Welcome to Episode 72!
Our guest for STIMY Episode 72 is Vincent Growth.
Vincent Wei is the Head of Growth (Product & growth) at VEED.IO, one of the fastest growing startups by revenue in the world.
He was first introduced to the world of startups when he began CodeCreate, one of Australia’s first coding school for kids, while still at university. The school generated 6-figure revenue but his next startup unfortunately didn’t do so well.
Burnt out, Vincent decided to take a break and travel the world before returning as Employee #3 on the growth team at AirTasker – which later became one of Australia’s largest marketplace for services. That was no mean feat, given that the startup was burning $35 million annually and on the verge on collapse then!
Together with the team, they managed to turn the startup around but Vincent left before AirTasker IPOed in 2021 (and we discuss why in this episode!) to join VEED.io – the Canva of video editing – as Head of Growth. VEED recently raised $35M from Sequoia and is currently going through an exciting growth phase, so this is definitely a startup to keep an eye on!
P/S: “Dropkick” is an Australian slang that refers to someone who isn’t very smart & hasn’t made it very far in life.
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Who is Vincent Wei?
Vincent Wei moved from Taiwan to Australia when he was age 11, and shares the difficulties he had in integrating into a very different life. And how Harry Potter was the motivation he needed to learn English!
- 3:32 How Harry Potter helped Vincent learn English
- 5:20 Being driven to succeed
- 8:41 Not wanting to be a dropkick
Vincent began his first startup, CodeCreate, while he was still in university. It began because he had pinpointed the things that he loved most: teaching, kids and coding. And very quickly, he scaled that business and saw it generating 6-figure revenue!
However… his second startup didn’t go so well.
- 13:51 Founding CodeCreate to teach kids how to build Minecraft
- 18:48 How CodeCreate’s cohort went from 3 to 86 kids
- 23:00 Getting a contract role at Suncorp
- 29:29 Founding his 2nd startup
- 32:37 How Lambda School inspired them
- 35:48 Why Cody failed
- 38:16 Travelling the world
AirTasker & VEED
After travelling around the world, Vincent returned to take on his first full-time job at AirTasker. AirTasker was burning a lot of money at the time but they managed to turn it around and grew the company by 50% year on year.
However, this was also the time when Vincent decided it was time to move on…
- 42:35 The power of LinkedIn outreach & chatting with James Clear
- 47:26 Joining AirTasker when it was burning $30 million annually
- 49:27 How they turned AirTasker around
- 54:51 Why Vincent left AirTasker
- 56:25 How Vincent’s role at VEED has evolved over time
- 59:09 What Vincent looks for when he hires
- 1:01:08 Influencing others virtually
If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:
- Austen Allred: Co-founder of Lambda School
- DJ Didonna: Entrepreneur & holder of Harvard MBA, turned founder of The Sabbatical Project
- Kendrick Nguyen: Co-Founder of Republic – one of the top equity crowdfunding platforms in the US
If you enjoyed this episode with Vincent, you can:
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If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s patron page here.
STIMY 72: Vincent Wei - Head of Growth (Product & Growth), VEED.IO
Vincent Wei: Growing up my academic, which got translated to work achievements has always been a huge part of how I measure my self-worth.
This is the first time in my life where I've actually put down my sword and go. like, Hey guys, I'm out of gas. I don't find anything left. I was going so far negative. I've got nothing left. I think people around me could see that.
I was 25. So as any people would, they go travelling. I had less than 10 K at the time. And I need to rebuild my finances.
One of my friend I met throughout this period, he was like, do you want to come to Vietnam?
I was like, yeah. I'll be here Tuesday. I booked the ticket to go to Ho Chi Minh, which is Saigon.
He just sent me a hostel address and I'm literally jumping on a plane to go to a foreign country to meet a friend at a hostel.
I got scammed right out of the airport with the taxi drivers, obviously. They just charged me triple or something.
Ling Yah: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 72 of the So This Is My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and today's guest is Vincent Wei, head of growth at VEED: a web-based video editing tool that recently raised $35 million from Sequoia. And is one of the fastest growing startup by revenue in the world.
In this episode, we learn about what it was like being a first generation immigrant to Australia at a time when he couldn't even speak English and how, while he was at university, he built one of Australia's first coding school for kids, teaching thousands of them engineering through games like Minecraft.
He began a second startup but that ended badly so much so that Vincent decided he needed to travel the world. He later joined AirTasker, one of Australia's largest marketplace for services as employee number three, at a time when the company was burning $30 million annually. He was part of the team that turned it around and AirTasker eventually IPOed in 2021.
And now Vincent is the head of growth at VEED.
If you want to learn more about how Vincent got to where he is today and what it means to have a growth mindset. Then this is the episode for you.
Are you ready?
Vincent Wei: I think moving from Taiwan that around 11 was definitely a big cultural shock. I still feel the impact of that to me, even now as an adult like towards my late twenties.
I think one of the things I realized was it was a lot harder to find common things, especially when you were kids coming over.
The day-to-day of going to school obviously besides having really different language barriers.
When you first started is very difficult to connect with friends. There were a few things that was very universal like Pokemon, which transcended across culture and the other thing that transcended culture is a love of food.
And so I had this kid, George, and he introduced me to a lot of Greek food that I've never experienced. Baklava, which is like this pastry sweet.
He was like, oh, my mother will make this. And if you can get your mum to make the dumpling that was in your lunchbox and this was like, I've had this dumpling just every day. Day in, day out, cause , my mom's kinda single parent here. I was struggling. I didn't get to pick what we get to eat.
And so it was one way for me to diversify my lunchbox back throughout school. And I loved it so much and we made friends, you know? So yeah, it was definitely a massive shock, but then there was different things I realized over time, like my language is good enough I was able to connect through Pokemon cards, foods and sports, playing handball or something like that. So that was great.
Ling Yah: You mentioned language several times. Isn't there a story concerning Harry Potter?
Vincent Wei: Yeah. So when I came to Australia I knew how to speak hockien. I knew how to speak Mandarin, but my English , was non-existent in a sense that yeah, I've done a few English classes back in primary school, but they just teach you say, my name is, Vincent and I am 11 years old, 12 years old. The grammar was really difficult. And I really, really struggled because everyone was telling us to learn. you can't rely on English, Chinese you going to let that go and you've just got to immerse yourself.
And the magical source that we found was I actually have a love for reading ever since I was young.
And at the time Harry Potter was massive growing up for us. And so when I left, JK Rowling just released up to the Goblet of fire and that get translated to mandarin which usually take one to two years before the books get released.
And so here I am just moved to Australia and the Order of Phoenix, which is the next book got released in English first. It would take it out a year or two before the Chinese comes out. And so my mum was like, I will only buy you the book in English. And that became a massive driver for me to learn to read because I wanted to find out what happens next after spoiler alert like Cedric Diggory got killed by Voldemort and Lord Voldemort is back.
It's such a big cliff hanger that I had to just push through. And that was what actually got me started to read and to actually another discussion point with my friends back at school.
Ling Yah: I imagine that being asian as well, you must have done really well in school at the time.
Vincent Wei: Yeah, I think coming here, I really, really struggled.
I think a huge part being that English not being your language, it's really hard to understand any of the tests and what they're trying to ask you. I was virtually just looking at the test paper in front of me and every single question that had the blank answer, I know I will struggle. So I would just leave it blank, but anything that comes with some sort of multiple choice or some sort of a thing that I could gain I would approach it probabilistically.
Ling Yah: Wasn't the turning point when you were in grade eight? What's the story there?
Vincent Wei: Growing up in Chinese culture, we've had this proverb we spoke about this in Chinese, which is if you don't work hard when you're young and you just played like all your life away, then you're going to be I guess um very sad and miserable when you become older because you haven't saved you haven't invested and built yourself towards something.
And so there was kind of these moments where I sit down and it was a massive sense of, I didn't want to let my parents down and that became a massive drive all throughout a huge part of my life of why. As well as a sense of I don't want to be you know how the proverb described me when I get older, which is sad and miserable and a failure in some way.
I guess at the time created the association and the story, because I guess that's what my parents believe. That's what a lot of people around me believe all the aunties and the grandma believed was, you've got to do well at school and you got to do well at this kind of thing to succeed.
And so I sat down at year eight and I realized this, that I needed to really commit myself otherwise I wouldn't have a successful life. I will live a very miserable and unhappy life.
The other thing to kind of kind of paint a bit of picture on is when I first came over, it was towards the end of my primary school years.
In Australia, we kind of have the culture of where it doesn't really matter where you go from primary school. It's more about creativity and fun and just learning and getting that good basic foundation of language arithmetic and creativity.
But then when you get to high school, this is where like things start. So you're kind of working towards, I guess, a university degree and this is how a lot of kind of parents used to think of it. when I came, I came out of a time where everyone's preparing to all the entrance exam into these like selective, prestigious high school or some people been preparing their kids for school application for years to come and a really good school really selective.
Then Because I just got here, I had no network, I had no language ability. I couldn't get into any good schools. So I have this school, which was definitely a little rough around the edges. It was an old boys school with a lot of rugby and boy culture that I think my parents definitely didn't like, but it was better than the other alternatives that they think at the time.
And so it was kind of also a conversation of , Hey, you could look at a transfer but you really need to pick up your grades. And so, yeah, I sat down and I had the chat with myself. The internal dialogue was if I don't pick it up, then I'm going to be a Dropkick which is Australian slang. Just means like you're gonna be on the street You're going to be useless on the street And so, I really worked hard that year. It was incredible how things flipped around. I remember I got 17% on a test. Like, how do you get 17% on a test? Uh, It was for German.
And I just did not care. And I remember flipping around, I got 97%. Yay. Like It was such a drastic change. I was quite shocked at like what I could do at the time as well when I applied myself. Finally got 97% German and got second place. I have this Greek friend who happened to be lifelong friends with now, Luke, and he got 99.
Ling Yah: I love that you still remember the numbers.
Vincent Wei: I remember because I worked so damn hard. Like a 13 year old, you have the discipline to stick with something for a whole year.
And you're like, what? I only got a second. Someone beat me, but yeah. Anyway Luke is that friend. And yeah, it was crazy. Yeah. And then towards the end of it I applied at a different places and I actually got offers to go into a few of these selected schools and also a private school who's offered me a scholarship.
Ling Yah: And what was the story behind you doing electrical engineering at the university of New South Wales? Was it something that your parents encourage you to do or not?
Vincent Wei: All throughout high school, I think this pattern of thinking I'm a failure thinking I'm a Dropkick and then having to like sit myself down and really pull through with success has been kind of the driving force of how hard I work and all those things lead to the point where I think, I was definitely very burnt out multiple times over and over.
Leading up to kind of the final year of taking my tests and deciding what to do for university and stuff like that obviously my mom and I had another conversation.
My mom definitely brought us up with a view of what successful looked like.
For example, would be like, wow, look at so-and-so son, they are a doctor.
Wow, look at your cousin, she's doing medicine at Brown. Oh wow. That person's a lawyer and her partner is also a lawyer too, That's been kind of ingrained and stuff. So there was a few things , like, you know, law, med being obvious ones.
If I'm getting lost throughout their high school years, you will also go to your parents, but I'm not sure what I should do. I thought, oh, what do you think about medicine? What do you think that law? I guess you can consider dentist too.
These things will be presented and that would kind of be the only thing you get presented with.
And then the stretch goal will be like pilots or like pharmacists, or Like, oh, you can do medical science too. And then that would be a transition
I guess that's why a lot of Asian friends grew up to be lawyers and doctors.
Ling Yah: You're not missing much.
Vincent Wei: I mean I'm speaking to one. So yeah, so essentially what led up to that was towards the final year, I was really burnt out and I think because I've grinded so many years to try and keep my marks up.
The reason I needed to do that was because I was on a scholarship. And if I let it drop , the school could rescind the scholarship, which means I can't afford to be here. And I had to say goodbye to my friends and I might have to go back to a different school, , where I could get pushed around and all or something like that, right.
So I guess it was a lot of pressure that I put on myself. Like,, it was , almost like I needed to do this to survive. At least that's what I told myself. I cannot fail. It wasn't an option. And yeah, so I think when I got to the final year, I knew the school couldn't really fine me anymore.
you know, I just knew, they wouldn't do that. It's the last year they've invested all these years of the scholarship. They're trying to get me to contribute my life. And I was so burnt out at this point. I was jigging classes. I wasn't rocking up.
I was just wanting to run away some way. As I sit on my final exams I did decently well but yeah, I didn't bother to work for my med entrance exam. And I missed subjects like law and all those kinds of stuff by a fraction of a percent or something.
Which means a path to entry wasn't a direct one. It would have to be something that had to work around.
So I actually didn't pick engineering. Funny enough. It was one of these Asian overachiever thing So I picked the next highest subject that's on the requirement list, if that makes sense.
So these are done by supply and demand. So obviously med and law being so competed against have some of the highest requirement entry mark in terms of like, where you need to lie on the bell curve distribution across the country. And I missed it by a little bit, and so I moved down the next thing on the bell curve, which is commerce, funny enough.
A lot of people want to do commerce. But then I looked at commerce, I feel , oh, I don't feel that's enough. So I added a commerce engineering into my degree. And so I'm gonna add that in there and pick up a five and a half year minimum commitment for whatever reason.
Throughout first year of uni, I think my burnout didn't go away after the break. It had just worsened. And so I pretty much flunked a lot of the subjects.
I started to think about why am I doing this?
I kind of came to the realization like nothing they teach me isn't something I couldn't learn somewhere else.
And so I dropped commerce and I stuck with engineering. But then with engineering you have to specialize and there was so many specialty that I didn't know which one to pick. How I ended up electrical engineering was around 16, 2016 Disney launched your first movie, which was Ironman.
And I loved Robert Downey Jr.'s enactment of Ironman one so much I even Googled this as I remember and in Reddit and people talk about like oh, doing mechatronics?
But then ultimately it's a subset of electrical. So doing that is great. And that is exactly how I made my university specialization decisions that continue the rest of my career.
I actually flunked first year.
I was barely passing. And the similar notion of if I don't work hard when I'm young, I'm going to become on the street and a failure and a drug keep when I'm older.
Like I realized I wasn't figuring it out. I could either just take a break, like leave and quit or I just need to stuck it out and then do what I did in the end.
and, and the story I keep telling myself like,, Hey, you did it in year eight. You did it in year 12. If you don't do it now, everything you've worked for would have been wasted for nothing.
So I set myself an arbitrary goal of, I want to get first class honors, which is the highest tier that you can graduate with.
On the bus to uni every morning. I would put my music on and I'll play these motivation soundtrack like Eric Thompson , the hip hop, preacher, Tony Robbins, and all these people about not quitting about failures or the option about how soft our generation has become.
And we got to keep pushing and like, how we're so privilege. And yeah, so that was that mentality of driving myself.
But I eventually made it, I eventually got to a first class honors. Yeah.
Ling Yah: Do you feel like some part of that question was unsaid when you started co-create and you were teaching kids how to build games like Minecraft?
Vincent Wei: Yeah. This is a pattern of my life. So towards the final year or something, it's when you think about like, oh, I'm so close, but then you start to think about I should quit.
So one of the biggest frustration of me going through university well beside from there, you know, like not knowing my why, and I hated all the exams.
Anyone who's gone through university or who are going through it now will know that the success metrics of a university for all of us is like we get a good job, a good career experience, a good internship experiences on the other side.
And so a year into university every single year, I would apply for internships. And I would apply for work experiences that are relevant in the field.
I will go to the application, I'll go to career council and I like trying to run a cover letter.
I've done 50, a hundred, easily per semester. You get to a point where it's so hard because I'm trying to write something that tells them how passionate I am and that's just not really true.
At this point in my life, I've transitioned from all the motivational speakers into thinkers and entrepreneurs, like people who transformed something in some way.
One of the biggest influence was Steve Jobs at the time. I think it was because iPhone just came out towards that period of time, there's also iPad and I didn't understood what he did to apple and the transformation that he went through, but I could see the product that he created and the impact that's had and the desire of everyone wanting an Iphone when it came out like It was revolutionary compared to what was before was the Blackberry was lots of buttons.
I loved it and looked up to him having really original thought and not conforming to people were saying, we want longer battery life. We want more buttons.
And so in many ways I was really inspired by that. And One of the things he said was , when you realize that the world are made up of people know better than you, they're just people same as you, gone through the same struggle that you were doing now. You start to learn that you can shape it. You can change it.
You can mould it and influence it. And that really made an impact on me.
And so for the very first time in my life at around 20, 21, I sat myself down during the summer break and I go, if nothing matters and if you just don't care about the opinion of other people just for once in your life and you just think about doing what you're good at and what you love what would that be?
And the answer I came up with was, there was parts of engineering that I loved. Learning and building new tech was very, very exciting for me. It was frustrating the process, but when you see something work, you feel like you gained this superpower. This sense of empowerment, this excitement that comes with it. So that was one.
And two was I knew I love kids. Growing up, I've always like taking care of baby cousins and second cousins. And I would, baby kids hours on end and the mum would love me.
And then the last thing I realized was I really liked to teach. I've been tutoring kids all throughout my life and that's when I find the most interesting.
I think that it was one of the things that I think I would do this, even if I'm not paid. I read about this Ikigai guy framework that people were talking about at the time.
The other part of it was I've also taught at university and towards the end I was running a lot of first year electrical engineering and mechatronics students who have to learn basic Alexa circuses, running the practical components.
I really enjoy teaching because there's an element of I'm learning, but then I'm also sharing that knowledge.
And also I can really relate to them So I was really scared by my answer because my answer leads me to become a teacher.
was so out of grain. Like teacher was not an option on my parents successful. The guy I was doing my thesis with, he happened to be the head of school. And so He actually offered, do you want to stay at university and then you could do your PhD and keep teaching as well ? Cause it's rare for him to find academic people who also enjoy teaching.
My obvious gut answer is no, because I'm done with uni at that point.
Essentially, yeah. I actually approach some schools to look at what it looks like to be a teacher and I also approach university. So I had to do another year of masters in teaching, which turned me off massively.
And then I also spoke to a few schools they told me what the starting role and salary and progression will look like. I just try to learn about the career.
And I think because I grew up poor in comparison to the Australians here as well as your mom will talk about and also go wow, he's a doctor. He makes $400,000 a year or something. He's a specialist.
And so what I ended up decided was, why don't I try to create a program and tutor kids and teach them how to code.
At the time I think STEM, like engineering and science and the why, so these tech company Facebook, Shopify, Netflix was growing rapidly. Becoming really, really big.
And the parents could see that. And so the pitch to the parents was like, Hey, let me tutor your kids. I'm running these classes. If your kids do think reading English is important, I think the future world is going to rely on tech, everything built on software. And so you want to teach your kids how to like think about engineering and then think about how to read code.
And then the pitch to kids And it's the reverse. Their favorite computer game that you've always wanted to play and you wish you could just modify it or be able to hack it and give yourself a super power? I'll teach you how to make that.
So that was a pitch. And so I started teaching and tutoring kids how to code and then yeah, I ended up having like three to four kids who were crazy enough to say yes and sign up with me. and that was how the first class started.
Ling Yah: And then from there, the second cohort, just explode, right? From three to four to age 6?
Vincent Wei: Yeah. So unexpectedly, the way we went in was I went to some of the schools and I speak with friends and family and stuff and I got a few kids who started. and We started teaching out of this particular school because they have the computer, they have all those things and I couldn't afford computers at the time. I didn't have the upfront capital to go in.
the second semester, I think we went back and I remember the school called me up and was like, Hey Vincent, we need to have a chat. I was a little bit worried because I was like, what's going on? You know, It was kids right at a school and you have to be really professional and careful and I was 21.
I was like, you know, i, Anyway they were like, Hey so good news. We have 86 kids who signed up starting next week. You good to go? And at this point I was like, oh, yeah, yeah, no worries. I get that. That's my like default response. It's just came out straight away, but yeah, yeah, no worries. Yeah. Next week. Yeah, we'll be here. All good. We'll sort it out.
So yeah. Yes. I was thinking of giving you three classrooms because they can't all fit and then we'll figure out the computers and all that kind of stuff and blah, blah, blah.
The school was actually a very progressive school so they were actually like supporting me. And in some way the teachers, the principal at the time was mentoring me a little bit throughout. How to navigate this partnership with the school, which became valuable learnings.
I am able to replicate over and over again later on.
As I went away it hit me. 86 kids. That's four classes of kids. And I sometimes already struggle with behaviors, four kids get really excited. They're like running around.
like, What would this look like? 20 times bigger. you know, I was shocked. So I knew I needed help. And long story short was I went back to uni. I've spent years with these guys and I know who was really intelligent, also very socially great with other people, with parents, with kids, all that kind of stuff.
When I first teaching that class, I could charge $20 a kid. And suddenly I make $80 an hour.
And so it changes the game. I was really incentivized because for once the financial was aligned with what I love to do, and that became really empowering. uh, It took me to a whole new level of performance that I couldn't get the full budgets pushing through.
They know I've been teaching kids code.
And so I was like, Hey guys. So the school came back, I got 86 kids and I don't think I can teach all of them. So what if I pay each of you $50 an hour , and I'll give you guys a call and come teach the kids with me. So that's how it kind of got started.
So next weekend I bought a bunch of my friends all my payroll. We split up the class and it was very chaotic, was very crazy. And it was a lot of kids.
At some point about like a couple of weeks in the teacher came in, like one of the principal, the teacher came and went Vincent, I want to check in. How are you doing?
I was like, yeah, I think I'm good. How do you think I'm doing well? She says look, I think you do amazing because the kids are so excited, which equates to chaos. like, the parents are talking about it. having really good feedback to me. I'm hearing all the great things. So just whatever you're doing, you keep it up.
And so out of that, I think I learned a few really important lessons. I realized why the class grew from four to 86.
It was essentially on referral. for how referral works. This is how the Airbnb grew, how Dropbox grew. This is how I guess zoom grew. I realized that the parents and the kids were referring each other it also like gave me a taste of what compounding growth looks like and feels.
And I learned like, referral works really well and only works really by inviting their friends and their peers, it makes it experiences better. And that has to be the foundation of referral as opposed to like a lot of people in like product and growth. Now I work there. They're like, oh yeah, we should add an invite, your friend button here. And then just see what happens, right. It was like throw the dart as opposed to like, you know, thinking about that.
The second thing I learned was I got a taste of entrepreneurship, I guess.
I didn't know it was called entrepreneurship at the time. Got a taste of and learnt was to no longer be on a pay check.
I started to learn the impact of how On one hand I was packing shelves that I was like 17 to 24, tutoring was 30, maybe 40 at university. But then now with 86 kids, I hired my friend, the net revenue per hour was 1,600 and something. And if I pay each month for 50 bucks, this super happy, they're excited, they're ecstatic they got paid that much.
I make easily over a thousand something a week just per hour class. And that changed my mind. I was , wow.
How many hours of one-on-one math do I have to grind versus doing this? So it starts to change the way I think about things.
Ling Yah: You said you weren't in on a paycheck, but weren't you working for Suncorp as well?
Vincent Wei: Yes. So this whole thing started towards the final year of my university, because I wanted to quit and it wasn't in any way to keep me engaged and not quit.
My thesis supervisor, the head of school at the time, he knew I was running the thing. He was fascinated. He got kids himself. He says this is great. I will put my kid in it a hundred percent.
And he's , Hey, Vincent, have you done an internship yet? I was no, I've been too busy like Figuring out how to write courses and teaching kids.
And he's like, you need an internship to graduate. I was like, crap. And this was like towards the end of the year. And I've had very bad experiences applying for internships.
And my dreads starts to come in. I remember this, like my heart was like, crap. If I don't get one, I wouldn't be counted as a graduate. And I was so done with university. I need to get out.
I remember I went on all the graduates onsite. Everyone's like, oh, come back next year.
Or you gotta be in the penultimate year. And I was like, I'm in my final year. And I'm way past everybody's application period. And I go around my year group, I ask everybody they've all applied and I really start to panic.
Luckily I scoured the web and I found the site three opportunities opened up. And so I was like, well, okay, it's three CV instead of 50, but I'll do three.
I actually applied to three places. I got offer back at all three, so the strike rates completely different.
I realized what I changed was at the top of my CV everytime people always put their marks, maybe what they're doing for their thesis and then maybe volunteering or some sort of other work experience. Right.
Instead of doing that, I was like, okay, I'll put my mark at the top. And then the second thing is, I'll put my thesis too. And the last thing I put down oh, I built a business. I made this much in the first year and this year. And then I employed a team of four people at the time or something. And everyone wanted to have a conversation. It was interesting.
And now looking back on hiring yeah, if I see someone like that a hundred percent, I'd be interested.
I went through all three different company interviews. One company was suncorp and for people who don't know, it was one of the top 10 publicly listed bank and financial service company in Australia. And it was also the biggest insurance company. It is the biggest insurance company still, I think in Australia oceanic and some part of the Pacific region.
And then The second company was this thing called imagination tech. They essentially a sub subcontractor for Apple and they design about 10 to 15% of all the iOS chips at the time. That was a highly technical technical role.
And then the last role was in renewable energy space. They make a solar panel light accessible to everyday homeowners, and then they figure out a way to reduce electricity bills for installing those. They all made an offer.
And that startup company was growing so fast. I remember reading up about it in more than four or five x revenue in one year. And it was only a team of 20 something people. But ultimately I think some of that , Asian upbringing still ingrained in me.
And so I chose Suncorp because it was a company that I can walk down the street and my mom could go, is that where you work? You can point at a local on a big billboard somewhere I'll be like,, oh yeah, that's where I went.
So yeah, that's what I picked up as an internship. And I still ran coding courses and stuff I had as a side hustle And obviously continue on to next year. I've completed my requirements that means I'm graduating .
Yeah, I need to go find a full-time job. What I was doing was not considered a full-time job. It was tutoring, right. My parents think it's tutoring cause you're just tutoring maths and stuff, to make a bit of pocket money.
So At the time I was looking at the three roles that I described or the one was very technical and I think throughout my experience I knew I wasn't going to be the best at it.
And then the start up role, I think in hindsight, I would have loved to have taken that. But I was so culturally washed to go to a bigger company, which when I did.
Ling Yah: I'm guessing you didn't know anyone in this startup world at the time as well.
Vincent Wei: I don't think start-up was the thing in any other part of the world at the time with the exception of Silicon valley.
There was also a bit of a quirky stigma around it. What if it doesn't work out, what if you fail. Then again this narrative, you've worked so hard all your university, and then you have the one shot to get your foot in the door.
You're giving up all that to go and start something. Yeah. So there was, a lot of fear and stigma around it.
Ultimately I went into Suncorp. I was astounded by some of the people I met in there in the sense of why they were young and hungry and ambitious people who try to make their way up the ladder.
There were also people who'd been there for 20 plus years. They openly said like, Oh, I'm just waiting to get retired and then I can't change. If I change then I don't get this big retirement payout because of how long I be in the company.
I was just like well, good for you but I don't think that's how I want to spend my twenties, that's not how I want to spend my life.
My manager at the time, his name was Michael Jordan, we call him MJ.
He was like, hey Vincent, so we really like your work, blah, blah. We developed this software thing that was kind of cool. We want to offer you a back position. And , my other kind of work husband worked for and at the time also got offered and we had a lot of fun thing, a lot of ping-pong together during the day.
So I was like oh, this could be really fun. But then they were like, oh, but you have to come in full time. And this is why I stopped. I thought of how the guy spent 20 something years at this place and I could see how comfortable it was and how easy it was to do that. I think there's this sense of adventure in me that didn't want to.
I was like, I don't think I want to work here full time. Would you consider a contractor role where I can come in on flexible days? And they knew I had this business on the side running cause during the interview, a lot of them was like, why do you want to apply here?
I think in some way, like I could see, looking back on it now in some way, they're , oh, I wish I had a business. I can run it's free.
So he was like oh, are you negotiating with me?
Yeah, I guess I am. I'm just asking.
I think one thing you learned from pitching for clients at school is like, you don't ask, you don't get right.
And then they're like, okay, so you telling me, if you don't get this flexible arrangement, you wouldn't accept the offer and you will walk away?
I kind of like disconnected from that a little bit. I said, yeah. I would have to reconsider. it. And he's like, okay, cool. And then the meeting end of the day is that, let me think about it.
Let me go and like, have a chat with people. And then um, we came back a week later .
And he goes you sure you wouldn't take the grad role? Are you sure you wouldn't consider? Cause that's what we offer. Like, it's very uncommon. We don't really do that for all the people. Are you sure about that?
And I sat there, I thought about it. I was , yeah, I think that, that's what I would like. I still like the flexible role that okay, cool. Cool. And then we stood up and then I stood up.
I don't know why he stood up. So we stood up and then we shook hands and then he's like, okay, well yeah, we usually just do the grade role and we got to walk out and I thought, okay, all right. I was kind of coming to terms with it and he hold on and he's like, Hey, Vincent, hold on a second. He grabbed me. He's like, yeah. So I spoke with his manager and everybody, and they're like, yeah, we can offer you the perfect role and so on and so forth. And then I was like, oh, and then I was a massive smile.
So that's how that started. I went in as a data engineer. Very quickly I realized I could get the work done in a day and a half.
So that's how I juggled the tube until I feel I was not spending my life wisely by staying there any longer. Like I wasn't getting anything else with it, aside from just having a level of comfort that year, and also something to show my parents that I'm putting a suit on, I'm heading out at 8:00 AM and catching the work bus that everybody had to have a work pass
Ling Yah: I love that you said you don't ask, you don't get, I feel everyone is saying this to me. I just interviewed someone two days ago and she said the exact same thing. So did you ask for, because there two brothers who came to you and wanted to fund your next startup, Cody.
What was the story behind that?
Vincent Wei: Oh, I didn't ask for that. I think in some ways the right mentality, because I built co-create which has morphed positive into Cody. I built that on the premise of I need to build a profitable business, otherwise I can't pay myself. And so first of all, the idea of startup still was unfamiliar to me.
Secondly, so the idea of raising money was even less familiar for me. And in fact, I was brought up not to use credit card, not to take debt, not to take money from people.
It became kind of really nice because when you start a business and go through this journey and you're working sometimes like really hard to really long hours, your friend doesn't understand. They'd be like oh, we're asking him to come out on Sunday, but he just always tell us he's busy
Whereas I'm trying to prepare for this next course for like, now we've got over a hundred kids a week, rotating through. That's a lot of kids, that's thousands of kids a year. I want to go build that. And I'm also really excited. There'll be nights where I go out at 11.
So I'll be at a party til 11. I'll be like, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm a bit awkward at parties. Alright eh guys, I'm going to go home. I'm tired. I'm going to go home really. And then I just go back and jump on my computer and start writing courses and stuff. But yeah.
So I bumped into Ben and Toby who was these two brothers. One was start-up background, the other one from investment banking background at a pretty high level. And so they both kind of left their jobs .
And they decided okay, we want to start working with young founders and startups. And so they started a small VC fund, and a accelerator fund, funding startups, and then bring them into a community to work together.
My friend told me about it cause he got funded by them. He made the introduction. I had a chat with them and then towards the end of the chat, I kind of told them my story up to that point and how I taught the school and stuff I had done up till that point and they were like, yeah, we'd like to fund you to saw something.
And they were like look, co-created a great business, but it's a cash cow business. They wanted to see something more technical. They want to see something technological and they knew I was capable enough to code.
They wanted me to build something that is much more scalable and much more technical. And at the same time, I was also at a place where well, CodeCreate was doing six figures a year. I didn't really know how to take it any further. The operation was very challenging for someone who's never operated a single thing in their life. You are essentially trying to run a factory but with more chaos, because you're not dealing with machines, you're dealing with kids who are full creativity and full of energy and parents who are very protective of the kids and they want them to do well.
And yeah, So that was how that started. I was quite tired. I've been working really hard ever since I've been at school all throughout the university. And instead of taking a break somewhere after or go traveling or do something, I jumped straight into building a business.
And then also working pretty much like three to four days a week at a job that other people will usually consider that to be their grad full-time role. It was intense and I was tired, but then I was like oh, this opportunity probably only came right now.
And I don't know it's going to be there in the future. And so ultimately I decided took it for the learning. I saw it as a degree. A way to learn that I wouldn't otherwise have gotten anywhere.
Ling Yah: The premise of Cody was basically, it's an edtech platform for developers to learn how to code and it's a bit like Lamda School, isn't it? They inspired you.
Vincent Wei: You know, I was really passionate on education.
I bumped into my co-founder at the time, Mitch. He was technical, but he was also passionate in the education space. So we had a few coffees and we decide like hey, I'm getting funded.
Why don't you come on and be my co-founder cause that was the word I was throwing it out. How do you find a co-founder?
I was like, why don't you come to be my cofounder? I I was like, just got married. like that, you know, that I was crazy.
I didn't know how to phrase it at the time, but the way I phrase it now, and this is still a deep belief that I have, it's something I'm really passionate about is that intelligence that you've is equally distributed across the world. The opportunities are not.
That was a big reflection of how I grew up in the sense of when I was in Taiwan. They were a lot more kids who were a lot more intelligent than me . I got lucky. I get to come and they didn't get the same opportunity I had. And now our lives are drastically different, , I'm a lot more privileged than they are though we came from the same place.
And so, yeah, we kind of saw that and that's when Lambda school first started. It was like a year in. And they were doing essentially what a lot of coding boot camps were doing, like general assembly where they were teaching people to code. And we transitioning them from a non-technical background into becoming a software engineer.
And that was a massive growing job market at the time. I think it still is. And it was so competed again that it was paid like 60 plus for some of the extra jobs. And that was a lot of money at the time. You still a lot the money now, for sure.
One of the big problem with these coding bootcamp and I guess university as well is that you take a loan or they charge you upfront without guaranteeing you the success of what you do afterwards.
And so Lambda school did the thing where like, we will teach you and we'll charge you nothing upfront until you get hired. And the way they do that is legally pull something, an income share agreements. An ISA, where once you get paid essentially you'd start to be able to repay that loan.
And then you pay a percentage of your salary up to a certain amount.
We really liked that because we were obviously poor uni students and for us to want to re transition, that seems a very attractive option. So we decided we want to solve that problem.
And we started to speak to a lot of people and we realized one of the biggest problems students have is getting a job. And so we wanted to go create that and build that.
We had a lot of tough, tough lessons. Because I think building co-create is something that's a lot more shorter term, or you could put something in and you can see an outcome immediately. The way the outcome is measured, like
you measure by revenue. One of the key drivers of a business.
But then when you start to build something like this, you're thinking years into the future. And you think about a year down the track. How do I validate? How do I build this? And then you have to figure out incrementally then how do you ship things incrementally that then leads you to the outcome that requires a very different mindset.
I was thinking you need to have a much longer term and then be able to then break that down into smaller pieces of things that.
Ling Yah: And Australia didn't have the equivalent of an ISA, right?
Vincent Wei: We didn't do it through ISA. We would try to do it through recruiter fees because we know nothing about law and we felt paying for lawyers at the time was super expensive and we couldn't afford it.
So we decided to do it through a different model. We try to do recruiter fees, or we are trying to go speak to tech companies who would hire these students. I think irrespective of how we charge, we knew it was important that we get people hired. That was a success metric that we would try to do.
So that was how the business started.
We didn't end well.
Me and Misha reflected on this later on. We weren't aligned on the same thing whether it was for the business or for our lives outcome, how we see we want to live out lives. Because when you take on a business, it's like a marriage, right. It becomes a huge part of your life and you both need to have a strong why of why you're doing it.
So later on Mich obviously left after six months. He had to change a line and he realizes that he wanted to go be a software engineer.
And I think from doing the visit, he knew like, wow, that pays a lot. And also the business was going through a tough time. We were very inexperienced and we didn't know how to spend the investor's money wisely. And we also put a lot of cash. Plus I was also front up a lot of the profits from co-create that I've accumulated years.
So we actually burned over six figures of money for 24 year old and 22 year old. It's a crazy amount of money to burn in six months. So that didn't go well.
The other thing we learned was it was a really hard market because the students that we wanted to reach, the different stakeholders, like public education company Castro, I like the students we wanted, They aren't always aware that these kind of coding bootcamp was an option for them. So if your customer aren't aware of the problem, it becomes a much more difficult problem to have to work out, I suppose, that they are aware of it and you know how to find them then the other reeducate them on the course and we can gain that trust for them to commit six months a year of learning with you in some way.
And then we were trying to go for students, which was wrong because we were trying to change the perspective, but we both came out of university. Well, I noticed this wrong. And so we're trying to like go back to university students, then try and tell them, like, don't go into the big company.
Like you need to come and do this. Come and do our course. And we'll connect you with top startup at the time. So they were like startup, we were talking to you that were hiring like Canva for example which they now become massive.
Ling Yah: It was really small at the time.
Vincent Wei: Canva was small at the time.
In fact, the lead recruiter that I spoke with Scott, he's still there. He's been there for six plus years, almost as long as I've built co-create and Cody. But yeah, and then what I realized is the saying, people are saying. Bad founders in a good market, market wins. Good founders in market, market wins.
So I realized that we were trying to change the market from the university student. They didn't want it, but we were just trying to put it down for what they want, so it didn't work. And then lastly the tech ecosystem inertia wasn't very built out. It's still very small. It wasn't a lot of VC money going around.
And so there wasn't a lot of capacity to hire software and entry-level software engineering level who just think about level of hierarchy they're in. And they were looking for more senior people who would just come in and just start building and adding value.
So it's actually very difficult to make that work using that model. And then eventually we ran out of money and Mitch left. I was struggling to do everything on my own again, and I was extremely burnt out. I need to take a break.
Ling Yah: And you've written before that Cody was actually a vital part of your identity and having to quit basically left you a dark hole inside. I mean, what was the plan after that?
Vincent Wei: Yeah. Growing up my academic, which translated to work achievements has always been a huge part of how I measure my self-worth.
This is the first time in my life where I've actually put down my sword and go, Hey guys, I'm out of gas. I don't find anything left. I was going so far negative. I've got nothing left. I think people around me could see that.
like I was 25. So as any people would, they go travelling. I had less than 10 K at the time. And I need to rebuild my finances.
One of my friend I met throughout this period, he was like, do you want to come to Vietnam?
I was like, yeah. I'll be here Tuesday. I booked the ticket to go to Ho Chi Minh which is Saigon.
He just sent me a hostel address and I'm literally jumping on a plane to go to a foreign country to meet a friend at a hostel.
I got scammed right out of the airport with the taxi drivers, obviously. They just charged me triple or something.
Ling Yah: It looked like you had a lot of fun. You charted quite a lot of it on your Instagram.
And you were punting the Vietnamese version of punting on the river as well. There was this lady who was selling a $1 lantern. You bought all of it?
Vincent Wei: Yeah. Yeah. Vietnam was a lot of fun. I think I just party and destress. The rest of it has been a lot about soul searching.
and that I continue to do that across different cities and different countries across the world. One of the things that I learned throughout that journey was despite how hard things may seem I learned that in many ways, I was very lucky.
Because I'm suddenly in a world where, it was even more under developed Taiwan where I was from. And this grandma who was super old, standing there trying to sell these lanterns. And she was a sold everything. I asked her, how many do you have?
And like, she counted. I was like, you know, it wasn't much like, you know,
And she sold them a dollar at a time. She would have only made $50 that day. And no one was buying it. She was standing there with late at night. It was 10:00 PM.
And obviously that $50 was a lot for me at the time. But I feel it would need so much more to her than it would mean for me if I had just spent that.
I'll just go bunk in a hostel, right.
And so I gave it to her and my friend who was with me at the time And she took a photo of the whole thing.
Ling Yah: She looked really happy. In spite of what you've explained of the situation she looked really, really happy.
Vincent Wei: Yeah, and I think later on I realized been able to give gifts to people have been one of the biggest kind of joy in my life. And so that's also become one of my life's highest values.
And so throughout that I realized I had so much to be grateful for in my life, despite losing pretty much all the finances I had at the time. Losing the career ladder I've been building so hard towards. I also realized I lost a lot of friends. But then throughout all that journey I realized I actually have other real friends who were there.
Giving the money to the grandma was one of the way I realized I was so grateful and fortunate, that I get to be in a position to give that to her.
Ling Yah: You actually wrote a really long blog post about the entire experience. And one of the things that I took away from that was that you said that it's important to ask your friends, your family and mentors for their read on you because it's a good way of telling who you are. So were you doing that as well while finding yourself on this journey and what was the plan after all that?
Vincent Wei: Yeah. That was one of the questions I go around asking people the most.
And I met this guy who was a close friend of my mentor. He built cushion like this car cushion factory. And he does about 50 million a year at the time. He employs 2000 people.
And so he ended up with dinner, we talked and stuff and toward the end I just go Hey, so before we finish, I want to ask you this, what's your read of me? And then I told them the thing. and, um.
Ling Yah: Any surprising things that you learned from people?
Vincent Wei: I think they might come across as a surprise at first, but then once you sit with it for a little bit, I think deep down, we all kind of knew who we were.
A good example of what I said earlier was , when I sat down last year at my university, I was like, okay, I like technology. I want to teach and I like kids. The answer for me was I didn't like know where that was going to leave me, but they were the truth.
Some friends will be very honest with you. And I think it's on us as well to be open-minded to not be defensive and to kind of take those in. So the positive, as well as the thing to improve them, things to work on that I think ultimately people share not out of spite or , trying to put you down, they share because they want a possibility of building a better relationship with you as opposed to take it apart.
Ling Yah: So one of the persons that you met was Andre. How did that happen? Because he was pivotal in you getting your first proper job, right?
Vincent Wei: Yeah. People who probably don't know, I met a guy called Andre who was the first hire in profit growth at Canva, who later became the head of growth. there who ran all the growth counterparts, I bumped into him because I was doing a bit of cntract side work.
Those kind of, I spend the time in , , traveling Southeast Asia and I was keen to rebuild up co-create and rebuild up the business so that I could be in a financially stable we should place. But then doing that's really tough.
I took on a few contractor gigs with my friend, who's building this other company. His name's Rob.
We both have the thing where we're both extremely curious.
And so he will learn something, he'll share them with me and I'll try and learn it and stuff that. And so obviously through the journey of learning, part of the thing we want to learn was , how do we build better companies? How do we build better things?
We would do LinkedIn outreach to people and, ask them to mentor us.
Rob came up with this thing. I couldn't do it cause I wasn't, like Richard rich enough, but he will go message people and he would go, Hey, I recently came up with your profile blah blah blah.
I really liked it. I was hoping to ask you to teach me about how you did X or Y.
So he actually did this to a lot of famous people, he did it to like the guy who wrote atomic habits James clear, and he actually got conversation with James Clear and lots of different people.
Ling Yah: Oh, wow.
So what was the success rate? How many people took up that?
Vincent Wei: Pretty high, but then he has a caveat, because when you reach out to these people, you don't really know how good they are until you deeply know their work and get to know them.
And so the caveat here is anyone who would want to make the 500 from you, they actually not that great because anyone who's like done great work and made their due, wouldn't care about the 500.
They would just do it. So it was actually a bit of a test on the other side as well.
Ling Yah: It's a bit like of clubhouse right?
Where there were so many rooms of people teaching others how to be rich.
Vincent Wei: Exactly.
It's like the most successful people don't make a course to teach people how to be rich unless they're really passionate about just building things. But in this case, this is a purely an exchange of service. That's what he did, and then I follow along. And that's how we reached out to Andre .
And yeah, obviously Andre totally past it and just went through, we had a chat and then we ended from the first conversation where like we were kids trying to fumble around trying to figure things out.
And we're like well, this guy is like Yoda, but in gross and products and yeah, we were learning about the early days of Kindle, how he built certain things. And I really admired the way he thinks and how he approached problems, and stuff like that. strategic and also like business growth perspective.
So we did that for like a month and in parallel and also learning from his work at Canva. Andre introduced me to some of the team that he built at the time and they were like all around my age. So I actually became friends with some of them.
Months later, Andre was looking to transition out of Canva. He actually joined his other company called Airtasker at the time.
Now I know one of the first thing you do is that you've got to build your team. You can't do everything yourself which I'm going through now. But yeah, he was building his team and he was like, Hey, What are you doing?
And I'm like, I don't know. I'm doing a bit of contract work for Rob and then I'm just chilling out in Ubud in Bali and playing with monkeys. I didn't really know what I'm doing. I'm running my coding school in the side trying to make a bit of passive income.
And so Andre's like, well, I'm going to Airtasker and I'll be hiring. So if you want to come back let me know.
I sat on it for two weeks and then the time we returned back to Australia I reach out to Andre on LinkedIn.
Right. I, I did, I did, I did live version of outrage without the money, but I, the way I approach it as I actually so I couldn't, I don't offer the 500 because I actually couldn't pay it. I Rob actually pace it, , to, to get, to find out the answers. I wasn't prepared to do that. , I was prepared to pay 50, a hundred that's where, I was at the dead.
I don't think you'll be an insult. They wouldn't take it as nicely. So I dunno. So I ended up just instead of doing the, I did the work, I read the thing about doing cold outreach and was , , people just send you outrage and expect you to give you the time and you've, you've done no work for I, so I realized that, okay, well, if I'm reaching out to people who are more accomplished in the, at the time I need to do the work.
And so I went and scour the internet and social media, every piece of thing that they've ever written, they've ever shared. Everything they've ever worked on. I went really deep, but I, I try and , understand what they do, how they think and stuff like that. And then I would share that in a conversation in the first message.
And they will realize that, wow, I've gone through so much steps to learn about who they are and that's how I did my approaches. I did that with school outreach and I later applied that to these kinds of stuff.
Ling Yah: I did that too. I reached out to people and you get that comment saying, oh, because it was such a thoughtful email. I would love to speak with you.
Vincent Wei: It makes sense. People just do it and they don't think about it. They just stop for a moment and think you're asking them for time. And if they have working in a scaling up company, they are really busy. It's not they don't want to help.
So yeah, I came back, I reached out to Andre on LinkedIn.
I also made an application and I went through a lot of his early blogs. And then he was, like look, I'll hire you, but you got to go through the HR process.
Ling Yah: Because Airtasker NAS the largest marketplace for services in Australia. But at the time it was burning $30 million annually. So it could, that jumped.
Vincent Wei: It didn't bother me at all because for me, I had nothing to lose at this point.
I've burnt the career that I was trying to build to the ground. One of my inspiration was Steve job, and the other one is Jack ma who built Alibaba at the time was massive, five years ago.
And he had this famous saying, everybody wants to start a company. Don't rush. I spent my twenties working at KFC and then being a teacher. And that taught me a lot of things. I need to learn to build Alibaba during my thirties.
And so he talked about, spend your twenties learning, spend your thirties building. When you haven't built something, spend your forties working and excelling at something and then spend your fifties mentoring, giving back. And the sixties are for family and whatever.
So okay, I'll take a slower step until one of my big focus was I wanted to find a place where I can learn. The side of the business with Bernie actually excites me. I've read all these things on building startup but I dunno how to apply them.
Andre , I said to him, look, yeah, I'm excited. I want to come. I want to learn. And I feel I've read all these things, but it's until actually go do them, do I actually learn something? And I think he really liked that.
And later on I reflected on it that that is a quality that I want to see in someone that I hire and they want to get their hands dirty. And that kind of taught me an important lesson in life, which is within every crisis, there's an opportunity waiting to be discovered.
The crisis of the business create a new opportunity for the business to innovate in a wartime. And so one of the early things we did, as we build up the growth team there we reengineer what we call growth loops.
So it was what is this mechanism that allows the company to grow and we needed a different one to grow because the current one is burning so much money that the business will die if we don't do that in 6 to 9 months. Clearly the founding team at the time didn't know what to do because otherwise it would be in the first place. You have a lot of freedom and autonomy to go do things.
And that creates an environment where you get to go and touch on all the different things and learned from that.
Ling Yah: So what was the thing that helped to turn it around because then it was growing by 50% year on year, right?
Vincent Wei: It's a long kind of process. Instead of just thinking how you do marketing and product, they're all interconnected.
And I think that's what ultimately growth is. Growth looks at it holistically and you combine everything together. And I think my engineering background helped a little bit in the sense that you apply an engineering thinking a systems thinking to a problem. And so essentially we look at the company as they have multiple different parts of the system, but it all works as a whole.
And so one of the system that was failing and that was burning a lot of money was that this company was built on brand marketing and a lot of handing out gift cards to people.
And one of the fundamental thing that we think was not working was there's no need to double this company. It's not the job of brand marketing to do that.
And the other thing was handing out gift cards. One, it's very hard to attribute. You're losing money fast.
Like your money is going out to pay for this rent and you don't have an income. You definitely want to be very clear about every dollar you spend. How well is that being spent as opposed to just spending it. And I think the company wasn't doing that.
The last thing was , when you hand out discounts to acquire customers, it fundamentally attracts different kind of customer who only tried your product not because they truly have a very painful problem. They were , oh, because there's a discount.
I think you don't find the right kind of customer you're looking for. And so one of the first things we did was we rebuild the customer acquisition engine. A lot of this great work done by Andre and Elise.
And so one of the things we discovered was it hostile in many way is Amazon. The competitive edge of our company is that we have a massive directory of not goods but services.
And we have people behind those services all over the region. And through that, you're able to create a massive content directory on the web. And similar to Amazon, a lot of people search for these problems.
A lot of people search for by animal search for this book name, or people search for a certain product and services with intent to want to buy them or compare them.
We can suddenly do that with services that people are looking for. So cleaning, they're trying to compare cleaner, they're trying to find a removalist and they're trying to find a handyman is less certain things. And they were able to do that. One of the other thing that to defender here we realized was that it's a horizontal market place as opposed to vertical one, which means we focus across everything and anything.
As opposed to focus on a niche, which is very counter-intuitive to what most people advice in start up. And in post-modern lightning, our belief was , we don't think that Atossa would have survived as a specialized niche because you don't have the enough revenue locker sizes for. For you to build out, say, if you just focus on, we just do cleaning, right. We just do delivery.
The other thing was, liquidity and marketplace really important. It's about network effect. And so how quickly can you book something on demand. How quickly can you get Uber there? It's really important.
And so being able to have workers who can jump across different verticals, or they can be acquired through one vertical, but then also say I can work at this other vertical becomes really valuable integral to the experience with the marketplace and how quick people can get the help that they need, which adds to the value of the product.
We reengineer how we acquire users, rebuilding content directories, and generating those. And then looking for problems that people are searching for comparing very similar to how Amazon kind of build out their directory engines. So we took a lot of learn from Amazon.
And then the other thing we kind of started doing was instead of just doing these are very expensive pay TV brands, we still do them, we realized there is a place for it, but it just wasn't well understood. We lay down and just do, , Brad has an important place incentives.
When you need to do a complex of expensive services trust is very important. And so you actually need to build a brand to help convert people. So a lot of another counterintuitive thing that people think about is all people are like not converting to become paid customers.
It's because you have too many steps you need to like, make it simple. I think that is true. It apply to a lot of certain product, but it didn't apply to us. In fact, like we added more steps into the product and it actually increases customer conversions because when you want something complex like a removal list. We actually added things like, what are the finishes? What does the things look like?
And actually makes a customer deeply trust us because they know that we understand the problem and how to solve it. And we actually, then help them match better workers for that job.
So that was like the only time really counterintuitive thing we have to think for my first principal. And we discover the last thing probably around that system, what we did, we did a whole overhaul of a lot different part of the company, but law, I think kind of looked at was instead of doing this really expensive brand marketing, we realized is that there's a new engine that we could build that is free.
And we do that through partnerships. So what happened was we've actually partnered up with a mattress company in Australia and what we did was, oh, we want you to test mattresses and we'll pay people will put up a team on a platform, say, , we'll pay you $2,000 to test sleep on this mattress for a night and leave a review.
And that goes viral because we feel like, wow, you're going to pay me like five grand, two grand to go sleep on a mattress. And then people start competing and that gets shared around socially so much. It blew up and then it became very easy for us to get free TV coverages instead of as TV ads. It becomes a newsworthy thing that we can like pitch to TV station and stuff.
And we could repeat that over and over again for virtually very little cost us, but as paying like a hundred thousand dollars on TV ads, we could repeat that over and over again. So we did like puppies, we were partnered with dog-walking services or we can partner with like guide dog Australia or something like that.
And then the thing becomes like, socially shared they just get massive coverages which builds to the brand . It gets the name out there. But these are some samples and obviously there was much more,
Ling Yah: So AirTasker ended up IPOing in 2021, but you left before that. Why would you leave when the company is doing so well?
Vincent Wei: Yeah, I think again, Riley, if you look at like why I started the work and why I started the role I was driven by curiosity and after, and I think the way I put it, how through my growth. I value growth and I want, I'm curious and I wanted to learn.
I want to keep growing. That's kind of where it was. I think like for anyone who's gone through an IPO Or for those who haven't, I guess the mentality of the company building towards IPO is one that is fairly conservative. It's not something that you will want to take big bets, essentially.
You want to continue what you're doing. And a lot of your focus, a big part of your focus as that is to go prepare for a successful public offering. And so I think the business towards the tail end of that six months focus a lot more on that, , and then post IPO, I think it becomes a very different company, but now you have managing public expectations and stuff.
And so I think part of the sentiment was a lot of the big bets that we wanted to take, that we were able to take. We stripped out entire functions of the company and tell them this is no longer required. And be able to reinvent how things work. Over time we start to lose more and more of that rail light.
Yeah, so I was exploring what does my next step looks.
And so that was one of the reason I left and ultimately Sabba, the current founders from Veed, we connected. He kind of reached out looking for a head of growth and we connected through LinkedIn again. And he kind of said, Hey, would you be interested in joining VEED at like, it was just around 10 people at a time.
And it took me a few months of just learning about Sabba, learning about the team and kind of deciding, and then ultimately I was , yep. Okay, I'll come. And then I make the leap.
Ling Yah: And VEED has really grown in this period of time, so what was your task when you first joined and how has it changed over time?
Vincent Wei: Yeah, VEED has grown a lot over the last 18 months since I've been there. The company for one has gone from 10 to a hundred plus people. It was bootstrapped throughout his time until a month ago. We've recently closed our first fundraising round with Sequoia oh um 35 million.
Throughout that period, obviously because we were bootstrapepd so that the people counting like our revenue, our profit brew, along with the hiring at a profitable rate So my learning along with that, I guess yeah, me and Sabba had talked about this. It was like every three months we'll have a conversation and be like I think your job is now this. And I need to go do that new job. We have to constantly do new things.
So like the first little bit was I was doing a lot of things with my hands dirty. Cause that was a big value part that I've learned from AirTasker and learning mastery and watching Andre work was, he was not, just a VP that told people what to do. He knew deeply how to do those things and he could spot the difference between good and great and amazing and world-class from a mile away. And I really admire that in a manager and in someone who builds things is yeah, they ultimately knows what they're doing, not all of it, but that the public do you know, they, deeply understand it.
It's mastery, right. It's an Olympic athlete in many ways. They do one thing they do really well. And so a lot of the early stages having me getting my hands dirty again and building those things and communicate to the founders. I hate, this is what I'm going to do.
This is what's going to change in the department. I'm going to kill all these things and focus on these and then just proving that out over the next few months and making sure we are winning based on those things to build that trust and build that direction with a team that works with everyone in the company.
And then very quickly that transition into running the team a little bit and then doing alongside them, coaching them to having more stakeholders in the company and how we restructure, how we now define our roles and responsibilities, what's the strategy. And then go into like,, okay, we gotta keep running the team. But then we started having a talk with a lot of VCs for fundraising and stuff like that.
Do we raise, do we not raise? We also receive a lot of acquisition offers from really big brand companies that you would definitely heard off. And it was also a big decision, I guess, for the team but mostly for Sabba and the founders around what is your why for building VEED because the exit would have netted them like hundreds of millions. Obviously now looking at that data, they didn't proceed with it.
It's something that you really have to dig into your why to kind of answer the question of to, I guess, now post-raise, it allows us at VEED to think about, instead of like living month to month, literally paycheck to paycheck as a company.
We can now think about investing into our products, solving problems on a much longer time horizon and without having to always have to look for a return on the next month, otherwise, we will be burning cash and that will be very stressful.
Ling Yah: You said that you're also hiring as well.
So can you give a bit of insight just in terms of who you're looking for, what they can expect.
Vincent Wei: Yeah, I think in VEED, what we're hiring for changes from time to time. Right now we're hiring a lot and , it's up on our job pages. So you can check that out.
Or you can if you're interested, you can kind of just DM me on Twitter. I think that's easier because my DM's open. Otherwise I'm on LinkedIn too.
So I think one of the biggest things in the company is that we really value kind of support between the people and stuff that, and just looking out to the people. And so that was one of the core things that we look for in people that we hire.
Other things, I guess, , , we look for beyond from that aspect of the culture of the team is that we look for, people who think for themselves. Their first principal. They kind of like go off to their own why, I guess, in the theme of this podcast.
And I think people that often jump into very a mbiguous unclear problems at some point in your life, whether it's true, my journey of starting a company or, , they decided to go be a reporter and speak seven different languages or, you know, there's several people, right?
One of them, the YouTube, one of them decided to become an influencer, one of them decided to quit investment banking to teach disability kids and write poetry. Just people who solve really like difficult problems in their life, because I think if you're able to solve difficult problems in other context yeah, I think you'd be able to solve difficult problems in the context of building a fast-growing tech company.
I think people who are growth minded, I think they're always great. Because if you're always learning and you've always been learning it's inevitable that you will become better over time. Think people communicate well being a really critical one.
So as the company scales, you know how you clearly communicate with everybody around, this is what I'm doing here, why it's important and be able to not just like be able to convene a kitchen manager, your team, but also be able to rally different people to come and get excited about the course that you're doing.
You know, people always say like,, oh, they want a flat company structure. They hate hierarchies. Well, if you don't have hierarchy, then you got to be really good at influencing and exciting people on , here's what we need to go do next. So those are important.
Ling Yah: And that's interesting, because VEED is actually remote first. So you have to be able to do that virtually.
Vincent Wei: Yeah. You've got to do that virtually. So it is remote first. So at 10 people, when I joined, we have teams from three different continents. I'm now at a hundred plus people. We have people from all the continents on the face of the earth.
We don't have anyone from Antartica so we have kept that. And so yeah, a lot of your communications are remote. There's no office, no face to face. A lot of the communications are asynchronous and a lot of communications are with people who are from very different cultural backgrounds to you.
And I realize is a communication styles that people are very, very different. And yeah, you got to seek to understand and learn and be curious about that too.
And so those are all kind of key things.
Last bit of thing I would add is I personally think I really valued, like I think as a team, we really value originality. Again in a very conventional saying, like people saying in startup is like, oh, ideas are cheap, execution's everything.
I think there's truth in that. But I would say ideas aren't cheap. I think if we've worked on this problem full time for years, and here we met someone who come in propose a new idea that has a massive impact and is able to explain to us very quickly why that is, , I think that adds a lot of value to the team.
And so we really value originality and how people approach their why again, behind how they arrive at that answer, which are usually non-conventional. It's not like oh, this other company do is that you should do it too. It's like, what if you think about it, this makes sense.
And then a lot of this, so yeah.
Ling Yah: So speaking of why, do you feel like you have found your why after this entire journey?
Vincent Wei: I think I haven't. I think there are parts that I think are important to me and I get a lot of, fulfillment out of them in my life. And I'll continue to do that.
So things that I've already mentioned a little bit around giving back, curiosity and growth, , Other things that, you know, I really value in the day to day has been like health and other things like that.
On a high level, directionally, I think I'm roughly correct directionally and these are very value driven. And then I'm kind of more experimenting the part I'm figuring out isn't the big direction, but it's more like incrementally, how do I get closer and closer to that?
Which I don't know if I want to talk about this, the perfect day we spoke about it briefly, but-
Yeah, I think like one of the exercises I started doing was this exercise called like your perfect day. And essentially it's an exercise where if you were to sit down at any point in your life right now and think about what would your perfect day look?
Even if you were to have one day left on this planet, if you were to have a year left five years, 10 year left, how would you live that perfect day?
Over and over again.
I think it's really important to go through this exercise because , a lot of us sets goals. Oh, I will want to start a business. I want to make this much money. I want to buy a house. But these are in the future. And the truth is you're only experiencing things right here now. The present and the day that you have, that's all you've got. And so when you start to set that, it becomes a very different experience of life.
How am I getting there is what I'm doing today, aligned with things I'm talking about. And if it's not, do I really want those things? Or , if it's something I need to change in my day to get me closer to that.
The other realization is you started to realize a lot of things in your perfect day, actually very achievable, and you've been putting it off in your life for way too long, then you realize.
So in my perfect day, one of the things, was I want to wake up early in the morning and go and exercise.
Whether that's a surfing or something, I've recently started boxing in the morning. And so yeah, doing something like that, and that is really achievable for me to do right now. And it means , say I have 18 hours a day and I do boxing for two hours. I'm more than just over 10% towards my perfect day already, just by waking up early in the morning and going into boxing and meditating.
I want to have my breakfast, that's already my perfect day, And then what I want to do for work or that I want to work with great, amazing people. And I've been moving myself towards that. And I think we definitely have a huge element of that.
You realize you can start moving very clearly towards what you need. It's much more actual, much more clear. You can do today, which is quite empowering for anyone to realize. So yeah, that's the perfect day exercise.
Ling Yah: Do you think the longer term, what kind of a legacy on the left behind?
Vincent Wei: Yeah, I know we spoke about this. I don't. I don't think about what kind of legacy I wanna leave behind. I think about how I want to help people and give back and I will figure out how to do that to the best of my ability.
And, in terms of again, like setting a legacy, I think it's something that is in the future. And a lot of it might not be within my control. So I think where I felt most power and most empowered, and do my best work when I'm playing and having fun.
And also let just, you know, like when I was teaching a building closest to kids around technology when these courses to not exist at all, like anywhere in the world for that matter.
And so, that's kind of been my approach towards it.
Ling Yah: So what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?
Vincent Wei: I don't know. I think success are defined by everyone. This concept called a time billionaire and the content very simple essentially says, Warren buffet is super rich and in many ways people think of him as super successful in his field.
But if I were to give you a chance to switch life with him, those people wouldn't take it because they don't have time.
Similarly, I applied this to me and Steve jobs. It's like Steve Jobs as we discussed is a role model in many ways of buildings in designing things and marketing things. But would I switch my life with his? I probably wouldn't, given how he lived and stuff like that.
And so I think success in one way is about recognizing that like having your own original souls and an opinion and knowing what those are and what you truly value and discovering those, and then be able to spend the only one thing that is uncertain, that we have, which is your time. Be wealthy in your time in spending it around the thing that you truly value.
Success is a story that many people, you know, listen to others, tell them, or other people tell themselves, or the movie tells you about the ultimately , yeah, just, , try to be a time builder and spend on the things that you deeply value for me.
That's my health. Freedom that starts, giving back to people that is deep and meaningful relationship with friends and family. I think at Veed, we had this conversation once with Saba and it was post the decision of does he want to sell it or does he want to continue?
And this thing made an impression on me that kind of, I hold onto it now. And that's one of my guiding principles, which is , we have very short amount of time here in this life. And so the best way to spent it is to spend time with good friends and family that we love go build cool stuff that we have fun doing.
And then with the other time we have left, just go and travel and explore different cool corners of the world that's there for us to explore and travel and available to us.
And that's it.
Ling Yah: And where can people go to connect with you? Find out more about what you're doing at VEED?
Vincent Wei: If you want to find me, I have my website vincentwei.co which I also write my newsletter to talk a bit more about, I guess I, financial education I've been getting into like crypto and NFT and I'd be a bit more open of how I've built my own finances and my investments and stuff as a whole businesses, really all of those as a push shoot or freedom as a pursuit of , how do I then be able to do that so that I have more time to go and spend on my health, like spending with my friends and family and all that kind of stuff.
The newsletter is called NewWealth. It's on SubStack.
And then I'm also on Twitter, which is at vinniwei. Vinniewei and then my last name WEI.
Like I said, my DM's open. So if you're curious, you want to come and work at VEED or you just want to reach out and connect.
Yeah. I'd love to hear from you and hang out.
Ling Yah: And I'll include all those in the show notes so people can find you easily. And is there anything else before we close that you'd like to share?
Vincent Wei: Yeah, I think reflecting back on this journey, I realized that I am very lucky and very fortunate, while it's not all smooths and bumps, but I've met a lot of amazing amazing people through just this connecting us and things happens.
So I just want to say thank you to all those people. Obviously my parents, but family, but also a lot of people that I've encounter through work. And also my friends who supported me through some of these ah, not so fun times. And then the people who like talk to me and who's , decided to open their doors to me and stuff like that. Yeah. Thank you. And super gratefeul and it's become one of the driving forces of why I want to do that back to others as well where I can, and when I can. So yeah. Thank you.
Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 72.
The show notes and transcript can be found at www.sothisismywhy.com/72
and stay tuned for next Sunday, because when we'll be meeting an English journalist, who has been working in China, Hong Kong for the past two decades.
He shares how he first got into the industry, what's like working in a country not entirely known for its freedom of speech and how he's creating community with a new brand he has launched under the Tatler brand, featuring some of the brightest, young leaders of today.
If you want to learn more, don't forget to subscribe and see you next Sunday.
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- Vincent Wei: Website, Twitter
- NewWealth.io Newsletter
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