As Asia’s top dating coach and lifestyle consultant, David Tian, Ph.D., has coached hundreds of men and women to success in dating, relationships, and lifestyle since 2007. As Executive Director of Aura Dating Academy, David empowers men and women in Singapore with the social skills, emotional intelligence, and dating strategies to find greater happiness and fulfillment in life; equips people with a proven system for achieving success in their social lives, dating lives, and love lives; and provides a total solution for excellence in relationships and lifestyle.
I was born in Taiwan, and raised and educated in Canada and the USA. I lived in Beijing for 4 years before settling in Singapore in 2008 to take up a position as tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. My Ph.D. is from The University of Michigan. At the end of 2010, I resigned my professorship to take up the directorship of my own company, Aura Dating (Pte. Ltd.), which is a dating academy that offers coaching and products to help men and women succeed in their dating and love lives.
What was the impetus behind building your business and brand? What is your “origin story?”
I wanted to make a bigger impact on people and the world. And what better way than helping people find happiness in their relationships?
When making the plunge into entrepreneurship, what challenges did you face that were unique to your situation and niche? How would you do things differently if you could again?
Since I am not a Singapore citizen but I was opening and registering my company in Singapore, it was necessary that I had a local director and process all the paperwork my own work visa through my own company. Singapore is a wonderful place to start a business. It’s very business-friendly. I had originally approached several investors, and though I got lots of offers to help with advice and non-financial resources, no one actually put down any funds.
However, I was glad for this in the end that I was forced to bootstrap my way through the first few months, as I was able to prove to myself that I could do it without any external funding. Plus, I didn’t owe any investors any interest or dividends.If I could do things differently, I would pay more attention to marketing. I got into this business from the coaching side and had to learn all the business skills and knowledge from scratch on my own. It’s been an exciting learning experience.
What attracted you to the Asia Pacific region for entrepreneurship? Do you find that there exist high-growth markets here for your field? Or was the decision based more on lifestyle and personal preference?
I studied Asian culture for a living for over 15 years. My passion is Asia–its culture, history, cuisines, and people. So it was natural that I would start a business in this area. Also, Singapore is one of the most entrepreneur-friendly countries in the world, with low corporate and personal taxes and ease of entry for new foreign-owned businesses.
How would you recommend that aspiring young international entrepreneurs identify and seize niche opportunities in the way that you have?
Look for what you personally care a lot about. Can you grow that and scale it out? Also, look for what you needed but couldn’t find. Chances are, many other people are in the same predicament. Create a product or service to meet that need. Test out your ideas before investing too much. Stay lean.
You’ve got quite a strong academic background. Have you ever felt that you were, in some way, sacrificing this education by pursuing the entrepreneurial path? Or did it supplement and aid you in your journey?
No, I have no regrets about my past. Everything I have experienced has led me to become the person I am today. Much of my uniqueness in my field is due to my more academically rigorous approach to the subject matter. My first book on this subject (Asian masculinity and dating) draws a lot on my knowledge and research in Asian studies.
Where would you recommend that aspiring expat entrepreneurs head in Asia? Are there particular fields, niches, or industries that you think are particularly promising?
You really need to test out your business concept first. So you shouldn’t think of just starting a business in Asia just for the sake of starting it.
Test out your ideas online on a manageable, smaller scale in an Asian market. If your business get traction, then grow it all organically. If it’s a workable business idea, you should be able to see it in the results. And then you can invest more. Otherwise, you can cut your losses and try something else.
So Dr. Tian, have you got any insights or tips for us related to the dating field in Singapore?
Asians need to learn how to be more social and develop their social intelligence. Just talking to three new strangers every day can help with that. It shouldn’t just be for the purposes of dating. Chat with the taxi driver, the cashier at the convenience store, the sales assistant at the clothing store. Train yourself to be a more social person. For a lot more dating advice, check out the article on my websites at www.auradating.com and www.asianrake.com