Jon YongFook Cockle
Occupation: CEO of 24-12
With a very healthy following on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms, it seems his reputation as a source of hilarious Twitter one-liners has truly preceded him. But people’s knowledge of him seems to stop there.
People probably don’t know that he moved from the UK to Japan to be an English teacher, that he lacks any motor skills to even attempt sports like football or tennis, that he makes sure whatever businesses he has a hand in makes money from day one and that, despite all external expectation or image, he’s just a guy who loves to cook.
I know that’s not the typical thing for a guy to do in his free time. I must say I’m not very sporty at all. I mean, I do exercise but it’s mostly solo stuff like rock climbing, yoga, swimming or just hitting the gym. I’m terrible at any sport that requires motor skills. I love cooking so much because there’s just so much to learn. It’s a subject that you can really sink your teeth into, both figuratively and literally. The most recent thing that I learnt is the science which heat can affect protein. It really helps when you actually get down to practical cooking.
Why did you decide to move from the UK to Asia?
I was born in Surrey and studied in Kent. But I decided to move to Japan immediately after graduating because of a job offer that I absolutely had to say yes to. You might think I went over to be a banker or something but I actually went over to be an English teacher in a rural community of about 2000 people. I taught five to 13 year olds in a very remote Southern part of Japan for two years.
Why did you decide to move to Singapore?
I spent another 8 years in Japan after teaching starting up my own company as well as working a little in the advertising industry. After 10 years in total in Japan, I felt that it was time to move. Ten years is still a long time to be in any country, even if it’s one that you love. It was a hard decision to move away. The reason I picked Singapore is because I’m half Singaporean Chinese. So I’m quite familiar with Singapore and knew what I was getting into.
What was it like starting up your own company?
I feel like it gives me the comfort to do it my way. After a very successful start-up in Japan, I kind of caught the bug and have been keen to start new things ever since. I’ll start something, sell it then go on to start something else.
What’s your business philosophy?
My domain is start-ups. I work with SMU to mentor their incubation department and one thing a lot of entrepreneurs take for granted is the fact that start-ups, especially the technology-related ones, are relatively easy to get funding for. But one thing start-ups can lose sight of because of that is the importance of earning revenue. The most important thing for me is to be making money from day one.
If you’re so eager to make money from day one, doesn’t that change the scale of your business or quality of product?
It doesn’t change the quality in my opinion. But it does affect the scale at which I can do things. The typical thing for digital tech start-ups is to put it on the Internet and make everything free and then try to figure out how to make money some 10 years later with the millions of users that it has. If you aim for revenue on day one, you’re not going to be making billions of dollars like Facebook; you’re going to, at best, make tens of millions of dollars. And I’m fine with that.
My personal style is…
Jekyll & Hyde. I flit from the dapper gentleman style to the beach bum style on a regular basis. During the day, I like to keep it casual with a loose linen shirt and shorts. By night, I dress up in blazers and pocket squares – mostly from tailors from Japan.