Edward Yee: Helping Those Who Help SocietyMay 3rd, 2022
Edward Yee is the co-founder of Givfunds Social Ventures, a non-profit organisation which provides sustainable and low-cost capital to neglected social enterprises using data from local communities. The organisation has impacted over 45,000 lives directly, over 900,000 lives indirectly and has helped many social enterprises raise multimillion-dollar funding from a range of high-profile funds. But what makes Edward Yee ‘tick’? 25-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent Karishma Arora from India interviewed him to find out.
Already with a few feathers in his cap, Edward Yee has bagged two accolades at the Commonwealth Youth Awards – Regional Winner of Asia and the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust prize. How does he feel about these honours? “I’m grateful as well as surprised,” he says. “The other social entrepreneurs have done incredible work.”
Edward was born and brought up in Singapore and is the co-founder of Masref. Inspired by his visits to hundreds of social enterprises globally, he co-founded Givfunds. The purpose-driven startup, which currently operates in India, aims to help numerous social enterprises in South Asia gain access to capital and create a larger impact.
As a Rhodes Scholar, Kairos Society Fellow, and a Global Youth Ambassador for Education at Theirworld, Edward is quite the achiever. But what has driven him to such a high standard of success?
Being dyslexic meant reading and learning even the fundamentals was a challenge for Edward. However, he figured out creative ways to overcome this, such as using coloured highlighters when he had to commit different things to memory. This simple trick helped instil in him organisational skills that he has maintained even into adulthood.
For this high achiever, a typical day is filled with work and related calls. Currently, the entrepreneur and his Masref co-founder operate from his living room. But running two start-ups simultaneously can be hectic, so much so that Edward often finds it difficult even to enjoy a wholesome breakfast. “I will probably get white hair soon. Not a very interesting typical day!” he chuckles.
To cut the monotony, he turns to his hobbies. He is particularly passionate about travelling and loves to meet people from different cultures and ethnicities. According to the businessman, witnessing the world from others’ perspectives has helped him to learn more about social entrepreneurship.
“A big part of why I travel is to get stories and I hope to collect more such stories over my lifetime,” he says ecstatically.
But his interest in travel does not stop there. He loves the thrilling adventure of it. Getting into trouble, encountering strange situations, and then overcoming them makes life fun, he explains.
While the pandemic has put Edward’s travel plans on hold, he has picked up the football and often calls his partner from Nigeria to have a virtual match or two. He also binges movies and TV series and recently got an Oculus headset to e-meet his friends in the augmented world of the metaverse.
As the light-hearted conversation went along, I posed a question to Edward that perhaps he found more challenging to answer: What has been the lowest point in his life?
“It was way back in 2018 when I planned to start Givfunds. My co-founder Irwan and I kept facing rejection from various stakeholders in the domain. I remember it came to a point where we almost gave up. People believed that there was no way this model could solve the problem. It was Irwan who had an unshakeable belief in my ideas, and soon, things got on track”, he sums up.
His fighting spirit comes from the incredible support he receives from his parents and other relatives. Initially, they had been quite uncertain and astonished by his dream to become the first full-fledged entrepreneur in the family. Now, they are an unwavering pillar for the young businessman.
Growing up in Singapore is accompanied by a lot of pressure to compete, especially when it comes to career and money. But stepping out of that environment allowed Edward to focus on what he calls the important things, which include creating an impact in the life of social entrepreneurs by making the resources they need accessible.
In ten years, Edward’s vision is that Givfunds will expand beyond the shores of India and provide hundreds more social enterprises the opportunity to be a changemaker. The goal, he says, is to reach social enterprises that are neglected and who have no access to capital, despite doing amazing work.
Edward has got an inspiring message for youths around the world. He wants them to know that sometimes it is easy to feel that your words aren’t listened to, that your actions aren’t being felt, and that what you do does not matter. At such times, keep pushing and keep trying to change the status quo. “Fall seven times and stand up eight”, as the powerful adage says.
His tremendous respect for social entrepreneurs is the force that drives him to work hard each day. He wishes to utilize every platform he is a part of to create accessible resources and scale the impact of these people working at the grassroots level.
I wish Edward more travels, more stories, more chai, more success, and more wishes to create the magical footprints in his journey of life.
Photo Credits: Edward Yee
About Karishma Arora: My source of happiness is working for the vulnerable and underprivileged. I aspire to be a civil servant and contribute to public services. Some of my interests include creative writing, photography and debating.