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Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: Underrepresented Founders & VCs, Unstructured Environments & Owning Your Story

· Women,Founder,Start-up,Indonesia,Podcast Episodes

Your process is yours and that no one can take away from you. And why is that process so important, it’s because you can iterate that for the next and the next and the next so I always tell people that growing for two years is actually easier than staying alive for ten years. So there's one thing that can hopefully encourage people is that in order for you to keep playing in the game, you just have to survive. So think of survival first, and there is nothing that can take your experience and your process away from you.- Gita Rusmida Sjahrir

Gita Sjahrir is the Co-Founder and CEO of RFitness, Indonesia’s largest online and offline boutique fitness brand. She started her journey into wellness when she was diagnosed with Still’s disease, an autoimmune condition that affected her joints and lungs. She began a fitness community in 2015 after wanting an inclusive, equitable and non-judgmental space for those who exercise for the joy of movement, and not to achieve a societal standard of beauty. In 2017 it became the first boutique fitness company in Southeast Asia to ever raise venture capital funding.

Gita has been in the startup space for 11 years, and has previously held positions in finance and business development. She is a graduate of the Wharton School (MBA) and the University of Chicago (BA).

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hi Gita good to see you and have you on the show.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (00:32)
Yeah, thank you so much for having me.
 

Jeremy Au: (00:34)
Well it is an absolute pleasure to have you and have you share about the fitness journey for yourself. But also as a fitness founder across so many different start ups as well as being a builder in the Indonesia startup ecosystem. So we are excited to have you on the show.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (00:49)
Thank you. Excited to share my story.
 

Jeremy Au: (00:52)
Yeah. So Gita, tell us about who you are professionally?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (00:55)
My name is Geeta and I am a serial founder. I've been in the startup ecosystem now for 11 years in New York and then in Indonesia, I've built several companies along the way. The most recent one was RFitness. So I am the CEO and co-founder of one of Indonesia's largest wellness brands. On the side. I also mentor other entrepreneurs because that's one of my passion, which is to see them grow and also started angel investing too and started learning that other side of entrepreneurship.
 

Jeremy Au: (01:29)
Amazing. Geeta, how did you get started in entrepreneurship? Was this something that you were interested in from young or was it something that you fell into along the way?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (01:38)
More like falling into? I wouldn't say it's something that I was thinking about since young and also this makes people think as if I have my act together. But actually in reality I feel that life is a series of accidents that you do, and then once you don't enjoy one of these steps, you leave and try something else, which is technically how I found entrepreneurship.
So I went to business school during the height of the global financial crisis. If you all don't remember, that was 2008. And during that time, getting a traditional job. And when I say traditional for business school, it's consulting, finance, was particularly hard. So my year, my peers started a lot of companies and I was one of them. So in 2010 I started my first company, which was e-commerce.
It failed because I didn't know what I was doing. I was a first time CEO, didn't understand many, many things. I didn't realize that startup was more about people than it was about product. One of the biggest lessons in my life and that was how the whole startup bug bite started. And then I just kept going and I started doing all sorts of different enterprises after that.
 

Jeremy Au: (02:54)
I love what you just said. It was just you think it's all about a product and you realize this a lot about people as well, right? Yeah. Tell us more about how you discovered that.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (03:02)
Oh yeah. So there's this concept that we assume if we can create the best product, then people will just flock to it. But then you realize that any company, any organization, anything at all is really just a collection of human beings. And human beings are rarely straightforward. And now that I'm doing a master's degree in psychology because I am that interested in human beings, we realized that people's insights are so complex and people are rarely just about one.
In fact, that's the beauty of the human condition, is how layered and complex it all is. And when everything any company, organization, non profit country is a collection of humans, then you're constantly dealing with all of those layers. And that's more important than any product because the product can change the market can change, consumer demand can change. But when it comes to managing people and dealing with different intrinsic motivations, that is its own challenge.
 

Jeremy Au: (04:04)
Why is it that so many founders, especially first time founders, really mistake product for people and for people to be products?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (04:13)
Well, the really quick, easy answer for me was my ego. I was a graduate from Wharton, which gave me this outsized sense of importance at the time because I thought I knew what I was doing and I thought I was smart, which is one of the most hilarious things you could ever think about yourself, because there's about 7.7 billion people in this world.
So if you think you're really one of the top out there, then, man, your social circle is tiny. That or you're just in the wrong place. I don't even know. But that is the really big issue. Once you realize that a lot about I wouldn't even I don't know whether to call it leadership or teamwork or just really let's call it what it is, which is human interaction.
Once you realize that human interaction requires, as you can possibly muster, as little ego as you can, once you realize that, then you'll understand that it's really not just about how skillful you are, because there's always going to be someone more skillful than you, how greedy you are, because there's also always someone who's going to be greedier than you.
I am not more hardworking than a farmer. I'm not in fact, I'm probably less hardworking than a farmer working eighteen hour days. Let's be real. But due to a certain set of background privileges, blessings and connection and everything, it brought me to a certain place. So I think once we all understand that everything that happens to you and your results are always a combination of so many factors and many of them having nothing to do with you and your skill set, I think that can lead us to relating to other human beings better.
 

Jeremy Au: (05:59)
I love what you just said, which is so many first time founders, but also MBA graduates have that arrogance, it's a tough learning to have. And what's interesting is that startups, like you say, is really about people like us is this crazy thing to build something out of nothing. And all you have is yourself and other people and the people who first believe in you to be customers.
How has been your approach to think about people? Is that something that you just like, be frank and honest, you know, versus I think there's a culture around like, you know, you got to be confident and sell hustle as they call it. Yeah. So how do you think about that way to approach people? What do you think works best? Maybe personally or what you've seen?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (06:41)
I think I see people slightly differently too, because I'm autistic. So autism is a type of spectrum condition in which we have both challenges and also different abilities and certain things. One of the things that I am particularly poor at, and you can pretty much as anyone who's worked with me, is that I'm not phenomenal at guessing people's intentions, motivations or anything of that sort because I see so many things as very literal, like literal to the level that most people would never do.
For example, here's a little tidbit story I opened a bank account and they said to please take the documents to the mailroom, which a typical person would send it off with email. Man, I physically went to the mailroom of that bank, which is really far away, and I was there all going, Hi, I am here to give a document and they said, I'm sorry, who are you? What are you? How did you end up here? And that is the kind of literal mess that I definitely do. So I miss out on lots of things. I miss out on, for example, sarcasm and certain things are a challenge, and humans for me is a massive challenge. So that is why the way I even approach a lot of social situations are not, as I would say, second nature as other people where they can banter in a lighthearted and without even thinking.
My brain is constantly thinking. I am constantly wondering and going, Did that person say more than what is said did this person mean this? If this person think this, I actually have close family friends who explain to me what how someone actually is. So they said that person is saying fine, it doesn't mean they're fine. And I am honest to the level where I don't understand sometimes that you can't just divulge if you're feeling bad because most people don't want to hear that.
So unfortunately, the way I have dealt with people is to really extend a level of empathy that any human being would. So people always think empathy means putting yourself in one shoes. So therefore when you can't put yourself in someone's shoes, you go, well, then you suck and you don't deserve to be respected. Right then I don't care about you.
But actually there are different types of empathy and the empathy of putting yourself in someone else's shoes is actually only cognitive empathy. There's also effective empathy, and effective empathy is very instinctive. So it's something that a lot of autistic people have a lot of, which is, look, I might not understand why that thing makes you sad, but I believe that you're sad because sadness is a condition that every human will have experienced.
So I don't have to be convinced that that thing is really bad or not as bad. I just have to be convinced that you are this person who has these valid emotional reactions because we can't compare each others like struggles. That's like virtually impossible and it's not fair. And that is how I really live my life, which is this concept of extending the possibility that you don't know why someone feels the way they do and realizing that if the tables were switch and you had their exact life, it's not a guarantee that you will behave differently from them.
 

Jeremy Au: (10:20)
It always struck me every time we hung out is that you've always had this tremendous ability to make me laugh and always have a great time. And to be frank, like it's something interesting to see where you're frank and open about the fact that you have this dynamic that you have done so. And at the same time, also you've done a tremendous job just adapting and incorporating that by being transparent, but also doing that in the very people kind of business, which is startups so it's a really interesting day because I've had friends who have and then the work towards more academia, math, things like that that's easier to have a structured environment. Startups aren't as structured. So I'm curious, how have you evolved or adapted or learned how to do that over the years?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (11:14)
Yeah. So about that, because my entire family, I think we're pretty surprised they decided to go down a road of very highly unstructured lifestyle, constantly dealing with human beings. And if you're wondering in real life, I am actually very academic. I unfortunately kind of think the stereotype of what you think, like does she play math games? Yeah, I do play math games.
It's true. Like that is something I do. I take degrees on the side for fun. I am a nerd. That is just who I am. But there's something with people that gives me a level of satisfaction in terms of really having a rich life in terms of both experiences and emotional experiences, especially, that I say I didn't find back when I was just more within myself.
So I was really working in environments where I just analysed a lot of things. I read a lot, I saw a lot of numbers, and those are very comfortable. So super comfortable life and there's nothing wrong with that. But after going into entrepreneurship and just constantly thinking, Oh my gosh, I don't know what I'm doing, that is actually more rewarding.
And just to see that you're one of the very few also autistic women in the field, that matters a lot because I know that although it sounds crazy, entrepreneurship is actually a very viable opportunity for a lot of underrepresented founders and also for me, for autistic people because one of the things that we are known to do is we can create our own unique company culture and team culture that a lot of people probably haven't seen so for example, one of the things with my company culture is we are big into learning because I like learning.
So when I say big into learning, I don't mean just like, Oh, here's a book. No, when we were opened offline, we were able to have weekly open roundtables with people who work in the stores. They were able to talk about social, political, economic concepts. We were able to mentor each other and things like that are things that enriched me, and I'm so glad to see it also be helpful for other people. And that's something that I think although emotionally it's so hard to be in entrepreneurship when reading people is a true challenge for me. It is also very, very rewarding. My life is actually fairly stable in some way, in the way that every day is predictable because every day is really not predictable, but it's also given be just an enrichment of life experiences and emotional experiences that I'm really glad I have now.
 

Jeremy Au: (14:05)
Amazing. I love what you just said, which is a lot of people see founding as a very unstructured environment yet because what you're saying is as a founder, you get the structured environment as well. And so you've actually built and adapted the company culture in a way that collaborates and works for you, which is an, I think, an amazing insight and obviously very helpful for lots of folks who might be considering that journey.
And I think that's a really interesting part, which is, you know, you mentioned that it's really a big opportunity for underrepresented groups because that's what I notice as well as like the truth is when you're an entrepreneur, obviously there are advantages and privileges, as you talked about. At the end of the day, it's this did you build a company or not? Are you making revenue and not? And it really doesn't matter what got you there, it is really the fact that you did it. And how do you think about that in terms of representation, in terms of groups? How do you approach that conversation personally?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (15:01)
If you're new in the ecosystem, it is very easy to go into this rut where you go, how come only those people, certain kind of background, get the funding, get the media, get the whatever. And yes, I feel the same way it's really a bad feeling. But at the same time, there is one thing I know that a lot of underrepresented founders do really well, and that is generating revenue so I do have a very revenue focused business, which is not something that you can do for certain types of sectors, because certain types of sectors obviously require more investment but what I'm saying is that entrepreneurship is a lot also about doing the work and doing the best that you can with the work. And honestly, sometimes the results won't match the effort, which is a really bad feeling for a lot of people to accept. But what a lot of people also won't tell you is that one, a lot of times when you get the results, you won't feel as happy as you think. Two, is that your process is yours and that no one can take away from you. And why is that process so important, it’s because you can iterate that for the next and the next and the next so I always tell people that growing for two years is actually easier than staying alive for ten years.
That's a different type of mentality, and it's also different type of business after a while. So there's one thing that can hopefully encourage people is that in order for you to keep playing in the game, you just have to survive. So think of survival first, and there is nothing that can take your experience and your process away from you.

And don't be surprised that circa ten years later or 20 years later, you look back and what you'll actually remember is the process and what's important here also is if you're one of the people who got all the connections, access, network, everything, to finally get the results that you want. Never forget to use that to help other people who were once in your shoes and still experiencing a lot of hardships because one thing I learned a lot about failure or success is that one you'll experience both, pretty sure of it. And yet success will never feel enough and failure will always feel too much for some reason. And that two is that the harsh truth is, a lot of times there can be many, many factors as to why you failed or you succeeded, which will have nothing to do with what you did, as I think this pandemic has taught us.
 

Jeremy Au: (17:39)
Yeah, I love the advice you just gave, which is your process is yours. If you're building revenue, you are the master of your own destiny and no one else controls that. And I love what you just said about also, I think the realism about the success and the feelings and emotions of building. And I think what is interesting is that as you build out this inclusivity and equity and non-judgment, there also does feel like perception that in the emerging market in Southeast Asia, with venture capital, with startups, that it's not inclusive, that is not equitable and it is judgemental. So how do you feel about that?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (18:18)
You're right. One thing about all human beings, we all want to believe that we are kind and that we are capable in what we do. So every time anyone challenges these two ideas, you're like, well, I'm not this because I'm a person but I think what we should also start to realize is that no one is incapable of doing both good and bad things.
So everyone is capable of doing things, and a person is neither here nor there. A person is usually made up of layers of issues trauma, baggage, conditioning, and so many things that make them who they are. So one of the things with people, when they start getting really hard on themselves or getting very defensive about not being equitable or inclusive, I always tell them, you're a result of so many things and you're always capable of doing better.
So rather than acting as if you're all holy and woke and therefore incapable of doing anything better, why don't we all just see ourselves as constant work in progress that can always do better in anything and in everything? Because the fact is, not looking at these really terrible numbers when it comes to VC funding for women or not looking into the really harsh reality that the pandemic has wiped away years of women's progress and entrepreneurship or not understanding that since the founding of the New York Stock Exchange, there's only been 20 companies that were headed by women that went public when every single year since the 1800s, there's been hundreds of companies that go public every year. So that's such a minuscule, tiny, less than 1% that is founded by women. And especially once we go down intersectionality and you look at other types of founders, LGBTQ+ founders, you look at founders of from different socioeconomic backgrounds, then it gets much, much harsher and much darker. To act like this doesn't exist in order to make us feel better that I am still a good person.
That doesn't help anyone because the fact is we are all responsible, unfortunately, for the next generation, whether we like it or not, many of us have children, nieces, nephews, and they're constantly looking towards us. Not for our advice, but they're literally copying what we do. And I'm very reminded of that by my niece. She's only five, but let's be real. She's already started doing things that I do just because she sees it. And so I cannot sleep at night if I know I haven't done the best version of myself to help others, because that is not the legacy I want her to get. I want her to get the best out of me. Basically, that for me is very important.
 

Jeremy Au: (21:07)
Wow. That's such a powerful message. And you made me laugh because it's so crazy that there's so much inequity, and then we're all just kind of walking around like, Oh, it's fine. It's just the way it is and which is it is actually OK to say it is what it is right now. But it's not OK to say like what you said is not OK to say that we shouldn’t improve. We shouldn't try to make things better. And I just love that powerful message really about I think it really is a call to everyone. Let's work together and make it better. I think one interesting thing that you mentioned was and I love the framing, too, you said was just like, hey, you know, we're not saying that X is bad or whatever it is, but how do we improve on this together?
I'm just curious, are there any concrete things that you wished you saw the Southeast Asia Tech or Venture Capital ecosystem would do in a more concrete way? I’m just throwing it out there…if you're comfortable not to share.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (22:03)
Sure, sure. Like I said, one of the benefits, actually, of being on the spectrum for me is that I am very honest to the level where sometimes I'm sure it has gotten me in trouble. And one of the things that I wish could be done, and I think it will continue to keep going down that route, is to have just more different types of people investing.
Because the issue is when 97% of the decision makers are men, it's not a surprise that 97% of people who get global venture capital funding are men. I mean, that's not necessarily because men are bad, evil people. No, because in the end, we all like the things that we are familiar with and that is been proven many times over in psychology and in science.
So it's not something that men should, like, whip themselves and go like, Oh, I'm not woke enough. No, that has nothing to do with anything. It just means that there needs to be diverse representation of people in the investment committee and people who are making the decisions, people running funds. So one of the things that people ask about is if you create a woman's only fund, what if there's another women's only fund?
And the way I see it with only 2% of startup founders getting VC funding are women. There should be 200 funds for women only for this region alone. This not…competition is not the question here. The question is more how do you bring people and get them to rise up? We need to stop looking at so many things as - if women rise up, men will fall.
Because, I mean, you look at the newest article in The Economist. Fact is, nations that fail women, fail themselves. They bring themselves down because no matter what, women are still 50 to 51% of the world. And if you don't optimize our talent like who we are, what we do, you're really going to wipe away a really great chunk of possibility.
 

Jeremy Au: (24:06)
I love what you just said, and there's lots of VCs that are man only anyway. So it's not as if we're saying that we should slash the number of men only VCs in half. It’s so funny.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (24:19)
Yeah, it's 97%, right? So actually, if right now, let's say only 25%, literally only 25% of venture capital. Bring in a female in there and a typical IC is I don't know however many, you know, it's only a handful of people. Just add a person in there from a different background. You never know whether you can look at deals differently.
If you come all from the same background, you just don't get it or you don't understand it because you physically don't live it. It's not because you're less smart, it's because what kind of person can literally learn 20 sectors very, very deeply like that's crazy. So that's why it's important to see all that different vantage point.
 

Jeremy Au: (25:05)
Yeah, that is very true. One interesting thing, obviously, you know, I'm part of among our ventures and half our investment team and also half of our VC are women and I walked in and it was a very normal kind of thing because for my entire life of work is this like 50/50. Actually, before this, I was education tech, which is I'll say actually majority women actually.
One interesting thing was that we noticed that for male founders it didn't really matter from their perspective, but for a lot of underrepresented founders, for them, it felt refreshing that they finally had someone that represented them. And obviously at the end of the day, the conversation internally of course, is still about the nuts and bolts, it’s about revenues, about the slides. It’s exactly like you said, I think there's a deeper understanding of some sectors that we just couldn't have understood without them being part of the conversation, right? Like, for example, we looked at micro, you know, remember micro finance, 10, 20 years ago? You know, majority of the household decision making in span is being led by women dnd that's a huge part of women's circles, et cetera. But it's also something that we're seeing in fintech as well. Tremendous amount of dynamic that's happening through it.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (26:14)
Every time I talk about this, so many male venture capitalists always get so scared because they think it means they're bad people and they're sexist, which doesn't make sense because part of understanding being human is realizing that one can always do better and one is always capable of doing things that are not that optimal, whether you like it or not.
Let's be real. I also have to fight a lot of internalized bias within myself like that's just something all of us will experience and do. For example, people don't talk about the fact that what about entrepreneurship for or even employment for people with disabilities? It's highly unfair, like the world that we live in. So there's a lot of internalized bias that we constantly have to fight but one thing about it is you don't have to drive yourself crazy fighting yourself. Always see every criticism that comes your way for example, like, Hey, you don't have enough female founders, or how come you don't rather than go, Well, you know what? I have a daughter, therefore I'm woke. Which, by the way, is also something that's crazy, you know, that does not make you whatever you think you are, but actually see it as an opportunity for you to learn something about your actions.
So see it as, Oh, I had no idea that I have been behaving in a way that follows my conditioning because that is what it is. You're just doing things that follow your conditioning. And I think once you see that, you can be more graceful with yourself and be more forgiving and then realize that rather than be on the defensive and go, Oh, no, not enough, women apply not enough, there's not enough, because I think tons of data can easily disprove that pipeline is not a problem.

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (00:00)
And if pipeline is not a problem, then the problem is within your VC, like that's already an issue for you. Like something's wrong with your system. You might want to check that out. And so rather than go on the defensive immediately, forgive yourself because you're just acting on your conditioning and your internalized beliefs and systems, and you can do better.
You can do better that immediate moment by going, I'm sorry, teach me. And if there's one thing I'm learning is that a lot of people, especially the higher up you go, you're scared of saying the word, teach me, help me, I want to learn. Let me. what should I do? Next? What should I read? What who should I talk to?
Which pipeline can I tap into? Teach me. And I think that's the thing we are at a stage where as you keep becoming decision makers, a lot of decision makers feel that they have to have all the answers or they have to be this higher version of whatever they are, when in fact, all of us benefit from teaching each other.
And so one of the things that I think can help the situation is for male venture capitalists to simply say, Teach me, you're right, I could do better. I should do better because the next generation is literally watching my every step and my every move, and they might copy that. So rather than always go no, I invested into that female founder, I’m woke or I have a daughter, I'm great.
Just go, OK, I want to do better. We can make this world better. Teach me.
 

Jeremy Au: (29:39)
And I love that. Wow, that's such a powerful phrase, actually. Just teach me. I think that humility and openness to learn from other people's experiences is really all we're asking in any scenario. Not a big ask. Yeah. You know, it's like if you can learn about quantum computing and blockchain and also learn about other people who are living in the same place.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (30:00)
That's true.

 

Jeremy Au: (30:04)
Awesome. So as you think about all of that, one interesting part is that you've also really learned a lot along the way based on what you've shared. Could you share of us about the time that you have been brave?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (30:16)
Yes, sure. About that. One of the biggest compliments I've ever gotten in my entire life was actually from my father. My father was a well-known political thinker and also an economist. He passed away a long time ago. But he once said, You're the bravest kid I know. But I didn't understand that at the time. And I didn't understand that because I personally don't understand a lot of social standards and expectations because I'm physically just not there.
Like, I don't literally understand it. So, for example, like, it's not just that I miss out on sarcasm or miss out on so many double entendres. Every time I watch any movie I have to have my husband help decode expressions for me. But therefore, this allows me, too, to speak up when a lot of people wouldn't. So one particular story that happened fairly recently and that was, wow, OK.
So basically at the time I think a lot of people already knew the story because it was pretty public. Yeah, it was pretty public. So at the time, my company wasn't able to get funding and I was rejected left and right, like 65 times. People started speaking about me behind my back, but I didn't understand why because I didn't understand at the time.
This was 2016, I think why it's so shameful to fail. I understand now that society thinks it's shameful to fail, but at the time I didn't. So I went on Instagram and I had like so few followers at the time, but I decided to do an Instagram on just being a total failure of not being able to raise any capital and oh shoot, I'm becoming broke like straight up I need money. Little did I realize that that thing was going to go viral very, very quickly. And so the next day I opened my Instagram and I don't have notification, so I turned off notification. And I was so shocked when I ended up with like a hundred DMs in 12 hours. Of course you'll sometimes get those trolly DMs where it's like, Oh, such an embarrassment, oh, your dad is turning in this grave.
But I actually got overwhelming, like supportive messages from people who have failed who said, Thank you so much for destigmatizing this. So I basically hung out my dirty laundry out in the open. This is before I ever got any funding. So cool. I just made myself super unattractive for like every VC ever. And I just basically admitted to getting rejected to every VC ever.
But I didn't realize that that message was so important for so many people who felt that they should be ashamed of their process. They should be ashamed of the fact that they took a risk. But what I'm trying to say is taking a risk doing things that are just not sexy, like working really hard and just not having the results are not things that you should be ashamed of.
It just means that that is your process and no one can take that away from you. By the way, of course, fast forward many years later after that, I am now doing speeches on like international platforms about failure, literally about the one thing that everyone told me I should be quiet about and I, oops, accidentally just told everybody.
But now to share that message that failure and success are just episodes that happen to you in your life sometimes not because of your fault, sometimes also not because of your greatness. But what matters is you have the process and it's yours. And that process can inspire someone.
 

Jeremy Au: (34:17)
Wow, what a journey. I love the fact that you did something very brave that you didn't understand to be brave that time. I think that's the awkward reality of our bravery. Sometimes you know the fear. Sometimes you're aware of the fear and keep going. Sometimes you just don't really understand what's going on. And then you just do it anyway and it turns out Oh, actually there's a ten foot drop when I walk up the ladder. You realize in retrospect and that is the beautiful part of being a founder. Sometimes it's like you don't understand how many people fail. I was reading a statistic recently and I was like, Angelist was like, if they look at all companies that raise a seed round, 1 out of 40 would become a unicorn, right?
I talked to a bunch of different…you can see a lot of different people talk. If you invest, they’re like 1 out of 40. Wow. That's a lot. That's a great opportunity. We're going to do a lot of investments and then you go to normal people and they're like, Oh my God, like, 39 out of 40 is effectively not going to make it.
So there's huge like 75% failure rate and death rate. And then everything else is kind of a zombie company. And it's interesting when I talk about this to other founders and a lot of others were like, oh, I didn't know the odds were that bad. Or they’re kind of like, Oh, that's a good shot, 2.5% that you are 1 out 40. I'm going to be the 1 out of 40. And I'm like, everybody thinks they’re the 1 out of 40 as well.
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (35:43)
Yeah. Definitely
 

Jeremy Au: (35:45)
One interesting thing I’d just love to know is, you know, when you think about obviously, you know, gone through some tough times, you talked about knocking on the doors and so many VCs, how did you maintain your own energy or your own spirit? For example, writing that Instagram post a way for you to debrief or learn about it or reflect on it, like how do you maintain that energy, because you may not see it as a stigma, but you still obviously have tough times. So how do you process?
 

Gita Rusmida Sjahrir: (36:15)
When I was so broke and like asking for a loan and like owing so many people, that was one of those moments where I went, Oh, should I go back to like academia or like do something that's more stable? Gita, what is wrong with you? Like you are an autistic female founder, what are you thinking? But actually, what kept me going is a combination of one - just brute force, which is just one foot in front of the other. I'm going to do that every damn day until the timing happens for me. So there's that strange insanity that goes on in a lot of founders’ heads. I'm that one out of 40. Well, there's a great chance you're not, statistically speaking, but I really have always believed in the power of one foot in front of the other and do that for a very, very, very, very long time.
When I went to Instagram, it was because people started speaking about me behind my back, which I also accidentally found out the hard way by accidentally hearing one. And I thought, people are saying all these shameful things because that story is not mine. So I'm going to take that story, make it mine, and they can't ever talk about it anymore.
Like when you make something that is technically supposed to be shameful, yours and you own it and you say, Yeah, that is my life experience because they started bringing in personal things too. Like, Oh, she's a divorcé. Her dad was such an amazing economist. How could he give birth to such a failed person? And I thought, actually, yeah, let me own that.
Let me take it. Let me take all that story and I'll write about it and I'll make it mine with no excuses. Am I failing at this time? I am. And that is just who I am. Have I failed before this, too? Yes, I have. A lot of times when we fail, we want to make an excuse or like some, a story behind it so that we feel better about ourselves.
But maybe there is not. Maybe this is the point in time in your life that things are just not working out. But there were many times in our lives where things worked out and there will be times in our lives in the future where things will work out again. So just remembering that, that we all have survived all of our bad moments, gave me a lot of like strength and give me a lot of hope.
We've all survived it. You just have to survive this one and the next one. But then again, never forget that you also have some good ones too. And like I said, the really weird thing when it comes about failures and successes, when it comes to success, it's never enough but when it comes to failure, it's always too much.
So just never forget that. Like you're constantly having both all the time. And for me, when it got hard, yeah, I did go into Instagram, a lot of it to reclaim my story. But I also remember you're not just doing this for yourself, you're doing it for other people who are watching you and gain a lot of strength from you, even if you fail. If not, they gain a lot of strength from you because of all of your hardships.
 

Jeremy Au: (39:24)
Wow. Amazing, Gita, I thought that was a really powerful message about owning your own story for others. On this note, I’ll love to wrap things up here by paraphrasing the three big themes that I got from this conversation. And the first, of course, is thank you so much for sharing about what it was like to adapt to autism growing up and being a founder. And I love what you talked about, which is I think there's a perception that being a founder is an unstructured environment and a tough career for people with that background. But I loved how you shared about your own approach to structuring your own environment, your own team, your own company culture for that fit and making that a strength and something that's a power of yours, rather than putting that to the side. And I love that honesty, transparency and frankness that you share about it because it's helpful to you, it's helpful for me in terms of being able to be aware of that upfront and is also, I think, such a powerful and inspiring story and role model for so many people who may be having some similar dynamics or whatever the challenges.
The second, of course, is thank you so much for sharing about what advice you would give to underrepresented founders and VCs I love the very frank discussion about what the world is like today as it is, while also being frank about the fact that we're not asking a lot, but just asking for more representation at the decision-making table in venture capital, but also more openness and humility around learning as we talked about it, if you are trying to learn about blockchain, why not learn from other people, and hear their story.
And lastly, I love I think it is consistent theme around a high level owning your own story. You know, you talk about your process is yours, no matter what situation it is. The revenue you build for yourself is yours. The company build is yours. And I think that ownership is a brilliant advice, I think, for anyone in tough times and good times. And I love that window of moment of time. Just sharing about how you got rejected after talking to so many VCs. And that was a side of it. And there's a bit of a moment where you said it wasn't brave because you didn't do it in the classic model of bravery. Yet, I think the world recognizes you as brave because you owned it and I think that's such an inspirational moment for so many people. Gita, thank you so much for coming on The Brave Show.
 

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