Amanda Cua - Founder, Backscoop newsletter on Southeast Asian tech startups, One More Scoop podcast

Ep 111: Building the hottest Southeast Asian Tech Startup Newsletter | Amanda Cua (Founder, Backscoop)

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Welcome to Episode 111!

STIMY Episode 111 features Amanda Cua.

Amanda Cua is the Founder and CEO of BackScoop, a media startup focused on Southeast Asian startups and tech. It started with their first product, a free daily newsletter that makes it fun and easy to stay informed with everything Southeast Asian business and startups in minutes.

Launched in late 2021, BackScoop is read by thousands of SEA’s top founders, execs, VCs and startup operators. Born and raised in the Philippines, Amanda is 20 years old and was previously the first employee at Y Combinator-backed edtech Avion School.


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    So This Is My Why podcast

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    Who is Amanda Cua?

    Amanda has always loved reading. She also grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs and decided during the pandemic that rather than waste time at Zoom University, she would just take a gap year and explore her different interests!

    • 7:00 Deciding to not go to university
    • 10:11 Maximising her gap year
    • 15:53 Cold outreach tactics
    • 17:38 Launching her own startup, Backscoop
    • 20:36 Why Southeast Asia (and not APAC)?
    I could recognize that Southeast Asia was growing very rapidly, especially because I'm here in local... And because I was spending so much time reading that, that's why I felt the problem to Southeast Asia specifically because when I would go to these platforms, none of them were just focused on Southeast Asia alone. I'd have to sift through the other companies, like I don't care about Japan, I don't care about China, in terms of my job, right?
    Amanda Cua - Founder, Backscoop newsletter on Southeast Asian tech startups, One More Scoop podcast
    Amanda Cua
    Founder, Backscoop

    Building Backscoop

    Amanda shares her journey in building Backscoop, why she’s branching into podcast with One More Scoop, the ups, downs, growth strategies & so much more: 

    • 26:59 Researching other newsletters
    • 29:58 The different iterations of Backscoop
    • 31:24 Dropping Soft Serve
    • 32:44 Most effective growth strategy
    • 34:34 Getting over stagnant growth
    • 35:56 Building a regional media company
    • 37:26 Trends in the Southeast Asian tech scene
    • 39:36 Accepting investment from Buko Ventures
    • 43:39 Launching a new product, One More Scoop
    • 44:55 What’s the value proposition?
    • 47:02 Serendipity
    • 49:37 Personal branding
    • 53:42 Competitor that Amanda admires & why

    External Links

    Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:

    STIMY 111: Amanda Cua [Founder, Backscoop]

    Amanda Cua: I think in the early days, the most effective growth strategy was that I message every single person, like literally every single person on my Facebook, on my LinkedIn, et cetera, and invite them, invited them to subscribe to Backscoop.

    I think that was the most successful strategy I had to get things off the ground because I felt like, at some point, if you have enough people who are initially subscribed, sure, maybe not everyone there is in tech, but there will be a major subsection of those people who will stay and keep reading and love it and share it with their friends.

    So at first I wanted to just get it out there to the world. So I spent a lot of time really messaging people manually and like really manually. It was so manual that like my Facebook said that I couldn't send out any messages for the next X amount of time. A lot of people ask me, Amanda, did you get hacked?

    Et cetera. So at the earliest stage, that was the most effective growth hack, and that evolves over time.

    Ling Yah: Hey everyone!

    Welcome to episode 111 of the So This My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and first off, thank you to everyone who came for yesterday's third STIMY hangout. We had a record turnout, almost 50 of you came, and basically just met, got to know each other and eats childhood snacks for four hours.

    Until we got booted out of the cafe. Oops.

    I hope you all had a good time and you met lots of really interesting people that you're connecting with even after the Hangout. For those who would like to attend Future Hangouts, which is really just a get together, for anyone who's listening to this podcast, drop me a LinkedIn DM or an email.

    We have got a private Telegram group for everyone who's interested in these hangouts. Now onto today's guest, Amanda Cua, the founder of Backscoop. If you are in or interested in Southeast Asian startups, you'll have no doubt heard of her. Amanda's only in her early twenties and has never been to college, but she's now running the hottest newsletter on all things Southeast Asian startups.

    And if you're familiar with the STIMY format, you know how this interview went.

    We dove deep into who Amanda is. How she end up in the startup world. Why did she decide to not get a degree. The value proposition of Backscoop, its growth tactics and how that's changed when she went from zero to 5,000 subscribers to 10,000 and more.

    What it's really like being a young founder, why she's focused only in Southeast Asia, her future plans and so much more.

    So are you ready?

    Let's go.

    I love to start all my interviews by going to the very beginning, and I would love to know what was your childhood like and who were you, what were you like as a child?

    Amanda Cua: Hi Ling Yah thank you again for inviting me here. I've always followed a lot of your podcasts and guests and I feel very lucky to be your most recent one.

    So a lot of my memories from my early childhood, I was always reading.

    I would have like stacks of books and I would borrow them from the bookstore like the school library or buy them from the bookstore.

    And I would finish like a book a day in my, or two, a day in my prime, I guess, of those younger years. I'd look at the grade one books, I'd finish what I find interesting.

    And before grade one ended, I'd already progressed maybe grade two or grade three. And that's how I would go about it when I was growing up.

    I wasn't the type of child who would like play in the playground of the school, play hopscotch and be in the sun.

    I was quiet.

    But I did have a lot of like slight antics. I'd buy this book where it's all of these how-tos for young girls and I would make like soap on a rope or these experiments that you would have to put something in the jar, put it out in the yard, and then see like what happens after 10 days.

    So my summers were filled with a lot of random projects like that.

    I even do things like try to sell bracelets. I think I remember like going door to door at some point, trying to sell them in grade school.

    I also put an advertisement up in my local community. I think I paid like 200 pesos for that, which is about like $4 and I also would try to sell like small snacks.

    Ling Yah: I wonder, you reading a lot, doing lots of little, little experimentation selling it, how do you go from all that to you being an 18 wanting to be an investment banker?

    Amanda Cua: I think for me, whenever I would do those projects , I always did 'em for I never really felt that they were like goals. It's more of like, oh, I like this book, I like reading books.

    Let me read some more.

    And then at some point in grade school, I think I reached this point where I was reading like young adult novels way too early. And I would have these books where the protagonists are going off to university.

    Their friendships are breaking up. I think their families would have problems. So I think a lot of my books were very American based, so they would talk about going to American University. They would talk about different careers, what they wanna do.

    And I think that exposure to reading about people who are at that age, like coming of age point in their lives when they have to think about their careers, made me think about my career a bit too early as well.

    What do I wanna do? What would be fun for me and what would be sensible?

    How can I actually make money and have a good life? So in my family, we have a lot of exposure to business, either firsthand within our family or, you know, just stories of friends people we know et cetera. So growing up around hearing people who are talking about business all the time, talking about politics, talking about the economy, you're always influenced by a lot of things when you're younger.

    So for me, that was one of the things that I got hooked on. I said, okay, a lot of people here are starting a business, seems like a good thing. So I think I got to learn all the benefits of being a business person, you make a lot of money.

    You get to build cool products, people get to use your things. And then I think it also showed me that you could build a business and build a legacy for you and your children. And you know, when you have a business, it seemed like such a big achievement, right? It's hard to have a successful business.

    And I think I understood that from a young age. So I think that planted sort of the seeds in me that okay, lots of people around me are involved in business or talk about business. And the more I get exposed to it, the more interesting it seemed and the more of like an achievement it seemed. And I felt like it was so interesting to me.

    So I think that's what really hooked me.

    For context, I am half Filipino and half Chinese, but my parents have grown up in the Philippines all their lives and a lot of Chinese people in the Philippines also have their own businesses. It's sort of like an expectation that most people growing up in a Chinese Filipino family, you're gonna be in your family business, start your own business, et cetera.

    So I think that's another secondary influence except for me, instead of like feeling pressured to be part of a sort of stereotype, I felt like, was actually what I wanted.

    Ling Yah: Did you feel, and just to set even greater context, you are currently 20 years out, so 18 wasn't that long ago.

    I wonder during that period where obviously the pandemic happened, you decided, okay, I am not gonna study because what's the point of it? I have to do it over virtually. I am going to instead do something else. I'm gonna take a gap year. In light of the fact that every one of you was so high achieving studying on businesses, I imagine they needed education as well.

    Was it harder realizing that, oh, I had this dream of being an investment banker, but I'm going to delay that journey if I were to continue down that route because I chose to take a gap year.

    Amanda Cua: I think the whole point of being an investment banker was something that was in part of means to an end. So I looked up to the investment banking career as a way for you to become intelligent about the business world, right?

    To get exposure to a lot of different businesses, to understand market conditions to interface with a lot of people. I thought that it was a career that I might enjoy cuz I like numbers, I like reading, I like data. I like business, I like reading about all these things. And I thought. Okay. I enjoy it.

    And the second thing is I'll get a lot of benefits from this career that will help me build a business because I thought that if I wanna build a successful business, I should have a lot of ingredients, right? Which are experience, the network and of course being able to have enough money to start your own business because I didn't know what kind of business I wanted to start, right?

    So I might still earn money and have like a bank for myself to support me when I start my own business, or a bank of cash that I can use to use as capital to start my business, especially if it was something more capital intensive.

    When I had to take the gap year, it wasn't so much of a hard decision because I felt like here's my thinking process about it.

    So I wanna go to university because I want to challenge myself. I wanna grow my network. I want to develop myself so I can be somebody who can build the successful business. And I thought, well, I'm not gonna get any of those things if I do it online. Because online you already know the connection isn't really there at that point.

    It had been a few months of me trying to learn online and I've seen how me and my peers, even at other schools were struggling. So I told myself, look, you're gonna pay a lot of money to go to university and not just a lot of money. You're gonna spend four years of your life.

    That's a big cost.

    And if you're not going to get the benefits out of that, what's the point?

    Especially when you can try to delay it, right? And so for me, it wasn't as hard as a decision because I thought that if I go to university and when I graduate from maybe Zoom University for four years learning online, maybe I won't even get a job, then I'd be even more behind on my goal. So I thought, you know, might as well take at least one year off.

    See what this whole covid thing is about. Maybe after a year we're all good and I can go to university like a normal person physically. Or maybe after a year there's like a famine and something bad happens, right? Nobody knows. I might as well just not go to university and try to do something on my own.

    At least I can control the factors, right? Because I'll be relying on like my own efforts and my own plan instead of relying on university to, have a good experience online, which I didn't think they would be able to do.

    Ling Yah: You struck me as someone going into this one year gap year, you are not gonna waste a moment.

    You must have had some kind of plan to maximize your time. What was that plan like? How do you execute it?

    Amanda Cua: I don't think I actually had a plan. I think a lot of people think I did, but I just knew one thing. If I went to university online, I don't think I would get the right amount of value that I'm paying for because it's expensive.

    Time is expensive and paying for university tuition is expensive. So I just knew that, look, I'm not gonna get what I want out of this and I might, just lose more. So I might as well try to figure out something on my own. I just knew that I would try to find something and I would make it worthwhile.

    And I told myself, maybe I won't find out in the first week, but I have to find a way to find something worthwhile to do. So while I didn't have a plan itself and like what I was gonna do exactly, I had a plan on how to figure it out.

    One thing I had to cover was the fact that I was a bit sad that I wasn't going to university and taking a gap year.

    All of my peers, my friends, my best friends they all went to university online. I was the only one who didn't, I didn't know a single friend close to me who was taking a year off. And everyone was starting to talk about all their new friends, all these group chats how excited they were. And as someone who had always looked forward to going to university and who felt like, I worked hard for how many years to try to get as high grades as I could.

    It was a little sad for me personally. Sounds like a first world problem. But I identified that that would be a problem if I never got over the sadness or the semi regret of having to take a gap year while everybody else was going to college and having sort of normal lives, then I wouldn't be able to find anything worthwhile.

    So the first thing I did was I tried to make a plan to help me overcome that pain I felt.

    And the second was I had to make a plan to figure out what I wanted to do. I told myself to go back to the basics. So I have to first fundamentally figure out what are the things that I enjoy doing.

    And I thought the only way you could do that is through experimenting. So I would take different Coursera and edX courses every few days. Every few weeks. I think I did like data science. I did something that was related to robo-advising. I did something related to social impact. I also looked all across the internet for whatever I could find.

    I messaged people that I didn't know who are working in fields that I thought I would like. So a university professor doing research. I thought that was something that I might do as an internship in university or might be open to doing maybe before I do an investment banking career. I was also looking at people who are doing tech.

    So I somehow found some Filipinos who are working at Apple and I got on a call with them cuz I feel like the investment banking side was solidified, right? So I wanted to make sure that those other interests I had like I was actually covering them because I didn't go into investment banking and just double down on that throughout the pandemic, right?

    Because I told myself, look, we have to go back to the basics. Let's cover everything else and make sure I'm doing the right thing that I want to do and the right thing where I'm actually making the best use out of my gap year. So I did different courses. I met different people from different fields and then reflected really on like, what have I been doing for the past, like 18 years?

    Cuz as somebody in high school, I was doing a lot of different projects, different activities on weekends, like conferences. I even did like math competitions, et cetera. Basically I was doing a lot of different things and after doing that for two months, like mind you I actually had a schedule. So I had a schedule for when I'm gonna do the Coursera courses, the Edex courses, when I'm gonna do the reflections.

    I also had a schedule for when I would work out because I knew that scientifically working out makes you a happier person. To help me combat that fear. I mean that, pain I felt for you know, not going to university like my friends. I also made sure I woke up early slept early in the morning.

    I would eat healthy food. I would make my own food, making sure it's like Patricia is healthy and I would like even schedule time to read. So I really made sure I was taking care of my mind and body at the same time while also making sure I was exploring all of the interests I had fundamentally. And I, set that schedule and I was consistent for about one to two months until I finally sort of had my mindset on a realization, which was, I liked business a lot.

    I liked creating things, solving problems, et cetera. And I remember that in middle school I did some hackathons. I don't think they went anywhere far, but I really enjoyed the process of doing those hackathons for like, Tech apps and stuff. So I told myself, okay, I wanna get into tech. And then so the, the next question was like, okay, what do I do next?

    I'd already talked to the people from Apple, right? The Filipinos at Apple. And they told me I should learn to code. At the time I was looking at the different resources about how I should learn to code. And then I stumbled upon a startup called Avion School that had just raised some money from the Tinder co-founder that was actually claiming they could teach Filipinos how to code in 12 weeks.

    And I thought, you know, this is a sign from God. Cuz I was really praying at that time, cuz you know, it had been almost one to two months and I had not been sure of what I'm doing. People were asking me, what are you gonna do on your gap year? And as someone who a lot of my close friends were looking up to in a sense that I was always the more studious one in the group.

    I was always doing activities. I felt like I was like at a loss. Like how do I not figured anything out yet? And after those two months of like really consistently following that schedule. I was already healthy, I was already fit, but the only thing missing was finding out what I was gonna do for the rest of the one year, right?

    And then I saw that article, and long story short, I applied to the school and I ended up working there as the first employee instead at that startup because I realized I couldn't learn how to code for my life. And the next best thing was being able to work at a startup. And it was also the only opportunity that I had laid in front of me.

    Otherwise, I didn't know who else would hire me.

    Ling Yah: Just before Avion, you mentioned reaching out to all these different people. And for me at least, lots of people always love to ask me, how do you connect with all these complete strangers? and I always give, the answer. You can reach pretty much anyone, everyone just have to give a call, email, outreach, make it short, snappy, explain who you are. I wonder what your response is. What is your tactic in reaching out to all these different people?

    Amanda Cua: My tactics before and now are very different. Okay. I think before I was not at all short or snappy. I think my emails were long and sincerely written, with all of the feeling in my heart, I would try to show my, like passion for example.

    And I was persistent. I think that's the one thing that stays the same from then and now. I would really try to look for people to reach out to and I would pick the right people. For example, I'd pick a researcher who was really focused on the topic that I liked, and it's a very specific topic, let's say.

    When I happen to find out, let's say we came from a the same country or we have a somebody that we are mutually connected to, then I'll also mention that in the email. But I think most of all, I always gave a sincere introduction about myself. Like I remember email. Like, hi, my name is blank. I am blank years old.

    I'm currently on a gap year after not, you know, going to university because of Covid. I'd really like to know about X, Y, z. I really like your work. I would take the time to also study what they've written about and what they do, and also include that in the email. So while I was not short and snappy, my emails were long, sincere, targeted, and I would always do my research on the person and I would write what I actually mean.

    Like, if I didn't read their book or I didn't read their article, I won't mention it, but if I did, I'll really make sure to mention it. So that was what I did. I'd also, I think, follow up sometimes I think I did that with. The group.

    Ling Yah: And at what point when you were working already in a startup that was later funded by yc, did you think, I wanna start my own thing and I'm ready to launch it?

    Amanda Cua: No, I think the funny thing about my life is I thought I had it really well planned. Like in my head, I'd go to school, study really hard, get into a top university where I could really challenge myself work at a really challenging company and then make enough money, get enough experience, grow my network so I can start my own business.

    Like that was very clear to me in my head. But when I was working at that startup, at Avion School, I was working there and I really loved my job. I loved the early stage shut up scene. I loved the space I was working in, and I love the work that I did on a day-to-day basis, even though I was working in st hours.

    But it just really didn't occur to me that I would start my own thing. So soon.

    If you asked me back then, even maybe four months before, I don't think I would say, yeah, I'm totally gonna start a startup at 19. Like, no, I thought I would start a startup still five years after. So it's kind of similar to the old plan instead, but instead of the investment banking career, it was now a startup career where I would gain experience and all these things for a few years before starting my own thing.

    What changed for me was, I feel like when I stumbled upon that problem, which was there was no easy way to keep up with Southeast Asian tech. I realized how I felt it so deeply and cared about it so much, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. And then when I came up with the solution in my head, I was like, okay, this is simple enough.

    I might as well try it. Truth be told, like some of the random ideas I had about like what startup or side project I could build were things like productivity apps. I'm just glad that I didn't go through with that. I'm glad that I followed through with the one more original idea than the other.

    It's like, I can't tell you how many productivity apps I just wrote about in my notebook and thankfully did not pursue. I think I even bought like the domain for it and made like a Twitter account for it, but I just never built the MVP.

    I'm glad that I went through with Backscoop.

    It was really a question of, okay, this is the problem and I really feel it myself. I feel like I might even be able to solve it and I have a hunch that I will probably figure out the right solution. I don't know about. other people, but I feel like I have a lot of instinct in me and I told myself, I have to trust my gut and the worst thing I could do is not pursue this idea and end up regretting it five years down the line, because it's easier to start a startup when you're younger.

    You don't have, like any children, you don't have any major expenses, right? And the best part of being young is that you have so many years of your life to make up for all your failures. I could have always said like, it's cuz I was 19, or after I fail, I could go back to college, get a new job, and my life would be so much longer that that might just be buried in the past, right?

    So I told myself this isn't this question of should I start a startup isn't a question of anything else, but do I want to do it? And how bad will I feel if I never do it? if I don't take the leap now and I told myself that regret that I would feel is going to be so intense that I might as well do it now, I literally have no excuse.

    Because I can afford to fail in a sense.

    Ling Yah: Why southeast Asia and not say apac? Because even if you become the biggest, you have everyone on board. Southeast Asia is only that big. Or do you think eventually it will expands at APAC once Backscoop has grown to a certain size?

    Amanda Cua: Well, for me when I was working at A vion I was working at a Philippines startup where I've been born and raised. I'm born and raised in the Philippines. I've always wanted to build something in the Philippines. Right. And I think the special part about Avion School is that it was a coding bootcamp startup.

    So we would supply Filipino software engineers to different companies in the Philippines, in Southeast Asia, and also some markets in the west, like the US and. So we would supply software engineers to them, but I think it was a very special time. I'm very lucky that I joined the startup ecosystem during the pandemic in 2020 when digitization really, really took over Southeast Asia and the startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia overall saw growth like never before.

    So being in the ecosystem at that time, I could recognize that Southeast Asia was growing very rapidly, especially because I'm here in local. I could see that myself because even in the data I had that at Avion school, I could count the number of company partners I had from Southeast Asia, who was from Singapore, who was from Indonesia.

    How many engineers are they hiring? And then even from the Philippines, the number of startups popping up was crazy.

    At least at my job, one of the focuses I had was also trying to get more clients from Southeast Asia. To hire our software engineers. So I'd always pay attention to the news about Southeast Asia.

    So I had that personal interest in Southeast Asia and the Philippines already. But my job also placed emphasis on it. So I'd always read like the startup news on Southeast Asian startups from all the different websites every single day. Cuz I also wanted to close more clients. And I also wanted to make sure that I kept tabs on all the clients I had already closed.

    And because I was spending so much time reading that, that's why I felt the problem to Southeast Asia specifically because when I would go to these platforms, none of them were just focused on Southeast Asia alone. I'd have to sift through the other companies, like I don't care about Japan, I don't care about China, in terms of my job, right?

    I don't care about reading about these startups because they're not the focus of my job. And I was having such a hard time sifting through all of these multiple websites. And then once I get to the website, I have to sift through multiple articles just to find the ones about Southeast Asia. There was no one website that had all the topics about Southeast Asia either.

    So I really felt the problem myself, and I realized that, when a startup is birthed in Southeast Asia, a lot of them will just expand across the Southeast Asian region first. So there's also a lot more incentive to keep up with Southeast Asian news. So it's not just people from, let's say the Philippines who wanna read more about Philippines startups.

    People from the Philippines might wanna know about Singapore. Indonesia, Vietnam. So there will be more demand to look into Southeast Asian startup news.

    And apart from that, I could feel the growth, as I said earlier, which was markets like Singapore and Indonesia, those are more and more developed side of ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

    We already had companies getting funded there putting out news on a regular basis. But because of Covid and the pandemic 2020 onwards, you saw this massive uptake of more funding announcements, more status popping up from Singapore, Indonesia when they were already regularly, you know, sort of releasing news.

    And now these sort of nascent ecosystems, especially the Philippines, where I'm from, we're starting to also start to release news. So there's not just an uptick in news from the major markets, but these markets that rarely came up with news are also now starting to regularly churn out funding announcements, new startups, et cetera.

    So I put it all together in my head. So one, there is an increased demand for startup news on Southeast Asia. Number two, apart from increased demand, the, the systems and existing platforms were not going to cater to that demand. It would be very, very difficult because there was no one sort of platform that had all the news about Southeast Asia.

    Because they mostly focused on the greater Asia region, right? And number three, there was also more news. So for the people who were already looking for the news, they'd have a harder time finding it or have a harder time keeping up because of the volume. So I saw this sort of three part problem. And then I told myself, look, there is a market need for this.

    I think for myself, I came to terms that, you know, when you wanna build a startup, you wanna build it at the right time when there's enough demand, right? And you want to be solving a real problem. And I told myself, this is a real problem and it's now the right time. So what excuse do I have now really to not build this

    Ling Yah: But isn't Southeast Asia in APAC? So even if you had covered say APAC, you could still have leverage on the rapid growth and the fact that no one was really covering what was happening Southeast Asia.

    Amanda Cua: No, because the point is more people were going to be like me and only really cared more about Southeast Asia than the other markets.

    Because like when you go to a website, you'd have to skip more because you don't care about Japan, you don't care about China. These are not gonna be your main business partners, or these are not gonna be the next companies you're gonna expand.

    Now, people from Southeast Asia, were starting to approach looking at other regions in Southeast Asia because one, let's say you're, you're in Singapore or Indonesia, you might wanna expand to the Philippines, or you might wanna see if you have a competitor in the Philippines and what are they doing that you're not doing?

    You also wanna see sort of like who could you be? Who could be your potential partners? What's the market like? So you could learn from it. Because people were now starting to see Southeast Asia as its own standalone market instead of just being one part of Asia. That was a shift that happened over the pandemic.

    And even for people like investors. So that was the startup, like the startup founders side. You'd be partnering with them. They might be your competitors in Southeast Asia, but even for sort of investors locally in Southeast Asia and Asia or even in the West, they were starting to see Southeast Asia as its own standalone market as well.

    If you look at for example, the, the companies getting funded in Southeast Asia 2020 onwards, and really more of 2021 onwards, you'd see more investors coming from the west and more established investors investing in not just Indonesian and, and Singaporean startups, which had always had some sort of investor interest.

    But they're also starting to invest in other markets in Southeast Asia much more and at greater volume. So I think there was just much more relevance to people to really look at Southeast Asian News Southeast Asian tech news in particular. Plus two, there was a dramatic shift in the market where before you really only saw Southeast Asia as one part of Asia, but now it was becoming its own standalone market as well.

    Ling Yah: I want to talk about research. So before you jumped into this world newsletter, I imagine you must have also looked into what already exists out there. Maybe things like Morning Brew came immediately to my mind. I wonder what kind of newsletters you were researching and what were your main takeovers in terms of how they positioned themselves and grew?

    Amanda Cua: So I actually have been reading Morning Brew since I was in high school. I think I, it was 2017 or 2018. That was the first time I came across them. And actually they were the newsletter I was reading every single day. So I had been a longtime subscriber by the time the Covid Pandemic hit. So I was well aware of newsletters.

    So Morning Brew was probably my favorite one. Then I was subscribed to a couple others and especially over the pandemic, I subscribed to more. And it was actually part of my daily routine reading a newsletter. And as someone who already consumed a lot of content, like I'm the kind of person who can sit down and finish a book, sit down and finish a long article.

    I can even sit down and read like the nutrition facts on like a bottle of juice and won't be interesting to me. I just like reading. But I realized that with newsletters, they were so targeted to what you really wanted and they were the best ones were concise, they were fun to read, they were easy to read and easy on the eyes and had exactly what you wanted.

    And I think those were the main takeaways that I had. And it was just Morning Brew that had sort of the more fun and personable style. There were others as well, but I tried to take the best parts of everything and put that into back scoop.

    So one.

    I wanted to make make Backscoop, have everything Southeast Asian tech in one place so that you don't have to go to multiple websites every single day to look at what's happening in Southeast Asian startups.

    Because if you are somebody who wants to know everything that's happening, you have to probably go through like three to four different websites a day, and you have to refresh them multiple times a day. And you have to read different articles multiple times a day. Like, how unpleasant is that?

    Because you always feel like, oh, no, maybe I find out something, so I have to check it now. But with Backscoop I wanted to make sure that it had everything in one place. So that's the first thing I did. I would curate all the startup news in Southeast Asia and put it there. The second thing I wanted to do was keep it concise.

    So I learned that my favorite newsletters were very concise, so I made sure that the different articles, the different sections on that scope had to be concise, and I wanted people to be able to read it in about five to seven minutes.

    And the third thing I wanted to do was make it fun and easy to read.

    So none of the newsletters I read had complicated jargon. And I think another takeaway I had working at a startup is that if you ask somebody, especially a founder or an employee, what are you doing at your startup? They're not gonna give you big words to explain what you're doing. And they can explain what they're doing in simple words, because if they can't explain what they're doing in simple words, they probably don't really know what they're doing

    So I said, okay, if I ask my friend what they're gonna be building at their setup, they'll use simple words. So I'm gonna take that same approach to the newsletter. I'm gonna use simple words to describe all the new simple words to describe all the startups. And I made it fun and engaging because if your friends telling you about the cool thing that they built, they're gonna be very fun and engaging to talk to you.

    So I put that into Backscoop.

    Ling Yah: I wonder how Backscoop has changed over time because you used to have things like Soft Serve, but that's now being removed. So for the benefit of those who went with you from day one, what was the first iteration like and what does it look like now?

    How do you decide what to keep, what to drop?

    Amanda Cua: So the first iteration of basket look like this.

    It was the intro, which we also still have now.

    And then two articles of the biggest news that happened in Southeast Asia. That's also the same as now. Then what would be next is the Scoop, which are the other news that hap that was released over the past one to two days, but they're not as big or as interesting.

    So we're just giving you the link so you can read the headline and get a grasp of it. And if you wanna actually read it, you can click it there. After that would be the hack of the day, which was a productivity hack that you could use at your job to make your life easier.

    So it was those four sections, the intro, the two articles, the scoop and the hack of the day. the soft serve section is something that is very similar to the hack of the day section. We decided to alternate it because we wanted some days to be hacks of the day productivity hacks and some days to be soft serves, which are actionable tips that you could implement at your job.

    So marketing tips founder tips and like how do you get investors, et cetera. Another thing that we also was something called Icebreaker. So we spotlight one person who's a founder, investor, or executive at startup, VC firm, et cetera. And we asked them a few fun questions. So that's another section that we had added.

    Ling Yah: How did you decide, say Soft Serve wasn't something you were going to keep?

    Amanda Cua: Well, for, for me, when I built Backscoop, I always knew that, you know, you wanna build something that people actually wanna read. You wanna keep people's attention, you wanna give them exactly what they want. The reason I always kept coming back to the newsletters is because they were, I mean, the newsletters I was subscribed to before and still read now.

    I still read them because they have everything relevant to me.

    And I felt that the soft serve section was not something that people always wanted to read. And when I ask around, people were like, they're okay with it. But nobody really, it wasn't like a majority of people loved it. Nobody loved it as much as they loved the other sections we had at back scoop. Like the founder features, the icebreakers, right.

    Or the news part.

    We said, okay, we're gonna keep the news, obviously the two articles and the links to the rest of the news plus interviews, but we're gonna scrap this hack of the day.

    Ling Yah: How were you collecting all this information or this feedback from people? Were you just emailing all your subscribers and saying, Hey, what's your feedback?

    Can we jump on the call?

    Amanda Cua: It depends.

    So some people just share it on their own. Some people share it on their own when we meet. So there were a bunch of opportunities where I've got into texts, call, meet our subscribers, face to face, I mean face-to-face spontaneously. it's not because I asked them to.

    Then there are also some initiatives I made on my end to reach out to subscribers and ask them for their feedback over email and over calls.

    Ling Yah: What has been the most effective growth strategy for you so far?

    Amanda Cua: I think that's a subjective question. It depends on really your stage. I think in the early days, the most effective growth strategy was that I message every single person, like literally every single person on my Facebook, on my LinkedIn, et cetera, and invite them, invited them to subscribe to Backscoop.

    I think that was the most successful strategy I had to get things off the ground because I felt like, at some point, if you have enough people who are initially subscribed, sure, maybe not everyone there is in tech, but there will be a major subsection of those people who will stay and keep reading and love it and share it with their friends.

    So at first I wanted to just get it out there to the world. So I spent a lot of time really messaging people manually and like really manually. It was so manual that like my Facebook said that I couldn't send out any messages for the next X amount of time. A lot of people ask me, Amanda, did you get hacked?

    Et cetera. So at the earliest stage, that was the most effective growth hack, and that evolves over time.

    Ling Yah: So I imagine that evolves when you hit 5K 11 months later and then 10 K thereafter in january of this year.

    Amanda Cua: As I said, I, I go through my instincts, right in observations. So I can't say that once you hit X amount, then you can stop manually messaging people.

    I think it's what you observe, and I think there was a point where I observed that it was not the most efficient way to get subscribers. I was getting more subscribers from other means than messaging people. So now messaging people was not the best use of my time anymore because it was not the most effective means.

    Cuz I was seeing a lot of uptakes from referrals. I was also seeing a lot of people who are coming out, literally I don't, nowhere. I did not know where they found us. So that was definitely not because I messaged them cuz I don't recognize them at all. So I spent a lot of time really looking at the numbers every single day.

    Like how many people subscribed, who are these people, et cetera.

    Ling Yah: I remember there was one LinkedIn post you wrote about how you appeared on CNN, but at the same time no one knew at the time that you were going through a tough period because subscribers weren't growing enough.

    Obviously you've glossing over that hump.

    What was the trick?

    Amanda Cua: I think you just can't give up, right? I think there are some times where you will have setbacks and you might not be able to explain why at the time. But then there will be, you'll start to see like certain trends. So there are certain seasons where there will be more subscribers that are coming in and less, For example, the holidays, right. I think it also is because of, for example, like I work solo on back scoop. I'm the only one really working on the day-to-day. And at that time, I think I appeared on CNN shortly after I returned from like a work trip. So while I was working during that work trip, I had to focus on a conference and all these other things so I could not spend the same amount of time that I was usually spending trying to get subscribers.

    So that also contributed to it.

    Ling Yah: Wasn't that when we met when you were in malaysia?

    Amanda Cua: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

    So, oh, it's not just because of the trip, right. I think there are a variety of factors that influence like a lower subscriber growth. I think, you know, over time as your amount of customers grow, it's harder to get, let's say, 70% week on week growth, a hundred percent week on week growth.

    It's harder because the number is different. So I think at that time it was also when I needed to shift my strategy of how I was supposed to get subscribers.

    Ling Yah: So speaking of solo founder, I love that you brought that up. One of the first things I noticed when we had our first conversations that you would refer to best group as we. You would say, I was doing this.

    I was doing that. You would say we are. And when I asked you, you said, no, there isn't anyone else apart from me. And I wonder this clear awareness that you didn't wanna be just a solopreneur, you wanted this to be a company. Was this something that was really clear from the start? What kind of things were you thinking of that you need to start doing, you need to start speaking to be, I suppose, seen as a proper founder?

    Amanda Cua: I think for me, I always knew that I would start a business, right? I didn't wanna be a solo printer. That was never something I aspired for. But I didn't know that to start a company and do it off the ground, I spent, I'd have to spend a lot of time doing the grunt work on my own.

    You can't just hire employees off the bat. Some people can, but I think in my position it might not have been the right thing. So for me, I always knew that we would be a company that would be a company. So I always spent with we, because I didn't want people to give I didn't want people to have the idea that it was not a company, cuz they might think it's a project, they might think it's just a newsletter.

    They might think that it's something I just wanna do as a solopreneur. So I wanted things to be clear from the beginning. And it was also clear for me from the beginning as well, because when I launched Back Scoop in August, 2021, it took me one month to set everything up, the website, the newsletter, et cetera.

    But that also involved incorporating the company legally. So I always knew it would be a company. So that's why I al I always went with we, because I know it'll never be just me.

    Ling Yah: I love that. What

    have you observed about the kind of startups that you're covering? I mean, I imagine that quite a lot of them cover the same industries, so the same solutions. I mean, what kind of things have really stood out for you in terms of what you see people working toward?

    Amanda Cua: Well, I think with Southeast Asia, right, it's one region, but every market is always a bit different, right? So they're gonna be different neobank, they're gonna be different by now. Pay leaders, they're going to be different, let's say ed techs, et cetera, building in each country. But while on the surface these solutions might be similar, inform some of these, they are actually just exactly the same, but just localized.

    But for example, to local regulations and laws. But if you look deeper into them, I think you'll find a lot of startups where it's really interesting because you'll see the different market dynamics and the different localization that would be required. Like, for example, in Indonesia, you have a lot of Muslims in the population.

    So you have the Sharia, fintechs, and all these other things. So when I would cover them and have to, read up about Sharia and what's proper, what's not proper what would that company have to do, what's not allowed, et cetera. So it was interesting to me when I cover, let's say even beauty products in Indonesia because of the large Muslim population, the products also had to be Muslim friendly and that involved not having this and not having that.

    So I think that has been interesting to cover because it allows me to see the differences in each country plus not just because plus another thing that I found interesting is not just in the sense of like, how do I localize a certain type of product, let's say a FinTech product or like a beauty product to a market.

    There are also some startups that are unique to the market itself, or there are unique happenings in the market.

    So for example, in the Philippines there was this big wave of like play to earn and web three. So we had Breeder DAO, yield yield games come out of the Philippines when, you know, they were really making some waves because of the large investors that they had brought in.

    And I think a lot of people when they would meet me, they're like, oh, you're from the Philippines. You probably know a lot about play to earn and blockchain gaming. Tell me about it. So we became semi-famous for that, right? So you would see these unique things about each market as well, because this explosion of play to earn gaming was more prominent in the Philippines than all the other markets, right?

    Ling Yah: I also wanna talk about monetization. So four months after you started Buko Ventures invested. I wonder what your thoughts were on monetization and accepting someone on board so early in your journey.

    Amanda Cua: So bringing in an investor isn't necessarily monetization. I would define monetization as, being able to build a product and sell a product and make money from it.

    So I would describe the investment from Buko Ventures as funding, right? Investment into the company, not monetization. I initially hadn't really thought of raising money so soon, so the truth is I was bootstrapping the newsletter Backscoop with my own meager savings from my first job. Remember my old plan was like work for a long time, so I have a lot of savings to support my business.

    No, this time I only had a small amount of savings, so it only worked for a year. But then I met Buko Ventures. I felt like, they were the right people to bring in and I felt like at that point I had worked at Back Scoop for about four months. Had a clear picture of things.

    I felt like it was an okay time to bring in investment, Cuz I think, from the first day of building a back scoop, I wouldn't know when would be a good time. I don't know who would be a good investor, but that's, I guess something you learn over time, And I felt like they were the right people. I also saw how it would be beneficial, so I just decided to take take them in and I was really happy about it.

    Ling Yah: Were you thinking about getting just funding or did you also want to leverage on your network? What were your thoughts about that?

    Amanda Cua: I think with investors, you also wanna pick the right investor because of what value they can also provide to you.

    And I think a lot of investors might actually say these things outright like this is the value add that I can give to you. I know these people, I work in this industry. I think it's especially good to have people who are working in the industry that you want to want to be building in or are relevant in the industry that you're building in, even if they're not directly operating in that sort of industry, like let's say media.

    So I felt like they were the right people and I wasn't thinking in the sense that, oh, I wanna piggyback author network, but I thought, these are the right strategic investors that I can have that I think understood. Like Southeast Asia, cuz they're all from the Philippines. A lot of them had worked at Losada as executives.

    Right. So I thought it was sensible. And I thought that the investment would also allow me to move a bit faster. And I think, when you're working with a little more money, you can worry less and do more. Right?

    Ling Yah: So are you looking for more strategic advices? If you're willing to share, if not, just some broad overviews of what you are looking for in such advices that other people who are running their own thing might also take on board for themselves.

    Amanda Cua: So right now I've raised enough for back scoop so far. I think we have enough and you wanna really focus on the monetization side, which is like, for example, right now we're starting to place ads on a newsletter and focus more on our product. Our new product, the podcast. I think, you know, we are not a company that needs a lot of money right now cuz we're burning a lot of money.

    We're not in that position because it's a newsletter, podcast, et cetera. So I'm not gonna need like 5 million, right? So I've raised enough and I'm, I'm all good. But I think with the journey I've had so far, it's been good for me to sort of meet different people and I've been able to meet different strategic investors, different advisors that can be really helpful just because they came across back scoop.

    And I think it's important that you also keep an open mind know when somebody might be helpful and be good to bring into your business if that's the vision that you have. Because some people might actually just want a totally bootstrap business with no investors, right? But if having investors is part of the plan and you think it's the right time and the right person then, or the right group, right?

    I think if you think it's right, then you. Learn how to have an open mind and be able to put that in. Because I think for me, right when I met Book of Ventures at the onset, I didn't think I would raise money at all. But after meeting them and after really thinking about it, I thought, you know, this makes sense.

    I think this would be good for me. So I think it's important to have an open mind and always remember that your business is always evolving, your tasks are always evolving, so you have to always recalibrate and think, what's the best thing for me? What's the best thing for the business and what are the opportunities around me?

    Ling Yah: You mentioned earlier you've just launched a new product, which is the podcast. One more scoop. How did you arrive at a decision that I want to launch a podcast and not say another niche newsletter?

    Amanda Cua: Well, I always thought about like Backscoop and like the newsletter, the different products that we had.

    And whenever I think about them, I don't want to just like go with what I want, right? It's about what the customers, we already have one. It's about what the readers, we already have one and a lot of people said that they want a podcast, so. I already took it as, a sign that, okay, we might have to make a podcast.

    The second thing I thought about is like, what unique value can we provide? Does it actually provide value to these people? Because there's a different, it's different to just say, okay, I want a podcast, but then when they get it, maybe it's not something that will solve their problem or it's not something they enjoy.

    But I really thought about it and thought and decided that, okay, if I make a podcast, I think it'll actually be bene bene. If I make a podcast, I think it'll actually be beneficial to our existing audience, and I think they will like it. It's not just gonna be a copy of another podcast there. Right. I had to make sure that, if we're gonna launch a podcast, it's gonna be good.

    It's gonna provide value to these people, not just following the whim of like, yeah, you should make a podcast. I think it's easy though, to just make a podcast because people asked you.

    Ling Yah: So what is the unique selling point of this podcast? Because we have both been on Brave Podcast, Southeast Asia, that also covers Southeast Asian Tech.

    So how is it different from a podcast like that and everything else out there?

    Amanda Cua: I think at the end of the day, what makes Back Scoop the newsletter stand out is that it's fun, it's concise, it feels more personal and personable. It's also a lot more chill. We're not really formal. I'm also not somebody who has been like a bc I'm not somebody who's been a founder.

    10 years. I'm not someone who's extremely accomplished. Right. And I think that also allows me to have a different kind of conversation with people, right? So I'm not really that formal in the sense that I'm gonna ask you a lot about your business. I actually care more about hearing, for example, your personal story.

    I'm also a founder just starting out, so I might ask you about your experience, but I'm gonna ask a few more basic questions as well. So I think that adds a unique flavor just because of the, the person interviewing in the context that I have and fitting it into sort of the back scoop brand, fun, fresh, easy to read, and just like easy to listen to then for a podcast, right?

    Ling Yah: Is there anything else we can expect in the near future?

    Amanda Cua: I think you just have to stay tuned. I think in general with Backscoop, what we initially looked like was just the newsletter, but it's the real vision all this time has always been to build a regional media company. For now we're building for the audience, the people in Southeast Asian tech and we want to provide the products that can help them in their careers, the products that they'll enjoy. And that started with the newsletter and then the podcast. But we're very excited to expand to different products and or services, both content and non-content that can help these people.

    I can't say what they are for now because I really want to focus on, you know, what do the people want and need at that time. And that will always change over time. So you'll only find out when we launch it because I myself don't have the exact answers. But what I can promise is that I always wanna build something back.

    Always will build something that will fill a need for the audience that we have in Southeast Asian Tech and beyond. Cuz I'm really excited to also move into other verticals in media beyond Southeast Asian Tech. In the coming years,

    Ling Yah: I have noticed, as I've interviewed so many people over a hundred now that.

    A lot of commonalities that tie them together is the fact that they tend to be very, very curious. They tend to work really, really hard at the thing that they're curious about. And then all these different doors that opening is all these serendipitous events that you couldn't possibly have imagined or even planned to work to it.

    I wonder for you what those serendipitous events were or moments in your journey so far.

    Amanda Cua: Well, I think a serendipitous event was the Covid pandemic. Like honestly, it's not a good time for a lot of people, right? But it interrupted my very concrete plans for my life that allowed me to go onto a path that I would've probably never have walked before.

    I think I was also very lucky to have found my job at Abian School because I think it was there where I got to prove myself wrong many, many times. An example would be, I'm somebody who's working at a startup as a first employee at 18 years old with just a high school degree. Like that does not make sense.

    And I was actually not getting fired and I was actually improving, and I was set to, you know, continue working in that job, move up, et cetera. I felt like I would be able to continue my career in startups even without going to university. That's not something I would have ever believed before.

    That means I wouldn't have to go back to college if I could actually continue my career and, just keep walking that path. But if not for the pandemic and if not for finding that job, I would have never been able to maybe even be here. Right. Talking to you, I might be doing math right now for like my college class in an alternate universe, right?

    But it was at serendipitous event. And I think another thing about Working at an early stage startup is you also get to see a lot of your personal growth. And seeing that rapid growth in myself in such a short period of time made me believe in myself and my capabilities more. And I think it allowed me to dream bigger and actually like pull the trigger and be like, okay, I'm gonna try and it's okay if I fail, but I'm gonna try and do my best and maybe I can make it maybe.

    And another thing was working at an early stage startup and being in the ecosystem made me less afraid of failure because I also saw that, you know, other people were not as afraid of, not as afraid of failure, and they could learn from it. And there were many times where I thought I would fail, but I didn't.

    So I think that also helped a lot. So I think those are the serendipitous events for me. COVID interrupting my life plans, being able to work at an early stage startup where it totally shattered my expectations for what I had in my life, even my beliefs in myself, and only for the better.

    And I wanted to talk about one final thing before we wrap it up.

    Ling Yah: You are essentially the face of Backscoop. How do you think about personal branding?

    Amanda Cua: I think personal branding has become more and more relevant now. I have been seeing so many people start launching things on LinkedIn, even posting stuff on Twitter, like founders and even individuals, not just in Southeast Asia, but even in the US and other markets.

    It has just become such a big thing over their recent years. How I think about personal brand is always really thinking about who are you talking to and what do you really what kind of value do people get from you? So when I started building, I think people know me a lot. A lot of people know me from LinkedIn, but I did not start building my personal brand intentionally.

    So for me, I was writing the newsletter a certain time, certain amount of times a week, maybe three times a week at that point. And I was regularly speaking with subscribers of back scoop over a call. Some of them became my friends, some of them were just messaging me on LinkedIn or emailing me. And some of them were starting to ask me more about myself.

    And every phone introduction I had, like, I mean, zoom introduction I had with a, a reader did always ask me about myself. They were so curious about me, but I really did not wanna write about myself. I remember in the early days of , my mom was like, why don't they add your face at the end of the newsletter so they know who's writing it?

    And I said, no way am I putting my face there. I don't want anyone to know who I am. Especially in the earlier days, I did not want anyone to know who I am because I honestly felt like I might have been a fraud. Like, I mean, who would believe that an 18 year old would write credible news in Southeast Asian startups?

    Well, surprised. I also had proven myself wrong again, but over time people had asked me more about myself and they said, why don't you just write about your story? It's like, really cool. And I was like, well, if I read about it on my newsletter, it's a bit narcissistic. I'm not gonna put it there. And then I had the idea to put it on LinkedIn.

    So I started writing about myself on LinkedIn. People were also asking me about how can I grow my newsletter? A lot of people were starting to ask me about that, and I thought, maybe it's also useful to write about that on LinkedIn. And so that was really how it started. I just started posting about newsletter tips, like how to start, how to grow your own newsletter and writing about myself and my journey.

    So I wrote, I mean, I started building my personal brand because of the people who wanted to know more about me, and I knew exactly what they wanted to know. I was lucky that I knew exactly what people wanted to hear from me, so I just wrote exactly that.

    Ling Yah: Are there specific growth strategies? I mean, you are now at over 11,000 followers, which is a lot for most people.

    Amanda Cua: c a lot of strategies I've come across were very accidental, but for I think growing your personal brand, it's very important to know what people wanna hear from you. So I was lucky that people told me exactly what they wanna hear from me.

    But if you do know what you want what people wanna hear from you, just write, write that and consistently write. I think the biggest challenge is being able to write consistently. I write a newsletter four times a week and I write a lot of LinkedIn posts and I still struggle with consistency in the sense that sometimes I look at my digital notepad and I'm like, oh gosh, what do I write about today?

    But I think the most basic thing you can do is just publish something. So yes, you should publish what people want to hear from you, but if you don't know what people wanna hear from you all the more you should just keep publishing cuz it's only over time. And you'll see what people respond to, whether that's them replying to you and the comments or getting a lot of likes or even people messaging you saying like, oh, I loved your post.

    Like, you'll only find that out if you post more. So I think that's really the only answer. You have to keep posting solely, find out what people wanna hear from you, and really just stay consistent and never give up on writing. I think you also have to enjoy the process. I think, for me, I enjoy writing, which is why I can do all of this writing stuff every single day and not hate it.

    But let's say you're not necessarily a writer, that should also not stop you. You should just keep writing and just keep sharing. You should also stay true to yourself. because another thing is like people ask you to write about something and you don't wanna write about it, you'll hate it every single day when you're writing about it.

    So you have to also learn what's the match. I mean, sort of the Venn diagram, like the middle point between these two, where it's what I wanna write about and what people wanna hear from me, and that's always a process. You might write something and hate it, and then you'll realize, okay, I'm never ready about this again.

    Ling Yah: Who is the competitor that you really admire and why?

    Amanda Cua: I think it's a hard question to ask. I feel like there are lots of different competitors, right? On different stages. There is a global sense, there's a national sense, a local sense.

    I think for me, I admire how local platforms here in Southeast Asia E 27 Tech and Asia, et cetera, have really built the first wave and the first version of what Southeast Asian tech startup should start tech startup news should look like. Because it was a very early market. Before less people were into the news, there were less articles and all these things.

    So working on that and still existing today, I'd really ami admire them for, you know, never giving up and still being platforms that exist 10 years later. Right. Still sharing the news, even though in the early days it's probably that, not that much news. I think it's really easy to give up. I haven't given up yet, but I know that in a, in a founder's journey, there are like many times you're like, gosh, why am I doing this?

    Even though that's like the smallest like thing, like today you're just a little like tired. You're like, gosh, why am I doing this? But, you know, 10 years is a lot of time when you can tell yourself to give up, especially in the like super early days of Southeast Asian Tech. I think I've always admired also Morning Brew.

    In a sense they're a competitor because they're also a media company that has newsletter. But we're not necessarily direct competitors, but I've always admired the way they've written their newsletters. I've admired the way they've built their brand and company into the different products they've had and even the way the founders carry themselves.

    So I've always admired them and I'm a happy subscriber since 2018. .

    Ling Yah: That's amazing. Amanda, thank you so much for your time here. I've really loved hearing your entire journey. I love to end all my interviews with the same question. So the first is this. Do you feel like you

    have found your why?

    Amanda Cua: Yes, I've found my why.

    I think I've always been in search for it since I was young. Like always just finding out what I've been wanting to do. I think my, personal why is really just building things that are fun to do, are difficult to do, and really challenging myself, and I'm lucky that I've also found a space that I really enjoy working in.

    I love being in the media space. I love Southeast Asian Tech and I love writing this newsletter. Even though podcasts are also, like, hosting a podcast has been very new to me. It's also been very fun. So I'm happy that I've found my why in different forms, on the major sense up until the really minor senses in the sense that I'm working in the media space, even in the greater sense of why like building something I want and challenging myself every day.

    I'm happy I have that all checked . .

    Ling Yah: and what kind of legacy do you wanna leave behind?

    Amanda Cua: I think for me, I don't think that there's a legacy in the sense that you'll always be remembered for like 200 years.

    Like, I'm convinced that not a lot of people will remember most of us in 200 years. But I think the legacy I wanna leave is more of, in the more direct sense, I want to be building things with people that I enjoy working with. I want to be building products that I know actually give a benefit to people's careers, people's lives.

    Like, I don't wanna be building stuff like like cigarettes in a sense. Like for me it might harm some people. So I want to be in the sort of more value add business, and I'm happy that I'm able to have that as part of my legacy. Right. Building something that people have found value in and. . Even in the work that I did at let's say Aion school, and even in like the chats I've had with people, I've seen how some people have launched podcasts.

    If after, I mean launch newsletters, after I chat with me, I'm just happy that I've been able to leave a positive impact, as cheesy as it sounds. And I think the last thing is really be happy with the work that I'm doing. Like leave a legacy where I'm building something, I'm challenging myself, but I'm actually happy.

    I'm not giving this false sort of image to people where I'm building something, but I'm actually really unhappy. That's not true. I wanna show people that, look, I'm young. It was very hard. But yes, it's possible. And yes, I'm doing this and I'm actually happy and I hope that, people can see that and find out the work that they wanna do and have the courage to build whatever they wanna build for themselves in their career, business.

    And then later on, you know, be happy. I don't want to ever show like. A side where it's like, yes, you should totally start a business and totally hide like all the negative sides. I think an initiative I've had is on LinkedIn I tried to also share some of the downs, not just the ups of, you know, working in a startup.

    And I think that's the legacy I wanna leave.

    Ling Yah: And what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    Amanda Cua: Successful. Depends from person to person. But I think on my terms I think the most important qualities of a, a successful person is knowing what success means to them. For one, that's the only way you'll ever be able to achieve it.

    Number two, I think you have to be persistent and what you really want in your life because a lot of times the gap between not getting what you want and what you want is just your persistence, . And then apart from that, I think it's also being able to reflect and recalibrate, cuz I think we underestimate the amount of change in ourselves over time.

    It's been almost three years since I graduated high school and there's been an immense amount of change in myself that I've seen in the past few months, right? Every few months it's always a different version of myself. And I realize that it's always important to recalibrate on who I am. What am I doing?

    What are the things I should be doing? What do I enjoy doing so I can always really walk the path that I wanna walk for myself and do the right, you know, things for myself and other people.

    Ling Yah: And where can people go to connect with you? Find out more about Back Scoop, your podcast. What are the links?

    Amanda Cua: So if you wanna subscribe to Backscoop, it's free, and you'll get all of the Southeast Asian startup news you need to know four times a week in an easy to read email that you can read in probably five minutes. So like people read it after they wake up or while they're drinking their coffee, and you can too.

    So you just go to ww dot back, back is in the back on your back and scoop as an ice cream And then you just put your email there, you hit subscribe, and then you'll get the next edition. As soon as it gets released. You can always find me on LinkedIn. That's probably the best way to, to find me.

    You can just search my name there and I will pop up. for the podcast, one more scoop. You can find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or whatever your favorite podcasting platform is. The easiest way to find it is to type one more scoop back, and then it'll pop up. So those are all the links if you wanna follow us.

    You can also check out my other social media. I have a Twitter account that's not too active. My LinkedIn is very more active. It's at, Hey Amanda Cua as in Cua, and then back Backscoop links are all over the place. We have back scoop on LinkedIn, Backscoop on Facebook, Backscoop on Twitter, et cetera. So just find us when you type Backscoop.

    And that was the end of episode 111.

    The show notes and transcript can be found at And do stay tuned for next Sunday, because we are meeting the son of a Hawker food center, who then became the managing director of UBS a published author and a LinkedIn influencer with over 2.5 million followers.

    It's not an episode you wanna miss, particularly if you wanna build an unconventional portfolio career and also invest in your personal brand because let's face it, if you don't, who will? And if you leave a company, what are you left with? Nothing. You start from ground zero, but not so if you start building your personal brand today.

    So please do leave rating a review for STIMY if you've enjoyed what we are doing so far.

    I would love to get this podcast up to more people.

    Do subscribe if you haven't done so already. It also helps the algorithm.

    And see you next Sunday.

    Amanda Cua - Founder, Backscoop newsletter on Southeast Asian tech startups, One More Scoop podcast

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