- Uber Singapore
He is at the helm of one of the biggest names in Singapore’s tech scene, but Uber Singapore general manager Warren Tseng’s career did not unfold in traditional linear fashion.
The 34-year-old, who hails from Los Angeles, has come a long way from his engineering days in university. While his first job was in the venture capital industry, he later earned an MBA and became a trader with Credit Suisse in Hong Kong.
Then one day, he decided he would work for one of the world’s fastest growing firms in an industry that is on the forefront of change – something he had never done before.
This unfamiliar world represented a fresh challenge for Tseng. He was what Uber called an “International Launcher”. His mission: To build Uber’s business operations in Southeast Asia from the ground up, in markets he had little to no experience in.
He started in Jakarta, where he had to educate himself about the market and country’s laws. From there, he built a new team, found business partners, and did everything that was needed to build an entire business from scratch.
“When you push your own limits of what you think you can do, there’s usually only good things that come out of that,” he tells Business Insider in an interview at Uber Singapore’s 35th floor office in Tanjong Pagar.
Pushing his limits has allowed him to discover just how much he can accomplish.
After Jakarta, Tseng went on to start Uber’s business in Thailand and Lion City Rentals in Singapore, tackling brand new challenges head-on each time he moved to a new city.
But the difficulties of running a tech company in a fast-changing environment do not stop there, they are new all the time.
“This is a completely new industry so every single day, it’s like venturing into the unknown,” he says.
But while things change very quickly in Uber’s world of cutting-edge technology, there’s one thing about Tseng that does not budge – his adaptability.
“Being able to be adaptable is one of the biggest things that I pride myself in,” he tells us.
“I’ve been exposing myself to very new environments with very new problems to solve, and that has given me the mental flexibility and adaptability to be able to handle being on the frontier all the time.”
“So I think that’s one of the biggest things – being able to hone your problem solving abilities and being able to adapt to an ever-changing world,” he says.
It must be a good philosophy to have – because after being based here for just two and a half years, Tseng has helped to grow the company’s Singapore office from “three or four people” to around 300 employees working out of a building right smack in the CBD.
Besides, there’s got to be a lot of satisfaction when one achieves something no one thought was possible.
He says: “When we first arrived in Singapore, people were like: ‘Are you crazy? Why would a commuter want to get into a car with a stranger driving that car?’”
“We’ve created that market – people do that every day…. We’ve destroyed that notion that people wouldn’t want to do that.”
A year ago, when Uber first launched ride-sharing service UberPool in Singapore, the naysayers were again skeptical. But today, around 25% of all Uber trips here are UberPool trips.
As GM, Tseng needs to be on top of things at all times, and consciously makes the effort to ensure he is giving his best to the job.
Not only does he stay away from drinking alcohol, he also carefully curates what he eats.
“I don’t eat breakfast; I have bulletproof coffee instead,” he says, referring to the coconut oil-butter-coffee concoction which became popular in the Silicon Valley a couple of years ago. It is said to provide nutritional benefits such as suppressed hunger, increased metabolism and mental clarity.
He adds: “I prefer not to have food (in the mornings) because I think it weighs me down”.
“These are things that I’ve noticed that I need to do personally. Knowing myself, being mindful and self-aware, (this is) what I need to be at the top of my game all the time.”
The driven leader gets up at around 7:30am and is the first person in office every day. Getting to work early, he says, helps him get ahead on emails, and allows him to have “a clear head” to work on the demanding tasks awaiting him for the rest of the day.
As chief, he lets his team know that they shouldn’t be afraid of failure.
One of Uber’s values worldwide is to make big bold bets, which Tseng encourages in his office.
“Inherently built into that spirit is that you’ll fail and you’ll fail often. But when you’re in a world that’s moving really fast… you need to embrace failure and learn from failure.”