A founder's journey!
My name is Viviane Salin, I am a French born Asian, based in Singapore since 2006. I was born and bred in Strasbourg, where my parents had arrived and settled from Hong-Kong (my mum) and Indonesia (my dad). I always felt more French than Asian, but now that I have been living for all those years in Singapore and that my children were born here, my Asian roots have grown, and I can say I am a real “banana” as we French born Asians like to call ourselves, white under a yellow skin, a mixed flavour!
As a young child, I started learning the violin at age 4. I loved it and played in many orchestras in France, both professionally and for fun. But I still pursued some studies and after graduating from HEC Paris, French top business school, I worked in Paris for a few years in events management. I married a fellow graduate and we decided to venture outside our comfort zone and discover other parts of the world. As Vincent had an opportunity to go to Singapore through his work, we took it. We thought we would stay here only for a few years and then move on to other countries, but today, 13 years later, we are still here and enjoying it! So what have I been doing here for all those years?
First, I took my own sweet time and took it easy, too happy to leave the corporate world! Why work when it was sunny everyday and new friends eager to drink coffee and chat! Plus, there were so many weekends to organise and life was just easy. I was also starting to mingle worth the classical music scene here and played the violin professionally with different orchestras (Singapore Lyric Opera), gigged around town and even played several times at the Istana, the Presidential palace. I was also teaching the violin at the German School of Singapore and privately.
I enjoyed reinventing myself in a new country. I discovered a sense of freedom that I still cherish dearly today. Travelling was also a big part of our life, and South East Asia became our great playground.
In the meantime, our 2 kids were born in Singapore, Django in 2008 and Annabelle in 2010.
In 2012, as we were looking for the perfect preschool for our kids, it dawned on me that nothing really matched what we wanted. We wanted to maintain a good level of French language for our children, to educate them the French way, but to also expose them to the international community and curriculum, and English language. Maybe we wanted a 5-legged sheep, or maybe I could just create the perfect dream school for our own children! So I just figured, why not do it ourself?...After months of work, our dream came true. My husband and I created La Petite Ecole, a small, cosy, family-run French bilingual preschool in a beautiful and serene environment, within Blue House International school in one of the greenest area of Singapore. It offers a French curriculum based programme, taught in both French and English for kids aged 3 to 6 years old.
In 2015, we won the French Entrepreneur Award of the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, and opened a nursery playgroup for little ones below 3.
In 2018, we opened a French language center in Kuala Lumpur, The French Academy.
I truly love business development, exploring new ventures, tasting new waters and try things out. I like to invent, to create and to execute, to see ideas come to life, become real places, real things for people to enjoy. I am especially fond of things that are useful to others, that can bring joy, and educate. Things that leave a positive and sustainable mark on people and their environment.
After opening a few schools, it was time for me, well, to discover something new and different again! And again, I didn’t go too far for my inspiration...I just had to look at my kids! We spent the 2017 Christmas holidays in Sri Lanka, and had several hours drive a day. I was observing what my children were playing on their tablet to spend time. How they were hooked to it, how excited, how engaged they were!
A lot has been said about screen time for children, a lot of good things too. The Edutech sector is booming with educational apps, games, software, used by schools or directly by parents with their children at home. But I couldn’t find many really exciting educational games for my kids. Either it looked too much like disguised worksheets, or what is called “chocolate-covered broccoli”, either there was a just a nice gaming part within a bigger website full of exercises and many different topics. Often, my kids found that those apps were very childish. Overall, good educational apps are very much school/ teachers/ parents centric. They focus mainly on the problem of the educator and are a tool to help deliver content in an efficient and sometimes fun way.
What I had in mind was something closer to the raisingly popular casual games, even hyper casual. Very quick and snackable games that could be played in a few minutes, easily accessible from a phone or a tablet. But instead of playing only for the sake of having fun, getting excited, compete and get an adrenaline boost, I wanted kids to learn something as well. To use the performing and fascinating gaming mechanisms for a good cause: help kids practise skills and have fun while doing it! I didn’t want to create a complicated story, again it had to be simple and efficient.
That is how I came up with the idea of Dragon Whiz. My kids were playing Slither, a modern version of the ancient snake game on nokia phones. I just wondered, what if, instead of the snake eating out colorful balls and growing, it would be eating answers to simple maths questions, and growing when answers were correct? Then I went on a quest to find a developer who would buy this idea, be on board and help me create that game! And I was lucky to find Singaporean Lim Chian Song. He suggested the idea of a dragon instead of a snake, that would gain baby dragons for each correct answer...Et voilà!!
My new baby project was born, and it has been an exciting journey to see it grow, attract and entertain kids, while helping them practise maths, and overcome the fear and anxiety of calculation!