How a tragedy transformed my life

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:54pm


Andy Ann is very much his own man and marches to the beat of his own drum. He is the founder of the successful digital media and advertising firm New Digital Noise and a raft of other web-based businesses, including Hot Media, Hot Mob and Social Med, a Facebook analytical tool that monitors more than 1,000 brands globally.

Ann views boundaries as challenges that need to be overcome. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Ann soon discovered that his first job with a Hong Kong-based advertising agency was stifling his natural entrepreneurial instincts. His decision to break free came when his boss informed him it would be at least two years before he could make a face-to-face client presentation.

What inspired you to set up your own business?

After leaving college, I soon became disillusioned with my first job. I felt restrained by what I was told I could and couldn't do. Then, the terrible events of 9/11 took place and I thought to myself: life is too short and maybe I should live my life to the full and explore something that I can devote 100 per cent of my passion and energy to.

I decided to start my own business and do whatever I could to provide value to the market and the wider community. I wanted a career and a life that I could enjoy. Incidentally, the same client my former boss said I would have to wait two years to talk to, I was talking to within two months of setting up my own business.

What drives you when you face challenges?

Whenever I face challenges, I look for the opportunities. Challenges help me to spin faster. What I mean is that during difficult times, such as the 2008 financial crisis, I look for the weakest point in a market and build on the opportunities. These are good times to add value to a brand and accumulate customer loyalty.

Have you faced setbacks? How did you overcome them?

The two big setbacks that stand out are the outbreak of Sars and the 2008 financial crisis. During both times cash flow was tight and sales dropped 80 per cent. It was during this time that I quietly reviewed myself, my businesses and my life. I decided that I needed to come up with a lot of ideas to create changes and overcome challenges. I became even more focused on creating value.

What have been the key factors behind your success?

One is to never give up, and be prepared to do what hurts and not doing what is easy. Also, being able to learn fast through failures.

A few tips for young people who want to develop their own business: don't be afraid of talking about your ideas with other people. Don't start a business because of money. Start a business that can create value for someone else and with hard work, the rest, if you are lucky, should fall into place. Remember to stay positive, because you will find positive solutions through the inevitable failures.