Co-founder of proptech company Fraxtor Rachel Teo shows how to juggle her many roles in the disparate worlds of real estate, technology and blockchain, as well as arts and culture
In a tech world dominated by men, Rachel Teo started Fraxtor with co-founder Oliver Siah. The duo are also managing directors at Fraxtor, a digital platform that allows investors to buy fractional units of real estate. Besides Fraxtor, Teo is also the director of Daniel Teo Group of Companies; a board member of The Teng Company; and director of The Private Museum.
Teo’s love for performing arts, architecture, art, and culture stems from her childhood days when her father, Daniel Teo, brought her and her siblings to museums and art galleries. In addition, her mother is the award-winning ballerina Goh Soo Khim, who co-founded Singapore’s first professional dance company, the Singapore Dance Theatre, with the late Anthony Then in 1988.
Teo recalls: “My mother is well known in the performing arts world. When [my siblings and I] were young, we attend- ed concert rehearsals and we would sit there waiting for her to finish. It gave me an appreciation of how much work goes on behind the scenes.”
Through her dad, Teo discovered an appreciation for art and architecture as he would take her on numerous tours of old building sites. At that time, he was already looking at conserving buildings with sustainability in mind. “Now when I look at old buildings, I try to find a new life for the building. It has been a learning curve for me, but enjoyable too,” she says.
When not looking at numbers, visiting old buildings, or attending concerts, Teo finds many ways to decompress such as scuba diving and underwater photography. She adds: “These days, I’ve picked up a new hobby, which is the cello. I love the sound of the instrument and have been drawn to it since my early 20s. But I never got around to learning it until Covid hit, the year I turned 50. It was something that I really wanted to do, and I felt that I had the time and was ready to commit to it, as it does require a lot of time to practise.”
She shares more about Fraxtor, her interests in the arts, and her inspirations with Options.
How did you come to co-found Fraxtor?
I had been thinking of new ways to approach the topic of investing in real estate, which is known to involve huge quantum and is often illiquid in nature. Investing in real estate has always been a core of the family business, with us co-investing with our partners for many years. Hence when blockchain technology started to gain traction, I was drawn to it as it seemed like a way forward to record in- vestments in real-time and at a fraction of the cost. This meant that co-investing could be done easier, with technology aiding in the transformation of how property investment can be done.
How did you get involved in blockchain investment?
I met Oliver [Siah] through a mutual friend about seven years ago. At that time, ICOs [initial coin offerings] and cryptocurrencies were still quite new and all the rage. We were both very interested in property and also understood the challenges that all investors face. This includes issues like due diligence, property management, financing, tenant acquisition and management etc. Hence, we started working on the prototype for the platform about four years ago.
We are continuously improving the platform as technology improvements are made possible, like onboarding of clients through facial recognition and usage of the Singpass Myinfo service.
Not many women are into tech stuff. How did that interest grow for you?
I have always been drawn by the power of the Internet. When platforms like Amazon first started, I was already buying books and kids toys off the Internet. I was already comfortable with technology and the opportunities it presented. I believed that doing investments online was just a matter of time, as people became more comfortable with the idea. Covid has just hastened the acceptance [of the idea].
Did your interest in art come from your parents?
My interest in the arts was definitely imparted by my parents. When [my siblings and I] were young, we would be dragged to the museums, art galleries, and of course lots of ballet concerts. Unfortunately, I was not good at ballet, which required not only strict discipline but also flexibility. I stopped ballet lessons in Secondary One, preferring to spend my time on athletics.
Both my parents had been strong supporters of the arts in their own ways. My mother was perhaps more well known in the performing arts sector and my father was more involved in the visual arts sector when he started the Wetterling Teo Gallery in 1994. To this day, I still enjoy the perform- ing arts may it be dance, theatre, choral singing or opera. For visual arts, we continue with our endeavours to support the art ecosystem through the Private Museum.
What was it like growing up in the Teo household?
We grew up very closely knit as we stayed with my grandfather. So there were three-generation under one roof. Conversations over dinner would usually revolve around what happened during the day. To this day, meal times and get-togethers through meals are very important for the family.
Who inspires you?
It is hard to name one particular person. I think I have been inspired by many people in my life. I believe that a lot of our encounters are serendipitous. Hence, in different parts of my life, I have been inspired and influenced by many different people.
For example, about how I got into real estate — my grandfather inspired me and encouraged me to step forward in helping out with the family business. This was a big push factor as one generation ago, only the men were encouraged to join the business. Seeing that he was able to evolve and accept new ways of doing things had its influence.
He was also a philanthropist who believed in giving back. During his time, that meant sending money back to his hometown to build a school. I think that because he never had any formal education, he had strongly believed that education was the key to success for the next generation. So he always encouraged us to study hard.
Another person who inspires me would be my mother who had such an unusual career but yet was able to juggle that with having a family.
How do you want to inspire the next generation of women entering the workforce?
The challenges that the next generation faces would be similar in terms of finding a job that provides work satisfaction as well as being able to have a family. I have always focused on what it means to have a balance between the two. I read a quote recently by a woman who said, ‘You can have a career and you can be a mother, but what you mustn’t try to do is to be perfect at both at the same time.’ Somehow, that resonated with me.
I have always taught my children the importance of three pillars in life. The first pillar is self — the importance of looking after yourself and your family, keeping in mind the role you play as a daughter, a mother, and eventually a grandma. Next is your role in society — what you can do to make a difference in any small way. The last pillar is spirituality and keeping a positive mindset, which will help when you face challenges.
Image by Albert Chua