Chua Khai Lin

A Special Feature by DBS Insignia
09 Jun 2017

The co-founder and CFO of Fundnel talks about her active involvement in marine preservation

It all started with shark’s fin soup. Chua Khai Lin loved the dish as a kid as it reminded her of joyous Chinese celebrations. But that changed when she came across a video footage of how shark’s fins were harvested, and learned about the impact of a declining shark population on the marine ecosystem. “Apart from the brutality, what struck me was the obliviousness of the general public to the marine ecosystem’s state of decline.”

As apex predators, sharks play an important role in the ecosystem by maintaining the species below them in the food chain, and indirectly shepherding the status of the seagrass and coral reef populations, Khai Lin explains. The result of overfishing has led to the decline of the shark population and the corresponding loss of seagrass and coral reef beds, and therefore, the loss of commercial fisheries that many depend on for their livelihood. “Sustainability is important, and we should be looking out for the generation to come.”

Khai Lin’s respect for the marine ecosystem extends to whales and dolphins. “Knowing how they migrate, reproduce, and survive have drawn me closer to them. These amazing creatures don’t just exist for our viewing pleasure. Research by Finders University, for example, shows that sperm whale faeces encourages the growth of phytoplankton, which in turns sucks 400,000 tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere each year.”

But dolphins and whales continue to face increasing threat from human errors including oil spills and overhunting. “It goes without saying that the loss of any one distinct population of whale or dolphin has dramatic long-term effects on what remains of the species. I believe that by protecting dolphins and whales, we protect the ocean and the ecosystem.”

Khai Lin is heavily involved with two projects by Tethys Research Institute, a non-profit international research organization, which supports marine conservation through science and public awareness.

In 2010, she participated in the Ionian Dolphin Project with the Tethys Research Institute. “In the coastal waters of Greece, dolphin populations face significant threat with the increase in human encroachment; other dolphin populations have disappeared from portions of their former range. At the Ionian Dolphin Project, we ensure the long-term survival of two particular dolphin species in the Gulf of Ambracia and the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago.”

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In 2013 and 2016, she joined the Cetaceans Sanctuary Research Project, also with the Tethys Research Institute. “We focused on the whales and dolphins in the Ligurian Sea within the Pelagos Sanctuary, a marine-protected area. I was particularly involved with data collection, alongside many other aspects of the fieldwork.”

At the Cetacean Sanctuary Research Project, they conducted sighting shifts, collecting scientific data including geographic locations of the sightings, dive durations, and prey samples of the fin and sperm whales. “The biggest reward of each project is usually sighting our eight-targeted species; we would immediately scramble to employ various techniques to identify single individuals in the vast ocean. The opportunity to live and work with the warm and jovial crew on board was amazing; the best part of the day was kicking back with the sun setting on the horizon and just living in the moment.”

At the Ionian Dolphin Project, Khai Lin spent each day on inflatable boats off the coast of Vonitsa in Greece to survey the seas for Bottlenose and Common dolphins. “The project has been going on for 25 years, and we had the company of experienced researches from whom I learned heaps. I discovered a newfound respect for these researchers who dedicate their entire lives to dolphin conservation.”

Khai Lin recommends visiting actual sanctuaries, including the new project spearheaded by former US president Barack Obama in Hawaii. “Sadly, many people mistake aquariums for sanctuaries. Swimming with and feeding dolphins rarely constitute conservation efforts. Any activity that disrupts the animals’ natural activity should be discouraged. Despite good intentions, keeping marine life in aquariums does more harm than good; that’s why I’ve stayed away from aquariums for a while now.”


At Work

My fellow co-founders and I knew we could make a real difference to the funding requirements of small and medium-sized enterprises in the region. That was the only motivation we needed to start Fundnel.

Starting an enterprise from scratch is daunting regardless of your experience level. There’s no infrastructure, no safety net. Statistically, 90 per cent of startups fail. But I’ve always had a passion for business and finance, and believe in making a mark in the industry with those that need a solution the most. Fundnel is that mark.

Our ambition remains unwavering; we want to help fellow entrepreneurs that experience insufficient access to growth and expansion funding, and create an ecosystem for prolific companies to get the funds they deserve, while creating innovative products for the betterment of the private markets.

As CFO I oversee all financial procedures and protocols in our day-to-day operations, but being in a fledgling business means that we double- and triple-hat everyday. You’ll find me in the crowd or on the panel sessions at most fintech events around the region; I also double up as project manager to our tech team. The dynamic nature of our firm allows me to try new things frequently.


At Play

Frequent work and leisure trips have made her a savvy traveler.

Travel Tips
Books her tickets early for better seat and longer time to plan trips to the smallest detail

Travel Perks
Lower airfares with considerable bargains through a little homework on the Internet

Modern airline technology and improved service standards make for safer and more comfortable journeys

Repeat Leisure Destinations
The UK, Italy and New Zealand

“I spent a fair bit of time in London having studied at and graduated from the University College London, and interning Citibank as an Investment Banking Analyst. The culture and culinary appeal of Italy is too much to resist, and I argue that nowhere else in the world will you find scenery as breathtaking as it is in New Zealand (remember the Lord of the Rings trilogy?)