June Lai: A Multi-Skilled Entrepreneur Making Waves in Consumer Technology Space

A recreational pilot, scientist, techno-geek, and avid rock climber, June Lai is not only a Jill of many trades but a master of each venture without a doubt. It’s widely believed that wearing many hats usually doesn’t lead to much eminence. But ardent entrepreneurs like June are out to show the world that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one thing. June commenced her career as a scientist and then worked in investment banking and corporate development covering the telecom, media, tech, healthcare, biotech, pharma, and insurance industries. She is a chartered financial analyst, certified public accountant, and certified management accountant. She holds a number of degrees and certifications. Buther entrepreneurial spirit combined with her love for adventure and consumer technology gadgets led her way to establish Catalyst, an award-winning manufacturer of the world’s most protective and stylish cases for smartphones and electronic devices.

June Lai
June Lai, Co-Founder, Catalyst

It all started about 11 years ago when June and Josh Wright, her climbing partner and an award-winning industrial designer recognized a gap in the market when it came to the level of protection available for smartphones. They wanted to capture the beauty of their climbs in Hong Kong. But at that time, they were using iPhone 4 which is fragile and expensive and hence it was too risky to carry such devices in rugged environments. So, they designed and developed the most rugged and waterproof everyday cases on the market. Initially, it was just June, Josh, and a single product – the waterproof case for the iPhone 4. But, over time, they built global distribution, started to sell online on their website and global marketplaces, and got placement in major retailers including Apple. Thus, what started a decade ago just to address a personal pain point, gradually turned into a globally recognized leading company with hundreds of product SKUs, distributed and sold in more than 70 countries around the world. Today, Catalyst has a competent team of nearly 65 employees strategically placed across the globe. 

“We evolved our company not just to build products but to truly invent and innovate. We develop products that solve a problem or fill a gap in the market. We invent solutions that no one else has thought of and design products that are unmatched in the consumer technology and accessory space,” opines June. Now, it has over 400+ pieces of intellectual property covering patents, designs, copyright, and trademarks globally. Over the years, Catalyst has invented and introduced several product categories in the consumer tech space, including the first and still the only waterproof case for AirPods/AirPods Pro; the only 100% waterproof case for the Apple Watch and the iPad Pro 12.9”. 

At its core, Catalyst always goes the extra mile in understanding and fulfilling the evolving needs of its consumers. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, Catalyst steered through the challenges and adapted to the new normal to support its consumers. When the pandemic began to take hold in 2020, the company immediately put in motion a plan to enhance its protective product offers to the healthcare and industrial markets. “Not one employee was let go during COVID. We shifted our resources to educate consumers on best practices for the protection and how current products can aid in proper hygiene for electronic devices. We also designed and sourced more than 12 new medical and industrial PPE products,” elucidates June.

Now, coming out on the other end of the pandemic, Catalyst continues to grow its team and refocus its products to help B2B industries like hospitals and healthcare. They have adopted Catalyst throughout their facilities as Catalyst products can be washed and disinfected in accordance with CDC guidelines using EPA approved disinfectants – which keeps their work environments and day-to-day operations safer. Moving ahead, Catalyst plans to continue inventing new products and create new designs that provide convenience and confidence to its customers, ensuring they can live their adventure every day without having to worry about damaging their devices. “We have built our company on this premise and our creativity continues to flow as Catalyst matures as a brand,” affirms June.

Drawing the key learning from her entrepreneurial journey so far, June advises budding entrepreneurs to network amongst their peers and learn from others to realize what they did well and whatnot. She also emphasizes on the importance of hiring the right people. “Although the Asia Pacific is a breeding ground for entrepreneurs, finding the right talent can be a challenge especially when seeking international experience. My advice is to think outside the box.  Why limit your recruitment to one city? Look across the region to find and develop talent,” she adds.

According to the visionary entrepreneur, leadership is about self-awareness, and hence, entrepreneurs need to know themselves well enough that they can be honest and authentic. June believes that it is important for entrepreneurs to know when to say no and berealistic about their own capability to achieve targets, the resources it takes and the finances of an opportunity and how that supports the strategy long term. “it’s tempting to say yes to every deal that comes your way but, it is imperative to understand how that works towards your long term strategy and goals and to understand that the financial gain can be easy to map out but the cost in terms of time and resources and investment may be harder to map out and you need to assess that to figure out the path to profitability,” states June.

Advancing into the future, June aspires to continue serving as a leader by encouraging innovative ideas and forward-thinking so that her team can create, design, and invent solutions that will improve the lives of others. “I want to create products that you fall in love with and that solve a problem.  I want you to feel like our solutions are an ‘aha moment’ as you find out about products you never knew you needed but that becomes an essential item that you have to have,” asserts June on a parting note.