Struggle Towards 400 Podcast Episodes, Why I Almost Quit, Key Learnings and The Future of BRAVE - E400

· Podcast Episodes English,VC and Angels,Podcast,Southeast Asia


“Being honest about the ecosystem, the industry players, and what it takes to build a successful startup doesn't mean that I'm trying to be pessimistic or cynical. It doesn't mean I want to be destructive. I want to be growth-oriented but also honest because I believe that people want to hear the truth. And that's the tribe that I'm trying to hang out with. Realism and pragmatism are really key to have.” - Jeremy Au

“The podcast I'm releasing today will be the worst podcast in the next four years. That means that podcast is going to be better than today's podcast. Pushing yourself to be that frontier of knowledge allows you to get into that continual improvement cycle. Whereas if I was pretending to be as good as where I was four years ago, then the truth of the matter is that I'm not going to be improving as a person. That's a very good learning about mastery. At some level, you'd acknowledge that you are an expert in certain things, not necessarily the world's best expert so you have to be comfortable with that, but not be arrogant about it. Use that to have the self-confidence, and the self-esteem needed to push hard to the next level.” - Jeremy Au

“What I realized was that the podcast was scratching my itch of craftsmanship. I don't think we use that word a lot these days. A startup is all about repeatability and scalability, but craftsmanship is this concept of individual mastery. And it's very small, not in a derogatory way, but in a focus, depth, presence, flow, kind of mindset. I didn't realize it, but I do have a very strong sense of craftsmanship. I enjoyed it because it's about being present and mindful of the conversation. It's about being thoughtful and being an active listener.” - Jeremy Au

For the 400th BRAVE episode, Jeremy discussed the hard 4-year journey of founding the podcast during the global pandemic to becoming Southeast Asia's #1 tech podcast. He shared why he decided to spotlight local tech stories and how he almost quit due to burnout multiple times. He learned to value "oyakodon" craftsmanship over maximalism, continue "kaizen" continual improvement and prioritize authentic conversations. Jeremy's vision for BRAVE is fostering a stronger community with more features for premium membership, writing his second in-depth book and being more honest (yet growth-oriented) about the region's true tech ecosystem while bringing in more of his personal humor and interests.

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(01:39) Jeremy Au:

Hey, everyone! Apparently this is the 400th episode and also pretty much the fourth year anniversary of the BRAVE podcast. And so, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to share about why I started podcast initially why I almost quit multiple times, and some of the key learnings that I took away from this experience and how we're going to change in the future.

(02:03) Jeremy Au:

So we started out in April 2020, and this was, as you imagined, a crazy time because this was a time of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In the years before this, I had been listening to a lot of podcasts. I was a founder, building, founding, scaling. And it was a big, big sense of help to have so many great resources. I had an opportunity to listen to Brad Feld speak at Harvard Business School. I also had an opportunity to read his books. And I also get to meet him in person, which is fantastic. I also really love this podcast called the Reboot Podcast, which covers behind-the-scenes, war stories of founders going through not just the professional struggles of building a company, but also the personal struggles that are often intertwined with it.

That being said, being back in Southeast Asia in 2020, I realized that there was a big gap. The gap was really the fact that everything I was listening to was Americans speaking primarily about America. Of course, they were talking about Silicon Valley. They're talking about the tech world, but, I kind of realized that there was nobody from Southeast Asia really getting profiled in Southeast Asia in 2020. There wasn't a Southeast Asian angle on it. Of course, there was Tech in Asia. There was E27, but still, these were primarily new stories rather than a deeper, more humanistic angle that I wanted to listen to.

And lastly, we really didn't cover Southeast Asia in terms of differentiation, right? The fact that we can even talk about Southeast Asia as a region is kind of a joke because the truth is Singapore is so different from Indonesia, which is so different from Vietnam, which is so different from the Philippines, which is so different from Thailand, which is so different from Malaysia. And of course, there are many other countries in ASEAN as well. So, there wasn't really a good sense of how the startup playbook was actually different.

So again, not much representation of Southeast Asian leadership, not much point of humanistic view on Southeast Asia, and not a very clear differentiation of Southeast Asian playbooks and techniques and tactics and strategies that are different from what was bundled as, "Hey, this works for us in America and Silicon Valley." so it works for a whole of America, which works for the whole world, which is, as we now know, very different fundamentally.

(04:07) Jeremy Au:

Of course, that being said, I was stuck at home, and I'm an extrovert, I had an opportunity to think about it. And I said, you know what, let's just give it a shot, right? Let's just record this and see where it goes. And so my first ever episode was with Kwok Jia Chuan, which I'll link in the episode transcript at And, it was fascinating because this is somebody who was and is my best friend ever since we dug trenches together during our army days. And then we went off to build our first company together, which was Conjunct Consulting, a social enterprise. And it was just a fascinating experience to listen to him but also to interview him not as a friend who has lots of different deep conversations, but to have that deeper angle of storytelling, hearing his personal journey.

And from that moment, I kind of knew, like, okay, this is actually fun. I actually do enjoy this active listening piece. I do enjoy this conversational moderation facilitation piece. So let's keep going. And so, it was the era of the pandemic. So everyone was stuck at home. Everyone was very much into social audio. So everybody was really seeking that human connection in the midst of all that death and injury that was happening around the world. Everybody was honestly open to chatting, also open to listening.

And so, I remember being at Clubhouse. There was like hundreds of thousands of people chatting and discussing about Southeast Asia tech. And I was like, yeah, this was an interesting springboard for me to scratch my own itch, which was that I wanted to hear that content and it didn't exist. So I said, hey, you know, the entrepreneurial sense again to be like, I can be that person to bring it. I can try it. I just need my laptop mic and my laptop camera and let's just give it a shot and let's see how it goes. Let's wing it. And it's been fascinating to see that's how we started during the midst of the pandemic on April 12th, 2020.

The truth is I wasn't alone. Before the pandemic, there were about 203,000 podcast creations, so new podcasters launching. And then after the pandemic, about 200,000 to 300,000 podcasts were launched every year. But during 2020, the year that we were launched, there were effectively a million podcasts that were launched. So 5X growth. And then in 2021, there were more than half a million podcasts being launched. So again, it was a huge increase. Almost 2 million podcasts were created during pandemic because there were many extroverted folks who were stuck at home like me, and driving their partner or children or family crazy. And so they had to launch a podcast.


However, there were multiple times I almost quit, to be super frank. At the start, it was a lot of fun because I was primarily interviewing people who are my friends, right? So, I interviewed Kwok Jia Chuan, and then after that, I interviewed Chia Cheng Yang, who was a person who had previously talked to me before the pandemic about going to Harvard Business School. And so, I kind of knew him pretty well. I also interviewed Kwok Jia Chuan's then partner and now fiance, Elaine who was a technical product manager. And so there was a very fascinating set of conversations that early, that was honestly really easy, but then there were multiple times where I just kind of like started feeling all kinds of friction. Frankly, at the start, we were focused on global leadership stories. So we were Brave Dynamics at that point of time. And then I realized, no, I actually prefer Southeast Asia. Let's really zoom in on this and let's also zoom in on technology as well.

So I think there was a pivot, I would say, in terms of the topic, because I was like, oh, you know, we need to be this global podcast, again, this maximalist side of me. And I was like, no, actually as a creator slash as somebody who just wants to be part of that podcast, what I really want to listen to is really Southeast Asia stories, because that's where I grew up in and that's where I'm familiar with and that's where I'm now based in for the future and currently. And so, that was a big piece that was a transition for me.

You can imagine that editing was a time suck. I'm somebody who's very much an extrovert. I love talking. I love facilitating and very much the editing was a very different sense of workflow. And so, I had to go and basically have a set of honest discussions myself that, hey, I need to put aside some budget. So we had volunteers who were initially editing, then eventually I said, we got to pay for this professional editing software called Descript. And then eventually, we hired somebody else to pay. And then that person basically said, "Hey, I'm injured. So I need to go and rotate out." So I had to find another producer. And after some time, I switched to another producer. So there were multiple times where it was just a huge hassle, honestly, to handle this whole editing process because for me, I really enjoyed sourcing guests, preparing, interviewing, and then after that, once the recording stopped, I wanted to hand it over to somebody else because I just had that sinking sense of procrastination slash low energy around the concept of editing and producing and even releasing these episodes. So again, that was another big challenge where I almost quit because I couldn't find the right person for a while. And there was always these transitions where we had to build our SOPs and processes to help ease that entire process and adopt new tools to simplify the whole process.

The third time I almost quit, honestly, was because I was burning out because I was talking to people I didn't really want to interview. So, once we hit a certain amount of traction, I always joke that the first year was pretty much my mom listening. Maybe she's listening right now as well, but I thought it was just interesting that after the first year, I think that we started to get some traction. People were hearing about us. So I started getting a lot of inbound guest pitches for folks who wanted to be on the podcast, and I would take many of them. And I would realize after recording that I just lost a lot of energy because I wasn't fundamentally interested in their story. It was just somebody that was supposedly important based on title, based on company, but I just didn't have a fundamental curiosity about it. I didn't necessarily know them from before, so I didn't like them as a person. I didn't know that I would enjoy that conversation. I didn't feel I was going to learn something from that conversation.

Of course, there were many times I was pleasantly surprised. And so I enjoyed a podcast, but the truth of the matter was that, having these inbound guests was a privilege, obviously, and obviously it's an honor, for them to want to be on the podcast. But then I also kind of realized that it wasn't serving my energy needs. And so, I had to make that very difficult decision to be like, "Hey, I want to be talking to people who I would always be happy to talk to, right?" This is somebody who is an old friend. There's somebody who is a new friend. There's somebody who is an acquaintance, but I would love to know more about them as a person. These are fundamental curiosity because if I'm interested and I'm curious about a topic and a person, then guess what? I'm not a world-class Oscar actor pretending to be super happy, and super interested.

The truth is authentic because I'm authentically interested in the topic and so the listener is going to be interested in the topic because I'm interested as well. So if I'm not interested, then you're going to be able to pick up really quickly that I'm not interested. So if I'm not interested, then why would you be interested? So I think that was a really interesting set of learnings about the three times I was burned out. And the fact of the matter is that I wasn't the only person going through this, right?

The truth is, you know, quitting is pretty much normal for most podcasters. I mean, there was an analysis that was done and out of the records of 2 million podcasts, 90% of them didn't even make it to episode three. It is bonkers. So that means you can imagine about 1.8 million podcasters never made it past episode three.

(10:48) Jeremy Au:

What's interesting is that out of the 200,000 left, another 90% will quit before episode 20. So that's another 180,000 podcasts that are gone. I'll link to the statistics in the podcast transcript here. That means that there are only, effectively, out of that sample, only 20,000 podcasts that are still active after episode 20, out of this original 2 million set. And of course, there are more than 2 million podcasts that have been launched. The podcasting industry has been around for the past 10 years. And so, there's an interesting dynamic that effectively, I mean, you know, glass half full, glass half empty, but you can say like, "Hey, if I start a podcast, 99% will quit," which is one way to think about it. So that's pretty demoralizing. Or if you're more of a half-full kind of glass person, then you're going to be like, okay, I didn't hit episode 20. I'm already in the top 1%, right? I think this reminds me a lot of the entrepreneurial mindset because I often talk about how in the US market, 1 out of 40 seed-funded startups will become a unicorn. And a lot of folks were like, "Wow, that's way better than I expected." And so, these are pessimists, but then they say, "Hey, maybe I should become an entrepreneur." And there's a lot of people who are entrepreneurs and they're like,

"Okay, I thought the odds were much better but I'm still wanting to do this." so it goes back to your risk appetite about what the percentage is.

(11:53) Jeremy Au:

Folks, therefore, often ask me what are the three top learnings I got from doing this podcast. So here's what I'll share, right? I think the first that I really thought about is that I think it's about craftsmanship versus maximalism. And so what I mean by that, of course, is that as an entrepreneur, as somebody who's built systems, I'm very much a maximalist in the sense that I want to build. I want to optimize. I want to think about this and that. And so, honestly, there's a big part of my brain that goes, "Hey, what's a better topic to talk about?" "How do we expand this?" "How do we do that?" "How do I listen to feedback?"

So, obviously, there's a kind of builder mindset that you have. And in some ways, it's very close to being a perfectionist. So as a maximalist, it's you can't have one listener, right? You got to have 10. You're not just 10 listeners. It's 100, 1000, 10,000, 50,000, and it actually can be quite demoralizing. And that's why I had to change my mindset because for the first couple of years, like I said, the audience was so small. It was like one person, 10 people, a hundred people. We just kept going in year one, year two.

(12:48) Jeremy Au:

And I think what I realized was that I think the podcast was really scratching the itch of mine, which was the craftsmanship of it. Craftsmanship is a weird phrase because I don't think we really use it a lot these days. I mean, obviously, a startup is all about repeatability and scalability, but I think craftsmanship is this concept of individual mastery. And it's very small, and I use the word small, not in a derogatory way, but it was small in a focus, depth, presence, flow, kind of mindset.

You know, I was watching this episode about oyakodon which I'll also link in the transcript but I was just reading about this guy who has been cooking oyakodon for decades. This guy has been pretty much becoming an adult, started cooking oyakodon, and then now he's 60, 70, or 80 years old and he's still cooking oyakodon. And they're like, hey, can you do better? Is this perfect? And he's like, yeah, I still can do better at making my Oyakodon, which is chicken and egg with rice, Japanese set. And I thought they're so delicious, obviously. It's on my bucket list to go eat it because I love eating chicken and egg oyakodon.

But also, I think I had a lot of respect for him because this is a person who's really mastered the craft, right? And so I think for me, I didn't realize it, but I do have a very strong craftsmanship sense of being, and this was something that I really enjoyed because it's about being present. It's about being mindful of the conversation. It's about being thoughtful and being an active listener. These are things that I enjoy already in person in real life, as well as the intellectual inquiry around Southeast Asian tech.

And so this craftsmanship angle really came to the fore and I think that's something that's really underappreciated because a lot of people come to me saying "Hey, I want to build a podcast because it's such a great way to build a personal brand." "You're such a great personal brand because of this podcast, so I want to do it because I want to grow my company." And you know, it's right. I mean, don't get me wrong. I think I have to agree that more people know about me and know who I am as a person because of the podcast. It's just that I always tell people, I was like, "Hey, there's so many other ways to do it."

I mean, honestly, you could just go to parties. Go drink alcohol, and hang out with people. It's enjoyable, it's fun. You go out every night. You're meeting 10, 100 people a night. That's a great way of doing it. You can speak on panels and be a public speaker. You can do the writing. You can just do your work, right? It's in many ways a hobby for myself, but also a form of art. And I think that's far as underappreciated is that the podcast can be this mechanical machine that is maximizing, but at the end of the day, as an interviewer, you as a person, you are a creator. So you have to honestly be true to yourself a little bit and pace yourself and not burn out because you have to fundamentally be a craftsperson about what it is.

And so, you know, people have talked to me about, you know, Hey, I want to do this topic because it's really good commercially and makes a lot of sense. And I'm like, yeah, but what do you really enjoy? Is it Dungeons and Dragons? Talk about that. Maybe it's about being a dad. Talk about that. Is it about the guitar? Talk about that because I think it's more important as a podcast. If you really want to do it, it's because you're sharing, to some extent. You're educating, but honestly, it's this being vulnerable about something that you enjoy, right? And so that authenticity can only come through if you're being a craftsperson and not like a mechanical person saying, beep, beep, boop, boop. You know, "I need to kind of talk about this topic because it's commercially viable." Again, if you're doing that, maybe it's easier to use chat GPT to write, to build a company in it. But I'm just trying to say here that being a podcaster really requires you to be a craftsperson, craftsman, to really do well, not just in the short term, but over the medium and long term, over honestly not just one year, five years.

And so for us, we had a four-year mark, but what I realized is that because I'm a craftsman, I enjoy this process. I'm following where the conversations are taking me. Honestly, I could do this for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, 50 years. I can be the chicken and egg, oyakodon Japanese master of Southeast Asia tech podcast because I am fundamentally interested in this topic.

And so, you know, as a result, it's not a sprint to become the best podcast in one year, or two years, but it's a marathon, right? To be present and to be thoughtful about this podcast and the topics that we want to have over that long time period. So for me, as a result, I may be good today, but in 10 years maybe at our 10-year mark or 20-year anniversary, this podcast is still going because I'm being a craftsman, not a maximalization person. And as a result, what that means is that I can "out-last", "out-survive", what is the survivor slogan here, but again, the maximalist side of it is, "Wow, Jeremy, what's your strategy to outlast everybody else." And you're like, no. But you know, it's like playing guitar, or piano, right? I mean, I only got the grade two in piano and I go on both theory and practice. And so, as a result, you can imagine that's the crux of it, is that yeah, I studied piano very fast and then I quit. So, I think it's just the yin and yang of it where you have to be above craftsman, but you also have to have that building mindset. But I think the craftsmanship of being the podcaster rather than building the podcast is really important.

(17:20) Jeremy Au:

The second insight that I've learned is that it's really about continual improvement. Again, this isn't my full-time thing, right? A lot of people are like, Hey, Jeremy, while you're doing this content, you must be doing this for 40 hours or 50 or 60 hours. And I'm like, Hey, honestly, it's taking a couple hours a week because for every recording I'm doing, I'm spending about an hour preparing, recording. And then obviously I spent about a couple hours in terms of going through the edits. So thinking through the edits in terms of the cover art, the subscriptions, the summary, the episode description. So there's a bit of chunk of work there, but I enjoy it because I know I remember all of it in my head. But I think that definitely is a continual improvement aspect of it.

And what I mean by that is so more similar to the Kaizen, right? So the Japanese version of Lean Manufacturing, continual improvement. The way I often think to myself is Hey, did I make one improvement on the website this month? Did I make one improvement to the podcast this month? And so there's been a lot of like small changes that over the past four years, look tremendous. right? We've implemented episode descriptions because of listener feedback on the episode description. We added video because again, people were listening to it and said, they wanted video. We added shorts because people want to see shorts and see us on TikTok YouTube and Instagram reels.

We started using AI tools in terms of Descript for editing, but also ChatGPT to help us with drafting up the initial summaries of the transcripts. So, these continual improvements are very small. And honestly, again, I often think to myself hey, if I was full-time, I could do so many more changes. I could do so many different things. And then I'm like, eh, you know what, as long as I did one change, like that I'm proud of this month, then that's really important. And I think again, you know, there's a craftsmanship angle to it, obviously about being present. It's somewhere a bit similar to maximalism in terms of building, but it's not saying again, we need to maximize and be tremendously huge next month, but it's about saying, I just want to do one improvement a month. And I think that sense of repetition and focus is not an easy mindset to have again, because it's neither here nor there, right? It's not like a massive sprint to get every single damn thing done, but neither is it like being in the flow and being present. So it's kind of like that self-awareness and self-consciousness that you're trying to be someone who's improving.

And I think a big part of it I'm really thankful for is feedback from listeners. I often get messages from people who enjoy the podcast. so I very much say, why don't we catch coffee or do a call? And I get to honestly hear from them. I say, and often ask them, "Hey, how do you listen to my podcast?" "How did you discover the podcast?" "What did we do well?" Of course, we try and make sure that we keep doing it. And then we ask, how can we do better? And that means can we have better topics, better coverage, and fix the audio. And so I think it's been quite tremendous. You know, we had a listener send a message and said, "Hey, Jeremy, you published the wrong language." You know, we started expanding to Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin, but instead of the English episode, you posted the Bahasa Indonesia version of the podcast. I was like, okay, that's a fair point. And then, we had to go fix it. So again, this continual improvement is honestly underrated as an art.

The third thing that I learned as an insight was really being comfortable as an expert and really pushing the frontier of my own knowledge and letting everybody else catch up wherever you are. So what do I mean by that? I think at the start, obviously, you kind of like, okay, again, this is your maximalist point of view. This is, the audience is the persona. So they want to ask all these questions. And so let's answer these questions for them. And then, you kind of like take this giant step back. And I'm like, again, do I want to ask these basic questions? Not really. That's one. Two is honestly, most of these basic questions can be answered by Google and now by ChatGPT. So, for example, like what is a YC SAFE agreement? I mean, yeah, I can create a podcast episode about YC SAFE agreement, but then from a beginner perspective, the truth is I often say is that I'm an adjunct lecturer at the university, and my realization is that there's no such thing as a motivated beginner anymore. And what I mean by that is if you are motivated and you're interested in this topic, the speed and velocity where you can get from beginner effectively to intermediate is pretty much within one week because you just ask ChatGPT and you just have this giant YouTube session where you just listen to the experts on YouTube and, take the classes.

You can actually get really smart to intermediate level within a week of discipline, effort, right? And so, there's not much value there, but also myself, the truth of the matter is that in some areas, in some domains, I am an expert. So I'm an expert in Southeast Asia and venture capital because I've been a VC in the space. I'm not obviously as expert as a general partner or limited partner, but I'm very much have that unique perspective of being a millennial who's plugged in across multiple geographies, comes from the region, who's worked very hard to understand both the theoretical, the practical, and the actual case studies of what's happening in the market. And staying on top of the news is a big part of it, not just in terms of the public news, but also the private information network news that's out there. So, I would say I'm an expert in many ways on Southeast Asia venture capital. I'm an intermediate, obviously, in some things. So, when it comes to specific domains, expertise, like education tech, SaaS, Southeast Asia, I haven't built them in Southeast Asia, I'm an intermediate. And the truth is that different things that I'm probably a beginner, intermediate at. I'm a new dad. I have a three-year-old girl and a one-year-old girl, and I often very much am encountering something for the very first time with the three-year-old, like a new school, a new approach, after school class. So all these things, I'm effectively a beginner, right? And obviously I get very smart, I google and I get smarter. The reason why is that I think being comfortable with an expert kind of opens you up because when you say that you want to push the frontier of knowledge, you're basically saying, Hey, I'm an expert. I'm trying to push the frontier of knowledge. It actually comes across as two things. One is that honestly, it comes across as arrogant. A lot of people just dislike you. And I actually have received a lot of people who don't like me in the feedback. For people that say, Hey, this person doesn't like you because Jeremy, you're portraying yourself to be an expert on this. And I'm like, yeah, kind of sucks, right? Because now I'm talking about Southeast Asia tech, I'm talking about leadership. I'm talking about venture capital, and yeah, I know that my age profile is not 50 or 60 years old. I mean, not as if technology and venture capital in Southeast Asia is that old as well.

I think the tricky part is saying, again, I'm not trying to say I'm an expert per se, but trying to put myself in a mindset of I'm an expert. I was trying to be at the frontier of that knowledge. People can honestly say this is a very Americanized style. I mean, this is Lex Fridman or Joe Rogan or Jordan Peterson or all these other people, the Obamas, all of them are trying to talk about a topic that they don't really know, or they shouldn't be an expert because there are better experts out there. And I'm like, Ooh, you know, I think there's this again. What I'm trying to say here is, it's not easy. And so, you get, honestly, it's kind of like the tall poppy gets cut, right? And how they say the nail that sticks out gets hammered. There are a lot of phrases about it, but when you're sticking out at somebody as those people just don't like it because it's like, who are you to talk to about this topic? And it's kind of funny because I always tell people like, if you don't like me because you don't think I should be an expert on this topic, if you don't like me because you don't think I should be talking about this, if you don't like me because you don't like my style or approach of doing about it, then the truth is don't listen to it, right? Don't tune in. I think that's pretty much, the choice that we all have. And of course I'm sympathetic to the fact that algorithm is pushing out reels and stuff to you, maybe that you don't like, and you're just like, you know, like a dislike, right?

It's like Hawaiian pizza, right? People love it or people hate it, but what did Hawaiian pizza do to you, right? If you don't like Hawaiian pizza, don't eat it. But you know what? It's fun to hate on Hawaiian pizza, because like, boo, Hawaiian pizza is bad. Pepperoni pizza is good. And then it's a fun topic for people to discuss in a group. That's what I'm trying to say here is that I think as a podcaster, you're really much taking that stance to be like, hey, I want to be at the frontier because the alternative is actually worse, which is that if you're trying to pretend to be a beginner. You're not playing to the top of intelligence. That's a term that we use in improvisational comedy. You're playing and acting as somebody who is less smart, less knowledgeable, less plugged in. Then again, it's not authentic. People kind of know it as well. And then people are just not really tuned in because nobody really wants to see an amateur podcaster who's an amateur on a topic. People want to see a humble podcaster who's trying to master that topic. And that's really interesting to push the frontier because then, the truth is, if you look at my podcast today compared to my first podcast four years ago, I can tell you that today, my podcasts are much better, they are better produced. Better mastery, better depth, better active listening, better sound quality. We have a video now. We have shorts. We have transcription, but all those things are better because I'm playing to the top of my intelligence. I am acting and pushing the frontier of knowledge here.

And what that also means, that means that a podcast I'm releasing today is the worst podcast in the next four years. So in four years time, in a year's time at a year's anniversary, effectively, that means that podcast is going to be better than today's podcast. And so what I'm trying to say here is that I think pushing yourself to be that frontier of the knowledge really allows you to feed back into that continual improvement cycle, because only by pushing yourself in terms of your topic, the comfort zone, only then can you be assured that in four years time, your episode will also even be better than this. Whereas if I was pretending to be as good as where I was four years ago, then the truth of the matter is that I'm not going to be improving as a person because that means in year one, I was this good in terms of knowledge. And year four, I'm pretending to be an amateur at year one level. And then year eight, I'm effectively pretending to be a year four person pretending to be at a year one level. I think that's actually very good learning about mastery is that, you again, at some level, you'd acknowledge that you are an expert in certain things, not necessarily the world's best expert, you're not top 1%, you're not top 10%, you're not top 20%, but you're an expert, right?And so you just had to be comfortable with that, but obviously not be arrogant about it, not be egoistic about it, but use that to be like, okay, that gives me the confidence, the self-confidence, the self-esteem needed to push hard and push people and push my topics to the next level as much as I can.

(26:31) Jeremy Au:

So what does that mean for the future? Well, the truth is it's actually pretty scary because when I think about the future, I'm like, okay, do I really want to promise something that I'm not going to do? Am I really going to promise something that I'm not going to deliver on? It's scary. So I think there are three things that I would love to see more of, and let's see what I deliver on them in the next year anniversary. So the three things that I want to kind of deliver on firstly, I think is honestly more community events. So what I mean by that is, I really want to create that sense of membership and affiliation. And that means potentially some monetization and premium tier to reflect the cost structure and so forth. So all that stuff is something that honestly, I feel like I haven't been thoughtful, I honestly have been scared to do but I do feel like there's interest in it. We've done co-founder matching events in Singapore and people are really passionate and had a lot of fun with it. People want to celebrate their birthday. And so I do think that celebrating an anniversary dinner party is something that I'm scared of doing, to be honest, but I really should go about doing it. And so, to be honest, I've been procrastinating about celebrating April 12th, because again, I was like, Oh, who am I? This person, I'm going to get slammed and so forth. So again, about creating that forum that sense of in-person membership, I think is really key. And obviously, it doesn't mean that globally, originally whoever's listening in can't be part of it. But I just think that's something to really be there. I do think there's an in-person aspect that I personally still enjoy. And also I think the truth is not every conversation can be done publicly. And the truth is there are a lot of private conversations because it's your personal issue or my personal issue or something that honestly, I haven't fully baked yet. It's half-baked, quarter-baked, 10% baked. And so it's really at that question mark piece is not ready for prime time, but it's something to have in that in-person conversation. So I think that's one big thing that I'm thinking about.

The second thing I would love to do more is more writing. Actually, I've often gotten a lot of questions about fundraising, for example. And so, I've seen a lot of people also struggle and make mistakes on it. And I've been in this unique position where, again, I've been a founder that raised millions of dollars capital. I've also been a VC to help people raise millions of capital and also turn down lots of people seeking capital. I've done this in the context of Southeast Asia and the US and so I think there's an interesting angle that I would love to do more. And so I think the promise I'm kind of making here fundamentally is that I do intend to launch a draft of the book on the anniversary of this. And the truth is, let's see where it goes. And I probably have to do a lot more work after that to eventually get it to the point where it's ready to be published as an e-book, but I would love to do more books, to be honest, more business books. Again, I think that in-depth coverage of Southeast Asia is something that I would love to do more of.

The truth is, I often have writer's block. I don't have speaker's block. Again, shout out to Seth Godin, a great guy who kind of said that, but everybody is not scared to talk to another person in person, but everybody's scared about writing. A writer's block, and so I think the joy of AI and ChatGPT, of course, is that it's a great way to convert one form of creation, for example, audio into another form of consumption, which is text. And so I think this is a relatively undervalued part of this creative journey that, hopefully, I get to do more writing and profiling of folks that I find are heroes or that I'm really genuinely interested in.

Lastly, I really want to unshackle myself. And what I mean by that is that I want to be even more honest with myself and about the ecosystem. I think one big realization, for example, over the past four years is that when I came back to Southeast Asia, it was before the tech bubble kicked in hard for Southeast Asia as a market. Now watch it be a huge bubble. And now obviously we're kind of like the fundraising slash tech winter for Southeast Asia. Now everyone's very bearish. And so I've seen really enough one whole cycle of that. And I know that there are going to be more cycles of this in the future. There's going to be a spring again, then summer, then autumn, then winter all over again. So I really want to be more thoughtful, more honest about the Southeast Asia ecosystem, because I do believe that it's structurally harder and just because it's structurally harder than San Francisco or New York or China or India doesn't mean that there isn't a play. Obviously, it just means that I think the people who succeed have to up the game further. They have to be more efficient, more ruthless, more honest, more brave more velocity. I think you just had to be better in order to do better in a structurally harder ecosystem. And I think that's something that I feel like every VC report, every landscape report about how amazing Southeast Asia is, how bullish X country is, like Singapore is, or Indonesia, or Philippines, or Thailand, or Malaysia. Everybody has their country report about how amazing this country is. This country is the next Indonesia. This country is the next China. This country is the next India. This country is the next America. So I just think that it is structurally harder. And so I want to be more honest.

I want to unshackle myself and give myself a more brutal, more honest, more frank, more real-life view of what's happening in the ecosystem. And obviously, you know, the sensitivity, right? I mean, everybody in Southeast Asia knows that there are laws that govern what you can say and what you cannot say, but not only that, there are social norms in the community about what is doable and what's not doable to say. And again, I say this in the sense that I want to be thoughtful about the fact that again, startups are a default dead kind of business. The vast majority of startups will fail, but the truth of course, is whether you fail gracefully or not.

(31:23) Jeremy Au:

But still, what I'm trying to say here is that being honest about the ecosystem and the industry players and what it takes to build a successful startup doesn't mean that I'm trying to be pessimistic and it doesn't mean I'm trying to be cynical. That doesn't mean I think I want to be destructive and I think a big concern that a lot of people have is you know, being honest is being cold or being destructive. I really want to be growth-oriented, but I also want to be honest because I do believe that for people like myself, I want to hear that I'm the kind of person who wants to hear the truth, but also hear the play, the solution of how to get out of it. And I think that's really the tribe that I'm trying to hang out with. I would love to have people join the membership community over time and that we get to hang out in person and chat about, but I think that realism and pragmatism is really key to have.

The other side of it is I want to be a little bit more honest with myself. I think I've often very much been in the persona, obviously, of a venture capital person who's been a former founder and, you know, all these things, but I think there are other aspects of my life that I honestly really enjoy. I really enjoy science fiction. I love being a dad with two daughters. I'm often very clueless. I'm making some very difficult trade-offs about my career and my parenting and honestly, my life satisfaction right now. And I do actually have a sense of humor. Obviously, the podcast has very much been about bravery. I do often have a very army sense of humor, dark humor about how I look at life but also, I love comedy. So I think there are different aspects about myself that, it's not that I'm lying about it. I just happened to omit it because from my perspective, it was very much okay, this is the VC role. These were the corporate guidelines that kind of governed me in terms of the persona. I do want to honestly explore a bit more. I want to be honest with myself and talk about topics that from your perspective, are probably irrelevant or tangential to Southeast Asia tech, but I do want to talk about being a dad and how that's changed me. I want to talk about my favorite science fiction books and series why I really love them what I learned from them and what I took away from them. I want to talk about the midlife crisis and some of the trade-offs in terms of career that you have because Southeast Asia is a fragmented ecosystem.

And you have to play to your strengths, but you also have to play to the realities of the countries that you're in. So these are topics I would love to explore more of. And, again, you can be like, ugh, that's under autobiography rather than a point of view on Southeast Asia tech and business. But I think being honest about the ecosystem and being honest about myself, that's really what I would love to do more in the coming year.

(33:33) Jeremy Au:

So overall, I just want to say thank you so much for being part of the journey. I really appreciate it that you are listening to this, that you have given me the privilege of being a conversation buddy for the past half an hour. And my point of view of the matter is that you have so much choice. You get to choose to watch TikTok. You get a choice to be with family. You get a choice to go to a dinner party. You have a choice to go to a conference. You have a choice to work on a startup hub or work at your company or deliver something for your boss. You've chosen to be with me, be present with me and that's a sacrifice, honestly. And I really want to thank you for that because at some level, if I was meeting you, that's a mutual choice.

And so, that optionality that you have given up to be part of this journey, I want to make it worth your while. And I also want to be honest and frank that you can choose anything else and that you have chosen me is fundamentally an honor for me, and it honestly makes me very touched because I was hanging out with my one-year-old girl and for a whole month she was basically saying, no daddy, right? She didn't want to hang out with me. And obviously, rejection sucks. I'm like, hey, I'm your dad. Let's hang out. Can I hang out with you with a fruit or a toy or this new-fangled gift? This afternoon, she was very much, I want to hang out with you basically, right?

You know, she was asking me to set up the climbing ladder and a slide and it was so amazing to be accepted, to have that affiliation and be present. And so I think that's something that was so nice to have just an hour ago. And I just want to say the fact that you allow me to be part of your life, it's a privilege and it makes me happy. And I really want to make sure that in the coming year, I respect that time and that you get to choose and that you want to choose to spend more time with me if it fits in your schedule.

On that note, thank you so much and happy fourth year anniversary to BRAVE! Happy 400th episode anniversary to the BRAVE community, and thank you so much for being part of my life!