You may not always have the market data, but if you think that something will change the world, then you believe in it.
For Michael, entrepreneurship is not just about making profits. As a co-founder in the quick-paced world of marine data, there are needs to meet and people to help. With the comprehensive education provided by MSc TIP, he was able to finetune his passion and work more efficiently, enabling him to do his part to change the world.
Could you tell us a little more about your company?
OceanPixel makes use of marine data to help various sectors such as renewable energy, aquaculture, maritime transport, shipping, logistics, oil & gas, and anything that makes use of marine space. We have been focusing on marine renewable energy the past 4 years. We build networks of supply chains and help bring in technology and expertise from around the world to assist project developers. You see, people have explored a lot of other renewable energy sources, but it’s rare to hear about marine energy even though there is so much ocean around us. We saw that there was a huge potential in clean renewable marine energy, and we wanted to raise awareness and help island nations and other coastal cities gain access to it, especially in South-East Asia.
You have a lot of experience in marine renewable energy and the environment – what made you decide to pursue a further education in entrepreneurship?
That’s a good question! Actually, I didn’t have any formal training in business at the beginning. I relied a lot on information I found online and my practical business experience from previous ventures to help my company. What I like about the MSc TIP is that it provides a structured way of gaining knowledge, which is very beneficial for any aspiring entrepreneur.
Have you heard of the knowledge quadrant? Basically, you can split knowledge engagement into four sections – what you know that you know, what you know that you don’t know, so on and so forth. Without a formal education, I wouldn’t even know what I didn’t know. And that’s where further education was really important – it helped to fill in the gaps and expand my knowledge so that I could streamline important aspects in business and make things work better.
For me, it was a choice between the MBA and the MSc TIP. I chose the latter because while the MBA teaches you about managing a business, coupled with the necessary jargon you need to communicate your business to stakeholders, it’s not as geared towards start-ups as the TIP. I would say the MBA teaches you a lot about management, but that’s just a subset of the overall skills you need to run a company.
Has the MSc TIP led to any changes in your mindset?
Definitely! I think the biggest change is really the ability to embrace a growth mindset. When you have a more managerial mindset, you think about how you can best allocate the resources you currently have to achieve greater returns. But when you have a growth mindset, it’s not just about what you currently have – you begin thinking about building capability, venturing outside the box, how you can gain more resources in the future, and how you can keep your company growing.
Besides this, you stop being afraid to try new things. You have to push the boundaries, and experiment and create new solutions if you want to overcome the valley of death in your innovation curve. Part of being an entrepreneur is also about planning ahead – and you can’t plan for obstacles if you are too afraid to try new things in the first place.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur?
There are three major challenges, I would say. Entrepreneurship is all about innovation, being the first to come up with an idea or a new way of doing things. And often, people may not be very receptive to new ideas since they want to stick to the status quo.
Besides that, there can be practical difficulties in helping your idea come to life. Like funding, operating costs, salaries – all these are logistical problems that may hinder the success of any start-up.
Then there’s also pivoting. You have to be accepting of criticism, and that can be difficult to do! No one wants to hear that their idea isn’t perfect. But accepting criticism is an essential part of growth. You need to listen to other people’s feedback and use it to improve your ideas.
What traits do you think are most important for any entrepreneur?
The most important traits to me are leadership, passion and the cardinal virtues, which are fortitude, prudence, justice, and temperance. These are the qualities which make a good leader, and if you think about it, entrepreneurs are leaders too – they are the first to try things, they inspire people to follow their ideas.
But you also need to have faith, hope and charity or love. These traits help you to press on during challenging periods and fuel the need to help people. Besides being a leader, an entrepreneur also aims to make the world a better place and to me, that’s the main difference between an entrepreneur and a businessman.
What do you think is the importance of entrepreneurship?
Without entrepreneurship, I don’t think I would have survived being the CEO and Manager Director of a start-up. Because start-ups are a rebellion. They are something different, and entrepreneurs are the leaders who enable things to happen and change.
What goals do you have for your entrepreneurial journey?
I want to contribute positive impact. Whether that’s impact to my family, my friends, to society, to the world, I hope to contribute positive impact in one way or another.
Michael received his PhD in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Philippines, Diliman and the Master of Science in Technopreneurship and Innovation from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2012 and 2018 respectively. Michael is the Co-Founder and Director of OceanPixel, a company using marine data to enable the marine industry, especially in the field of marine renewable energy. Incorporated in September 2014, OceanPixel has since positioned itself to be the pioneer company dedicated to ocean renewable energy intelligence in South-East Asia and has since pivoted to expand its market to smart cloud-based data management for various marine and maritime sectors.