ti&m to Establish Itself as a Trusted Brand in Singaporeby Fintech News Singapore August 18, 2020
Marc Bühler took over the management of the Singapore ti&m operations in June. He has lived and worked in Singapore for more than ten years. In an interview, he explains how he got into IT, what he does in his spare time and how he intends to use his start-up experience to help the Singapore operations
You’ve been with ti&m since June, how have you found your experience there so far?
My start was more than promising. The working environment is new, but it is similar to my last job where I mainly worked from home, and communicated mostly on the phone or in video conferences.
After being at home for months, I’m looking forward to going to the new office in Singapore and meeting employees and clients in person. The first few weeks went by very quickly. I also had a lot of meetings to get to know the new colleagues in the company and find out how Zurich office can support us. All in all it is a very exciting time.
Your first real experience with entrepreneurship was at the very young age of 16 where you opened the first Internet café in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in 1995. Walk us through that experience.
It was in high school and we were 16 years old, a schoolmate and I took our first steps in setting up the Internet cafe in the summer of 1995. Coincidentally, an apartment in the grandmother’s house stood empty and we were allowed to use it rent-free. Thanks to hardware and software sponsors we were able to set up the Internet café with practically no expenses.
Although we were only open on Saturdays, it garnered a lot of interest, especially after the regional newspapers reported about us. Ski tourists especially appreciated the café’s proximity to the train station, as it allowed them to check their e-mails with us while waiting for the next train to arrive. We also offered computer courses for beginners and school classes.
You have already founded several companies and gained experiences across various industries. What were these experiences like?
The experiences were very positive. I learned a lot, both technically and operationally. I have always been fascinated by the start-up scene and these were good opportunities to try out different things. I founded some of these companies alongside school and university. But I have always seen them as a side-line job.
Why did you decide to study computer science?
I have always wanted to study computer science since my primary school days. I was fortunate that my father had a computer at home for his business, and that was when I started programming early, first in BASIC and shortly after in Turbo Pascal.
I was on the computer whenever I had any chance and was totally immersed in it. Back then, there were only a hand few of textbooks available and as a result, I did a lot of self-studying. When my father then told me about ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), it was clear to me this is the place where I wanted to study Computer Science. Between school and my studies, I managed to carve out some time to work in our hosting and web design start-up.
From self-employment, you then moved to the Private Bank Julius Baer. How did you feel about this cultural change?
Well, I was a bit overwhelmed at first as I was not used to so many processes and restrictions. But that settled quickly and I was lucky to work with great and very helpful people while learning new things from them. It was interesting to see how solutions can scale in a company with a few thousand employees and many more customers.
How did you end up in Singapore?
Upon graduation, I joined Julius Baer’s university graduate program. It is a program that gives graduates the opportunity to go to Singapore for six months after one year of working with various teams in Zurich’s head-office. I was excited about the opportunity to gain international experience in my job. I can only recommend this step to everyone, it allows one to get to know a different culture and way of life.
Why did you decide to join ti&m?
Personally, I am very excited about setting up the new branch in Singapore. I think it is the perfect mix of a local start-up, with a solid brand and a healthy company behind that wants to invest in the new location.
I prefer it when not everything is set in stone and that there are numerous approaches to get things done quickly. Apart from the role, I like ti&m as an employer very much.
After spending some time reading Kununu reviews, I was sold. Such a positive corporate culture is unparalleled in the industry. My first weeks have confirmed these expectations. ti&m has a great mix of technology and creativity, highly motivated and talented employees, with a minimum of hierarchies. The perfect starting position for at least the next 15 years!
What goals are you pursuing as Head Singapore of ti&m?
The main goal is clearly to get the business up and running. This means winning new customers and orders and expanding relationships with existing customers. We want to offer a mix of consulting, contract work and our existing products right from the start. The focus here is on the financial industry. However, having said that we are also ready to cover other industries as well. I want to establish ti&m as a “trusted brand” in Singapore and in the region. It is also important to me that we are an “Employer of Choice” in Asia, where every employee feels comfortable, anyone is allowed to get involved in projects and above all, enjoys their work. This also includes mobility opportunities, i.e. the chance to gain experience at another company location.
What makes Singapore so exciting for you that you have been here for more than 10 years?
Singapore is technologically very advanced, super-efficient and even safer than Switzerland. For my wife and I, Singapore is the ideal place to raise our two children. Despite being a big city, Singapore is also very green, with many parks and nature reserves. Moreover, the people here are open, interested and usually very warm.
I also love the weather. Though I grew up on the Swiss mountains, two weeks of skiing in the snow is more than enough to last me till the next year. I feel more comfortable at the sea, with beach and palm trees, than on the ski slopes. Given Singapore’s geographical location, you can travel quickly to other countries by plane and immerse yourself in another culture. This has kept me fascinated since day one.
Besides work, what else do you like to do?
When I find time between work and family, I try to keep fit by jogging, playing tennis and sometimes football. You can even get me excited about karaoke, which would have been unthinkable before my time in Asia.
You are also a passionate drone pilot, I hear?
Yes, flying is a passion of mine. Even as a boy, I flew remote-controlled airplanes. Then I did nothing in the field for 20 years until a friend of mine introduced me to drone flying. I fly quad copters and planes with cameras and all the bells and whistles. The technology behind it interests me a lot. For some time now I have been writing drone software as a hobby and have been managing an open source community. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve spent a lot of nights working on it. I am still an engineer at heart and I sometimes miss coding ever since, as I have been mainly involved in management tasks for the past several years.
Do your children keep you busy during the lockdown?
Of course, especially during the lockdown here in Singapore, which was a bit more restrictive than in Switzerland. One has to plan lots of activities at home for the kids. It was an intensive time with the children, but that has brought out positive sides too. I was able to spend more time with them at home as opposed to commuting to and from work.