Grace Wong – Successful International Students and What Drives Them Forward

 It can be difficult to be an optimist when most of us are in our home and in front of our screen for the past two months. Our momentum stopped and future plans were postponed indefinitely. 

So Meld Magazine talked to three speakers at Future Founders Festival to give you some tips and boost in facing uncertain times. 

Future Founders Festival is a collaboration between StartspaceHQ and State Library of Victoria to bring entrepreneurs together (summary of the event) 

Our first Q&A speaker is Grace Wong, who is one of the brains behind Liven, Australia’s fastest growing lifestyle payment app. She left her profession as a Lawyer with her brother to become tech entrepreneurs. And now they have over 700,000 people in Australia who use their app. 

“It can be difficult to be an optimist when most of us are in our home, and in front of our screen for the past two months. Our momentum stopped and future plans were postponed indefinitely.” She said. 

Q: Tell us what’s the most enjoyable part of what you do!

I love connecting with like-minded people who have big visions to change the world. Through Liven I’ve travelled around the globe, meeting some of the most innovative and inspiring people across many different domains, I even interviewed Sir Richard Branson on his private island! I love meeting people who can match my energy and passion, and those people aren’t common, so I’m very grateful that the startup lifestyle has allowed me to connect with so many like minded people in my short time on Earth!

Q: How do you keep driving yourself towards your career goals when an unexpected life event happens?

I try not to lose sight of the bigger picture. It is true that there are tough times, when things don’t go the way you wanted or expected them to, but it is in those moments that I remind myself of why I am doing this, where I want to be in the future, what I want to achieve and what legacy I want to leave behind when I’m gone. These questions are the foundation of my motivation, thinking about this always helps to get me back in focus and start working on solutions instead of just dwelling on something that didn’t go my way.

Q: Have you faced any obstacle challenges because of your background as an international student? 

When you move to an entirely new country you are starting from scratch in some ways, the most notable is your network. When you arrive you probably don’t know anyone, your parents and family don’t know anyone either, and that can greatly reduce the opportunities that come your way, as the saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”. I recognized this early on and my solution was to dedicate a lot of time to doing my own networking, going to events, reaching out to people I admired and generally making an effort to maintain relationships with the many great people I’ve met along the way. Looking back now I realise that I have built a network that is much bigger than most of my Australian born friends, so sometimes a weakness really can be turned into a strength. Without that obstacle I probably wouldn’t have been driven to improve myself and learn how to network!

Never consider yourself to be at a disadvantage as an immigrant in a foreign land, instead use your immigrant mindset to drive you forward; turn disadvantage into advantage.

Q:What sort of opportunities do you think COVID-19 has opened up for international who want to be entrepreneurs?

They say you should never waste a crisis. Crazy times of rapid change like we are seeing with COVID and Lockdown are also times of great opportunity. People are being forced to change the way they live and that creates new needs and wants, as an entrepreneur it is your job (and opportunity) to satisfy these needs!

The other great benefit of COVID-19 that a lot of people haven’t appreciated is the extra time we all have to put towards developing our ideas. While it sucks that we can’t go out and see our friends or go travelling, this really is a unique time that might never arise again. Channel all of your energy into that business idea that you’ve been thinking about for years but never had the time to execute on. Don’t waste the chance!

Q:What three pieces of advice can you give for us?  

  1. Never consider yourself to be at a disadvantage as an immigrant in a foreign land, instead use your immigrant mindset to drive you forward; turn disadvantage into advantage.
  2. Even if you don’t want to start your own business or project, adopting entrepreneurial thinking can help you and the people you care about to have a better life.
  3. Focus on growing your passion, not worrying about your accent. When I started my entrepreneurial journey in a foreign land, I had doubts about whether I could make it and felt like the deck was stacked against me in a country that didn’t share my native language. Along the road I’ve come to realise that great ideas and deep passion transcend language barriers.

Q:How has your experience as an international student impacted your decision to be an entrepreneur? 

People often talk about “immigrant mindset”. As an immigrant you always have to go against the odds to survive, for most of us we have no other option, we simply can’t afford to fail. For me the impact was two-fold, on one hand, coming to a foreign land to start a new life taught me that I was stronger than I realised, and that I could rise to the challenge, on the other, the additional pressure, and disadvantage of being in a new environment that I didn’t fully understand, pushed me to work harder and smarter. I used the pressure as a tool to keep myself motivated.

Q: What are you looking forward to at the Future Founders Festival? And what Ideas to you hope to come from the participants. 

I’m looking forward to connecting with young and talented entrepreneurs of the future! I love meeting new people and I’m also always looking for great talent to join the Liven team. Young people also tend to have lots of creativity and see things from a different perspective, as I get older it helps me to stay connected with the next generation of thinkers so that I can broaden my perspective and get a view into the next big wave of innovation. The great thing about startups is that they are always solving problems that people have in everyday life, so I’m always really excited to hear people’s ideas and see what they are working on, how they are building cool stuff that can change the world – and how we live our lives – for the better.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for International students to tune in to the Future Founders Festival and StartSpace? 

I remember how inspiring it was to hear stories from entrepreneurs who had built amazing companies when I was still a student. Seeing that people who came from similar backgrounds to myself were doing so well in Australia really motivated me to rise to the challenge. The Founders Festival is a great opportunity to hear stories from amazing entrepreneurs who started off just like you, and it’s also an opportunity to meet other like minded students to share ideas and learnings, who knows, you might meet your future co-founder!

Want to see more of Grace Wong? Sign up Future Founders Festival, a FREE five day hackaton and digital startup event from 23-27th of September, for international student innovator, founder and entrepreneur. Meet, connect and pitch your ideas to business owners, experts and investors! Checkout their list of speakers and events at StartSpace

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