Chong Chan-Yau is a Hong Kong entrepreneur who went completely blind at the age of 6 but has never let that hold him back. He became, amongst others, one of the first blind persons to attend the Hong Kong University, the first to become a civil servant, has worked to create legislation that provides equal opportunities for the blind, founded Dialogue in the Dark & also a climate change NGO platform for the youth called Carboncare Innolab.
So This Is My Why | Issue 6
Welcome to Issue 5 of the STIMY Newsletter & today’s guest is STIMY’s very first VC: Dr. Finian Tan.
But before that, if you’re here for the first time or would like to have this weekly newsletter delivered straight to you, click the Subscribe Now button below!
A Little World News
If you haven’t already heard, the world was gripped by yesterday’s news of the US Capitol siege as the Senate was in the process of certifying the results of the Electoral College.
The New York Times does a good summary, with Politico stating that over 45% of Republican voters approved the storming of the Capitol. Meanwhile, in Twitterland, Andrew Yang tweeted the 3 main issues fueling such polarization in the media & there’s also a viral name & shame thread identifying the participants.
Other Global Developments
- Alphabet Workers Union: For the past year, Google workers were secretly organising a union that officially opened on 4 January 2021 to Alphabet employees & contractors. The union’s focus is less on contract negotiations and more on shaping the direction & application of the tech they are creating;
- The CIA had a new facelift! But it’s new logo & website, intended to reflect its increasingly diverse candidates, have been liked to a Millennial pop-up store or the cover of “the most minimal tech dnb EP of 2021” 😳; and
- Elon Musk became the richest man in the world, to which he tweeted, “How strange. Well, back to work.” 😅
So in Elon style, well, onto this week’s STIMY guest:
This week’s STIMY guest is Dr. Finian Tan – a Singaporean venture capitalist, entrepreneur, co-founder & Chairman of Vickers Venture Partners, now ranked the 5th most consistently performing fund manager worldwide.
Prior to Vickers, Finian was also:
- Regional Director & Head at J.Aron – Goldman Sachs’ Asian trading arm;
- Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry for the Singapore Government, where he oversaw the creation of the $1 billion dollar TIF fund (he was subsequently appointed as chairman of the said fund); and
- A Managing Director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson Eplanet & the founding partner of its Asia Pacific Operations, where he led the investment into Baidu and remained its largest backer until IPO.
This is the longest episode released so far because it was just so hard for me to decide what to cut. We covered so much!
That said, here are some highlights:
- 8:19: How the bankruptcy of his father’s company impacted his family
- 9:15: Planning it “like a war” to win all the academic awards at Glasgow University
- 13:09: Completing his Masters & PhD at Cambridge University
- 15:05: Working as a Chief Trader at Shell
- 15:51: Heading J.Aron – the Asian arm of Goldman Sachs
- 18:12: Becoming the Deputy Secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Trade & Industry
- 24:21: Joining Draper Fisher Jurvetson Eplanet & figuring out where to invest by drawing a line in his book
- 27:01: Why Finian chose Baidu to be his first & only investment (at $7.5 million!)
- 31:51: Founding Vickers Venture Partners
- 34:15: Building Vicker’s reputation in the VC space
- 36:44: Why Vickers pivoted into the deep tech space
- 44:24: Investing in Samumed, which is working to reverse aging by drugging the Wnt signaling pathway!
- 47:05: How Emergex is involved in the COVID-19 vaccine fight
- 55:31: RWDC – a company that is creating 100% biodegradable plastic that looks, feels & costs like plastic
- 58:01: The silver bullet
- 1:01:52: Values that Finian looks for
- 1:03:01: What went wrong with 24 Quan (Finian’s biggest investment failure)
- 1:05:31: How Eavor is making breakthroughs in the geothermal space
- 1:17:11: What Finian looks for when hiring someone
Looking for past STIMY guests in the VC/startup world? Check out:
- Ep 26: Cesar Kuriyama – Founder of 1 Second Everyday: a mobile app that lets you record 1 second videos of every day as a form of journaling, which just became the #1 App in the App Store 2020 in the US, UK, Canada, Singapore & many more!
- Ep 24: Malek Ali – Malaysian serial entrepreneur most known for founding Malaysia’s top business radio channel, BFM 89.9 & Fi Life
- Ep 23: Sarah Chen – Co-Founder of Beyond the Billion: a global consortium of over 80 VCs that have collectively pledged over $1 billion in funding in female-founded companies
Favourite Finds of the Week
I tend to think of Lunchclub as a 45-minute video call version of LinkedIn.
Here’s how it works:
- Every week, you can have up to 3 scheduled meetings (or more, if you use its “points”) with 3 completely random people on Lunchclub by selecting the day/time of your choosing.
- At the start of each week, you will get an email telling you who you’ve been linked with & a Google meet link;
- At the specified time, just click on the Google meet link to chat! Or just email each other to suggest an alternative platform like Zoom.
There is no agenda although they’re just strict on it being purely professional. You can talk about anything you want or even cut it short.
I’ve actually really enjoyed Lunchclub because of the wide but fun range of people I get allocated to each week. In the 20+ Lunchclub chats I’ve had, they’ve ranged from Silicon Valley software engineers to VCs, health tech founders, personal trainers, business coaches and even a former Buzzfeed reporter!
I’m not sure how their algorithm works exactly in terms of matching you with people whose interests most align with yours – they do ask, and the homepage constantly shows the profiles of people alongside the question of whether you would be interested in talking to them – but I can’t really complain about the people I’ve been slotted to meet.
The objectives you can select for the meetings include meeting interesting people, investing, or starting a company.
I’d definitely keep an eye on Lunchclub; Lunchclub recently raised $24.4 million at a valuation of over $100 million and I won’t be surprised if it really takes off. It’s certainly a more thoughtful and impactful alternative to Clubhouse, in my humble opinion.
And a fun way to meet people while being stuck at home! 😉
Who is Guy Kawasaki?
Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, executive fellow of the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley), and adjunct professor of the University of New South Wales. He was the chief evangelist of Apple and a trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation. He also runs the Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast.
With Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now in play, the question now turns to distribution. What is the best way to get people to actually take the vaccines? Should we legislate? What roles do media and social media play? To answer these questions, Guy Kawasaki asked 9 remarkable people/experts in behavioural analysis to share their thoughts.
If you don’t have 90 minutes to spare, you can read a summary I made of that episode here.
Most Interesting Takeaway:
- Graphs/data are not as effective as heart-wrenching stories showing how COVID-19 has negatively impacted people (e.g. a loss of a family member) & to tell others to not let it happen to them.
- Tell those heartwrenching stories often & well. If there are negative stories (e.g. bad side effects from vaccine) surfacing, don’t get sucked into them. Instead, focus on your own story so that you can frame the conversation in your own terms.
- Have social role models get the vaccine first: And don’t just say that they’ve done it, show it. Also, don’t focus just on the celebrities, but also influential figures in the community.
- Use a visible symbol to show that you have been vaccinated, e.g. a V sign & create a sense of community
- Both the mainstream media & social media have a duty to ensure that proper weightage is given to both postive/negative news, and that misinformation is curtailed, e.g. slapping a label that there is misinformation as was done for the US election.
- Introduce some form of gamification/make the process of getting vaccinated a festive one, whether it’s introducing a giveaway, raffle, roving ice-cream truck and/or chocolate.
- Remove hurdles to people getting vaccinated, e.g. offering paid time off.
- Send messages to people in your database which include a photo of a vial of vaccine with their actual name on it, saying, “This vaccine has your name on it. Come and get it.”
Person: Noah Kagan
Who is Noah Kagan?
Noah Kagan, is an American entrepreneur, and founder and Chief Sumo of AppSumo, which is a highly successful daily software deals site. He was also employee #30 at Facebook, #4 at Mint, and worked at Intel.
Why you should follow Noah:
I’ve actually been listening to Noah Kagan’s podcast for a while, where he talks about starting & growing a business.
Unlike many business podcasts I’ve listened to, I really, really like Noah because he gives unvarnished, practical, easy to implement advice. And the topics he covers have ranged from how to build a 100k Substack newsletter to interviews with James Altucher, Lori Gottlieb, and the co-founder of the viral YesTheory YouTube channel.
Noah has recently been focusing a lot on his YouTube channel – which now has 109k subscribers!! – and has been focusing on breaking down things like:
- How GaryVee makes $200 million/year from 12 businesses
- How Ali Abdaal Gained 1.3 million YouTube subscribers while in Med School
- How Mr. Beast makes $97 million/year from YouTube
I highly recommend giving Noah’s content a go!
A Precious Find: Zoom Protocol
Let’s face it, WFH is probably still going to be a reality for a good few months into 2021 if not more but after a year, the question remains: Are we doing Zoom calls right?!
This article gives a lovely summary of Zoom protocols we can all implement, including the following:
- Open a new, solitary tab if you are giving a presentation of any sort;
- Position your laptop on top of books/boxes so that you are at eye level with your computer’s camera & raise your chin;
- Look at the camera lens of your computer (not your screen!) when speaking;
- Remember to mute AND turn off your camera when standing up;
- Find a place with good lighting;
- Use contact lenses, not glasses (where applicable);
- Add a jacket to switch to a “business casual” look; and
- The Mug Trick.
Upcoming STIMY Guests
- Maurizio Leo: Software engineer turned sourdough blogger extraordinaire at The Perfect Loaf & Resident Bread Baker at Food52. He also created the SkyView iOS app, which has had over 10 million downloads & was named as a Top 10 app of 2011 by The New York Times and a Top 20 app of 2011 by TechCrunch.
- John Kim: Co-founder & MD of Amasia, which is a VC focused on fighting the climate crisis & enhancing sustainability. Portfolio companies include Tokopedia & Skillshare. Also runs The John Kim Show with his family, is a Kauffman Fellow, former Executive Director at Goldman Sachs & Founder of The Ally (where he won a platinum record for his collaboration with Grammy Award winner, Brandy).
And that’s all for this week!
Hope you enjoyed it & let me know if you have any thoughts on this week’s newsletter. Email sothisismywhy(at)gmail.com 😊
Until next week!
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