Happy Monday, fellow hustlers! It’s time for your weekly interview with a founder to discover his story and his business. This week we spent time with Sylvain Joandel, GM of Fabernovel Asia and talked about transformation, China and the World Expo.
Hi Sylvain, tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure. I arrived in Asia 10 years ago and I started with Shanghai. I was working for the French Consulate there. It was in 2009 just before the World Expo and I was helping preparing it. It really it was an incredible time: I was 23 at the time and everyday we ad CEO or politicians. It meant a lot of representation and public relations but it was really intense.
After that I became CTO of a small creative agency in 2012, who were just getting started with the Web, and I finally became Managing Director. I was still young, 29 at the time, so it was fun but I had to work like crazy!
After that I joined Velvet Group, another agency which was then acquired by Fabernovel early 2017. After all these years in Shanghai I felt I needed a change and was attracted by Singapore, so I decided to pitch the idea to our board. But there wasn’t much discussion, it only made sense for us to be in Singapore. 99% of our customers are big corporates, it is very “Parisian”, and they’re all here in Singapore. That’s how I became the 1st Fabernovelian in Singapore.
What exactly does Fabernovel?
FaberNovel means “Building the new” in latin, and our job to help our customers transform themselves. We cover the whole value chain, from co-design to execution, to build digital platforms for them.
There’s a very strong human dimension to transformation so we help understand the evolution, we upskill the staff, either on hard skills or soft skills, like tools, methodologies like design-thinking. Transformation really goes through a change in mindset and it takes a lot of time. A good way to do this is with learning expedition, where we take teams in Shanghai or Singapore to show them innovative initiatives or startups here.
How do you see the Asian market?
It’s unbelievable. The speed of execution is amazing. People are doers, not thinkers. Sometimes it’s a bit hard for us as a business because consulting is not really in their mindset: when they do something they don’t start with a study or research, they just go and execute.
The scale is also very impressive. When Alibaba does a Minimum Viable Product, they open 50 stores in 18 months -that’s what an MVP means for them!
Finally the adoption rate is incredible here. WHen a ne technology is introduced people always want to try it.
WeChat is a good example of that. They started in 2011 when everybody in China knew only Weibo, and in 8 years they have become the dominant player. Sometimes people in Europe or the US compare WeChat to Whatsapp. It’s totally wrong, WeChat does so much more than Whatsapp. You can pay your bills, send money, sign official documents, etc. WeChat was founded 2 years after WeChat and it has not evolved a lot even after the acquisition by Facebook, and today they’re just trying to catch-up.
I think we’ll see more examples of this, the Western world will more and more replicate what is done in Asia.
How about the place of Singapore in Asia?
To me Singapore in Southeast Asia is really like China 10 years ago. It’s a big, modern city but you take a 2h flight and you have small villages waiting to use and leverage technology.
Overall I feel something huge is going to happen here.
By the way you can subscribe and read all our studies on our Slideshare channel. You can find our paper on WeChat, and everything there is under Creative Commons licence so feel free to leverage it and share it.
What role do you want Fabernovel Asia to have here?
Well our job is to help our customer transform themselves, and I think there’s a lot to do here.
Changing the mindset and the culture in large companies takes a lot of time and I want us to be at the center of that. We’re passionate, we like to meet people and connect the various actors so I would like us to be at the very center of the ecosystem.
With our learning expeditions I hope we’ll be able to work more closely with other startups here and in the region.
Fabernovel also creates startups: for example Digitick, Morning CoWorking or Urban Campus. I would love to do that here. We see customers’ needs and sometimes people in the teams want to build ventures around it.
In conclusion, we’re in the doing, we’re in the field and we like to co-create, so let’s meet!