Dream to Reality

The digital + tech field is extremely fast, versatile, and progressive. And when one ventures into this field, it allows for agility, tenacity, and a great deal of character building. A great example of an individual venturing on his own and making it big is Daryll Tan, the Co-founder and the Director of OpenMinds™. Daryll ventured into establishing his own talent management and video marketing business at the age of 21, and he has been actively involved in Social Media consultation, venture building and product & business development ever since.

The beginning, the journey, and beyond

It all began when Daryll decided to step out of university to pursue his entrepreneurial journey. He founded his first company that focused on specialized talents for commercial use. He then pivoted and started his second company that focused on videography; being the middle entity between corporate clients and boutique videographers. It was a tiring period for him being the “lone-founder” with no comrades to shoulder the responsibilities. Therefore, he made an intentional decision to divert his attention to search for suitable business partners. After a few months of “interviews” with his connections, Daryll finally found business partners that shared the same vision and belief. Together, they decided to trial each other’s competency and suitability by working with two separate clients and eventually merged their own individual companies. This kick-started Daryll’s third business, OpenMinds and the journey continues.

OpenMinds officially started in 2012; positioning itself as consultants rather than an agency. It offered four main solutions – Online Positioning (Social Media management/consultation, building a digital ecosystem), Training & Consultation, Data & Analytics, and Tech Development. These service offerings birthed from a series of request from partners and the market. “To be honest, we stumbled upon this demand and decided to take it 3 steps further by offering a full set of solutions to close the gap of the entire marketing flow; leveraging on each partners’ competency that vary from ecommerce, tech development and digital. Since 2012, we are blessed to have worked with notable brands like Bosch, Celcom, Xpax, KLSOGO, Acer, BENQ, IJM, GNC, WCT Malls, Nestle, Sunway Group, Berjaya Corporation and many more,” shares Daryll.

Great things don’t come from just tools, but from the people

Daryll truly believes in talent and workforce. This has led him to invest a huge amount of time and monetary means towards his team; ensuring that their major needs are taken care of and continually maintained. His vision is to ensure that OpenMinds™ provides an accommodative and progressive place for promising talents to grow and express themselves. “In the earlier days, we kept the team young to remain agile and promote our knowledge in this new age marketing platforms. During our growth these few years, we welcomed more senior talents to keep the team dynamic and established,” he adds.

OpenMindsTM has been recognized by The Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM) as one of the Corporate Development companies under Malaysia’s Startup Ecosystem Handbook. The company has an average 40% YOY financial growth rate and is currently conservatively valued at USD5 Million. The company’s Hong Kong office now boasts a sales growth rate of 400% after 1 year of operation while still acquiring more brands every month. Furthermore, they have two proprietary products under the OpenMinds™ ecosystem – “RoundUp” and “OpenSpace” that are constantly acquiring users and generating sales.

Rough seas make the toughest of sailors

Daryll’s entrepreneurial journey has been filled with ups and downs. But he has always been reminded that rough seas make the toughest sailors, which is completely true in his case. He considers working with a committed group of business partners and an amazing team has taken much ownership to drive the business forward is one of the best parts of his journey. Building the team from three people to a workforce of 30 talented teammates in just less than 5 years has been an amazing experience. He also believes building a culture that is driven by its core values and seeing the results of his ‘people investment’ being recognized on media has to be the best part of his learning. Daryll also acknowledges that speaking engagements at corporate events, conferences, universities and startup mentorship opportunities with Young Corporate Malaysians, Startup Weekend by Techstars, and Microsoft has been a cherry on the cake.

However, there have been setbacks as well in Daryll’s journey, which have only made him learn about the mistakes and propel him to do better next time. He mentions that during the earlier days, the lack of initial guidance meant that they were on their own and plainly shooting in the dark. They “broke” many things but the saving grace was that they moved fast, responded appropriately, and dared to disrupt the norm. There was also a challenge where all the co-founders had to be multidisciplinary and executional in every task. Daryll was dealing with admin, finance, business development, strategizing, execution, planning, and more. Daryll also highlights that finding, hiring, and retaining good talents has been tough.

Important to perform your responsibility and influence people for good

Prior to OpenMinds, Daryll was very much a fresher in the startup world where he worked hard to make ends meet but not smart enough to sustain it. He was building his first and second business while intentionally honing his skills and building a network through project-based jobs as a “Special Project Manager” at a Digital firm. He was learning the ropes and proving to himself (and others) that his choice of being an entrepreneur is accurate and expandable. “After I founded OpenMinds™ and during the early days of operations, I was very hands-on in business development, operations, HR, finance, execution work and even being an in-house janitor. When the company grew to be more systematic, I refocused my energy to managing the business from a macro point of view and started to align myself to the bigger picture where I handled more of the partnerships and venture building arm,” Daryll asserts.

This has opened more opportunities for Daryll to mentor startups, build closer relationships with fellow business owners, be a guest writer, speak at multiple events including a monthly segment on BFM, and even be a Digital trainer at TAP by IACT. “It has changed the way I make use of my influence and the responsibility I have over my team and company. It has placed a good burden over me to perform yet making sure I live a consistent and authentic life,” Daryll adds.

Being contented with what you have achieved is the best place to be

When asked if he has achieved everything that he desired, Daryll answers that he has not yet arrived at a place where he is fully satisfied with his achievements. However, he also says that he is contented for now, but at the same time, ambitious for the future. It’s hard for him to pinpoint one specific moment where his hard work has paid-off. But, he acknowledges that he is always well aware that his hard work has paid off every once a year when the team celebrates their company’s anniversary in September. This is a great reminder to him of the life that the company brings to the lives of people, both internal and external. It showcases the goodness of God and the faithfulness of colleagues. According to him, it is always a proud moment to witness that the company has come so far and is still thriving and striving to make a positive impact. It is always a moment of gratitude, persistence and humility; food for the soul and sustenance for his character.

A grand vision that keeps you going!

Going further, Daryll will continue to resume his role as a partner and contribute his leadership efforts to the business development and venture building arm to fulfill the grand vision of creating an ecosystem of businesses that leverage on each other’s solutions, resources, and competency. “In a couple of years, the direction for OpenMinds™ is to firstly, strengthen our market positioning as a data-driven MarTech company that offers E2ES solutions; solving business problems with the relevant use of tech. Secondly, we are positioning ourselves for further market expansion in other countries so that we have a more complete, local and holistic approach to our overall support. Thirdly, we want to pay it forward by educating the professional workforce, aspiring entrepreneurs and students with industry standard practices and processes via OpenAcademy. Lastly, we are also exploring the possibility of IPO,” Daryll concludes.

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