The 3 HCI Students that Dropped Out of Ivy League Universities

If you’re from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and you’ve never heard of Glints, you should be ashamed. Three HCI alumni, Oswald Yeo, Seah Ying Cong and Looi Qin En, are the co-founders of Glints: one of the fastest growing startups in Singapore which aids young talents (much like you and me) in building up career readiness through going through internships and online challenges.

Well, you can probably read about what ivy league universities the 3 co-founders dropped out of, how much seed money Glints has raised, and how they are the youngest to go through an accelerator programme by Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI) here. But this article here will give you an exclusive scoop into what life was like back in HCI for the enterprising trio.

Ying Cong, currently helming the Technology department, gave an amusing account of how the 3 co-founders met back in High School. The first impression Ying Cong had of Oswald is that he is “the pai-kia (hooligan) who sport an ill-advised mohawk”. Their very first encounter with each other, during a KI assessment test, saw Oswald diagnosing Ying Cong with “a severe case of horniness” due to his cursive handwriting. Despite this highly abnormal and disturbing initial meeting, the friendship between them two blossomed due to their shared passion for entrepreneurship.

While Qin En fondly remembers exchanging numbers with Ying Cong over a literature camp in Secondary 3, Ying Cong doesn’t. Talk about one-sided friendships! However, when Qin En enrolled into HCJC from Catholic High, Ying Cong noticed Qin En due to his outstanding, tall stature (“he appeared 2m to me!”). A cosmic moment transpired when Qin En, as a college essay consultancy intern, read Ying Cong’s post A-levels essay and found out that the two of them share the same, burning passion for entrepreneurship. Ditching the old-fashioned way of asking for a collaboration through text, Qin En dropped a message via Facebook to Ying Cong. And of course, the rest is history: Glints was first conceptualised in July 2013, and the three lived happily ever after. Just kidding!

Now, let’s get to know the 3 co-founders a little more intimately: we’ll find out their favourite memories of HCI, and (listen up, juniors!) the one piece of advice they’d like to give to HCI juniors.

Qin En

On his favourite memory from Hwa Chong Institution, Qin En said that his was “running around the school with his class to sell cookies to raise funds” for the class’ CIP activities.

“We spent the day before baking those cookies till midnight and then the next day, we sold those cookies for like, 5 pieces for $5 which we thought no one would buy. Sold all 400 cookies within 2 hours.” Qin En’s amazement at how the class’ fund-raising efforts has stayed with him even after graduation: it is now his most fondly remembered recollection of HCI.

On the one piece of advice he’d like to impart to HCI juniors, it would be:

“Explore, don’t wander. It’s alright to not know what you want to do in life, but actively seek it out. Don’t try new things for the sake of doing it. Be clear on what you want, and actively pursue what you want to achieve.”

Oswald

Oswald named the Freshman Orientation when it came to his personal, best-loved memory from Hwa Chong Institution.

“It was a time of possibilities – new year, new environments, new people. And the councillors did a really good job of organising fun activities that brought lots of people together.”

For the benefit of all HCI juniors, Oswald wants you to maximise your options.

“Make deliberate decisions to take the paths that you really want, and have the courage and tenacity to make your dreams happen no matter what. Don’t just follow what’s popular and glamorous, think for yourself.”

Oswald also warns about committing to paths which will limit your options in the future:

“For example, committing to a scholarship that comes with years of bond, unless it’s something that you are sure you really want to do for the next 10 years of your life.”

And what if you simply don’t have a clue as to what you want and do not want to do? Well, Oswald says:

“Keep exploring and picking up valuable skills.” – it’ll come to you!

Ying Cong

On his favourite memory from school, Ying Cong picked the business plan competitions which he chose to take part in.

“Other than sparking my interest in business, it was one of the few times we pushed ourselves so hard and yet enjoyed ourselves. It even ate into our A-levels preparation. I fondly remember my team working our behinds off to polish our pitch while the rest of the school was deep in the books. No regrets whatsoever, for looking back, it definitely shaped my path far more than an extra few weeks of studying.”

For all juniors currently enrolled in HCI, Ying Cong wants you to set goals.

“If you’ve not done that before, set a goal to set some goals. Goal-setting is like teeth flossing, everyone knows they should do it and that it’s good for them, but they rarely do it. And even if they do, they do it half-heartedly. Don’t. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.”

If you want to learn more about the fascinating 3 co-founders and Glints, head on over to their website!

By Gene Lim