Melvin Poh – founder of Volition Ventures

Melvin was born in Malaysia and educated in Perth before co-founding Volition Ventures which specialises in providing private funds to young entrepreneurs, fresh start-ups and SMEs found mainly in the collegiate networks of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. He is a recent Law School graduate and is currently and concurrently pursuing his license to practise commercial law, his CFA credentials and postgraduate studies in business.

Melvin comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His grandfather founded a large pharmaceutical corporation in Taiwan and his uncle founded Malaysia’s first, largest and only domestic wall coverings manufacturing company, which his family is still actively involved in. There has always been immense business interests in his extended family and it is via those family business enterprises and the values that Melvin developed his own business acumen and vision.

Melvin is an entrepreneur at heart and started his first business venture, a private movie rental business on the boarding house, when he was 14, living and studying in Hale School (Boarding School) in Perth, WA. The business was profitable and got him notoriety in the boarding house but the teachers got the better of him.

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide make it happen? 

More and more young people today are taking the initiative to pursue their business visions and ideas, and make it happen.

Volition Venture specialises in providing private funds to young entrepreneurs, fresh start-ups and SMEs found mainly in the collegiate networks of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. We strive to help many college entrepreneurs build capital for their start-ups to realize their ventures. We do this mainly through direct capital investments from private funds or via connecting these entrepreneurs with interested private investors and parties in our network. We operate directly in college networks, in that we have associations and representatives in the universities and their societies and guilds. Social media has also allowed us to become incredibly accessible to college entrepreneurs.

Volition Ventures was founded as a result of my own personal experiences in University. I have been heavily involved in our on-campus business community, and from my personal observations, there have been immense entrepreneurial interests and activities there. I believe this is a rapidly growing trend because in the recent years there has been a significant growth in college-born businesses internationally, some of which have come to revolutionize the world and dominate global markets. More and more young people today are taking the initiative to pursue their business visions and ideas, and make it happen. This is incredibly exciting. However, with that being said, what is interesting is that many of these ventures are unrealized because young entrepreneurs and small enterprises in Universities are often alienated and unable to raise adequate funds to progress. Specifically, what tends to happen is that these young entrepreneurs often lack the understanding and the know how to approach raising funds.

Most of the funding, from my research, usually come from close family or friends. Whereas those who approach private equity firms will usually have sad stories to tell.  From my experience in my own ventures, many private equity firms are very exacting and overly-bureaucratic in their capital investments. Often potentials are not realized by these firms because of the rigid criterions they employ to assess a venture’s potential and their strict pecuniary focus on profitability. So many of these young entrepreneurs are turned down for funding.

From these personal experiences and understanding, I quickly began to realise how we could contribute to and supplement this emerging scene.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?

Since our establishment last year, we have already invested in a total of 6 college ventures and have successfully facilitated private investments in 2 ventures. We are always actively seeking out new ventures and private investors and expanding our network. The key is to make Volition Ventures as accessible as it can be for these parties and that is something that we continue to work on.

I am always excited about the work I do for Volition Ventures. However, what I personally am most excited about, is a current project we are working on. We were approached by some social entrepreneurs earlier this year in January about the creation of a new social media website, “Fund You”, which will be based on the ethos and ideals of what Volition Ventures represents. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to disclose too much about the features of this upcoming website but I can say that it will be a very exciting website in that it allows for the virtual interaction between private investors and new entrepreneurs. We have been actively building our team for this project since February and I anticipate much progress will be made in the next 3 months.

How do you make ideas happen?

I think passion, commitment and confidence are important factors because there will be many occasions in the pursuit of your idea where you will encounter difficulties and frustrations.

I think it takes several factors to really make ideas happen. In summary, it takes a combination of passion, commitment, confidence, research and risk. I have tried my hands at several ideas throughout my life and from my own reflection, those that have not succeeded have been attributable to a lack of one of these factors.

I think passion, commitment and confidence are important factors because there will be many occasions in the pursuit of your idea where you will encounter difficulties and frustrations. You need genuine passion, confidence and unquestionable devotion to your idea, to be able to really carry it through all the obstacles that you will encounter.

I would say research is perhaps one of the most fundamental factors, because if you don’t familiarize yourself with the playing-field that you are trying to break into with your idea, you will be caught up short. Adequate market research was lacking in most of my early business ideas and the reception of these ideas did not meet my expectations. Quite simply, to do well and make it happen, know what to expect and expect it well.

The major barrier for a lot of people in making ideas happen is risks. They don’t want to take on risks. What you have to understand though is at the end of the day, no matter how well planned-out your idea is there will always be risks. Even if you attempt to minimize risks, there will always be an inherent risk that the idea might not turn out the way you want it to. Some people see that as failure and people are afraid of failures. This prevents them from actually taking the initiative to realize their ideas. The truth is you can’t eradicate the risk of unexpected outcomes, however you should never treat these outcomes as absolute failure on your part. Rather, you should embrace them and learn to acknowledge and see them as opportunities to tailor and improve your idea. Once you realize this, you will be able to approach risks in the right way with the right attitude.

What does your typical day look like?

People who know me personally, know that I am a workaholic. So it’s not surprising that my typical day often revolves around work. As I am currently pursuing several other postgraduate studies and qualifications, I spend most of the day attending classes. Once I am done with class, I check my email and spend some time managing my personal investment portfolio.  Around evening time, I will usually call the other co-founder of Volition Ventures in Perth, who actively oversees our daily operations, to get myself up-to-date. We will usually participate scheduled conference calls at specific times with our international team over the weekends, to talk about company matters. I will also be spending time conducting relevant research and reading world news. When all is done, I like to relax to a nice book and some nice music. I enjoy reading, writing articles and participating in discussions in my free time.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organization in Australia?

Australia is full of young entrepreneurs, there is so much potential, it would be great there is more interaction from big businesses and key people.

Initially, the major challenge faced in starting the company itself was finding the right team. I incorporated the company with several individuals, however, since then there has been some serious restructuring to the team, some have left and several have joined. As I found out, people have different business personalities, expectations and not everyone can contribute or operate on the same wavelength as each other. Finding the right team was a challenge because it takes more than personal relationships, friendships, trusts or dealings to find compatible business partners.

The other major challenge faced was establishing ourselves in the collegiate networks, where we intended to operate. When we started up, we were largely unknown. So marketing our services was a major obstacle for us. Expanding our network and making ourselves more accessible to more universities in Australia and in other countries, I anticipate, will remain a challenge for us in the years to come. We’ve also been working hard to develop a more extensive network with more professional investors, business people and other firms. Australia is full of young entrepreneurs, there is so much potential, it would be great there is more interaction from big businesses and key people.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

If you want things to happen in your life. Make it happen. If you want to have ideas, work for them. No matter what, be ready to work hard for what you want.

Here’s an idea. Ideas and associated business success do not come free and you should never have the mind-set that it does. In fact, nothing in life does. If you want things to happen in your life. Make it happen. If you want to have ideas, work for them. No matter what, be ready to work hard for what you want. Any half-hearted attempt and a mind-set that delves on shortcuts will only end in failure. That is what my grandfather taught me when I was young and it has been an idea that has empowered me since.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Business plays a substantial role. I think business drives progressive social change. When you think about it, a lot of the progressive innovations, products and services today that have defined and improved our very lifestyles and societies have emanated from business. Most of us live in societies where economically speaking, a person is awarded greatly if they contribute value to others in the society. With that being the case there will always be an incentive for businesses and business people to progressively provide value to others and innovate. I think what we are seeing with many of the young and emerging entrepreneurs and the amazing innovations that have created is a good example of this.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

3 websites? That’s a hard one because there are so many relevant websites today. However if I were to recommend 3 websites that you should visit daily, they would definitely be

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

Yes there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with Volition Ventures. We are always looking to expand our representatives and private investor’s network. So if you would like to get involved in what we do at Volition Ventures, please email us. Recently, we have been looking for talented programmers and coders to work on “Fund You”, our new social media website. If you are a passionate person with those technical skills, we may just be very happy to hear from you.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

I really enjoy Chi, a Chinese Restaurant located at 14/366 Albany Highway, Victoria Park in Perth. For those of you, looking for a nice Chinese dinner, I highly recommend it. The food there is great and rather authentic compared to many of the other restaurants I’ve dined in. The prices are pretty reasonable as well which makes it a great place to bring friends. I think what sells it the most for me is that they offer Fried Ice-Cream for dessert. If you have never heard of or tried Fried Ice-Cream, I assure you, it will be a novelty experience that you will not forget!

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