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Liyana Sulaiman: Father Inspiration, Failure Cat Curiosity & Liquidation Marketplace Founder

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

As a startup founder, when times are tough at the early stages, just commit to it, commit to it, and see things through using curiosity as a guiding light to any problems and struggles. Having conversations around what is the right problem to solve here, what is the right thing to do here. And that really, really helps. -Liyana Sulaiman

Liyana Sulaiman is a Singaporean entrepreneur who has been a technology advisor, mentor and founder across the US and Southeast Asia startup ecosystems.

Currently, she is the CPTO and Co-Founder of Pollen, Asia’s first B2B Liquidation marketplace designed for sustainability. She is recognized as a technology product leader in Singapore, Top 30 Women in Product Management for APAC 2019 by PMF, and ‘Woman of the Year’ category finalist for the 2020 Women in IT Awards APAC edition.

As a technology advisor and mentor, Liyana has served on several steering committees which include the Media Development Authority, Science Centre Singapore, and Yayasan Mendaki on Digital Transformation for Malay Muslim Organizations(MMOs) in Singapore. She is a startup mentor at the Founder Institute - Kuala Lumpur and has been a zero to 1 product mentor at several technical hackathons across the region. Liyana is passionate about bringing more diversity and inclusion into the technology and innovation spaces. Previously she was a founding board advisor and Managing Director for global non-profit organization Girls in Tech Singapore (2012-2016). As a recognition of her early contributions and achievements, she has been appointed a UN Women Singapore Ambassador in STEM for the Girls2Pioneers

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hi Liyana, happy to see you. Amazing to hear your story and share that broadly as a female founder, leader and I see someone who shares a lot of good stories.
Love to have you share that little bit further. So for those who don't know you yet, could you share a little bit by yourself?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (00:47)
Hi everyone. Thank you, Jeremy. It's a great honor to have me on your show. Yeah, I'm happy to be here today. I've been a two time technology startup founder. Of course, when I didn't want did not want to come because I was a failure and a zero to one product leader. And also I've been a startup mentor across startup communities here in Southeast Asia. Currently, I’m the co-founder and the chief product/technology officer of Pollen. We are a B2B liquidation platform designed for sustainability. Essentially what we do is we help brands, big brands and businesses, clear their slow moving, obsolete inventory so that they don't have to end up in landfills.
 

Jeremy Au: (01:24)
Awesome. Not to mention that you used to spearhead Girls In Tech as a managing director, so helping lots of women be able to access coding. So really amazing. On that note, I'd like to talk about that. Why is family important to you? Because it's something that you’ve talked about in the past in terms of growing up. The inspiration for who you are today as an entrepreneur and giving back to the community. So could you share a little bit more about all the way from beginning?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (01:52)
That feels like a well, definitely a personal storytelling. Obviously, family is where someone experiences the foundational formative years learning about values. So I think my family for me has been my source of inspiration and also teaching me about values in life, what values are going to matter to me and also in shaping my personal philosophy. My family background is a bit unique in the sense that most people, I think, would grow up thinking that we have a mother and a father.
They both have jobs and you sort of be the part of the family unit where as a child you grow up actually thinking that mom and dad's going to teach you a lot about the world. I think for me, for the most part about my family is that I've had that experience of witnessing how my parents actually live out their own personal ambitions.
My dad is wanting to realize his ambition of becoming a semi-con entrepreneur in the 1990s. Unfortunately, something happened there down the road. Well, my mom, I think she more or less had a very different lifestyle, like back before she came to Singapore. If I were to be really open and honest about it. My mom, she came from a royal family and married my dad and they had the, I would say, sweet sort of like life that she wanted to start here in Singapore right from scratch essentially your sort of immigrant story.
So being born mixed race, my mom and dad mixed race itself. My dad is also mixed race himself. Half Chinese, half Borneo, Kalimantan Borneo, and my mom's more of a Persian Indonesian, a bit of Dutch and Thai blood herself. So we never really had a sort of a strict configuration of what we want to be and how we want to be because the conversations around dinner table, at family events usually are like, you know what do you want to eat?
Do you have a set like so do we eat Malay food or Chinese, what are you in for? Because my family never had it sort of that standard norms are all around culture or community. So I think that's where I realized me we've had to come up, come together, and then just set the values for ourselves moving forward.
So conversations were very much pretty much about, Oh, dad, what do you like to do? So my dad loves to tinker around with his electronic kits. He would always, you know, bring that home. And as a kid, being that curious kid I am. And of course, I spent a lot of time with my dad. My dad literally is sort of my first science teacher and I wanted to learn more about him through his work and what he's engrossed in.
So my dad pretty much has his life there as a product engineer. Phillips And one time I also discovered that he has his dream of actually starting his own company. On my mother's side, I think going away from that royally life and what is expected of her in the court or having that life first time to be a commoner.
Life of freedom is of no traditions and what not. She also dabbled in the role of entrepreneurship. She started her own, I would say small bakery as a family business she shared with her mom, and she wanted that to be a source of her channel to do things in the family rather than being told that you cannot do certain things.
So I think with my family being mixed race, for the most part, I never found a real community. I don't know if I would belong to...I mean, growing up I went to school studying Mandarin and then only switching half way because I was really terrible at writing the characters but I always thought almost like 50 or 56 out of 100 kind of scores, sometimes even failing.
So the decision to switch to learning Malay. I treated it more like a new canvas that somehow I got to learn more about the culture and the norms and ways of people. But the thing was, both my mom and dad then dabbling in entrepreneurship and way of life, I just felt like it is the only way a path forward.
Even growing up, I was just more thinking about becoming a doctor. But of course, when my father's business didn't do well in the Asian financial crisis, the suppliers started to pull out. That's why we realized that things don't really go according to plan and we as a family went through a lot of financial hardship. As a result, my own personal, early personal philosophy about really understanding, being curious about who we are, how things should work and how to make things happen.
So from then on, I think the wanting to prove myself, I would say, you know, I'm happy to prove myself and also helping my dad realize that, of course, he has his own personal philosophy around failures and around starting up again. He would, of course, if his own direct experiences with entrepreneurship, I've seen both good and bad of it.
But one thing I would realize from both my mom's and dad’s, I would say, personal trajectories and ambitions, I realized that there's got to be more out there. And that's why I wanted to explore the boundaries of what is possible for myself.
 

Jeremy Au: (06:38)
Wow. That's really interesting because you went through a lot. So you talked about yourself as a daughter of, you know, folks who are entrepreneurial. You talked about race as a minority and you talked about your learnings in contrast to them as well. So a lot to unpack there. What was it like growing up? Because you say you wanted to not be an entrepreneur and you became an entrepreneur and you talked about your parents’ entrepreneurship journey, one who was rebelling against the norms and restrictions and becoming entrepreneurial and another person working as part of a former startup that's now big, Phillips, and having a dream to be an entrepreneur.
So I guess maybe an obvious thing is how did you discover that you want to be entrepreneur? Were your parents encouraging it? Were they telling you not to be an entrepreneur and you decided to become an entrepreneur anyway? How did that…
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (07:28)
We kind of have the elephant in the room here, which I'm not addressing, which is probably my frustrations with my dad, he always has a lot of bad assumptions after his own personal, I would say, failure that with the company which was such a thing like oh, my business partner aren’t cooperating with me, oh, I don't have investors who trusted me, I would form a personal hypotheses around, is it really true?
Can I prove this using my curiosity to explore and experiment and get that learning myself going out there, and also the fact that I think my mom has been a steady source of motivation. You know, while all that is happening in the background, my mom would say, hey, you know what? You can do whatever you want to do.
Look at me. I broke away from the chains of traditions and here I am in Singapore living my life. Of course, she would argue that my dad could have done better. You put it this way. But at the same time, I think the personal hypothesis and wanting to prove that, hey, is it true you cannot start a business and you cannot be successful at it?
What would it take to be successful? What are the successful things that I need to educate myself on and what are some traits I need to develop being mixed race, not being given a sort of standard? OK, like if you grow up in a Chinese family in Confucian values, perhaps one of the ways where you can lean on but being mixed race, you're confused because on one hand, being kind of a royal, they have a set of conducts.
But you know, royal families in Malaysia, they're kind of like everywhere, right? They all kind of mixed them. So maybe these are supposed to do this. This is how you show up. So the philosophy under parenthood, under choosing ambition whatsoever and my dad sort of his bustle was more of a laissez faire attitude. And we are left to figure out things by ourselves.
So thankfully, my mom also made jokes of becoming a librarian. And that's where she exposed me to the world of books and reading about different things. I guess that was sort of honed my curiosity further to really read about the lives of other people and how they go about making such decisions, becoming an entrepreneur and stuff like that.
Yeah, I guess. I guess it's really having that frustration and that curiosity turning into a micro level and using that leaning on that to create possibilities. That's how I ended up becoming who I am today. But of course, entrepreneurship is not sort of a plain vanilla journey. You got to put flavour and colour into it. You got to put context to it.
Every entrepreneur, if you go from one to another entrepreneur, they would tell you that they would experience challenges, set of challenges starting up. But there is sort of a common language or common, I would say, philosophy going about entrepreneurship, no matter what industry, what space you are in. I think I find the world of entrepreneurship, that set of philosophy, going to what those typical startup founders goes through a little bit strangely, to put it, a bit comforting, sort of a regimental way of system to go about it. Like all this is expected when you're a startup founder at early stages. You’re not going to get your product market fit. But they may be sort of books or you can learn things from other people who have done what you're trying to do in that journey and you can learn from them. So I guess that demystifies the whole idea of like when you're when you're a mixed race, when there are no rule book or playbooks to go about how you live your life, you've got to have to lean on and find something to give you that compass or GPS of how to go about it.
 

Jeremy Au: (10:45)
You mentioned something interesting, which is that your father had these dreams and then unfortunately didn't happen. And I really empathize with that, I’ve seen that as well in my family as well. And then he has that set of learnings that you don't agree with. So it's interesting because he's both a role model and he's also a debater, you know, that makes sense because he's also the person who help introduce you technology, right?
So how does that work? I mean, because I think it also feels like to some extent you channel that in Girls In Tech and helping other female founders and entrepreneurs learn about coding. How does that all come together about that?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (11:21)
Well, first thing, I think growing up in Yishun where stranger things happened, you know, in Singapore, you hashtag Yishunstrangethingshappens. Well, I grew I grew up in an industrial town Yishun, Avenue Six. At that time, I think there was Compaq I don't know 1990s company, computer personal computer company Compaq there was Murata, you know, there's a lot of this you will see silicon semi-con companies there.
My dad actually had a stint a while before he joined Phillips the same one of those companies and he brought me to tour some of the silicon fabrication assembly line in the factory. So as a kid he would always tell me, Deanna I don't want you to have dolls for some reason he just wouldn't let me have dolls, my mom once said like, why not? She's a she's a girl. Why not let her have dolls, Barbie dolls and whenever we go to Toys-R-US, I remember my dad would be like, No, we're not going to the girl section. It's all pink which is what you see today. And I tend to dress up in green or black, mostly green. So it was so bad that that I was so curious about why I can’t have a doll that I have to go to a sundry shop one time to buy a $2.50 made in China doll just to prove him like, Hey, look, it's not going to harm me, nothing bad happens to me. I have a doll now. $2.50, doll I can play with. No. Put it away. I give you a better toy. So you would bring some gadgets or something then he would actually walk me through or say, Hey, look, this is how a typical engineer, you know, he was like, this is how you switch it on.
This is how we think. So I think a lot of it has been the influences, the exposure and being a daddy’s girl right? And that has actually shaped my interest, my early interest in technology. And it wasn't until I was 12 where I started going to I.R.S. and it was at the time doing Yahoo! GeoCities, and you can customize Yahoo! GeoCities pages and stuff. So I started doing that. And even at school one time, there was an open floor learning how to use Microsoft Office at the primary tree level. No one would be interested in that, but I was among the few girls, I think the only girl in the class I remember I was outside of curriculum, it was optional and but I did it.
And then I went on to do more like computer classes outside. And I never studied computer or technology as part of my major or anything. There was already there. It was already in the background. And I was until when I was about, I think 12, 13, and we had neighbours who work at Sun Microsystems and they gave a whole pile of books of Java and stuff like that, say, Hey, look, your, your children might be interested in this because this is the future.
Like I think I'm only like 12 or 13. And like they were giving me Oracle sort of like Java Systems books. I was like, OK, fine, I can just go to it. But why is it all binary? Why does it all numbers got me really curious? Because I can't fathom the idea that there would be people out there reading books like this.
And that's where I started my journey of going to NLB and checking out more coding stuff, basically learning how to use Adobe and stuff like that. So to me it's more of a hobby, but it didn't occur to me until much later when I needed cash myself. Like I said, we grew up, we had financial circumstances that I needed a part time job that pays well, not from tuition, because I spent a lot of time, a lot of emotional investment with tutoring kids.
I feel like it's not a good use of my time. So someone actually gave me a lead to work in I.T. sales and it turned out to be a major, someone who owns a distribution of a lot of the equipment and inputs and software in Singapore and I was very, very privileged to be able to join right under the marketing director, right from intern and grew into enterprise sales positions, even when I was in my teen years before I went to NUS. And even doing NUS, I spent a bit of time there working at NUS IT Co-op as a student and one of the interesting learnings I learned is that I do it for money, but at the same time I find I'm actually getting trained to get used to get familiar with systems and the kind of work environment in an I.T. I never really thought that I would actually become an IT entrepreneur myself. Even today, I only followed my curiosity from my dad, from the exposure until one day when I was selling a lot of this software, doing really, really well at one point doing university, Kaspersky I sold, and I told myself, Hey, why am I just stopping at selling software? What is the next thing? Can I learn to build the software? How does the software get made? And that was how I ended up getting a product role. And when I was in NUS, getting into that program where being the first, I would say among the few minority female, going to Silicon Valley and working with a startup that later got acquired by Skype because the solution that we had built actually forms the sort of the mobile chat feature at Skype. So that was really an eye opening experience because here I have my dad who's been in semi-con and he would never actually tell his daughter that one day you're going to go to Silicon Valley, but dad himself wanted to go to Silicon Valley but never got a chance to go to Silicon Valley, but the daughters got on this special program, and then she went on to work at Silicon Valley and actually the startup got acquired by Skype. So it's really amazing. So it was totally not planned at all. I was just basically just following the curiosity and fulfilling that curiosity. You know, to see where it takes you to.
 

Jeremy Au: (16:30)
And he must be so proud of you and scared for you and everything in between.
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (16:35)
Well, he tries. He tries to say, Oh, it's really dangerous out there.
 

Jeremy Au: (16:40)
That's how parents show they care. They want to be protective, right?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (16:43)
Yeah, he does. But at the same time, I think I once heard him murmur to his friends, you know, when I visited the warehouse nowadays is that your father is really, really proud of you. Like, yeah, he doesn’t say it, but he tells everyone in the warehouse that he's very proud. I have a daughter. My daughter is reading this software that's going to one day liquidate everything in that warehouse.
 

Jeremy Au: (17:05)
That's how you know, he doesn't praise you, but he praises you to all his friends.
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (17:12)
Yeah.
 

Jeremy Au: (17:12)
What's interesting is that I see that obviously you've done product you've given back by leading Girls In Tech. You've also been focused on sustainability as well. So how does that all translate? How do you see that working together?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (17:28)
Well, I do want to give back more. I think giving back to the community, giving back, it's an extension of my individual identity. You know, being a female minority, you know, in tech, not having a conventional sort of engineer sort of route. But actually, like I said, it all started as a curiosity and a hobby and become a job and a job suddenly became a real occupation and wanting and purpose to be to be a software entrepreneur, building products, something to be a bigger goal, a larger purpose.
It's funny how you actually made me realize it's all actually my dad because right from the start, the whole exposure, the whole experience, living and working with him side by side, even getting grounded for messing up his electronic kits, one afternoon he really grounded me in the store room. I got really scared and frightened because it was dark. But that was the turning point where I realized that I not only want to make my dad happy, I don't really want to prove him wrong. But at the same time, how am I going to surf? Where am I? What? This is a blank canvas serving as an extension of my identity that should be natural.
So whenever I have time, whenever I can do it, but when I go into the sustainability space, I think it's more about realizing the sheer magnitude of the business waste that a lot of companies by default would have to throw away because there are no other solutions, there's no tech enablement, or there's no I would say sort of a framework to deal with how do we get business waste sustainably out of the system and not dumping it to other ecosystems.
To another person's lab to deal with it? Because if we keep doing that, we're just pushing, pushing and not addressing the root cause of why they have so much waste in the first place. That's where I learn. I realized that at a micro level, we look at problems, we look at problems, we see that, oh, they follow an origin and they kind of follow their process and lifecycle accordingly.
But at the end of the day, if we do not rise to actually we do not rise to address it, like in myself, my situation with my dad, like my dad always had assumptions about it's so hard to start a business as a minority. It's so hard to raise funds with investors. Investors don't trust you because you had a failure.
I set out on a personal hypothesis to prove that. Similarly, at Pollen, when I saw the opportunity to do something about this was because for ten years my dad worked at a warehouse as a building manager and working with the CEOs of these large retailers like World of Sports and, every year, they would have a subclass of Nike shoes that they've told my dad - don't give it away, cutting it up so that we can send them into containers.
And these containers are run by companies who would take them to dispose of or incinerate. I've been to onsite visit from one of these weekends. My dad had tried to organize a grassroots initiative where he rallied Bangladeshi workers nearby to actually help assist to dispose of this goods. But it's funny because some of these Bangladeshis, they don't even have nice Nike shoes themselves.
But you are asking people to put in so much effort and work into organizing this business waste so that you can throw them away. That really angers me, you know, really frustrates me. And why do we spend the same amount of effort to actually redistributed, resell it? Someone's trash is someone's gold. So spending a bit of time really asking the right questions, asking what is the problem to solve here really takes you back in terms of really thinking about why is this a problem, why aren’t businesses liquidating sustainably, why are we doing this continuously to prevent an environmental financial impact?
Because when we, by default, choose to deal with business waste by selling them off like one off sales, what we're really seeing is that these problems always happens, but then we can try to sell it. We sell, but otherwise it's just going to go into landfills. It's not my problem anymore. But we look at it and ask ourselves, why does this problem occur?
Is it a forecasting error? Is it due to oversupply? Is it due to product launches? So we realized a few things there. Also, there are some things that we can control and we cannot control. For example, on the business side, they cannot predict consumer demand in advance. They can have a sort of a standardized certainty they know that, OK, this is going to be this is this situation is like the pandemic happened totally would run, as I would say, beyond anyone's expectations of what normal is.
So a lot of businesses around the world have been impacted, severely impacted by the pandemic. And situations like that, I think needs to be managed in a more proactive and consistent manner, not when a pandemic happens then we will look at the supply chain and business ways and say, hey, are we just going to resort to the normal way of liquidating rather than looking to maybe using data, using automation to liquidate more continuously rather than one off line sales?
So I think back to the point of sustainable liquidations, yeah, it's a new category. We're excited to actually educate a lot of businesses about how they can continuously liquidate both to avoid environmental and financial impacts. Because it costs money to store excess goods in a warehouse. And every month, if you're a manufacturer, you will be receiving a lot of fresh stocks and you need to clear the warehouse.
If you don't want it cost you money that $0.80 to a dollar to clear those goods from your warehouse before you can take those fresh stocks in. And also when you deal with modern trade partners as a business they don't want to your old stocks and they already have a very limited physical space to sell your fresh stocks.
Imagine like if you look at a typical modern retail situation, we have multiple brands, limited space. You have a lot of risk because that's what consumers want but not necessarily aligned with how businesses, manufacturers work so what are we going to do with products that are fresh? They may be fresh, may have one year or two years worth of usage.
We're going to find a home for them. So what are some ways we can play effectively? And of course, to align the financial incentives, which most businesses are more likely to jump on, on first before sustainable environmental incentive, there is on the cost definitely, first and foremost, but I don't think that will be sustainable in the long term because yeah, we can always help them clear through sales, which is one of the first channels of sustainable liquidation here at Pollen that we’re doing by having them share upload and list the inventory list online for the first time and sharing that with potential buyers who are not necessarily local, even open up for exports to actually move the goods from one werehouse to another cross-border that would unlock some of the challenges of liquidating selling and liquidating locally because for the first time there's manufacturers and buyers sorry businesses realize that there's more demand even for goods they never realized them and they're just not equipped to deal with these buyers one on one because dealing with large orders be to be typical to the trade.
It takes a lot of work, a lot of documentation and a lot of I would say inventory list receipt. It has to be insured. And also they are not really equipped. Traditionally, businesses deal with ISO sheets and stuff, so what we do nowadays is to make sure that they understand that if you want to reach more buyers, you've got to be online. That's the first thing. And how do you go about being online if you've never dealt with actually listing products online in large quantities? Because typical B2C marketplaces, they take your goods from your warehouse, but they sell in a single piece item and that can be quite slow for them. And the financial incentives of offering large discounts to consumers on the B2C marketplace are just not in line with the businesses they want it to clear fast and in large quantities.
That has given us a lot of opportunities to innovate and to streamline the workflows around how do we help businesses liquidate more sustainably, larger quantities. And also connecting them with buyers who may want whatever they're having.
 

Jeremy Au: (25:11)
Out of all of that. Has there been any moments over the course of your life where you felt like you've been personally BRAVE?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (25:19)
There's definitely a few, I would say, monumental points in my life. One was when things did not turn out the way I thought would be sort of fairy tale ending, having have to grow up and mature even sooner before than I expected. When my dad had an accident and his business went under, that's where I realized that, Oh, you're not going to have a schedule to mature. According to being a child, adolescence accordingly. But this is the moment. This is moment for you to decide to commit, commit to the challenges in front of you and decide what you want to do with it. Do you want to leave, cower in fear, or do you want to leap into the future with love and curiosity?
So I think that was the time where I was the bravest because being a child and not knowing much about the world and being confused, I would say, having a lot of I would say being a mixed race and having a lot of existential questions around what am I supposed to do now at such a young age and what do I have to do now?

Because immediately those responsibilities of helping out the family, addressing those challenges that we're facing as a family, being thrown at you in such a tender age, you just got to choose. So I chose I remember being brave. I went with being brave because I did not have the imagination at that time of what life is going to be.
But I chose to be brave and to do the hard things, and hopefully the hard things will lead me into a better place. And that has helped. It has been since then.
 

Jeremy Au: (26:44)
It's interesting because how you have a few times shared about growing up in a mixed race family environment. And couple of times you mentioned about the struggles that as a family you went through. Also, you mentioned earlier that you had built companies that did not succeed in a sense of this fairytale as well. So I'm just curious how has your understanding of, I guess you, use the word failure, or tough times or not having the schedule come up the way for the fairytale ending how has that view on that, changed over time?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (27:17)
There's a lot of stories out there, or rather there's a lot of messages about the virtues of facing failure, de-stigmatizing failure. But failure really, I think it's just a messy process of lifelong learning, really. It's about learning. It's about learning and using that that new data to inform your next move. And at a given point, you can always decide you have the choice to be brave or to be scared, cower in fear. I think when I look back in terms of the failure of the first version of the startup and having to pivot and finding purpose in actually solving problems for large businesses, like L'Oreal. I realized that it's not so much about leaning into your comfort zone of what you know or what you want to do, but what can you do with what you know, being in the moment, being in the present, these opportunities, using that curiosity to create possibilities, deciding to seize those opportunities and worked with realizing those possibilities.
I think that the definition of the evolution of my personal philosophy right from the start, I wanted to prove things and, you know, and now it's more like, let's always be brave because being brave really gives you this ever expanding boundary of your comfort zone. And that actually, even though you may not know what's to come and you may not think like you, you have everything you need to step forward into the unknown.
But so long as you're being brave, you choose to be brave, so long as you choose to lean on that curiosity to be able to create possibilities and you're going to be fine. So I like to always share this personal analogy of my like it's like the cat smelling the food. They say a cat is curious, the curiosity never really killed the cat or the curious cat never really lost its home because it knows, even though it doesn't go back to its previous home because it likes to wander, it always finds something that's better next. So be like a curious cat.
 

Jeremy Au: (29:19)
How do you maintain that? It actually is a perfect analogy. I which is curiosity killed the cat. Failure killed the founder.
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (29:28)
No, curiosity never kill the cat. The cat just found a better home. It went to heaven.
 

Jeremy Au: (29:34)
So dark. So how do you maintain the curiosity? Because there's a lot of tough times, right, to happen as a founder. Yes. Yes, especially technology. So how does that happen?
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (29:49)
If I were to share openly, recently, it's been a long time I never realized that I was dismissing a lot of my pain or a lot of my struggles growing up in such a, I would say, in an environment that is less than perfect for a child, any psychologist would say that how can you push your child into financial hardship?
And my mom also having to, at one point, a breakdown herself and my being the eldest child sort of had to step up and do that at an early age, I would say, since 11, 12. I went to therapy recently by choice because I was curious, like I said, leaning onto my curiosity, wanting the best for myself.
I went to therapy recently and I spoke with the clinical psychologist here. Probably I don't. She was telling me that, hey, Liyana, you're actually very, very, very strong. Stop dismissing emotions. You're telling me about your experiences, your childhood experiences in a way like is it it's humor. You're laughing about it, but you shouldn't be laughing about it. You're laughing about it because you were I mean, you're really strong. You've overcome it. So that's where I realized that hey, and my refusing to accept that this part of my life, the childhood, actually shaped who I am today and what I choose to do next. And it's not that I don't care about failure. Not that I wasn't beaten down by failure, I was at some point, but I'm still processing those emotions in a very I would say, in a very mindful way you either let those emotions destruct you or you let it inform you to be a better version of yourself, a recalibrated version of you. I would think that being a startup founder, obviously having a lot of dealing with a lot of tragedies head on, like I said, finding the sort of compass or GPS for systems that you can lean on when you have nothing that gives you a bit of solace, a bit of, I would say, discipline to go about life rather than with nothing.
So curiosity, having the curiosity and the commit being committed to the discipline of becoming a founder and not question it really, really, really not question it at all. Just having the commitment and just like how I was committed to my family, I did not leave my family when they were having troubles. My dad wanted marry me off to a rich suitor, a rich Indonesian merchant at 18.
I could have gone with that because I would have a good tai tai life. But I stayed on. I fought. I'm committed to my family. This is where I belong. These are my people and the right to stand up for them. I don't fight the hard times my deserving with the good times like that when I know my family's having a good time.
So similarly as a startup founder, when times are tough at early stages, just commit to it, commit to it, and see things through using curiosity as a guiding light to any problems and struggles. Having conversations around what is the right problem to solve here, what is the right thing to do here. And I think that that really, really helps.

So I think entrepreneurship, I have found a home in entrepreneurship for my soul, being constantly learning, constantly reiterating and wanting to become the best version of myself for this venture, even future ventures.
 

Jeremy Au: (32:52)
Thanks so much for sharing. On that note, I would love to paraphrase, I think, the three big themes I got from this conversation and the first is thank you so much for sharing about your childhood. And what it was like growing up a family and you actually spent quite a bit of time about your father as a source of inspiration. As a debater, as a role model, as a proud Asian dad who doesn't praise you as much, as much as he’s effusive to his co-workers. And I love the stories about, you know, learning how to code in terms of like the engineering kits, as well as getting to see semi-conductors in your childhood. So, really interesting to see that push and pull dynamic and how that eventually informed multiple parts of your career as well as your relationship with your mother, of course.
The second, of course, thank you so much for sharing what it was like to be a founder of a liquidation marketplace, about how to some extent actually what you saw as a child as well help inspire I think the sustainability requirement that you see in terms of reusing and not dumping perfectly good sneakers, but also talked about how some of the liquidation dynamics of the what the business actually looks like.
And lastly, I think throughout this entire conversation thank you so much for sharing about what I call failure and the Curious Cat. So and I loved what you said, which is that, you know, curiosity didn't kill the cat, even though it's what people say, right? As a norm. It's something else maybe kill the cat, but it wasn't curiosity and I love about implicitly like how do you maintain that sense of curiosity?
How do you maintain that sense of learning, that sense of hope, even in the midst of all of the different tough times that you can count as a founder. Thank you so much, Liyana, for sharing everything.
 

Liyana Sulaiman: (34:34)
Yeah, thank you to you, Jeremy, of course, the audiences, I hope you're getting some meaningful sharing out of this. Happy to share. It's been a great honor, Jeremy, for having me on your show.

 

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