Yi Jun is a Malaysian food blogger, writer & podcaster who shares about what it was like transitioning from studying engineering at the University of Cambridge to Le Cordon Bleu, starging at Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in New York to establishing himself in the food scene.
So This Is My Why | Issue 3
You’ll have probably heard about the COVID-19 vaccines by now. First, with Pfizer (NPR’s Short Wave podcast gives a 10-minute lowdown on what their 90% efficacy rate means) & now Moderna, showing nearly 95% protection. Both vaccines still have big bridges to cross, such as determining how long the immunity will last, but that’s not the only thing that’s been making the headlines.
There’s also Spotify!
Now, Spotify is set to acquire podcast ad company Megaphone for a shiny $235 million – news that the Reddit podcast community did not seem too keen on. And is also hinting at adding a monthly subscription podcast service ranging from $3 to $8 per month. Couple that with Spotify’s exclusive podcast deals with the likes of Michelle Obama & Kim Kardashian West, and it’s clear that Spotify is serious about becoming the King of Audioland!
Which brings us to this week’s STIMY guest, Malek Ali: Serial entrepreneur & founder of Malaysia’s top business radio channel, BFM 89.9.
If you grew up in Malaysia, you’ll probably know that our radiowaves used to be full of music & none-too-pleasant Gotcha Calls, but nothing that was actually intellectually edifying.
Which was something that Malek noted very early on and through a series of events, ended up founding BFM 89.9 – a business radio channel that, in case you didn’t know, also has a podcasting arm!
But BFM 89.9 isn’t Malek’s only achievement. He has previously:
- Worked as a lawyer at Allen & Overy in London;
- Completed his Harvard MBA (where he was classmates with Sheryl Sandberg & Employee #3 of Yahoo);
- Worked as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group; and
- Founded multiple companies including KL Classifieds, BFM 89.9 & Fi Life.
We discussed many things in this episode, including:
- 2:52: His childhood & having to decide which parent he would live with upon their divorce at the age of 5;
- 8:46: Why he studied law when his first love was in business;
- 10:22: Working at Allen & Overy (a Magic Circle firm), including on the bankruptcy of Canary Wharf;
- 11:48: Studying for his Harvard MBA;
- 15:43: Founding KL Classifieds in 1997 & why that landed him RM300,000 in debt;
- 16:50: How he got out of his debt & ended up working at JobStreet;
- 21:26: What he learned from his time as Head of Mobile at Maxis, then Yahoo;
- 23:20: What Sue Decker, then CFO of Yahoo, taught him about the importance of creating good products.
- 25:29: What pushed him to starting BFM 89.9, Malaysia’s only business radio channel;
- 30:50: The challenges he faced in getting investors on board;
- 36:10: The collapse of Lehman Brothers & BFM 89.9’s struggle to cover relevant content with their threadbare staff;
- 38:18: Getting sponsors for BFM 89.9 including from Malaysia Airlines;
- 45:47: Whether radio will ever be obsolete;
- 48:41: Why he started Fi Life;
- 50:27: Reading up on the investment portfolios of many other people on Fi Life’s “This Is How I Invest” blog series;
- 50:56: Impact of COVID-19 on the media space; and
- 53:18: How listeners can help Malek.
P/S: In Malek’s episode, he discussed the issue of overspending on marketing as was the case with U For Life. Tagging onto that, Andrew Chen (General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz) wrote an interesting article on how startups die from their addiction to paid marketing that you might enjoy.
Looking for past STIMY guests in the business world? Check out:
- Ep 3: Dr. Julian Tan – Head of Digital Business Initiatives & Esports at Formula 1, on how he went from being bullied in high school to topping his year in Oxford, then Cambridge, before going on to bring esports into F1 (including the groundbreaking Virtual Grand Prix races that kept the lights on for F1 during the lockdown era!). Julian was recently awarded the Leaders Sports Awards too, which was well-deserved. Congrats, Julian!!
- Ep 7: Jan Wong – An enterprising serial entrepreneur who went from selling paper to his primary school classmates to founding one of Malaysia’s top martech consulting companies, OpenMinds Resources, which has also just launched a new learning app!
- Ep 9: Rabi Malla – an amazing Nepali social entrepreneur who works with Nepali indigenous communities (including the nomadic Raute tribe!) in selling their gorgeous handicraft to people around the world.
- Ep 16: Renyi Chin – founder of MyBurgerLab on how they went from almost burning down the kitchen during their R&D to running one of Kuala Lumpur’s most innovative burger chains around! (P/S: Their PB&J burger, aka the Elvis, is a favourite)
- Ep 23: Sarah Chen – Co-Founder of Beyond the Billion, a global consortium of over 80 VCs that have pledged over US$1 billion in investments in female-founded companies.
Favourite Finds of the Week
Let’s face it, Zoom fatigue is real. Seeking an alternative? 🙋🏻♀️
Enter High Fidelity.
A virtual space where if you sign up, you get your very own virtual “space”. Just click the personalised link to enter. Each participant is represented by a circle (see picture above) which you can customise to include your face or just your initials.
You don’t have to turn on your video to have your discussions & here’s where things get interesting:
You can maneouver around the space as if you’re in a computer game (the layout is customisable) such that:
- If you move away from another participant, their voice gets softer and softer, as if you’re really walking away from them;
- If you move to the right side of your friend, then they will hear your voice through their right ear. As if you’re standing on their right side. And vice versa; and
- A large crowd can gather in that one space, then move off to have their separate discussion without bothering everyone, while the moderator can move easily between each group. Move far away, and you can’t hear anyone else!
Thoughts: Nothing beats real-life meetings but for a virtual meetup, High Fidelity is a nice way to shake things up a little. They were on the verge of shutting down last year because there was no market for virtual meetings but well, that’s all changed now, hasn’t it? 😅
Matt d’Avella is a minimalist, filmmaker & prolific YouTuber with over 2.96 million subscribers!
And in this podcast episode, Matt shares how his love of film evolved into the creation of the 2015 documentary film, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, which went viral, and set him on the path he is now on.
Why listen: Learn about Matt’s motivations, how he went from $97k in student loans to a thriving 2.95 million strong YouTube channel, his growth tactics in creating videos exceeding 1 million views, finding his “voice” & how he handles his success.
Most Interesting Takeaway:
The 2 most effective things to get clicks on YouTube:
- A title: He cycles through 15-20 potential titles per video until he comes across a title that he thinks would work first, before beginning work on his next video.
- A thumbnail that tells a story: Thumbnails are the photo you see of a YouTube video prior to clicking on it. Matt goes the extra mile & will even take a specific photo just to use as a thumbnail! For instance if the video is about his morning routine, his thumbnail would be of him in bed, a food platter beside him & a cup of coffee in his hand. Not a scene from the video itself, but it captures the essence of what the video is about.
Thoughts: I love hearing stories about YouTubers because their career is so different from that of a conventional white collar job. And it seems that a lot of times, they stumble upon it almost by accident. Just showing up consistently, over and over and over until one day, they started becoming “known” for what they were doing. And the same thing happened with Matt – he loved filmmaking and started small, earning $100 for a 40-hour video editing job. Look where he is now.
Half a year ago, I came across Juliana on my LinkedIn feed & followed her out of curiosity. Her posts have quickly evolved into one of my favourite reads of the day for reasons stated below. But first:
Who is Juliana?
CEO of Wildtype Media Group, Publisher of the Asian Scientist Magazine, having studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University followed by a PhD in Biology from the MIA. She is currently the adjunct assistant professor at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Science.
Her academic research on drug delivery & nanomedicine has been covered in places like the BBC, MIT Technology Review & South China Morning Post, and she is the inventor of 4 US patents (one which is licensed for commercialisation by Pfizer)!
Why you should follow Juliana:
- Her mission: To highlight the incredible science coming out of Asia. I wasn’t aware until I read Juliana’s post here about the inherent racism that Asian scientists face. An example in Juliana’s post highlights a paper that was submitted to a journal, where a reviewer stated: “I think that to write papers that are competitive you should probably partner with more experienced authors in the western world…“. To say that I was appalled would be an understatement! 😠
- Her character: Juliana’s post on paying it forward was one of many that touched me deeply.
- Her incredible guests: Maya Hari (VP & MD of Twitter Asia-Pacific), Ali Khademhosseini (CEO & Founding Director of Terasaki Institute) & Dr Finian Tan (Founder of Vickets Venture Partners) are some of my favourites.
- Her fun guests: Darrion Nguyen (aka Lab Shenanigans aka The Millenial Tiktok answer to Bill Nye the Science Guy) – who talks about the Regeneron antibody cocktail, COVID-19 infections in HK & signs of life on Venus… all in just under 7 minutes!
- Her personal kindness: I love what Juliana’s doing so of course, I emailed her asking if she would mind being featured on STIMY. She gave me one of the kindest, longest replies (most people just ignore my emails) stating why she was unavailable at the time and ended it with “I usually like to provide a longer explanation so that it gives you some context into my limitations and why I would say no to another human being“. While I always remind myself that a rejection or silence is never personal, the fact that Juliana took the time to email back meant a lot & places her high up in my list of people I admire. (P/S: She didn’t say no to a future interview so hopefully we’ll snag some time in 2021!)
P/S: Juliana will start issuing her own newsletter, Informed Consent, on all things startups & developments in the biotech/pharma sector once she hits 500 subscribers! You can subscribe here.
Who is Paul Graham: A programmer, writer, investor & one of the co-founders of Y Combinator with an AB from Cornell, PhD in computer science from Harvard & studied painting at rISD & Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence.
Key Insights: We hold ourselves back from doing great work because we are afraid of being lame, judging the preliminary work as if it’s at its final iteration. There are other reasons: (i) inexperience; (ii) wanting to seem “clever”; and (iii) an innate desire/national culture of seeing those around you fail.
How do you overcome it?
- Be slightly overconfident (which armours you against skepticism both external & internal);
- Be optimistic;
- Surround yourself with the right people (with similarly ambitious projects, but able to “tell an ugly duckling from a baby swan“);
- Judge your new work on a lower pedestal, e.g. you’re making a sketch instead of a painting, so you also don’t need to expend as much upfront effort & time on it; and
- Study others who’ve done great work, especially their first iterations & thought processes.
Upcoming STIMY Guests
- Cesar Kuriyama: Founder of 1 Second Everyday – a mobile app that allows you to take 1 second every day as a form of daily journaling. Why 1 second? Because research has proven that that is all you need to recall your day!
Enjoyed this newsletter or have a comment? Email sothisismywhy(at)gmail.com
And if someone forwarded this newsletter to you, you can sign up here.
Until next week!