Ms Lim quit her investment banking job at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and started working on her education online platform Smarter Me in October 2016.
The site, which was launched in April last year, lists more than 150 education providers, offering over 1,000 different courses.
Users can search for classes – by category, location and age – check out the available time slots, book and pay online. The classes range from swimming, dance and art, to self-enrichment programmes that teach computer coding and so on.
Her husband, Mr Liaw Yit Ming, 36, and two other non-executive investors, invested a six-figure sum into the business, which is revenue generating.
Last year, Mr Liaw quit his job as head of strategic planning and business development at IHH Healthcare and joined Smarter Me as chief strategy officer. The couple are Malaysians with two daughters – Charlotte, eight, and Katrina, 11, from Mr Liaw’s previous marriage.
Ms Lim graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in finance, from Queensland University in Brisbane in 2007.
How did you get interested in investing?
I learnt about investing at an early age from my father. He was a very active investor in stocks. However, his strategy was mostly speculative and did not turn out well. This is where I learnt that careful research about the company is important.
Studying the company’s past financial trends, current valuation, management strength, balance sheet strength (leverage levels), and future plans is important before investing.
To me, investing is both an art and a science, but homework has to be done.
I also started investing in properties three years after I started working, under the mentorship of my then boss. While some of my colleagues spent their bonuses on luxury goods, I invested mine in real estate.
Describe your investing strategy.
I apply value investing – investing based on the business fundamentals. It is very important to do your research before investing, be it stocks or real estate. Even if a company has a strong management team and product line and can demonstrate convincing growth projections, you will still need to time your investment. It may be fully priced or worse still, over-priced.
Hence, research and the timing of investments need to be taken into consideration for successful investments.
For real estate, I identify up-and-coming areas by studying the surrounding planned developments. You can do this by studying what property developers own or have recently purchased near plots for development. Road infrastructure is also very important as connectivity is a key determinant in the valuation of a property.
Apart from just investing in lower-risk assets such as property and real estate investment trusts (Reits), I also look out for opportunities for private equity investments, which have higher potential returns, particularly start-ups that I believe have potential.