Cathy Liu is an analyst, designer, and aspiring entrepreneur. Her most recent projects included building the open-source platform, Help With Covid, with Sam Altman, Radu Spineanu, and a team of core volunteers. Over three months, Help With Covid attracted the work of 800+ projects and 17,000 volunteers who aimed to quickly solve some of the most hard-pressed problems during the pandemic.
She was born and raised in California in the United States where she currently calls San Francisco Bay Area home. Currently, she is pursuing building her own startup. She most recently joined On Deck’s Founder Fellowship (ODF10) where she will spend 10-weeks shaping her vision into reality. Prior to ODF10, she spent her time at Intel, Didi, and CBS Interactive where she drove operations for global supply chains and designed experiences for car rentals in international markets. She takes particular interest in industries such as travel, mental health, and e-commerce. During her free time, Cathy likes to try new computer/board games, watch Asian dramas, and go to pilates classes.
Jeremy Au (00:00:00):
Hey, Cathy. Good to have you on the show.
Cathy Liu (00:00:02):Yes, nice to meet you. Thank you so much for agreeing to chat about On Deck.
Jeremy Au (00:00:07):
Yeah. Super excited because you are Qingqing's cousin, which was my Harvard MBA classmate. We had a lot of fun together. Any friend of hers, or I guess, any relative of hers is a friend of mine. Yeah. What's up? What's on your mind?
Cathy Liu (00:00:24):
I am applying to On Deck and I'm just trying to decide if it's a good use of time, and whether it's a good way to basically find coworkers... not coworkers, but co-founders, and also decide if it's a good path to take as a potential founder of a startup. You had mentioned that you had recently gone through the Founder Fellowship. I'm just very curious about what was it like during your time, during ODF 6, I believe. Correct? Then also, whether you thought that was a good experience and a good use of your time.
Jeremy Au (00:01:02):
Yeah. Awesome. Happy to share a little bit about it. Overall, I think On Deck is great. I think it's a great program that has a strong community, strong set of experiences. I think the format is very accessible, because so much of it is asynchronous, is very, very much school, and course that is built for the internet and built for, I think, the modern working professional. I say all these things, at a couple of different levels, as a personal experience. The first of course is going through the On Deck Founder Fellowship, ODF 7. Then I later on went onto ODP, On Deck Podcaster 1. After that, I actually ended up angel investing into On Deck as well, because I was so impressed by the program. Obviously, not everything is roses. Obviously, you're going to dive into it, but overall, at a high level, highly positive, but I think there are better ways to do the program, and there are worse ways to do the program, based on what you're thinking.
Cathy Liu (00:02:08):How did you hear about the program and how did you end up applying?
Jeremy Au (00:02:13):
Yeah, I think I must have... It's a great question, because I think I ran across it because someone else did it, and they put it on their LinkedIn. I was very much like, "What is this program?" I checked it out. I think what appealed to me, when I saw the page, was that I think it was a way to build an online community in a COVID world at that time, with other founders. I think the people are respected were part of that program as well. It was very much curiosity that led me to reach out and see what's going on. Then as I saw who else was out there, in terms of alumni and everything, I saw that it was an opportunity to build a community, obviously virtually, but also geographically.
Jeremy Au (00:02:57):
Because I spent so many years in the States as an undergrad, and as a MBA student, and as a founder, and then now I'm in Singapore, but it was a great way to extend my community and hang out with other folks who are entrepreneurial. I think I was very much looking forward to the curation part of it. I ended up reaching out to someone else who did a program. I sat down with him in Singapore, and we discussed the pros and cons of some of it, which I'm talking about now, and also some of the cons. In terms of the geographic time zones, and how to make the most of the program. Then turns out that he was also meeting another On Deck person right after that. The first person was Jeffrey C. He a co- founder Choson Exchange, which is the first program to teach entrepreneurship in North Korea, which is... He's a a friend of mine and he's the husband also of another good friend of mine, [Ven 00:03:59] who's another Harvard MBA.
Jeremy Au (00:04:01):
He's a great guy. He's been on my podcast. Feel free to check out his podcast episode, which we'll link to in the show notes, for his episode. Then after that, we were eating food, and then he was like, "Hey, actually, I'm meeting another On Deck person after this." So we ended up hanging out with Spencer Yang after that, for a quick five, 10 minutes. He's just an awesome product leader in crypto and very much very smart, very sharp. We just had a good five, 10 minute conversation. After I walked out of that meeting between the three of us, I think I very much felt like, "Okay, this is something that I can see the value in if I can have this nice community of three people in Singapore."
Jeremy Au (00:04:49):
Of course, it turns out that the community in Singapore is not much larger than these three people. Maybe I was a little bit suckered by that, and maybe because I joined and I became four or five. But I think that was a good indicator of the community that's there, the caliber, in terms of who they're screening. I think that's what's special about the ODF program. Yeah. I'm happy to talk to you more about what the actual program, but that's pretty much the process of how I ended up seeing, researching, and eventually closing on doing the On Deck experience.
Cathy Liu (00:05:24):The program was started during the pandemic, right? It's been virtual since the first cohort.
Jeremy Au (00:05:30):
Yeah. I think they only started taking off actually effectively by going remote. Before that, it had been a mixture of in-person and remote, and I think it was growing, but it wasn't necessarily really a rocket ship. I think by going global or remote, I think it opened up a ton of people who just would not have accessed it the way that they were initially designing it. I think it's a classic example of a startup that found its legs during the pandemic, versus other startups who did not.
Cathy Liu (00:05:59):
What do you think are the pros and cons of it being so global and just remote?
Jeremy Au (00:06:03):
I think the pros of it, of course, is that because you're remote, it makes it much easier in terms of geography. That's important, because not everybody is in SF, that's one way to think about it. You can be in L.A., you can be in the suburbs. You could be so many different places. You could be in Denver, or you could be in Singapore, like me. So I think that global side actually allows anybody to access that, which is great in terms of that. I think even within the Bay Area, even if this was a program, is just so much easier to fit into your daily life if it's remote, because now you can join some of the sessions while you're at work, or at a gym, or commuting. There are ways for you to be part of that community, in a way that is more complimentary rather than taking away from something else in your life.
Jeremy Au (00:07:06):
I think also it allows for better, frankly, selectivity and therefore quality, because now you can draw from a global pool of candidates to join a program. That allows you to keep your selectivity rate high, which is a proxy for quality. That keeps the pool good and tight for the community, so that everybody feels there's a mark of trust where everybody is of a range of caliber that you're happy to be part of. Of course, because everyone's global and everyone's high quality and everybody is... I think allows for asynchronous communication in the sessions, and that's really important.
Jeremy Au (00:07:45):
Because I think lots of people don't necessarily learn by simultaneous Zoom. But I think there's lots of different ways. I tend to batch my time, I spend one or two hours just reading everything in one go, researching in one go, listening or reading the transcripts in one go. Which is much more important to me in terms of how I process information, versus the traditional... I think that a lot of the schools right now are very much like, "Okay, we all have to sit in a lecture for one hour together." Which is a little bit of a nightmare for someone like me. Yeah, that's the pros.
Jeremy Au (00:08:21):
Obviously the cons, it's nice to hang out in person with people, don't get me wrong. It's just nice to, I don't know, buddy-buddy or hang out, or there's more presence, obviously, that happens. I think obviously the geographic aspect helps, because you want some of that local affiliation, or camaraderie that happens. But I think On Deck has done a pretty good job in iterating to be like, "How do we say the content is asynchronous? We encourage people to do a lot of one-on-one calls and to build a community and camaraderie."
Jeremy Au (00:09:01):
They have like group icebreakers to make it have that affiliation. Of course, they encourage local meetups whenever it's safe, based on your country. I think those are all good things. I think it comes out to be a stronger product, because what it shows is, I think you'll see a lot more startups that are distributed or remote in terms of their approach. Then you'll see companies are a little bit more tackling international problems, or at least regional problems as well. I think there's a lot of hidden perks, and that fits for me, and I think for a lot of professionals like me.
Cathy Liu (00:09:40):Were a lot of the teams that you saw have founders from different locations? Or was that still not common? Do you think founding teams can actually be fully remote? Do you think that works well?
Jeremy Au (00:09:53):Yeah. It's a solid question. Within On Deck, definitely saw a lot of remote or distributed teams, which is not just a function of On Deck, but also a function of the pandemic. Even if you're in the same city, you're not going to hang out with someone else. Most people are working remotely anyway. But I think On Deck, because everybody's global, distributed, asynchronous, there is self selected. The people who really, really wanted something to be in-person, really, really wanted to be in the same city, tackling that city's problems, I think a lot of those folks are not part of the programming per se. That being said, of course, everybody's looking forward to hanging out with each other once the pandemic is over and get to meet each other, whenever we cross paths in the city or something. Or if you're on the same team in the same place, work together in person as well.
Jeremy Au (00:10:48):
It just means that I think everybody, as part of the program, is what I call digitally fluent and work from home fluent. That helps a lot because then, as a result, the high proportion of teams are asynchronous, remote, very flexible. Talking about the problems they're tackling across... It ranges. I think obviously if you are in SF and you're partnering with someone in Denver, is a chance to collaborate because you both expertise, or you both have a strong fit and want the found at the same time. I think that's one of the strengths that On Deck has compared to a lot of different programs, like Entrepreneur First or Antler in Southeast Asia, or globally actually. Because for Entrepreneur First and Antler, the way they define it is, "We're looking for obviously great folks, but they all have to be in the same city at the same time." Similar to a lot of traditional accelerator programs, or incubator programs.
Jeremy Au (00:11:43):
Obviously those are great, but obviously, it means that because you're optimizing to some extent, the fact that you are in the same geography at the time, it reduces the ability to match people based on their skills or their interests, or their industries. Which is a different set off pool maximization run from a curation perspective. Then you want to, "Have I squeezed them in?" And then let them find each other and have that serendipity. Yeah, I think that's the fun part. I think because of that, I think On Deck also from day one let's you... So Entrepreneur First, because they're trying to maximize the geographic pieces, or antler, you only can really co-founder with your batch of like 30 to 50 folks at time.
Jeremy Au (00:12:29):
If you don't match, you're out of luck in a sense. But On Deck is almost the opposite where where you're you come in and you can meet 500 to a 1,000 other folks at a same time. Some have already formed their own startups, some are still looking from previous batches, and some are still looking within the current cohort. But because they are not limited by geography, and they're all digitally fluent, again, that's a more interesting set of options that you have. I'm not saying you should only do it On Deck, I'm just saying that I think if you can do a physical incubator, that's the way to do it, and you can also do this On Deck as well. It's just different maximizing for different things.
Cathy Liu (00:13:06):
Now On Deck is unique because you can go in without an idea. It's a unique mix of people who may have already had something concrete, and then some people who are still searching. Did you go into the program knowing what you wanted to do or did you go in potentially being open to something that may interest you?
Jeremy Au (00:13:28):Yeah. There's a growing trend of places and incubators that allow people to walk in with really no idea, or barely a hint of an idea. I think we see the venture studios where they're looking for founders who
don't have an idea, but willing to execute. I think you see there programs with like Entrepreneur First and Antler, and On Deck, which are very much looking for a certain caliber of people who are founder types, and are willing to take on that portfolio approach and is going to put them in a room virtually, or in person, and then see what happens from there. Then select or nurture the winners.
Jeremy Au (00:14:07):
I think what's a little bit unique is that I think for Entrepreneur First and Antler, they pay for a stipend, and they pay you a couple of grand per month for the pair of the program. Then you have to be full time as part of that dynamic. Then those that win are allowed to get an investment to kickstart the program in that sense. So these are like venture studios, similar to that where they're looking for that founding team, and then invest in them to hopefully take off. Whereas I think On Deck is the opposite, where these people are putting money in to be part of the program. There's some later downstream investment opportunities via the On Deck Angels at On Deck VC dynamic that happens, for sure. But I think that the crux of it is still that you're paying a subscription fee to join the program.
Jeremy Au (00:14:55):
I think that changes the incentives a little bit differently. Because one is, "We want you to be full time and we're try to maximize winners within this portfolio," which is, I think, great because a lot of people get a shot to work full time on an idea that they have, or they hope to have, or collaborate with, and don't have the downside risk or the salary in that sense. But I think for On Deck it's a little bit more interesting where you pay the money, but there's no expectation for you to be full time. You can be part-time, or weekends. That really helps a lot because I think that really changes the dynamic for a ton of folks that couldn't access a program like that before.
Cathy Liu (00:15:35):Were you full time or part-time? Would you recommend someone to go full time to completely get maximum benefit out of this program?
Jeremy Au (00:15:46):
I think for On Deck I would recommend part-time. I wouldn't say it's because of On Deck, but it's because it's what I normally recommend most founders, or people who want to be founders to do. I think one of the things that someone had asked me before was like, "What's the most common mistake that first-time founders have?" I always tell people, it's like, "The one I really see a lot is that I think there's a big belief that you have to be full time to be a founder, or at least to get started." I think it's a problem because I think there's a lot of founder pornography where it seems like on Forbes or Fortune that these people quit full time, and the idea launch, et cetera. But actually, I think it turns out to be a lot more messier once you actually look at the actual reality of it, which is that they probably had the idea, they were nurturing the idea for quite a while, testing different iterations.
Jeremy Au (00:16:37):
Then as they got customers, and so and so forth. They finally got the signals, if that makes sense, that it made sense and they also had enough savings to do so. I mean, there's a lot more overlap and does it fit well in a 300 word article? So we kind of celebrate the part where they go full time, and to fund raise, but I don't think it's really the crux of what it means to be a founder. I think the crux of being a founder is that there's a problem that you care about and is valuable to solve, then you build a solution there, and then you get customers to try to solution and love it. They love it enough to pay you money, and then they pay you in a way the money that makes sense to continue solving the problem when you scale that out, right?
Cathy Liu (00:17:23): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeremy Au (00:17:25):All those are the fundamentals of building a business, and nowhere does it say, "Go full time." If you can do that while you're doing a part-time job, why not, right?
Cathy Liu (00:17:33): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:17:34):
If you can do that while you are doing a full-time job and you're doing this on the weekends, or the evening hours, why not? I really feel like people have this false dilemma which is, "I want to be a founder, and I have to go full time." I don't see that as really linked together. I think you can be a founder, and I have to be disciplined about being a founder. Which is true, but it doesn't mean that you have to go full time. I think some of the horror stories that I've seen, from my perspective, from people who become founders, is that at the end of day, when you think about those steps which I talked about, which is finding a problem, crafting the solution, getting customers, starting to make sure you collect money and feed the system, and build people.
Jeremy Au (00:18:21):
I think we tend to have this overly simplistic view of that process as almost a linear thing, but it's actually recursive because an iterative in the sense that you keep looping back if you fail at certain stage. What if your problem is wrong or you actually don't care about a problem? Or the solution is not that attractive? Or people don't want to pay for it even if they do find it valuable? I think everybody's brains will be like, "Oh, it'll take me six months to get from zero all the way to figuring this out, to raising a seed fund. Because I saw on the news that it took six months," whatever it was. So they budget out six months of savings. But the problem then as result is, that's true if you get everything right. Right?
Cathy Liu (00:19:05): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:19:06):
But what if it takes longer? Or it always takes one year, sometimes takes two years to find something that you really love to solve. Then the problem is that you quit your job, you're full time, you're at home by yourself to some extent. You're no longer in the intellectual environment at your workplace, inspiration from colleagues, et cetera. Then you have six months of savings, but the problem is then is, the truth is you're actually only going to work on your idea for three months.
Jeremy Au (00:19:32):
Because the truth is, once you hit the three months mark and you only have three months of savings left, you realize that you need to go back to work and you know it takes three months to find a job. Suddenly, if you're working full time for three months, you're very happy. Then you're like, "Oh, shit, I don't know what's going on. Something's going bad." Then you're like, "Oh no, I have three months of savings left. I better start interviewing for a job." The moment you start interviewing for a job, it creates a weird reality where you're working your ass off to build this idea, but at the same point of time, you are working on building a path to get out of that process, right?
Cathy Liu (00:20:08): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeremy Au (00:20:08):
That mentality shift just changes everything, because then your last three months becomes, "I'm working hard to fight at this job, and I'm working hard to build a startup." The cognitive dissonance is very strong. I think overall, my recommendation is, if you know there's a problem, try to do as a side hustle, as a hobby, whatever it is. Sorry, it's a hobby to your boss, it's a hobby to your colleagues, in that sense, or a side hustle. But slowly build it out and get to the point where you get that conviction. A lot of people think about founders as being this high risk gamble.
Jeremy Au (00:20:43):
I think the truth is, if you actually look at the stories of most founding stories, you read the biographies of [Shudo 00:20:49], you read the autobiographies of Steve Jobs. If you actually look at how long it took for them to build a prototype on the side, Steve Jobs and [Wozniak 00:20:59], they were in a garage. They were just working on it on the side. Then they got at a point where they felt conviction to do it. To them, the founder, it's a very low risk decision to go full time. To the world it seems like a very high risk decision, because they don't understand the problem. They don't understand the customers. They don't want to set a solution, right?
Cathy Liu (00:21:21): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeremy Au (00:21:22):
Yeah. I think that's what I really caution, therefore, at the end of the day is, anyway you want to found something, really just make sure that you start understanding the problem, getting customers, crafting a solution on the side, on the weekends. That's it. Then as you get more conviction, you carve out more and more time.
Cathy Liu (00:21:43):
Is there a timing of when... What is the timing that you think that someone should decide whether they want to go full time or not? Is there a secret recipe to that or do you think that's really up to the founder and current situation?
Jeremy Au (00:22:00):
Yeah. I think my benchmark I tell people is, when your company that you're founding pays you enough to eat ramen, that's a perfect time to head out. Not head out, but that's when you should... You really shouldn't do it earlier. But that's though. It's actually a really high bar if you think about it. Because let's just say your rent and your living expenses, let's just say all in, it could be like three to five grand a month. I'm just saying just as bare minimum. But it's not just revenue, it's profit. But actually, in the grand scheme of things I'll tell you, it's really easy to do, to get there versus building the whole startup. When you zoom out, as a very experienced founder, getting a company to three to five grand of profit is a very small and easy target to go to.
Jeremy Au (00:22:50):
But I think as a first time founder, I think it's the opposite. Which is, getting to three grand to five grand profit feels a very far away goal. But the truth is, I think if you have a discipline about it, you're carving out 10 to 20 hours a week towards it. People will get there, just being very disciplined. I think it sharpens the mind a lot for different folks. A lot of folks are like, "Oh, what's the secret sauce? Is it because I feel this good? Is it when a VC tells me it's a good idea? Is it because when I'm on the press?" I'm like, "No, no, no, no." It's like, "Your job feeds you right now. Let's you stay in a rent, it let's you have a laptop, it let's you pay for utilities." Those are all the things that you need in order to be able to work on your startup, right?
Cathy Liu (00:23:30): Yup.
Jeremy Au (00:23:33):
There's no way you're going to be happy moving out into a smaller place, with no food, with no water, with no Wi-Fi. You're not going to be happy and you're not going to be able to do your best work. I think you can just carve it out and just be like, "I will build this company until it's three to five grand." Whatever your living wage requirements are, I think that's what most people should aim towards. Because it focuses the mind, but also is a really clear threshold. Oh, one last thing is that, of course it's like, once you get a couple of grand of profit as well per month, and you start paying yourself with that, it's actually also roughly about the time that when angels and seed VCs are basically start getting interested. Because now you have also proven out that not only is your product valuable to certain folks, but it's valuable enough to generate a profit. That you're also self-sustainable as well in a short term. That's also a really interesting time that people can start fundraising as well.
Cathy Liu (00:24:32):Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do you think that comment is different whether the startup is in software or in hardware? Because hardware is, we have higher R&D costs, it's harder to turn a profit.
Jeremy Au (00:24:45):
Yeah. That's a fair point. Yeah. I think it's a fair point. I think therefore, a lot of hardware, sometimes you just... I mean, some hardware is impossible, I don't know, quantum computing. Okay. You're going to raise quite a bit of cash. But at the same point of time, if you're doing hardware, then you also know that it's going to take way longer than six months without a salary to get it out of the door as well. Even more pushes you to reevaluate what the exact trajectory that you want to do is. In either software or hardware, my big push, it's just like, "How do you de-risk that personally as much as possible?" Because more time doesn't mean higher velocity, you know what I mean? I think that's what a lot of people realize. Yeah.
Cathy Liu (00:25:36): Okay. How would you maximize On Deck? Is there any specific unique parts about the program that maybe the listeners may be interested in hearing about? Maybe some fun stories?
Jeremy Au (00:25:50):
I think there are three parts to the On Deck experience, from a consumption perspective. I think the first part obviously is the content, that feels the most obvious so to speak and so forth. I think the second is really about the community events, so like mixers and stuff like that. Then the third is really the one-on- one conversations. I would say the fourth is maybe some of the asynchronous communications for messaging. I would say personally, for myself, as an experienced founder, I found the content side a little less interesting primarily because I think I already done so much of it. I was very much didn't find a lot of it relevant, or at least I felt I already covered it before. But at the same point of time, with my cynical jaded eyes, I also understand that it can be actually very new and thoughtful for people who haven't seen it before.
Jeremy Au (00:26:44):
I think there was a really refreshing, authentic tone to it, which is quite nice because it feels like a straightforward conversation. I think personally, I think it's not as efficient as reading an article on doing something, but reading and listening to something is, I think, a good modality for a lot of people to learn. But I think it was less for me, and I could never catch them live because I was in Singapore as a time zone. But I definitely did enjoy and I really preferred really listening to them asynchronously, because they record everything, which is awesome. Then actually listening to them at 2X speed. Because I'm much more efficient, because I'm just trying to get a content out. I'm not...
Jeremy Au (00:27:26):
So I felt like that's my tip for you is just like, for a lot of folks is this going to be like, "Do you need to listen to it live because you're that kind of person who needs to listen to something live with a community? Or is it something that you're willing to listen to on 2X speed separately?" I think that's one. Then I think the second part is the community mixers, which I think are really awesome, and I think people should do as much of them as possible. Primarily because it's a fast way to meet everybody as fast as possible, in like five to 10 minutes. The truth is, because it's a function of two things. The first part is just like, you don't have a lot of time. You're doing it as part-time, or on the weekends, whatever. You don't have time. You want to meet as many people as efficiently as possible so that you have the opportunity to collaborate and do something awesome.
Jeremy Au (00:28:10):
But also, I think it maximizes serendipity as well. Because then you might meet someone and chat about an idea that you never thought you'd tackle, or you meet someone who I think if you did a targeted outreach search for, you wouldn't have targeted because there was just a different persona in terms of skillsets. But actually, when you hang out with them, you actually resonate and really click with them. That's a really awesome feeling to have. I think it's really possible in the mixers. I think the third thing is really the one-on-ones. It's really about a targeted outreach, which is sit down, go through the membership directory, and just based on your own personal interests and everything, just do as many one-on-one calls. 30 minutes, I think, is more than enough to kick things off.
Jeremy Au (00:28:54):
Don't try to do one hour, because I think a lot people start off with one hour and it's just like, you're not saying that you wouldn't have a conversation with them again, but can we just kick it off with 30 minutes? I think that's really a positive for a ton of folks, just to get to know each other. I really push people and advise people to be very thorough, that list, go through the whole list and just ask that invite for everybody. Everybody's happy to chat. Don't be scared, because everybody's there to start a business. Everyone's very happy to chat. It's kind of like freshmen first 90 days. Everybody's happy and ready to mingle. Single and ready to mingle. That's the perfect time to just really get aggressive about hitting up everybody.
Jeremy Au (00:29:39):
I think the last thing is really about the chat messages. I think that's pretty underweighted. I think there's a lot of random knowledge into Slack, because it's like archeology, I guess, because there's so many batches before. So people are discussing. I always tell people is, "Being a founder, now being a VC, or now being someone who helps out other founders as well, think through, ideate, or help with their branding or marketing, is like, kind of actually feels a bit being a professor watching seven classes of freshmen go through, and you're just watching them all go through the same stuff over and over again." Which is the same questions over and over again, the same problems, the same dynamics. Now, the answers may be different, I think, each time around. Obviously ends up being individually different, but there's so much knowledge in the peer to peer side.
Jeremy Au (00:30:30):
So I think there've been a ton of times where I've gone into Slack and I'll just be like... I'll give you an example was like, I was part of... Basically we had people who want to sponsor the podcast now. I didn't care about that topic months ago, and I wasn't paying attention or talking about it with people one-on- one, or in mixers. That wasn't a problem I had. I just typed in sponsor and then yeah, there's a bunch of people discussing it three to four months ago. Then I just added my thoughts to the thread and say, "Hey, thanks for this. Here's my take on the problem."
Jeremy Au (00:31:04):
Then I use those resources to build up my own set of documents. Then soon I'll be dropping my document into that group. Because I know that in three months, six months, one year, two years, five years, there'll be a bunch of folks who are going to ask the same question, which is, "How do you talk to sponsors? What materials do you have with them?" It's the same thing. I think I'm sharing that from personal basis, from a consumption, but also from a community, a production angle. I think that's something that is really underrated is searching through the Slack. Yeah, it's basically a giant forum.
Cathy Liu (00:31:43):Are all cohorts in the Slack or is it just your current cohorts? Or do you have the wealth of knowledge from past cohorts?
Jeremy Au (00:31:49):
It's a mixture of both. I think they have a interesting signal and noise dynamic, because long story short is, you have two sites. One is stuff that's only for your cohort, and then your stuff that's shared by everybody in On Deck Founder. I think there's a sort of might be a few channels that are shared across all On Deck cohort types.
Cathy Liu (00:32:10):
Jeremy Au (00:32:13):I honestly had to mute a ton of channels. I had muted 90% of the channels out there. I didn't join every channel. After all the channels I joined, I muted 90%-
Cathy Liu (00:32:22): Oh, wow.
Jeremy Au (00:32:25):
Because I was just getting bombarded with notifications. I think the way I consume now is, on the weekends I carved out several hours and I go into Slack and I start reading... even though I muted the channels, I go to them and I read them in a row. It's kind of like reading the forums in one go rather than getting notified with every notification. Also, I think, you may have... Some channels, I have not seen for a month, or two months, or three months, but at least when I go to it, it feels like someone else was having a conversation. Then now when I'm following along, it makes more logical sense seeing that as an arc or thread of conversations, rather than watching each one come by, right?
Cathy Liu (00:33:06): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:33:07):But sometimes I am the person who was doing that participation with someone else, and discussing
with someone else, right?
Cathy Liu (00:33:10): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeremy Au (00:33:13):
That's been an interesting dynamic for that. I think there's also some interesting collaborations, obviously, that people are trying to do now as well, because I think they're working hard to connect pieces to the different pieces. For example, the On Deck Podcasters is quite different from writing, obviously, as a practice, but actually it's quite similar in terms of a production angle. They have actually created these threads where we can hang out, this mixers where we can hang out across categories, in that sense, and have a channel where I think there's a bunch of founders who want to be featured on podcasts. There's a cool collaboration. Because founders need press releases, people to show some profiling or some belief to help them with their content marketing. Then podcast hosts need more profile people to profile. There's a cool collaboration as well.
Jeremy Au (00:34:15):
A little bit less relevant for me, because mine is about Southeast Asians in tech. Again, because of that geographic aspect of it. But I've met a few great founders I've interviewed through On Deck. So Steven [Tennyson 00:34:30], he was part of the On Deck program, met him there, he's Indonesian, and setting up a startup. He was on my podcast, which I'll link separately. Albert [Liere 00:34:41] from Zen did as well, so off to potentially found something, also the podcasts. I think I also did Jasmine Wang as well. She's in the States, but I think she had a very interesting angle on AI copywriting. I very much liked the chance to chat with her, even though she wasn't necessarily tech in Southeast Asia, but it was just an interesting angle. Yeah. Lots of random serendipity moments that happen through the program.
Cathy Liu (00:35:04):I'm also really curious, is there an end goal to the program similar to some incubator programs they
have your presentation day, so you have something to work towards. Does On Deck also have that or...
Jeremy Au (00:35:18):
Yeah, On Deck that's have that as well. I think they do a good job hyping up the community to join in. It's not mandatory, which it's more of an optional thing, or recommend. I think it's a great experience for lots of folks. I think people just hang out. I think a lot of people also take the opportunity to build in public as well, they are releasing not just the demo day, but also share asynchronously over slide and say, "Oh, I did this, I did that. Oh, I'm struggling with this, or I'm happy about that." I think it's a little bit a nice community helping each other kind of dynamic, that's really nice, and very asynchronous. It was kind of interesting. It's a ton of fun. I really recommend it for a lot of folks. But it's different. Again, I think if you joined full time and you went to On Deck, I think it's still good, but I think where it really shines at is if you're part-time and you're doing the program, I think you have just as good experience, right?
Cathy Liu (00:36:16): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:36:16):
Which is very different from most incubators, accelerators, which is that you have to be full time. Therefore I begin, "Oh, sure. We're all going to have a demo day, we're all full time there." But you don't have to be there, it's very different, right?
Cathy Liu (00:36:30): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:36:31): Yeah.
Cathy Liu (00:36:33):Aside from ODF and ODP, are there any other On Deck programs that you'd be interested in trying out?
Jeremy Au (00:36:39):
Yeah. Actually the interesting thing is, I've also angel invested, not just in On Deck, but also in one other On Deck startup, which is called Presently via... So Dahlia Katan, she's awesome. I joined a program and then I think she saw my profile somehow on On Deck, and she was like, "I think it's cool. Would you to angel invest?" I wasn't even an angel investing seriously at that point in time. Then she Twitter DM me, which I never check Twitter and I never checked DMs, because no one has ever DM me in Twitter. I mean, there's a lot of people DM'ing. But she wrote a nice message and everything. I was like, "Okay, fine. I'll have the chat." I talked to her. I was like excited about her startup. I was like, "Okay, fine. I'll angel invest."
Jeremy Au (00:37:23):
Which was a surprise to me and kicked off my angel investing journey actually. I think she's knocked it out of the park since then. Because of the fact that she's clear about what she's doing, I think it's a problem... She's tackling the decentralization and virtualization of gifting in corporate and friendship circles, which I think makes a lot of sense, because I face that problem in my company and as a human being who has to do group gifting. She's coming on a podcast sometime so we can talk about this as well, about why I invested in her. I don't know, how she discovered me, I guess, from her perspective, and what she likes about our working relationship so far.
Jeremy Au (00:38:07):
The crazy part is that she's in L.A., and her team is distributed across the States. She would DM me, maybe she didn't even know that I was in Singapore. Then she just DM'ed me and then I was like, "Okay, cool." It worked out for everybody. I'm happy about it. She's happy about it. I've referred customers to her. She's been a helpful reference to other folks in my network. I think, as a result, I do maybe think to myself maybe about the On Deck Angel Fellowship. I do think about it a little bit. But in my brain I'm kind of like, "I'm already part of two On Deck communities. Do I really want to add the angle thing as well?" Obviously, I'm a VC now. So On Deck VC as well, might be a nice way to build out a network in the VC side. Those are the things I do think about. Yeah, in terms of the programs.
Cathy Liu (00:38:56):
Are there any other maybe programs that you think people should consider while they're applying to On Deck? Is there any other great programs that they can maybe look into that you may know off the top of your head? I know you mentioned two, but I don't know if those were based in Southeast Asia.
Jeremy Au (00:39:16):
I think everybody wants to be a founder, but it may not necessarily be the stage that they actually going into. I think they have some good, interesting programs like On Deck Climate Tech, On Deck Chief of Staff. I think those tighter programs are actually pretty interesting, from my perspective. Because I think the more niche the industry is the more valuable it is on a global basis to source from everybody in the world. That's my point of view. I don't know if it's actually true, but I guess, I mean, because I think founder is a pretty generic phrase, if that make sense? So it's like, you can found in any country, which is not a problem. But you can found in any problem in any vertical, it's actually a pretty broad phrase actually.
Jeremy Au (00:40:11):
But I think On Deck Podcaster was actually a pretty interesting dynamic where it's a much tighter group. It's much smaller, it's much more... You're still a founder of a podcast, in that sense, but it's actually very specific. I think you couldn't, I think, gather 50 folks who are podcasters in Singapore or in SF, or in L.A. Yeah. I mean, I don't think you get 50 people who all want to start up something, or want to be part of the program at the same time. That's pretty hard to do it. Does it make sense? Because then you sub-skill is a pool, because your pool is so small, you can't get a pool.
Jeremy Au (00:40:47):
But I think you can find 50 of those folks globally around the world, who hit a certain bar, who really want to set up or scale the podcast, are ready to be part of a community right now. I think that's where the strength really lies in that very nicheness of it. Of course, I don't know whether from a On Deck perspective, I don't know what I think about it from a revenue stream basis. I think that's the larger programs Founder is such a much more obvious in that sense, but I think there's a powerful of the nichiness for the consumer, which is the more niche you are, the better it is.
Cathy Liu (00:41:24):How many people are in the cohort actually? I'm not sure. Is it chaotic?
Jeremy Au (00:41:30): I don't know actually.
Cathy Liu (00:41:31): Is it chaotic?
Jeremy Au (00:41:32): It is.
Cathy Liu (00:41:32):Are people assigned mentors during your time?
Jeremy Au (00:41:36):No. Yeah, no. I mean, it's very freshmen-
Cathy Liu (00:41:44): Freshman vibe.
Jeremy Au (00:41:44):
... like first month... Freshman vibe. It's like, "Oh, if you get thrown in there and you're all part of Zoom." Then you're just looking at each other's faces. You're like, "I hope this person is cool." It's like, "Hey, Jeremy, describe yourself and your hobbies." You think you circle the next person and then you're like, "Oh, this person is cool, or this person's not cool." It was very, very freshman vibes. Yeah.
Cathy Liu (00:42:09):Well, I don't have any other questions. Do you have any maybe last things you want to say to anyone
who's interested in applying to On Deck?
Jeremy Au (00:42:20):
A couple of things to think about. I mean, I think firstly, it's like, I think the geography thing is really underrated, which is that because they have evaporated geography, they've really made it much more flexible to everybody. I think so many programs have really been where... Even it's like Harvard or Stanford. You have to travel to Boston to go to Harvard, right?
Cathy Liu (00:42:41):
Jeremy Au (00:42:41):
Which is great. I mean, obviously, especially if you grew up in Boston, and it's pretty easy if you grew up in New York. It gets pretty difficult if you think about from SF where it's hard to get access, and then it feels impossible because you don't even know about Harvard from somewhere in Southeast Asia, like Cambodia. It just feels way too far away, both in terms of network, in terms of access or even a thought of moving countries.
Jeremy Au (00:43:10):
I think there's a little bit of privilege that happens with that location dynamic, which is, it favors people who have high information access and have the capability to move their life, and chip at the student debt to access that geography. Whereas I think this really levels the playing field for anybody who is a great person who wants to be a founder, or a podcaster, or [EOB 00:43:39]. I think it is great for people in Menlo Park who don't want to go to SF. It's great for people, like I said, in Denver. It's great for people in Singapore or Hong Kong or London. It's great for people in Cambodia or Papua New Guinea, or New Zealand. I think that is crazy, because the value they can get is pretty much flat because you build the whole program without geography.
Jeremy Au (00:44:08):
Obviously, I think the challenge, and I think that didn't get mentioned is, I think, time zones is a problem. I think that's a legacy piece of On Deck being built out of San Francisco. Everything is really around PST hours, Pacific Standard Time. Which is, I think, really easy and doable if you're on the East Coast or in the States, or even, I guess, New Zealand. But I think it's a little bit harder for people across the world in like Middle East or India, or Asia, because it's totally flipped. I think that's where I think you had to be quite smart about doing asynchronous content. I think there's also, I think, I've been quite clear about recommendations to On Deck, which is that really broadening out that set of socials and the synchronized community events. I think they've been doing a good job, actually, building up a bunch of events that are just suitable for the On Deck community out in Asia, or different times zones. But also, I think it's good for other folks, because some people are night owls, and some people are morning people, right?
Cathy Liu (00:45:15): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:45:16):
So actually, it works out for everybody actually. I think that's one piece about the international side. Of course, I think the community is a lot thinner in different geographies. Obviously, there's a high density in the Bay Area and the East Coast, and then there's a lower density in terms of community over different geographies. But I think that's something that will improve over time, similar to Stanford or Harvard, where the alumni clubs are much stronger on the East Coast and West Coast, but are weaker in different parts of the world. So that's that. That's the geography piece.
Cathy Liu (00:45:50): I'm actually very curious about what to look for in the founder question. I don't know if you had any-
Jeremy Au (00:45:58): Yeah.
Cathy Liu (00:45:58):But you went through meeting so many different people. How did you decide who is interesting and
who was a good fit?
Jeremy Au (00:46:06):
Yeah, yeah. I founded two companies and each time around there's a massive search process. The first one, I've co-founder with someone who at the time was a good friend who had been in the army with me. So I really trusted and respected him because he dug trenches with me, we had helped each other through some really tough times. Yeah. Like marching dozens of kilometers in 2:00 or 3:00 AM, or navigating the jungle, and I was carrying all the weight and he was helping out with the compass and direction. Yeah. It was a interesting challenge, but it was a very serendipitous easy one. Then the second company took more of a involved search process where I was dumped by multiple teammates, and I also dumped other teammates as well as part of that process.
Jeremy Au (00:47:12):
I think it's less about... Well, we'll talk about two things. I think one is what to look out for, and I'll talk about the second part is really more about the process, I think. Which is, I think, more important than what to look out for. I think where you're looking out for, and it's kind of like the interview criteria rubric, which is that, number one, you want someone that you can really work with. At the end of the day, you're just going to be spending so much time together for the next... if you're successful, five to 10 years, right? You know?
Cathy Liu (00:47:43): Yup.
Jeremy Au (00:47:45):
If you're unsuccessful is between three months to three years, and you've got to make some really tough decisions along the way. You really want to have someone that you can really have an honest discussion with, and really be able to trust and respect. I think that's really the fundamental crux of it. Because I think everyone talks about skills or industry fit, or coding ability, or business ability. I'm like, "No, no, no," number one is just like, "Can you just work with this person and do you trust this person, do you respect this person?" Because that's really the crux of it. Because if you can have all those things, you can figure it out a ton of stuff. But if you don't have it, you can't solve anything. One is really more fundamental than the other. I think that's really important, is that trust and respect.
Jeremy Au (00:48:35):
Yeah. Because you want to be in a space where if you had that conversation with a person, you feel you can be honest about what's going on, and that you're going to get a professional, thoughtful answer that you respect. You also want to be in the position where the other person is honest about what's going on, and that you're able to give a professional, thoughtful answer as well. You're not trying to look for a friend. That's what I tell people, "There's a lot of people that you like, but you may not necessarily trust and respect." Right, you know?
Cathy Liu (00:49:06): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:49:07):
I think that's a very freshman thing to discover. There's lots of people you like, but that you may not necessarily respect. And there's lots of people that you respect, but you don't necessarily like. I think that trust and respect is really more fundamental. Then I think the liking pieces, et cetera, that's something that you really build up over time, honesty. I think obviously, then, there's a whole stack around founder market fit. Which is less about, I think, both of you may be looking for product market fit, but it's really about founder market fit. Which is, do you fit the problem that you're tackling, and does the other person help solve the problem?
Jeremy Au (00:49:45):
So this is where the VCs come in, or your third party, or your guidance from mentors comes in, because they're going to look at the team and be like, "Hmm, both of you want to solve quantum computing, but neither of you have done anything in quantum computing." Then it was just like, "This sounds like a weak team to us." It's pretty obvious when I say it out that way, which is, if you trust and respect each other and maybe you can learn and figure out quantum computing, and I use that as example. Or, "You're both business folks, but you'd never done quantum computing and now you want to do quantum computing."
Jeremy Au (00:50:21):
It's kind of like, "Oh, doesn't logically... It sounds like you're going to do a lot of learning on the job. Not saying you can't succeed, but the odds do feel a bit stacked against you." Versus like one person has done quantum computing and is a excellent engineer, and the other person is the business person who has also done Biz Dev for a quantum computing company. Then it's like, "Yeah, it's pretty obvious. This is a much stronger team," than the ones I just mentioned earlier. Then it's a bit of a sliding scale in between, with just maybe the business person has done quantum computing and the engineer has not, or visa versa. There's a bit of a spectrum dynamic. I think just having that third person point of view really helps a lot.
Jeremy Au (00:51:05):
I think in terms of process, I think what you need to do is, I tell people it's just like, "One is, think about it as a funnel, sales funnel, marketing funnel. Just stack the top. Just meet everybody On Deck, old and new, anybody who is potentially relevant based on you going through the directory and searching for the keywords that you like." Of course, the prerequisite of that is that you know what buckets and problems that you want to solve personally as well. That goes without saying.
Jeremy Au (00:51:34):
The second one is, go to all the community mixers and do a lot of serendipity, because maybe your self- awareness is a bit off, or maybe you'd be open to tackling other problems that you didn't realize that you actually enjoyed or thought about. Then the middle of the final is start doing a whole bunch of 30 minute calls, just screen people and just create maybe a spreadsheet. The rows are the names, and then the columns are like, number one is like, "Do I trust and respect this person?" That's one. Then number two is like, "Is there an overlap in what we want to solve really, the problem?" Then third category, actually, to be pretty honest is like, "Does this other person want me?"
Jeremy Au (00:52:21):
Because a lot of people don't like you and then they just never follow up. Then you still respect them, but they don't want to work with you. I think you should just be aware of that, because they know that about you too. They may like you, but you may not like them. Just got through that list, and just have that mini CRM. Then the next stage after that is start working on the problems, like brainstorming, jamming, virtual brainstorming. Just start figure out what a problem. This is ideation phase. I think this part is, I think a lot of people ideate too... What's it called? Slowly. Just once a week or whatever it is, one hour once a week. It's just too slow. I think it's more like more hours but in a shorter time period.
Jeremy Au (00:53:04):
Then people try to sequentialize it, which is like, "Okay, I want to look at one person first, and then I reject this person, and then I'm going to do the next person." Which is very monogamous and very, I think, probably more socially acceptable in dating, for example. But in this founder site, because you're in a rush and you hurry, I really try to encourage people to be more open to simultaneously, parallel tracking everybody, because it's like the freshmen period. It's trying to meet as many people, and brainstorm for two hours with lots of... the people who have made it past the half an hours, like 10 or 20 people, a couple of hours each. Because it's just trying to be efficient, you can compare, and you're going to end up AB testing. Which is like, "Oh, actually, I thought this person was awesome but then after I did a two hour session, I realized that this person is great for 30 minutes but isn't great for two hours." Right?
Cathy Liu (00:53:58): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:53:59):
Or, "This person doesn't show up on time." There's a bunch of stuff that shows up. I think it is really important to really start knocking out people at this stage. It was like, "This person wasn't..." The truth of the matter is, I think people get a little bit worried because they're like, "Oh, if I knock off people that I don't like, it means that I'm not going to become a founder because I can't find a co-founder." I'm like, "No, no, no, no. You got to work with this person for five to seven years. If you can't even work with them for two hours, and you rather work with someone else, you're never going to stop feeling that." Because there's going to be a ton of people... You know what I mean? You're never going to stop feeling it. Just go through that process.
Jeremy Au (00:54:35):
Then at some point of time, after they get to that stage, you probably window it down to a couple of folks, you probably want to start doing, I think, first round review. By First Round Capital has a great dating questionnaire, which is about 20 to 50 questions, to go through one-on-one and go through that process. It's very deep. It's kind of like the 20 questions to make you fall in love kind of thing. But it just ask some deep questions like timeline, commitment, decisions, who is going to be what, so on, so forth.
Jeremy Au (00:55:09):
It actually takes a lot of time, honestly, to go through that process, so I wouldn't do it too early. I think a lot of people try to do it too early because they want to do that. But it's not that efficient in terms of screening. But I think it's pretty efficient once you start circling around a problem, it's nice to carve out, and it's going to be a couple of hours at least to go through that thing. I probably would break it out into two or three sessions, rather than do it in one go, which is way too long, especially remotely. Probably two sessions. Then at some point you start narrowing to one or two teams.
Jeremy Au (00:55:44):
I think part of the process that's pretty tough is trying to say no to people. It's pretty tough. A lot of people who want to work with you, but you don't want to work with them, it's pretty straight forward, because it's just like, "Oh, I rather not." That's very straightforward to do, but you should just do it, and just keep the door open enough, of course, by saying like, "Maybe if things change." But it's just a polite thing to do at a minimum. And of course, things may change. Maybe your preferences change in five years, for example. Then I think the second aspect about it is just like, I think there's a bunch of people that you started working with and is just not a good fit, because of trust and respect, or because you don't really like them, or because at the end of the day, or you can't figure out what the thing is, and you just got to call a spade a spade.
Jeremy Au (00:56:25):
Let's let them know, "Hey, I don't think this is the right fit. I think you're great, and just not what it is." I think that's worth a quick call, just to let them know. Then I think the trickiest part is that last group of people, the final two or three groups that you're part of. That's always the trickiest because you've spent a lot of time, you started doing the questions, et cetera. I think that's where you just need to have that honest conversation and say like... I think the good thing about this group, hopefully, is that everyone is a little bit more mature, everyone wants to be a founder. The truth is, those folks are also dating other people at the same time.
Jeremy Au (00:56:57):
I think you feel pretty bad letting them go and down, but they're probably thinking themselves too. Like, "Oh, there's these other folks I could potentially be with." I would just be mindful about that. I think a couple more things quite quickly, it's just like, I think they call it... I think there's a lot of teams that are going in this situation where, where are you homogenous and where you heterogeneous as a team? What I mean by that is, at the end of the day like attracts like. The truth is, personally, I'm always going to enjoy hanging out with people who are former consultants, who have been experienced founders, and grew up in Southeast Asia, and got educated in the States, and likes improv. I'm always going to really like this person, because this person is very similar to me.
Jeremy Au (00:57:50):
I think what's interesting about it is just, a lot of people end up, and I see a lot of these teams who come up to me is like they end up being very similar, and then it shows up in different ways. Like we both want to be CEO, or we both want to be CTO. Because it's so homogenous, they want to be the same thing. They have too much overlap in their skills. I think that's actually a problematic, because then people are homogenous in skills but heterogeneous in aspiration. This is very much like dating and marriage, which is, you don't need to be homogenous in terms of your background, but you do need to be homogenous in your values in order for the marriage to work, as a predictor of stability. But you don't need to be homogenous in profession.
Jeremy Au (00:58:35):
Versus a lot of people are homogenous in profession, but actually they don't realize they actually, even though the profession is a signifier for certain values, is actually, their values are heterogeneous. Anyway, I think you just want to be thoughtful about that, which is if you can't agree on the roles... Look, someone's going to be CEO, and someone has got to be a CTO, or equivalent, or somebody who's going to be COO. You know what I mean? That role conversation should be straightforward. If it's too difficult, it may not be the right fit. It just means that like it or not, maybe you love the idea together, you both love the idea. Maybe you both love the solution you created together, but when you can't agree on a role, actually what's showing is that you don't have the same understanding of your personal trajectory within that startup, and that's okay.
Jeremy Au (00:59:27):
Sometimes you can hear like, "I want to be CEO." The other person is like, "I want to be CEO." Then people get very... They fight each other and they're like, "Oh, you're stealing my idea, and blah, blah, blah." I'm like, "Whoa, it's just an idea. You're so early. Why are you even debating this issue at all? You both can try and set up the start up, but both of you have a vision of the startup and this idea with yourself as CEO, and it's not compatible. Full stop. Just stop fighting and just go your separate ways. It's more mature, it's more professional." But I think you really see a lot of that. I mean, if you can't make it work, just walk away. Don't get emotionally invested and just be like, "I need to make this work. I need to make this founder work. I need to make this partnership work. I need a co-founder in order to build a startup."
Jeremy Au (01:00:14):
No, no, no. It's the other way around. What problem do you really love to solve? What is the best approach that you can think of right now? How are you going to iterate with the process to make it better and better over time? How do I get customers to pay for it? Then how do I keep pushing that flywheel over and over again? You've got to do that by yourself until somebody joins you, or you can keep doing it until an employee joins you, or you can keep doing it and a founder joins you. Does it make sense?
Cathy Liu (01:00:45): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (01:00:46):It's like one is really the meat of the startup, and something else is just the form or structure of it. Yeah.
Cathy Liu (01:00:55):When founders split, what happens to the work that was done?
Jeremy Au (01:01:01):Yeah. That's a tough one. Every experienced founder will hear that story and say to themselves, "Nothing has been done in the grand scheme of things. This brilliant idea, this brilliant solution means nothing." I have a list of ideas on my notepad, 30 ideas long, and I sometimes help founders as well because other founders come up to me and they know that I have this idea, all of this. I just bring some of them. Of course, sometimes I feel a bit possessive. I'm like, "Oh, I helped you figure out this side of the idea, blah, blah, blah." Because it's natural. I guess like, "Oh, I'm so smart and I helped you. Blah, blah."
Jeremy Au (01:01:35):
But when you take a moment out and you're like, "No, this person is... you just gave an idea or you just was shooting the breeze with this person, but you added no value. You didn't actually build something." Even if you do some really basic code, or even help with the first customers, even so, it's still such an drop in the ocean versus the whole arc of what the startup needs to be built. Yeah. I really wouldn't worry too much about it from a rational perspective. I think where it gets tricky, of course, is that may be true at a rational basis, but maybe unclear from a personal relationship basis. Because people may feel like, "Oh, I put a lot of time in." Not everybody is a seasoned second time founder.
Jeremy Au (01:02:27):
Every time I work with a second or third time founders, we were just like, "Yeah," we're just upfront, it was just like, "If we don't work out, we don't work out. We just both got copy of this and we can choose to work on it or not." That's it. It's very straightforward conversation. We usually look at each other, we shake hands. We don't even shake hands, we're just nod and we're like, "Yeah, our white board is not dramatic innovation that's going to change the world." You know what I mean? Actually doing it and executing is really the thing. But I think first time founders may struggle with that.
Jeremy Au (01:02:57):
I think it's really about saying that upfront. I think that's where the dating questionnaire is helpful that they have, is basically saying like, "Hey, what happens if one of us leaves?" That's a good conversation to have. Not necessarily like date one, or date two, but maybe you're on date five to date 10, around there, that's really a good conversation to have. Which is, "As we continue to ideate this, if we both choose not to work out, what will we do?" It's standard planning in case, and it's not...
Jeremy Au (01:03:24):
A lot of people feel like, "Oh, it was very pessimistic. Are you saying that are not going to work out if you say that, blah, blah, blah." The truth is, it's not, it's just, this is a useful way to have a conversation about a common contingency where lots of founders leave all the time. The reason why you're having this difficult conversation is not necessarily to get the best answer, but to get a better sense of who each other is, by having this conversation. I think that's the crux of it, is a lot of people avoid tough questions because they don't see the value, or they worry about, "It's too tough to get answer, blah, blah, blah." But no, you tackle tough questions because you want to see who the other person is and how that person is relative to you.
Jeremy Au (01:04:08):
If you can't solve a difficult question like what happens if one of us leaves? There's no way we can solve that tougher problem of how do we fundraise or how do we terminate this employee? You know what I mean? Tough questions are a gift. They gift you the ability to see whether you will be a good team, I think from a third person point of view. I think from a first person point of view, when you receive a tough question, I think you just think to yourself, "Hey, how do I do this process in a way that builds a relationship?" That's what everybody kind of organically does, but it's hard to remember sometimes.
Jeremy Au (01:04:49):
I think that holds true for a lot of negotiations. A lot of people negotiate really hard because they go in and they're like, "Oh, I'm negotiating equity. I'm negotiating roles. I'm negotiating A or B or C." Then they forget that, at this stage, because it's nothing or very early, if they negotiate too hard they destroyed their relationship, if that makes sense? Building the relationship is more important than negotiation, because so much value has yet to be created. Which is very different of course if I was doing Biz Dev for Sony, and there's no relationship to be built with these competitors or frenemies. It's just about cutting the slice of pie, right? Yeah.
Cathy Liu (01:05:26):
Well, thank you so much. I think that actually answered pretty much, I think, all of the questions I believe. This is a great conversation. I feel like I learned so much in the last hour and 15 minutes. Definitely have a lot to think about before I make any kind of decision, but this is all very, very, very thoughtful and helpful. I think even to anyone who ends up listening to this as well. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Jeremy Au (01:06:00):
Thank you so much, Cathy. I think two quick thoughts just to throw out there before we wrap this up, as well. It's like, I think one thing you mentioned earlier was just talking about price. I think price is much easier once you know that you're doing the program part-time, on the weekends. Because then you're doing a normal job, and then so you're not-
Cathy Liu (01:06:18): So not eating cost.
Jeremy Au (01:06:20):
... dumping a ton of cash, half your savings, and then eating the cost. I think that's really a much better way about thinking about it is that, I think the cost is much more reasonable once you think about it from a part-time basis. I really encourage most people to think about it that way and say, "Hey, I know traditionally school has been full time, but hey, welcome to 2021, in our case, where we have internet. Yeah. We can study part-time." Part-time degrees are awesome, and the online courses, so why not do things part-time? I think the cost really dramatically changes when that happens, because now you have income.
Jeremy Au (01:07:00):
I think the second thing I do think about a little bit is, just like any good college or any good community, if you think about it, there's a very utilitarian aspect about... You said something interesting, which is, "Should I join this thing in order to have a demo day to build a startup?" But hopefully, I think also, if you join a community and it's a high value one, which is not true for everyone, but hopefully the value of it stacks up over time. It's not a couple of grand for a couple of months program, but hopefully it's a couple of grand plus a membership fee for an interest rate multiplier. Just a small thing that adds value over the years on a recurring basis that compounds interest over time.
Jeremy Au (01:07:53):
I think that's a more interesting way to think about it, because I look at my Harvard MBA. I'm just like, "Yeah. I learned quite a bit those two years, don't get me wrong." My professors worked really hard to teach me stuff and some of it I managed to get through. But if you ask me right now can I remember XKs or what I learned from that thing, I'd be like, "Oh, it's of a bit fuzzy right now." Probably in 10 years, it's probably going to be even worse, my memory about what exactly I learned there. But of course it was a nice kickstart, but I think the community part really compounds over time.
Jeremy Au (01:08:29):
Because through that I got a meet Qingqing, which I'd never got to meet before. Yeah, which is awesome. I mean, I got to do something awesome like create a children's book with her. Adapting [Lenient 01:08:39] by Sheryl Sandberg for parents and kids to learn and read together. I stayed in touch since then, and then now I got to meet you. So it's kind of awesome. I did a Harvard MBA and I don't think going into Harvard MBA I was like, "I'm going to pay a quarter million dollars to move to this godforsaken city called Boston, where we just had the snowpocalypse, which is way too cold for me, because I want to meet Cathy in six years." That was probably... I don't think I'll put it by pros, so it's like, learn, community. Then at some point, Cathy. You know what I mean? But now I got to meet you. Now we've managed to create a fun podcast together that will help other people evaluating On Deck, and evaluate other ways of becoming a founder as well. I think that's awesome, right?
Cathy Liu (01:09:33):Yeah. You'll never know where you'll end up going or who you're going to meet, or what opportunities are going to come across your path.
Jeremy Au (01:09:43):
Exactly. Yeah. Think about it, the reason why we're chatting is because we are part of two communities. I'm part of the Harvard community, which let me meet Qingqing, and therefore your cousin. But the second thing is that the On Deck community, because it's pulling us in a type of affiliation, is pulling you and therefore you and I, because we intersect on these two communities get to meet. We are in different cities, you know?
Cathy Liu (01:10:10): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (01:10:11):Across the world. Different times zones. It's nighttime for you.
Cathy Liu (01:10:13): Yup.
Jeremy Au (01:10:13):It's afternoon for me. Different stages to some extent, because I assume I'm probably a little bit further down my career. But who knows what you and I will create, or help each other with in 10 years?
Cathy Liu (01:10:31):
Yeah. Never know.
Jeremy Au (01:10:32): Yeah.
Cathy Liu (01:10:32): That's really good.
Jeremy Au (01:10:34):
Awesome. Just think about if you choose to go to Harvard or Stanford or On Deck, whatever it is, you're going to be in my role, but I mentioning having multiple of those relationships and then compounding them over time. That's really hard to quantify. Super hard to quantify, which is why my parents kept telling me to go to college. I was like, "Why do I need to go to college? I can study everything online." Then I was like, "Oh, wait, it's my friends and everybody." Anyway, but unfortunately my parents weren't very good communicate this. They were very much like, "Go to college." Because rather than, "Here's a one hour podcast about how it exactly helps you and what is better for us, and things that." Yeah.
Cathy Liu (01:11:17): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (01:11:18): Yeah.
Cathy Liu (01:11:19):Well, thank you so much. I hope you have a great day. I'm probably going to go to sleep now, because it's nighttime here. Well, thank you so much. Bye, I'll talk to you later.