In the age of cryptocurrency, automation, and artificial intelligence (Hello, Funan), tech is king. But entrepreneur Kiyan Foroughi isn’t interested jumping on a trend bandwagon: he’s spent over 15 years acquiring and retaining talent in various growth roles, and now co-founds Singapore-based Electric8, a digital consultancy comprised of product, growth and data specialists. Business ventures aside, we check in with the tech maniac for to poke his brain on guilty pleasures, world travels, and what makes him tick.
Hi Kiyan! How do you feel about being called an Eye Candy?
If it means what I think it means, it’s very flattering, I guess! What more I could say? There are worse things you can be called.
What’s one thing not many people know about you?
I have this little guilty pleasure from time to time, which is watching street dance battle clips online. I’m a big hip hop fan and I really enjoy watching these dancers and artists express themselves to the rhythms with their bodies. They reach this state of flow where they just move and react purely on instinct to the beats. It’s mesmerising when they reach such states.
You’re quite the serial entrepreneur. Tell us more about what you’ve been working on.
I’m one of the founders and directors of Electric8, which is the second company I’ve co-founded. Electric8 is a one-of-a-kind agency based in Singapore and Jakarta which provides end-to-end product, growth and design teams to tech companies in South East Asia. We embed ourselves as if we were part of the team and help our clients figure out the right tech solution to build, then design and bring it to life, and help scale the user base systematically and sustainably. We’ve been fortunate to work with the likes of Capitaland, Razer, Tiket.com and CIMB Niaga to just name a few.
How did you get into tech entrepreneurship in the first place?
I’ve been exposed to technology since the start of my career. I started working as an investment banking analyst focused on mergers & acquisitions in the technology industry and later move to making private equity investments in that same sector. Through that, I got to watch from up close the best technology entrepreneurs and companies as they grew. That’s when I decided that I wanted to build value, just like these entrepreneurs, rather than shift it like in finance. I’ve been a tech entrepreneur ever since for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, watching those accomplished folks back when I was in finance also fooled me into thinking that building a company was easy. I was in for a rude awakening when I set up my first company!
You’re also an active angel investor. What else do you do in your spare time?
I read a lot on my commute. I usually end up reading a book every couple of weeks. It’s mostly business, history or psychology books. I also read a lot about music especially – you guessed it – about hip hop.
Surely you have other non-work interests too?
I do a fair amount of exercise too. I play basketball, work out most mornings, swim a few times a week and recently also got into yoga thanks to my wife (who is a yoga teacher herself).
It seems like you’ve lived all over the world, from New York to Paris, Dubai, and Singapore. Where’s been the most memorable for you?
It’s really hard to pick one thing to be honest. Each place I’ve been fortunate to live in has given me something memorable. France gave my family a home when they left Iran due to the revolution and it was where I was raised to always question the why. Dubai gave me the ability to adapt to different cultures from different parts of the world. The US greatly influenced my working style. London is where I built then sold my first business, while also hitting the biggest lows in my life and learning to dig myself out of them. Singapore is where I’ve built the most self-awareness and really came into my own as a person.
What are your travel essentials?
Right now, I can’t get enough of my TransferWise Debit Card. I’m constantly travelling across all of South East Asia for work or personal reasons. The card allows me to hold balances at unbeatable rates in multiple currencies and pay like I’m a local in those countries. No bank fees. Nada.
Give us a heads up. What’s a big new project you’re excited about?
In 2020, at Electric8, we’re going to start looking at our own technology ideas with the amazingly talented team we’ve been putting together the past few years as well as the cash reserves we’ve built up. Stay tuned.