Being curious about the world and not being afraid to change it by thinking differently and creatively is what drives me. I have put that together with what UWCSEA taught me; that we should give back to as many people as we can with the skills that we have. And that is, in the end, what I hope I will look back and say: that I had a purposeful life in which I made a positive impact for as many people as possible."Luke Janssen ’94, Entrepreneur, Technology Strategist, Founder of Tigerspike and World Whistling Champion
Most important to me is thinking differently and creatively. Being curious about the world and not being afraid to change it.
When I was two I left England and grew up in Liberia, Oman, Hong Kong, Singapore (where I graduated from UWCSEA), London, Sydney, New York, then Singapore again. That early exposure to different cultures and systems forces you to think about things a little differently. I had many different people giving me many different perspectives from such a young age, which I think that's the whole point of the UWC movement: to understand other perspectives through people from diverse backgrounds sharing experiences. So in a way my experience UWCSEA just reinforced my experience of the world, but in what was, in hindsight, a far more intentional way.
I graduated from UWCSEA in 1994. Despite really wanting to go on tour with my band, instead I completed a Computer Science degree at King’s College London and became a chartered accountant for 9 years, living in London and then Sydney. Not the best decision I know!
In the end I quit the multinational I was working for in 2005 after founding Tigerspike, a technology and consulting company in 2003. That first year saw the launch of the first mobile user-generated content (UGC) platform used by the Sydney Morning Herald and Big Brother (one of the first reality TV shows to take off in Australia) using our platform and we worked on increasingly international jobs until we opened our office in London in 2007, and New York in 2009.
Tigerspike was founded on a vision of how emerging technology could disrupt and transform the way companies engage with their customers and staff. We bootstrapped (grew without any external funding) for eight years after launch, then raised money in 2011 and 2013, eventually expanding 300+ staff in offices in San Francisco, New York, London, Dubai, Tokyo, Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney. In many ways we were really lucky to be in the right sector at the right time. For example, we launched the very first iPad app in the Australian Apple store on the day Apple launched the iPad in 2010. Later that year, we helped The Economist launch what is still known as one of the most successful applications ever launched in the Apple store. Based on principles of simplicity in design and ease of content delivery.
We sold Tigerspike to Fortune 500 company Synnex in 2017 which has given me an opportunity to think about what I want to do next without needing to worry about getting a job to earn money. Which is an interesting conundrum; what do you do when you don’t need to do anything. I spent many months thinking about it. On the beach. In Bali. What I decided was that I had a duty to try to improve the lives of as many people as possible given my set of skills, experiences and contacts. So I started thinking about how to do that.
Part of what I did in my final three years at Tigerspike was working disrupt the finance industry. I saw how technology can be used to reach previously unreachable people, because many now have smart phones. After Tigerspike I co-founded wealth management software company Bambu that uses AI technology to help people invest their money. That made me start to look further into how technology can have a massively magnifying effect and generate the most impact to huge populations of people.
A lot of of times when people can’t get out of poverty it is because they don't have access to or control of their own finances, and I believe that technology can play a big role here, to reach previously unreachable people, and to reach a lot of them. From my experience at Tigerspike, big companies like banks are not able to solve the problem, despite throwing a lot of money at it. To address this I started Silkstone, an investment company that funds founders in this space, with a focus on helping female founders to start purpose-driven companies.
I moved back to Singapore in 2012, and part of that decision was so that my children could attend UWCSEA. They are now enrolled in the East Campus, and have flourished there. Hopefully they can make friendships that are as diverse and long-lasting as those I made in my time on Dover Campus. Most of my best friends are from UWCSEA, and my personal and professional network features far more UWC contacts than it does from my university. That’s one of the strengths of the movement as a whole - it’s an amazing network of students and teachers who come at life with a positive attitude so we can make a positive impact, even though we’re from very different backgrounds.
What UWCSEA taught me is that we all have a duty to give back to as many people as we can with the skills that we have. And that is, in the end, what I hope I will look back and say - that I had a purpose-driven life in which I made a positive impact on as many people as possible. It is what is driving my next steps post-Tigerspike.
Also I am the world whistling champion!... (that’s right. The best whistler in the world!). Because you have to be better than everyone else at at least one thing.
In the IB Diploma Luke studied English, Math, Physics, Business Studies, Chemistry and Malay.