Xav Desmet - Head of Digital Natives, Startups and Unicorns for Asia at Zoom; former Strategic Account Director at Microsoft and co-founder of Some Sweet Moments in France

Ep 106: WTF? This is the best secret to unhappiness | Xav Desmet, Head of Digital Natives, Startups & Unicorns for Asia @ Zoom

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Welcome to Episode 106!

STIMY Episode 106 features Xavier Desmet.

After graduating as a Computer Science Engineer in France and completing a Postgraduate Master of Technology Management at UNSW, Xav quickly realised that his passion wasn’t in coding in C but in people, technology and entrepreneurship.

He started his career as Management Consultant in the UK but in 2005, his entrepreneurial nature led him to co-found and develop, Mome Sweet Mome, the master Franchise of Les Petits Bilingues, the first and leading network of immersive English learning centres for children from a very young age. He sold his shares in 2011 and today, Les Petits Bilingues are still the leader in France with more than 10,000 children enrolled each year. 

The same year he decided it was time to discover new horizons and moved with his wife and two new born children from Paris to Sydney, becoming also Australian in the process.

Down under, he joined Microsoft in Enterprise Strategic roles while also experimenting with ventures on the side (Perenne Investments and Solana) and becoming a sport addict through triathlons and long distance trail running.

He relocated to Singapore with his family in December 2020 during the pandemic and recently joined Zoom where he now leads the Digital Natives sales activities for Asia.

In his free time, you will find Xav influencing his family and friends to adopt a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle such as adopting a plant based diet.”


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    So This Is My Why podcast

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    Who is Xavier Desmet?

    Xav Desmet is French and right off the bat, one of the most interesting things I learned was how similar the French are to the Chinese!

    For instance, their “Tiger Mums”, the view on success/failure and how the education system is structured:

    • 2:50 We are all grown up children
    • 5:35 Having a “Jewish Mum”
    • 7:07 The French education system is violent & elitist
    • 12:08 How entrepreneurs are viewed in France
    • 13:47 Why leave management consultancy to run a startup?
    Xav Desmet - Head of Digital Natives, Startups and Unicorns for Asia at Zoom; former Strategic Account Director at Microsoft and co-founder of Some Sweet Moments in France

    WTF? This Isn’t The Life I Want

    Xav Desmet shares how he had a WTF moment, realising that he didn’t want to stay a management consultant.

    And how he found his passion in his startup, as well as when he decided to exit and leave Paris for good!

    • 15:38 Breakthrough moments
    • 18:34 Finding like minded partners
    • 21:56 The average lifespan of a startup is…?
    • 28:57 Going on a 11 month sabbatical
    • 34:51 How you can find the values in your life
    • 37:25 The first 6 months at Microsoft were “absolute hell”
    • 40:18 Four reasons Microsoft became great
    • 43:26 Shutting down his startup
    • 43:36 You’re a failure
    I applied for my dreaming job as a management consultant. And I was really thinking, and excuse my French, WTF. This is not what I was born to do. At that time, I started redefining what success meant, and still means today. That definition of course evolving because children have come into place to bring a big part of how I define success.
    Xav Desmet - Head of Digital Natives, Startups and Unicorns for Asia at Zoom; former Strategic Account Director at Microsoft and co-founder of Some Sweet Moments in France
    Xav Desmet
    Head of Digital Natives, Startups & Unicorns for Asia, Zoom

    Delivering Happiness

    Xav Desmet shares his experience going on an 11 month sabbatical (and no, having kids doesn’t stop you having a life!), starting a startup in Australia and what it’s like working now at Zoom in Singapore.

    • 49:33 Moving to a startup called Zoom
    • 52:31 Delivering happiness
    • 54:12 The difference in startup culture in France, Australia & Southeast Asia
    • 58:16 Startups that Xav wants to help with
    • 59:48 Mentors

    If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:

    • Eric Toda: Global Head of Social Marketing & Head of Meta Prosper, Meta
    • Guy Kawasaki: Chief Evangelist of Apple & Canva
    • Nicole Quinn: General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners & Celebrity Whisperer. Investor/Board Member of HAUS (Lady Gaga), Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow), The Honest Company (Jessica Alba), Nasty Gal (Sophia Amoruso), Cameo, Lunchclub etc.
    • Richard Lui: MSNBC & NBC News TV Anchor, and Peabody & Emmy award winner
    • Adrian Tan: King of Singapore & President of Singapore’s Law Society

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    External Links

    Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:

    • Xav Desmet: LinkedIn, Twitter
    • Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic  
    • Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below
    • Want to be a part of our exclusive private Facebook group & chat with our previous STIMY episode guests? CLICK HERE.
    Xav Desmet - Head of Digital Natives, Startups and Unicorns for Asia at Zoom; former Strategic Account Director at Microsoft and co-founder of Some Sweet Moments in France

    STIMY Ep 106: Xas Desmet - WTF? This is the best secret to unhappiness

    Xav Desmet: The French education system or even culture is still based on elite okay. And that's basically from Napoleon Bonaparte. So early 19th century where created what we call the grande école.

    If you want to succeed in France, you want to do the highest ranking studies, you do actually one of those grounds they grande école like polytechnic both engineering or business, but mainly engineering. So if you're not fitting into this, you are failure. In my view, it's a very violent education system.

    If you're not fitting into the mold, if you're not good at math or physics, you are a failure. And failure is not good connotation. It's like you should always succeed in your life. And it's completely the opposite of the American way. You know, it's like the Americans are saying actually failure is just a synonym of experience.

    That's almost like a trauma on the succeed or failure component from an education system.

    Ling Yah: Hey everyone!

    Welcome to episode 106 of the So This Is My Why podcast, and the first guest episode of 2023. I'm your host and producer Ling Yah. And before we start, a special thanks to D Descript for sponsoring this episode.

    Now Descript is an app that I use to edit all of my podcasts, and it is, quite frankly, something that I need.

    It takes several minutes to upload a two hour recording and it's automatically transcribed. I can edit the transcript and the corresponding audio and video is automatically amended too.

    It's a one stop shop that makes it possible for me to run STIMY. So if you have any audio or video editing requirements, I'll recommend checking out Descript.

    The link is in the show notes.

    Now answer today's guest.

    Xav Desmet.

    The head of digital natives, startups, and unicorns for Asia at Zoom.

    In this episode, we talked about what it's like to have a tiger mom, or to the French, a Jewish mom. Also, why the French education system is brutal. There is absolutely no space for Him having a W T F moment when he realized that management consultancy wasn't what he wanted to do with his life.

    The best secret to unhappiness, how he managed to pivot to find a thing that really drove him. His move to Australia and now Singapore, the kind of startups that he wants to help and so much more. This is a great episode and I can't wait to share it with you, so are you ready? Let's go.

    So your grandfather used to say, afterall, we are all grown up children. I wonder what is the genesis of that? What was he like? It sounds like he had a big influence over your life growing up.

    Xav Desmet: Oh, thanks. Thanks for having Ling Yah. I'm, very excited to be part of the show and very humbled to be part of the show.

    It's one thing that we easily forget and where each individual is actually coming from and. I think the day that you start forgetting the kid in you, it's when you start dying. It's when you start getting old. I mean, children are fascinating because we don't have all the biases about the society and the people that we have.

    They have the natural way of thinking and sharing their opinion and curiosity. And so when I mentioned that about my granddad, I remember was time that we spent together when I was a child, and he was putting himself at my level. He was always telling me I'm just a grown up child.

    This is the situation and I think we should never forget that. Businesses and society can easily kill the child in ourselves. And that's where I believe that health issues can happen where we don't think straight and we become too stressed about the things around us.

    So thanks for picking that one up.

    Ling Yah: I love that cuz it's so rare to hear someone say that. Would it be fair to say that your childhood sounds like there was a lot of fun and play involved?

    Xav Desmet: Not really. Actually not really mine, but I did with my kids the childhood that I would've liked to to get.

    My dad was working all the time. My mom had some health issues. And at the end I had a good childhood, but not a very fun one. One of the reason I developed Les Petits Bilingues, or I partnered with in 2006 to develop Les Petits Bilingues was actually to bring that phone.

    I have so much fun with children. You cannot be anyone else but yourself when you are with a child. The child will pick, if you're not genuine. And so the fun has to come into the party if you want to teach anything, if you want to share anything, or even learn from the child anything.

    So yeah, I'm trying to have fun as many times as possible and children are fantastic way to have fun in a natural way.

    Ling Yah: Are there particular moments in your childhood that stood out for you and so had a huge impact on your life?

    Xav Desmet: Yeah. Not very happy ones, but they definitely were strong moments. And to be fully honest, I was not expecting such question.

    Is this a therapy, Ling Yah?

    That's a good question. But if I go actually and speak bluntly and I'll put my French cap actually on that. I saw my mum crying too many times, and that really impacted the way that I've been looking to build family. And how I've been trying to define what success looked like for me in my life.

    I think those strong moments where I was lucky enough actually to have a twin brother and where we could feel and have like those emotions together . I think that really helped me looking at the bright side of things and trying to gather the learnings, not in terms of I'm not a victim. More like to learn from those experiences and move in the right direction.

    So yeah, seeing my mom crying too many times, but at the same time, my mom was a most loving person. Protective to a point, a bit over protective. I still remember was time where I was in high school and she was calling the principal of the high school saying, Those girls are sending letters to my son.

    They should stop sending those letters to my son. I was like, is this really happening?

    Ling Yah: Tiger mom, essentially, but the French version.

    Xav Desmet: Yeah, yeah. Well, in French and without any biases behind. We call it the Jewish mom. It's like extremely positive and over protective.

    Mine was to a point where it was not really livable, but she had her reasons. I'm not sure if your question was about one particular memory or it was another impression.

    I've shared the overall impression.

    Ling Yah: That's perfect. What I thought was interesting is that it affected the way that you defined success, and I wonder how you defined it, because I also saw, you wrote it before, that failure has strong negative connotations in French culture. So I would love to know more about this.

    Xav Desmet: So two ways I'm gonna answer it.

    So first on the French culture. The French education system or even culture is still based on elite okay. And that's basically from Napoleon Bonaparte. So early 19th century where created what we call the grande école.

    If you want to succeed in France, you want to do the highest ranking studies, you do actually one of those grounds they grande école like polytechnic both engineering or business, but mainly engineering. So if you're not fitting into this, you are failure. In my view, it's a very violent education system.

    If you're not fitting into the mold, if you're not good at math or physics, you are a failure. And failure is not good connotation. It's like you should always succeed in your life. And it's completely the opposite of the American way. You know, it's like the Americans are saying actually failure is just a synonym of experience.

    That's almost like a trauma on the succeed or failure component from an education system.

    Ling Yah: Just to clarify little bit. So the arts is it looked down upon? But then, you have people like Claude Monet coming from French culture.

    Xav Desmet: Yeah. And, uh, I'm not sure if you know a bit about Monet life. I mean, he had not a lucky life. Like Vincent van Gogh all those artists had actually horrible life.

    It's post that time or pre that time, If you're looking at Leonardo DaVinci was under the protection of Francis the first.

    Still at that time, if you were good with your hands, you could still be successful. But there was really this time that when Napoleon Bonaparte arrived and created those schools, was really the time of the colonies. If you remember the time, the Brits and the French and the Spanish and the Portuguese were colonizing half of the planet.

    And the idea of the Victorian education system was if you train someone in New Zealand to be a secretary in the uk, you can do that. And that was the whole purpose of education. Our education system is broken because it's still based on the 19th century mindsets.

    But in France, it's hard.

    Science are becoming the key driver of the country. And you do one of those schools, suddenly when you graduate, you already an executive. It's like you are cadre supérieur, which sounds completely unreasonable. But look at our politics.

    They're all from our systems. From that system, like the French politics uh, they all did science politic and then we did ENA to prestigious schools and they governed the country. And all the leaders of the big corporate and enterprises in France, they all did the same schools, prestigious engineering schools.

    It's a closed network and successes be defined through education. That's how the French system is.

    I went through that system because that's how I could also build myself, challenge myself, survive, strive from the environment that I grew up from. But most importantly, I did everything by the books. I did one of those prestigeous schools.

    I went to Australia also to do a postgraduate master degree a couple of years. Worked on my English, and then I applied for my dreaming job as a management consultant. And I was really thinking, and excuse my French wtf. This is not what I was born to do.

    At that time, I started redefining what success meant, and still means today. That definition of course evolving because children have come into place to bring a big part of how I define success. But when I stepped out from the corporate world to create Les Petits Bilingues in 2006 and partnered with Gillum that my business partner at that time, I was the happiest man on earth.

    I was the poorest. I had no money. I I had all the degrees. It was great. I paid my mortgages. It's like I did a couple of, for one student bank loan. Because management consulting was, was well paid and then I started that business. It was so hard and I was the happiest man on, on earth.

    And so success is not just being success through the corporate ladder, it's also paid stepping back, having this 3D 360 view and apply one of the seven principles of Stephen Covey which is always start with the end in mind.

    If I was starting with the end in mind and looking back and would've had been happy and spend my life in management consulting, definitely not and, but timely.

    Ling Yah: I wonder in France how are entrepreneurs seen? Are they very socially accepted? Was it terrifying for your family as well to see you jumping from this lucrative job to this abyss where there's no certainty whatsoever?

    Xav Desmet: So entrepreneurs are extremely well seen. Always very courageous.

    But the funny part is, an entrepreneur in France is the labor man. Literally the word, someone's gonna come into your house and refurbish your house. So the word entrepreneur is not really the word that French would be calling it. They would be saying corporate chief, chef Donald, please. I am chef d'entreprise. Small business, 10 employees. But it's how they would position it. You know, my dad used to say, My definition of success is instead of being a small among a big, I want to be a big among the small.

    And I was like, that's an interesting definition because it means comparing himself to others, which is the best secret to unhappiness.

    So when you're looking at a businessman who's building that business, it's always very well seen. And it's actually the first employer in France. In France 75 percent of the economy, maybe those numbers have changed, are coming from the small and medium businesses.

    So what we call artisanal is actually key to driving the economy. And it's the same in Australia. It's a key driver in the economy. It seems always very courageous and people are wondering, Why are you doing that? You have a great job in a corporate, why would you step out and risk it all?

    And, And you're thinking this is not the right question to ask.

    Ling Yah: So what was the genesis behind you starting your own thing? What was the vision?

    Xav Desmet: A couple of things. Actually three things. Number one I struggled with English when I was a child.

    Combining that with a passion close to my heart that is all about children. You know, every student job that I had, I was working with children, always with children. So I knew there was a market gap and then suddenly I could fill in that market gap by experimenting and try to lead the way and to show the way.

    Second reason, I was not happy in my job. Management consulting, I think is one of the hardest job, and it's so representative of the old, post second World War capitalist's approach about, hey, I'm going into an organization, you've been doing that for 20 years because you've been told how it should be done, but you should stop doing that.

    And by the way, I'm gonna make 20% of your team redundant. So management consultant is necessary because those companies would be struggling more, but at the end, sometimes it's not necessary. It's just to help shareholder making more money.

    And then the third component, it's people. So when I met this guy Gio in Australia in 2003. He is 15 years older than I am. He has four children. You know, he was on a gap year. I was finishing a cycle of my studies and he was maybe 41 at that time and looking for a partner.

    And him and I got along so well that we were friends first. And then for a year, we discussed about the business that he started in 1992. And I was thinking, Hey, this is a crazy opportunity. Would you like to partner? It was not as simple as that, but basically at the end, we went on the journey and absolutely loved it.

    So it's the people that you're gonna be do doing the journey with.

    Ling Yah: You ended up teaching 10,000 kids, which is not a small number. And I've interviewed a number of people who also started their own education school and they found that what kids really love is the fact that they're actually doing something and it's actually something tangible, rather than just sitting there and listening to a lecture.

    And they will have several breakthrough moments as well in order to allow that startup to go to the next level.

    And I wonder what are those breakthrough moments for you ?

    Xav Desmet: I learned so much about the brain plasticity at a young age. I learned that, for instance, the muscles of your palate and your ears are fully growing until the age of seven and then start stabilizing before you turn 12.

    And anything you do past that age, it'll take 10 times more practicing in order to pronounce the word the same way. My children today are fully bilingual. And I applied some of the techniques that I've learned through that time. But the breakthrough was really through sitting in the first class in the north of France because there was one school already established in 1992.

    I had so much fun and I could see the kids had so much fun too with a native speaker, and I was thinking, this is gonna be huge. So that was a breakthrough right at the beginning of the business. And then after a couple of years, because we had no money, Ling, and we didn't wanna speak with VC. We wanted to be in control of our own destiny at that time and so we developed through franchising.

    Franchising is amazing because you basically looking for likeminded entrepreneurs who are going to build their business aligning to your pedagogy, your brand. And that was so rewarding. I still remember when we signed our first contract with franchises Pascal include in

    So our first franchises from the . so you know, your French is the French metropolitan, which is the country itself, but I also what we call d'outre-mer terrain. So overseas countries or peace of land in this one small piece of land called Iranian Island right next to Mauritius in Madagascar.

    And our first franchise is signed there. When I visited them for audit, coaching and all those things, I saw them driving their black cab because we were also provisioning black cabs to our franchises. And I think I shared the picture with you of my first black cab.

    It was unbelievable to realize, hey, they are actually other entrepreneur aligning to your values, trying to adhere to what you're trying to achieve and then accelerate this development process. When we reached a point of 38 schools, that was stunning because we had only seven through ownership and then 31 through franchising.

    It was a breakthrough for me.

    Ling Yah: Wow.

    How do you find these like-minded people though? Cause that's the big challenge, and they might seem like-minded, but the reality might prove different.

    Xav Desmet: Yeah, it's also a very good question. You know, again, at that time in France, there was no proper structure to learn or to teach English to children.

    The French education system is free, and so everyone expects that any extra scholar activities are also free. But there was such a big demand because at that time, the parents born between 1970 to maybe 1985, they were really asking, hey, we do need proper structure to teach English to children, and I want my kids to learn English. Not with someone who's going to speak like this, because that's not clearly I want my kids uh,

    to learn English. But that is still the case, you know, with many English teachers. So they wanted to work with natives and native speakers was a key. They wanted to make sure that you are positioning something that is fun for the child. Learning naturally through the exercises that they have through the course of the class.

    And so we knew what we were going to share with the franchisees. When we had a manual for operations, once we had the right platform to communicate, once we have all the IT platform in place. So this an intranet for sharing all the pedagogic material to all the teachers.

    Once we publish the website, I can tell you that we started receiving a lot of application.

    The prep work was intense, but once we started we were very clear with the profiles that we were after. We were very clear with our offering.

    It was a much smooth er process.

    Ling Yah: Will you say that being clear of exactly who you wanted was the trick to finding likeminded people? Was there other little tricks to make sure that you got those right partners?

    Xav Desmet: Yeah. I mean they had to fill a whole application. We received so many applications that were not aligned at the end.

    You know, you are attending as well for stairs. The fair for franchise. You are very visible in a few magazines and so you have a lot of, I would say lost souls who are thinking, Hey, I'm just gonna wonder around and look for the right business.

    I still remember some of the interviews that we had where people were actually not interested in kids at all.

    And we were like, What?

    Why did you apply if you don't like kids? I know it's gonna be a very good business, profitable, et cetera.

    But the profitability is the outcome. It's not what you need to be driven by.

    And at the end, as I mentioned, not that difficult. The first year we just wanted one franchisee. It was really nice.

    The second year, we only wanted two franchisee, and then the third year we wanted to have five additional franchisee.

    So we wanted to be in control of our growth because we knew also that if we were growing too fast, the machine would've exploded unless we bring more cash and then we're going back to the VC conversation. So I think we got lucky actually, Ling.

    Ling Yah: Apart from luck and other positive upsides, I wanted to talk about the lower sale.

    I read in a publication that in a startup's life, there is an average of them facing three near deaths in their whole journey. And I wonder if that proved true for you and what it was like getting through that.

    Xav Desmet: I wouldn't say that this is a rule that fits everyone. Do you know actually what is the average life of any startup?


    Nine months.

    It's pretty much you're giving birth and then is it a child that is there or actually there's no child?

    I still remember the guy who shared that with these data points with us, and that's exactly the analogy that he shared, but nine months.

    I was again, lucky because when I set up my startup, the expectation from day one is that I was not gonna get a penny out of it for the first couple of years.

    So the question that you needed to ask yourself is not more about debt or et cetera, it's more, how am I going to live for two years?

    Do I have enough cash for me to live because all the money that I'm making through my startup needs to stay in my startup not to pay anyone unless there are people in the operations that needs to be paid.

    And so when I say lucky, it's because the French government is very friendly and gives grant to set up startup and where I could get a bit of like about a year and a half of money from the government to have like a mini pension for me to live from in order to develop my business.

    So I didn't have to worry about that.

    Now the thing is for that business, and again, because we didn't have any money, we always knew that in order to develop and benefit from the first advantage, because we were going to take markets. We really had to develop quickly, but not too quickly.

    And so franchising was the best way because suddenly you're spreading out geographically without investing too much cash.

    So the level of debt in Mome With Mome, which was the master franchise of Les Petits Bilingues was always very low. The only debt that we raised for Mome Sweet Mome was only when we were opening a new school to do the refurbishment of the school with the signs and with everything with the branding.

    And that was the only debt that we created through the structure. So the debt level was very low.

    Ling Yah: Did you, when you started, have a clear exit plan in mind because you end up selling your shares in 2011, but clearly you love what you do. I mean, at the very start, you're talking about the kids, which you clearly love.

    You wrote once as well that you felt alive when you were teaching. This felt like the perfect fit. So why on earth would you leave?

    Xav Desmet: So two responses to that.

    First one, when I started my business, I met my wife at that time. She's a doctor in pharmacy. She's the light of my life. She's my soul mate. She helps me keep the focus.

    When I met her in late 2005, and then we've been together since January, 2006. She had just been back from the US and she wanted to go back to the US. She's a self-made person. Amazing story. Very inspiring.

    Basically she was gonna be stuck with me for a few years in Paris. And Paris, Ling, is fantastic as a tourist. To live there, it's a different game. It's very polluted, very stressful, cold. You do very long hours. I used to work six days a week, but 80 hours a week minimum.

    Ling Yah: I still remember the subways, they are really dirty.

    I was shocked.

    Xav Desmet: Yeah. Yeah. I was actually on my motorbike at that time because it was quicker to go from one school to another. But yeah, yeah, living there, it's not really nice. And so, I committed to her, and I still have the post it that by 2012 we were not going to live in Paris anymore. So that was the first reason. I had to deliver on my promise to my wife cuz we got married in 2008.

    If you're going back to again, my definition of success, it's not just being successful in the corporate world, it's actually to have the whole balance between personal life and professional life.

    And then the second reason, when we came back from our honeymoon, we got married in November, 2008, I fell sick, very badly. I had a lung infection with a septicemia. The bacteria went to my blood. I almost died, actually. And so I spent 11 days in ER and I was the only patient in that hospital in Paris who was conscious.

    Everyone else was basically putting artificial coma, and that's what they wanted to do with me.

    So we just came back from our honeymoon and we knew that we were going to our first child Salmec. And suddenly we realized that if I was not there, the company could not run anymore because we built the company like the pyramid, which was an efficient way, but it's also very fragile.

    I had two commercial executive assistant. I had one financial executive assistant. I had basically five executive assistants.

    I had of course teachers, et cetera. But I was really the one riding the horse. And we realized how fragile the company was if suddenly I was not there.

    So we knew that this was the time actually to inject capital. But the agreement, like the shareholder agreement I had with gi, my business partner had always been when we were going to reach that stage, instead of raising funds, we were going to sell it off and move on to something else.

    And that's what we did. We found a new owner. Sold the business. Signed the papers late 2009. And then I had some handover process with the new owner and then moved on. And in that new process, suddenly, yes, I was enjoying what I was doing, but we were going onto new adventures.

    We were going to move to Australia. We had two children. We traveled the world a bit during a gap year when we planned for that migration to Australia. And so, yeah, that's the reason.

    Ling Yah: So would it be right to say it was hard to let go of what essentially was your first baby, but you had all these exciting things planned and so you didn't really have time to dwell that?

    Xav Desmet: Yeah. Yeah, that is a very good summary, Ling. That is a very good summary. I think it's not just your job in life. And there was this new aspect of Australia, and again, my wife, Xavier, always wanted to live a long time in an Anglo Saxon country. Australia was very exciting for us.

    I still remember actually the day that we landed there and she was crying of happiness and that you can't put a price in .

    Ling Yah: That's when you knew you definitely made the right choice.

    What was the sabbatical like for you? You did it for 11 months. You also had two kids. I imagine Yeah. a lot of fun, but a lot of challenges too.

    Xav Desmet: Yeah, and you know, it's interesting, there's this perception, but as soon as you got a child, your life is ending. But it just requires more organization. This was amazing, Ling. It's actually very easy to travel with a child that is under six months.

    As soon as they, start sleeping at night and before nine months, they're easy to travel. You can take them everywhere. Even in restaurants. And then once they start walking from the age of 14 months, that's a different story.

    But you always find a way. Also, the role of a parent is to make sure that the child understand the limits. And those limits have always to be put at any age.

    As long as you communicate.

    Many people say, Why do you speak to your one month old the way that you do?

    Well, because don't get me wrong, he understands. He feels the energy. It's not maybe the words that he is picking, but he feels the energy he's feeling reassured. Marrekesh was amazing. Thailand was fantastic.

    Two weeks in a camp van with both of them. It was just so lovely to spend that time and travel even a bit everywhere in France. So 1 thing is sure- organization and planning.

    As long as you plan and do things where your kids are always safe and can also enjoy themselves, these are fantastic memories.

    Ling Yah: I interviewed one person who has made it his life's work to talk about sabbaticals and encourage people to take sabbaticals because it's a perfect break.

    You just need that kind of realigning of yourself and what you wanna do. Do you have any advice for those listening who haven't taken a sabbatical but thinking of it since you have been on one?

    Xav Desmet: Yeah, just do it. It's the simple advice. It's the Nike tagline. Just do it. It's interesting how it put things in perspective.

    It's interesting how suddenly you grasping a different dimension of the only wealth that exists and that you have, which is time.

    And doing a sabbatical is an amazing way to put your ideas in order and doing it naturally, not forcing you. And with that, actually I do need another sabbatical.

    Ling Yah: Yeah, there's a TED Talk that says that you need to take mini sabbaticals, so you just retire later. Uh,

    Xav Desmet: There's, there's another guy from Holland was leading Marketing agency in New York. We're seeing actually the cycle is one year sabbatical every four years. So four years of work, one year sabbatical. And he works in creativity. Maybe that works. Actually it takes courage.

    People are saying it's cowardice but it actually takes courage. And I think now companies are valuing also the people would've done sabbatical because in my view again, helps bring focus.

    Because when you're coming back from sabbatical, you know what you are looking for. You know what you want to do and so your employers or whatever activities that you're gonna be working on are always gonna be more productive, more enjoyable, and at the end will deliver more happiness.

    So yeah. In other words, 100% sabbatical.

    Ling Yah: So you did a sabbatical for 11 months and then you rejoined the workforce in February, 2012. Was that a shock?

    Xav Desmet: No. Actually it was exciting. I was getting into new areas. When I sold my business, there was one thing. When you do that for six years, you're in the trenches.

    You're working so hard, long hours. You do so much, from marketing strategy, the logos . You developed the franchises, coach people, train people, hire people. You deal also with all the human resources aspect. You don't know where to go, actually, you are a bit lost.

    And so I did the skills assessment and that skilled assessment reveal two thing. One, you wanna go back in it. And two, obviously what you like doing and what you're good at is business development. And so business development starts. So with sales and I was lucky enough to find someone very quickly in Australia.

    It took me two weeks to find a job actually, when I arrived in Australia. It was good, but I was, quickly also bored.

    But At the same time, I got into sports. I started doing triathlon.

    Starting serious running ultra marathon. That was a time also I build a friendship with a lot of people in Australia where we are seeing those friends like family there. So a different time of your life and the challenges are not the same.

    And then of course, the entrepreneur mindset always is catching up on you and always wants to, to push hard. But when you have two children, when you live on the other side of the planet, you make different decision. And those decisions at the end needs to be aligned with your values because I think at the end, that's the only thing that matters, you know, across all those decisions.

    You can change your environment, you can change your employers, you can change your activity, your job, anything. But the one thing that you need to stand by are really your values.

    Ling Yah: Hey everyone, just interrupting to say that STIMY also has a weekly newsletter where I essentially uncovered the secret hacks that successful people use to be successful. The apps, the habits, some of the stories that will inspire you to find your own purpose in life, because let's face it.

    When you look at someone's LinkedIn profile, you would think that their lives, their career is a straight path, but it is rarely ever that.

    There are tons of experimentations, tons of hacks, tons of failures, and lessons learned. So if you want to learn more beyond just this podcast, please do sign up to the Weekly newsletter.

    The first one's coming up next Wednesday morning.

    You can find the link to subscribe in the show notes below. Now back to the episode.

    So what are your values?

    Xav Desmet: Very good question. Thanks for asking . During the pandemic, I read this book called Words Can Change Your Brain.

    There was an exercise actually that the two co-authours mention, which is now an exercise that is run by most of MBAs in the US or the big ones.

    Which is for a few weeks, you wake up every morning and you ask yourself, what are your deepest, most important values?

    Okay. You wake up and then you start listing them. That's the first thing that you do in the morning. Okay?

    And so I went through that exercise, define far too many, and then at the end you need to drill down to like maximum 10.

    So number one value to me is love. People are saying it's a feeling, it's not a value. It's actually a value. You need to love what you do. You need to love the people around you. It's the first value that I want to share in any conversations. So love is the number one.

    The second one is family. Okay. And same thing in terms of feedback. I receive mitigated feedback. I, that's interesting because I've received that feedback from people who have never defined actually their values. And family is so important. It holds many aspects around what family is all about.

    Number three is friendship. I cannot live healthy without friends and I guess it's the same for all of us. They're the real secrets to longevity.

    Diet for sure. Exercise for sure. But, you know, Harvard research that they did for like 70 years across, multiple time, they revealed that is a secret to longevity. Friendship. The people that you can trust, that you can really build long term relationship. Trust is so important.

    I'm always giving 100% of my trust to the people that I'm meeting. And if they don't respect that trust, then that trust is lost. It's very hard to get it back, but it's strong value.

    Another one is learning. It's not about knowing something.

    I've learned also on the Satya Nadella at Microsoft. It used to be a "know-it -all" organization and move to "learn-it-all" organization. So the learning component would never stop. I always thought like once my engineering studies are over, then I'm done. But no, you never stop learning. And that's important.

    And then of course, health, sustainability, values like this.

    Ling Yah: You said earlier that your first job of the sabbatical, you're getting bit bored. You also mentioned Microsoft, that was your next job. So what was your suppose headspace at, in terms of moving to that position and being there for almost six years?

    You left as strategic account director.

    Xav Desmet: So the first six months, Ling, were absolute hell. It was so not enjoyable. You know, I've always been a startup guy. Always worked with small structure with human dimension.

    And this job was just absolutely horrible. People backstabbing each other, extreme corporate complexity, heavy processes.

    So I joined in November, 2015 and Satya Naela only took took over Microsoft, I think in March that year, in 2015.

    Australia at that time, it was still very much the Steve Ballmer time. One thing that resonated with me strongly with Microsoft is the thing that you've mentioned before, which is, Hey, you don't work for Microsoft. It's Microsoft working for me and being an entrepreneur that worked at one stage very well for me. I just had to find the right people within Microsoft I could strive with and getting good mentorship, good coaching and then stick to the process and then make other people around you successful.

    So I learned a lot I'd say through the first six month of hell as I've mentioned, and then started through the full change management curve, started embracing the situation and looking at things differently instead of living that pressure looking, Hey, how can I impact my customers by leveraging the machine behind me?

    At that time also, their initiation of transformation started also to flow down into the different subsidiaries and areas globally. And by 2017, we could see really the first big changes happening. I really, really enjoyed actually, that time when I moved.

    I was looking after three large FSI customers from an Azure point of view with Microsoft. Really enjoyed that time.

    I had a fantastic manager, Phil Coligan, love you and very good, very good mentors. And even when I moved to Singapore with Microsoft, it was really a company that changed dramatically.

    You know, still a heavy beast but a fantastic organization today, I can tell you. Not completely different from the day I started there.

    And I think we'll have a tremendous way forward. Microsoft is a great organization focusing on sustainability really caring about their staff, their employees, the work life balance.

    Ling Yah: Were there specific changes that really made it such a great place that you could share?

    Xav Desmet: Yeah. I mean it's, um, first success about others. You became measured as well about the success of your teammates not on your only success. You had KPIs with this, and you could receive a bonuses with us.

    Secondly, it's the motion and the empowerment. The field became more empowered and where there was a vision that this empower empowerment was very necessary in order to get the field. So people facing, customers becoming trusted advisors to their customers.

    There was also a huge uptake when it's coming to technical learnings.

    Everyone had to suddenly also start learning about technology. I can't believe that even myself, I'm still today a Azure architect which required a lot of technical learnings in order to get to that point.

    There was also this motion around working closely with customers instead of just being purely transactional because Microsoft before was a software organization, so basically you sell the software, so you see your customer once every three years then you say bye.

    But now it's basically public cloud. So you do need to spend a lot of time with your customer so that the adopted technology have workloads running from it. And then you're seeing the increase of consumption.

    So, yeah, a lot of changes. A lot of simplification and a lot of motion around sustainability.

    You know, when Microsoft announced that by 2030 the CO2 emission will be negative, that's a huge stake in the ground, but it's reality because Microsoft is doing the right thing when it's coming to sustainability and renewable energy for their data centers.

    I mean, there's still a lot to do, don't get me wrong. They still have a lot of progress to make, but the progress has been amazing.

    Ling Yah: Speaking of customers, you were actually the dedicated virtual Microsoft CEO of Grab. What was that partnership like?

    Xav Desmet: It was fun. It was very fun. Basically Microsoft invested through series p o d at Grab, I can't remember a large chunk of money but still Grab was a very big consumer of Microsoft competitor for US. And so the idea was to try to put

    I met with incredible people like like Sean Paulk, Philip. Met with Ling a couple of times, met with Anthony as well.

    Grab has this vision to empower Southeast Asia and bring technology to change people's life, which is an amazing vision.

    We've been struggling over the past nine months with where the stock is, but the vision remains intact and they just need to reprioritize.

    So all I can say it was fun. It was also rewarding for whoever took my role after I left Microsoft. I'm very thankful for the experience.

    Ling Yah: Just before we move to your current role back all the way in 2016, when I suppose you were going through this difficult period at Microsoft, you and your wife started a new startup called Solana.

    And I love that you shared about it because it was that nine months after which you decided this is a failure, we're gonna shut down. And I would love to just know that whole story of starting Solana.

    Xav Desmet: I'm not sure if you're familiar with kombucha. I'm sure you are. Yeah. There's a lot of kombucha, but you do have as well this sys called kefir.

    Kefir has a lot of health benefits. Good for your guts, a lot of health benefits. And my wife being a pharmacist or a doctor in pharmacist, she's got a PhD in pharmacy. Health has always been top of mind, but not the way that we are thinking it.

    Actually since I've been with my wife, it's not a single drug at home. I can tell you no one is taking any medicine, which is funny. When I was a child, I always had drugs, but not with my wife.

    She got extremely curious about this symbio called kefir. She read about it and realized, this is amazing.

    I think I want to develop a business out of it. And I was like, Are you sure? Because we are getting into the manufacturing food business. This is heavy investments. This is heavy workloads as well and it's heavily regulated. as well, wouldn't it?

    Heavily regulated as well.

    And she said, Yeah, I think there's really something serious. She sold a couple of businesses in the US. Made a lot of money. One of them sold actually their business to Coke. But again, not thinking about that outcome is, is the benefit that you can bring to people and people.

    Let's do it. And I was like, Okay, let's do it. And so we bought a warehouse. We bought bottles. She built the design. I absolutely love the brand. Solana is actually so, and at all.

    That's our children first syllabus name. But it's interesting because today Solana is one of the very famous crypto.

    Ling Yah: Yeah, that's the first thing I thought.

    Xav Desmet: And actually she could have sold the brand for I think about 2000 Ethereum at that time. And she said, No, that's a p.

    Ling Yah: Oh no.

    Xav Desmet: Yeah, exactly. So she worked on all of that. I was really working in a background with her. Coaching her, including like the refurbishment of the warehouse, which was pure hell because it didn't work out the entrepreneur, the builder, who helped us with the refurbishment.

    It finished actually in court. It was, was really a tough experience. And she started bottling, experimenting different samples and realized one thing. She could not control the fermentation.

    And she started wondering how did this company in the US succeed doing that? We realized that this company in the US was a bloody scam.

    It basically was dyed kefir powder that they were just putting in the bottle and then closing the cap. It took months of research and understanding why, why, why. And that's where she really impressed me around the work ethics and the business. Because personally I always had this business view. We need to make a business out of it.

    We could have switched it to a nice soft drink. Maybe we've not the same health effects. But she said no, again sticking to the values. And I had a vision, This was the first phase that was the pilot.

    We realized that it's not sustainable. You cannot control the fermentation and to a point where bottles where exploding in the warehouse.

    It was very dangerous.

    Ling Yah: Sounds terrible.

    Xav Desmet: Terrible. Yeah. And we gave even some cases to some friends and we called them. We're coming to your place, we're picking up the box. It was interesting experience.

    And instead of just thinking of a plan B which is, as I mentioned, still have a soft drinks, but not with the same health benefit, we decided to shut down the business and it wasn't not an easy decision. When you've put a lot of money into something, a lot of passion and time, it's not an easy decision, but so many learnings and for nothing in the world we would regret it.

    Ling Yah: You said it wasn't easy, but you also said it was the right decision made at the right time.

    And I wonder, obviously, but it was ultimately a failure. How does it jar with what we spoke about earlier? You bring up in France, failure is not an option. Now you have this thing you cannot spin in any other way. How did that feel?

    Xav Desmet: It felt hard. It felt very hard. Actually, this is the only time I felt sick in the past 11 years.

    I did have covid but was not big. But when we made that decision, my body just fell apart, which was interesting because it was so deep in me. I just could not accept the fact that we were going to stop. But it was the right decision and that's where saying it was the right decision.

    It was a success in that sense, you know, because we could have also burnt more cash. We could have gone and raised money. It would've been a catastrophe. Would've become a theo actually maybe. And keep selling lies in a small dimension.

    Ling Yah: Was there a particular push that made you decide I'm gonna pull the plug. This is it.

    Xav Desmet: Yeah. I still remember this big brown paper on the wall in uh, our apartment on the northern beaches in Sydney. It was these gigantic trees and so many formulas that we had tried differently and realized we've tried everything.

    And at the end, we had no products. So if you have no product, if it's not scalable, we don't want to turn into a bar and then pool. Of course that could have been possible. That was not the vision. Then that was a time that we decided to pull the plug and we did.

    Ling Yah: Thank you for sharing that. I love the whole journey and just so much to learn from you as well. But then also now you are at Zoom, you're head of digital native startups and unicorn for Asia. As I told you before we started, I didn't even know there was such a role in Zoom itself, so I would love to know how did you end up in Zoom because Zoom is basically this 10 year old startup.

    It exploded during the pandemic, couldn't be more different from Microsoft, which is kind of like a legacy company. It's huge. It's got processes in place. So what was that transition like? How did you end up there?

    Xav Desmet: I absolutely loved it, Ling. And if you remember when I say that I've moved to Les Petits Bilingues, one of the three reasons was people. It was the same actually when I moved to Zoom.

    It was not one of the key reasons, but it wasn't very important reason. And basically the previous APAC lead at Microsoft. So a VP position took the lead role for Zoom in APAC

    basically that made me wonder why actually did you do the move?

    What is the story behind? The thing about Zoom , the founder is still the CEO of the organization. Eric Yuan still owns 20% of the organization. This is a real customer-centric organization. They're obsessed with customers.

    You know, if you have features that you need Zoom to implement, It's gonna be on the roadmap in a few months, that will follow the ask.

    It's crazy the level of innovation that I've seen since I've joined. And we are getting into the startup space and digital native, it's because we want to bring structure behind the labeling of our solution.

    It's like many startup are thinking of video communication to engage better with their customers or to access new markets, and we can provide that engine, which is unique in terms of IP.

    I wouldn't say I went deep technically because Yuan has unified communication as a service was new to me. Even when I was at Microsoft, I was more focusing on the cloud, the data center component of infrastructure as a service component, which is Azure.

    At Zoom, it's simple.

    The V architecture is simple and we make things very easy for our customers. At the end, the technology works even at 70% packet plus. So if you were in a very remote area right now, like in the Philippines, the technology would work perfectly and we would've a better video conversation here right now than being on the message or even phone on a different platform.

    It's good because it shows the vision of the founder. And again, the level of innovation when I joined was basically webinar meeting and and Zoom phone. And right now we have Contact Center Solution. We have Zoom IQ for sales. We have so many different solutions that have a positive impact to communities and organizations in the region. At an individual level, there is less engineering.

    Yes, it's not as big as Microsoft, but at my level, this is even bigger because that can have an impact I can see every day. while seeing an impact on my impact at Microsoft was a bit more of a challenge.

    Ling Yah: And another thing that I always come across whenever I Google about Zoom is just think of delivering happiness. What does that actually look like given that you're in Zoom? How do you actually live that out?

    Xav Desmet: There's two aspects to delivering happiness. First, Zoom is delivering happiness to its employees, look after its employees very well.

    And work life balance is very important.

    You know, even last summer I spent six weeks in France and worked four weeks remotely and took only two weeks off. Zoom is eating our own dog food. So basically we, use Zoom with Zoom first.

    I'm not sure if you saw the signs at the airport saying this could have been a Zoom meeting instead of taking a flight. And that's reality.

    So Zoom looks after its employees very well. That's the first aspect.

    And then when it's coming to customers, it's by delivering frictionless communication.

    We deliver a product that works and that works by implementing very easily. Plugin play. You arrive, you deploy it, and you can deploy 10,000 seats other night, even in a enterprise and it works. So that is what Zoom is delivering happiness.

    Then if we go a little bit deeper, it's around the engineering. As I mentioned just before if a customer wants a certain feature, then we escalate and via contact executive or that parts of the customer escalate to engineering.

    We evaluate quickly if it's worth implementing, and then through the next release, suddenly there's this feature being implemented kind of the platform.

    So it's by delivering this level of innovation, which is crazy. So I guess there would be the two aspects.

    Ling Yah: Given your unique position, I mean the startup scene in France, in Australia, I'm sure you're also very familiar with the start scene in Asia. What are you observing now given where you are at?

    Xav Desmet: Ah, it's a very good question. There's a lot of learnings about this region. I think Southeast Asia right now is the most exciting region to be in the world.

    It is just the beginning of the story. It's a region with an incredible amount of talents who are very ambitious.

    It's a part of the world where I've learned a lot and I'm still learning a lot in terms of cultural binding. There's things I used to say, or behavior I used to have. And personally to me it's very refreshing because it brings a lot of humility in the things that I do and how I approach my colleagues and people I work with.

    You know, the French, they have a meeting, it's a conflict. It's like people are fighting in a meetings, but it's actually a very productive meeting. In Australia it's actually no worries mate. So that's a different approach. It's always No worries, no worries. We can work, make it work. We can make it work.

    And here it's different. You know, someone in a meeting will say yes, but actually that means a no. Why did you say yes?

    So it's all those cross cultural component, which are very interesting. And to me, it's going back also to the things that I've learned previously in my career is to be absolutely clear. That's one aspect.

    Second one, when it's coming also to leadership. My role is to bring the energy to the meetings, to the people around you in order to gather people around you.

    And three, absolutely deliver. The delivery component is so important.

    When making a promise, make sure that it's always delivered. And I think it's even stronger in this parts of the world.

    Ling Yah: Before we began, I asked you, is there anything that would make this interview win? And you said that you would love to be more involved in startups, and I would love for you to just explain your own words, what that means.

    Xav Desmet: At this stage in my life, I'm looking for what's gonna be rewarding or fulfilling for me.

    My corporate life is great. I used to balance it with sports and other activities, but considering the place that I'm in today, I'm very keen to connect with startups who are looking for advisors or for board members with a profile like mine.

    And that's a way one, give back to the community. And two, I'm having fun when it's coming to business creation, the execution, the delivery, to the sales component.

    So it's the thing that I start thinking, seriously, I'm 43 now. I never thought about it before and now I start to think about it more and more because I believe that I could be only doing that post my corporate life which I believe should end in the next five years. I think it's important I'm moving on to different things.

    I also mentioned non for profit that I want to be involved. I want to go back into education. And so that's the idea today. When I initially moved to Singapore, it was also in the idea where I could work in a developed country in the region, and there are many, in a way I could bring a big impact in those regions.

    And I was initially thinking of Microsoft . Now I'm thinking more pragmatically because I'm really having fun in my role. Focus on the role, then start building what would be this post corporate life. And so that's why I'd like to do that.

    Not just in sales, business development business strategy, it's also around the execution component.

    You know, things that I learned the hard way and a good way. Les Petits Bilingues and Mome Sweet Mome was a very successful story. Very happy with that. But some of the biggest learnings actually in my failures, and there are also many you know, in my corporate life, and I fully assume them.

    I'm not ashamed as I used to be when it's coming to failures because as the American also would say, you never lose. You either win or you learn. I think that's very true.

    Ling Yah: Are there particular startups in certain industries you're looking for? Or does that matter less and you're more looking for the particular founder?

    Xav Desmet: Switch on, Ling. Spot on. That's exactly right. I mean, I do have some preference with education, sustainable financing. That's for sure.

    And I'm a big personal fan of the blockchain world. Been in there since 2017 at personal level. But at the end, as I mentioned before it's all about the people.

    I want to have fun with those people. I want to be working with people who will be listening to what I can share and I can also listen to. And hence yeah, it's the founders.

    Ling Yah: Oh, I would love to know, what qualities are you looking for?

    Xav Desmet: Fun, humble. Not focusing on money, but more focusing on the process and the excellence in execution.

    Some founders who are showing growth mindsets. That's very important. If it's a founder that know it all, I don't think that will go very far.

    Some founders were also optimistic. And I'm sure they are, obviously they are building their startup and and at the end some people with a simple mindset, not other complicated things.

    So simplicity is absolutely key. And that's actually the key challenge in everything that we do when it's coming to entrepreneurship.

    Making sure that's a business that is answering a big market gap, and that we address it with simplicity. That's also key for me.

    Ling Yah: Since we are on the topic of being an advisor, mentor, what about for you? Who are your mentors? How do you find them? How did they impact you?

    Xav Desmet: My ex business partner is still one of my mentors. Is close friend mentors and I'm also his mentors. So that's a bit, weird relationship, but it's a lot of coaching and, and mentorship with each other.

    I do have a couple of mentors here in Singapore and they're very much in the corporate life.

    So it's people that are still connect and where I seek advice regularly that I want to test ideas.

    But my biggest mentor is living in the same place as I do. That's my wife. Perhaps a bit cliche or du me. but it's,

    she's always refreshing when it's coming to the ideas if I wanna challenge something and will provide me with the right data point or going in the right direction.

    It's hard if you don't have mentors or coaches. Again, two things do differently. It's the one thing that I've learned as well, when you develop your business. You can be alone, but at the end you're working with a network of advisors.

    You know, my solicitor actually in France was an amazing advisor. He helps me doing the right setups. My business partner was again, my best mentor and he was also playing a like a role of coach. Two friends from my engineering school are still coaching me when you want to challenge an idea especially when you run your own business, very often you're not thinking straight.

    So you do need to have the right conscious and that conscious could be external.

    Ling Yah: Do you feel like you have found your why?

    Xav Desmet: I don't think I have, Ling. I think people who have found their why must be either very lucky or very delusional.

    Ling Yah: I like that you're straight to the point on this.

    Xav Desmet: I think again, it's not about the outcome, it's about the journey everything we do the outcome will always come by itself.

    And so the why then lies in my values. It's why I'm waking up every day. Why I enjoy what I do. Why I should prioritize my time with my family instead of colleagues.

    It's when my why i in my values and if it was a, a golden bullet that could define what would be my why.

    I think it's easier to define for a operator for an organization, but actually uh, it is for an individual.

    But if I still could put on something, it's really around education. I love coaching. I love mentoring. And so if it was something very close to this is my, that would be that aspect.

    Ling Yah: Fantastic. And what kind of legacy do you wanna leave behind?

    Xav Desmet: That's also a very good question. A few things. I think it's those values that I shared with you. That's the values that we are teaching our children in everything that we do. So that's one aspect.

    The second aspect is we give them an Australian passport. They have a French and Australian passports. So in terms of legacy, we call ourselves global citizen. We seeing the world, this planet as being our home. Of course we have attachments in France or in Australia are now more and more in Southeast Asia. We really love this part of the world.

    And so it's all those things. Now there's another aspect. I've made about hundred movies , so that's a certain legacy as well.

    I'm proud of a few of them. It used to be my passion and I'm looking forward actually to more time spent on making movies because I'm a big cinema fan and that could be also part of my legacy.

    We'll see

    Ling Yah: That came from the left and I can't believe we never talked about it before this point.

    Xav Desmet: It's all right. It's a very personal hobby.

    Ling Yah: Amazing. And what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    Xav Desmet: Yeah, that's a very broad question because again, it's how you define success and 90% of the world today defines success as being someone was succeeding you corporate life, which I disagree strongly.

    So a successful person is someone in my view who can be successful in everything that they do. Happy wife, balanced children. Ability to execute on any idea and growth mindset. I think that would be, for instance, my definition. of, It's what really matters at the end.

    The highest successful people are that I've actually met are not the big corporate guys. They're actually the guys who are absolutely passionate about something and who can make their life at the back of it. And at the same time, who're extremely generous with their community, with their family, and very well balanced and established families. Where are the people that I look up to.

    Ling Yah: Since you mentioned the word happy, and I imagine most people will look at your CV and go, this is a really successful person.

    I have to ask the question, Are you happy?

    Xav Desmet: Yeah, I am happy. I'm lucky. I'm lucky, Ling.

    I mean, we all have up and downs, but I'm very lucky and I'm grateful for my children, for my business partners today, which are my leaders and, and managers. I'm grateful for the friendship of all my friends and I'm grateful for the family I've got. So yeah.

    Ling Yah: And where can people go to connect with you, find what you're doing, reach out if they want mentorship advisors?

    Xav Desmet: You can just go on my LinkedIn profile, you can ping me. I don't use Twitter much, but Xavier is LinkedIn and yeah.

    And you can send me an email or just send me your connect and I'll gladly accept.

    Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 106. The show notes and transcript can be found at www.sothisismywhy.com/106. If you haven't done so already, please do leave a rating and review for this podcast. It really helps STIMY to grow and I read every single review.

    And stick around for next Sunday because we will be meeting the former Hong Kong edit of Fortune Magazine.

    And current writer and reporter at CNN on her journey to journalism, what it takes, some of the coverage that she's done, including tracking down super yachts belonging to Russian billionaires in the face of the global economic sanctions. It's definitely not an episode you want to miss, so if you haven't done so already, do subscribe and see you next Sunday.

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