Kuok Meng Ru, heir to the world’s largest agribusiness group, Wilmar International Limited, chose to branch out and form his own startup instead of going into the family business. Kuok Khoon Hong, Meng Ru’s father, built Wilmar International Limited from scratch and turned it into the world’s largest palm-oil business. Building an empire took time away from the family, with Meng Ru leaving for a British boarding school at the age of 10.
In the little time that the two spent together, Meng Ru was introduced to what grew into a lifelong passion and become the inspiration for his startup: Eric Clapton’s music. The senior Kuok introduced Eric Clapton’s music to Meng Ru, which led to an obsession with B.B. King and blues guitar. This fascination with blues music eventually led to Meng Ru’s decision to create a music-related startup rather than joining the family business. Working together with his business partner Steve Skillings, the duo came up with BandLab.
BandLab is a social music maker. The app aims to bring music makers together for collaborations that go beyond borders. The approach is similar to Instagram in the way that a global community of users shares their works—in this case, their music—on a network. BandLab is aspiring to be the social network of choice for musicians and fans of music alike. In addition to sharing, the app also comes equipped with features to record and edit music.
Meng Ru wants to bring convenience and simplicity to people who want to make music. Unlike conventional music apps and sites where users share completed songs, BandLab allows users to upload works-in-progress. They are then able to seek feedback or collaborations from other aspiring musicians. When a joint effort does take off, the app will keep track of all contributors so as to avoid any copyright issues. One group on BandLab has 50 rappers and musicians from 15 countries working together on a song.
BandLab is being funded by a group of private investors including Meng Ru’s father and JamHub Corp, a company that makes audio mixers. According to Meng Ru, with this investment, the startup is fully funded until 2019. While Meng Ru acknowledges his family’s support, he says that success—as evidenced by his father—will come from taking risks and setting out on his own. Having watched his father build his business from scratch, Meng Ru is a firm believer in earning from what one has built.