The French Chamber Startups & Entrepreneurs Committee is the platform for entrepreneurs to meet and network. In order to share experiences and visions, the committee launched a series of interviews with successful French Entrepreneurs in Singapore.
What is your background?
I have a special relationship with Singapore. I lived in Singapore when I was young, between the age of 11 and 18. I did my studies at the Lycée Français de Singapour before going back to France for my business school. My associate Clément was my best friend at the LFS. Singapore is kind of my second home country. Before founding UEX Pte Ltd, I used to work for large French insurance brokers like Gras Savoye Willis Tower Watson and Verspieren as head of affinity partnership development focusing on the French sport federation to insure their members. Verspieren is the main investor in the UEX project until today. Family, friends and sport are my priorities in my personal life.
A few words about your business
UEX sells health insurance for both individuals and SMEs in Singapore, using technology to make it easy to understand, personalizable and affordable for each of our customers. We have invested in our technology platform to make it easy to create new insurance products in our system enabling it to connect with any user interface, messenger chat, white label front end, our website etc... Even if we are still a small company, you can see us as a kind of paypal of health insurance in Asia. Last but not least, we are the only one on the market that enables the customer to subscribe and renew their contract 100% online.
Why did you set up your business in Singapore?
When launching UEX, our main focus was expat customers. We figured out that the typical expat in SG of today has changed compared to the one of the 90’s. My father used to have the all inclusive package including the expat health insurance. Today, foreigners are more mobile and come to live the “real life”. 80% of them in the Little Red Dot are under a local employment contract with a low level of coverage offered by their employer. They need to check how they are covered and consider topping up with a better benefit for them and their family. They need flexibility, simplicity, and human advisory. That is what we try to build for them every day . In addition, Singapore is a small and concentrated market where you can test a product easily and quickly, make some quick iteration based on the feedback. The referral works very well so it is a perfect first country to start business in Asia.
What was the most difficult challenge to overcome on your entrepreneurial journey?
I would say compliance, recruitment, and the business focus. Insurance is a regulated sector so you need to be very careful in the set up of your business, ensuring that you have all certifications. In the meantime, you also need the simplest and fastest model to launch on the market. Recruitment is complicated as you arrive in a country where you are not used to hiring local people with different culture. If you want to hire foreigners, the Employment Pass process is also a pain point and can sometimes block us in hiring the right talents. Minimum salary and procedure are the two main reasons that explain this situation. When you launch a startup you should be very focus on your value proposition and your product. It is a test and learning process. But in the meantime, you need to explore opportunities that could make you pivot. The resources allocated to both is always a challenge and business should always come first.
What are the next steps for your company?
We just raised additional 1.3 million SGD to accelerate our growth in Singapore using the SMEs segment as a stepping stone to achieve our vision. We need to reach our ambitious KPIs for Singapore and prepare for a potential expansion abroad. For the technology, we will continue to develop our platform focusing on SMEs and a large insurance partnership.
A few tips for new entrepreneurs?
Do not think you know, ask entrepreneurs who have done it before you. Take 2 or 3 mentors that follow you on a monthly basis based on your key strategy. It will help you to refocus on your priorities and give you access to some additional skills that you do not have. Do not start alone! Find a partner full time in your journey, that you know, trust, and who has other strengths than you. Do not try to do your last version product or service right from the beginning, try to launch as soon as possible. At the beginning all you have is assumption, you need real feedback as soon as possible.
Your motto in life?
“Inner peace” like the master in Kung Fu Panda.
Your business motto?
“Care is the new growth hacking” the concept is from the founder of THE FAMILY in France.
Grégoire Rastoul, UEX
The views and opinions expressed in these columns do not necessarily reflect those of the French Chamber members and management.