Get to Know: Ronald Ling
Galen Growth Asia (GGA) partners with top brands around the globe, savvy investors and passionate startups to accelerate and deepen their understanding of the exciting HealthTech ecosystem in Asia Pacific. GGA is always looking to shine a light on the ecosystem, as well as on the people who are doing amazing things in HealthTech in the region.
a cloud-based health monitoring platform which is robust, scalable and secure. In collaboration with business partners and doctors who share their mission of improving care and clinical outcomes, ConnectedHealth’s products define structured approaches to support and monitor patients remotely, delivered through proprietary user interfaces.
Galen Growth Asia: Hello Ronald, thank you for joining us today. Can you share with us your story?
Ronald: I am a healthcare person through and through – I started out as a doctor but quickly realized that I wanted to contribute in a much broader way to health than an individual practitioner could do.
It’s of course immensely rewarding to help patients directly (and that has to be at the heart of any healthcare company’s mission) but I’ve always been interested in how the world works more broadly – especially the role of government, regulation and business in determining the quality of peoples’ lives. That’s shaped my career choices.
I’ve been involved in a variety of roles in consulting, healthcare operations, investment and on boards. These have taken me around the world, but over the last 20 years have helped me gain a deep understanding of Asian healthcare systems.
Being an entrepreneur and leading a highly innovative company (in an area where there is real need) is something I’ve always wanted to do, and the time has finally come for digital health to disrupt healthcare delivery.
GGA: That was a thoughtful and insightful answer. What then, excites you the most about what you chose to do?
Ronald: Very simply – the opportunity to improve peoples’ lives. In that respect I am still a doctor at heart. There remain enormous problems to solve in healthcare, the question of how to better manage chronic diseases being a key one. These will need new approaches.
In many cases the solutions will have their origins in tech, but business model innovation to change how care is delivered will be equally important. All this needs to be supported by progressive regulation. If our ecosystem can get it right, we can have huge impact – that’s exciting isn’t it?
GGA: Fantastic. You are a well-travelled person, but work in Asia, so what would you say is your connection to this part of the world?
Ronald: I was born in Singapore but grew up and had my education in the UK and Europe. I’ve been back in Singapore for 22 years now and I’m proud to say that Asia is my home. It’s a great place to be and I’m fortunate to have both a global perspective as well as strong local roots.
GGA: I see. Home is always the best place to be, isn’t it? What about the best place in Asia to work at?
Ronald: For business it’s Singapore – so I’m running a business in my favourite city for business! I do think ConnectedHealth’s base in Singapore is ideal – given our country’s reputation for quality healthcare, great research institutions and support for innovation. It’s a small but sophisticated local market where we can develop our products as a springboard for growth across Asia and beyond.
GGA: And where would you want to spend your time relaxing?
Ronald: I do find Singapore quite stressful (which is good for business but less good for relaxation!) so getting away to somewhere like Bali is a need when I can fit it in.
But Bali’s not a city – if I had to choose a city it would probably be London, New York or Berlin in view of their cultural richness (I am a huge culture buff!)
GGA: Is there a piece of advice that you have kept close to your heart?
Ronald: In my early years as a private equity professional I was often advised to be patient for change to happen – in the context of business and organizational changes that needed to happen in some of our investee companies.
As a typical ex-consultant, my mindset was all about changing things as fast as possible, but the real world isn’t always so simple. I still have to remind myself that patience is a virtue. It’s often a case of continuing to chip away at things and not giving up in order to achieve the right result in the end.
GGA: Talking about inspiration, who inspires you?
Ronald: I could name some famous people, but I find that hard to do since to me inspiration has to be through personal contact and (sad to say) I’ve never met Bill Gates or Warren Buffet!
I get most inspired by people who are sharp, insightful, driven and with values I respect. That sounds like a lot of criteria, but there are a handful of people whom I’m fortunate to have met over the years who are indeed inspirational. This includes colleagues, friends, former bosses and team members – who at this point shall remain nameless…
GGA: What have you learnt recently that just blew you away?
Ronald: I just came back from a personal trip to Spain where I visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao – an outpost of the Guggenheim New York which has equally original architecture and a fantastic collection. What blew me away was learning about how this museum came to be built in a formerly grimy, declining small industrial city (which has since been transformed into successful service economy largely as a result of the wealth created by the museum).
In 1991 the Bilbao local government decided to fund the $170m project from public money, based on the belief that cultural tourism was about to take off and would catalyse the city’s transformation. Can you believe that a small local government had the verve to do this, and to make it a success? I don’t think this was a ‘punt’ but an informed, far-sighted and audacious decision. We need more of that kind of thinking in business and public affair!
GGA: Indeed! Far-sightedness is a strong virtue, but what about hindsight? What would you have done differently if you had the chance to start all over again?
Ronald: To be honest I might not have studied medicine. My professional training has always steered me towards work (in business) which in some way relates to health. That’s not a bad thing since I think we need more people with a combination of business and healthcare experience.
Occasionally it feels a bit constraining since that’s all people expect you to do. Maybe that’s why sometimes have an itch to get involved with projects outside of healthcare. But I suppose my combination of experience is unusual, so I should concentrate on where I can create the most value – which is what I’m doing right now.
GGA: How do you unwind?
Ronald: I’m a classical violinist so I unwind by playing or listening to music. For me, the ideal is to play string quartets with good musician friends – to converse, explore and ask questions through music.
GGA: What about reading a good book? Do you have some recommended reading for people in business?
Ronald: Grit by Angela Duckworth – it’s about psychology, persistence and passion.
GGA: Give us a shameless plug for your business!
Ronald: There are many digital health companies claiming to transform diabetes management but none that have yet succeeded in a broad way. That’s not because digital can’t be applied in diabetes: not at all – chronic diseases lend themselves to digital transformation by their very nature. It’s because the failed companies haven’t got their product design and commercialization strategy right.
There are so many ingredients to success that the magic recipe is very hard to define. I do think ConnectedHealth has the right recipe, and I believe we have a more experienced and thoughtful kitchen than others. Let’s wait for the meal to be served then the world can judge!
GGA: And what do you want to achieve at the GGA 2018 HealthTech Summit?
Ronald: Going by past experience, the GGA Summit will be a unique opportunity to share and learn. Attendance is carefully curated, and I am looking forward to creative interactions with committed future business partners to find ways to influence our industry’s future.
GGA: Thanks again Ronald for agreeing to answer our questions. The last thing we would like to ask is: how can people reading this connect with you?
Ronald: You can email me at email@example.com.