The Co-Founders of AdvanX Health, Ping and Wei Shian talks about how they are helping people understand more about their health and how they can take care of it through DNA testing.
Q: Your website says that you guys want to empower people to take charge of their health by providing a personal genomics discovery experience. Tell us a bit more about your services.
AdvanX Health is a healthcare & biotech startup in Malaysia that helps people understand their DNA better. With this service, we are able to look if you have a certain potential towards a talent or the risk of getting certain diseases so you can take a preventive measure.
All we do is collect samples of your saliva, and we help you to explore more about your DNA and use the information to make better decisions on your lifestyle.
Q: Is this a new technology? There aren’t many healthcare companies providing DNA testing service, and it’s not always available to the mass market. What happened over the years that made this possible today?
Not really, this technology has been available for over 10 years and it’s called genotyping technology. It’s a form of technology where we extract DNA and analyze them.
The reason why it has become more available now is because over the years is due to the cost being much lower and many companies from the US have been promoting consumer genetic testing which uses the same process. This is how we are able to bring a more affordable method of DNA testing to the mass market.
Q: What was your Eureka moment, and what made you spend the last couple of years dedicating your time and resources into building this business?
Wei Shian: I worked as a pharmacist in 2016, and I have a chance to serve the customers in the front line. So one of the issues I found out was we as pharmacists want to understand our customers better, and the customers want to understand themselves better too, but what can we do to help them?
The pharmacy I was with was later approached by an Australian company to promote DNA testing and this was when I was first introduced to it. The very moment I understand how it works, I was very excited and did tons of research. I believed this is the future of healthcare. At that time it didn’t do well in the pharmacy because the cost is around RM4000(1000USD) for a single test.
I then approached Ping, as she is known as the Pharmacist who knows coding. We then met up and have a discussion, and before we knew it we were committed to this idea and worked on this business.
Q: Awesome! I would assume both of you processed this experience differently. Do share with us some of the experiences and how your partnership came to be.
Ping: I would say that I have always been a generalist. I like to experiment with new things. You could say I am like a Jack of all trades and a master of none. I started out as a pharmacist, moved on to learn to code, and even pick up marketing skills over my time in Next Academy.
Q: In most of these Tech Startups, we used to see it being a male dominant field. How did any of this affect you and how was it like being a female co-founder of a biotech company?
Ping: Honestly, I didn’t really feel that much of a difference. In terms of opportunities and the people that I worked with, I have never been passed on an opportunity, or have been discriminated at work. The working environment I have been in has been very supportive and super empowering.
Wei Shian: If you look at the tech industry, there are now many conferences that support and help to push woman to achieve more in the tech startup fields, and has been a growing trend around the world.
Q: So, Ping. You mentioned you too had experience in working for a pharmacy, and later moved on to coding and marketing. What was the turning point that made you move to entrepreneurship?
Ping: When I was working as a pharmacist, I’ve been to different communities, I’ve been in hospital, I also did a brief six months in a pharmaceutical company. I really enjoyed working in the healthcare industry.
But when I had the opportunity to go into coding, it made me fall in love with coding. So I’ve always been on the lookout for an opportunity to marry these two skill sets. I was quite lost during my final years in Next Academy and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. My ex-boss asked me to reflect and think of what I truly want to do. Coincidentally, I was in this Whatsapp group filled with pharmacists who knows how to code. Wei Shian was asking in the group if anyone was interested in a new venture, so I took this opportunity and here we are.
Q: That’s a really cool story. What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve faced an entrepreneur, and what have you learned from it so far?
Ping: The biggest challenge for me has been people management. I’m not really a people person, and have been fairly reserved and quiet as a person. So when it comes to manage people, expectations, and how to empower / motivate them in the work place. Over a year has passed and I learned that there isn’t one approach to managing people, everyone is different, just like our DNA’s.
Q: Do you think you have improved in this entire process? What drives you to improve yourself with it comes to things like people management?
Ping: Maybe a little, but I think there’s still a lot more room to improve. For people, the team is very important in what we do. It’s the same everywhere else, the team is the one that drives the company forward so if they are not motivated or not driven to do better, that will affect our business and the company growth. So this is the part that truly drives us to be better at what we are doing.
Q: So one last question for Ping, what advise can you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs who are into a startup?
Just do it, Don’t be afraid of failures. And you know, you will learn a lot on the way.
Q: Thanks for the insights, Ping. So Wei Shian, do tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Wei Shian: I studied pharmacy when I was in Penang, and then moved on as a social entrepreneur during my time in Next Academy. I didn’t want to jump into the pharmacy line immediately, so I first worked at Fave for nine months mainly on business intelligence because of my interest in data analysis.
I later worked as a pharmacist in 2017 for a year before as it was a promise to my mum, and last year I started this business.
Q: You mention working in a pharmacy was a promise to your mum. We all had an issue in having to tell our parents that we are wanting to do our own business. How did you balance the expectations of people as well as your own?
Wei Shian: My parents have always been open to a lot of things. During my time in University, I always spoke to them about startups, and entrepreneurship and I’m lucky my parents were very open on these topics. My parents accepted the risks that I’m taking, and the impact my company can bring, and I’m grateful for that.
Q: I did a little bit of stalking on you, and you are currently taking a Masters Degree in Bioinformatics. While taking charge of AdvanX Health, how are you able to juggle your work as a co-founder / CEO and studies?
Wei Shian: The reason why I took this course was that it is very related to what we are doing. Another reason is also to be connected to the community. Health care is a big industry, but what we are doing is very niche. So being able to meet people in the related field is great. I didn’t do well in my first semester because I took too many subjects, but I’m now able to manage my time so I am able to balance my studies and my job.
Q: So, I’m an advocate by learning by experience. To be honest, I forgot 95% of the things I study in College and Uni. How important do you think these credentials are when it comes to running your own business?
Wei Shian: In my personal opinion, academic credentials now it’s not as important as it used to be during the 80s and 90s.But it’s still important. These credentials are a license for you to land a job interview if you want to go for the corporates jobs or work others people. After that, its all about your soft skills, your attitude and mindset and how you grow at work.
Q: In the process of building AdvanX Health, which marketing channels work best for you and why?
In the beginning, we always want to use the direct to consumer channel, where we sell direct to consumer online. But that is not the case for our products. Our product is fairly new in the market, so you need a lot of nurturing, and educating the people what it is about. So we are a little in the mix of both online and offline marketing.
For offline, we do not really transact any deals, but we provide education by talking to the people, having them understand what is Genomic testing, and what can your DNA tell you about yourself. This will later translate to online sales. We don’t run online ads to convert sales, but more towards spreading the news of whats out there and letting people know that we exist and if you have anything, you can contact us.
Q: Interesting. So this is a little bit of a casual question. Your Facebook profiles say you are into esports and gaming. What sort of games do you play?
I played Ragnarok online as a kid, and nowadays I am more interested in team strategy games such as Dota, but I’m also trying to find time to play other games.
I previously was looking for opportunities to get into the eSports industry because I feel that it is a very interesting industry.
Q: So this question will be for our viewers who are still students. What advice can you give to a student looking run a startup that they can potentially build on after graduating.
Wei Shian: I think the first thing to do set your mind very clear when you are in university. Make more friends and people from different backgrounds because networking really helps when you are building your business. Upon graduating and if you are still not sure, work with someone. When working with someone, you can perceive how you should be as an employee, and how you can be a good employer as well. Learning from your peers and employers and it will help in your business.
If you are not sure to make the jump to entrepreneurship, my advice is to work for someone first. Work for startups, corporates, and you will definitely learn in the process and will be ready to jump when the time comes.
Ping: Just to add on a few things. For college students, you will be having a lot of time on your hands. So, identifying a problem around your space, and try to solve them. Business ideas can pop up from there.
Just want to say thank you to our guests from AdvanX Health, Wei Shian and Ping. If you’re interested in checking them out, visit AdvanX Health if you want to understand what kind of nutrients are best for your body, how much coffee/alcohol your body can take, and much more other information to help you to take care of your body.