Born and educated in Cambridge, Simon Squibb is now building a nest in Hong Kong. The analogy is not of the domestic variety (although he’s doing that, too). Instead, it’s a corporate nest – a collection of businesses and brands that he hopes to nurture and grow into beautiful and profitable birds. With his background in marketing and branding, initially with hotels in London and latterly with companies in Hong Kong and Bangkok, Squibb is in an enviable position to launch his own corporate flock. He swaps e-mails en route to Los Angeles.
How did you end up in HK? I worked for five-star hotels for the first six years of my career [in London], before moving to Hong Kong in 1997. I was offered a job here and was attracted by the experience and career potential of living on the doorstep of China. I worked for about six months in Hong Kong before being asked to head up and establish an office in Thailand. I then spent about two years in Bangkok before returning to Hong Kong in 2000 and deciding to set up my first company called Fluid Design, now one of Hong Kong’s leading creative agencies. In 2010, Fluid was awarded ‘HK’s Creative Agency of the Year’ by Marketing Magazine. Nine years later, I set up my second venture, Nest Investments, which now owns nine companies in Hong Kong.
How many people did you employ when you launched Fluid, and how many do you employ now, including indirectly through Nest? Three people when we launched 10 years ago. Now, within the NEST network, we employ over 120 people in Hong Kong. Do you invest both cash and other resources through Nest? If so, what types of resources? We invest cash and resources into companies we believe in. Resources-wise, we offer everything from legal and accounting knowledge and support to branding and marketing strategy – full 360-degree support to ensure business success. What specific investments have you made? What types of venture or business are these companies involved in? We have recently invested in a delivery business called Porterhouse Wines and Porterhouse.com.hk as we believe e-commerce is going to grow in Asia in the next 10 years and that people love the convenience of home delivery of great products, combined with an easy-to-use shopping experience. We have also invested in print magazines, such as Foodie and Loft, so we are not restricted by any one category. We see a future in print as well as online and think it is the combination of unique businesses that makes us distinct as they can work together and cover all bases.
What were the initial challenges and lessons learned? Oh, so many! I am still learning and that’s what I love about what I do. But the main lessons are never to give up, always believe in your ideas and follow through, and I think it is very important to surround yourself with the right people and never settle for anything less than the best in your organisation.
Was it difficult to attract the right talent? Yes, especially for Fluid. But once we were established, it got easier and talent would seek us out. Finding motivated, honest, smart and loyal people is hard in any country, but once you know what you’re looking for, Hong Kong is actually one of the few places where many people want to be entrepreneurs, so for Nest it has not been that hard to find the right people to help us.
What are your main reasons for setting up Nest? First of all, I have established the network and experience in Asia over the past 14 years to make such an idea possible. Also, I have met a lot of talented people in Hong Kong with great ideas who needed help to get their businesses off the ground, so there is a big need for what Nest can do. I felt that with my extensive business knowledge in Asia, linked with my brand and marketing experience, I could help these budding entrepreneurs succeed.
So Nest was born and our vision is not only to support Hong Kong entrepreneurs to build successful companies, but also to establish some passionate and powerful Hong Kong brands that can one day be exported around the world.
Much like what American brands and entrepreneurs have done with businesses such as Starbucks or Apple, or even recently with Facebook or LinkedIn, we want Hong Kong and entrepreneurs here to be known as global success stories. And Nest is doing its bit to make that view of Hong Kong and its entrepreneurs a reality.
Do you think Hong Kong’s young people can become big players? Yes, and we are putting our time and money where our mouth is, investing millions in savvy entrepreneurs with ideas that have global potential. What are your guiding principles regarding entrepreneurship and management? Honesty and integrity and working hard are at the core of all our businesses and brands.
What would you advise budding entrepreneurs? You live once so go for it. Don’t be scared to fail. Don’t ever give up!