Welcome to Episode 13!
Our guest for STIMY Episode 13 is Hillary Yip.
Hillary Yip is the CEO of MinorMynas, a startup that creates fun, immersive, online products for children worldwide in a safe environment. And as at the time of this interview being recorded, she is a mere 15 years old!
She founded MinorMynas at the age of 10 – which makes her one of the youngest CEOs in the World, and has been featured in places such as the BBC, CCTV, Yitiao, Yeti and the South China Morning Post. She is also a popular keynote speaker and has appeared on TEDx stages, events by HSBC and Microsoft, and most recently, at the Global Women Forum 2020 in Dubai.
Who is Hillary Yip?
Hillary was born and raised in Hong Kong and her amazing entrepreneurial journey began with a summer camp for Mandarin in Taiwan. Upon her return, she soon came across the AIA Emerging Entrepreneur Challenge 2016 in Hong Kong and decided to participate.
Despite having teammates that dropped out at the last minute, she came up with a proposal within the final 3 hours and went on to win the First Prize and Business Prize!
She also met with a number of business leaders who gave her advice and encouragement, and proceeded with the steps needed to bring MinorMynas from being a mere idea to an actual startup!
In this STIMY podcast, we discussed:
- How Hillary found her first customers;
- Her first MVP & the main findings she obtained;
- How she scaled from a mere 4 users (2 of them consisted of herself and her brother, Alexis!) to around 4,000 downloads from over 20 countries in the 9th month!
- MinorMynas’ approach to privacy;
- How MinorMynas differs from other similar apps;
- The role of parents on MinorMynas;
- The behind-the-scenes of launching the 2nd iteration of MinorMynas;
- Financing & why she chose crowdfunding; and
- And the future of MinorMynas.
Apart from MinorMynas…
But lest we forget, Hillary is only 15 years old! So we also talk about:
- Her homeschooling life;
- Her favourite things to learn about; and
- Why Gary Vaynerchuk is her idol.
Hillary is a true testament that age is no barrier to the extraordinary things you can already achieve. And I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did!
Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:
- Hillary’s 2016 pitch at the StartmeupHK Venture Forum
- MinorMynas: YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
- Hillary’s Instagram
- Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
- A History of Terrorism
- Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic
- Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below
- Want to be a part of our exclusive private Facebook group & chat with our previous STIMY episode guests? CLICK HERE.
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You don’t want to miss out!!
Ep 13: Hillary Yip (Founder of MinorMynas)
Ling Yah: Hey, everyone. Welcome to episode 13 of the So This Is My Why Podcast.
I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and as for today's guest, I'm going to let her introduce herself: Hillary Yip: Hi, I'm Hillary Yip. I'm 15 years old and I'm the founder of MinorMynas, which is a startup that wants to create immersive, fun online products for kids worldwide.
Ling Yah: Hillary was only 10 years old when she found MinorMynas, where "minor"refers to kids and "Mynas" refers to the bird that learns new words and phrases quickly without forgetting.
She's known as the youngest CEO in the world, has been featured on BBC, South China Morning Post, CCTV and Yeti, and has spoken all over the world, including at the 2020 Global Women Forum in Dubai.
In this episode, we talked about everything from her pitching, her initial idea of miNORmYNAS is to a large crowd that included Elon Musk to conducting customer testing, their main findings, creating the MVP, growth tactics, her approach to social media, crowdfunding, and the answer to the issue of privacy on the platform that was made by a kid, Hillary, for kids. And how parents are involved in MinorMynas as well.
I also interviewed Hillary's mother, Joey, who will be our next guest in episode 14 next Sunday. So stay tuned for that, but I can tell you this. Now these two episodes are by far one of my most favorite episodes, and I don't want to keep you waiting.
So are you ready?
Hi, Hillary. Thank you so much for joining me today on this interview.
Hillary Yip: Thank you so much for having me.
Ling Yah: So I came across a profile because you are very well known for having started MinorMynas, since you were 10 years old and it's been such an incredible journey.
Obviously there are so many people who are going, who's this person who's so young, and had this amazing, amazing idea.
And it's just growing to such an extent to so many different countries. And I thought to start that we would go all the way back to.
2016 when you were 10 years old. And I understand that your mother actually sent you to summer camp with your brother to learn Chinese. And that was something that really kicks off the whole journey.
And I wonder, what were the languages that you were speaking at home? Was Chinese a permanent thing? What was the situation like?
Hillary Yip: So for us, the reason why we went to Taiwan was more of an issue of Mandarin than Chinese as a whole, because we all speak Cantonese when we're home.
When I speak to my relatives is usually in Cantonese, but because my brother and I went to an international school, we didn't have the same exposure to let's say, reading, writing, and even just speaking in Mandarin with others. Given that the Chinese speaking community isn't just Cantonese, it is important for us to know a bit more.
So that's partially why we went to Taiwan. To get the immersive experience and to just use the language, rather than have it set in a situation where it's just the patient and just negative association.
Ling Yah: And was it a huge shock for you to have to use Mandarin all the time.
Hillary Yip: It was more like a game.
Cause I remembered when we were in the airport, my mom told us that this month we'll be going for 28 days. And your challenge is to speak as little English as possible.
Because I'd recently read a different book called Dumpling Days by Grace Lin at the time, I was fascinated with this idea because the main character also went to Taiwan for exactly 28 days.
Ling Yah: And so what was the situation like? Was it as exciting as you thought it would be or was it a lot harder than you thought it would be?
Hillary Yip: It was honestly a lot of fun. I made a lot of good friends and just being in a different community, being a different place for a month does kind of expose you to different cultures.
Because even if it is somewhere where you speak a similar language, the customs on the ground, the food is different and it's just something entirely different to be there.
Ling Yah: And so you had the entire experience. You came back a couple months later, you learned about this competition, which is the AIA Emerging Entrepreneurial Challenge in Hong Kong.
So I understand that that intrigued you and you wanted to join. So why was that? Were you always interested in starting a business?
Hillary Yip: Honestly, not really. Before then, I just felt entrepreneur was a weird word to spell, but I did decide for some reason to just look for it because when you send me a link, I will read any word that comes up on the screen.
And through our website, a concept that businesses can make a positive impact kind of stuck in my mind a bit.
Because I like debating, I do read a lot of news. And what you usually see is the evil corporates. Big tech being the horrible monsters or boogeyman. But the idea that startups and businesses could make a positive impact for good kind of stuck with me.
And I was thinking about how I could take part and learn more.
Ling Yah: And I understand that you took part and you grab a couple of your friends to join with you. So how did you convince them to join you? Were they also intrigued by the idea?
Hillary Yip: The three of us didn't really like playing tag or playing football.
We were the group that hung out in the library. I was like, Here's a competition. It sounds like fun. And we spent two weeks thinking of the most stupid ideas. Honestly like a pen with a little maze in it, which honestly was just ripping off Smiggle. Or just trying to find different iterations of, let's sell copies for charity.
And the day of the submission, the two of them dropped out.
Ling Yah: Yeah. And you had like three hours to prepare something, right? What was it like, do you not feel like you just wanted to quit?
Hillary Yip: Just more like, I want to do this. There was no good idea back then. You know, I have three hours to think of something. There was less pressure because it was more like an optional thing, but I found that the pressure did help in giving you a sense of urgency rather than just letting it sit there and not bringing it engaging or grappling of the idea.
Ling Yah: So after those three hours, what was your idea? What do you present to them?
Hillary Yip: For the submission, you had to have three slides. Three PowerPoint slides, where you had your idea clearly elaborated.
So I crammed a ton of information onto the free slides going. First of all, language learning sucks. The way you solve that is to get kids to talk to each other, therefore exchanging their mother language and having the advantage of making friends, therefore combining fun with learning.
Of course, I didn't put it as eloquently.
And during the first pitching day where you had to try and get in an entirely forgot, one of the cue cards that I had in my mini pitch.
Ling Yah: Oh, no. Was it okay though? Like no one noticed?
Hillary Yip: Hey I got in.
Ling Yah: Yeah, you got in and you got to the final where I think Elon Musk was also presenting. What was that whole experience like?
Hillary Yip: That was very exciting.
I barely knew who Elon Musk was when he first started mentioning him, because what 10 year old goes in depth about Tesla. But my mom told me a bit about him. I decided to conduct some research and I got really excited because it was at the central government quarters.
I was able to take a look at where the government usually holds their press conferences. And it was just more like this surreal moment where it's, here's a massive group of people, a thousand people in the audience, and I am going to speak in front of them.
So that was crazy. I wound up practicing my pitch for weeks
To this day I can still recite bits of it off the top of my head.
Ling Yah: Oh, wow. So what are the little bits? Could you recite a little for us?
Hillary Yip: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have a few questions. First of all, how many of you have children?
Can I please have a show of hands?
Ling Yah: That's brilliant. So you basically ensure that you've got the crowd engaged as well actually did something, rather than just listening.
Hillary Yip: The key part about memorizing that pitch was that my slides entirely crashed on the day. So that caused a moment of panic, really? Because you had your slides crushing and the thing behind you,
Ling Yah: I think, I remember you were doing the clicker, right? And they were like, Oh, it's not working. It's not working. I saw that.
But you were not flustered. That was what amazed me. You just carried it on and said, all right, we'll just go on. So will you not be scared at all inside?
Hillary Yip: Honestly, I was like, Oh, that's not good.
Ling Yah: Yeah.
After that, you end up winning the first prize and the business prize awards. And what was that like?
Hillary Yip: Honestly, it was a bit of a relief because I was reciting those two pitches for weeks and weeks. And it was more of a question of getting out the way and trying to do as good of a job rather than the idea of winning or not.
Ling Yah: And I understand that a lot of people approached you after that and your mentor approached you as well. Was it overwhelming to have all these strangers, these grown ups suddenly approach you and be like, this was an amazing pitch. I want to talk to you more.
Hillary Yip: Yeah, it was different because I was a kid.
While I liked to speak about my opinions, I wasn't necessarily super outgoing. I was more like the kid who sits in the library. So that was a bit of an eye opener, the idea that my idea actually is of some interest to the adults. I actually had a few people approach me that day and I wound up having some meetings in the month after. My mentor obviously helps me a lot.
And he's honestly the main reason why I decided to keep going.
But my first ever business meeting outside of the competition, I still remember the place. It was this place in Tim Hou. It took a long time to get to the place.
We got lost in that place, I was told to just draw what I wanted to do, ideally on the website and had some feedback from a different developer.
So that was also pretty cool.
Ling Yah: And what was the conversation like with your mentor? I think he took you through the whole process of a company to IPO, right? What do you remember of it?
Hillary Yip: So I remember he sat me down and pretty much started with a very interesting opening telling me that failure is inevitable and it will come.
As a 10 year old kid, I was just like, that's an interesting way to start, but then he kind of elaborated more going on to explain that in every process of every journey though there will just inevitably be failure. There's no avoiding it. But it is something that ought to be embraced.
While the implications of that didn't really sink in during a first meeting, it is those words, that kind of ring after the longer you wind up doing your business. So that was the starter.
We then went on to talk about what exactly are startups and what do they honestly do? While, I had a vague idea from the competition. He went into a lot more depth of this explaining how to iterate, how to get to beta testing, what's an MVP and pretty much going so all at different stages of funding and all the different types of investors.
The idea was to kind of lay out the whole roadmap for me so I understood what I could do next. And to understand that it's a lot more than just a little kiddy project, which inspired me a lot and this made me decide let's do it the first step of getting some users to just test it out.
Ling Yah: Was that where you transitioned to having conversations with your family about taking it forward? What was the conversation like with your family?
Hillary Yip: It wasn't necessarily this life changing moment where you've talked to your parents and you come out at the end of it going, we're starting a business.
It was more like, let's just do a bit more. Let's get some users. If anything, it'll be a fun experience. Just like going for the competition.
And it was just more like these gradual tiny steps that just kind of snowballed into what MinorMynas is today.
Ling Yah: And so where were your first customers coming from?
Hillary Yip: So we went on Facebook. I pretty much wrote up here's my concept. I want to go further.
If you parents are interested in sending your kids to do some trials with me, please send me your details. Then my brother and I ran a few tests where we got kids to teach each other. Myself and my brother also take part as users to see what it would be like to get kids, to teach each other their own languages through a zoom call or Skype at the time.
During that trial, we saw really mixed results. We had a baby, a literal baby with her mum, saying, pretty much using her as some sort of puppet. She says, hi, Oh, wow.
To kids who are incredibly shy or on the other hand, kids who were incredibly outgoing and didn't want to stop talking. So mixed results from that. We had quite a few key takeaways.
First of all, video calls aren't necessarily the best way to get kids to teach each other. Why was that the case? Well, kids found it really difficult to break the ice, especially for shyer children or for younger kids who might be freaked out by being forced to talk to someone for the very first time.
So that was a key takeaway. The other takeaway which we had was if MinorMynas was to be a global business, there was no way we could do it through video calls because fundamentally you will have a problem with time zones. And children are not going to be up at awkward hours. In fact, now it's about like 8:00 PM Hong Kong time.
That's bedtime for six year olds. So from that we continue to iterate and eventually came up with the idea for our MVP.
Ling Yah: And so what was your MVP at the time?
Hillary Yip: So MVP at the time had two key components.
First of all, on the kids and we had the videos. So for a while, we dabbled in YouTube videos to try and make the content more engaging. The idea being that you would engage with the content, then go to speak about it in the second part which would be groups.
We pretty much created group chat where children could create them in different languages and create their own topics, thereby giving a language aspect to it and to ground it to the real world for something you're interested in. The results we got from the MVP was inspiring to me.
Cause we saw the kids went so far beyond just languages. My initial expectation was pretty much how to talk about flowers in, let's say Japanese and having the conversation centered around and the purpose being to learn that language.
But the results we got was pretty much kids teaching the stuff they were passionate about. Language being less at the forefront, but yet still a crucial part. So I noticed this sounds ambiguous. So what does that critically sound like?
For example, before we, they shut down our MVP, we saw a few kids talking about the pandemic in its earliest stages. We had seven year olds from Hong Kong and Malaysia talking to another kid in the States explaining what the parents were doing to keep them safe, the science behind washing their hands and just why you ought to wear a mask.
I found that really inspiring because these kids were just seven years old. I had to just check again in their profile to see it. And I was honestly amazed.
This wasn't just the pandemic group. We also saw kids talking about climate change. We saw the kids talking about art, talking about briefly philosophy.
So that group was quite short lived, to be honest or even one kid who was teaching over 15 languages.
Ling Yah: And I mean, I understand that when you first taught it, they were only the four of you that grew to all these people. So what was it like? I mean, those initial days before growing up to all these different groups of people.
Hillary Yip: Those initial days were interesting to say the least.
I had myself, my little brother, a kid in Taiwan and a kid in America. And it was just the four of us for a good while. And it was honestly a bit of a confusing time for me, because it was a question of what are we going to do to grow the business. I tried many different things.
It was like that time where I did most of my pitching, I went to RISE, which is the biggest startup conference in Asia. I pitched so many different places, one to networking events, and yet we were still persistently stuck with four users.
Ling Yah: And who were those for you? This though?
Hillary Yip: Myself, Alexis, my little brother, a kid in Taiwan who was seven, who was just browsing the app store and came across MinorMynas and a kid in the U S who had a very similar story. I was browse the app store and found you.
Ling Yah: And then after that, so what did you do that changed everything?
Hillary Yip: So it was honestly just pitching a lot, going to as many events in Hong Kong as possible, speaking to people and just building these connections.
We wound up having the BBC contact us out of the blue. We don't know who talked to them about us or how they got word of it. But clearly those pitching had some impact.
And it was really after the BBC interview where things started to take off for us. It was in that year where I had reporters coming in every other week.
Ling Yah: Oh, wow.
Hillary Yip: Which was a very exciting time for MinorMynas. And that's how we managed to grow really quickly in a span of a few months that year.
Ling Yah: I think it was like the ninth month. And you were already having like 4,000 downloads from 20 different countries, wasn't it?
Hillary Yip: Yeah. By the time we closed the MVP to transfer data over to our next version, we had users from over 60 countries.
Ling Yah: That's amazing. And like, why were you thinking that it was going to go at the time or were you just trying to scramble to get on with it because you didn't expect such a load of people to come?
Hillary Yip: Honestly, I wanted to just keep it there for a while because when there's a big influx of users, that's when you can really see what's going to happen due to a wider variety.
So we spent about seven to eight months just observing users, trying to engage them on the app and see where it led us. And that's how we decided during that period to just take as many notes as possible on what we do for the next version and see if MinorMynas has moved beyond languages. What exactly we were going to do with the business.
Ling Yah: And what were the most significant findings that you had at the time?
Hillary Yip: I guess a few of the most significant findings would be, first of all, kids love to teach. Second of all, peer to peer learning environments are incredibly important. And finally, the idea that parents ought to be included in this community.
So for the first version, we pretty much had parents having the role of just monitoring their children. we had parents and children accounts, kids accounts were linked to their parents' internet safety. And to make sure we didn't have kids data to make sure that we were as safe as possible. So parents just supervised and made sure that the kid was okay with version two.
We were going to open up parents communities where we will be able to have two concurrent databases of parents groups, where they get to talk about parenting or issues that they find important. Whereas kids also have their own communities because of these two important databases. We would (a) make sure that there's a dedicated space and (b) ensure that kids have their own true social community for ourselves. And these two databases interact with each other to keep them safe and to make sure parents have an international board where they can talk to. Rather than just localized moms groups.
Ling Yah: And I think you have a very interesting approach to privacy as well, because you think that kids should have privacy but at the same time they shouldn't be interacting with people. For instance, that shouldn't be there on that platform.
So how do you introduce that?
Hillary Yip: So I believe that for us kids, we need to be able to have access to the internet, but that doesn't mean that we.Put ourselves into a dangerous situation. Why do I put it this way today? We live in a world where we have very limited options.
When we go online, either we have video games, which honestly waste time, or YouTube, which also can be valuable, but more often than not, it's just more passive activity.
Or we have educational products where it's the same stuff. A school repackage with shiny colors. They all have their own flaws. The idea of being too passive and the idea that it's just the same thing that you are learning in the classroom. The final option that you have is to go on social media, which if you're like over 14 can be dangerous enough.
Or if you're under age, Even more so.
So MinorMynas's approach was to create a situation where it's fun, safe, productive, combining the best aspects of these free situations for kids. I think that we, kids need to be able to socialize with one another online because that's honestly revolutionized how adults interact with each other.
And that we kids are either put into dangerous situations or left entirely. So MinorMynas wants to change that and make it fun and safe.
Ling Yah: So, how do you make it fun for them on this and how is it different from other kid apps out there?
Hillary Yip: So, first of all, what we do is give kids autonomy. It is proven by many different education journals that we kids learn best when we're given autonomy to learn, as we wish and given the freedom to do so, because let me post this question.
If you have children, what is the best? What did they learn quickly? Is it the school stuff where it's just homework that you have to be forced or the things that are truly passionate about? Whether it's about books, dinosaurs, ships, we all have our interests and we will read completely crazily into it because we love it.
MinorMynas wants to replicate that excitement, like giving them the autonomy to learn. That means they can create their own groups on things that they love or join these groups with other kids to talk about topics that they own joy. So that's how we keep it fun. The other way we keep it educational is to let kids teach the skill sets that they like.
So when you're teaching something that you already know, (a) consolidates your own knowledge and (b) pushes you to kind of recategorize it and make it easier to package. So even if you have that information, you might not be able to get it out in a polished manner. Whereas if you're able to teach it to other kids, you're able to categorize that knowledge in your own mind, which will be more useful for you to use in the future.
So that's how we keep it safe.
And then that's a typical way that kids are learning on the platform.
The typical way they learn is just to speak to each other. So on MinorMynas, we have a few ways that kids communicate. First of all, we have images. So if you were to teach someone how to draw, you could take a photo of your own creations.
We also have a little drawing function where you can sketch. So that's useful for things like Chinese, because you can show it the brush strokes, or we can use audio. So if you want to teach someone music, for example, when you play the piano, you'll have a recording. Plus we have texts, which is useful for most things.
Ling Yah: And I understand that you also learn Chinese on the platform. I mean, honestly, the first question would be like, how helpful is it? Has it actually seen kids grow and really deepen the understanding of the language?
Hillary Yip: So I'd say that MinorMynas is most useful as a supplement to your learning. I would not go out and say that MinorMynas is the place to go.
If you were to learn an entirely new language, because obviously there are some limitations, I'd say that Minormynas is the best place to practice working though, because when you learn things in a classroom, whether it's just a list of words or a few sentences, the way that it's best internalizing your brain is to use it in different situations.
It's usually a repetition of like 10 to 15 different scenarios where something is said when it is ready to launch into your brain. MinorMynas is the best place to do so, because you can have natural conversations with native speakers and other people who are trying to learn.
It is in that situation where you're able to make those key neurolinks.
And it is there where you're able to just have fun with the knowledge about it than have it be so far removed from the real world.
Ling Yah: And what a parent's role in this? Do they get to observe these discussions as well?
Hillary Yip: For all public groups, which is like, where you have more than two people, parents can see the full content of the group.
So this means that they know what group you're in, and if they have concerns, they can read the content for private chats, which are one-on-one. The parents can't see the content because, you know, we still need a bit of privacy, but they can see who the kid is talking to the age of the kid and just have a bit of peace of mind to know how often they're talking to them.
So if they're suspicions, they can step in.
Ling Yah: And I understand that the second version is also being launched as well. So what's happening with that?
Hillary Yip: So our second version is now under development. We're getting very, very tantalizingly close to finishing up. So we're now polishing up the UX UI.
We're getting ready for a group of private betas to come on and give it a go. So you should launch soonish provided that the pandemic doesn't mess up the development schedule.
Ling Yah: And how is the second version different from what you already have?
Hillary Yip: So a few key differences would be the introduction of parent communities.
So parents will be able to talk to each other and they can just form accounts, which makes their side a bit more interesting than just a supervisory role for the kids. And we have introduced new functions. We have group categories where you're able to better sort things out, and we've also introduced a lot more new functionality and entirely refreshed design.
Furthermore, we've migrated our app from just iOS to a web app. Because it is the fastest way to be accessible to all devices. So this means that you can access it from your phone, your iPad, your Android computer, or any device that you have, which will make mine. Or mine is a truly global product rather than just be stuck in the app in the Apple world.
Ling Yah: And wouldn't there be a lot of finances involved in just growing this. So how are you financing this whole thing?
Hillary Yip: So, I've personally been funding M i norMynas through my speaking fees.
So a year or so ago, I suddenly had a speaking agent reach out to me-
Ling Yah: London Speaker Bureau?
Hillary Yip: Yeah. I was taken by surprise that someone will pay to hear me speak. So I've had quite a few gigs now, like right before the pandemic hit, I was in Dubai at the global women's event where the Dubai government was hosting it. And there were people from all over the world and I was even able to wash it up and Theresa May spoke, which was incredibly exciting.
Ling Yah: And what was the most memorable thing that happened to you in that event?
Hillary Yip: I'd say it would be the dinner before the event, because I was able to interact with all the other speakers. And it was just an inspiring community to talk to because you would see people like female leaders in the tech industry and across the world, just coming together to discuss how we women can work together and how we're able to be trailblazers.
Ling Yah: And I understand so going back to the idea of finances that you were also raising funds online as well asking people to pitch in? How has that process been and why were you doing that?
Hillary Yip: So the idea behind the crowdfunding was first of all, to get a bit of community support. And second of all, to test out marketing tactics, because crowdfunding, in many ways, like launching a new app.
You have a clear message that you want to market. And there are very similar avenues that you would use compared to a real product. So that was more like a trial launch before it actually did if you will.
We learnt a few key messages from that, which is exactly how you should do a social media post. Since then, we've been modifying the way we interact with social media.
In the past, it might just be updates about what we're up to or what speaking events I was at. But from then on with this, we've changed our tactics somewhat to share articles that we found important to community discuss issues and to kind of have a more engaged response rather than a one way, here's my product.
Ling Yah: And what has been the most important social media platform for you so far?
Hillary Yip: So far it's really been Facebook because while MinorMynas is a kid's product, we found that one of the most effective ways is marketing to parents. Mainly because kids, especially young kids, are not that active on social media.
And it is through parents where you're able to directly get to the consumer who will ultimately be the one paying.
Ling Yah: And I also noticed this on your YouTube channel that you do more than just talk about MinorMynas. You talk about your vloggings. You talk about your thoughts on politics as well, and other books that you're reading.
So what is the idea behind that? Is it to show them more of your personality?
Hillary Yip: So, I guess the YouTube aspect of MinorMynas in the past was to kind of bring a bit more to the table, because especially when we were having few users, we found that YouTube was a good way to reach more people because rather than downloading an app, you can just browse and you wind up being able to watch it.
And YouTube is a community where kids are at. If it's just watching nursery rhymes or cartoons, most children are on there and we wanted to be able to reach more children rather than just parents for Facebook.
Ling Yah: We've talked about community quite a bit. And I wonder, could you share with us what the Hong Kong entrepreneurial community it's like?
Hillary Yip: I found that the Hong Kong startup community is one of the most supportive networks you'll find out there. I honestly think that if I were in a different place, a different country, a different city. I probably wouldn't have been able to start MinorMynas.
Why is that the case?
Well, in Hong Kong, our startup community is very well connected and still fairly small.
Hong Kong only has about 700 million people. You're bound to bump into each other at some point. This means that everyone has an incentive to work with each other, and everyone is so incredibly supportive of you. They took a 10 year old kid seriously. That is really saying something about these people and it was due to them helping you out.
Giving me tips along the way made me think that this is something that I can do and something that I really ought to do because MinorMynas can make a difference and is going to be a very good product for kids.
Ling Yah: And what was the biggest takeaway from all of your conversations with the startup community members?
Hillary Yip: I think don't be afraid to talk to others because I've bumped into many people. And even if the first initial conversation wasn't necessarily productive for either side, it's that initial connection that allows for more collaboration down the road, or even just a heads up of what to do and what not to do if you're going to do a similar idea.
For example, at one point, MinorMynas was thinking of shifting our product to be like five to 10 seconds, very short videos to teach a concept like here is a pair of glasses.
It was through someone else's. Tip-off where we discovered that musically the predecessor to the TikTok actually started with that idea of creating very short educational videos, but that didn't work because people found it boring. If it wasn't for that tip off my thought. And I would have probably spent months taking these short videos that would have been boring and just unwatchable to anyone else.
Ling Yah: And you mentioned your brother because you have a brother, who is your employee, is that right? So what is it like working with your brother?
Hillary Yip: Like this is honestly great. I remember a few years ago when I went to different meetings and if he'd come, he'd always introduce himself as hi, I'm Alexis Yip. And I'm the CPO of MinorMynas.
When you ask him what the CPO is, he'd say this chief prank officer.
Ling Yah: Oh, I mean, you've got so many ranks now, so that is completely valid as a designation.
Hillary Yip: Breaking the tension is something he does excellently.
Ling Yah: Amazing. And do you ever find people treating you as a child?
Would you rather they treat you as an adult?
Hillary Yip: People treat me as a kid sometimes I get that. I'm 15, but I prefer being treated as an adult because I've had some experiences. I'm still learning, but that doesn't mean you should count me out as immature.
Ling Yah: Do you have any that misconception you'd like to clear about child entrepreneurs?
Hillary Yip: I'd say that honestly there's not that many of us. So I just say, just talk to us as human beings. We will just show you what we've got. And if you don't believe us, either prove you right or wrong.
Ling Yah: And I think a lot of people listening to this will think, okay, you are doing all these amazing things, but how do you balance this with schoolwork?
So what does your schedule normally look like? Does it feel overwhelming sometimes?
Hillary Yip: Honestly, not really. The most overwhelming thing for me is sometimes Latin homework.
So my day usually starts at 6:00 AM. I'll take the dog out for a bit because it's early in the morning. My dog hates tiny dogs, so it's a good time to take him down.
Then by the time I get up, I'll still have about an hour or two before school, where I can work on homework and just sort of studying for the time being. My school has a pretty good policy on homework. So there's very rarely that much to do outside of school hours.
So it is after 4:00 PM where I'll be working on MinorMynas, having meetings, having podcasts interviews, for example, or just doing what needs to be sorted out.
And yeah, I personally deal with my tasks on a piece of paper in my room. I'll just have everything written down of what needs to be completed. Emails to reply to, a book to read, articles to look for and just deal with it in order for parties, as long as you're doing something, you're not going to fall that far behind.
Ling Yah: And do you get to meet that with your peers? Because I understand you're homeschooling. So what is that like?
Hillary Yip: My two best friends are also homeschoolers. And we WhatsApp a lot. One of my friends is in Australia, so we tend to FaceTime her from time to time. And we just chat with each other, like any other teenager would, especially given the pandemic, we probably engage in the same way everyone else does, whatever.
It's just whatsApping video calling using discord. For example, there are always ways to connect with each other and it's just taking this.
Ling Yah: Is there anything you miss from just going through a school?
Hillary Yip: Honestly, not really well. Other than a library of course has been a lot better for me in general.
Ling Yah: And you mentioned COVID. So how has that impacted you and MinorMynas?
Hillary Yip: So, honestly, my life hasn't changed that much when I was homeschooling.
When I first got homeschool, I spent a year doing a self study thing where I'd submit assignments to teachers online and my life isn't different from that in any tangible way.
It is still sitting at home during my assignments and being here. So personally it hasn't affected me too much.
In terms of MinorMynas, honestly, our tech development has been severely delayed by the pandemic due to just how badly it's impacted everyone.
And on the other hand, the pandemic can be a good opportunity for MinorMynas because of how everyone is recognizing that the education system as it is today needs to shift. We can see how inflexible it is and how online education is potentially the only avenue we have for the future. This means that MinorMynas can occupy an unique role because we want to offer something entirely different where kids have a peer to peer environment, which is productive and fun.
This means that we're able to launch in a situation where everyone's looking for these options. And I believe that MinorMynas can be a good way to fill that gap between fun and, you know, just school.
Ling Yah: I'm just wondering, is there anyone else who's offering a product similar to MinorMynas?
Hillary Yip: Honestly, not really.
The closest you've got is people will try to exchange languages by talking to you. And that's just for adults.
For kids, there really is no true social place where we can engage with each other, without it being limited to people you already know, or it's lacking the education aspect entirely. We're able to uniquely mesh the different aspects together to create a product of minuses.
Ling Yah: Yeah. And what is very unique about MinorMynas is that it was by a kid for kids. And obviously, you know, you're growing. And how do you see the future of MinorMynas with you when you're older? Can you still understand what the child is coming from?
Hillary Yip: Yeah, I get that. I mean, I'm 15. I'm turning 16 in February.
I'm just getting older, but I'd say that MinorMynas is something that I continue to be passionate about because I honestly think it has the potential to make a true, tangible change. The only question is how far I will be able to take it. I want to do as much of Minormynas as possible, but I also recognize that there might come a day where I personally definitely might not be the best person to take it forward, whether it's because of, I don't know, work commitments, we're talking about 10 years in the future or something.
Or if I just simply don't have the business acumen to take a big company forward. I recognize that. And I want to take MinorMynas as far as I can. But if there comes a point where I need to take it away, step back and just let someone else take the driver's seat. I will do that for the sake of MinorMynas.
Ling Yah: And one of the things you've also alluded to slightly is that you read a lot love reading and just expanding your knowledge. So, this is probably a question you face all the time, what are your favorite things to read and learn from?
Hillary Yip: I like this question, because usually people ask me, what's your favorite book, which is impossible to answer.
I personally love reading history books and I'm in my room right now. I have two shelves. I've been divvying it up into categories and I've completely gone pass my history show. And I'm doing my history books in these little nooks and crannies everywhere.
I just finished reading a history of terrorism, which is quite interesting because it is a social phenomenon that has existed for virtually as long as human beings have.
And it is interesting for me to see what leads people to extremist views and what leads you to act upon them. And I think that history, um, if I were to use an often quoted bit from Mark Twain history, doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. Probably paraphrasing there. I definitely agree with that because human nature fundamentally has not changed in understanding behavioral patterns and the past helps us map out what will come.
And that's why I love reading history so much.
Ling Yah: I understand one of your idols is Gary V. So how did you come to discover him? What is it that draws you to him?
Hillary Yip: Well, I came across Gary V a few years ago when my mom was listening to a podcast and being, I think, 11 at the time , I came to the conclusion deck if I am working on mine and mine is, I ought to know as much as startups as I can.
So I wound up reading his books. I wound up listening to podcasts from him, and I just liked his no nonsense attitude that if you're going to do it, just cut out all the fluffy stuff and, you know, just get down to the business. That's an attitude I really respect.
Ling Yah: And tell us one thing that people probably don't know since there's so much just recent about you.
Hillary Yip: Just how quiet I am because outside of MinorMynas , I'm just the type who curls up in my room and reads with a cat on my lap.
Ling Yah: Brilliant. So I normally end all of my interviews with these questions. So firstly, do you feel that you have found your why at age of 15?
Hillary Yip: I don't think anyone can say that they found a reason for existence, because as you grow, as you enter different stages of life, you will come to new conclusions, but for now I've found it.
Ling Yah: And what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Hillary Yip: I just want to be a force of good change and to make sure that I'm able to truly solve the problems that can be solved.
Ling Yah: And what'd you think are the most important qualities a successful person should have?
Hillary Yip: Definitely curiosity. It requires you to look at the world critically, to come up with the problems that need to be solved and takes the creativity to take your probing and be able to come up with tangible ways to make it better.
Ling Yah: And where can people go to connect with you and find out more about what you're doing?
Hillary Yip: My personal Instagram handle is Hillary Yip. And you can find MinorMynas on pretty much any social media platform.
Ling Yah: Well, thank you so much Hillary for this amazing interview.
Hillary Yip: Thank you so much. It's been great to talk to you.
Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 13. The show notes can be found at, www.sothisismywhy.com/13 which includes the transcript and links to everything we just talked about. Let me know what you've learned by going to Apple Podcast to leave a review and subscribe and also take a screenshot of today's episode on Instagram and tag me at @sothisismywhy and Hillary at @_hillaryyip_ with the hashtag #sothisismywhy.
If you want to hang out, we also have a private Facebook group to keep the conversation going. And some of our podcast guests who have appeared previously will be showing up for a limited time to answer any of your burning questions. To join, just head over to Facebook and look for, so this is my why.
And stay tuned for episode 13, which drops next Sunday. Because as we mentioned earlier, we will be meeting Hillary's mother, Joey Law, who spent 12 years in the Hong Kong police force, including a stint as part of the bond disposal unit.
We talked about what it was like balancing a career with having young children, how she came to discover and dealt with the bullying that Hillary very unfortunately faced, why she is an advocate of homeschooling and also what it's like being a mother while supporting her children in building up MinorMynas to what it is today.
I have so much respect and admiration for what Joey has done and continues to do. And I can't wait to share history with you next Sunday.