Who says CEOs are boring people?

Bossy men in suits. That’s probably what first comes to mind when the initialism ‘CEO’ is mentioned.

But in the 21st century, Chief Executive Officers are shrugging off the traditional image of a stern boss. Instead, they perform their role by being major badasses, while epitomising the phrase “do what you love and love what you do”.

We take a look at these 10 unconventional, badass CEOs who excel in doing what they love:

1. Tan Min-Liang, CEO of Razer Inc.

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The CEO and Creative Director of Razer Inc., a gaming hardware company, was from the prestigious Raffles Institution in Singapore. But did you know he disliked his nasty teachers? To take “revenge” on them, Tan advised the RI students to drop out of school. Unfortunately, many didn’t understand his humour and were up in arms over his comment.

He was also a lawyer for two years before he co-founded Razer in 1998. This year, Tan was named “Top 10 Most Influential Leaders in Tech” by Juniper Research, prevailing over Alibaba’s Jack Ma and America’s most badass CEO, Elon Musk of Tsla and Space X.

2. Pat Law, CEO of Goodstuph

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In an interview with The Story Exchange, Law said “I will piss a person off within the first five minutes of meeting them.”

The unconventional CEO of social media agency, Goodstuph, is clearly not your usual CEO. The openly gay Law stands out as a conspicuous character with her cropped hairdo, funky glasses and tattoos.

In 2013, Marketing Magazine named Goodstuph social media agency of the year, dethroning bigger industry players like Ogilvy and Mindshare. This honour was not without risks – the former digital strategist at Ogilvy left her promising position to start Goodstuph. Her father was diagnosed with brain tumour and as the second breadwinner of the family, she felt that she had to take a gamble to help pay her father’s medical bills. The venture eventually took off.

Instead of fretting over financial issues, Law was spurred on by her entrepreneurial spirit and worked her way up from a blank canvas to get Goodstuph to where it is today.

Badassery, checked.

3. Malcolm Rodrigues, CEO of MyRepublic

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Rodrigues was formerly Vice President of StarHub International & Wholesale. In 2011, Rodrigues founded MyRepublic together with former StarHub’s Senior VP of Consumer Sales KC Lai and Alcatel-Lucent’s Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN) team leader Greg Mittman.

MyRepublic aims to offer unlimited mobile data bundles to future subscribers, a concept the three telcos have been trying to phase out. MyRepublic also assured that services like Facebook and Whatsapp would not be charged, snubbing Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong, who believed telcos should be able to charge for these applications.

In an interview with e27, Rodrigues said “I think the incumbents have become arrogant in their approach historically and I think they have burned bridges with a lot of their customers.”

Maybe this is why MyRepublic wants to burn these telcos. Check out this MyRepublic rocket “coincidentally” pointing towards the SingTel building.

4. Saw Phaik Hwa, Ex-CEO of SMRT

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The ex-CEO of SMRT was infamously remembered for her remark, “People can board the train – it is whether they choose to.”

Let us take a moment of silence to digest that sentence. 

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Saw became SMRT’s CEO and President in 2002, after she was retrenched from her position as Regional President at DFS Ventures Singapore.

In 2012, Saw resigned from her post following public outrage due to a slew of train disruptions that affected thousands of commuters in 2011. The controversy magnet was often criticised – from the things she said to the way she spends her money to the photo of her on a sedan (above). According to media reports, Saw earned $1.85 million in 2010 and lives in a landed property off Lornie Road. She also owns two luxury cars, a Mercedes-Benz 500 and a Ferrari California.

After leaving SMRT, she was appointed as CEO of Auric Pacific Group, but has since stepped down as chief executive and executive director on 1 May 2015.

5. Campbell Wilson, CEO of Scoot

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If there’s anyone with a scootitude, it’s gotta be Scoot’s CEO, Campbell Wilson. In April this year, Scoot got wind of how similar US budget airline Spirit’s website and logo was to theirs. Of course, the airline known for their cheeky attitude wasn’t going to leave it as that and retaliated with a tongue-in-cheek video. In the video, the man himself personally made an appearance , comparing the branding of the two airlines from colour scheme to marketing collateral.

Watch it for yourself here:

So a little yellow birdie told us that a certain American airline looks familiar. It looks like #ScootInspires their current campaign…well, we’re really flattered! Watch this video and tell us what you think!

Posted by FlyScoot on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Unfortunately, his badass factor was taken down several notches when Scoot passengers experienced major flight delays with no proper explanation or updates about the situation.

6. Violet Lim, CEO of Lunch Actually

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After graduating with a law degree from the University of Manchester and a masters degree in industry relations and personality management from London School of Economics, Lim worked as assistant manager at Citigroup for over a year.

She then decided to start her own matchmaking business after realising many of her attractive and eligible colleagues were single but not dating. Her father, a used car salesman and her mother, a tailor, thought she was crazy and discouraged her from being an entrepreneur because of the hurdles she might face. Badassery 101: if you’re convinced of your great idea, throw caution to the wind. Don’t let objections be your stumbling block.

Fortunately for Lim, she eventually received their blessings, but faced a new set of challenges as she experienced difficulties to even rent an office space, due to the stigma attached to dating services. Friends also advised Lim against starting the company with her then-fiance Jamie Lee, as their status could lead to unnecessary complications. She ahead nonetheless and believed they complemented each other in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

Today, according to Lunch Actually, it is the “first and largest lunch dating agency in Asia with offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Jakarta”.

7. Davinder Singh, CEO of Drew & Napier

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The top litigator has an impressive portfolio, which includes having represented Mr. Lee Kuan Yew in his controversial lawsuits against foreign media outlets and opposition politicians. After all, how many can say they’ve had that honour?

More recently, Singh is representing PM Lee Hsien Loong in a defamation lawsuit against blogger Roy Ngerng and made the blogger cry during a cross-examination.

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8. Woon Junyang, CEO of Infinium Robotics

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How do you like the idea of having robots serve you food? Thanks to technology, this would materialise sooner than you envisioned – it is estimated that flying drones will be serving customers starting later this year. Woon intends to revolutionise the service industry through these drones.

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Infinium Robotics, the creator of the smart flying robot, or Flying Robotic Intelligent Servers (Fris), signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Timbre Group on 31 October last year. Starting year end, Timbre will spend a “seven-digit sum” to deploy 40 drones at all five outlets, with productivity expected to be improved by 25 per cent.

In October last year, the flying robot presented PM Lee a Singapore Flag during the exhibition for National Productivity Month 2014.

Infinium Robotics started out in 2013 with just three people, a contrast from the 14 employees it has today. The Singapore company is located both here and in Silicon Valley.

9. Lawrence Koh, CEO of iFly Singapore

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In 2008, skydiving enthusiast Captain Lawrence Koh resigned from the SAF and started iFly Singapore. The idea was to cater the experience of flight to the masses in an affordable, safe and accessible manner – so he thought, why not build an indoor skydiving simulator? Koh then went on to secure S$25M from two investors to fund his business.

In May 2011, iFly Singapore was officially launched.

Now, everyone can fly without wiiiings!

10. Irene Ang, CEO of Fly Entertainment

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Arguably most recognised for her role as Phua Chu Kang’s wife, Rosie Phua, Ang had not planned on auditioning for the role but only did so after she was spotted working as ‘warm-up’ for Under One Roof. The former insurance agent fell in love with the entertainment industry, but was disheartened by how things were carried out. She witnessed industry veterans who devoted their life to television and theatre and yet paid pittance, or worse, not paid after finishing the job. She decided that all that was going to change and started FLY entertainment. Because MediaCorp monopolized the industry, Ang set up an events arm to create more opportunities for her artistes.

Today, FLY entertainment counts Running Into The Sun, a Singapore-based concert organiser and promoter, FLY Academy, FLY bistro, and Bar Naked under its wing.

For indirectly competing with MediaCorp, this is what we have to say to Ang:

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Bonus

11. Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia

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The Malaysian entrepreneur was the one who made budget flying possible by introducing no-frills airline, AirAsia, to Malaysians. Fernandes managed to revive the failing government-linked commercial airline into a successful publicly listed budget airline. In mid-2003, he played a pivotal part in lobbying then-Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to put forward the plan of open skies agreements with neighbouring Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. These countries eventually granted landing rights to AirAsia and other budget carriers.

What makes a successful CEO?

In Singapore, we clearly have no lack of our own Elon Musks.

These CEOs show us what badass means. They have driven their companies to massive success – most of their business plans were conceived with an unorthodox idea and brought to life, even when the world was full of naysayers who said their ideas wouldn’t work.

So think out of the box and dream big! If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

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With reference to Wikipedia, YahooThe Story Exchangee27, Wikipedia, AsiaOne, Yahoo, TODAY Online, The New Paper, Tech In Asia