40under40: Adam Yap is one of the leaders behind Perth's largest and most successful startup.
Adam Yap credits the independent streak he developed as a child with much of the determination and drive he has brought to his professional career.
Mr Yap migrated to Australia from Malaysia as a child without his mother, who placed him and his younger sister in their grandmother’s care.
At school, Mr Yap rapidly discovered an interest in programming and began self-learning at a high school level during his primary school years.
“A key factor to my success has been my steadfast belief in the incredible potential of people, including myself,” Mr Yap told Business News.
He went on to study law at university, while continuing to develop his programming skills in his spare time, before landing a job at a consultancy firm in Singapore.
“My hobby was I wrote for a magazine called Australian Personal Computer and I used to review all the early mobile devices,” he said.
On the basis of that experience, an Australian company building online management programs for the health industry in America offered Mr Yap a position.
Although engaged in a marketing role with the company, he had a passion to be more involved in the creation process of the health product, so began to seek a new path in Perth.
“I ended up in health because you get a real kick building something that people use to improve their health,” Mr Yap said.
“And so when I looked for the next thing I was like, ‘it’s got to be in health, it’s got to be in technology, it’s got to be a startup’.
“Sometimes in Perth you have to start your own thing if you want to do that.”
The health directory and appointment website HealthEngine was originally founded in 2006 by a group of Australian doctors frustrated with the inefficiency of the local system.
Future Health Ventures, an angel fund led by doctor and entrepreneur Marcus Tan bought the business in 2009.
Soon after, Mr Yap was appointed as co-founder and chief operations officer.
“At the beginning it was healthcare providers that needed help,” Mr Yap said.
“I said, ‘actually I think consumer interest will grow’.”
With a consumer focus, HealthEngine rapidly grew from a five-person startup to employing 140 people nationally.
“We went from 10,000 monthly visitors to 50,000 then 100,000 then 200,000, and that was a really rapid transition,” Mr Yap said.
Now the company attracts one million visitors to its website, monthly.
He said the greatest challenge he faced came in 2011, when the team struggled to monetise the model they had built.
“I was investing my own money, no longer working in a paid position and had a three-year-old at home,” Mr Yap said.
By persevering, however, HealthEngine managed to maintain growth and attract investor support from Telstra, Seven West Media and recently global venture capital firm Sequoia Capital; with $50 million flowing in from outside WA.
Mr Yap said despite the potential to capture a larger audience in America, he was committed to keeping the business headquartered in Western Australia.