From Startup Entrepreneur to Corporate Innovation and Venture Building

By the SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business Social Media Team

The idea of being one’s own boss is often the ultimate dream for workers who feel like cogs in a corporate machine. The opposite, however, was true for SMU Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduate and Dean’s List recipient Daryl Png. Having successfully exited his own startup — co-founded while attaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration, no less — Daryl made the less likely transition of evolving from entrepreneur to high-flying employee.

“The experience of building a successful start-up from the ground up made me realise how corporates could benefit greatly from the input of fresh perspectives and how they can borrow startup practices to be agile and effective at growing new businesses,” shares Daryl.

“Multinational companies have deep advantages and assets to grow viable, large-scale new businesses. My ambition now is to be on the other side of the spectrum in assisting other organisations to achieve their goals.”

Daryl was an aspiring entrepreneur since his university days, running his own startup. He co-founded an online car rental booking platform connecting both vehicle rental companies and renters, enabling the comparison of car rental prices in more than 7,300 locations and 150 countries worldwide.

After selling his business, he then applied his problem-solving and transformation-driven mindset to AIG and OCBC to work on corporate innovation — spearheading product innovation and working on strategies for projects such as the development of digital ecosystems. Not one to rest on the proverbial professional laurels, Daryl then identified competencies he could nurture to elevate his career trajectory.

“I was drawn to the structured, general management education offered by the SMU MBA,” admits Daryl, who enrolled in the programme in 2019.

“I realised the establishment of a robust innovation ecosystem that can be replicated regionally takes more than just a vision; it requires proficiency in the fundamentals of strategic management, financial literacy and critical thinking.”



Currently a Senior Manager in the New Ventures team at the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), Daryl says that the MBA modules have helped in his career— to raise awareness of corporate venturing and develop the capabilities of corporates as they build new ventures in Singapore. For instance, the opportunity to meet fellow postgraduates from varied backgrounds during the programme strengthened his ability to connect with people, as his role often entails him reaching out to businesses.

At the same time, the wide breadth of domain knowledge offered by the programme — which includes business fundamentals such as leadership, communication, critical thinking and analytical skills, also moulded his ability to craft innovative, viable value propositions as well as formulate business plans, go-to-market strategies and product concepts for new corporate ventures.

Out of all the modules in the programme, Daryl shares that the Business Value of Digital Disruptions – CXO Perspectives and Managing Innovation and Growth modules have created the most long-lasting impact on his professional development. From the former, he learnt invaluable lessons on simplifying complexities more efficiently using process analysis methodologies; while the latter helped him “gain a broader, more interconnected perspective in innovation management while learning the importance of ‘value creation and value capturing’ for businesses”.

“One of my goals is to build a meaningful career where there is an authentic connection between the work I do and a broader life purpose,” adds Daryl, who was a recipient of the prestigious SMU Impact on Asia scholarship.

“A great passion for me is building solutions that make a difference in people’s lives and reshape society for the better. I am fortunate enough to be given opportunities throughout my career to work with some of the most brilliant minds to develop innovative products.”

When asked about his other goals for the next five years, he shares that “volunteering” more is also on his list of goals as it has proven to be both fun and enriching. One of the most fulfilling moments in his life was when he volunteered to lead the collaboration with SG Enable to organise and facilitate a 10-Week internship programme for students from SMU with the sole purpose to enable people with disabilities to thrive and be included in the society.

Ultimately, he believes that “the SMU MBA programme’s teaching pedagogy and contextualised learning through case studies renders business concepts more digestible and relevant for future use which equips me with the fundamentals to achieve my goals”.

To anyone considering the SMU MBA programme, Daryl shares this advice: “Being part of a vibrant and diverse student community, with classmates hailing from different professional backgrounds and perspectives, helps you expand your knowledge of other industries. You also stand to gain when you productively challenge and enjoy the growth opportunities that come with each experience, from admission to graduation”.