10 things I learnt in 2019 as a late-stage founder

Here it is; another close of the year recap post. The second of a three-part series – my yearly highlights. Something that was started in late 2016 and has somehow become a must-do for me every year.

The first part is the annual Purpose Langkawi Report, in which I talked about the state of Purpose as a business through the activities at Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi, the Purpose Fellowship, race report and business update. A mix of everything in one.

Second is this one, where I look back and write personal insights to things that happened throughout the year.

The third part, to be written in January is about the coming year’s outlook. In January 2018, I wrote “Committed 2018“, followed by “More of the same insanity, only bigger” in 2019. Uncannily, those became my personal themes that drove me across those years.

I’ve yet to come up with what the next 2020 theme will be as, at right now, I’m still busy looking back and tying up odds and ends to make sure that the year ends up well. So here goes – 10 things I learnt in 2019 as a late-stage founder.

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Purpose Tri Suits at the 2019 SEA Games, Philippines

Here are the photos of athletes in action at the 2019 SEA Games Triathlon and Duathlon events. My heartfelt thank yous to all teams and athletes who chose to wear Purpose to glory at the Games.

Credits and sincere gratitude to photographers Marvin Manalang (AsiaTri), Fiz Said and other individuals who shared and graciously provided the approval for these images to be compiled into one album.

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Purpose at the Southeast Asian Games (SEAGames) 2019

The biennial Southeast Asia (SEA) Games has officially begun. Two years ago, if I had told you then that Purpose would be the racing kit of choice among national federations, you won’t believe me. I wouldn’t too.

Official Race Wear Singapore Triathlon and Duathlon Team
Official Race Wear Team Malaysia Triathlon and Duathlon
Official Race Wear Vietnam Triathlon and Duathlon Team

Yet, here we are. In this year’s SEA Games held in the Philippines, Purpose is worn by the national teams of Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. At the same time individual athletes from Indonesia – under individual agreements, will be wearing Purpose proudly as well.

A huge achievement for a still very young, 2.5 year old sportswear brand. 3 months ago when I was interviewed for a 3 minute segment on TV, I mentioned that my athletes that I dream to have wearing Purpose are those coming from this region.

Now here we are, a dream come true.

All the best to teams Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia at the SEA Games.

Purpose Ironman Langkawi 2019 Report

It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.

Dr. Steve Maraboli

And in a blink, we’ve come to the third chapter of what is now the annual Purpose Ironman Langkawi report. One part race report, another part business update, and a third more important part – what’s next.


It was just two years ago; November 2017, that I first hosted a small convocation of people for a Purpose Appreciation Dinner. Not many knew of Purpose then apart from those that have got to know of the brand through the cycling kits which came out earlier.

In 2017 the choice for Purpose tri suits was extremely limited. Understandably, because the brand had just launched. More tri suits were being developed at that time. Hence I took the chance to take two prototypes to be race-tested in the 70.3 race. I wore one and another tester wore the second, three-quarter length version, developed for the Muslim audience. These prototypes went on to be produced into the ELITE Racing series from January 2018 onwards.

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Women Breast Cancer Awareness month

Over the past week, we ran stories of individual women, who in their own ways, are making an impact in triathlon and cycling. Read them on our Facebook, Instagram as well as on Purpose Magazine section titled Profiles in Purpose.

These culminate today, the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Women have always played a big role in my life. My mum was a single mum so I grew up very attached to her. When I’m not with her, I’d spend time with my aunt. She has three daughters. My cousins. My younger years were spent with them. As I turned 14 my mum remarried, I got three sisters. All my life, I remember growing up around women.

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Purpose x Triathlon Singapore. Official Race Wear for the SEA Games 2019 and ITU-level races.

Announcing the partnership with Triathlon Singapore. Starting with the SEA Games this year, Purpose will become the official race apparel partner and provider to Singapore’s national dua and triathlon team. After the Games, Purpose will be the official ITU kit partner for Triathlon Singapore and ITU age-group athletes for ITU sanctioned events internationally.

This marks the mark of an awesome 3-year journey for me. Many of which have been uphill. Apart from the fund-raising, which is a common issue in all startups, the biggest challenge has been in convincing others the performance, quality, value and philosophy behind Purpose.

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The TV episode on me and Purpose Performance Wear on Suria Channel

It’s easy to stand in the crowd, but it takes courage to stand alone.

Mahatma Gandhi

In some uncanny ways, the above quote rings true not only for myself, but also for Rosli Razak, a reporter and presenter with Mediacorp’s Malay Suria Channel.

Rosli read and followed my journey in Purpose in late 2018. Last year. He was intriqued enough and felt that my journey was worthy of being highlighted on TV. From that time, it took him nearly 8 months of trying to convince his peers, colleagues, supervisors and bosses of it’s value.

In July, we communicated again after our first chat in December of last year. After many tries, they finally agreed that this should be a feature on Berita’s documentary series on personalities that chose to follow their own purpose – Suara Naluri. Literal translation; Voice of the Heart.

Hence on, it was full gas for both of us. Him more than me, if one were to judge by the well-produced episode that finally aired. I’m still thankful for this. Watch the 24-minutes episode below and you’ll agree.

Like him, it’s not been an easy jour for me either. But I’ll keep it to another post. I believe that this post should specifically be about Rosli Razak (reporter/producer), Alwiyah (presenter), as well as the crews and management of Mediacorp Berita Channel for seeing, and agreeing, with mine and the story of Purpose Performance Wear.

Please watch the episode. Thank you.

A founder is a lonely journey, made lonelier when listening to others

If you’re getting ready to take your entrepreneurial journey, be prepared for loneliness, but don’t resign yourself to it. Learn to say “no,” but recognize when it’s okay to say “yes.” And finally, be willing to sacrifice some things for your business, but don’t ever sacrifice everything.

Mike Speer on Quora, Why Is Entrepreneurship Considered a Lonely Journey

As I’m taking stock of the week that was, it dawned on me how lonely this journey is. Granted there are many highs too, if you’ve noticed the giant strides Purpose has achieved in two short years.

Much of these successes you can see in the public domain. The conflicts however, are very much kept a secret.

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Disbelieving the disbelievers

This blog is up again, after being taken down 2 months ago. The reason why I decided to take it down was that it was getting a bit too much to update the content of my thoughts and journey on multiple platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and here. I felt that they needed to be everywhere to be valuable.

That’s what every consultant will tell you. So I’m here writing, they’re wrong. Or at least, not correct.

I learnt now that my content only needed to be in where it is most valuable. In the two months since taking the original Opinionist blog down, I’ve learnt that here is where my content is best.

I’ve learnt too, which we often do through reflections, of the many milestones that have happened in the past 6 months since my last update. In a bittersweet way, I’ve learnt that I’ve neglected to post these down into a long-form format, focusing instead on the short snippets that most of us do – on social media.

In this journey, both short and long-form are equally important. They balance out some things that I want to share less, together with others that I (some times) want to share more.

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