Amanda Cua: Creator Monetization & Challenges, Founding Backscoop & Skipping University Criticism - E215

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"You can't really box yourself in and say you're not good at writing or you're not going to be able to tell your story. That holds so many people back, and I could have told myself the same thing. It's more of asking yourself what you can consistently enjoy writing about, and from there, everything sort of writes itself." - Amanda Cua

Amanda Cua is the Founder and CEO of BackScoop, a free daily newsletter that makes it fun and easy to stay informed with everything Southeast Asian business and startups in minutes. Launched late last year, BackScoop is read by thousands of SEA’s top founders, execs, VCs and startup operators. Born and raised in the Philippines, Amanda is 20 years old and was previously the first employee at YC-backed edtech Avion School.


Jeremy Au: (00:29)
Hi, Amanda, really excited to have you on the show. You are the Founder of BackScoop. And I'm really fascinated to hear your story. For those who don't know you yet, could you share a little bit about yourself?
Amanda Cua: (00:40)
Hi, Jeremy. Thanks so much for bringing me on. So, I guess I would introduce myself as the Founder and CEO of BackScoop. It's basically a daily newsletter that makes it fun and easy to stay updated with everything going on in Southeast Asian tech in minutes every morning. And that's pretty much it short and sweet.
Jeremy Au: (00:57)
How did you get started on this? What sparked your passion for writing and entrepreneurship and startups? Where does it all begin?
Amanda Cua: (01:04)
I think the main place it really began for me was when I started working in startups. And that was when I was actually a fresh graduate from high school. So I graduated two years ago when the pandemic just started. And I decided to take a gap year instead of going to university and I stumbled upon a startup here in the Philippines. And remind you in the Philippines, I don't think the startup scene is very, very advanced. It's nothing like Singapore, Indonesia, even in 2020. So for me seeing a startup that was invested in by a foreign investor Justin McKean, everybody knows what Tinder is, was really mind blowing for me, especially from my perspective. So seeing that news, I had to check out what that whole startup was about. So I read the article, I did my research, and I found out it was a coding bootcamp. And at the time, I was doing a lot of soul searching, because I frankly, didn't know what to do over a gap year in the pandemic. So I decided to actually apply to this startup, not as an employee, but as a student, because it was a coding bootcamp. My goal was to probably create an app or probably get a software engineering job, by the end of the bootcamp. So that by the time I go to college, I'd have done something meaningful already. And I think life had other plans for me. Long story short is, no matter how hard I tried, it was very, very hard to learn to code, even the most basic things. So that led me to telling the founders, “Hey, I don't think I can do this. I think I should leave this whole coding bootcamp and go find something else to do”. And they basically told me, “Don't leave the course, maybe you can help us out instead and work here”.

And I found out that the startup was actually just two people, just the two founders. And that led me to become the first employee. It was my first time truly working at a startup. And being in the Philippine startup ecosystem, I thought, I have to learn everything about startups. This is my first job. And part of my job was also selling to other startups. I really had to find out everything about startups, not just in the Philippines, but also in Southeast Asia and other markets, because those were our customers. So as one of the main functions of my job, I had to look at setups in the West, in Southeast Asia, and basically all over the world to sort of place our engineers at jobs there. And that whole process of working there for a year doing different functions, because you're the first employee, I'm not just selling to other companies, I realized a few things. So one, looking for Southeast Asian startups was actually really, really hard. There was no centralized source of news for startups that had all of the news. So I would go to multiple news sites, read every article one by one, and list down all these company names and reach out to them later trying to get them to hire our engineers. And the second thing was that the Philippine startup ecosystem was actually starting to boom. So when I joined the company, one of the big reasons that it was exciting to me, even though there were only just the two founders is that, frankly, the Philippine startup ecosystem was just not very developed.

But after joining the company, and in the one year I was there, I saw a few things. So one, it was that, the number of company partners that I was working with from the Philippines was growing. So I had this whole list on a spreadsheet of all the Philippine startups that we were working with. And that list was just growing and growing and growing every single month. And that was really, really exciting, because that's pretty unheard of. And the second thing was that this sign wasn't just seen in my spreadsheet, but it was also seen in sort of the news. So the coding bootcamp startup that I worked in was called Abyan School. So I joined them in around July-ish 2020. Then by the end of that year, they actually became the third startup in the Philippines to get accepted by “Y Combinator”. Few months after that, I shortly saw so many other Philippine startups get in. So for me, I was okay, that checks the boxes. I see that there are lots of Philippine startups that are coming out. These are very, very early stages seed on my spreadsheet. And to the Philippine ecosystem is getting recognition by foreign investors from the US, whether they're investors or really more institutional investors.

So I had a few takeaways from that process. So one, it was very, very hard to keep up with Southeast Asian tech. And there was no centralized source of news, you couldn't just go to one website to get it all. And the second thing was that startups and the startup ecosystem outside of Singapore and Indonesia were getting much more mature. So even the Philippines, which was one of the more unheard startup ecosystems actually starting to get some traction. So I told myself, look, people are going to start looking at Southeast Asia as a startup ecosystem of its own, not as just part of Asia, but more of getting questions how can I invest into Southeast Asia? What are the countries in Southeast Asia? What are the different exciting startups there? They're not just going to think of it as a part of Asia, but it could finally stand alone as one really interesting market. So I told myself that look, there needs to be a source for everything Southeast Asian tech now. And that's sort of where I got the idea for BackScoop.
Jeremy Au: (06:17)
The truth is there are startups that are also providing tech news in Southeast Asia. There's Tech Asia, there's e27. And to some extent Southeast Asia, TechCrunch also has increasing focus on Southeast Asia as a market. So how do you think about all that? How does that match up with your point of view about what the market needs in a fresh way?
Amanda Cua: (06:43)
So what I generally shared earlier were sort of the shifts in the Southeast Asian tech scene. Tech in Asia, e27, the Wall Street Journal and all these other platforms actually great. But I think it's because of all of the growth in Southeast Asia that makes there be a need for something different. So before you could go to tech in Asia, and pretty much get all of the news that you wanted, because how many startups are actually announcing fundraisers how many startups are actually there in the past. But now, when there's so much more growth in Southeast Asia as a whole, how many startups from Indonesia are getting funding every week, but now you have all of these startups from Philippines or Vietnam, or Malaysia, and all these other countries are also announcing fundraisers and as such. So now, when you go to the tech in Asia website that deals with Asia website, or the e27 website, you cannot just go through every article one by one, it's just too much.

And the second thing is that it's actually fragmented. So you would find some articles on one platform, but you might not find the fundraiser, but another company and another platform. So I think that's one way that the platforms now aren't really serving the market so well. So before it was totally fine. But now just because of the volume of news, it just doesn't make sense. For people, it's just not convenient. So I feel Max Group was more of a layer two or version two, that is a bit better suited for the changing landscape now, but also sort of the change in the people now as well, because people now are at the stage where they also have to start looking at their startups and ask themselves. Now, I come from Singapore, but I want to expand to the Philippines. What are the other startups there? What's actually happening there? Do I have a competitor there? Can I learn from a startup that's there? So now people are actually looking out to the other markets as well beyond just Singapore and Indonesia. And for them, they can't just go to the websites and refresh every single day, multiple times a day, but they sort of need a more convenient way to find out what's going on in other markets. So that's better solved by a newsletter that gives you the news in five to seven minutes a day, then you manually going through all the sites and reading articles one by one hoping that it's something that's related to what you're doing.
Jeremy Au: (09:00)
I think you're identifying something that's a persona for sure. Which is that, you're outside Southeast Asia, you're looking at Southeast Asia, and you're trying to understand Southeast Asia as a region. Does that newsletter actually solve it? I guess you could make the argument that if I want to understand Southeast Asia, I use Google which is the most common Southeast Asia tech trends. And then that's an aggregated view. Now, you're saying that a newsletter provides that, but I think you're like to say that there's some curation, obviously, across articles, and I read your articles as well. I'm just kind of curious, do you think it really solves that problem? Or do you have more on your roadmap beyond a newsletter that would actually solve the set of requirements?
Amanda Cua: (09:39)
So our main markets are actually people in Southeast Asia, that's the bulk of our subscribers and they're more people like you and me. You're based in Singapore, I'm based in the Philippines. But let's say I go to a website and read a news article every day about Southeast Asian tech. It's not sort of guaranteed that the effort that I will spend going to the website and looking for article also actually bear fruit because maybe on that day, there is no interesting article or article relative for your job. And I think what I meant earlier as well was, let's say you're a FinTech in Singapore, and you launched maybe two years ago, you grow your market in Singapore. But now it's time for you to expand. But it's important for you to stay updated on what's going on in other markets as well outside of Singapore, but also look into other industry trends, even outside FinTech. So I'd say, and for people like that, they're actually really, really busy.

And what I get a feedback from people is that, they don't have the time to check the news every single day to keep up with things happening in their industry or in their country, or even read about other markets, even though they're expanding to them because they're just super busy. And they don't have the time to refresh the sites go through all of these sites. And having the newsletter allows them to just go open the email, which they do every single morning, and then read the news. And they don't feel the FOMO of, maybe I missed out on an important article, or maybe I missed out on an article that's about my competitor, or about another market that I'm very curious and exploring. Because the truth is, with so much news out there, not everything is going to be relevant. And having it in one convenient place allows people to sort of have less friction and waste less time added to the fact that we make everything a lot more digestible than every other news site there, which is an added plus for our readers. Because no matter what industry you're in, you'll be able to understand what the company's doing. Plus, we also aggregate a lot of the facts and data that we're able to get from more than just one article or one piece.
Jeremy Au: (11:41)
What's your vision for BackScoop? Because I totally agree that your newsletter, I think a fresh take on the newsletter, I think it does address and inform of a lot of folks. That being said, there are a lot of newsletters. I want to say a lot. But I think globally there's a lot of newsletters for every community. I think it's obviously the biggest one I feel would probably be Tech in Asia. I think they have 50,000 subscribers. And I also think the candidates are pretty good in terms of in-depth reporting. So all of these have addressed the former point. And the awkward reality is, I as a user have multiple newsletters and they are going RSS feed for me. So can I scan those for newsletters, and I archive everything in it? I just scan those four things. I'm good to go for today. I mean, I'm just kind of curious, how do you see that vision, therefore, for BackScoop?
Amanda Cua: (12:35)
BackScoop is more than just having the newsletter. So I started the newsletter really just to solve my problem which was I can't read every article on every site and check every site to find out all of the news. Plus, we have that added point where the newsletter has also curated to have more relevant news for people instead of just endless amounts of articles that you have to sift through. And beyond that, what's exciting for me is being able to grow BackScoop to something that could serve the ecosystem in a more meaningful way. So we started with the newsletter, which solves the most basic problem, which is what's happening, what's the most interesting news, who fundraise in the past one to two days? But we've actually been able to also grow our audience, much beyond that as well. So the newsletter right now has 7.5k subscribers, and everybody is really somebody who is in the startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia and some people in the startup ecosystem outside. But beyond that, we also have a total social following of 20,000 people. And with that, we actually want to bring our engaged audience and lean into that to build more products and services that serve them. Because I feel as a smaller news outlet, a younger news outlet for now, we can actually have the ability to change and shift with the different needs in the Southeast Asian ecosystem much better than the others just because we don't have all of these other existing products that we have the let's say, adapt, or change or remove.

And another thing is that, we have a more engaged in direct relationship with our audience. So a lot of the people especially in the earlier days that I was running BackScoop, I'd gotten on calls with them. A lot of people now write a lot of emails and messages with a lot of people. And at the end of the day, the newsletter hasn't been in people inboxes. People are a lot more receptive and active, they like to write in and things like that. And they even offer a lot of ideas and problems for us to solve. And for us, we want to lean into that to build our next products, with the whole idea of really how do we serve the Southeast Asian ecosystem as a multimedia outlet, and sort of create more products and services that continue to serve them and their needs. So after finding out what happened today and yesterday, the most important news, the most important fundraisers. What else do people need? And we're going to be figuring that out.
Jeremy Au: (14:57)
What do people write into you about? So curious, any stories or any examples?
Amanda Cua: (15:04)
I think for me, beyond just funny or interesting messages, I feel it's more of the meaningful relationships that you're able to build. One of our earliest subscribers from Indonesia, she's a good friend. Now, when my relative went to Indonesia, and she heard about it, she sent over a whole box of things from Indonesia and startup goods to me. Another thing would be, I was heading to Malaysia. And then I had this other subscriber who I really just had a call with maybe a few weeks before my trip. And then before I headed on my flight, we actually reconnected again. And that led me to actually go into the restaurant that she recommended to me and a couple other subscribers recommended to me which was Village Park in Malaysia. So I went there as my first destination of the trip and KL. And , lo and behold, while I was eating the Nasi Lemak, I looked to my right and saw this really familiar looking face, and it was the person who actually recommended Village Park to me, and she didn't even plan on going there. It was just like on a whim. And that was the way I met, accidentally met, one of my subscribers in person in the wild, not at a startup event or things like that. And then later on, we actually went to a theme park in Malaysia for one day that I had free. I think those are the more interesting and fun stories that I've had added to many people who sort of were writing in about how they enjoy BackScoop. And then a couple months later, they have their own startup. And then a couple of months later, I write about it as an article. So I think those are the more fun and interesting stories for me.
Jeremy Au: (16:40)
And these are awesome stories. I think, obviously, the people love content and people love community. I think the tricky part for a lot of aspiring creators out there, it's really about the sustainability or even the profitability of it. I think, it's one thing to write as a hobby. Heck, even for me, podcasting is a hobby versus writing as a business, newsletters a business, podcast as a business. So how do you think about that monetization pathway because so many folks ask that question all the time, I'm sure of you as well?
Amanda Cua: (17:09)
So for us, we just started monetizing. And with BackScoop as a newsletter, I felt one of the things that people really appreciated was that we were free. So a lot of different platforms that are out there, they have a paywall, or they have limited access unless you create an account. But for us, everything on BackScoop is actually free. And I myself, I hate paywalls. And I feel the most basic news, what happened, what's the most important thing that I need to know these things are basic and shouldn't be paywall? So with that in mind, I told myself, paywalls premium subscriptions are totally off the table. And the next thing I did was, what else can we figure out? So one of the things that I wanted to test out was ads, especially because we had all different people reaching out asking us, can you promote us? Or, can you run an ad and can we target your audience? So I've started exploring that recently, and started placing ads on the newsletter itself. And since BackScoop is basically a place where you want to read Southeast Asian tech news, it's concise, it's really fun and easy to read. Plus, it has that more personal feel, we took that into the ads as well. So all of the ads that we have in BackScoop were actually co-written by the company. So we make sure it fits with the whole vibe and comes off as a more of a recommendation. So it's a BackScoop pick or BackScoop sort of recommended company. And we want to always retain the trust of our readers. So that's why we went through that route. And obviously, it's been difficult to sort of create a perfect path to monetization. I can't crack the sales quote with my first sale. But we made our first few sales recently. So that's pretty exciting. I can't wait to figure the rest of it out.
Jeremy Au: (18:53)
What advice do you have for people who want to build or write or communicate and build something that creates an economy?
Amanda Cua: (19:01)
As a creator, I write everything on BackScoop now. It's actually pretty funny, I would never have thought that I would become a writer or a journalist or anything like that in any part. But I've become one as part of my role for BackScoop now. So I think the first thing you have to do is you have to totally tell yourself, you can't really box yourself and say, I'm not good at writing, I'm not going to be able to tell my story. Well, because that holds so many people back and I could have told myself the same thing. But it's more of asking yourself, what can I write about that I enjoy writing about? And what can I consistently write about? And then from there, everything sort of writes itself. Because for me, one of the things I always enjoyed was reading news, whether it was Southeast Asian tech or news in general, and I always sort of making my own summaries and things like that. So when I started writing BackScoop, I told myself, I know how to summarize things. I know how to make things fun and witty, let me try actually writing it down. And the things that helped me the most were one setting a sort of expectation for myself. So I already knew what to write. And what I would be able to consistently write about. The next part was, how often do I want to publish? So that's the first thing I think creators should always think of when they're starting. How often can I consistently publish? The second would be sort of creating a certain structure, I think one of the biggest hurdles is obviously writer's block, or, because there are lots of video creators also, maybe you could call it just craters block. But if you're able to set a certain structure, it will really take out that writer's block. So for me, it was okay with the newsletter, I'm going to have X, Y, Z sections. They're going to be ‘X’ amount of words long, I'm going to make sure that each of these articles have a fun tone, they let what the company does. They let how much they raise and all the relevant information, etc. So I think when you're starting, you have to make strict expectations for yourself. And that will really help you set the tone and be consistent.
Jeremy Au: (21:13)
And what's interesting is that you kind of be consistent at BackScoop. It's also gets harder, because I think being consistent in terms of being creative makes sense, because you're writing or podcasting and so forth. But then you said, you start adding monetizing and start working with a team. Is that what it's doing? So how does that schedule change? How do you adapt your routine once you get past that creation schedule? But how do you layer on these different layers of monetization and growth and retention?
Amanda Cua: (21:44)
I think it really depends on what you want to be. You can be a creator and sort of not really put so much focus on the monetization side. And all of those sites there are people who purely just enjoy making TikToks, YouTube videos, and then the money just comes as a bonus. I started BackScoop knowing that it would be a business. So the pressure is on for me to really discover monetization, how it's gonna work, what's beneficial for the audience, what's beneficial for the customers, etc? So how that changes is how seriously you want to take the monetization and how big of a focus you want it to be. Because when I started BackScoop, I wasn't doing any monetization. The goal for me was to grow the audience to continue writing the best content, those two things. And that's why I really just focus on the writing side. I started writing once a week, then after a few months, two times a week, after a few months, three, after a few months, we're now at four times a week. And I think the journey for the creator is one, you want to learn how to consistently create content of a certain standard regularly. And that's what I did for the first one year of BackScoop. How can I write the newsletter? And how can I consistently write it for four days? Because obviously, in the first time I wrote the newsletter for one additional week, I was super slow. But now writing for a week, I'm much faster. I can spend 45 minutes on one article before it might take me three hours. So the journey of the Creator at that point when they're just creating and not monetizing, they're spending almost all the time on engaging with the audience, getting into the right people and creating the best content. But when you decide that, I'm more than just a creator, I actually want to make money out of this. And for me as a business, I'm monetizing, then you also have to carve out extra time to doing things like, how can I monetize? What are the effective ways that I can monetize, and ways that my audience will appreciate and accept? And the second is actually figuring that whole part out? I have to carve out time to do sales calls to sort of explore and analyze what's working and what's not. And I also have, for example, targets to hit internally. So I think that's the difference between being just a creator and also sort of being a business at the same time.
Jeremy Au: (24:03)
And you sort of hitting a little bit isn't? What are the easy parts, which is the writing of the schedule and which are the hot parts? I think everybody looks at the glamour of being a creator. They're like, “Wow, Jeremy, you're doing this, you have a newsletter”. I mean, so there's a lot of the glamour of it. What would you say are the hot parts I think that people don't really understand behind the scenes about what it actually takes to get this out?
Amanda Cua: (24:30)
I mean, it's not glamorous at all and that's the truth. I'm telling you here that it's easy for me to write these articles. And I'm saying that's the easiest part of my job. But that doesn't make it easy at all. It's still really hard. It's just comparatively less hard than the other parts. And those parts are hard just because I just started learning how to monetize now, whether writing is also still pretty hard. And I think that's the thing about sort of being a creator or being in sort of any kind of job where you have to be creative and sort of consistently producing output. The hard part's that people might not see is one I haven't been on a proper vacation except the two days of the weekend, I was still in school. And the past maybe two years that I've been working in the startup space, I haven't had a proper vacation, and sort of waving off any opportunities for me to go on vacation, because I also have to write the newsletter. I couldn't take a day off and tell people I'm not going to write on that day. But I just feel that's unfair. The second is, I think you also have to work on people's timelines, people are always expecting you to publish on a certain date in a certain time. You could have the worst day possible and you still have to release your podcast or record your podcasts or newsletter. Other things just for me, I also have to publish on LinkedIn. Truth be told, I was not really the type to publish on LinkedIn, when I started BackScoop, I didn't even put it in my LinkedIn until three, four months later. I didn't tell people about it much externally. And on the news, I barely mentioned myself, but then people started asking me why don't you write more about yourself on BackScoop, or why don't you share more of your journey? And for me, I felt it was a bit narcissistic to write about myself and the newsletter. So I told people, I'm gonna write about it on my LinkedIn instead, then people started asking for more. So now here, I am writing more, because that's what people find value in and enjoy. It's really touching also to see kinds of messages and comments that people make from the content that you write. And it's more than just support. There are people who are really just grateful to have seen your content and said, because of your newsletter, I started writing my own newsletter, or because of your newsletter, I decided to do X, Y, Z or because of your newsletter, I felt a lot. Or because of your LinkedIn post, I felt a lot less bad about myself. Somebody actually messaged me saying, my LinkedIn posts about me having a hard time running BackScoop made them feel so much better about themselves, because they've been feeling terrible about being a founder who raised money, X, Y, Z. But it's not like gaining any traction. That's the hard part about being a creator. But it's also, I guess, the most rewarding part as well. Obviously, the other part is learning how to make money as part of this whole thing. Because you also have to treat it as a business no matter how much you love the job, it’s still a business.
Jeremy Au: (27:21)
I totally get it. I always share with people that I have two daughters. One is two years old, and one is five months old. But I think the above of the second child, plus maintaining a podcast, tempo was quite challenging. But thankfully, I had some experience I was able to, I think record in advance and have a buffer of episodes. But even so, it was quite an interesting challenge.
Amanda Cua: (27:47)
Even if you create a buffer, that's how many times that you had to record before your second child was born. You're adding that workload and the truth is, you can't escape the job.
Jeremy Au: (27:58)
It's true. It's true. I definitely felt it was a giant buffer built, because I knew that. I needed three months of buffer-ish. Actually, if I had a kid arrive, I totally timed out. I didn't record the podcast for almost one to two months actually, it was kind of interesting to have that timeout. But also, I was a bit burned out from that hub of buffer what that data is. I'd love for you to share a time that you personally have been brave.
Amanda Cua: (28:25)
I think for me, the time where I felt I was most brave is probably the leap to do BackScoop. So I come from a family where I was always sort of the cheaper child. So I went to school. And sometimes I even transferred schools because I felt it wasn't challenging enough, I would try to do everything. I ran for student council for three years, because I was losing for two years. And I couldn't stop running until I finally won. What else would I do, I also sort of spent all my time studying for, let's say, every exam because I told myself I have to get the best grades possible. So I could go to the best school. And so when it was time to graduate from high school, my family was all excited, where she going to go for college, because I'd also applied to some schools outside the Philippines, in the US and the UK. And everybody had high hopes because they knew how hard I worked and how sort of ‘Type A’ I was. But then when the pandemic hit, I decided, okay, it doesn't make sense to go to classes online and zoom, especially if I'm going overseas. So I took a year off, ended up working at a startup ended up realizing that I love it. So I said I'm not gonna go back to school was super set on working at the startup for the second, third fourth years and maybe work in other startups and just never going back to school. And the part where I was framed was really when I decided to take that leap and tell myself, I'm not going back to school. And that makes it a bit different because you had that sort of dream path for yourself, which was I'm going to go to study at the best college possible. I'm going to have this really great career, make a lot have money, do a lot of really impactful stuff. But then being brave, I feel you're sort of being able to let things go that you thought you believed were good for yourself and things that you actually wanted for yourself. So letting go of that whole idea for myself, which was going to top school, getting a great job as an investment banker, and then letting that go to continue working at that startup and just not go to college altogether. So, when I made that choice, it also came with a lot more struggles, it was a commitment to consistently be brave. I think the first brave decision was just to not go to college anymore. But the favorite part there was making that decision, knowing that you would have to face a lot of difficulties outside of that. So what people might not know is that because I didn't go to college, I get a lot of negative feedback from people saying, and don’t you feel you wasted your education? Or don't you feel you could be doing something better if you actually went to college. And sometimes you really have to take those comments with stride because it's hard to fight with people. It's very hard to fight with people, because the path that you're taking is a bit unconventional. And whenever you're taking a sort of unconventional path, you always know that there will be people who won't understand. But you have to continue doing what you enjoy doing, doing what you feel. Even if they say those things, and sort of being able to also show those people that look that might have been maybe a crazy decision to you. But I want to also show you that it could actually be a really meaningful, and actually great decision to make, because we were able to see some really exciting things come out of that I may not have been able to go to a top university or go to university at all, and sort of leave that I've sort of really accepted that probably not going to any college at all. But when people tell me that I could be doing better if I went to college, I just tell them, I've been able to do all these meaningful things. I've been able to write this newsletter, I've been able to meet all sorts of interesting people, and I've been able to grow as a person beyond the usual ways that people may learn to grow, and that's okay. And I feel that's a really brave things, being able to be told you're wrong all the time, and have a lot of people who don't understand but try to really continue on that path.
Jeremy Au: (32:31)
Why do you think people don't understand the fact that you're skipping University?
Amanda Cua: (32:37)
I don't know. I thought that people might not talk about it so much after I've been running it for a year and started getting a bit more traction, we're now starting to monetize. But I still get that feedback nowadays. I think it's maybe because we're in Asia. And I think for a lot of people, education is obviously great. I have nothing against going to college, like it was just not the path that I took, given all of the choices that, I mean, all the opportunities in front of me. But I feel like, people feel college is the normal thing and it's not common. I think it's common in Asia to go against the grain added to that some of the comments I've also heard were maybe because I'm a girl. So maybe if you're a girl, people feel like you're already have sort of setbacks, like maybe going to college will help you get a better job and compete against men. But now Amanda, you're not going to college. So you get even more setbacks in your life. And I think another thing is also sort of the fact that maybe people don't understand is because I've also changed a lot as a person, like before I told you, I was super ‘Type A’, got the best grades, and I could work really hard and really wanted to go to a really good college overseas. And I think people might be surprised because I had that kind of opportunity. That's just not something everybody could have. I was able to get a scholarship overseas. And for other people, they might not even get that chance. So maybe some people feel like it wasn't the thing to do, because I was given a rare opportunity and I didn't take it. It's sort of the well-trodden path, people who are able to go to a foreign university or a top university, they get this really great and stable career after. And I think for other people, especially from older generations, they might feel like you've almost had your life set out for you this stable job, this great career, and then you let that go, especially when not all of those people have that opportunity. I feel those are the kinds of things that people might feel and that's why some people don't really think as positively of it.
Jeremy Au: (34:46)
What advice do you have for people who are going through that self-criticism? So the criticism that you said is skipping University dropping out, not being a doctor, and not being a lawyer. I think there's a lot of criticism and that may come from parents, it may come from family, it may come from friends, it may come from strangers?
Amanda Cua: (35:04)
It comes from people you don't know.
Jeremy Au: (35:07)
Criticism is always funny because it’s like, wow, it came from nowhere. Do you have any tips or advice on how to survive it or get through it?
Amanda Cua: (35:19)
I think for me, one of the biggest hurdles was myself. So I think the one thing that people might also not realize as a challenge is like when you skip the whole college part, you also skip that opportunity to slowly grow up or four years and sort of become an independent thinker, where you're not really affected as much by your peers or your family as much, or even like the world around you. I feel like when you're still younger in school, you're easily affected by what other people think. No matter who they are. So I think the biggest hurdle first was myself, like being able to come to terms that, hey, I've changed and I don't want the things that I used to want so much, like I don't want that super stable career, why I climb the ladder anymore? And the second thing about that I had to work with myself with was, hey, I'm choosing an unconventional path. And you have to make peace with that. And you have to tell yourself, that's going to be hard for me. And that's going to be hard for you and the people around you, because they're going to have opinions and feelings. And they may or may not be affected in other ways, depending on what decision you're making. So I think the most important part is making that peace with yourself. And then after that, it's being able to really stay with your decision and have conviction in it. So what I've been able to do with BackScoop, I always try to be a bit more open. These are the milestones that I've had, these are the things that I've been able to do. And for some people that didn't really understand the past that I'm taking. I've seen some of those people sort of understand after I've made a couple of milestones. I think some people when they saw I was on CNN sharing basketball, they were really excited. But I know some of those people, were also people who thought I was really crazy for not going to college. So I feel like you have to really just focus on the work and let it take care of you. And be able to enjoy those milestones for yourself, and also sort of be able to share it with those people as well. If there are people that in your life who are directly sort of opposed to what we're doing. But at the end of the day, it's really a problem that you have to face on your own internally. And I think that would be your biggest demon yourself and being able to make those adjustments, because you know yourself the best. Like, one of the things that I actually did was sort of stay off social media a lot, because I knew that would sort of affect me mentally, in the sense that I might feel like I'm comparing myself with my peers and like, look, they're having fun in college, and they get to go on vacation, and I don't. And when you let yourself sort of be affected by your emotions, especially when it gets triggered by things that you can control, that's probably the worst. Like, if you're vulnerable emotionally and you can't control that on your own, then that will allow you to be weak in the sense that when people are against you, and people don't really believe in you that might take you over and might make you give up. And truthfully, you probably wouldn't have given up.
Jeremy Au: (38:18)
Oh, thank you so much for sharing all that. I really appreciate you doing and going too deeply into this. I love to wrap things up by sharing the three big themes I got from this. The first is thank you so much for sharing the story about why you find the BackScoop and the opportunity. So in the media landscape versus tech in Asia, e27, industry in Asia or other folks for a newsletter that was able to address the fear of missing out, FOMO for folks, but also provide that clear set of resources for listeners and readers across the region and globally about Southeast Asia. The second is your in depth discussion about monetization for creators. And I think the awkward realities behind it about what is to be done. The different challenges and choices put up subscriptions versus advertising. As well as the challenges I think of the Creator lifestyle, behind suppose the glitz and glamour of being a creator. And lastly, thank you so much for sharing about your choices to skip University and the criticism that was associated with it. That was an interesting conversation in order for you to take this opportunity to found BackScoop. You chose to skip University and you got feedback from friends and family and strangers who would later praise you for going on CNN, but you had to be thoughtful about the early criticism or skepticism about your choice. And I really appreciate you giving some of that advice to folks about facing or bypassing criticism in the face. So thank you so much, Amanda, for coming on the show. Thank
Amanda Cua: (39:55)
Thank you, Jeremy.