It requires a lot of bravery to transition out and realize this isn’t working. We need to pivot out and do something. As a founder you look at it and you're like I built all this stuff, but I can't afford it anymore. Now I have to sell it and it's very disheartening that process of downsizing and it also haemorrhaging talent as well because some people just they don't see any path going forward and you make some really great friends and colleagues, but some of them just have to jump ship because they have to lighten the load and you have to move some of them as well. Cutting headcount, watching your numbers dwindle is a very scary process that requires a ton of bravery.-Hon Weng Chong
Hon Weng Chong is the founder and CEO of Cortical Labs, a Deep Technology startup looking to fuse biological material with computing chips resulting in a proto-AGI device. Previously he was the founder and CTO of CliniCloud; a medtech startup that built full-stack connected medical devices that was backed by Tencent and Ping An ventures.
Hon Weng trained as a medical doctor at The University of Melbourne and was exposed to the world of technology entrepreneurialism during his research year at Johns Hopkins. In addition to being a medical doctor, Hon Weng is a full-stack software engineer and a machine learning enthusiast. Hon Weng is a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient in 2018.
Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hey, Hon Weng, good to have you on the show.
Hon Weng Chong: (00:32)
Hey, Jeremy, thanks for having me on.
Jeremy Au: (00:34)
Yeah, I’m really excited because you’ve such an interesting journey as a doctor and a founder in the world doing some really intense stuff right now in human-cyborg interface, but there’s also a really fun journey that I know you’ve had in the past. Really excited to share your journey. For those who don’t know you yet, how would you introduce yourself professionally?
Hon Weng Chong: (00:56)
I would introduce myself as the cofounder of Cortical Labs and also the CEO. My background is in medicine. Studied medicine at University of Melbourne and practice as a doctor and had a startup after that called CliniCloud. Cortical Labs is my second rodeo…it’s more of a continuation of the first one. To summarise, I’m medically trained, but been coding and building stuff since I was a teen. Being able to put two things together that I really love and being exposed to business and entrepreneurship midway through my studies was eye-opening. You can think of it as a Venn diagram of the three – business, tech, and medicine, and I’m the intersection point.
Jeremy Au: (01:49)
Amazing. Why did you become a doctor? Did you know what being a doctor was, or was that something that your parents kept nudging you towards?
Hon Weng Chong: (02:03)
I think it would be unfair to not acknowledge the fact that it is every Asian parents’ dream to push their children down the path of a lawyer, engineer, doctor kind of thing. There was some component of it, but they weren’t very pushy about it. I think it was more the fact that my older brother, Ian, is a surgeon as well. When he got into medical school, I was inspired to follow his footsteps which made my parents go “yeah, that’s a great career path, you have our complete blessing”. There’s also a bit of competitiveness in high school as well in how they encourage career paths because here in Australia at the end of the high school, you get ranked and naturally, the top ranked people end up doing medicine. You go “it’s so hard to get in, it’s so highly ranked, it must be valuable”. It becomes what you want to aim for, but no one ever tells you that there’s an issue of scarcity, a lack of places in university and so forth. In the real world, it’s quite hard, being a junior doctor and climbing up the ranks. In fact, someone else could be doing software engineering for a much easier path and be killing it right now. It’s one of those things where you look and go “hmmm. Could have done something else and it would have been easier”. But, I really enjoyed my time doing medicine and the human contact side of things was something I really enjoy, talking to patients, it’s all about problem solving. I got into it after high school so I was one of the last few batches of intakes because the other university switched over to the US model two or three years after I started and they became a grad only course, so I was one of the last few to go through straight from high school.
Jeremy Au: (04:04)
Good trick by your parents. Get the first one in and then the everyone follows. Same with the education system. Make it scarce so everybody can’t choose it. You perceive scarcity to be value. Kinda like how we all view diamonds with a false scarcity to be valuable as a result.
Hon Weng Chong: (04:26)
Exactly. It’s funny, when you’re a child or teenager, the world is so small and you don’t see the big picture, and as you get older, you see that the world is a complex place with multi-faceted points of interest and what you’ve been exposed to in high school is a narrative that’s been set by the higher authorities; what they want the population to become, but that’s not reflected in what the market decides, what it wants.
Jeremy Au: (04:58)
Makes a lot of sense and I probably bypassed that by not having the grades for it.
Hon Weng Chong: (05:12)
It’s funny because everyone has an interesting path and career as well if they follow their passions and interests. I have colleagues who have stuck with their original plans and medicine is a very safe, very “on-rails” kind of career pathway. You’re stuck doing exams for 20-30 years of your life, but as long as you pass your exams, you’ll come out the other side as a specialist, consultant, and so forth. It’s a very well defined path. I see a lot of colleagues mid-way through or almost finishing that pathway. I just happened to branch out a bit later. There are some entrepreneurs who don’t even do medicine, but they branch out early on and some branch out later after getting their specialities as well. I think everybody has that unique journey as well, it’s just when do you decide to take the path slightly least travelled.
Jeremy Au: (06:08)
That’s where you started to branch out on your own, right? You don’t just do medicine and then end up becoming a founder along the way. Tell us more about it.
Hon Weng Chong: (06:16)
The medical course in University of Melbourne is split into pre-clinical and clinical, so you end up doing two and a half years of pre-clinical which is sitting around and listening to lectures about anatomy, physiology and all that stuff. Then, in the middle, they encourage you to do research and go overseas in that interim period and when you come back, you do your clinical studies. That’s when you’re on placements in hospitals and you’re shadowing senior doctors and learning the ropes. In my interim period, I chose to do my research at Johns Hopkins in the United States, Baltimore. It was fascinating as well because I came across my supervisor there, Dr Rue Matthews through a family friend. He said “I heard you like computers and I heard you’re also doing medicine, my brother-in-law is a medical informatician at Johns Hopkins and he’s doing some interesting research with video games and anxiety and depression in hospitalised children” and I had to contact him to find out about this. That period of time, I reached out to Dr Matthews and said this is fascinating, can I come over and do the research with you. Dr Matthews was really great and he was also a very entrepreneurial person as well and a really great mentor. We would take trips to San Francisco where we would meet up with another medical friend who had her own startup and I guess that was my first taste of there’s a lot more in the world than just following the path of doing medicine, doing a specialist course and finishing off in doing clinical medicine. I was now exposed to this weird wacky branch of medicine called informatics, on top of that, there are people building businesses in this new space and creating new stuff, raising capital, some were even selling and making profits and I was very excited about this new prospect. I guess that was my first taste of entrepreneurship and nothing really came from that, it was more of a holiday break. I came back to Australia and finished my clinical training, but that would have planted the seed that would then spring into my whole career and entrepreneurial path as a founder and doctor as well where in my final year at medical school with all the contacts that I met as well, I met a really great friend who was previously a software evangelist. He was telling me about a software program that Microsoft ran quite awhile back and I was in my final year in medical school. He said “you’re still a student and this is a program that’s specifically made for students to use technology to solve some of the world’s toughest problems”. I am just going to enter and see what happens. I started on this project called Second Cloud which was the idea of could we jerry-rig an in-line microphone from earphones and shove it into a stethoscope, could we then make a low-cost stethoscope. It was an interesting idea because we thought if you could do that and you could make it for a very low cost, you could then give it out to health workers in the developing world and we were trying to solve the problem of childhood pneumonia which is still one of the largest killers of children under the age of 5 and it’s very treatable, but the problem is diagnosis is usually late and so the concept started from there and then could we connect it to a smartphone, can it then count breaths per minute to get respiratory rate which is an indicator of pneumonia. Then you start layering on things on top of this. 2011, the cloud was just starting out and we decided to pad it out so we can win this competition. Let’s get the cloud in there and we can transmit the data into the cloud and have some doctor around the world listen to it and, probably, the folks at Microsoft really liked it and I think we came second or third in the competition. We then pitched it to the guys at Microsoft and we won a 75,000-dollar grant for our work. We took that money and we did research because we wanted to develop the idea, we wanted to test it out. That’s how I started this medical path and transitioned into this building tech stuff.
Jeremy Au: (11:44)
I guess that evangelist really earned his paycheque
Hon Weng Chong: (11:48)
Yeah. He ended up becoming an entrepreneur himself, as you do, in San Francisco.
Jeremy Au: (11:52)
What did you learn when your first company came around?
Hon Weng Chong: (12:08)
I graduated medicine around 2012 and the story goes – we took the money, we did some research and continued on my career. On the side, I was coding features and building things for this research thing. One of our research assistants came up to us and said “you know there are a lot of parents asking where they could buy a device like this and how much does it cost? Have you guys thought about potentially selling this because there are people now asking for it”. It was that moment that I spoke to Andrew who was my cofounder at CliniCloud and I said I think there’s something in this. All these parents are asking us for this little prototype and wires hanging off the head of a stethoscope, where could they buy this because accessibility was a problem. This was my second year of residency and I said to Andrew let’s see where we can go with this, let’s take a punt. I put my medical career on hold and he put his consulting career on hold, and we took this prototype that we made and met a very interesting person by the name of Jay Wallencamp, he was very in to it and he encouraged us to keep building it. We came back to Australia and we raised a triple-F round, got that money, started building prototypes and then we thought – let’s do a self starter, a kickstarter kind of thing to gauge interest. We did that, and I guess that’s where the big paycheque came through and we caught the interest of Tencent’s exploration team. Back then med-tech, nobody wanted to touch this, it’s where companies go to die, that was the claim at that time. We got that money from Tencent and Ping An and were able to learn a lot. We learnt how the hardware business worked. We managed to find a contract manufacturer in China, set up a line, started to produce the devices and it was warp speed from then on because we needed to get the products to market and that required regulatory approval. So, we learnt a lot about how the regulatory process worked for the FDA and the CE paths. I think it was quite amazing, in hindsight, how we managed to get an application through for a class two device in 18 to 24 months and that was due to the advice we got from a regulatory consultant. We learnt a lot from that process. The issue was, I guess, selling. The sales process was very arduous, very difficult to figure out how to sell these devices. One of the downsides was that we were relying on someone who previously had done marketing for a lightbulb company and we brought him on board. I guess it’s hard as well when you don’t understand the market, but you reach into the old playbook and apply it. We were chasing down deals with BestBuy and so forth when, in fact, we didn’t seem like a good fit because when a kid is sick, you go to CVS or Walmart. So, we made a few faux pas along the way, but it was a slog trying to sell a healthcare device to healthy people because that’s the last thing you think about, mind you, this was before COVID-19. Getting sick is not in the forefront of anyone’s mind. It was unfortunate as well because 2016 was when Trump came into office. That tanked a lot of our momentum because we pivoted from B2C to B2B deals, but we had spent quite a significant amount in capital in trying to chase down these B2B deals and we were on the cusp of signing a deal that would have funded the company and continued production with the Veteran’s Affairs with the United States. The issue with healthcare is that a lot of the funding is determined by the government and when you have an administration change like when Trump came into power, ripped out Obama care and replaced it with Trump care, a lot of the healthcare organisations suddenly stopped all their discretionary spending projects. Our device is on the discretionary spending project, so that was really bad for us. We were on the cusp of selling a whole bunch of devices that got put on hold. We just had to keep going on with this, so mid of 2017 we realised it was futile because Trump tried to get rid of Obama care with Trump care and he got knocked back twice and was still in his limbo phase, we decided it would not work out, we need to pivot out. One of the learnings I got is never raise more capital than you need because it’s a terrible feeling, running a zombie company. We did not have enough capital to create a new line of products, but we had too much capital sitting around which we can’t just return back to investors, they don’t really want it. I forgot to mention that when we raised funding from Tencent and Ping An, it was a 5 million dollar round with the expectation that a lot of it was going into sales and also creating product lines, but, as we learnt, doing hardware is extremely difficult because we need large minimum order quantities of 10,000 units. If you don’t get 10,000, no one is going to set up a line, no one sets up a line, you’re not going to be able to sell and reduce your bond. That was one of my biggest learnings. You can execute everything perfectly and get almost all the way there, but timing is crucial. Everything is about timing and, unfortunately, we were at the wrong place at the wrong time for the critical part of the sale process. 2018-2019, I class it as the valley of death. We were going through a sort of a downward spiral, we had no idea what we were going to do and we were throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck. 2018, I was running a zombie company and I just said I’m going off on a holiday. At that point, we were starting to pivot out, we were going to do AI. We were not quite sure what we were going to do yet. We had some projects in the pipeline. One of the projects was reinforcement learning system that was going to be able to learn how to play partially observable games like poker and at that time, no one had done it with reinforcement learning/artificial neural network approach and we thought this would be something that was useful and would set us on the path of a deep-mind company. The second one which was a random and crazy idea was what Cortical Labs is today, which was integrating neurons on silicon chips. How this came about was we had a crisis meeting at the company and said we don’t have enough money to build this new product line and we can’t make any more medical products because we don’t have enough capital. Let’s just pivot. We got the idea for Cortical Labs from all the research from the AI people. We spoke to the neuroscience guys and they were telling us some interesting work coming out from Japan where they were able to get it to do some computational function. We started these two projects and I went on a holiday and I matched with a girl on Tinder. We met up in Shanghai and I started telling her all the things I was doing, trying to impress her. She said “I have to tell my boss this. He’s going to love what you do. The next day she says “I told my boss and he really wants to meet you”. I followed her and we went to her boss’ place. He’s apparently some real estate billionaire. He’s like “this is so cool, I really like your tech, I want to fund you now. Here’s X amount for y amount of shares”. I said “I’m not going to take the deal, but let’s stay in contact”.
Jeremy Au: (25:46)
Wow. What a story. I do remember back in my single days, being very eager to impress. That’s amazing.
Hon Weng Chong: (25:59)
Yeah, I’m just thinking wow, this is a perfect channel, it might not work these days, but hey, it worked on me. It’s funny that this connection I made with this eccentric Chinese billionaire shaped the path of Cortical Labs. So, I’m back in Australia from my epic trip and we were doing these two projects in parallel. Let’s try to do this brain stuff and also this AI poker playing thing. We managed to get something together and managed to get accepted at NIPS at the reinforcement learning workshop, it was in Montreal in 2018. The problem is that everyone is so focused on the state of the art and when you present something that doesn’t break the state of the art, but is completely novel, people are not interested. What they were keen about was when we told them we were growing brains and trying to figure out how they interact and stuff. People were like “hey, this is really cool stuff, let me know when you get it running so we can look into it”. We narrowed it down to the idea of growing neurons on chips has legs. People will be interested and researchers will want to know more about how these things work. We pivoted the company into doing that completely. I went back on WeChat and messaged Tinder girl and said “hey, is your boss interested in having a chat” and her boss was like “come up to Shanghai, we’ll hang out”. I ended up doing that and tried to negotiate some funding and he said he was going to fund it. Problem was at that time 2019, trade war was starting to ramp up and we were a Delaware company. He couldn’t get any money across to us because it would have been blocked by the CFR US. In Hong Kong, there were all this KYC stuff and he couldn’t get through, it was a whole mess. He played a peripheral role in the sense that he kept us going because there was this hope that there was funding, there was hope that somebody was interested in our work. It was around that time that we were connected with my current venture partner Niki Scevak from Blackbird Ventures and we told him what we were doing and he and Blackbird were blown away. So, I took all the old investors and created a chunk of shares for a new company in Australia and allocated them and brought the whole thing back to Australia and started afresh, but things were slow because Australia being backward needed wet ink on paper and it kept dragging on where we had no money left. We had all these projects but couldn’t start them. I put in about 40,000 of my own capital just to keep things going. In September 2019, we got all signatures through except for one which was Tencent or Ping An who was slow. I told Niki they pretty much said yes, they’re just trying to go through the process of signing this off. Could you please put the money in now? Being such great investors, they said they’ll work something out. They wired us the cash before all the signature packets were signed. That’s how we got our first funding to keep going. That period of 2018 to 2019 was a tough and depressing period of time because you’re not knowing what you’re going to do, where you’re going to go. It was a tumultuous year. I look back and wonder how I got through all of that. Having something to believe in perhaps gives you enough hope to soldier through that tough portion of time. It was a sliding door kind of moment in time then.
Jeremy Au: (32:10)
Woah. What a crazy story. I totally empathize because that inside out dynamic for founders’ so tough. You mentioned it was really stressful, you must have had to choose to be brave to do stuff like ask for help or ask for money to come in even though everything is not in yet. Can you tell us about those times when you had to be brave?
Hon Weng Chong: (32:40)
Oh yeah. Yeah. I think there’s a lot of like running a startup, being a founder is all about bravery right in the face of adversity and keeping morale up and so forth. I think it’s kind of sad as well looking back because we, at its peak, CliniCloud had I think 20 employees. We had a whole big office and had all this equipment and so forth and it’s like in the scene in Silicon Valley where the Pied Piper goes broke and they had to sell all the furniture and stuff. Been there and done that. That’s it. I think that requires a lot of bravery to transition out and realize this isn’t working. We need to pivot out and do something. As a founder you look at it and you're like I built all this stuff, but I can't afford it anymore. Now I have to sell it and it's very disheartening that process of downsizing and it also haemorrhaging talent as well because some people just they don't see any path going forward and you make some really great friends and colleagues, but some of them just have to jump ship because they have to lighten the load and you have to move some of them as well. Cutting headcount, watching your numbers dwindle is a very scary process that requires a ton of bravery. And as you said you reaching out to investors and saying look, you know it’s almost there. Can you please do something to help us out? I think that requires a lot of bravery, and even though I got a current trajectory, I sometimes question myself as well. Why I’m doing this and I think that doing the kind of deep tech work that we’re doing requires a ton of bravery, right. Because we were faced with multiple challenges, most cases a lot of, say, other startups who are now in the deep tech space have say only one challenge. For instance, if there is a market that’s ready to go and you need to build product, that becomes a technical challenge, can you deal with the technical stuff to get to the market and then sell it? On the other hand, you may also have a technology which is ready to go and then you just don’t have to figure out what the product market fit is and try different things and different sales strategies. We’re starting with two unknowns. We have technical risk and we also have market risk because when you’re building something that doesn’t exist before, you then now have to figure out how do you generate revenue? How do you sell this thing? So right now, I’m still looking at it going I have no idea how I’m gonna do it. I have a vision of where when I get to, but how do we get there is still kind of debatable, right? So, I’ve had discussions, debates, and arguments with VC who were like no, no, no, you can’t do this. You can’t do a horizontal strategy, has to be vertical, horizontal, don’t work, and so forth, and you’re like “but Microsoft, Google, all these guys are horizontal strategies. None of them have verticals” and so, I guess getting knocked back a lot and being questioned on the core fundamental and existential question of like why? Why should you even exist? I think is something that requires a ton of bravery to sort of tackle.
Jeremy Au: (35:38)
How do you manage your own personal energy, getting knocked back, debates, how do you manage your energy? For me, it’s when I watch too much YouTube. There’s a good chunk of YouTube that I enjoy like watching history and suddenly I’m deep into the Medieval age history. I’m probably in too deep right now. So, I need to tell my loved ones, talk to my sister, go for massage, go for a walk, those are the ways I manage my energy. How about you?
Hon Weng Chong: (36:29)
Yeah, I think the thing about it and this is also what recently happened as well, I think talking is actually really important. Having people to talk to, debate, trusted friends you know will give you like straightforward answers. Also, ones who are supportive as well. I think it’s key and one thing that I noticed was really hard. We recently just closed. Well, it’s still in a rolling fundraise, but we closed the lead investor for a pre-A sort of bridging round. This was done in the backdrop of there was a recently a sort of a fund raising deal that was going through DD, but I think it’s somewhat fallen through because of technical issues, but there was a question of do we take deal A or deal B. This was done during the recent two week Melbourne lockdown and so being in isolation, dealing with the fund raising year question of do I do A or B? I found that was very challenging, primarily because we didn’t have any of those avenues to like decompress. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t talk to people about and I could talk to people that I was on zoom and it’s not the same and so the usual things - going for a run, going to the gym. I think going out and having good night having some food, friends and a good drink is all these things, I think, helps decompress and a lot of the times I think this is a is a problem that I certainly feel and I do that some of the founders also say they do is we put a lot of time and emotional energy thinking about what if’s. What if I did this? What if I did that. What would the outcome be? And a lot of the times these things are out of our control, and so I find perhaps sometimes the best thing you can do is just not think about it. Just shut it out. I guess maybe that’s the whole like YouTube strategy, right, that you have. I just turn on my PlayStation and just play some games, escape from this thing so I don’t go into this loop of like oh what if I did A and B and try to scenario model everything.
Jeremy Au: (38:35)
Yeah, I call it the spiral. I think the prayer to say – God, give me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. I think the founder’s mentality is that you can change everything.
Hon Weng Chong: (38:58)
I know. It is a very interesting phenomenon. This notion of control and what we have and control what we don’t. It’s interesting that you mentioned this as well because like so Sydney is recently going through a lock down and watching all the feeds and then we’re looking Oh my God no toilet paper. Everyone’s rushing to it. I think in Singapore as well with the lockdown, everyone just rushes to get toilet paper. But it’s very interesting because on a psychological, sort of theoretical, point of view, it’s about control. When everything is out of your control. Like you’re getting locked down and decide without you saying yes, I want to be locked down and stuff. The last thing you reach out for is that toilet paper that’s soft, silky white, toilet paper and there is a Freudian, sort of like analysis for it, right? Because as you grow up as you develop, you learn how to control your bladder and you learn how to feed yourself and then one of the last things you learn how to control is your own defecation process and so the ability to still have that control is, I think, somewhat very comforting to the ordinary person, I think relating this back...how do we go from toilet paper to founders? Right, to the founder story is that we feel very uncomfortable when we have uncertainty, ambiguity and I think that’s just something that we have to deal with and we have to deal with it in a constructive way because, sometimes, it can be all consuming, and I think founder mental health is actually really important. It’s a tough journey having friends who are founders so you can bounce off ideas and who have been there, I think, is extremely valuable because it is somewhat kind of lonely in this space. You can’t share everything with your colleagues. There are some strategic things that you can only talk to with other people in the same space or in the same level. So yeah, I do think that being able to control and understand what the control you have and what is outside of your control and delineate that and just accept it for what it is really important for founder mental health.
Jeremy Au: (40:58)
That’s the tough part, right? Toilet paper, you’re buying it for the feeling of control. For so many founders, saying I don’t have control over my customers, I can control my response to the customers, but I don’t control them. I don’t control the VC and the board, but I can control my response to them, it’s a tough boundary to have because I remember waiting for emails and I would be so anxious because it’s an important piece of news. Now, I think to myself, hey, Jeremy, you could have enjoyed yourself and gone out for a beer or something during that time and that’s a tough spot.
Hon Weng Chong: (41:45)
It’s all a matter of perspective, right? It is a matter of perspective from the point of view of where you are and taking a bigger picture. As you said, you’ve grown from as a founder to being on the other side of the table, and you’ve seen it because you’re like, well, it wouldn’t make no difference had you gone off for a nice dinner or sit in front of the thing and just hit refresh because it’ll still come in and the outcome would have been decided that would be outside your control. I think it’s part of the sort of growth and maturation process. I’m certainly guilty myself of doing that as well where I have done that as well. You sit there saying, like, Oh my God, there’s something that’s going to come in is this deal gonna happen? Or it’s not gonna happen? You get, I guess, overly personally committed to it. Come to think of it, having the ability to extricate oneself from this company from the start up and realize that businesses come and go. The startup, yes, you may have poured many years, countless amount of blood, sweat and tears into it. But these things come and go. They succeed. They fail. Those things are, I guess, outside of your control, but what you do have control off is the friends of the connections that you make. So for instance, from CliniCloud, I’m still in contact with a lot of my colleagues and employees. Those are connections and friendships that I cherish and I think those are the more important things. I think it’s a lot of people get caught up in like I must succeed and I would do whatever it takes to succeed. But I think it’s very important to realize that success and failure of a startup is sort of a point in time. What’s more important are the people. The friends that you made and you always try to maintain the friendships that you have as well. We’re just very, I guess, often too busy. You don’t have time to meet up with them or catch up and say hi. Visit them kind of thing. They’re going to be there. They’re gonna be there. When you succeeded, or when you fail, so I think that’s probably the most important thing to remember that you have control of is the friends and connections that you have.
Jeremy Au: (43:46)
When you look back on your time, what’s a moment you could paint when nobody else saw, whether you’re scared or succeeding, could you paint us a picture of that?
Hon Weng Chong: (44:03)
That is a very thought-provoking question…does it have to be success or failure or can it be any moment?
Jeremy Au: (44:14)
I’ll tell you mine. I can tell you mine now, but we’ll make it mutual. So, a lot of people were like giving me congratulations I think for my seed announcement and funding so we close term sheet. I think very good and great. It was amazing that we signed the term sheet and have the agreement I can’t remember, but they were things like, long form etc. By time I kind of like left my laptop, it was like close to midnight and I realized that I had no one to celebrate with. Yeah, because I was still at the office, yeah and I was like I, you know I’m like in Boston and my family’s not around. My girlfriend is not around and so I remember I just pinged this guy, a Singaporean and founder in Singapore, Jonathan. We were, at that time, just acquaintances. But I said hey, can I come over because I need to celebrate and I have no one to celebrate with and I should celebrate this thing. And so I invited myself over to his place. And then I ordered myself like some sushi and then we hung out, him and I. Actually, a few other friends drifted in because I just. At that time was pinging a couple of friends and say, like hey, I just realized that I should be celebrating this mini win, and so we all drifted in around midnight as a last minute hang out and I was laughing because zooming out, a lot people see this like very glossy like win kind of thing and for me oh that’s very much like hey, me scrambling to pull a few founder friends to celebrate last minute and I thought was a great night. I mean, I made some great friendships with that night as well with Jonathan as well. We actually became neighbours, I think that was a true moment for me.
Hon Weng Chong: (46:03)
It’s funny how you have a story of succeeding and then going. Oh, there’s no one else is still great, although I really should be celebrating kind of thing and it happened many times at CliniCloud. I’m talking about CliniCloud because Cortical Labs is still new and we don’t. We have a few successes. Think there’s something that’s coming along the way but CliniCloud is the one I know more about with the stuff. So for instance, I would say my role at CliniCloud was actually as Chief Technology Officer. We always had this thing about ‘cause I made a lot of trips to San Francisco and I would always on the way back from LAX or SFO like buy a bottle of tequila because we were like, well, you know once we like push out the Android app with the iOS Apple whatever app or whatever feature, we’re going to have a celebration, but the problem is we are always behind schedule, so whenever we pushed out the update we were just so exhausted. No one wanted to the party. I was like, oh, I’m just gonna go home. And then we always would say alright will do the party next week, but we never ended up doing that party so we accumulated, I think, 6 bottles of tequila. For all the various like product features and apps that we were pushing out and I still remember that one of the best moments was well is the best and bittersweet moment. We had a really nice office in the middle of the city. This was at the pivot transition phase from CliniCloud to Cortical Labs. We’re moving the office into the laboratory space at the Alfred was much smaller. Wasn’t it wasn’t as nice as the old place and then we had this six bottle of tequila and we said alright, we’re gonna send off the old office in style. So what we did was everyone gathered around. We got it like I think four or five buckets of KFC chicken, pizza and we just drank all the booze in the office in that one night ‘cause I was like, I’m not bringing, you know, you’re not going home until we finish this off. And I’m not taking it home and we’re not bringing it to the new office and no one is taking home at all. So we’re gonna do it tonight so we all like completely plastered on that night. But it was so much fun because it was like, you know, moment to reflect and recollect about like the memories that we have in the old office. And I really quite cherish that moment even though it was as I said, it was a bit of a bittersweet moment, because as a founder, you realized, we downsized. We can’t afford this place anymore. It’s more of a sort of an acknowledgement of where we were and where we’re going to go now kind of thing.
Jeremy Au: (48:21)
Wow. Amazing. What a send-off, like a Viking funeral. Instead of a burning boat, it’s tequila burning your insides. Well, thank you so much, Hon, for sharing all of that. I’d like to paraphrase the three big themes I heard from you for the benefit everybody. First of all, thank you so much for sharing your actual journey from university student to doctor to branching out to actually experimenting with being a founder to CliniCloud and doubling down on there too now where you are at Cortical Labs with everything in between. And I really enjoy you sharing the true story, I think, of each stage about what that transition was to you at that time and in retrospect, what it meant to you as well looking back. Second thing, I really want to thank you for that hilarious story actually about is it’s not the humor around the vacation and the actuality and super like. And this is a funny story because it’s so true. It sounds like totally Silicon Valley. It’s a true story. I’ve had similar experiences, not the same way, obviously. Yeah, it’s just to be its serendipity/comedy of being a founder is so funny especially when you get look back on it and I thank you so much for sharing that story. Not because it’s also funny but also because it’s real. And last thing. Thank you so much for sharing the founder psychology like it’s called it mental health. What does it mean to have that true life around what it means to be a true founder for better focus? The actual reality of it? And I think it was as amazing to hear all the tough times that you went through because I think the truth is the founder story is full of ups and downs and I think you sharing and being open about it as well as about how that Viking funeral send off a tequila, I think, is a good reminder for every founder that wears that locus control, where is that differentiation between what is the toilet paper of my founder life/what can I actually control?
Hon Weng Chong: (50:30)
Exactly, the founder journey is just like love. Full of ups and downs, but you just have to go with the blows and take it as it comes.
Jeremy Au: (50:38)
Thank you so much for sharing and I appreciate it, Hon.
Hon Weng Chong: (50:40)
Thank you for having me on the show.