Lessons from co-founding Singapore’s biggest personal finance community and building a revolutionary health startup: A conversation with Kenneth Lou

Written by
Content Team
Last Modified on
December 19, 2023

Kenneth Lou knows a thing or two about running a company. Having spent a decade in the startup ecosystem, the CEO and co-founder of Mito Health is no stranger to the grind of scaling businesses to new heights. Kenneth was a co-founder of Seedly, where he cut his teeth building the personal finance platform into one of Singapore’s biggest financial communities. Today, Kenneth is steering the new ship of Mito Health, and he recently raised SGD$2 million in pre-seed funding to develop the AI-powered health startup that aims to revolutionise preventative care. 

In a candid conversation, the accomplished entrepreneur and inspirational figure to a generation of Southeast Asian founders expressed the need for businesses to prioritise profitability, but strive for goals that transcend that. Read more about Kenneth’s advice for entrepreneurs, how to manage rapid growth, and how he knew when it was the right time to move on.

Aspire: For you as a founder, how important is it to set goals that go beyond revenue and profit?

Kenneth Lou: I think it’s extremely important. As for what kinds of goals, it depends on the startup’s mission. It’s firstly important to understand that a business’ number one reason for existence is to make a profit, because if not, you wouldn't be a business — at least not a good business. Next, goals would also depend on factors like what industry your business operates in, its mission, and offerings. For example, when I was still running Seedly, one of our top goals was, and still is, focused on helping people make smarter financial decisions. Everything that we do has to be aligned with that. Whether it's launching a business product or helping businesses market their products to clients, we keep that in mind. Now with Mito health, following the same mindset, we focus on helping people live better. That’s key to the mission. 

Aspire: Speaking of Seedly, I understand that you founded the company straight after graduating with a bachelors in Business Administration. Where did the idea for Seedly come from?

Kenneth Lou: My co-founder, Tee-Ming, and I were in a unique situation where we actually started in our last semesters teaming up. Tee-Ming, coming from a computer science background, and I saw an opportunity based on the US market, where before 2015 the fintech market was very much focused on P2P payments with platforms like Venmo and Mint. We had this idea to create an automated Personal Finance Management (PFM) app, and bring it to this part of the world where it hadn’t been implemented yet, so it was a blue ocean strategy. 

Aspire: What was the biggest challenge you faced in the beginning? 

Kenneth Lou: By default, we had to go down the path of becoming a venture-backed startup, with our first round of funding led by East Ventures. That was really the main challenge, as VC-backed companies need to find ways to scale quickly and efficiently, to get as many users as possible, and then monetize those users. In the initial days, it’s always difficult getting customers who love the product and are willing to pay for the product. Those things were definitely difficult starting out.

Aspire: So knowing that it isn’t the easiest path you’ve taken, and having seen both success and challenges as an entrepreneur, what are three pieces of advice you would give to a fellow entrepreneur? 

Kenneth Lou: Bias to action. Just do it. That’s number one. I think most people stop and hesitate, and the more you hesitate at the beginning, the less likely you are to take that leap. Next, try to de-risk other areas like your lifestyle, your spending habits, and your time with friends. You will have to find a way to balance and prioritise all these other areas of your life. Finally, look after yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Aspire: Essentially, you have to make sacrifices, while still prioritising your general health and well-being?

Kenneth Lou: Exactly, because it’s really not easy. It's important that you do so from day one because these things do scale extremely quickly. If you don't mentally and physically take care of yourself, then naturally, you'll feel worse and worse and worse as time goes on.

Aspire: On the topic of scaling rapidly, what were the steps you took to manage how quickly Seedly was scaling? 

Kenneth Lou: The scaling came when we released the free version of our app. We experienced more challenges when we wanted to bring these services to businesses and incorporate a B2B element to the company. It wasn’t a straightforward path, but the journey in hindsight feels like it really scaled quite well. We basically had to focus on the nitty-gritty of talking to individual users, figuring out what they love, how we could pivot. It was hard but immensely rewarding.

Aspire: So it was a good problem to have?

Kenneth Lou: Definitely. It’s the same thing we’re currently experiencing with our current startup. Going through the nitty-gritty, doing the legwork, grinding it out, getting more users, and putting ourselves out there.

Aspire: Speaking of your new startup, Mito Health, I would like to discuss the transition between Seedly and your new venture. Given how both you and your co-founder started Seedly together, what were the important factors that led you both to decide it was time to move on?

Kenneth Lou: We sold the business to Shopback. Then, we actually divested thereafter to Hyphen Group, another fintech company. At that point, we were very cognizant that we’d grown the business to a point where it was time to let go of that journey. Ultimately, we were the original founders, but were now employees of a larger organisation. We thought of how many more chances we might get to start companies. I always liken this to Super Mario, where you do as many levels as you can, and then when you restart the game, you know all the steps, where to jump, where to focus.  

Aspire: Are there any noticeable differences between your current journey starting Mito Health, compared to Seedly at a similar business stage?

Kenneth Lou: I think the main similarities are that health and wealth are quite similar. They’re usually mentioned in that same vein, and sound practices are both based on good habits and aspirations. However, the differences would be in regulations, as well as demographics, such as who pays for health, and there are challenges around getting clients and users to understand that everything that they do today impacts them 20 years down the road. It's the same thing, but a different ‘same thing’ when you think about it.

Aspire: Speaking of Mito health, congratulations to you and Tee-Ming on securing your pre-seed funding round earlier this year. For these milestones, do you and your team take time to celebrate or are you quickly looking to the next milestone?

Kenneth Lou: Yeah, we definitely celebrated internally! Just because it seems like a race doesn’t mean we can’t take stock of how far we’ve come once in a while. We realise that it's a lot of pressure and responsibility to make sure that we make good use of the capital and manage our investors’ expectations. 

Aspire: Because businesses need to make profits, right?

Kenneth Lou: That’s exactly it. I think that’s truly the reality of any startup, and any business that’s serious about growth.

Aspire: What's coming up on the horizon for Kenneth Lou, founder and entrepreneur?

Kenneth Lou: Wow, that's an interesting question. Well firstly, I've become a new dad, so I hope I’ll be a good one. I think it’s important to carry on a legacy. I say that a new family is like a startup, but one that you can’t divest from, so it’s important on a personal level to me that I give it the effort and time it deserves. I hope that we can create a business that we are proud of 10-20 years from now. 

Aspire: Congratulations, and thank you so much for your time speaking with us.

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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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