Return to site

Marketing New Ventures Q&A, Founder-VC Learnings & Knowing Your Customer

· Q and A,Podcast Episodes,Singapore,Start-up,VC and Angels

There's a lot of people who don't know their customers, and that is the reason why a lot of local companies in Southeast Asia are able to outcompete multinational corporations at two levels. One is because they understand the local geography more, but two, because they're closer to the ground. They know their customers better. The tip I want to give you is that when you are looking at the product market fit, you need to know your customer at that time and at that place.- Jeremy Au

Jeremy presents a Marketing New Ventures question and answer session at the National University of Singapore (NUS)

Moderator: (00:30)

He's a serial entrepreneur, founded multiple startups. You'll have all this startup experience to share with you in terms of creating businesses from the scratch and yet he also has the investor experience right now, being an investor among you so you. So, can give you the perspective as an investor what he would be looking for in a new business and he'd be well positioned to share with you a holistic view for new businesses then.

So over to you, Jeremy. Thank you so much.

Jeremy Au: (00:54)

Awesome. Thank you for taking the time to answer this. So I first knew Wendy at Harvard Business School. I was feeling very lonely because you miss Singapore very quickly. And even though this is my second time in the States, it is always interesting to be in a new place in a new time.

Wendy and I really hit it off because we obviously bonded over Singaporean food, bonded about home, where we came from, but also we bonded about coming back to Singapore as well. And I'm always happy to help Wendy because she has such an incredible passion for teaching. I think everyone's super lucky to have her. The generosity that she has had for teaching people and mentoring people is amazing.

If you haven't already, please take office hours with her, hangout with her a little bit, get some advice. She also writes Chinese poetry, so I don't think she probably wanted you to know that. But take the time to get to know her a little bit more because I think she's obviously a great instructor, but I think she's also a great mentor and coach.

So on that note, I'm going to go and talk about marketing new ventures. As Wendy knows, she has no idea what I'm presenting. To some extent, she knows what I'm thinking about, but I made a much nicer presentation this time around for you. So I'm going to share my screen. I am going to put in a chat screen so you can go to my website if you want to look at my bio, podcast portfolio, previously asked questions, and then there's a link if you want to ask me more questions.

But the presentation is going to be shorter and I'll spend more time on the question. So I'm going to be honest to people and try to go through all the questions, and always lean towards being more direct and honest and then go from there. I'm not trying to be one of those people who are going to waste time answering the questions.

So marketing new ventures. Okay, great. What does that mean? So many big words. Marketing. Isn't it very simple? We're all here, right? Don't we all understand? Marketing, new ventures? Well, the truth is, I find myself to still be a student on this topic over and over again. And so I was actually looking at a cost description, and I was thinking to myself, man, if I was to go through this all over again, what would I have taught myself at the age of 21 when I entered university?

And so, you know, I had long hair because I was busy growing it out and I wanted to make sure that I had a good time. So I wasn't thinking too hard about the future. I took a bunch of classes about the future. So kudos to all of you for taking on a business course in technology, because I did not do any of that.

And so I'm going to talk about five quick things. One is going to tell you who I am in terms of my profile. And basically then you can say, like, Jeremy's credible on this, Jeremy is not credible and that's up to you to decide. I always tell people, take everything with a grain of salt, try and get good advice. My point of view, Wendy’s point of view. You will get more mentors and advice along the way, so enjoy yourself.

The second thing we talk about is marketing versus product market fit, which is what you have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks doing, and I'm not sure how seriously you guys took it, but I will tell you how serious it is.

And then thirdly, I’ll talk about new versus old, because we talked about new ventures, about old, the joy of old, what is old. And lastly, I'll talk about ventures versus life. But I really want to focus on helping you understand what that career life means for you, because I wish I had known that a long time ago. And lastly, I will go into Q&A and I knew this a lot of Q&A asking me about VC, obviously it is a very esoteric, mystical guru-like place. And so lots of questions about it.

But I'm also happy to answer all the other questions that are really about life and sort of it also. Again, if you find something, there's a question in your mind, please go ahead and ask that question straight away. I will answer that by the end. So, my experience right now, I am a VC at Monk Hill’s Ventures, which is an early stage VC across Southeast Asia.

What that means is that we invest millions of dollars in startups that we hope and aim to transform millions of lives. This is the big mission statement. And what we do differently is that the investment team were all former founders, which is rare because there are very few founders who have become VCs in Southeast Asia. They are a lot more common in the U.S.

And because of that we want to be different in three different ways. The first is that we understand how founders think. We understand how founders operate, and we understand how founders have to deal with the day to day, and we're there beside them at every stage. The second, of course, is that because we're founders, we understand the business and what actually adds value and a strategy to be done there without getting too in the weeds. So that's why we're focused on the early stage and helping companies’ product market fit. We have ramping up for scaling. We're expanding to different geographies, which is very different from later stage VC, which we'll talk about later by a different set of parameters and goals and tends to bias towards more financial background operator type of VCs.

And the third thing of course, is that we hope that there is a certain element of trust, affinity and relationship that happens as a result because you're a founder and it sucks, right now and I was a founder and it sucked for me back then? We understand. And so my job is to make your life easier, not harder.

Then that's my perspective. Based on experience. I founded Cozykin, Wendy saw me busting my chops and doing a lot of late nights building our early education marketplace, which we grew across Boston at New York, crazy journey. I think when he saw me cover iterate from different iterations from mental health, the postpartum depression to early education to online sharing and then scaling that and all these other things that we would see was a and we saw that there I was the GM for global daycare chain and scaled that out further across California, Texas, Georgia and a bunch of different places.

I also founded Conjunct Consulting, which many of you folks would know because one of the arms is at NUS. is that anyone out there feel free to shout out there. I am a big proponent and fan of Conjunct Consulting, as you can guess, and continue to be a big supporter in terms of alumni and network and mentor for Conjunct folks. Fundamentally, it's an impact. Consulting in terms of services is built on a social enterprise model and that was my first company I built. Actually around the same time as you all. So, I built it in senior year between the junior and the senior year of that summer. I started that with a NS buddy, and we had no idea how hard it was going to be.

And it took us so many years to build it together. We pushed that. We made it profitable, we made it sustainable, we made it beautiful. And what I mean by beautiful is that it will generate a certain cohort of highly trained, highly passionate folks, sort of a social sector. And we're going to nurture, coach and mentor those folks for not just one year, not just ten years, not just 50, but even 100 years based on the way that we built it.

I'm also an angel investor. Some of you may be asking about it. I've invested in over 20 companies. I'm also an LP limited partner, a bunch of VC funds. I'm also a host of Brave Southeast Asia Tech podcast, which is basically Jeremy got bored because he used to do a lot of improv before the pandemic and started podcasting instead.

Because there's nothing else to do. I started recording alumni discussions with folks and friends and eventually became acquaintances. Now, as part of the Global Top 10% in terms of number of downloads, etc., etc.. So feel free to check it out to learn more on founder journeys, I was at Bain as a consultant, doing technology and consumer verticals. I was an Army sergeant. I was a Harvard MBA at UC Berkeley, Forbes 30 under 30, Prestige 40 and 40. That just to give you a bit of flavour about my background and about how I think.

I think growth and personal growth solves all problems and that might be a handy catch phrase for you in the future. What I mean by that is when a company grows, everyone's very happy. When a company is shrinking, everybody's unhappy and everybody's getting terminated or getting their pay cut, etc.. So growth solves a lot of problems, and as executive and leader, your job is that when a company is growing that personal growth, your personal growth is at the same speed or hopefully faster than the company.

That is actually a lot harder than you think. And I'll explain it later. The best feeling in the world is coaching people to be great leaders. That's something I love. I love to do it. I love hanging out and having dinner, parties and going for long walks. And I think one thing I realised is that a reason why I did a podcast was because I would say I kind of stopped doing one on one things because I just couldn't scale.

So doing podcasts, etc. and I think I'm a big believer this too shall pass. Whatever you want to call it, but no matter what tough times are, good times, bad times, things will pass. I'm also a father of a ten month old daughter. Very cute, very nice. You can go to Instagram and check them out if you want to see them. I I'm a big science fiction nerd and I love tea. Coffee is too strong for me these days. I'm getting old. That's who I am. So now you get to know who I am and I'll just talk a little bit about some bullet points that you may or may not remember honestly in ten years, but hopefully helps articulate stuff that you may want to open up your curiosity.

The first is really about marketing versus product market fit. And what I want to talk to you about is that there is a very, very simple thing, which is that every startup is in three different phases. It was either at the jungle, they are at the dirt road, or on the highway. And what I mean by that is every start up when he first emerged and that's why you probably started out doing the canvas.

When the past few weeks, as you're trying to discover the problem, like who is the customer, what is the problem? Why do they care? Why do they even want to buy? What is going on? And then who's the engineer, who's the team, who's going to be supporting you? Where's the money jungle is all about? I have no idea what's going on in Singapore.

I guess I want to say machete. We have a parang, we have a compass. Kinda. We don't have a map and we're just supposed to get somewhere and that's a jungle. The second is really about the dirt road. And what the dirt road is, is that you're starting to understand who roughly the customer is. You're starting to understand roughly what the market is.

You're starting to understand what they care about. You start to understand what copy works for them. You’re starting to understand the value proposition. You’re starting to understand what the website looks like. So that's the stuff. But it's still not fully optimised. It's still a small team, maybe five or ten people is there to figure stuff out.

And last is really why I call it highway and highways. Basically you're saying like, okay, we got it figured out. He has a playbook, a PowerPoint deck with them, and here's the marketing copy messages and these are brand guidelines, etc. That's the highway because that stuff has been defined for you. And the reason why those materials have been defined is because their goal is to widen the highway as much as possible so they can drive four or five lanes or trucks down the highway as fast as possible and get it done.

And so there's no discovery in the aspect. There's got to be lots of start ups, as we call it, everything a startup looks to Grab. Like that's a start up. We look at Uber, we look at Amazon, we look at Space X, but then we look at smaller companies, we look at Pro Spark and yeah, these are totally new companies.

If you look at them as a startup, it's totally different and they roughly correspond and it doesn't give a quick tip to roughly funding stages, hopefully. So supposedly VCs know what they're doing. So supposedly jungle is the angel round that pre-seed a seed on average to dirt round, series A, series B and your highways are like the series C, series D and series E.

This is really important for you to know now. Not right now, because now you can have a job right now, but it's important for you to know because the most important thing I hope you take away is the jungle, the road and highway. Now, the truth is, most marketers suck. When they first joined a startup, just horrible.

I've hired lots of marketers and also sadly terminated marketers as well. The reason why they are that bad and one of the key things I've learned is if I want to hire as a CEO is I want to hire marketers who have worked at a startup before because I want them to learn on someone else's dime, not on mine, to be honest.

And the reason is not because they're bad at marketing. They understand marketing, they understand how to do a lean canvas. They understand the terminology. They understand how to calculate LTV and customer acquisition costs and a whole bunch of stuff. And you know, their savvy. But the thing is they just focus on marketing like selling something to someone. And the truth is that's not it.

If you're talking about new ventures, marketing, new ventures, the truth is you got to discover, discover, discover, discover. And that is so hard. Most startups would never find it. Most startups fail. Full stop. If you look around you and you've had a bunch of startups, maybe ten startup ideas in your cohort from now, nine out of ten will probably fail.

And their good guys, even outside university, you're smart, you're sophisticated, whatever it is, is still very, very hard. Founders find it hard and marketers find it hard. And what's interesting as well is that when you are a startup marketer, even if you join a company that is at a highway stage and I think when you speak about it, most startup marketers are being asked to be deployed on jungle projects.

That is a really interesting thing because a lot of people like it. Well, I could work at Unilever and Unilever has the playbooks, they have all the brand personas, they have all the brand guidelines. Look Oreos are for people, for kids, for people who want a treat. They are for the people who want to overeat, that are people who have memories like, you know, just all the personas are there.

They know why people eat Oreos. They're just trying to figure out how you eat more Oreos with less guilt. The crux of it is you have to discover and you're always discovering new projects, discovering new customer personas, discovering new initiatives, discovering new monetization dynamics on behalf of the company. As long as you're a startup. The second thing that's really important is mobilising, and this is really tough because right now this entire course right now is talking about discovery.

But you are going to have to learn the soft skills, the hard skills, the analysis, the presentation, the charisma. And you're not only going to see that yourself, you're going to see other people around the room. You’re going to see a bunch of other marketers, going to see a manager present, and they're going to face plant and not have that thing go through.You gonna see other people, you think the idea sucks, but it goes through this whole bunch of stuff that you're going to see and you already see that to some extent in your work experience and internships, your class projects, I guess. But mobilising is going to be key.

So, a lot of marketing folks are like, I need to mobilise the marketing team and get alignment for the marketing team, but that's not enough. You need to mobilise engineering, sales, executives, customers and investors. If you can do all of those things, you would be a great startup marketer. You will be a startup chief marketing officer, you will be a founder, you'll be an executive. And I want to say this, you are taking this course of being a great marketer of new ventures does not mean that your job role is going to be chief marketing officer.

You can be a founder, you can be an operator, you can be COO, you can be a CFO. All of those things every new venture requires marketing, some level of inspiration, rallying, mobilising. And the end of the day you're building something new, you're in a jungle that nobody in their right mind would ever go into and parachute. And nobody's there alongside you and you’re there to build and get there to make it a dirt road for other people.

You're going to make the dirt road into a highway and everyone's going to tell you that it was super obvious and that it was only a function of timing. And the market was ready for this idea and it was going to happen anyway. And you're going to be like, Wow, I worked my ass off. So remember that.

The next thing I will talk about is new versus old. And I want to say this over and over again because I see this all the time, which is talking about tech, you know, and I had these decks over and over again. look! Our tech is amazing. Okay, okay, okay. I get that. But why do people want that? For ages, There was startups that tried to sell food because that way you don't have to eat food.

Then you're like, well, humans want tasty food. They want more fat, more sugar, more salt. This is stuff that's clear. That's obvious as known, humans are really these V.01A. So go back depending on your definition. two thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, 2 million years. Whatever number of years. The truth is, when things are good, we will share. When things are bad, we become tribal. Humans are still V0.1A and I think that's one of the superpowers of marketing. You're going to have it because you took it as class, which is that remembering that humans are these V0.1A here because a lot of people around a room are going to try to sell a bunch of new stuff.

The second is that solutions are new, problems are forever. What I mean by that is if you open up Gartner report of 1000 companies there on the map; what is true about it is that companies are made by people, people build great things and great companies require great people and that requires them to hire great people.

You hire them to retain great people and it requires them to train them into great people. What is the core problem you're fixing for them? Why do I go on Instagram? If you look at Nir Eyal, who is also a great Singaporean guy, he wrote a book called Hooked, it's okay and he says this is a very simple thing.

Instagram is a marketing channel and a place for us to sell stuff. True, but who sells Instagram? Like who's in charge of marketing Instagram itself? So why are you using Instagram? Because I was on Instagram right before this thing. And the truth of the matter is, Instagram is a way for us to feel good, feel like other people, feel new information, and feel happy. A little bit of serotonin and dopamine kicks off every time I open it up because it's something new.

So, that is a problem for everybody. I was quite satisfied with it. Lots of different things scratch that itch so lots of different solutions competing for problems that are relatively forever. And lastly, I think the best advice I have for you is to really know your customer at that time and that place and they're so key because most people know this stuff. I know my customer and the truth is a lot of people dont know their customers, you know, every time you walk into like a tech start up, I always tell people it's like a bunch of middle class rich people talking about other people's problems in different countries who are different socioeconomic background, different history. There's a lot of people who don't know their customers, and that is the reason why a lot of local companies in Southeast Asia are able to outcompete multinational corporations at two levels. One is because they understand the local geography more, but two, because they're closer to the ground. They know their customers better. The tip I want to give you is that when you are looking at the product market fit, you need to know your customer at that time and at that place.

I give you an example when we had to close again, we were building basically a stock solution and so and so forth. And what was interesting was that most people were buying childcare after pregnancy after delivery and the three month mark, four month mark and five month mark. So, if you interviewed and etc, he's at a time at a place you say, how do you buy childcare this I say, well, the way I buy childcare is by walking into a daycare centre and checking it out after someone's home, taking care.

I'm bringing the baby. I'm going to visit a daycare centre. But the truth is, if you actually interview people in trimester two and you say, how are you buying childcare? What he's telling you very clearly is that I Googled for childcare and I can’t buy childcare at that time at that place. And you can’t ask a bunch of people, you can't ask the husbands about it because they don't really get it.

You can't ask doctors about it because they don't really get it. And so you have to remember, and I always tell people, it's like the easiest way to know your customer at a time and place and say, what are they thinking about? What are they asking themselves? What is searching for? What is the browser history at a moment, at a time and place where they are looking and trying to understand this product?

What are they actually doing? You need to get it down to the minute, not hour, not the day and not the month not the year get it down to the minute. At that moment when a person decided to click Buy, why and be thoughtful about that dynamic. The last thing, of course, is that's all I talk about, venture versus life.

And so let me just try to understand. The truth is technology is the new electricity. And what I mean by that is there's a company called General Electric. And why was it called General Electric? It was called General Electric because it was the only company that did electricity. Anything that we can turn to electricity, we're going to do it.

And so they became known as General Electric. They were the only people selling electricity at that point of time. But now look at everything around us. Everything is electricity, web camera, my computer, my monitor. And so the truth of the matter is that technology is a new electricity. Today, you're going to hear a lot of debates like, is this a technology company?

Is that a technology company? And like, technology is something that's going to permeate our lives more and more because what we've discovered and unlocked is a system, and a system is of entrepreneurial talent who have understood and have been trained with entrepreneurial mindset with this course with frameworks, books and materials and backed by entrepreneurial capital, venture capital to search out for these ideas and that's crazy because that means the pace of innovation has accelerated, we could, if we had the right idea, the right pitch, we could go raise a couple of million dollars and explore it and if you didn't work out and if he sees us be like, okay, it is what it is.

Because the truth is in a US one in 40 US startups will become unicorns. If I say this number in conversation, there's a bunch of different people who are responsive to say, Wow, that's a lot. So that means if I invest in 40 companies, I'll have one unicorn out of them. And the truth is, if you get one out of a 40, you're pretty much an average VC.
If you invest, get one unicorn out of 20, then you'll be a top quartile VC. That's a VC mindset is like, I just got 40 invested, I got one unicorn. I'm an average VC. Okay, cool. As a founder, I talk about it and then we laugh, right? We all are founders.

What we say is this, one in 40 sounds about right, because I have seen a lot of failures. I'm sure that my company is going to be one of 40. And at the same point of time, I also know that's probably not true as I'm terrified about it, but I'm aware of all of those two things. And since I'm human, I can keep two things in my mind at the same point of time.

And so the founders are all aware about this and it puts you for the one in 40 chance. What I'll do is I'm going to wait for the companies to become clearer which one, because one in 40 seed stage startups, this is actually a pretty narrow pool because that means they raise a seed capital which is on average half of million dollars to a million dollars.

So there's really quite a select pool if you think about it. So an early employee would be like, well, I would join a company when it raised a seed round. So is only a one in 40 chance versus the founders. You're founding for yourself. Starting right now is by like one in 100 and is a bunch of people who are going to be late employees and are going to be like, Yeah, I'm going to try a company which is like series C, series D and the odds are probably one and two or two and three chance of becoming a unicorn The truth is some of you may say, you know what, yeah, whatever. I don't care. I'll do something else in my life. And that's totally fine. I think just to be aware of it, not everybody's cut out to be in startups, not everybody's cut out to be a marketer in a sense.

But it's fine. You're cut out to be something else. You can join a large company. You can be joining a lot, doing a different role. That's totally fine. Just do it. Do whatever you want, whatever you're doing, even a large company, figure it out on your own terms. And the last is when he asked me to give some life advice, I thought, This is a great one.

Naval Ravikant who has a great book “Almanac” by Naval. It is a free book as well. Play long term games with long term people, that's a nice way of saying just be a nice human being and get it done and collaborate and have boundaries, which is that if you are that kind of person, go work for other people who respect your boundaries and do good work.

I help Wendy because she's a good person and Wendy helps me because but hopefully I'm a good person. Wendy: So life is long. So the people around you, this classroom, a lot of you are going to be like, Yeah, but you know, I remember like I was in Army and they also certain person in my unit and you know, we kind of hung out a little bit, were friendly acquaintances, but we never got close and everything. Long story short, he's now the founder of a unicorn. And so that's something to think about when you play long term against long term people. And so there's going to be multiple career decisions where you can just be like how do I tell you to manage this person? And you can either do that in a good way or in a bad way. It ended in a bad way. And the truth is, there's no easy way and has no fun way to terminate someone. There is a good way. There's a better way and a good way to do it is because you understand this person and you do have empathy and you do it in person and do all those things that you would expect if you got terminated by someone.

The bad way to do it is to not do it the way that you would like to be terminated. Use as example, but as many other decisions that you're going to have around you. And there's so many examples where I've literally had a conversation call. I remember I had a reference call. Someone is just like, What do you think about this person?

And the person was like, Well, this person was a total terrible douche in university and in a group project. And I'm like, okay, that's one vote. No. Another example of this would be it's very hard to play a long term game of long term people if you're not in the same geograph, but in wealth, relationships, the knowledge comes from compound interest.

So does that. And if you want to know more, go to to learn more from founders, VCs and Rising Stars. So these are some of the great people that I've had the opportunity to learn from. And on that note, I'm going to go straight to asking questions.

Do you mind elaborating more about a cash carry comp at VC? This is a Googleble answer, but I'll tell you this. It is a pyramid. At the end of the day, the way of thinking about VC you have to be the way to think about VC. Is that they are responsible for deploying capital from limited partners into startups and what that means basically if I collect $100 million from a bunch of very rich people or rich institutions, I on average may charge 2% as administration fee and a spread of a certain amount of time. So, it caught 2%, two 20%, 20% carry. Which means, So called 2% to and 20 and then 20 20% carry, which means the investments I make $100 billion I make I won't be deployed and for next two or three, four years and over that timeframe, over the next ten years after ten years, when I exit of a hundred billion dollars And so you take a billion dollars minus a hundred dollar, you got 900 million because 900 million dollars, times 20% carry equals to roughly 200 million.

So that gets distributed across the different folks. And how it should be dealt with within the V.C. is in a pyramid structure where the general partners either split it in an equal or unequal partnership, depending how to do it, followed by principles and other million folks, So you now know roughly what you don't know.

How did you get started at undergrad and how did you manage to get buy-in from external employees? I was horrible at junior college and I wanted to be a vaccine researcher and my grades were nowhere near that. Because I went to the Army, I realised like, No, I'm not going to sign on.

And I went to UC Berkeley and I ended up joining a club that someone told me about. And she was very much like, Hey, Jeremy, you care about vaccines, etc. Why don't you join this nonprofit consulting group called the Berkeley Group in UC Berkeley? And I was like, I have no idea, but it sounds like it's helping to world I'll join it.

And it turns out it was a very selective group. And then going in I they gave me a case interview which I'd never done before freshman first semester. And they were like, Yeah, this is Jeremy. It is a very tough question. We only select the top few percent. So Jeremy, if you could, if you were given 100,000 doses of vaccine, how would you deploy it across to the city of San Francisco?

And I was like, Oh, I can totally answer this question because I totally understand vaccines. They were blown away. They were like, This guy's scored the best. And after I joined a club and was disappointed for like one or two semesters, I ran myself up. But I think what I loved about it was that's an incredible, passionate community of folks who just loved helping change the world for the better.

So, therefore, I kept doing it over and over again. And when I came back to Singapore, I realised it didn't exist. And so I told my friend, my buddy, Hey, I want to do this. And he was like, Sure, we had no idea how hard it was. We started it and we got started. How do we get by? I think it's very important. I tell every founder is don't oversell like don't sell junk that I think is amazing. Amazing thing is to say, hey, I'm Jeremy, I'm going to do my best to assist you. And if you don't like me, you can fire me. But I'm going to do my best and give myself a shot that comes across way better to everybody. So I always tell people like, don't oversell yourself because anybody savvy is going to know it.

Just a vial of the obvious speed bumps and a second one is really great because execution is 99% So you find the product market fit, but the spinning iteration cycle is a pain in the ass and nobody loves you while you're doing it. Your mom hates you because you are not doing something right. Your friends think you're crazy because you're bugging them to do stuff And lastly, it is a great team. It is honestly no joke. And the truth is 99% of people will fail to formally and act on a winning idea to scalable 99%. That’s why I want you to remember is that because I don't want you to kid yourself and think it's easy because you want to go and open up the Straits Times and they're gonna be like, Look at this founder and look at that all look fucking amazing because they're raising money.

But the truth is, most of them will fail. Everything you need to learn is Googleable on how to formulate and act on a winning idea that is scalable, but to be a great startup founder going to be in the top 1%. So whenever you're working, whenever you're studying, whenever you're getting answers, whenever you think, am I working harder than 99% of the people around me?

And if the answer is no, you have to be ready for it. And that's why a lot of people in the C stage companies, I asked them, I say, you're part of a cohort, about 40 people you are accelerator. Are you the number one of fourty? Do you want to be number one or fourty because you have to, otherwise you can't get there.

So is about the standard you hold yourself to rather than how to do it. Give it a status. Refer to receive capital for the likes of Tiger Global. How does MHV differentiate themselves? Right. Someone loves venture capital and another thing to try and hear among CEO ventures is from Southeast Asia for Southeast Asia, number one. Number two, Tiger Global is a late stage company, not an early stage company.

And, number three, Tiger Global is not really here and we are here. So what I mean by that. From Southeast Asia for Southeast Asia, everyone on the team is from the region. And so we're not Americans, we are from Singapore, from Malaysia, from Thailand, from Philippines, from Vietnam, Indonesia. We understand the market and we'll find founders who are from the market.

We're not looking, sometimes we invest in Americans coming over or Indians or whatever it is coming to the region as long as it is here to say. But we're investing in a market. We understand the market. That's one. Two, as I mentioned earlier, Monk’s Hill is focused on early stage capital. Couple of million dollars. Global is doing large checks, $100 million rounds. And so again, early stage is about finding product market fit, jungle and dirt road, whereas Tiger Global is focusing on highway expansion to give $100 billion to expand a highway by three. And lastly we're here. I'm here and in the US, Tiger Global is not here and in the US. And the reason why is because I live in Singapore. It's 8:00, 9:00 here. Tiger Global is not that big said when the time comes and you successfully pitched me a company we will invest in you. I will forward your company and help coach you to get money from Tiger Global because Tiger Global is actually a collaborator and not a competitor of Monk’s Hill because they rely on us to source, nurture and coach early stage startups to achieve the scale and business value they need to have to put in $100 million cheque.

It seems very easy to raise capital even for miracle founders with unconvincing ideas. How do you raise funds given top startups? I want to tell you right now, it is really hard to raise capital. Always because the world doesn't like new ideas and your ideas may not be that good.

That being said, there are a lot of founders who are in the middle bucket where they have some level product market fit, some level domain expertise. And the reason why it is easy to raise capital is because what that means is that somebody is doing their job, which is they are making a bet that you can potentially do it.

So it is not a bug, it is a feature. It is a feature of venture capital and an angel system to make bets. I can tell you right now that I am into investments and companies and founders that I know have a 90% chance of failure. And the truth is, if you measure them by that group in 2 to 3 years, you're going to tell me, Jeremy, you are stupid for investing in that person because she was a miracle founder with unconvincing idea.

And I'm going to tell you, like, I saw something special in her and maybe this didn't work out right now, but enough for me to put something in right now, because that's my job. My job is a probability game. My job is not to choose. 40 top companies are 40 top companies. My job is to choose one unicorn out of 20 as okay if ten fail or even up to 19.

So, I was like if you can look at it ten times and find it terrible and so a lot of people are like, oh, these VCs have three failures so far? And I'm like, we don't know. We have 17 more companies. We don't know. They could be great. We don't know. So let's not start throwing stones so how do you we those I'll give it top titles to either tab the basics is the selection is relative like Harvard or any top program, there's objective dimensions.

I found a quality. This is more attractive and everybody around a table is a smart founder, they can be logical, can be rational. They'll be thinking about your founder quality, your team, your idea. So this is stuff you all know. And what I'm trying to tell you right now is remember that you have to be at the top one out of 40. The crux of it, because top VCs will see thousands of decks, thousands of decks a year, and they only invest in ten or 20 and so is that how do we read out the verse startups is more like how do you as a startup be better than thousands of other startups that are in our inbox or pitching us carrying co-invest

Long story short is I have a network in both Southeast Asia, Silicon Valley. I have a mandate to make sure that Southeast Asia companies go to excel. So since public investments are in the US, how do I do due diligence on early startups? The only idea about MVP when you are making a series B investment is early investment.

You're making a 50-50 decision about whether you're the unicorn. Let's say a seed startup is a one in 40 chance, so you're trying to get one in ten. That's the way you're trying to think about it. So even doing Pre-Seed, which is even earlier, was only an ideal MVP. It has not been to Angel Stage as an angel.

The truth is, we're not selecting within companies that have only an idea and MVP. We are betting across a spread of startups and founders. On the aggregate level it is about creating business value. And I hate that phrase because I sound like I got that textbook. But what it means is that adhering to data public markets are most irrational on a long scale. If you are creating a lot of value like Amazon or things like that. You have a high public market valuation full stop. And so all the venture capital techs that the moment you think venture capital are building towards that outcome of building towards a public market where there's high level due diligence, high level public scrutiny and a high level of financial and regulated compliance are required.

So there's no dodging yet. The truth will come. However, while the company is still private, there are a large number of good faith actors and bad faith actors and it is hard to tell the difference. People in the industry and people in the know will be able to help difference. And so I do agree that bad faith actors which have seen paranoid to some extent revolution precast it for sure.

To some extent we work to a different extent. There's a different dynamic that's really important and our bad faith actors and how the financial engineering the dynamics of it but the aggregate value is this. At the end of the day, if you are here as a founder or are going to be one or an early employee, the key thing to remember is this: You make the choice about a company you are building, not the V.C., not the public markets, not whatever it is.

If you want to do a start up, if you want to do a start up, be smart about risk. So every great founder looks like they do something super risky. But the truth is not. To them is a lot less risky compared to everybody else and most of the time is based on logic, sometimes ignorance and some part is luck and timing.


But what is really important for you to risk things as much as possible? And so I always tell people, please graduate from university, that's a good idea, because he kept a downside. At least of having a job. But be thoughtful about your cash burn, your mentors and things like that.

Okay, we're getting pretty close. What I look for in the pictures, different stages, say Angel Stage.You are looking for people who are great founders because the product market fit isn't really there. The pushback is really there. So looking for a great founder and that you believe the idea that you are going to get there is an ugly phrase, but it is what it is and the only way you can or you understand this is to enjoy investing yourself.

I'll start shadowing. It is very hard to explain or see. I think Shark Tank is a pretty good example, but as a bunch of angel competitions out there, that will let you kind of see the flavour of that. But as you get to the later stage, as you become, you know, series A, series B , then metrics matter much more, much, much more like your revenue, your traction.

So people were saying earlier, like mediocre ideas that founders get funded, they get funded at Angel Round because they are being tasked to invest and be risky to find promising founders. That being said, series A, Series B numbers really, really matter. Are you industry agnostic that focus on B2B industry agnostic, you know, business 100% focus on Southeast Asia, which is actually a very, very key thing and not everybody does that.

So I'm sourcing all the time. So if you know a great start up slide into my DM or go to my website, I'm always happy to hear companies and I'm always doing due diligence because as I source, I'm also thinking all the time about macro trends

I was thinking to myself, okay, which companies does that remind me of and how should I as a result, think about judging the companies differently and how do I differentiate myself? For me, I think three things. I'm a former founder, so I have been through the issues. Number two is I'm a coach there and I've coached other people other founders through the product market fits, the economics, co-founder, negotiations board roles, personal lifestyle.

True a product market fit the economics co-founder, negotiations board roles, personal life staff. And then thirdly, I do this at skills, so I'm podcasting, I'm creating courses, creating materials, I'm here, I'm doing this skills. So that is how I differentiate myself in the sourcing process. And if you like that, you reach out to me, but I try not to do other errands.

It's about Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley has the most entrepreneurial talent based on the ecosystem and the maturity of it, and everyone around the world is trying to catch up with it.

Number two is, capital markets are not a function of Silicon Valley but a function of the U.S. Fed reserve and the printing market and the fact that the US has had many as a ton of capital for deployment and there and they also have and carry a loophole that incentivizes VC investments. Therefore American capital is very interested in America and to a lesser extent the world.

Number three is the end market. Singapore has 3 to 5 million people depending on how you think about tech consumers and there's lots more people around. So a lot of companies. But in Singapore I have to build for regional companies or to build for the world. All in all, don't feel bad about it. Singapore is great. Big fish in a small pond equals competitive advantage. You can win in this market and you can be awesome.

Founder versus VC side, which do I enjoy more? Oh! These are all the life questions now. Okay, these are the tough ones actually. I was telling Wendy the day to day our founder's side was harder. But year to year and month to month was more satisfying. I mean that day to day you worked like crazy, had great passion etc. But, month to month, to see the business take off and grow and so there's a real satisfaction in that growth.

On the VC side, the day to day is easier because at the end of the day you're helping people, you're coaching people, but you're not necessarily running the business. But month to month, it feels a little less satisfying because you're like watching these founders do amazing stuff and you're like, Yes, I'm happy for you and I'm like, Oh, man, I wish I could be back in the game.

So, I always tell people it's like, being a founder tend to VC is like a being a player coach and the way I personally is that I act like as a founder on a BRAVE podcast, on the BRAVE podcast that's mine is not a companies and I run it like a founder entrepreneurial. Motivation behind going to VC, I wanted to see the other side of the table which I have gotten to see before I joined myself.

I dislike most VCs, almost all VCs. And now that I'm the VC, I still dislike most VCs, but now I understand how to be thoughtful about who I would pick and how I would want to be the VC that I as a founder were picked five years ago, and therefore, as my motivation is being able to be that person who is a strong V.C. that's going to help you over the long term rain or shine. That's the kind of VC I wish I had all the time and play for other people.

The truth is, to get into VC and again I have a blog post on it in a forum there's only two ways to be a VC.

One is to be very rich already so you can be a VC. Number two is you are a former founder who has exited like myself. So you become a VC, the third is that you work your way up as a VC because you were early to see, you know, you tagged along with VC, etc..

If it has one skill you could improve, what would it be? That's a great question. Let me answer the other question, because I guess… Why do VC people have such a big focus on social media? Yeah. At the end of the day, we are looking for thousands of companies. Right. And I'm going to invest in a certain number and we want them to know who we are.

We want them to think of us when you're out fundraising to think of us. But I think the other part I would say about VC is that in order for you to be VC, you really have to be someone who likes long term gains or long term people.

If there's one skill I could improve, it would be the one skill I could improve. I wish I had more patience with deep financial stuff, especially because legal docs and detail orientation, it's not really a weakness. If I say, it is a shadow. I'm a big picture. I'm strategic, macro and very intuitive. In a way. I'm pushing things, but as a result, I do notice that I'm not focusing on stuff, and so I've actually prepared for myself as a checklist myself. So, detail orientation especially to the due diligence phase.

On that note, I want to wrap things up here and leave you with one thought, which is do what makes your soul happy. Some of it will be in startups, some of it will be in marketing and some of it will be different places. And remember, you're pushing to find out what makes you truly happy. Awesome. That's about it. Thank you all.


Moderator: (49:36)

It's a fantastic round up. Thank you so much, Jeremy, and thanks for clearing up this volume of questions and trying to speak to all of them. Appreciate! This is wonderful. I would just add a little bit by saying that, can I tell you right now, Jeremy was a wonderful friend. He has seen me through my worst times and even in good times, and therefore he continues to give advice and bouncing around thoughts.

So, I wish for you that along your journey you meet people like Jeremy and beyond this course, I think what Jeremy and I are trying to say to you is there's more we can give you, the theories, we can give you the food for thought. But down to execution and the journey, just enjoy it. Your guys are so young. We used to be at your age thinking that the basics we can tell you, but you'll get to where we are and maybe some of these things will hit home for you.

So thank you again, Jeremy for the time, for staying.Have a nice evening.

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!