'Use other people’s money to achieve goals'

Singaporean billionaire and World Toilet Organization founder Jack Sim gives Israeli students advice on entrepreneurship.

Jack Sim 370 (photo credit: Idan Gross)
Jack Sim 370
(photo credit: Idan Gross)
Leverage other people’s money and power to achieve your goals. That is the message famed Singaporean social entrepreneur and World Toilet Organization founder Jack Sim imparted to Israeli students this week.
Sim delivered the key lecture at an event on entrepreneurship hosted by the College of Management Academic Studies’ (COMAS) School of Business Administration on Sunday. He intends to view the students’ projects and assess whether some of their ideas can be replicated outside of Israel.
“If you can use other people’s money, other people’s power, other people’s distribution, other people’s media, and other people’s influence and connections, and you align them towards a common mission, then each of them will join the party willingly,” Sim told The Jerusalem Post. “You can orchestrate the movement if you understand where the benefit is for each of them. The benefit [for each person] might be different, but in the end everyone wins.” Most budding social entrepreneurs make the mistake of viewing themselves as young and powerless, Sim said, adding that in reality anybody can change the world just by connecting and leveraging the right people.
Sim, who was born into poverty in pre-independence Singapore in the 1950s, founded his first of many businesses at age 24. In the 1990s, by that stage a billionaire, he turned his attention to public toilets after discovering that discussion of unsanitary conditions was taboo. He established the Restroom Association of Singapore in 1998, the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001 and the World Toilet College in 2005.
Giving the example of the WTO’s annual World Toilet Summit to explain his message, Sim said: “Municipal governments are willing to host the event because it helps them solve their own sanitation problems; the media are willing to cover the event because it gives them something to publish; and companies are willing to sponsor because the media coverage is strong.
“As you perpetuate this, it becomes a powerful reality by bringing everyone together. And it helps to achieve the [organizers’] end goal, which is that people get toilets and awareness increases,” he added.
Sim said he was satisfied with the standard of Israeli public toilets, but recommended that potential Israeli social entrepreneurs look to the developing world for opportunities. He said Israeli know-how could be devoted not only to improving the standard of sanitation in poorer countries, but also to educating them about cell phone use or drip irrigation, among other things.
Social entrepreneurship requires the same skills as commercial entrepreneurship, but its rewards cannot be measured by monetary value, Sim said.
“Social projects are not about yourself but about the impact that your idea causes, and the satisfaction of a successful idea is what the social entrepreneur is looking for.”
He added: “Sometimes the social entrepreneur forgets about this because his ego gets in the way. It’s my job to remind him to let it [his ego] go.”