Welcome to Episode 91!
This is a VERY special edition because instead of featuring a new guest, I’ll be taking you through 10 out of STIMY’s past 90 guests to showcase the range of stories and voices we’ve had on the show so far.
If you’re new to STIMY, and don’t know where to start, then this is the episode for you.
We’ve got Michelin-starred chefs, Olympians, VCs, founders, artists, viral Tik Tok drag queens, academic professors and so much more.
In STIMY Ep 91, expect to find:
- The reasons behind why I started So This Is My Why;
- The kind of guests you’ll find featured;
- A very shocking incident last summer involving the Late Late Show with James Corden; and
- 4 lessons learned from past STIMY guests.
Want to learn about the most interesting things I’ve learned this week/get exclusive STIMY updates?
Sign up for STIMY’s weekly newsletter below!
This Room is Filled with Crazy!
You’ve got to be crazy, to take the unconventional path.
There’s no roadmap. No certainly. And everyone thinks you’re nuts!
For Red Hong Yi (STIMY Ep 2), turning from architecture to art wasn’t the most straightforward thing. It helped to have her art go viral, but even better when she was invited to attend the EG Conference with her parents where she discovered..
“This room is filled with crazy!”
Hence the title of this very special STIMY Ep 91.
In order of STIMY episodes released, you’ll hear from:
- Ep 1: Chloe Buiting – Wildlife conservationist & vet
- Ep 2: Red Hong Yi – Renowned architect turned artist who’s worked with the likes of Google, Nespresso & Jackie Chan
- Ep 3: Dr Julian Tan – BCG Consultant turned then Head of Digital Business Initiatives & Esports at Formula 1, London
- Ep 30: Dr Finian Tan – Chairman, Vickers Venture Partners
- Ep 51: Nick Bernstein (Part 1, Part 2), – Senior VP of Late Night Programming (West Coast) & James Corden’s Big Boss
- Ep 55: Karl Mak – Co-founder & CEO of HEPMIL Media Group (SGAG, MGAG, PGAG, SGEEK)
- Ep 60: David Grief – Former Senior Clerk at Essex Court Chambers who nurtured the careers of barristers & judges including the former Chief Justice of England and Wales
- Ep 79: Nicole Quinn – General Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners (investor/board member of HAUS (Lady Gaga), The Honest Company (Jessica Alba), Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow), Girlboss (Sophia Amoruso) etc.)
- Ep 84: Eric Toda – Global Head of Social Marketing, Meta
- Ep 87: Phil Libin – Co-founder of Evernote & mmhmm
P/S: To watch the actual moments where STIMY is mentioned on the Late Late Show with James Corden, check out the YouTube compilation below!
I hope this Special Episode gives me an idea of where to start your STIMY journey!
Leave a Review
If you enjoy listening, would you please leave a review on iTunes / Apple Podcasts?
The link works even if you aren’t on an iPhone. 😉
If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s Patreon page here.
STIMY Ep 91: This Room is Filled with Crazy! [SPECIAL STIMY EPISODE]
Ling Yah: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 91 of the So This Is My Why podcast.
I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and don't worry. You didn't actually come to the wrong place because what you just heard was the first six seconds of STIMY's very first episode with Chloe Buiting - a wildlife vet and conservationist.
if you wanna know which two animals you just heard, you have to stick to the end of this episode to find out.
Now this episode is a special one and it's something I've never done before.
Because I realized that right now, there are quite a few new STIMY subscribers, and I know how overwhelming can be to find a new podcast and go, gosh, where do I even begin?
So instead of heading to the next guest this week, I'm going to showcase some of my favorite moments from the past 90 STIMY episode.
Here's how this episode will go. I will talk about how STIMY began, the kind of guest featured, the really shocking thing that happened to me and the podcast last summer, and four lessons learned.
Now are you ready?
Now you might wonder what is the genesis behind STIMY. The truth is, it began because I was lost.
I've been a lawyer for over eight years. It's all I've ever. And I found myself thinking one day, what do other people actually do? Not everyone's a lawyer. So how did they end up on their path? How are some of them multimillionaire in their early twenties or traveling around the world while the rest of us are stuck in an office.
And for those with quote unquote success, are they actually happy? What drives them? And how can others do the same?
That's reason one.
I wanted to learn.
I wanted to learn about fun things I didn't even know existed. Like what Chloe shared in episode one.
Chloe Buiting: A little fun trick I like with big cats, is that Calvin Klein has it a scent called obsession for men. And I don't think they figured out exactly what it is I'll perhaps they have.
But something in that scent is a huge attractor for big cats. And it's really handy because if you have a trap in the Bush and you're heading to capture a leopard or a cheetah.
You just spray the scent all over the trap and they will come. So it's really fabulous. So I always think, I always wonder, like what about all the men on Safari that are wearing this? And I laugh every time I say it in the shop.
Ling Yah: I mean, let's face it. I never knew to not head to a safari with a guy wearing obsession for men, even though the name should tell you something. But now I know. And so do you. So if you value your life, don't ever go looking for lions if you have that perfume on.
There are also plenty of lessons learned for the startup folks from one of the most successful founders in the world, Phil Libin, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of mmhmm and Evernote.
Yes. That note taking app.
With Phil, he shared in episode 87 what he thought of startup success versus startup failure.
Phil Libin: Start-up failure is brutal. It's super difficult. It destroys relationships and people. It's all consuming and it feels terrible. It could be very damaging.
Yeah. You can learn things from it, but you can also learn things from reading Wikipedia, which is less traumatic.
So definitely recommend looking something up on Wikipedia if you want to learn something versus starting and failing. And Start-up failure is very tough. It's very difficult. It's very hard. Startup success is much worse. Startup success is much harder.
And Evernote when you're failing, it's easy to know what to do. All you have to do to survive.
But when you're succeeding, it's really about optimization. You still have the same, if not more emotional involvement.
Now you have something that's worth protecting, but you're not sure what the exact best next thing is. when you're failing. You wake up every morning and you say, okay, my objective is to survive. Keep the company alive.
When you're succeeding, there's nothing you can do that's going to kill the company, you know, right away. So it's not about survival. It's about optimization. Am I doing the right things for these thousands of people that are depending on me? Am I doing the right thing for the world? Is my product having the right kind of impact that I want it to have all of these questions?
These are all good problems to have, you know, people will say, oh, that's a good problem to have. But the truth is, good problems with that. Really hard. In many ways, good problems are harder than the bad problems because again, the consequences are usually higher and it's harder to know what the right answer is.
Ling Yah: Or from Eric Toda, Global Head of Social Marketing at Meta and former CMO at GAP Inc. In episode 84, he shared how you can build a relationship with C-suite folks.
Eric Toda: One of the best pieces of advice I ever got especially working in corporate America. And this is kind of where I got my original tip by asking like, he should always be helpful. You should never see an executive or C-suite person as like this other person. Like, they are so much bigger than me. There are so great, you know, whatever.
This tip came from a C-suite person and they're like, they're just people, Eric. They're just people that have a lot more experience than you have just somehow survived longer than you. And if you treat them like people you'll realize you have a lot in common with them.
You'll realize you can build a rapport with them. You'll realize even in the 32nd exchanges that you have coming in and out of meetings, oh, you need to look what you have for lunch or look what you're wearing or whatever. You build relationships over time and it compounds into an actual relationship to the point where, you want 15 minutes, yeah you can get 15 minutes and you want 30 minutes. You can get 30 minutes. You want two days, you can get two days.
So you have to understand that it's not about the levels or anything like that. You just treat people like people.
Ling Yah: Then there is also Nicole Quinn, General Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. She's known as the celebrity whisperer because she's both an investor and also a board member of companies founded by quite a few celebrities, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Sophia Amoruso and Lady Gaga.
As you can imagine, I had to ask Nicole what it was like working with Lady Gaga and how she decided that lady Gaga beyond her obvious celebrity reach, was actually a worth our investment to her as a VC.
Nicole Quinn: Lady Gaga is one of the most incredible people that I have ever met. She deeply believes that you can achieve anything in this world that you set your mind to.
And she's definitely a great example of having shown that, you know, she's an Oscar winning actress because she set her mind to that. You know, we all know her for her incredible music because she set her mind to that. And now we're gonna have HAUS in many, many stores you're gonna see across the country.
And so HAUS Labs came to your point because Lady Gaga had a very strong view. Her view was like, listen, I have been obsessed with makeups from a very, very young age.
I used to play with my mother's. And whenever I'm in the dressing room before going on stage, I'm always like mixing up concoctions with different makeup and she had this view of like what she wanted her makeup to look like.
And then what she wanted a beauty company to look like, which will, you know, then go into hair and skincare. She really like to the point of like the ingredients that she wanted in there and these to be clean, beautiful products and the names and the models that they were used and the exact shade of coloring, like she has strong opinions on everything.
And so this is not a company that she is endorsed. This is very much her company. And so we love that. We felt like, gosh, she has deep insights, you know, to the earlier point. It is really what we look for and I just felt like she was so authentic. So yeah, she's an amazing chair woman of HAUS.
Ling Yah: Didn't she use to say that I have my fingerprints over. It's like a crime scene. And then before you jumped into this investment with her, you also poured over Lady Gaga's Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, just to see whether she had this engaged followship. I wonder how do you measure engagement?
Nicole Quinn: If it's a social app, then we very closely measure engagement by looking at daily active users over the weekly or monthly active users. But for something like this, you're right. It is much harder to measure engagement.
And so we were trying to measure where the Lady Gaga's fans were engaged and yes, we can see that through her social following, but are they engaged around beauty?
Are they engaged around color cosmetics? I went away on vacation for a week. And on this week, I basically did read through every single comment that I could possibly find about Gaga online. And so it basically took every hour for about a week and I was reading through and I wanted to see like, What were people commenting on?
Like, were people commenting about her makeup? Were people commenting about her look, because if that is what people associate with her, then she is gonna have much more authenticity in selling that product.
And it's true. Like that is what a lot of people comment on her look and comment on like, my gosh, you know, one day she'll look like this, and then she'll put on this incredible piece of makeup and look just the total opposite.
And so she was able to like command attention and had a real right to win in that space.
Ling Yah: But here's the most shocking thing of all that happened to me last summer.
What happened was that STIMY got featured not once, not twice, but four times on the Late Late Show with James Corden, because I had recorded an interview with James Corden's boss, Nick Bernstein, who is the senior VP of late night program on west coast.
James Corden: Bernstein, how was your weekend?
Nick Bernstein: I was asked to be a guest on a podcast because I said that I would say yes to anything. So a woman in Malaysia who does a podcast asked me if I would be on her podcast.
And I said, sure.
And then I realized I have an irrational amount of confidence now because of this show.
James Corden: Hang on. What's the podcast about?
Nick Bernstein: It's called So This Is My Why. It's about-
James Corden: Finding out your why.
Nick Bernstein: The why.
James Corden: Find your why.
Nick Bernstein: I, uh, I ended up spending like three hours talking about myself to this lady in Malaysia.
James Corden: Hang on. You've already taped it. Yeah.
Nick Bernstein: I, I don't know yet. Oh, this is going to be gold guys. You better hope you better hope that podcast doesn't come out like before we break up for summer, because we'll get two shows of the back of that. Two shows off the back of that sheet. She found him through this show, which means she's probably watching right now.
The Nick Bernstein episode right now
drop the episode. Oh, I'm excited for that. I'm excited.
Ling Yah: And as a result, James and his crew decided to dissect both parts of the episode when it was released.
Their analysis of Part one?
Well, listen for yourself.
Nick Bernstein: The podcast that I was, uh, a guest on was, uh, was released, which was really fun for me. And like three other people.
James Corden: Just so you know, it wasn't.
Rob Crabbe: Nick's job is senior vice president of late night at CBS. He did a two hour podcast about late night without mentioning James Corden or CBS.
James Corden: That's an absolute choice isn't it, Nick?
Nick Bernstein: I was just.
James Corden: Not even some chat at the start. There wasn't-
Rob Crabbe: Even the establishment of the idea of why this Malaysian person reached out to do a podcast cause she saw him on this show, didn't come up.
James Corden: And we, none of us got to mention. Who's got to mention? It was Conan a lot. It was
all Conan Leno got in there. Letterman, SNL car, Johnny Carson got in there.
Nick Bernstein: I am literally sweating through this entire outfit that I'm wearing.
James Corden: Oh dear. So when's part two out, Nick?
No. I'm excited to listen to it.
Nick Bernstein: Uh, everyone's been very nice about it to me, until right now.
James Corden: Just so you know, they are, everyone has not been very nice about it. Everyone's been very nice about it to you. Everyone's been very nice about the emoji movie to me.
if I went on, if I went on only comments that people told me about the emoji movie, it's bigger than toy story look inward.
Ling Yah: Poor Nick.
But I have to say Part 2 went slightly better.
James Corden: You know what I asked for my father's day ah Jules, my wife said that, will you do anything you want? Anything you need? I said, all I need is a few hours on Sunday just to catch up on part two of Nick's podcast interview.
That's all I want. Just two hours alone. Just listen, just read, drinking the whole thing, but this it's out now, right? It is now you, you do Kate big surprise. You do mention the show and you're very, very lovely about all of us. Thanks,
cries. Sorry, why? It shouldn't be a surprise that I say lovely things about you.
I love this show and I used to, I like you.
it's the ice. I think we were very close and then I've been ripped to shreds. Oh, over and over again on this show. Don't do this. Now I wonder.
Don't start trying to make yourself out to be some kind of victim down here. There is no other workplace where the more you're roasted, the more your loved, I
Nick Bernstein: think that's true. And I really do appreciate it.
James Corden: Um, have you had a good reaction from the, from part two?
Nick Bernstein: Well, I don't know what I'm supposed to say because yes I have. And then, uh, not, not from people here I'm waiting. Um, but yes, the, uh, people seem to be really interested in, uh, how this show came about and, uh, and got one way they can find that out.
James Corden: Yeah. Well, I think it's lovely and I love you.
Nick Bernstein: I also, I really, I really do love you all. I do. I'll
James Corden: often send you whenever you've been on camera, I'll always send an email afterwards being like, that was so funny. I love you so much.
Nick Bernstein: Yeah, you did
James Corden: that once.
How many do you want?
Ling Yah: But ultimately I can tell you, there was someone who wasn't impressed with all of this: Nick Bernstein's wife.
James Corden: What does your wife say, Nick, when you tell her that you're doing a podcast at the weekend?
Nick Bernstein: She got very mad at me that, um, I did the podcast, uh, through dinner.
James Corden: Oh, wow. That's showbiz, man. That's it. That's it. You're the other side of the line. You're in the, you're in the bright lights. The adoration.
Nick Bernstein: Yeah. I, I, uh, I have felt myself way too much at this point.
James Corden: Well, we don't need to get into the- don't need to get into the literal ins and outs of your relationship, Nick. I don't think any of us care how much you're feeling yourself.
Nick Bernstein: You know, the great thing about Ed Sheeran was how nice he was to all of us. That was really fun.
James Corden: Wasn't the question I asked you. I think we, I think at that point we were talking about you wanking, but it doesn't matter.
Ling Yah: So there you have it. A fun, wild summer story that happened to me and the podcast.
Now let's hit a lot closer to home and talk about Dr. Finian Tan. A deep tech VC from Singapore and current chairman of Vickers Venture Partners.
As with all STIMY interviews, we began with his childhood and talked about how his dad's company went bankrupt when he was young and the effect that he had on him.
Dr Finian Tan: So they seized our house. They took all our cars. So in the end my parents moved to an HDB flat. And that was the first time that they had lived in an HDB, but I was already overseas and I had a scholarship for my fourth year. Cause I did very well for my third year.
And so when I came back on holiday, I saw the HDB flat and lived there for awhile. And then I went back and I got a scholarship to go to Cambridge. I did my Masters, my PhD. I taught for a while. And then I came back after that.
But by then, I had a job until I bought an apartment and then later a house.
Ling Yah: Do you feel that that moment changed you? Because I read that you were determined to win all of the awards in your third and fourth year, and you planned it like a war.
Dr Finian Tan: You've done
a lot of research. it didn't have anything to do with my dad's situation. In my third year, when I first went to Glasgow, I didn't have anything to do. Well, I didn't know.
So I got to know a few Singaporeans and on the first day of school, I came back, put my bags aside, like I always do and went around, knocking at doors to see who going to play with me. But everybody was doing some work, so I had nothing to do. So I decided to just maybe go through my stuff and prepare for tomorrow.
And I started doing that daily and when the exams came, I really did well. I excelled. There were, I think, two or three prizes on offer. And after the final exams, I won all three. I didn't aim to win all three, but I happened to have won all three. And so I said, wow this is interesting.
So then I looked at the fourth year and there were like seven prizes or something like that for many, many subjects.
So I said, how cool would it be if I won? All right. Because I already don't have a perfect score. So I said, maybe I should try for that. So I plan for it and yeah, I took it like a war.
Cause if you want to win all the prizes, you can leave nothing to chance, right. So I needed to make sure I was at least 10 marks ahead of number two, but that's very, very tough. You must be super good.
So I planned how I was going to do it. And this may be interesting to you. I realized that when you are at an exam, your mind is not the sharpest and sometimes you have some memory lapses. I couldn't afford that. So I said to myself, how can I remember all the essay answers perfectly. Leaving nothing out because I had to be perfect, right.
So I said, well, actually I remember a lot of songs by heart and I never forget them even in that exam, right. So I said, how can I remember it like a song. How can I remember a particular answer, like a song?
The only way is to practice and to do it daily often. So I wrote all the perfect answers in point form because you can fill in the English language. You just need the points to make sure that you don't miss anything.
So every morning after I'd prepared it all, I would memorize them. And then every day I would write the answers. Every day. For many, many months. So by the time the exam came, I knew these points. It's like the back of my hand, like a song. So I would then spare a lot of time to do the analytical parts.
So now I'm sometimes callous. And sometimes you make a mistake and you don't know, you made a mistake and you get an answer and you feel good about it. How do you know the answer is right?
I knew I had a lot of time to spare. So why do I finish in half the time and then go home? I have to use the time well.
So I decided to find ways to check my answers by either back calculating from the answer to the question.
Sometimes you can do that. And sometimes you can't and if you can't, I figured out a way to arrive at the answer through another means. So completely different way. And if I arrived at the same answer, then I know I'm correct. So I can check my numerical answers too. So that's what I did.
And I was so nervous because I was so prepared and on the first day of the first exam, I looked at the paper and I knew everything by heart. I could finish it in like one third of the time. I got so excited and I started to shiver and I couldn't keep my hands straight. I couldn't write.
So I said oh, calm down, calm down, held my hand. And then they were okay. I started it and I finished it in like one and a half hours. And in two hours I checked all my answers and I knew I would be like 100 or 98 or something close.
And then I had nothing to do because I was so quick. I still stayed until the end. I just checked and checked and checked and I never left because I didn't want to waste any spare time. So I felt very good after the exams. And then I came home because I had to finish my national service.
So I came home and when the results came out, a friend of mine wrote to me and said, we went to check the board. There's only one name. So I did it.
I was very, very happy because I worked for like a year for that.
Ling Yah: And so on the back of that, you got scholarship offers from Oxford, Cambridge and MIT?
Dr Finian Tan: Yeah. I mean I had perfect scores, right. So I could go anywhere. Cambridge was really special because both Oxford and Cambridge, when you go there, it's like going back in time. It's like Harry Potter. Everybody wears a gown and everybody's on bicycle.
We eat in the hall. And then there's a high table. There's somebody who speaks in Latin and you toast to the master and the Queen and it was really nice.
So when I went there for my interview, I fell in love with the place more than when I went to Oxford. Because Cambridge is a little more liberal and I'm a liberal.
Oxford is a little more conservative. And Cambridge is also a little more scientific. And Oxford a bit more liberal arts, like history and PPE, et cetera. So I think Cambridge suited me better.
Ling Yah: Now with that kind of discipline, Finian obviously got into Cambridge, got his PhD, but did his path end there? Nope, because Goldman Sachs ended up poaching him.
And how did you end up in Goldman Sachs? I think you were poached, were you?
Dr Finian Tan: Yes. I was a very active and gutsy trader.
Maybe gutsy is not the right word. I was a planner and I would plan big plays, kind of cornering the market. And I put on a few plays and on one of them , the counterparty that lost the most was actually Goldman.
So in the end they decide to hire me.
So they offered me a very good position. So I joined them in Singapore. Then I was posted to London and traveled to New York a lot. And then I came back to head the office of J.Aron and J.Aron runs trading for Goldman. it's not, we just call it Goldman, but at the time it was still called J.Aron. Goldman acquired them in 1982 and kept the name until the 2000 something.
Goldman was a big, big change because Goldman is an American firm and that was the first time I was exposed to Americans because I went to Cambridge. I went to Glasgow, I worked for Royal Dutch shell. And then suddenly I joined an American farm and it's very, very different.
The hierarchy is very flat. And it's all a question of how good you are. Doesn't matter how long you've been there. And you need to be gutsy. To speak up and just speak your mind and may the best man win.
So very different. Culture was totally different and people were very relaxed. Dressing was relaxed.
You can put your feet on the table when you're talking to somebody else, whereas in Shell that never happens. Very prim and proper. I adapted and quickly became the head of the office in Singapore.
And then somebody asked me to join the government and that really posed a big crossroad in my life.
Ling Yah: Surprise surprise. Finian didn't end up staying at Goldman Sachs. He left to become a government servant because of the four Ls.
Dr Finian Tan: Have you heard of the four L's?
To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.
So my interpretation of that is to live on matters of the material senses. So material things. And then to learn involves the brain or the mind. To love matters of the heart and to leave a legacy methods of the soul, or I guess what you leave behind, right?
So thejob in Goldman didn't fulfill all 4 Ls. I was materially, very, very satisfied, but I wasn't learning as much. I was contributing a lot. Because I was good at what I did.
Did I love my job? When I'm up? I loved it. When I was down, I didn't like it. So it was kind of a rollercoaster ride.
And was I leaving anything behind? Not quite . as a trader, you're an intermediary, right? You don't really create anything. So it wasn't conceived from a 4 L perspective.
The government was more, you leave a legacy. What you do has an impact on everyone. If you do it well, you can make people's lives much better.
So leaving a legacy is good and you're learning every day and you are moving from ministry to ministry because at the end, it's an open ministry. So you're learning a lot and you're enjoying what you do because you're contributing.
Materially, it was okay. Cause Singapore pays pretty well. But I had to give up quite a bit there. But there is just so much you can get in each L.
So, let's say you earn 3 million you're fulfilled materially. If you earn 10 million, it doesn't change it very much. No, that L is already fulfilled. So it's more the other things that you should look at. So I felt that this would be more fulfilling.
And if I didn't like it, I can always go back. So I didn't really have very much to lose, just time.
So I took the plunge. It changed my life mainly because I was asked to help make Singapore into a Silicon Valley for Asia. And that got me into venture capital, into startups. And finally, I could use one part of my brain that I didn't use, which is my PhD in engineering.
Because as a trader, I was just using my numered skills. But now I could use my financial skills plus my tech skills. So that was very helpful because with venture capital it's really a mix pf finance and tech, so it was perfect for me. And I saw my calling.
So after one term, I joined Draper Fisher Jurvetson eplanet ventures.
They were well known today. Draper is well known today for Tesla, Space X and Solicity and all of Elon Musk's company. But at that time there were known for Hotmail and Skype.
So I joined them as the founding partner for Asia and lucky enough, my first investment was a small company at the time called Baidu.
So we took a very big stake in the company. We began with 25% and gradually inch that up to 28% of the IPO. And I think it still holds the record for the best performing IPO in NASDAQ's history.
Ling Yah: Did you catch that last thing he said? Because you heard right. For Finian's very first investment, he took a huge audacious bat and went all in on the little startup called Baidu. And that VC journey began because Finian felt itchy. He wanted to play.
Dr Finian Tan: I was there for three and a half years and you can do so much as somebody in government. You're not a player. You're a referee, a trainer an umpire, but you're not the player.
And with the internet booming like that, I was itchy. I wanted to play. That's the only way I could do it to actually go in by myself because the internet revolution at that time was the biggest revolution that I had ever seen in my life.
The biggest change. Everything else was incremental, but the internet would change everything. So I decided to go in headfirst.
And rightly so, because it has impacted the world in such a big way. And the other thing that was changing the world was China. So I got so excited about China and so that's why I became the founding partner for Asia and the first offices I opened in Beijing initially, and then later Shanghai as well.
Ling Yah: And I understand at the time you had this interesting way of deciding how to invest; you drew a line in the book. How did that whole thing come about?
Dr Finian Tan: The year 2000 was a very funny period. 1999, 2000. Anything that had dot com was going crazy for no good reasons. Just measured on eyeballs, even though there was no path to profitability, nobody cared.
Valuations were sky high. Everything was in the billions. So I was no longer a young kid at that time. So I couldn't just blindly invest in something that had no path to profitability. So I said, okay, why don't I draw a line in my book and on the left, write what I know for sure. And on the right, I would put what I was still unsure about.
So all the business models that I was unsure about of the companies, like Inktomi, Inforseed Ask Jeeves Infospace, Ariba, all these companies, right? eBay, Amazon. And then, okay. It started to fill up the whole page.
So I said, okay, what do I do on the left for sure? The internet will grow, number one. China will grow number two and that's it.
So I asked myself since I know these two will happen. What could I invest in that will surely make money if these two things happen. And after thinking about it for a long time, I realized that it was the operating system of the internet in China, but what was the operating system of the internet? What is the operating system on the internet? That was difficult.
Was it Microsoft? No. Was it Cisco since they supplied all the devices? No. Was it the Explorer equivalent at the time, Netscape? And I didn't think so. So in the end, I concluded that it was search because that's what we still do today, as soon as we go in.
So that got me very, very interested in search. So we talked to all the companies that have come into the DFJ family. All the search companies.
Those that came to our friends. We talked to the incumbents, we talked to the customers and we realized that by do stood out perfectly cause the way you measure such company is relatively easy because its objective is speed and relevance and Baidu as the fastest and the most relevant because they had a completely new architecture.
So the choice of Baidu was easier than deciding what to invest in using the line in the book. That was the more difficult part.
Ling Yah: So they were better than like OpenFind? Because that was the technology incumbent then, right? And Baidu was the upstart.
Dr Finian Tan: Correct. By far. By far. We measured it, it was better. And we spoke to the customers, they were moving as well.
They were thinking of switching to Baidu, but not yet. They hadn't switched yet. So we took a risk, but that's the nature of venture capital, right? You have to take those risks.
Ling Yah: At the time when you jumped into Baidu, they were a small startup, no revenue.
They were in the market for nine months. No one else was jumping into it. And you decided to make that big play of 7.5 million. So was it the entrepreneurs like Robin and Eric who convinced you that it was worth that big, giant bet this one year, your first time?
Dr Finian Tan: Yeah, I think. Obviously the team was amazing. Robin and Eric were amazing. They really knew what they were talking about.
Robin had spent his life doing search, at least the last few years of his life. And Eric was a boy Friday. He could do everything. And he had a lot of charisma too. Because he interviewed a lot of people in Silicon Valley, et cetera. He was kind of a semi journalist for awhile.
So the team made a lot of difference.
But after deciding to invest in the operating system of the internet in China, deciding that that was search, finding the best company in that space, there was nothing else I wanted. So in the year 2000, when most people invested in anything that walked, that had www.com I only wanted one.
So we only invested in one company in the year 2000, which is Baidu. So since it's the only company I wanted, I decided to take as big an investment as I could make.
And after I filled my requirements on that, I could think about other things. So that's why we could take it off. There were other people wanting to put up a million here, a million there, and together they could form a consortium I came, I liked it very much. I took it all.
And in the end we allowed IDG to invest a million with us. And that's it. And the rest of the REApps from existing investors.
Ling Yah: As he can probably guess Finian's journey was only just starting. I can't reveal all of his secrets here because honestly that interview also took three hours. But if you wanted to hear Finian's full story and what he's doing now, you just have to listen to his full interview at episode 30.
So by now you've heard snippets from six out of 90 past STIMY guests. Each of them unique in their own way. I'm gonna let four more guests share four lessons. I also learned from running STIMY.
Firstly, let's be honest.
We can't all be Finian Tans.
In episode 55 with Karl Mak founder of HEPMIL, which owns platforms like SGAG, MGAG, PGAG.
And if you're in Asia and you don't know these platforms, please Google them. Well, Karl knew that he wasn't great at studying, but he didn't let that stop him.
Karl Mak: I realized that like, I was not very good at studying. I was just very mediocre at best. But then I realized, like I had the ability to sell. People trusted me. I realized that it also helps that I look a bit older. So I was literally 21 years old when I sold my first apartment for my client. And I remember the guy who was buying, it was a older gentleman. And then when he looked at my ICU, I was like, dude, you're 21. And I'm like, yeah, I'm turning one years old.
And he was like, are you kidding me. Like, I just bought a house from a 21 year old. Did you scam me or fool me into this. I was like, no, this is what it is. You saw the houses. It is everything. And he just looked at me in amazement. He was like young man. You're going to go very far in this industry.
And he was like the managing director of a big MNC, right. I appreciate it. Those compliments and I started to think, right? Like what are skills or talent that I had that could really allow me to pursue my career in a certain field. and I knew sales, was it right?
I knew I was good at talking and convincing people to do things. And so I guess, yeah. Give off the gap. Selling physical properties was the first real sort of work that I did. That allowed me to discover, uncover a little bit off what I might call a bit of talent that I had. Cause I couldn't find anything else.
I was not like super smart. I was not like super intellectual or I couldn't do. A lot of things. And this was like the first thing I realized I was better than most other people my age. So, yeah, was a bit of a discovery for me.
Ling Yah: Second lesson life is hard. Don't always focus on the end. Leave in the present. Live for Dr. Julian Tan in episode 3. He was the Head of digital initiatives and eSports at formula one.
And fun fact, if you are an F1 fan, you'd remember that F1 couldn't run their real life races during the pandemic. Instead they had eSport races, pitting real life, F1 drivers against celebrity golfers footballers, and more. That entire e-sports component? Julian was behind it.
And this is his approach to life.
Dr Julian Tan: I've always lived my life in the present, I suppose.
Kind of riding the wave.
I didn't think I would have gotten into Oxford to do engineering. I didn't think I would be doing a PhD after. Certainly didn't think I'd be working in management consulting and never in a million years would I thought I would be working formula one in eSports.
So I've always been the kind of person who takes things as they go. And then if there isn't a great opportunity, don't shut myself out to the opportunity, go and experience it. And if it works out, it works out. If it doesn't, it doesn't and it's okay either way. my whole life has always been like that.
I don't think too far, too many steps ahead. Of course I try and prepare in the immediate future, but I don't. And in some ways, actually, this is one of the things that I think about sometimes like, should I not have a north star? And for me personally, I've never really had that.
I think the closest I've ever had was when I was a kid and I said, I wanted to get into good university. that was kind of my north star. But beyond that, it's always been, you know, what opportunities come up and making the most of it.
I only do things that I enjoy. And if I don't like it, I don't spend too much time. doing it unless there is a part of me that feels that that is an important part of my being,
it's that journey. And once you've achieved something, that's great. You get a high, but That's not life. Life is the journey, not the, destination, if that makes sense.
Ling Yah: Thirdly, we have David Grief from episode 60. Now David was a senior English clerk. What that means is that he was the person who nurtured and grew the careers of many renowned barristeres and judges, including the former Chief Justice of England and Wales. For him, he shared a motto in his episode of how he lives life and what Asian culture actually doesn't do well at all.
David Grief: My motto here and I use it awful lot here is if you don't ask, you don't get. And it's the cultural thing, maybe the same in Malaysia. The people junior afraid to ask seniors whether they can do something. They can get some impulsive.
And if I talk to seniors from the other end of the scale, they would say, of course, why not?
But you talk to the juniors, they don't ask. So my motto is don't ask don't get. What's the worst going to happen? Someone can say no.
Ling Yah: And finally, we have one of my dearest friends in episode two. Red Hong Yi.
A well known architect turned artist who pivoted into her current career because the personal art project she downloaded on YouTube, where she used a basketball covered in red paint and dribbled on a large piece of paper to create the portrait of Chinese basketball Yao Ming went viral.
With Red came the fourth lesson: the world is big. We aren't always confined to what we study and it's actually okay to be a little crazy.
In this snippet, Red shares what it was like going viral and how she managed to convince her parents to let her give art a go.
So were you getting more and more viewers coming on board and seeing your work? Was there growing interest and more media coming towards you?
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah. I had like a small following at the start. Like during the Yao Ming thing.
I set up a Facebook page after that, and then it built up from there and, it's been really fun connecting with people all over the world.
Ling Yah: And it led you to the EG conference, which happened the same year in April.
Red Hong Yi: That was so quick.
So the person who reached out to me, his name is Michael Hawley. He is like a dear friend and a mentor almost to me. He's the guy behind EG. And when he emailed me I thought, no way. Is this a scam? Is this a hoax. And I like Googled him.
I was like, no kidding. Professor MIT has done a bunch of things. He's brilliant. He's worked with Steve Jobs on NeXT and all that kind of thing. And I thought, no, this is not real.
And we jumped on a call and I thought, Oh my gosh, this is real. He took a leap of faith and invited me to go over to the States to speak about my art in May.
And at the time I just started out. So I thought, okay, I have to Do another portrait of an American or something like that. So it's more relevant to the crowd there, and I chose Mark Zuckerberg.
And yeah, I think that was when my parents realized that, Oh my gosh this fun side project is actually happening.
It's real. And, I think it freaked them out. So they flew over right before the conference and they're like, are you sure what's going to happen and all that kind of thing.
And then in the end we decided that mom and dad should go over for the conference too. So they came with me and that was when they realized that, Oh, my daughter is not that crazy after all. There is a room filled with crazy, you see?
Ling Yah: Who are also successful.
Red Hong Yi: At doing all sorts of different things!
So what I love about Mike is he puts equal importance and respect in the sciences and the arts. So he had amazing scientist that's discovering incredible things, to musicians, to artists, to astronauts, to chefs, to everything.
And that really just opened up my eyes and it is go well, you know, the world is much bigger. It's not just confined to what you study.
Ling Yah: Because the EG conference is actually quite a big deal. It was something of a turning point for you, wasn't it?
Red Hong Yi: It was, it really was. Meeting all sorts of people and having all that station in with them there expanded my mind a lot.
And after that, my parents were like, okay, you know what you're doing. And I trust you We have trust you, we have to trust this. Cause they met all these people, who trusted what I was doing. So that was really something that changed my life quite a bit. And I have to thank people like Mike, who actually believed in what I was doing.
Ling Yah: And there you have it.
A very small, sample size of some of my favorite moments in STIMY.
And I hope it gives you a good idea of what you can expect as you're going through the archives. The links to all of the episodes and guest mention within this episode will be placed in the show notes, which you can find at www.sothisismywhy.com/91.
Now, remember in the first six seconds of this episode, we heard some animal noises?
Let's hear the first one again.
That was a koala.
And here's the second.
And that was a lion.
Did you get both right? If you did, if you enjoyed this episode, please let me know. Take a screenshot, tag me on LinkedIn, Instagram, or even better Twitter.
I would love to know what you thought of this episode. And the kind of stories and people you'd like to see featured in future episodes. Or just to share your thoughts in general.
And do say tuned for next Sunday, because we'll be meeting a retired four star general, who was actually the former chief of army and chief of defense forces in Malaysia.
Some of the things that he got up to?
Well, firstly, he fought in the Congos and also in the Vietnam war where he witnessed the fall of Saigon.
He was a part of a team of 33 commanders who fought against 330 enemies and had to scale a leech infested mountain that was 2000 meters high and had to use the Kelabit log canoe to cross crocodile infested rivers.
He was also once threatened by his superior that he would be court martialled and when asked, he said I'm still waiting. And once he swam from Singapore to Johor in full uniform, because the British soldiers told them Malaysians can never become commandos. Well, this former General showed them what Malaysians were really made of.
And guess what?
Not a single British soldier dared to even try to make that swim.
Now I don't wanna spoil his entire story because it is truly insane and remarkable and I can't help, but think that he has more lives than half a dozen cats.
So do subscribe, check out the past STIMY episodes and see you next Sunday.