By @SimonCocking. Great interview with Adtech recruitment entrepreneur James Lyon Owner / MD Ultimate Asset UK / APAC – 20 years of digital media experience.

What is your background?

I had 10 years of digital media experience (before setting up a talent business). I then built and scaled teams within large corporate firms and start-up environments – UK, EU, AU, John Brown Publishing, Junkie Media and Emap Advertising. I then rode the wave of the dotcom boom and subsequent bust.

What do you do now? Why in Singapore?

I co-own Ultimate Asset UK, Ultimate Asset Asia Pacific, Ultimate Asset Executive Search

Ultimate Asset ‘soft’ launched in Asia Pacific in 2013 as a response to the needs of our clients, who were in the process of launching and growing their businesses across APAC. We’ve had a full-time presence in Singapore since April 2014 and set up Greater China at the end of 2015. We cover the same sectors as our London business, just on a smaller scale – being 8 years younger!

Adtech / Martech

Digital Media


Senior appointments

Explain for dummies what adtech is?

I guess a true adtech company is a business that owns their own technologies, softwares and services used for delivering, controlling and targeting digital ads

Unfortunately adtech is a term that’s too widely coined in our industry, where a client will frequently claim to have their own technology – when all they’re really doing is wrapping their services around someone else’s platform, such as AppNexus!

What’s it like as an expat in Asia?

Well Singapore is really Asia for beginners, so the landing was pretty soft.  Its expensive, but the trade-off is a good quality of life, its extremely safe, clean and efficient – which gives piece of mind with kids and not worrying about your wife coming home at night and getting harassed or worse!

Being an expat seems to propel you into great friendships a lot quicker than say London, as everyone is in the same boat, that’s been pretty special, and we have a fantastic crowd here,

From a work perspective again there has been huge support and collaboration from the expat community, which has helped us access all the right decision makers in our space, and clients have become good mates – this puts a bit more pressure on hiring, but we’ve done pretty well so far!

What are the pros and cons between Sing’ and UK / Europe?


The weather (typical Brit)

The commute into work 25mins

Changi airport

Working in emerging markets that are ramping up in ad tech

Access to and understanding other markets in Asia, Indonesia, China, Japan – such potential



Distance away from family/ friends

The average cost of a pint about 8 – 10 pounds, exorbitant school fees

The kids growing up in a bubble and not being streetwise

A disproportionate number of candidates happy to change roles every 8 – 12 months for incremental pay increases

Old school HR / Talent managers not knowing enough about their market, and therefore being blinkered with hiring (round peg / round hole approach)

Managing expats expectations on perceived ‘expat’ packages, the market has changed from the dizzy heights from 5 years ago

What Adtech trends are you excited by?

There seem to be some funky things going on in the cross-device targeting space, with evolution of sophisticated attribution services that tie into point of purchase and geo data.

Obviously with the latest smart phones, augmented reality, programmatic buing and premium rich media  – advertising is getting pretty sexy and highly relevant to the end consumer.

Tell us about the local scene? What AdTech companies are doing interesting things? 

We’re lucky enough to work with some tech players who are defining the data / targeting space in China, by partnering with transactional partners in some of the most rural areas, to be able to hit previously unreachable consumers – as well as the masses with pinpoint accuracy in the big cities. Certainly some of the local app business such as Grab Taxi, appear to be giving the super brands like Uber a run for their money in certain markets. From a pure adtech perspective the marketing is largely dominated by international firms.

Which overseas markets are most relevant to you guys, China / Aus, or US or Euro

The US is always of high interest, historically some of the best projects have been the ones where we’ve help set up a US Adtech firms in the UK, and then held their hand into Asia.

We’ve done around dozen of these ‘launch’ projects in the last 2 years.

China is fascinating and can’t be ignored (but with caution), we currently service that market from HK.

Tips for startups based on your experiences?

Commit to the region, with a decent investment and be don’t expect miracles overnight – educate and then build organically.

Appreciate the local culture and methods of operating, a few too many international firms have blazed into Asia, thinking they can just shout the loudest and muscle in.

Self-service platforms don’t always work in Asia, many clients need high levels of client support and tutoring.

Look into technology grants from the government.

Pay a bit more for a good local accountant that has experience working with international clients and understands our space.

What adtech thought leaders do you follow?

Rather than get fixated with the ‘unicorn’ business leaders, I prefer to follow and support friends / clients at some of the more boutique niche businesses, such as Blis, Datorama, Grapeshot, Kiosked, DataXu, Drawbridge, Teads, Integral Ad Science, Stackla, Sojern etc

What are your plans for next 12 months?

The two offices in Asia will see some hyper growth as we build out senior leadership capability and launch new, and complimentary divisions. This will tie in with being more aggressive with business development, up until now we haven’t pushed too hard here and have grown fairly organically.

We’ll extend our credibility in the space by engaging more with clients to better understand and work through staffing issues – we’re organising a client Talent Summit in Bali in September with 12+ CEO’s and our team.

How do you manage work / life when working across so many time zones?

During the week I’m generally online for 6:00am and most week nights until gone 10pm.

Weekends tend to have a bit of time set aside for admin that’s built up, so a chance to clear the inbox without firefighting emails.

This is broken up with at least 1 hours worth of exercise each morning, regular client lunches and networking drinks, which helps to balance out some fairly long hours.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!