workbuddy Member Spotlight: Mohan Belani

Post on February 5, 2024

workbuddy Member Spotlight: Mohan Belani


Mohan Belani is the Co-founder and CEO of e27, a startup and tech ecosystem platform focused on helping startup founders build and grow their companies. He also runs Asia's leading web technology event, Echelon.

Mohan and his team are members of workbuddy. Read on in our exclusive interview to learn more him, his company, plus advice he has for startups in Asia!


Can you share with us your personal journey as the co-founder and CEO of e27, and how you got started in the tech and startup ecosystem?

I've been tech-focused since primary school, starting with coding and progressing to building gaming PCs—an early foray into entrepreneurship. In 2006, as part of the NUS Overseas College program in Silicon Valley, I became the first employee at a startup, gaining exposure to fundraising, digital marketing, sales, and product management. Returning to Singapore in 2007, I joined e27, established by former NOC alumni, aligning with NUS's mission to encourage student entrepreneurship and bolster the tech ecosystem. After stints at startups like mig33 and Littlelives, and initiating a mobile gaming company, I ultimately concentrated on e27, transforming it into a fully-fledged company.


 What significant changes have you observed in the startup landscape in the region since you began your career?

Notable changes would be:

I) There is a bolder and more enhanced focus by Founders in addressing challenging problems in sectors like logistics, food, and healthcare. This reflects the longer life cycle and maturity of the tech ecosystem. 

II) The perception of startups has shifted from being considered an alternative lifestyle choice against working for a large company. It has become a serious career option for professionals who see problem-solving opportunities and the prospect for significant economic gains. This shift is particularly vital for Southeast Asia, where local individuals, supported by regional VCs, play a crucial role in driving job creation, innovation, and economic growth.


Can you highlight any recent trends or emerging areas of interest in the Asian startup ecosystem that have captured your attention?


I am interested in the new trends of building a company in a financially sustainable model. I have been an advocate of profitable growth, way before profitability was a sexy way of building companies, and I think more Founders are opening up to the idea of slower growth but better unit economics and financial sustainability.


e27 is also known for organizing industry events. Was there any particularly memorable event or initiative that you believe made a difference in the community or had a significant impact on the participants? What made it stand out for you?


We are well known for our Echelon events. Our upcoming Echelon 2024 event is coming up on May 15 - 16, but a most memorable initiative is the 2018 Academy event. This involved bringing 300 founders and potential founders to a 3-day, 2-night education retreat in Batam. The profound discussions on company building and the deep curiosity during the event proved inspiring. Notably, several successful companies emerged from this program. 


What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and startups looking to thrive in the competitive Asian tech market?


In Southeast Asia's rapidly growing tech ecosystem, the competition for talent, capital, attention, and customers is intensifying . Founders must carefully assess the problem they are addressing, ensuring clarity on the scale and monetization potential before fully committing. Some startups may be better off as side hustles or successful small businesses, eliminating the need for extensive fundraising and scaling efforts if they are not suitable for larger scale operations.


 How big is the e27 team now? Could you describe the work culture you aim to cultivate within your organization?


The team is 29 people strong, with employees spread across the region (Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, India). We’ve always been remote so communication and accountability are important parts of our culture. We are fairly structured as an organization and use OKRs, metrics and daily huddles to provide direction and cadence to our day to day work.


In your experience, what are common challenges that startups face? How do you think using workbuddy can help to address some of them?


Early stage startups are always strapped for cash and if there are ways to preserve the precious dollars, Founders would love that. Workbuddy offers the flexibility of an office but with a very reasonable price point. My team loves using it because we can use multiple different spaces depending on our needs and we aren’t stuck to one single place at a time. Adding new employees is also a breeze, plus the friendly workbuddy team is an added bonus.


Out of the 50 coworking locations available to book with the workbuddy app, which is your favourite and why?


I have 2 favourites - Csuites at Paya Lebar Quarter and Distrii at Republic Plaza. Both locations are very convenient for meetings around the area. They have excellent coworking space facilities including large tables, good sunlight and quiet rooms for calls.


In the fast-paced world of tech and startups, do you have any unique productivity hacks or routines that keep you focused and efficient?


While I don't consider my techniques unique, I employ OKRs to establish quarterly focus areas and goals. I reflect on desired areas for personal improvement at the start of each quarter, encompassing fitness, relationships, and knowledge. OKRs serve as a measure for these plans, with a final reflection at the end of the quarter.


If you could have dinner with any three people, living or historical figures, who would they be and why?

First, my paternal grandfather, whom I've never met, lived through WW2 and the Japanese occupation in Malaysia and later moved to Singapore. From what I hear, he was a man of grit and resilience. I'd love to understand how he navigated challenges and built our family.

Secondly, David Goggins intrigues me with his passion on having a positive mindset, and his old-school approach to overcoming adversity and pushing yourself to the limits. While his style may seem harsh to many, it resonates well with me, and I'd love to hear his life story firsthand.

Thirdly, James Cameron. He is a pioneer in film and adventure and I’d love to understand his creative ideation process. Also how he generated and secured support, both in manpower and finances, to take his big ideas forward.


Drop Us a Line