Turning Ginseng into an Opportunity
1. The Story Behind Synectify
How Dr. Peter Finn, CEO of Synectify, got his startup idea is an interesting one.
A few years ago, Dr. Finn came to NUS to pursue his PhD degree. As the program was
very challenging, he started to encounter some problems such as stress and lack of
sleep. For this reason, he started to consume American ginseng to resolve these
problems and to improve his concentration and focus. However, he started to realise
some of the issues that the industry faced. For instance, about 90% of the American
ginseng in the Chinese market is actually fake because it is often American ginseng
grown in China or inferior Canadian ginseng re-exported from the United States.
At the same time, he began to get involved with cryptocurrencies, which uses the
concept of ‘Blockchain’. From that point, he realised that if someone could connect the
physical products with a blockchain token (which cannot be counterfeit), they would
actually be able to select all the products which are counterfeit-protected. Hence, he
started to develop a plan to make this work, and managed to file for a patent for his
technology. Last year, with help from NUS GRIP, he finally had the opportunity to create
Synectify so as to put this idea into practice. “Our first validation came last year, when a
leading Wisconsin ginseng exporter signed-on to conduct a pilot implementation of our
technology,” says Dr Finn.
2. His Motivation
When asked about his key driving force behind Synectify, Dr. Finn replied that he
started Synectify because he loves the challenges and risks that he is undertaking as
an entrepreneur. As a risk taker, he embraces new challenges and problems, which
made him interested in the startup ecosystem.
3. Life of an Entrepreneur
The reality of being an entrepreneur may not be as simple as some people think.
According to Dr. Finn, “As an entrepreneur, especially one at the technological forefront,
there is often no one to turn to for help about how to proceed. No one can advise you
because what you are doing may never have been done before.” However, he also
stated, “My driving force has always been the impact I can achieve through
entrepreneurship — to be a billionaire measured in terms of lives improved, not just
dollars earned.” That was truly inspirational! With that said, every entrepreneur’s journey
and goals are very different so what works for this startup might not work for another. As
such, everyone should seek to understand their own constraints and dreams, learn from
their own mistakes to carve out a journey that is uniquely theirs.
4. Pushing Through Adversities
Dr. Finn also faced a fair share of challenges when it comes to Synectify. He shared
that during the COVID-19 pandemic, households were not keen on getting more
ginseng and he oversaw a sharp decline in his sales. This left him at a loss for several
months. However, due to his quick-wittedness and good business acumen, he quickly
sensed the urgent need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and came up with the
idea to shift the use of their technology towards that direction in full throttle. “We are
close to launching our first production version of the technology with a face mask
manufacturer in the United States,” he reveals. This allowed them to swiftly adapt to the
changing needs and penetrate into the new market, propelling Synectify to greater
heights during the pandemic.
In addition, Dr. Finn also faced challenges within his startup. He had to learn how to
manage good teamwork with all his colleagues so that they remain productive and
efficient. He also learnt the importance of finding the right time to execute their
innovations, which was something taught to him from his previous startup.
5. Golden Advice
People who have been searching for the secret formula to being a successful
entrepreneur, to discover the immediate way to success without experiencing failure in
their startup journey, would be disappointed to hear this. Dr. Finn stated that, “Nope,
there is no instant way of being successful. Every person has a different path of
success. Therefore, you need to be ready to embrace failure.” From what he said, we
can see that being an entrepreneur is a really difficult task to do. But, he left us with one
of his most inspiring quotes, “You should never compare yourself with others. This is
because every person has a different starting point. Therefore, if you want to be an
entrepreneur, you should always remember to make the best out of your resources and
try to find a light inside a dark room.”
Regarding the tips of being a better entrepreneur, Dr. Finn said that being open-minded
is very crucial, as it allows you to enrich your perspective by listening to the market and
other people. In addition, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you should never want to
make instant money. Your motivation should be to make other people’s lives better and
be a great example to society. Last but not the least, you should always remember that
learning never stops, even after your startup becomes successful. He said, “always
remember to learn on how to learn”.
6. Greatest Inspiration
Our final question to him was about his greatest inspiration. He responded that the
scale of the startup does not matter in his opinion, as long as the entrepreneurs did not
give up and embraced all the problems they faced during their journey. That is truly a
very encouraging message from Dr. Finn. Indeed, being fearless and adventurous are
key to paving the way to a successful startup.
Here, we would like to thank Dr. Finn who agreed to let us interview him and publish this
If you would like to know more about Synectify, do visit their official website at