Member Spotlight: Daniel He
Member Spotlight: Daniel He
It’s difficult to describe Daniel He in a nutshell. He has seamlessly transitioned between multiple careers and entrepreneurial endeavours in his life, from hospitality to technology to medical science—he is also a Medical Doctor with a Master in Emergency medicine. It’s very evident that he wants to steer clear of pigeon-holing himself.
Daniel attributes his innate curiosity to his parents. “Both of them were teachers and big fans of lifelong learning, even before it became a thing,” he says. His science teacher dad also inculcated a curiosity for technology in him.
These early influences have carved his life and career path. He started out in a management consulting firm after graduating in not one but three majors in completely different disciplines—Economics, Political Science and Neuroscience—from the University of Michigan. Daniel describes his first job as a testing ground of sorts—“the place for people who don’t know what they want to do in life given the broad sweep of companies and industries one gets exposed to”, he jokes.
He co-founded The Lo & Behold Group (TL&BG) with his friend Teng Wen Lee (who is now the sole owner and Managing Director) when he was on a gap year from work. The idea was literally formulated on a rooftop space overlooking Raffles Singapore hotel, propelled by the desire to create Singapore’s first rooftop bar. Although now defunct, Loof pioneered a change in Singapore’s bar scene, and TL&BG went on to change its culinary landscape as the duo began seeking similarly interesting and abandoned spaces to set up restaurants and more.
“It wasn’t a grand strategy to set up a hospitality group, rather just the two of us falling in love with multiple places and seeing how best we could open it up and let more people enjoy it,” says Daniel. “We were very lucky to have started at a time when Singapore’s hospitality scene was not very developed,” he adds with humility.
Despite riding the success wave, eight years later, Daniel decided to leave the hospitality scene completely and focus on a second career: Medicine. It was a solution to a quarterlife crisis, as he describes it, being the farthest from F&B. But it was also a natural choice given his keen interest in Biology. Daniel completed his medical degree at Duke-Nus Medical School and went on to work in Singapore General Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department.
Daniel is currently on a break from his doctor career and focusing on his new venture, The Kinetic Option (TKO), a marine propulsion company that specialises in electric drivetrains for small watercrafts.
“I like to try new things. I had spent about eight to 10 years in F&B, and then 10 years in medicine, so it’s kind of a natural time for me to start moving on to something a little bit different,” he says matter-of-factly.
One understands how the technology aspect could have been a big draw for Daniel. He also heads the Singapore Drone Association, so his familiarity with electric drivetrains does not come as much of a surprise—not at this point of our conversation at least.
But he throws in a curve ball when he reveals that he has an equal affinity to water. An avid swimmer, Daniel used to sail for his alma mater Anglo Chinese School as well. Thanks to a math teacher, who was also a dive instructor trainer, he obtained his diving
license at the age of 14.
The idea for TKO was conceived during COVID-19 lockdown along with his primary school friend who is a naval architect. For Daniel, it was the perfect opportunity to marry a few interests, capitalise on Singapore’s renewed interest in the yachting lifestyle and create a product that would have as slight a footprint as possible on our oceans.
“Singapore is a maritime nation; we are surrounded by water, but there’s almost very little innovation in the electric propulsion space for small crafts. There’s a huge amount of opportunity to bring electric drives to boats, everything from small watercrafts to larger vessels, but electronics and water don’t always mix, so it’s been a bit slow to take off,” he says. He is confident of the interest and the technology to make it happen. TKO was officially launched during the recent Singapore Yachting Festival at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove.
It is the first company of its kind in Singapore to manufacture and assemble these small watercrafts in Singapore and is all set to expand its operations to other countries.
“I have this terrible habit of turning hobbies into jobs. I have been lucky that the fun and business aspects have tended to align themselves quite well,” laughs Daniel. That along with the unwavering support of his family—his parents and wife have never questioned his choices.
A paediatric doctor at KK Hospital Singapore, his wife is equally unconventional having done a career pivot from anthropology—during which she spent time with tribes in Siberia, herding reindeer, to understand their social setup.
The family of three going on four—the couple have a five-year-old daughter and are currently expecting a son—make sure to carve out time together, indulging their shared love for food and new places. “She loves the mountains, I love the sea, so we try to meet in the middle when we travel,” says Daniel.
Daniel’s career trajectory and endless pursuit of new and interesting things makes one draw parallels to the stanza in Dr Seuss’ book Oh, the Places You’ll Go!: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
The path has not been hurdle-free, there have been challenges and naysayers. Daniel’s passion and knowledge about each project he has embarked on—being the person who knows what he’s talking about rather than one who is just looking at it as a business opportunity— have held him in good stead.
He does see himself going back to emergency medicine and upgrading himself as he counts it as one of the most enriching experiences in his life. “To me, emergency medicine is probably the most interesting part of medicine. I like working with my hands and interacting with people, and it is where I can make a definite difference on a minute-to-minute basis,” he says.
His focus is now on getting TKO to a level of stability, before exploring other aspects of the industry. As he says: “There’s literally so many different things you can do in the world—there’s no reason to limit yourself to just one.”
The original article was published on the July/ August 23 issue of Longitude, ONE°15 Marina’s Club magazine. Read it here.