9. Eezee Team

Jasper Yap (back row, second from left), the CTO of start-up Eezee, went through difficult teenage years. At his lowest point in a boy's home, he never expected that he would one day be a successful business owner. All photos courtesy of Jasper Yap.

Jasper Yap is the very picture of a start-up founder. Young. Hip. Passionate.

At 22, he became the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Eezee, a one-stop online marketplace for industrial goods and supplies that aimed to make procurement more efficient. Think of Eezee as the Amazon of businesses.

Within two years, the start-up had more than 30,000 products from some 700 suppliers listed on its platform. It clearly impressed the market because in 2019 Eezee managed to raise seed funding from Singapore-based Insignia Ventures Partners. In its latest Series A funding in 2022, Eezee raised US$7.5 million.

Jasper Yap, co-founder of start-up Eezee, is now CTO of the 80-strong team.

In 2020, Jasper made the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list in the Retail & E-commerce category. He was 25 then.

But Jasper, now 29, has more than this shiny story of success to tell. Behind the acclaim is the tale of a troubled youth with an unhappy past that led to a two-year detention at a boys’ home. He was 15 years old.

Broken home, broken heart

Family life was ordinary until Jasper was about 13. That was when the cracks in his parents’ marriage began to show.

“My dad was a gambler. As I grew older, I realised he was always using the computer on football betting.

“My mum was very unhappy with my dad and they stopped sleeping together. At first, I didn’t understand what was going on.

“But when I was 13, I started to understand things. Being the oldest, my mum would share her thoughts with me.”

As Jasper’s home life became increasingly unstable in his teens, he sought acceptance and love from his gang.

For the next two plus years, it “didn’t feel like a family” anymore and Jasper wanted less and less to be at home. When friends in school introduced him to their gang, Jasper gladly joined them. He was 14.

“My dad was a gambler. My mum was very unhappy with my dad.” 

“All the cool kids were in gangs. I liked the brotherhood, the protection, the community. That was what I wanted so badly.”

Smoking and drugs – glue sniffing, ketamine, Erimin 5 – and selling pirated VCDs became a part of his life. An ‘N’ level student who had been bringing in ‘E’ grades throughout most of his school years, Jasper soon began skipping school altogether. It was all part of his vain effort at escaping his increasingly unstable family life.

By then, his father had lost his job in the wake of the economic downturn of 2007 to 2009. His mother, just 21 years older than he, had her hands full holding down a job and caring for his two younger brothers.  

Jasper (behind) with his younger brothers and mother.

It all came to a head in 2009. Fifteen-year-old Jasper was arrested for vehicle theft and robbery, and sentenced to two years at the Singapore Boys’ Home.

Days before Jasper went to the boys’ home, his mother showed him her divorce papers. The news made an already difficult situation even more unbearable.

Unexpectedly, it was at the home that Jasper was given a chance to turn his life around.

Everyone needs compassion

As a child, Jasper had attended a Christian kindergarten and had followed his aunt to church from the time he was in primary school.

“I knew about Jesus from a young age but I didn’t know Him. I didn’t understand why I needed a saviour.”

He went to church as a child but Jasper never felt a need to repent and have a relationship with God.

By secondary school, Jasper was going through a rebellious phase and refused to go to church any more. It was only when he was convicted for his crimes that he realised he needed saving after all.

“I was openly labelled a criminal, a good-for-nothing in society. I felt very low. So I didn’t even dare think about amounting to anything.

“That was when I remembered that when I was young, I used to go to church and there was a peace I felt. And I remembered the Lord.”

“I didn’t understand why I needed a saviour.”

So when he was invited to Christian fellowship at the Home, he went.

“Partly because of the memory of the Lord, partly because there was nothing to do at the Home. I wanted to kill time,” he admitted.

One day during worship, they sang the song Mighty to Save.

“When I heard the verse, ‘Everyone needs compassion.’ I thought: I need compassion. It was very tough in the home, having your freedom taken away from you. I was having a very tough time.

“So I said, ‘Lord, I really need your compassion.’ I started to feel the Lord and I started to cry. It surprised me. Why was I crying? I felt so embarrassed. Stop, lah! But I continued to cry,” Jasper told Salt&Light, tearing at the memory.

As he sang, the realisation that God is real hit him to the core.

“That was when I first knew Him.”

Renewed mind, renewed life

From that day, Jasper started taking God more seriously. He began reading the Bible regularly and thinking about his future, which was not characteristic of him.

“In the past, if you asked me what I wanted to do, I wouldn’t tell you poly, uni or build a business. I would say, ‘Zuo Ah Long (be an illegal money-lender) or sell (pirated) VCDs.’

“In the past, if you asked me what I wanted to do, I would say, ‘Zuo Ah Long (be an illegal money-lender).'”

“My self-esteem was so low. That was the way I saw myself.”

While at the boys’ home, a cousin wrote him a note quoting Jeremiah 29:11.

“I just kept looking at it, kept meditating on it and I started to believe. The faith came slowly as I kept meditating.

“Little by little, my pride and arrogance and ego dropped away. My desire not to get into trouble increased.”

He found a new fervour for his studies and his results improved.

“I failed my first Math paper in the Home. But one day my case worker came and said, ‘I’m proud of you. You topped the class.’ I got 50+ over 100.

“I was going through a lot. So I told him, ‘I want to go to church with you.’”

“As I journeyed with the Lord, I got 80+, then 90+. It was not me. It was God. When I was in Sec 1 and 2, I constantly failed. I didn’t like studying. But this time, I did very well.

“I didn’t know it then but when I grew up and reflected on it, I knew it was the Lord who helped me.”

When he was 18, he topped his cohort in his ‘N’ level examinations.

At the Home, he made a friend who was a Christian. When Jasper was eventually allowed home leave on weekends, that friend introduced him to his former gang leader who was also a believer and had grown up in church.

“I was going through a lot. So I told him, ‘I want to go to church with you.’”

That was how he ended up in his first church.

Free at last

Jasper continued attending his friend’s church even after he completed his sentence and was enrolled at a polytechnic. But he had no friends in the church.

“I felt so unworthy of many things.  So I was very afraid when people wanted to reach out to me.

“I felt I was not good enough. I felt this difference from the others because I had been openly convicted in court.”

Jasper was an outstanding student at polytechnic.

It was Jasper’s polytechnic lecturer who invited him to his church. Jasper still worships there and is anchored in a cell group along with his wife. What made the difference for him was a sermon he heard when he was just a visitor in the church.

“I was very afraid when people wanted to reach out to me. I felt I was not good enough.”

“The pastor said, ‘Your sins are forgiven. Come as you are. You can start afresh.’

“That struck a chord in me, to be told that I didn’t have to feel ashamed and that God wants me. It helped me look past the labels that I had put on myself for so many years that I was not good enough.”

Added Jasper with emotion: “I am like one of the criminals hanging beside the Lord, openly convicted for my sins. It was grace that saved me and helped me to say, ‘I can come. I am good enough.’”

Experiencing God’s forgiveness opened the way for him to fully receive God’s love and that changed his life.

The smoking habit he had previously been trying to shake off without success faded away without much effort. “Knowing that I am loved by God, I asked myself, ‘Why do I still do this?’”

A gambler no more

Jasper’s faith paved the way for his father to find God as well.

His father, whose gambling addiction had broken down his marriage, renounced gambling altogether.

When Jasper came out of the boys’ home, he decided to live with his father. He felt sorry that his father was living alone while his mother had his two brothers.

“It surprised him but it also delighted him,” said Jasper of his decision.

Then in 2015, when he had settled into a new church, Jasper brought his Chinese-speaking father to a Chinese service.

“He saw how the Lord transformed my life. When the altar call came, he just raised his hand. I couldn’t believe it.”

After the service, they met Jasper’s friends from the Youth service and a friend’s father, who was a Chinese cell group leader. The man invited Jasper’s father to join the cell group. When his father accepted the invitation, Jasper went along as well. Father and son went to the same cell group for nearly six years.

“The Lord has repaired how I feel about my father as well.”

Just as God had transformed Jasper, he transformed Jasper’s father as well. The man whose gambling addiction had contributed to the breakdown of his marriage renounced gambling altogether.

For Jasper, the turnaround was all the more heartening because, just three years before, his father had told him that he had gambled away all his money. He had lost up to a five-figure sum.

“He’d asked me for money. I was 17 or 18 then and I had a piggy bank with $30 in it. I gave it all to him. But I was very disappointed in him because I felt like I was the adult.

“So I grew up with lack,” said Jasper, still visibly affected by that episode.

“When my father became a believer, he started to testify that he had stopped gambling, that it was no longer a problem. It was very big for me.

“I saw the Lord come and restore him, and the Lord has repaired how I feel about my father as well.”

Read how Jasper Yap went from boys’ home to start-up founder and a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum in Part 2 of his story, coming soon.


A gang member at 8 and secret society boss at 16, he now leads his “brothers” to freedom

A 10-cent bet led to his 24-year gambling addiction

From suicidal to saved: Ex-gambling addict and debtor finds new life in God

How God moved the heart of a gangster and gambling addict to start a shelter for ex-offenders

About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.