Marcus S Tan is the co-founder of The Carrot Patch, a co-working space which was recently named the official workspace partner for The Hungry Lab Asia, a global online platform created to help startups, future leaders and entrepreneurs.
He is also the Chief Executive Officer of AIQ, a visual recognition technology company based in Singapore.
We caught up with him to find out more on how he got everything started and how his two ventures complement each other, and more.
Here’s Marcus’ story.
“It is never too late or too old to start your own business or pursue your dreams and ideas.”
What were you doing before starting your entrepreneurship journey?
I previously held leadership roles at companies such as SpotX, Smaato, Blackberry, Nokia, Travelocity and MediaCorp before coming onboard as the CEO of AIQ. I co-founded The Carrot Patch with one of the Board of Directors.
The Carrot Patch was born from a eureka moment from the brilliant AIQ team who came up with the idea of having a co-working space from an AI-centric parent company. My aim is to target local young start-ups and student entrepreneurs who either belong to the alumnus or who are currently studying in polytechnic or university.
When was The Carrot Patch established and why use the name The Carrot Patch than something more relatable to co-working and office rental?
The Carrot Patch was officially launched on 16 November 2017. The carrot is versatile, nutritious and signifies vibrancy. The three are important elements for businesses to succeed.
What inspired you to start a co-working space?
After identifying Apex@Henderson as the ideal office location, the AIQ team decided to convert a portion of the office space into a co-working space to start a vibrant community for entrepreneurs and start-ups to come together to work and exchange ideas with one another.
We also curated a team of successful businessmen who had agreed to offer their expertise to offer business advice and ideas to help these young start-ups. Through this, I hope to cultivate a large pool of local start-ups, help uncover local talent as well as provide a community and industry support for the new players in the field.
Co-working Space is the new trend in Singapore providing a vibrant environment that supports their young business ventures with a comfortable workspace, but with rental costs that are flexible and affordable, to assist them in getting their creative juices and their commercial minds going. Most of the co-working spaces in Singapore are located within the Central Business District (CBD). The Carrot Patch wants to extend a similar vibrant working space that caters to budding student entrepreneurs with a more wallet-friendly rates at a location within the city-fringe area.
What were the initial challenges you faced when putting your plans into action?
We understand the needs of tech start-ups, as we are also one of them. Thus, we took a long while to experiment our niche offering as well as search for the right type of start-ups to join our community in building a vibrant ecosystem.
How did you overcome those challenges?
We worked on targeting AI-related and tech-curious companies, as we focused on establishing a tech-centric ecosystem. Another of our initiatives in overcoming our initial challenges was our successful efforts in reaching out and offering co-working service and advice to budding start-ups initiated by students or alumnus of polytechnics and universities.
We offer city-fringe rates which are considered the “in between” of the price rates offered by our competitors, hence a viable option for students who are at the initial phase of their business venture.
On top of that, our partnerships with industry practitioners such as The Hungry Lab Asia allowed us to offer advisory services at no additional cost, thus creating a win-win solution for all parties. These factors combine to form a vibrant ecosystem which contribute to The Carrot Patch’s unique selling point.
What sets The Carrot Patch apart from other competitions?
Here at The Carrot Patch, we live by our motto of “Cultivating a Smart Community”. Our co-working space is unique in that we are open to maximising our space to accommodate a diverse group of people. Ranging from industry veterans to student entrepreneurs, we provide one of the most supportive environments for communication and exchange of ideas to boost one another’s role in the creative and commercial industries.
What’s your vision for The Carrot Patch in the next five years?
Here at The Carrot Patch, we have set the stage for young start-ups and innovators to build a vibrant start-ups scene in conjunction with Singapore’s initiatives in gearing towards being a Smart Nation. Coupled with our partnership with The Hungry Lab Asia, we hope to jointly nurture and promote entrepreneurships within the Local Students’ community and the technology space as a whole.
Recently, The Carrot Patch has been named the official workspace partner for The Hungry Lab Asia. What’s the partnership about and what does it mean for the start-ups and businesses in Singapore and the region?
We’re most glad and privileged to have The Hungry Lab Asia to partner with us. The partnership is about creating an innovative and conducive environment for entrepreneurs and start-ups in Asia. It simply translates to opportunities for the honing and development of skills in the rising tech industry, i.e. blockchain, deep learning, visual commerce (v-commerce), mobile commerce (m-commerce) etc., as we strive to foster fruitful working relationships between the student entrepreneurs and some of the top-notch businesses and enterprises.
WeWork has been on an acquisition spree of co-working spaces. If more prominent players like them come knocking with an offer while you are still building up The Carrot Patch, what would you do?
In effort to grow our brand presence, we are open to explore possible opportunities with international brands to bring our business to greater heights, so long as we continue to keep our prices reasonable in providing co-working spaces at wallet-friendly prices for budding entrepreneurs and young start-ups to have a conducive environment to work in, as we are located within the city-fringe area providing an alternative choice of co-working space that is as appealing but just outside the CBD.
We understand that you also run AIQ, a visual recognition technology company founded in 2014. Can you share with us more about AIQ?
AIQ is a visual recognition technology company based in Singapore and established in 2014. AIQ’s proprietary Visual Recognition Technology (VRT) is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and allows for instantaneous processing of ‘live’ images and videos, even if only a portion (30%) of the image or video is captured.
How does AIQ’s Visual Recognition Technology (VRT) work and how can it apply to businesses?
With just three simple steps “Point, Capture and Interact”, our visual recognition technology will scan and interact with the particular image or video. Businesses can tap on the functions of offline-to-online (O2O) to better engage their target audience. Our technology can be used as a tool for brands to link their offline collaterals such as prints and out-of-home media (OOH) to their online media. This can be used as a call-for-action marketing tool to generate leads and drive conversions.
The following are examples of how our VRT can be applied to various industries:
Video consumption is in trend, a tool that has become very useful in processing vast amounts of information. A picture speaks a thousand words, and visuals have the power of urging the impulse to purchase. With visual commerce being the next big thing, AIQ’s visual recognition technology allows retailers to engage consumers through quick and effortless decision-making processes. This will ultimately translate to increased lead conversions.
Have your visitors enthralled amidst an immersive experience at your event showcase. With the freedom of scanning any image or booth within the comforts of the entire event space to retrieve information, AIQ’s visual recognition technology is innovative and interactive.
With AIQ’s visual recognition technology, consumers can simply point their phones at billboards, posters or videos to scan and instantly register themselves for exclusive quizzes and lucky draw contests, or to unlock prizes.
With a simple scan of their offline collaterals, marketers can promptly link their posters, out-of-home (OOH) billboards and other print collaterals to their product videos, reviews and even their full inventory to boost cross-selling across all platforms digital and physical.
Traditional forms of media comprising OOH, magazines and newspapers are facing a downward trend of advertising dollars, and that is why we are the “white label solution” aiming to be the engine for the “new growth” for traditional media owners. We are here to bridge the gap by allowing consumers to scan and utilise these print collaterals to be transported to the brand’s interactive online platforms using our visual interactive technology.
We would like to become the kick-starter of the green initiative whereby we assist our brands in their printing costs, reducing print copies while maximising the use of scanning and allowing customers to be transported to an interactive online media, eg. e-flyers, e-information kiosk link-up. What’s more, businesses will get to monitor visual analytics to analyse the effectiveness of their ad placements by adopting our visual technology.
Do AIQ and The Carrot Patch complement each other? How?
AIQ strives to nurture the tech scene in Singapore. Being a start-up itself, AIQ has had its experiences which serve as relevant pointers that can pinpoint the direction for entrepreneurs and start-ups in nurturing their businesses. We act as an advisor to them, rendering support through our expertise in AI.
Meanwhile, the budding entrepreneurs in AI and tech can be given opportunities to work with AIQ to further contribute to the offerings of the company. The collaboration is summed up as a win-win situation for both AIQ and the community at The Carrot Patch, providing a multiple-pronged approach to tap on each other’s talents and resources.
What’s your advice to Singaporeans who hope to become an entrepreneur one day?
To the budding entrepreneurs out there, go all the way out to pursue your dreams and do not fear any failures. It is all right to fail upon your many business ventures and be successful in at least one. It is never too late or too old to start your own business or pursue your dreams and ideas.
There are also many intrapreneurs within organisations and companies who are willing to help grow the business or even start a new product. Such enterprising spirit should be recognised and cultivated!