Building The Best Fintech Team In SEA: How Aspire’s Co-Founder Gets It Done

Written by
Content Team
Last Modified on
December 19, 2023

Like you, we know that the road to entrepreneurship is hardly a walk in the park. Building a fast-growing fintech startup that’s rapidly expanding across SEA has its fair share of challenges too. The man at the helm of assembling Aspire’s fintech dream team is none other than Singapore country head and co-founder, Joel Leong!

What does it take to build the best fintech team in the region? What qualities are needed to soar within a fast-growing company that is reinventing the way businesses handle their finances? We chatted with true-blue double-hatter Joel on how he got started as an entrepreneur, the exciting transformation he’s seen since Aspire’s early days and his personal growth borne from running a startup.

Can you briefly share your entrepreneurial journey prior to building Aspire?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. Prior to Aspire I founded multiple startups in the e-commerce space.

What made you decide to start Aspire?

As a startup entrepreneur, I’ve personally experienced the pain of managing business finances.
After exiting my latest startup I was looking out for what’s next, and was introduced to Andrea (Aspire’s co-founder and CEO) on a Friday. We talked for 3 to 4 hours. By Monday, I was already in the office.
To be clear, I didn’t actually start the company but joined very early on. My role evolved to being a co-founder when the company went regional.

Can you describe the product transformation you have seen in Aspire from 2018 to 2021?

Back then, Aspire’s only product was SME lending. Today, we’ve evolved to provide a full suite of financial services for SMEs, evolving beyond a business account to a financial superapp for growing businesses.
During one of Aspire’s year-end reflections, I recall us thinking about what’s next for Aspire. We looked back to our mission to reinvent business finance, providing an underserved segment with a single access to a large variety of financial products. It’s been amazing to see it become a reality.

What about the organisation transformation now vs then? What are the 3 significant changes?

Having joined Aspire since its early days, I had front-row seats to the organisation’s amazing transformation.
For starters, Aspire has grown to be a customer-led organisation that prioritises listening to our users to accelerate product-led growth. On top of that, the company went through massive growth in terms of headcount, talent, organisational structure, and of course, number of businesses in line with our strong growth trajectory. Most importantly, we prioritised our culture and people which empowers team members to achieve success within the organisation.

What would you say are the top 3 essential traits to succeed within Aspire?

At Aspire we value a strong sense of ownership, practicing transparency and being a team player. First off, taking ownership enables you to sit in the driver’s seat and ultimately own the result. Secondly, being transparent is to share your thoughts openly. We strongly believe in the plurality of ideas and considering various points of view. And last but not least, being a team player means leaving your ego at the door and working together to get things done.

What is one failure that you have learned when building the team?

Hiring is not easy. It is an extremely high leverage decision with a complex process and countless data points. It’s one of those things founders have to learn without any proper schooling or course. And sometimes, you learn the hard way when you’ve made wrong decisions.
I’ll ask myself where I went wrong and what I could have done better, and ultimately take responsibility for those decisions. But when you get it right, the person takes off and brings the team to another level. So it’s something I am investing a lot of my time in learning today, and I think I have much to learn.

Are there any personal growth experiences because of this journey at Aspire? What is it?

One of the best things about running a startup is that you are always learning. Perhaps the most recent learning and growth experience I’ve been reflecting on is about HR growth. My personal goal is to build the best fintech team in SEA - from hiring, empowering them to do great work, and orchestrating their efforts in line with our overall strategy.

Interested to join the Aspire team?

Find out more about our current openings:

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Content Team
at Aspire is a society of seasoned writers & experts specialising in finance, technology and SaaS space. With 50+ years of collective experience, they help make business finance more profitable for readers. They write about finance tools, finance insights, industry trends, tactical guides to grow your business & also all things Aspire.
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