317: In the making: Le Wagon Coding Bootcamp – How 2 corporate professionals switched careers in their mission to democratize coding skills

Podcast highlights:

  • 00:30 Thibault Genaitay Thibault shares his amazing story as to how he switched careers from a comfortable corporate job and decided Le Wagon as the head of operations in china
  • 02:00 Grace Yang
    shares what was the trigger that made her left her corporate job and why venturing into Le wagon had help her grow her skills in a creative aspect
  • 12:00 Grace shares what she had learnt from her Le Wagon experience, further elaborating that Le Wagon boot camp gives her the motivation to create a marketplace and explains how different it is from other coding course she has attended
  • 20:43 Thibault and Grace share their tips, drawing from their experiences, on how organisations can redesign and improve their capability building or learning programmes for their employees
  • 30:38 Thibault shares that he spends plenty of his time reading, writing and researching, thus through that process he will be able to teach and provide entrepreneurs with the right tool kit to learn

313: Edith Yeung on investment and future of blockchain (Ashley Talks 21)

Podcast highlights:

  • 14:58 You are investing a lot in China while many of your colleagues in the San Francisco area do not. How does this usually work? — Each investor has a different style in terms how they want to attract companies. It tends to be easier if you’re vertically focused on a particular market, for example blockchain. If you are a founder, it’s necessary to find the people who are vertically focused on the products or markets you are interested in. You should know when you reach out who you want to be contacting regarding potential investments.
  • 24:24 Turning now to the topic of blockchain, what is your vision of the future of blockchain? — Multiple parts to this answer. Excited because it represents a change in how we think about the ownership of data. From a technology side, it’s changed how people think about a lot of relationships. Obviously distributed ledger technology is not new, but what is new is the idea of tokenization. It helps creators and investors get the capital and resources they need right from the start. China and the Chinese government have been very supportive of blockchain as a technology. What they haven’t been supportive of is all the cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs). China is just a huge market that basically any company focused on establishing themselves there will have enough to attract investment.
  • 44:25 Let’s talk about women for a bit. How did it feel to be a female developer working in this space? — First of all, we should encourage everyone, not just women to have a basic understanding of coding. This is going to be a building block for so many things in the future. Even if you don’t end up being the person writing the code, you will be able to have meaningful conversations with people who do. In China, have met so many great women CEOs and investors. The important thing is to know what you’re talking about. It’s not about being a woman, it’s about being good at what you do.

Podcast notes:

  • NOTE: This podcast contains explicit language
  • 00:05 Welcome Edith Yeung, Partner at 500 Startups, to Ashley Talks with host Ashley Galina Dudarenok.
  • 00:40 Tell us about your journey. How have you ended up in San Francisco Bay investing in so many global startups? — Born and raised in Hong Kong. Came to the US at age 16 as an exchange student. Stayed with an American family in the Midwest. Have been in the US for over 20 years and started career as a developer building risk-management systems. Started own entrepreneur group in San Francisco using Meetup, which turned into a sort of media conference business. Through this met a partner from mainland China who developed Dolphin Browser on Android. This experience led to wanting to do more with investments and startups, and so here we are.
  • 07:14 What are the biggest differences between managing an investment fund versus just investing by yourself? — As an angel investor, the thinking was why not invest some of your own money to help a company get off the ground. When managing a fund, however, the entire thought process is how do we maximize the return for our investors. As a fund manager, it’s necessary to have true conviction your decisions will make a return.
  • 14:58 You are investing a lot in China while many of your colleagues in the San Francisco area do not. How does this usually work? — Each investor has a different style in terms how they want to attract companies. It tends to be easier if you’re vertically focused on a particular market, for example blockchain. If you are a founder, it’s necessary to find the people who are vertically focused on the products or markets you are interested in. You should know when you reach out who you want to be contacting regarding potential investments.
  • 18:38 What are the companies you’ve invested in that you’ve liked the most or been most impressed with? Have you had any failures? — So many. Really, there have been so many. Very much enjoyed meeting Prerna Gupta who is founder and CEO at HOOKED, which is the number one reading app in the US for millennials. As an early-stage investor, it’s important to be open-minded about products and services people haven’t seen before. You can’t try to invest in the next Instagram, this just won’t work. As a fund manager, if you see a great investment and miss out, that is a failure. When you see something you believe in, you just have to go for it.
  • 24:24 Turning now to the topic of blockchain, what is your vision of the future of blockchain? — Multiple parts to this answer. Excited because it represents a change in how we think about the ownership of data. From a technology side, it’s changed how people think about a lot of relationships. Obviously distributed ledger technology is not new, but what is new is the idea of tokenization. It helps creators and investors get the capital and resources they need right from the start. China and the Chinese government have been very supportive of blockchain as a technology. What they haven’t been supportive of is all the cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs). China is just a huge market that basically any company focused on establishing themselves there will have enough to attract investment.
  • 34:19 Do you have a favorite startup coming out of China now? — Again there are so many. If you think about content production companies, right now the power is in finding a way to produce and personalize content online. One exciting company in this space is Castbox. They are very impressive. Another company is Agora. They are doing basically video chat as a service. This is more back end, but it is gaining in popularity.
  • 44:25 Let’s talk about women for a bit. How did it feel to be a female developer working in this space? — First of all, we should encourage everyone, not just women to have a basic understanding of coding. This is going to be a building block for so many things in the future. Even if you don’t end up being the person writing the code, you will be able to have meaningful conversations with people who do. In China, have met so many great women CEOs and investors. The important thing is to know what you’re talking about. It’s not about being a woman, it’s about being good at what you do.
  • 50:52 Moving forward will you continue focusing on China? Will you continue focusing on any specific technologies? — Focusing on early-stage blockchain-related projects. This will be the focus for the next three to six months. If you’re working in this space, get in touch. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re focused on China or not. The number one quality to seek in a founder is to never take “no” for an answer.

312: Vincent Djen’s journey as Director of his family business and Co-Founder of FashionEx Shanghai (Founders in Asia FIA8)

Podcast highlights:

  • 01:05 Vincent Djen, Co-founder of FashionEx Shanghai, shares more about his company, further explaining how it helps startups in the fashion industry grow by giving them insights and methodologies to avoid mistakes which helps them build solid business plan
  • 19:50 Vincent shares how important research is before entering the Chinese market in terms fashion, further explaining how looking at the analytics of taobao and Tmall aids a startup analyse and compare how they rank in the fashion industry for China
  • 30:50 Vincent elaborates more about his journey, sharing how he manages the RnD for his family bushiness and also manages his FashionEx by working more towards the business development side

307: Simon Kemp – How Asia’s Middle Class Youth will Change the World (Asia Matters)

Podcast highlights:

  • 00:43 Simon Kemp, Founder & CEO Kepios, shares how he was stunned with a statistics shared by Graham of how China, despite not being featured in the FIfa world cup, sold more tickets to its citizens than England
  • 20:00 SImon explains how music has evolved over the years, sharing examples from his younger days as to how limited the music options were compared to the current times where one can easily access apps like spotify to listen to different kinds of music from various cultures across the globe
  • 53:33 Simon shares how Asia and its culture inspired him to build his businesses here, further explaining the impact travelling has made by exposing him to different cultures and influences, activating the ability to be innovative as well

304: Jan Smejkal aka Your China Guy (Cross Border Kyle KYL9)

Podcast highlights:

  • 04:45 What has Jan seen happen with the “community” in China specific to Startup Grind which grew from 3 or 4 chapters to 25? How did he develop that community?
  • 10:00 Where does Jan see the Shenzhen community today? What does he see happening in that community around startups and entrepreneurship? What’s the pulse?
  • 26:45 Where is China going? With the venture markets and startups taking off, where is this situation going?

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Jan Smejkal aka Your China Guy to Cross Border Kyle with host Kyle Ellicott
  • 01:25 What is Jan aka Your China Guy up to?
  • 02:45 Jan works with Startup Grind. How many chapters does it have now?
  • 04:45 What has Jan seen happen with the “community” in China specific to Startup Grind which grew from 3 or 4 chapters to 25? How did he develop that community?
  • 10:00 Where does Jan see the Shenzhen community today? What does he see happening in that community around startups and entrepreneurship? What’s the pulse?
  • 15:45 A quick sidestory of Kyle in Shenzhen
  • 24:25 How did Jan come up with the name Your China Guy?
  • 26:45 Where is China going? With the venture markets and startups taking off, where is this situation going?
  • 31:10 Kyle advises you should give China a chance
  • 38:00 The number of people traveling in and out of San Francisco alone globally is huge but there’s a lot more activity happening in China
  • 40:25 Jan’s top 3 pieces of advice for first timers landing in China
  • 45:45 Jan’s favourite travel hack
  • 47:00 Who is Jan’s favourite China unicorn?
  • 48:00 Where can someone find more about Startup Grind in China? Go to startupgrind.com/
  • 50:50 Find Jan on twitter.com/yourchinaguy or contact him through email at jan@startupgrind.com

301: Ryan Pyle – From Toronto to Shanghai (Founders in Asia FIA7)

Podcast highlights:

  • 00:40 Ryan shares his backstory on how he ended up in Shanghai, where he is today, to what his business is and what he’s doing
  • 24:40 How does Ryan go about the commercial aspect of his business? How does he go out there and work with partners to sell his programs and distribute content?
  • 44:25 “Television is gonna come back. The whole Kardashian era and the whole reality-tv era is coming to a grinding halt.” – Ryan

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Ryan Pyle to Founders in Asia with Jodie Collins
  • 00:40 Ryan shares his backstory on how he ended up in Shanghai, where he is today, to what his business is and what he’s doing
  • 06:15 Jodie had quite a similar experience with Ryan in China and found the Chinese people to be welcoming, friendly and helpful. Was that what Ryan found on his travels as well?
  • 07:30 What does Ryan do now? What is his business?
  • 09:45 How did Ryan arrive in his decision to follow his passion of photography and television? How did he get to think he’s gonna give it a go and follow it?
  • 11:55 How did he transition from when he started as a freelancer, a contributor, who only got himself to worry about, and then building it into a production company where he has a number of people working for him?
  • 14:10 Ryan manages a team of 20 people based around the world. How does Ryan find these people and how does he build relationships with them?
  • 18:00 What type of productivity tool does Ryan use in order to run a remote team particularly?
  • 19:45 When things get tough, how does Ryan stay motivated?
  • 24:40 How does Ryan go about the commercial aspect of his business? How does he go out there and work with partners to sell his programs and distribute content?
  • 33:10 How does Ryan grow his business? Is he looking to expand through working with other partners and developing other types of content?
  • 38:00 One of the reasons Ryan started this is because the narrative about China was not what he was experiencing? Has that narrative changed?
  • 41:15 How does Ryan work with brands? Does he let them know where the line is?
  • 44:25 “Television is gonna come back. The whole Kardashian era and the whole reality-tv era is coming to a grinding halt.” – Ryan
  • 49:25 What is Ryan working on now? And what’s next?

300: Tiang Lim Foo – SeedPlus, Venture Capital, and Southeast Asia

Podcast highlights:

  • 06:56 People in the region seem to speak highly of the work you guys do at SeedPlus. You seem to check all the boxes for the ideal startup founder most VCs look for. — Never referred to self as an entrepreneur. What entrepreneurs do is way, way harder than what we do as VCs. Having been in venture capital for a few years, have a greater appreciation for the dangers of stereotyping. Great founders can come from anywhere. Biases can lead to dangerous thinking and missing out on great opportunities. Empathy is probably one of the hardest skills to acquire as a VC. You need to have empathy with founders. Of course we are investing for financial gain; but at the same time we want to help build businesses that are good for human beings. An example of a company focusing on empathy is Amazon. Jeff Bezos has always been customer-first, customer-centric. This has not changed over the years.
  • 14:53 When you’re chatting with a founder, what do you look for? — It’s really about the team. At the seed stage there are a lot of unknowns. This means the founder and the team have a much bigger impact on overall outcome during this early period. We look for qualities like mental agility, understanding context, market fit, displays of leadership, and just like pure grit. It’s a delicate balance. When you come across someone who has an opinion about how the world should work, even if it’s not correct, this suggests it’s possible to have a discussion around making ideas work. It’s also relevant to consider the context in Asia. To have an opinion implies you’re willing to go against the grain. Asia is more conformist than other cultures, and this is not always great for entrepreneurship.
  • 45:29 A new generation of talent is wondering how they can be part of the Asian Century. What advice might you give? — There’s no better way than just being here. You can read and watch as much as you want, but it’s not as good as seeing things for yourself. Singapore is a great gateway into the rest of Asia. It’s good for families and it’s safe and efficient here in Singapore. Immersion and acquiring a language are also fantastic ways to get acquainted with the region.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Tiang Lim Foo, Operating Partner at SeedPlus, to ATP Stories with host Graham Brown.
  • 01:00 Can you give us a brief synopsis of yourself? — Operating Partner at SeedPlus, a seed-based venture capital fund in Singapore. We closed our first fund in June, 2017. Primarily we invest in the broader Southeast Asia region, not too much in Japan, South Korea, and China.
  • 03:50 All of the members of SeedPlus who have been on our show seem very relaxed for VCs. You all seem pretty informal in your approach to venture capital. This is not how VCs tend to operate in Asia. Is this deliberate? — Partially it’s a reflection of who we are and where we came from. [Tiang] came to SeedPlus from Evernote, the note taking software company that started in Silicon Valley. Worked for them in Singapore from 2012-2015. At SeedPlus, we have backgrounds in tech companies. It informs our dress, our language, etc.
  • 06:56 People in the region seem to speak highly of the work you guys do at SeedPlus. You seem to check all the boxes for the ideal startup founder most VCs look for. — Never referred to self as an entrepreneur. What entrepreneurs do is way, way harder than what we do as VCs. Having been in venture capital for a few years, have a greater appreciation for the dangers of stereotyping. Great founders can come from anywhere. Biases can lead to dangerous thinking and missing out on great opportunities. Empathy is probably one of the hardest skills to acquire as a VC. You need to have empathy with founders. Of course we are investing for financial gain; but at the same time we want to help build businesses that are good for human beings. An example of a company focusing on empathy is Amazon. Jeff Bezos has always been customer-first, customer-centric. This has not changed over the years.
  • 12:41 When you think of your role as a VC, do you take on board inspiration from people like Jeff Bezos? Do you read Tony Hsieh, for example? — That book is on my never-ending to-read list. If you think about this from a game-theoretic perspective, venture capital is one of the few industries that reward long-term strategy. Venture is a multi-round game. You want to partner with founders with whom you can have a long relationship. Reputation compounds over time. Founders may come back after their idea germinates a bit and you find it’s now a better fit for the fund.
  • 14:53 When you’re chatting with a founder, what do you look for? — It’s really about the team. At the seed stage there are a lot of unknowns. This means the founder and the team have a much bigger impact on overall outcome during this early period. We look for qualities like mental agility, understanding context, market fit, displays of leadership, and just like pure grit. It’s a delicate balance. When you come across someone who has an opinion about how the world should work, even if it’s not correct, this suggests it’s possible to have a discussion around making ideas work. It’s also relevant to consider the context in Asia. To have an opinion implies you’re willing to go against the grain. Asia is more conformist than other cultures, and this is not always great for entrepreneurship.
  • 19:18 When you look across Southeast Asia today, do you see these qualities coming through? — In a very macro sense, yes. 3-5 years ago if you were starting a business in Singapore, it implied you were unemployed. These days starting a business is a career choice. Across the region there is more of a groundswell happening.
  • 24:22 What’s happening at the macro level with China in Southeast Asia right now? — Historically speaking there have been very deep networks and connections with mainland China. There is still an enormous growth potential inside China. However, now we’re starting to see a shift towards expanding into Southeast Asia. This is a very natural extension for Chinese businesses. It’s a pretty exciting time. For VCs there are a lot of opportunities as people and markets begin to come online.
  • 28:48 How can investors in Southeast Asia manage this “Chinese effect”? — It’s not obvious there are clear answers. At the seed stage of investing, you go back to first-principles: are we investing in good businesses?
  • 33:18 The period you spent at Evernote was quite an interesting time in your career. They are a company who have tried to keep their product simple even as it evolved. As an investor, how do you manage the temptation many businesses face of wanting to move in many different directions at once? — This goes back to having empathy for users and consumers. Most users can’t verbalize their needs well. Designers have to intimately know what problem they are solving for their users. At the end of the day, the CEO must make a decision and have confidence they’re making the right decision on behalf of customers.
  • 41:43 When one looks at Southeast Asia, it’s possible to see a competition developing between Amazon and Alibaba. Where do you think this will go? — It’s too early to say. Also, it’s not clear Amazon sees it as a competition per se. It’s not just about e-commerce selections. It’s also about the ancillary services around the customer. This could be Amazon Prime media, storage, etc. Amazon is a company thinking 5 to 10 years ahead. You can’t do this if you’re defined by competition in the market.
  • 45:29 A new generation of talent is wondering how they can be part of the Asian Century. What advice might you give? — There’s no better way than just being here. You can read and watch as much as you want, but it’s not as good as seeing things for yourself. Singapore is a great gateway into the rest of Asia. It’s good for families and it’s safe and efficient here in Singapore. Immersion and acquiring a language are also fantastic ways to get acquainted with the region.

298: Jianggan Li on Momentum Works, Tech Accelerators, and Opportunities in China

Podcast highlights:

  • 04:33 You describe Momentum Works as a tech accelerator. What do you do? — Over the past two years we’ve changed our business model quite a bit. For many ventures, you can get a team together, get some investors, and start producing a product. The problems come next when you have to deal with customers, have to find the right people to help you expand, etc. At Momentum Works, we hunt startups. To be a successful accelerator, you can either be really knowledgeable about niche markets and products, or you act more like a pure VC where you basically just supply money. We do a bit of both.
  • 32:55 Do you spend a lot of time traveling to and from China? — In 2018 have traveled there at least once every six weeks, usually to either Beijing or Hangzhou. We have to otherwise you end up losing touch with the market. What’s interesting is the degree to which there is a lot of second-generation wealth in China looking for places to invest. It’s very common that once people get rich in China they begin to look for off-shore opportunities for their assets. Singapore is becoming more and more attractive in this regard.
  • 41:30 As you continue to develop Momentum Works, what kinds of startups are you looking to have walk through your door? — We are always open to talking to people. The people we like to work with are those who are passionate, but who also understand what’s going on in the world. How is what they are doing similar to what others are doing in different markets? Having this sort of strategic openness to what’s going on, to the bigger picture, really helps. It’s really hard to tolerate people who lack logic in what they’re doing. People are good at telling stories, but it takes logic to turn plans into reality.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Jianggan Li, founder and CEO of Momentum Works, to ATP Stories with host Graham Brown.
  • 00:27 You describe yourself as an entrepreneur across emerging markets. Can you describe what this means? — We are living in a world where there is lots of growth in different markets. Interested in the dynamics of each market and how to break into each market, work with locals, and make something happen. Have worked in six markets across Southeast Asia and speak seven languages, if only basic conversations in some of them.
  • 04:33 You describe Momentum Works as a tech accelerator. What do you do? — Over the past two years we’ve changed our business model quite a bit. For many ventures, you can get a team together, get some investors, and start producing a product. The problems come next when you have to deal with customers, have to find the right people to help you expand, etc. At Momentum Works, we hunt startups. To be a successful accelerator, you can either be really knowledgeable about niche markets and products, or you act more like a pure VC where you basically just supply money. We do a bit of both.
  • 10:30 You’ve lived in many places, but you’ve gravitated towards Singapore as a base for your latest project. Why does it make sense to have an accelerator in Singapore? — Over the course of 13 years, have been coming to Singapore. It’s in the middle of everything. There’s money, there’s a great network, etc. It’s a good place to have your tech lead or your talent lead.
  • 13:40 You helped set up Easy Taxi in Singapore. Tell us what that was like. — Originally the Easy Taxi work was part of Rocket Internet. While living in France, met someone who knew about Easy Taxi and encouraged me to get into touch with them to see if they were interested in coming into the market in Singapore. The tech team was based in Brazil, which made the time difference quite complicated to work around.
  • 16:33 If a startup came to you now at Momentum Works and described having their various units spread around the globe, do alarm bells ring in your head? — Wouldn’t say alarm bells. If you’ve managed to build a team across different geographies, this in and of itself is quite a feet. We would be keen to see if it could be made to work.
  • 21:05 Tell us more about Momentum Works. How do you organize yourself? — People usually come to us, often through referrals. We thought about the idea of doing batches, but we didn’t go in this direction. If someone comes to us, we will have lengthy discussions with them and see if it is something we can get involved with and to what extent we can contribute. For us it can take the form of joint-ventures where we’re involved in the day-to-day, or as simply providing cash.
  • 31:10 Are there any other players in the accelerator space trying to operate similar to the way you do things, as sort of a middle ground? — There are a few here in Singapore who do that. There are also some alumni from Rocket Internet in various places trying to do things in different ways. It is interesting to see how people are trying to experiment with different accelerator models.
  • 32:55 Do you spend a lot of time traveling to and from China? — In 2018 have traveled there at least once every six weeks, usually to either Beijing or Hangzhou. We have to otherwise you end up losing touch with the market. What’s interesting is the degree to which there is a lot of second-generation wealth in China looking for places to invest. It’s very common that once people get rich in China they begin to look for off-shore opportunities for their assets. Singapore is becoming more and more attractive in this regard.
  • 37:10 With the rise of Chinese wealth, there is a massive shift of talent moving to Asia. Have you noticed a different type of entrepreneur on the ground now? — Certainly. In one regard, we see people working on projects where it’s simply easier for them to operate in a more relaxed privacy and regulatory environment. In time, when regulations in China catch up to those in the West, companies will have been able to learn a lot from the data they were able to collect and analyze.
  • 41:30 As you continue to develop Momentum Works, what kinds of startups are you looking to have walk through your door? — We are always open to talking to people. The people we like to work with are those who are passionate, but who also understand what’s going on in the world. How is what they are doing similar to what others are doing in different markets? Having this sort of strategic openness to what’s going on, to the bigger picture, really helps. It’s really hard to tolerate people who lack logic in what they’re doing. People are good at telling stories, but it takes logic to turn plans into reality.

297: Geir Windsvoll – Live Streaming in Thailand

Podcast highlights:

  • 09:13 Geir shares his experience when in late 90s he tried taking the existing online services and combing with the community features and his various other experiments with internet.
  • 24:10 Geir tells us the challenges he face in scaling live videos and how important it is for tech team to be ready for what is coming. He also tells about prototyping and how it lets a team test out and give them experience in the field they wanted.
  • 36:30 20-30 years back we have seen millions of young population in China, Japan and Thailand moving from countryside to large cities. Its interesting to see how social apps are bringing them close to the roots.

294: Geoffrey Handley – Why China Matters (Asia Matters)

Podcast highlights:

  • 03:11 Being a talent spotter.Geoffrey Handley explains how China has a vast talent of emerging entrepreneurs, going on to share how a company of 25 he had visited for due diligence consisted of 8 PHDs and 10 Masters degree holders
  • 39:33 Geoffrey Handley shares why was he blown away working with young entrepreneurs in china who have nothing to lose and explains how these young founders have a high drive to make their day better than the day before
  • 53:20 Regardless of what role or industry a person is in, Geoffrey Handley thinks they should explore the China market and further explains why they would be losing out out if they don`t explore it