The Peak (Singapore) - - The Hot Seat -

Nel­son (far left) and Ter­ence. They named their in­vest­ment com­pany Dorr af­ter the ini­tials of Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan, the ring­leaders of the heist film


For 15 years, the pair grew up in the same fam­ily home in Up­per Bukit Timah where they of­ten “got up to no good” to­gether and lorded over their younger sib­lings. What sort of pranks, we ask. They look at each other and laugh in uni­son, the glint of yes­ter­year mis­chief twin­kling in their eyes.

Their sis­ters and brothers – Ter­ence and Nel­son are the el­dest in their re­spec­tive fam­i­lies – be­came hu­man goal­posts dur­ing foot­ball matches. “I made my brother drink Det­tol to ‘cleanse his body’. He ended up in the hos­pi­tal,” Ter­ence says with a shrug. “We al­ways got in trou­ble.”

World­li­ness had been part of their psy­che even from a young age, and the Lohs knew that the fear of fail­ure in Sin­ga­pore would clip their wings and dull their edges. The ecosys­tem that one is in de­ter­mines one’s fu­ture, Ter­ence says. “If you’re in an ecosys­tem where you fear, you’re re­stricted and you can’t think big.” So at 16, Ter­ence packed his bags for Cal­i­for­nia. A few years later, Nel­son en­rolled in the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge – the UK, be­cause “my dad said Ter­ence was hav­ing too much fun in the US”.

“In China or Sil­i­con Val­ley, you’re a se­rial en­tre­pre­neur if you fail. In our part of the world, you’re al­most writ­ten off,” says Nel­son, who shut­tles among Shang­hai, Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore. “The ecosys­tem does not sup­port risk­tak­ing and those who are try­ing to do things dif­fer­ently. I al­ways tell my staff and kids ( his daugh­ter is 11 and son, eight) that fail­ure is their first at­tempt in learn­ing. You fail only if you stop try­ing,” he adds.

“Kids in Sin­ga­pore will tell you that they want to be doc­tors, lawyers, ar­chi­tects, bankers. Kids in China will tell you that’s bor­ing. One kid in China told me, ‘I can pay some­one to do that. I want to be the next Ten­cent owner. I want to cre­ate the next app that the whole world will use.’ That’s amaz­ing. Just yes­ter­day in Shang­hai, I bought a dumpling from a street ven­dor who ac­cepted pay­ment only through Wechat,” says Nel­son, show­ing us his e-wal­let to ce­ment the point.

Ter­ence – who, along with Nel­son, comes from a fam­ily that runs one of the largest lux­ury au­to­mo­tive dis­trib­u­tor­ships in China – pulls out his phone and shows us a Har­vard Business Re­view ar­ti­cle that he’d read in the morn­ing be­fore this in­ter­view. Chart­ing the dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion of 60 coun­tries, it com­pared dig­i­tal com­pet­i­tive­ness and grouped na­tions in four cat­e­gories: Stand Out, Stall Out, Break Out and Watch Out. Although Sin­ga­pore was a Stand Out, the ar­ti­cle warned that Sin­ga­pore had to keep up with dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion or this sta­tus could be eas­ily usurped by Break Out coun­tries like China and Malaysia.

Iron­i­cally, it is this rapid digi­ti­sa­tion of the world that led them to sink their teeth into an in­dus­try that is one of the most re­sis­tant to change: health care. Of course, there’s the Loh twist to it. “Which in­dus­try, we won­dered, would not be re­placed by the In­ter­net in the next 10 years? Health care was iden­ti­fied as one of them,” says Nel­son. “We’re not doc­tors. But we knew, from be­ing in­vestors in a Kosdaq-listed med­i­cal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer, that aes­thet­ics was an area that we could scale and make more af­ford­able/ac­ces­si­ble for con­sumers.

“So we fo­cused on no-frills, non­in­va­sive pro­ce­dures to ad­dress what peo­ple wanted, which is more ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able treat­ment in a safe and friendly en­vi­ron­ment. We moved away from the tra­di­tional way of op­er­at­ing an aes­thet­ics

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