CEO of Singapore healthcare startup Homage shares top tips for success

Singaporean entrepreneur after 15 years abroad Gillian Tee decided to return home in 2016 to be closer to her family.

It was what she called “the perfect storm.”

Three of her close relatives lived with chronic diseases and Tee quickly discovered the “pain points” in caring for individuals who required specialized care.

“Let’s say you fell and broke your hip, the medical part is pretty clear. You need to find specialists, you can go to… [a] public hospital or private hospital,” Tee said.

“But what happens if you have to come home, if you have to return to your community and your home, what is the care plan? What should you even think about when it comes to home and mobility checks? ”

Homage offers a range of home care services including daily living support, nursing and home therapy.


That’s why she decided to start Homage, a company that matches patients who need long-term home care with qualified caregivers.

Since the company’s inception in 2017, the startup has raised $45 million, she said, naming big-name investors including Golden Gate Ventures Sheares and Healthcare Group — a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek — as well as early-stage venture firm 500 Startups .

Homage is now valued at more than $100 million, according to Tee.

But this isn’t the 40-year-old’s first foray into entrepreneurship. She was a management consultant for Accenture when she stumbled upon a book that changed the course of her career.

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“I started out as a software developer and I was just really drawn to it because I liked building things. But what really struck me was this application concept,” she told CNBC Make It.

How do I use technology to build something people can use and impact their lives?

Gillan tea

Co-Founder and CEO, Homage

She was referring to the book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days, written by Jessica Livingston, co-founder of seed-stage investment firm Y Combinator.

“How do I use technology to build something people can use and impact their lives?”

And so began Tee’s entrepreneurial journey, which includes a two-year residency in Silicon Valley, where she co-founded Rocketrip in 2013. It’s a website that encourages business travelers to save their employers on travel expenses.

The company raised $32 million — including $15 million from Google Ventures — before being acquired by Mondee Holdings in 2020.

This serial entrepreneur shares her top tips for a successful startup.

1. Know your market

Whether it’s building an app for travel or healthcare, the fundamentals of doing business never change, Tee said.

“You have to know your market really well. Know your cost drivers, growth drivers and demand drivers.”

Homage currently has a presence in three markets – Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, where there are “unique features” that tie well with the problem the company is trying to solve, Tee added.

“We looked at the shortage of caregivers, the aging of the population and chronic diseases – which, interestingly, are not only caused by age, but are strongly correlated with urbanization.”

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As Homage users extend beyond seniors, opportunities in aged care technology continue to grow as people live longer. According to the Asian Development Bank, one in four people in Asia alone will be over 60 by 2050.

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However, Tee said she’s “a big fan of going deep and not overdoing the business.”

“Focus is everything. We have a very clear view of the markets when we should expand to more [countries]. But right now the current focus is on deepening our current markets,” she added.

2. Build a good team

Business fundamentals are important, but entrepreneurs should “be rooted in people first,” Tee said.

This has served Homage well in providing the best care to its customers and to Tee who had no prior experience in the healthcare industry.

I try to do my best but I bring people who are way better than me.

Gillan tea

Co-Founder and CEO, Homage

“It is important to rely on clinical governance and compliance specialists. That’s why, for example, we have our Director of Nursing, who has over 20 years of experience in various medical fields,” Tee shared.

“A large part of our work is to synthesize the quality of care with the product and the technology. That’s the team you need to build – I’m trying to do my best but I’m bringing in people who are way better than me. ”

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3. Focus on the “100 good things”

Being an entrepreneur can be isolating, Tee said, especially when you’re a woman.

“You get derogatory comments, but of course less now because you’ve built a reputation and respect.”

But it wasn’t always easy in the beginning. “For example, [a director] once said to me: ‘You know, now I know why the newspapers show you because your eyes are so beautiful.'”

“That’s my mantra, like everything I’m going through: I need to be twice as assertive, more data-driven and super sharp. I think we [female entrepreneurs] have to do more to prove our point.”

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Despite this, Tee has learned to take things easy and rely on the people who matter.

“There are 100 problems, but there are also 100 good things. You really have to turn down the noise and deal with that intensity,” she added.

“It’s exhilarating in some ways, but tiring in many ways. Lean on your team, be open, vulnerable and transparent with them. I think that’s the most important thing.”

4. Innovation promotes impact

What does innovation mean for tea? It’s about having an impact on users.

“Homage’s mission is very close to my heart. Ultimately, there’s nothing better than building something that people can draw a solution from,” she said.

“At the end of the day, there’s nothing like building something people can draw a solution from,” said Gillian Tee, co-founder and CEO of Homage.



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