Jeremy was in Jennifer Ong’s Ctrl+Alt+Career Podcast and talked about Jeremy's childhood and career journey, the startup culture in Southeast Asia, the critical role of understanding local cultures in the region, the power of mentorship, the successes and challenges of tech leadership, and the symbiotic relationship between personal experiences and leadership evolution.
(00:00) Jennifer Ong:
Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of Control Alt Career. I'm your host, Jennifer Ong. And in this podcast, I interview people who have taken a leap of faith and pursued an alternative career path in Asia. If you don't know me already, I'm a two time career switcher and pivoted from BlackRock to fashion startup to now career change coach, where I help high achievers unhappy with their perfect on paper jobs, find direction in their career and pivot into a perfect for you career path.
So if this sounds like you and you're looking for some help, send me a message. All right. In today's episode, I have the pleasure of speaking with Jeremy Au, a venture capitalist at Munk's Hill Ventures. He's also the host of his very own podcast called Brave Southeast Asia Tech Podcast. So I'll leave a link in the show notes for you guys to check it out as well because I actually recently was on his podcast.
So highly recommend you guys check out my episode on his podcast where I share a ton of career tips. and share a lot about my own personal journey in terms of my career. So before all of this, and before he became a venture capitalist, he actually started his career as a management consultant at Bain before going to found two startups, one in Singapore and one in the US.
Before he decided to come back to Singapore, before he decided to pivot into working for month scale ventures. So how did Jeremy decide to move from entrepreneur to startup investor? And what tips does he have for founders looking to fundraise in today's landscape? I'll hand over to Jeremy now to share his story.
Hi, Jeremy. So lovely to have you on the podcast today. And just wanted to get started with you telling us a little bit more about your, yourself and your story.
(01:56) Jeremy Au:
Hi, I'm Jeremy. I'm a VC who invests in founders across Southeast Asia. In terms of my professional experience, I grew up in Singapore.
I've been in the army. I worked at Bain as a consultant. I built two companies. One was a consultancy for social sector. Second was an education tech company that raised pre C, series A. We sold that company. I'm a Harvard MBA, UC Berkeley. And I also happen to host the Brave Southeast Asia Tech Podcast.
www. bravesca. com with over 20, 000 listeners every month chatting about tech and leadership. So happy to be here on a show.
(02:30) Jennifer Ong:
Wow. That's honestly, you've got such an incredible career journey and just so excited to dive deep into that. So I know that you grew up in Singapore, but then ultimately decided to go to school in the U S right.
So how did you make that decision? What was it like growing up in Singapore?
(02:46) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I mean, growing up in Singapore was a lot of fun. You know, I just. Had a wonderful childhood with my parents and my friends. And it's just an incredible environment where, you know, I got to explore a lot. It felt very safe and I was always able to explore my interests.
I remember studying at a computer club. And, you know, I was happily a nerd doing robotics and, you know, coding websites and designing them. So yeah, I just had a wonderful time as a kid. And, you know, kind of like fast forward so many years down the road, and now I'm a parent of, you know, a three year old daughter and a one year old daughter.
And I was thinking to myself, like, wow, you know, Singapore's great, you know, because now as a parent, you know, all the stuff that... It's great for a kid, like safety, security, good education, all those things are just come delivered right in that sense and really grateful to be raising my kids in Singapore now as well.
And yeah, I think as a teenager, you know, you always want things to be more spicy and interesting. But you know, that's for them to explore later down the road. Yeah.
(03:45) Jennifer Ong:
And is that ultimately why you decided to leave Singapore to go abroad?
(03:50) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, you know, I think for myself yeah, long story short would be, you know, I decided to go to study abroad because I was just a terrible student in you know, junior college.
And so I think big part of it was due to a personal loss. And as a result of that, I ended up making a decision to take some time out. And I went to the army for two years and I think the army was a good period of time for me to reflect and do what I needed to do. Eventually I decided that I wanted to go to university.
So then, yeah, I studied my exams. I took the SATs. I put together my application and then I finally managed to apply to college and I went to college in the U S as a result. And I think I remember I went to. College and I qualified for UC Berkeley, which was very thankful for, because it's one of the few universities that doesn't take testimonials as part of the package.
And I obviously didn't have a strong testimonial, right? Because I wasn't a good student. You know, I mean, I think the testimony was very kind and understanding, but you know, it's just not the same tier that you expect for university. And so I think UC Berkeley, you know, just look at my grades, my SATs that I had taken during the army days.
And they were like, okay, yeah, we'll take Jeremy in. And so I went there and I always remember that before I talked to this alumnus and she was like, Oh, why are you interested in? I was like, yeah, you know, I wanted to do medical research, but I don't think that's for me, but I still want to be involved.
I still want to help. The medical side. I want to volunteer. I want to give back. And I think she gave me this lead and said, Hey, you know, Jeremy, if you're interested, you should try this thing called the Berkeley group, which is a social impact consulting group. And it might be a good fit for you.
It's economics, but it also lets you work with local healthcare and other nonprofits in you know, San Francisco and Berkeley. And so I was like, okay, I'll check it out. And I remember I went to university and yeah went there. I went for the interview. It was supposedly very rigorous, very, you know, selective.
You know, they had to do behavior interview, you do a consulting case interview. And as a freshman I had no idea how to do all those things, but I was very lucky because you know, I remember the Case question was supposedly very difficult. You know, the question asked was like, Hey, how would you distribute, you know, 100, 000 doses of vaccine across the city?
Right? And, you know, I had no idea how to do a case interview, but I was more than happy to talk about vaccines, right? Because of my prior interest. And so I was very lucky because I was able to knock the interview off the park. I think a lot of folks really shared afterwards. They were like, wow, Jeremy, that was the best case interview I've ever seen.
You were like a no brainer. And then of course, I remember the first project they made me do afterwards was like Vietnamese microfinance. And I had no idea how to do that because, you know, when you're working with a real nonprofit, it's a very different domain from vaccines. But, you know, I think from then on, I think that was a big inflection point for my life because I thought, I saw an opportunity to be part of a club that was looking to help society and make things better, but also do that from a very structured, using the same problem solving skills.
But also be part of a culture of folks who are really passionate about the sector. And so I think that was an incredible community I got to hang out with that I really enjoyed.
(06:58) Jennifer Ong:
That's awesome. So, okay. So you got to UC Berkeley, you joined the UC Berkeley group where they were doing a lot of nonprofit work.
This was like like, just like a group on campus, right? It wasn't like a paid internship or what? No, it was a group. Yeah. Okay. So you got your first taste of doing kind of consulting work in the social impact space and really enjoyed it. So when you graduated from school. Were you thinking, okay, I'm going to go into that space.
I'm going to do nonprofit or social impact type of work, consulting, consulting for those types of companies.
(07:29) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. I think at that point of time, you know, I remember thinking to myself, like, I think choice number one, my head was actually working at Gates foundation. So I wanted to work on vaccine strategy.
So I felt like a good combination of consulting and you know, carve out my prior interest in vaccines and humanitarian work. So that was really interesting for me, but unfortunately they didn't really accept undergraduates for that role. They obviously had lots of consultants from McKinsey being DCG.
So for them, you know, that role was like pretty much filled. The second part that I was interested in was actually the Brisbane group, and that was like the social sector consulting group that I wanted to join at that point in time. But they didn't accept internationals at that point in time as well.
So I thought it was interesting and you know, I decided to say, you know, Talked to my mentors and they said very much like, hey, you know, she'll work at a corporate consulting role. That's going to give you good training. It's going to give you an optionality to do those two roles. If you want to do them later down the road, which is like the bridge span on Gates Foundation.
So, yeah, I sat down and I applied to you know, the consulting groups. I applied to Bain because I felt like it resonated in terms of values, in terms of approach. Yeah. And I was very pleasantly surprised to, you know, To the offer in terms of like the interview, you know, how to go through all the different processes.
And then, yeah, eventually get an offer letter and I was very happy to get that internship offer.
(08:49) Jennifer Ong:
And so you started your career off in the U. S. Right. With Bain. Did you consider?
(08:54) Jeremy Au:
I actually started at my role at the, an offer was for being a Southeast Asia, which was based in Singapore.
And so I was very happy to. Be, you know, in UC Berkeley, getting the offer to go work back in Southeast Asia.
(09:08) Jennifer Ong:
Okay. So you came back after you graduated from school? Yeah. Okay. Got it. Got it. And so you worked there for a couple of years, right?
(09:14) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. I worked there for a couple of years. It was intense.
A lot of fun, a lot of mistakes that I made, but a lot of wins as well. So I think it was just one of the classic moments where you're an intern and you get, you know, the job that. You know, you're an associate consultant, and, you know, they say there's Associate Consultant 1, Associate Consultant 2, AC1, AC2, but you also get to be AC0, so that means like you're a total amateur, you know, you're a newbie, you get to sit down and learn, and yeah, it was a great experience to really learn from all of the experiences that people have accumulated over the years.
In terms of like the company library of materials, best practices, the companies you've seen elsewhere, you know, mentors, you know, a strong training pedagogy. So it was really enjoyable actually. And why did you leave? I think that I left because you know, of two reasons. I think the first reason was because fundamentally, you know, I enjoyed corporate consulting and I think I love the skillset and the training.
And at the same point of time, I think I realized that I, this opportunity that I've been building, I've been building a social enterprise on the side which was called conjunct consulting. And it was a consultancy for the social sector in Singapore. And we basically scaled it out in parallel to, you know, pretty much almost like, profitability to, you know, a hundred clients to training thousands of leaders.
And so I thought it was an interesting dynamic where you know, I felt like I needed to honestly. The staff on track in terms of it being a good organization, but not it being a sustainable one in terms of finances, in terms of leadership and so forth. So I think there was an opportunity to you know, transition and then make sure that this organization could keep going even after I was gone.
And I thought it was really important from a focus dynamic. And the second, of course, was that, you know. I think that I was going through that timing to be like, okay, you know, what exactly do I like to do, right? And I felt like consulting and advisory peers was a very strong, appealing, compelling part of it.
I felt like the industries that I wanted to focus on were not necessarily all of the deep focus I wanted to do. I wanted to build at that point of time. And so I thought it was a good opportunity to say, Hey, I can build this organization and let's keep going. So that was what made me, you know, kind of like leave Bain and move towards being full time on conjunct consulting.
(11:39) Jennifer Ong:
So you were basically, so you basically started conjunct consulting while you were at Bain. And so how did the idea come about? Was it just like a side hustle? I guess it was probably a side hustle to begin with. What made you decide to start it?
(11:53) Jeremy Au:
Well, I mean, I think we started out because, you know, moving back to Singapore, Southeast Asia, I wanted to volunteer another group like the Berkeley group and it didn't exist. And so that was a shame. And so I wanted to volunteer and it didn't exist. And so I said, Hey I was speaking with a Dutch one, my, one, my now best friend, and at that time it was a good friend and he said, yeah, why don't we make it happen? And so we built at this point in time, it was a charity, a non profit and it was both difficult, but also very rewarding to build it because, you know, you know, I think it's meaningful to build something from scratch, but also meaningful to build a volunteer base and help social sector.
So it was nice to build all that and take our learnings, obviously from our previous work. But what we realized at some point was that, you know, it needed to become sustainable, right? And so I think that's the decision we had to make to be like, okay we need to make this from a non profit to making this a social enterprise that's able to cover its costs and be able to, you know, maintain a professional team. So that was our decision back then.
(12:51) Jennifer Ong:
Yeah. So let's take it back to the early days when you were starting conjunct consulting. How did this come about? Like, how did you find your first client? Was it just you and your friend doing this as consultants on the side?
(13:03) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. You know, I remember building out that first deck, right.
And I remember, you know, building that pitch deck to kind of attract people and talk about the mission. And, you know, I remember just reaching out to a whole bunch of friends and colleagues and other folks who might be interested in, and I think it was, you Tough. In retrospect, you know, it was very tough, but at the time, I was very naive.
So it's, you know, we'll go around asking everybody. And I think the good news is that, you know, I've seen it work in the U. S. right. And so even though it's a lot of skepticism, they could work in Singapore. You know, I think a lot of people are skeptical that nonprofits would want consulting services.
People were skeptical that the social health sector wanted to change. People were skeptical that people wanted to volunteer. So that part of the time, you know, having seen it for myself, Having been part of that group, it was very easy to be passionate and confident, right, and that allowed me to, you know, bring on You know, one folk, two folks, three folks, four folks, five folks.
And it was just one person at a time, right? At the start of the day. And yeah, I thought it was a good experience where at the end of the day I was able to convince a good enough group of people to join and get started. And I thought that was a... You know, honestly, from frankly, in retrospect great learning experience, but also I think very kind of my friends and, you know, folks that believe in this happening.
And so we got it started and that's how we got started on the volunteer side. You know, I think you know, names that come to mind would be, you know, for example, Huifen Ho you know, Kern Ho, David Thien, you know, obviously JC Kwok, you know, all these folks really believed in the early days. I think clients wise was a little bit more straightforward and, you know, these nonprofits, frankly, have always wanted help, right?
They wanted help in terms of packing stuff, you know, painting walls and so on and so forth. So they've always wanted help. But obviously, you know, they have these deeper questions. These executive directors are always asking themselves, how do I do this? How to do that? And they just didn't have that person to ask.
So I think it was right. It was more straightforward because you go sit down with them and say like, Hey, what problems do you have? Right. And then I think it's more like. Letting them have the trust that they could say like, Hey, I don't understand how to retain my donors. I don't understand how to work on this aspect about the business.
And then saying like, okay, you know, we can put this together. There are consultants from, you know, McKinsey, BNPCG. We can have volunteers from the universities. We can put it all together in a way that lets these projects be done. Nice.
(15:20) Jennifer Ong:
And did you charge the money to do this or this was purely pro bono?
(15:25) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I think in the initial years it was pro bono because, you know, I think first of all it was a dynamic where the market was getting educated and so we needed. To get that consistency and get that dynamic going on. But I think over time we were able to transition to them being paid.
Obviously it was much cheaper than what a fair market value would have been if they were to do that. But, you know, those fees were also what allowed, you know, the lights to keep going and for us to focus on the quality needed for them to be happy to be spending that quantum with us as well.
(15:56) Jennifer Ong:
And did you run into any issues with Bain being that this is kind of similar type of work that you you were doing?
(16:03) Jeremy Au: Not at all. I mean, Bain is focused on corporates, right? Multinational corporations charging millions of dollars. So from their perspective, they didn't really care. No, they were like, yeah, you know, like, it's great.
You know, you can volunteer this on the side. Then yeah, I was volunteering on the side for a good chunk of time. And I think obviously that was the dynamic that, you know, everybody was aware.
(16:25) Jennifer Ong: Amazing. And so how long was this running for before you decided to really go in at full time?
(16:29) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I think it was about several years.
And, you know, I remember like, you know, I was, you know, mentioned in the Straits Times a few times we're building this organization, you know, Bain would happily reshare the clip because they'll say like, Oh, look, it is one of our Bainies is you know, doing this in community and so forth.
So that was a nice experience to be doing all of that. And I think the next stage after that was then to, you know, say at some point of time, I'll say like, Hey, you know, these are the warning signs, right? That this organization is doing well in terms of the impact, but not doing well in terms of sustainability.
Right. And so at some point I made a decision to go and switch from being towards being full time on an organization.
(17:07) Jennifer Ong: And what was that trigger point? Cause I think that's one of the key things that a lot of people tend to struggle with is I have a side hustle. It's kind of going, but how do I know when is the right time for me to let fully go into this?
(17:18) Jeremy Au:
If you don't know it's the right time, it's probably not the right time.
(17:22) Jennifer Ong:
So it was a gut feel for you?
(17:23) Jeremy Au:
I mean, you know, you know, there's, you know, I think, well, I'm assuming that, you know, you're a professional, I'm assuming that you're competent. I assume that you're in full knowledge of the facts on both sides of the table, right?
It's just that, you know, I think when you know that you have to go, but you're fearful and so forth, but if you know you have to go, then you have to go and focus, right? If you. Don't know you have to go and you're fearful, then the truth is you don't have to go. Yeah, I mean, like, I think delinking, I think the logical part and the feeling part.
And so I think there's that two stage piece, right? Which is, does it logically need? Your focus, or can you keep going? That's really that piece. And then the fear side is letting your body accept your conclusion, right? And that's a very different conversation. Yeah. So I think separating those two conversations as much as you can is really important.
(18:16) Jennifer Ong:
Any tips around that for the logic side of things and also how you overcame the emotional side of things? Because I'm sure it wasn't easy to go from like a very steady corporate paycheck to something that was a bit more fluid.
(18:29) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I think the first, of course, is that, you know, you, the financials have to work out right.
Of course, at a time I was single, I was young, right, you know, so obviously my living expenses were like an order of magnitude smaller, but of course you can't switch over unless there's a very strong focus on what the financial sustainability piece is, right. I think that's going to be the question that You have to make a decision about and, you know, of course you can make a jump sometimes when, you know, you know, it's insight.
But, you know, I think that's something I always tell people is that, you know, you have to know what that quantum is and be focused on that. And then two, of course, is that, you know, I think that you have to be fundamentally ready, right, for that transition. And what it means is, do you feel like you're the skills?
Do you have the background? Do you have the team needed to get forward? Right. So I think that's, Not easy to have that conversation with yourself because, you know, I think you can be quite isolated building this. So it's really important to talk about this with your mentors and friends to say, does this make sense?
What do you think about what I'm saying? Based on how I'm saying it, what do you think I am saying? You know, because I think a lot of folks actually kind of articulate the answer in the way to express the problem. And I think that's one of the biggest things I've realized over time is No, it's just yesterday I was coaching a founder to his process and, you know, I, you know, the way he described the situation pointed at one very clear, you know, outcome or answer that he was driving towards or grappling towards, but at the end of the day, you know, I think sometimes the benefit of a friend is that you can help that person birth that answer and allow that answer to be spoken aloud.
And then based on that, then the conversation can happen about whether it's the right move or not.
(20:10) Jennifer Ong:
I really like that. Okay. So you ultimately decided to leave. You went full in to doing this for the doing conjunct consulting. And really this was your first foray into entrepreneurship, right? Did you ever really think.
Or did you always plan to be an entrepreneur? Was that kind of in the cards for you since the beginning? Absolutely not. So you kind of just happened into this. It was just, this was a cool project.
(20:37) Jeremy Au:
Entrepreneurship didn't really exist as a term even, right? I mean, back in 2000 and, you know, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, right?
Like, yeah, you know. Building something in Southeast Asia, in Singapore you know, we didn't even use the word founder, right? You know, people use the word director or CEO. There was only one coworking space. You know, I was one of the founding members of that coworking space in Peckhup, Singapore at Somerset.
And I thought it was an interesting experience where, you know, that initial group of, you know, coworking space, we were all weirdos, right? So Jungle Ventures was there, Golden Gate Ventures was there, Glintz was there, I was there. Atlas was there with Grain. So, you know, there was a great group of folks who were just, you know, just building stuff.
And yeah, we wouldn't call ourselves founder because it was just a weird phrase to use, right? So, so I think the way we would have thought about it was just building a company. And you know, I think since then, I think that. The concept of entrepreneurship as a profession, right, as a skill set of building something from scratch and rallying and pitching as a discrete package of skills that has become a mini vocation, right?
Has become much more clearer. So at that point of time, the answer is no. I was just said like, okay, I want, I need to make this work. I need to make money so that this can continue going. Otherwise it's going to fall apart. Right? So that's how I was thinking about it.
(22:00) Jennifer Ong:
Interesting. And I wanted to get into how it felt to leave a corporate job behind, because I think for a lot of people, that's probably one of the scariest things, right?
So when you were leaving Bain behind, did that feel like a scary decision for you?
(22:15) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, of course. I mean, it is a scary decision because you're moving from a structured thing to an unstructured thing. Of course. I mean, the good news was that, you know, having built conjunct to a certain point, then it was a less structured thing rather than a totally unstructured, you know, Company, right?
Our approach. So I think it was just going from point A to point B was being very intentional about saying, Hey, what do we need to do to make this happen? So it felt like it was. Not scary in terms of the things of what needed to be done. I was looking forward to the first 90 days, getting a lot of stuff done that I couldn't do when I was like, you know, doing this on the weekends or in the evening.
So I was looking forward to it, but yeah, I think it's scary because, you know, a lot of people are like, yeah, why are you walking away from Bain, right? Which is a great company and it is a great company. But at the end of the day, I made a decision and I said, yeah, it makes sense. And I have some great mentors to help me think about it, both within Bain and outside Bain, who discussed that with me and I made that decision.
Yeah, so the answer is it scary? Yes. But, you know, at the end of the day, lots of stuff is scary, right? You know? The question is what's next more compelling and more attractive than what's currently scary? You know, I think that's the question that... I think…I don't think I framed it up that way.
This sounds way more pat and sophisticated. I don't that's not how I was thinking about it. I was just like you know, but now in retrospect, it's like, yeah, you know, that's always fear that you have to fear. I mean, if you have a good thing, of course you don't want to lose your good thing, right? Yeah. The question is there a better thing in around the corner?
(23:48) Jennifer Ong:
I think that's a really helpful framework to think about because I think oftentimes we get so held back by our fears that we think that, Oh, someone else out there like Jeremy, you're only able to do it because you don't experience fear. When it's not true, it's you experience fear, but you decide to push forward despite that fear.
And I think you were able to push forward because the argument for going was just so much stronger. Yeah. And you saw the potential there. Yeah. A hundred percent. Yeah. Amazing. Okay. So you worked on contract consulting full time for how long again?
(24:20) Jeremy Au:
For a couple of years.
(24:21) Jennifer Ong:
Yeah. Okay. And I know you then decided to go to business school, so kind of wanted to get your thoughts on going to business school.
What made you decide to leave contract consulting behind and go back to the U S.
(24:35) Jeremy Au:
I think when I was in university and when I was at Bain, I had the opportunity because I got to obviously see my seniors. And I think it's so important to be part of that community because what I eventually saw was that I saw my seniors at both of these communities, eventually go to business school, right.
And do the MBA. I thought it was quite interesting because, you ask, I mean, when I was in the military service, right, there's no way I was thinking about having an MBA, right? You know, it's just like, I don't even, wouldn't even know what the steps are. I wouldn't even know how to do it. So, so forth. But, you know, I think when you see people above you say, Hey, you know, they applied, some people made it, some people don't make it, but it's doable.
Then. I think it makes a lot of sense, right? And then you start putting that together. So I think when I was at, you know, kind of like Bain, I saw that a lot of folks had gone or had just recently come back. And so that was quite inspiring. And so I was able to say like, okay this is doable. Let me put together a package and apply for my Harvard MBA.
So I think that was how I put together the package. What I didn't mention was that during my army days, I actually studied for the GMAT. Okay. Because I didn't really understand, but I was looking for standardized exams to prove that I could do well in school. Yeah. So I said, you know, army, you know, so far, so I did my SAT one, I did my SAT two.
And I was like, okay, is there another exam I could do? Cause you know you know, you know, like economics, right? And so someone was like, Oh, you should take the GMAT, right? So I was like, okay, I'll take the GMAT. And obviously I wasn't applying for business school, but I remember submitting that GMAT score along with my application package.
Cause I was just looking for the exam score that I could. Hopefully do well in . Wow. Okay. Okay. And so, you know, fast forward years down the road, when I was like putting together a package, I was like, yeah, I already had this package. I already done a score. I was like, okay, I already did exam. Okay, I can put this together.
And now I have to, you know, finally have to reference letters for my boss and my teachers. Now you know, I have the grades in school so I can put that together. So I think it was nice to finally put that all together. So I was quite lucky in retrospect. Okay.
(26:40) Jennifer Ong:
And your decision to go to business school what, I guess, what made you decide to go to business school?
Cause it seems like conjunct consulting was almost as close to a dream job as possible, right? Very aligned with, you know, your consulting background and your interest in consulting and also your interest in social impact. And this could lead very well into, you know, Gates foundation type of role in the future.
So what made you decide to go to business school at this stage?
(27:06) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, you know, I think what I realized was that at some point in time, you know, I thought it was interesting because I felt like I wanted to scale impact more and I felt like the social sector was really important for beneficiaries.
But I felt like, okay, you know, this is a very clearly putting alliance between the government and health sector to make things happen for social sector as well as, you know, financial peer. And so I thought it was interesting dynamic. Well, it's like this impact that I want to do. Is very deep and meaningful, but it's not the full way I want to express myself.
Right. And so that was a knowledge I had. And then two is also, I felt like my skill sets were good, but not great. And so I want to take the opportunity to learn, right. Somebody else. And I remember I told you 10 people, I said, I feel I'm learning from experience, but my experience curve is a certain rate.
And I would really want to learn from people who are world class. Right. And so I think that's where I think making the decision to go to business school was. Straightforward in the sense that It felt like a step up, right? In a sense that, you know, here they are, they're saying like, you know, this is what you're going to learn.
You're going to learn from Harvard professors. You're going to learn from the community about the MBA students. We're going to help you through the next stage. The world's your oyster. So there's all these dynamics where it was, I think, quite compelling. I said, yeah, I think that was a good opportunity to take that step forward.
(28:32) Jennifer Ong:
And so what happened to conjunct consulting at that point?
(28:35) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. So, you know, I think that was a part of the sustainability plan that we built. And so I handed it over to my co founder who took it on forward and yeah, it's just been going on since then.
(28:46) Jennifer Ong:
Okay. Was it hard for you to step away from that? Because it was your baby.
(28:51) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, it is hard. And I think I think that, you know, I remember I had the benefit of you know, a very kind mentor who, you know, decided to take time out and, you know, just kind of mentored me in, you know, this coping space, right. And, you know, we just had that conversation and I think he said, Hey, you know, I think the part that unlocked me was like, you know, I was like, Oh, I need to find someone to replace me and so forth.
And he's like, Hey, Jeremy, you're not looking for someone to take over you, right? You're looking for someone who's better than you for the next stage of the company. And I was like, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah, you know, I felt like I'd grown a company to a certain stage. And so I wanted to help that company go to the next stage.
Yeah. I think my energy level wasn't in it, my heart wasn't in it, right, my skill set wasn't in it, and so I think looking for that better person was really important. And I think, yeah, I was very happy to hand over to you know, the candidate that the board eventually picked. You know, it's a tough sourcing process, but it was very enjoyable to hand over and take a break.
(29:46) Jennifer Ong:
And I think that's such a skill in and of itself, hiring the right people to hand things over to, how did you go about finding the right person, whether it's your successor or whether it's building the team, how did you go about the hiring process?
(30:01) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I mean, I think there's two parts of it, right?
I think the first part of it is. You can't ever start too early. And that's really important is you have to build out the pipeline, you have to build out, I mean, you know, selection is pretty easy in a sense that you're looking for someone who's the best out of the lot, right? But the lot, who's the lot, right?
You know, you already want that funnel to be as wide as possible. You want to get as deep as possible. And so I think training that. Ladder of talent is really key, especially if you're building this in the social sector because, you know, it's not an easy choice or career decision to make, right?
And so I think that was a big decision of why eventually also decided to leave it. And I was like, I said, Hey, you know, I need to make this. You know, and I need to build this talent ladder, I need to build this talent pipeline because I know that in several years I'm going to hit out and so for whatever that was going to be, at that point of time, I need to make sure that there's someone that I trust and that I like, right?
And so I think that was a very deep conversation that I think a lot of folks don't really have. It's like, hey, you know, they want to leave, but then I think leaving well requires you to find someone who's going to be a good person to take over from you.
(31:10) Jennifer Ong:
That's really fascinating that you knew early on that you ultimately, this wasn't the end goal for you.
(31:16) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. I mean, cause you know, you, I mean, no one is in a job for like 10 years in a row. Right. You know, like, you know, at some point in time you just need to be structured and dynamic and be thoughtful about the company you're trying to build.
(31:30) Jennifer Ong:
It's very interesting because I think that's kind of at odds with what I usually think about entrepreneurship, which is people kind of commit their like life or at least a good, you know, 10, 10 years or so of their life into the business.
I think that's really interesting that you kind of approach this with you know, removing yourself from the business. Like the business can continue, but it doesn't need to be you in that business for the next, you know, decade, two decades, et cetera.
(31:55) Jeremy Au:
I think it's about self awareness, right? The truth is, there are many founders and myself included, who are very focused on the business and putting their life into it, right?
But... Let's talk about businesses, right? Like how fast do they grow? Are they scaling very quickly? Are they scaling very slowly? But there's a set of requirements that they've required a founder and executive team to scale just as fast, right? And so, you know, we look at big multinational corporations and nobody's going to spend 10, years, right?
Sometimes people do if they're the right fit for the company. But sometimes they're not the right fit. And so, yeah, they hand over and find someone else. Right. And so I think being intentional about that succession planning is not an easy conversation to have with yourself. But, you know, if you really care about admission, you really care about organization, then you have to, I think, start from there.
(32:44) Jennifer Ong:
Yeah. Like acknowledging that. You know, you may not be the right person to take the company to the next level and being okay with stepping back from that removing your ego from the company. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Amazing. Okay. So you applied to Harvard Business School. Did you apply to other business schools or you were like, I'm set. This is the goal.
(33:03) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. I mean, I applied to one and I got one. So I was like, okay, well, you know, I was like, Oh, great. You know, that's incredible. It's like, I don't need to do the rest of the other applications.
(33:13) Jennifer Ong:
I mean, yeah, it's pretty much the pinnacle of it.
(33:15) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. And I think I already went to, you know, UC Berkeley and, you know, UC Berkeley is a big rivalry with Stanford.
And obviously, I mean, I didn't care about a football rivalry, you know, the big game and everything, but I was like, you know, I already had a good sense of California and the West coast. Yeah. And so I thought it'd be interesting to go to Boston and go to the East Coast and see what it was like. And I thought it was a nice diversity experience.
(33:36) Jennifer Ong:
Amazing. And at that point in time, you were thinking I'm going to go into business school and what was your goal after business school at that point? Like coming back to Singapore and working for a company or founding your own company.
(33:49) Jeremy Au:
I was searching for what the right domain was going to be. And so I knew that I wanted to come back to Southeast Asia eventually, but I joined three clubs that I think pretty much described the three hypotheses that I had about my career.
So I joined the social entrepreneurship club. where I was a summer fellow for them and a trainer. But I was also joining the healthcare club and I joined the technology club. So those are the three clubs that I joined. Social entrepreneurship club was because, yeah, you know, I'd done it. And so I was exploring saying, Hey, is that something I want to continue doing?
And in what aspects do I want to do that? The second was in terms of the healthcare club. Because I felt like that was a good, you know, continuation of all of the healthcare work I had done in the social sector. But also I felt like potentially it was a good combination of passion and purpose to be able to bring my skills to bear for healthcare system.
And then the tech club I joined was the technology club because, you know, I've always been a nerd, you know, so, you know, I thought it was a great opportunity to obviously look at it from the technology side, look at coding, you know, I remember doing like CS50 for MBAs as a course at Harvard, I also remember you know, visiting lots of startups, right?
I visited Omada Health and Casper, right. You know, ZocDoc I visited a whole bunch of companies and got to hear about how they're building the future. So that was a really fascinating experience. And that's how I eventually ended up saying like, okay, you know, I think let's explore what these different aspects of what the job is, but also let me kind of explore what skills I want to build.
(35:24) Jennifer Ong:
Got it. Got it. Got it. Okay. So there was like three main areas that you were exploring going into business school but it wasn't like you went in with like this, like. idea of like, I'm going to build my own company at the end of this. It was like, yeah, I'd be open to working for another company out there.
And let's explore which sector really makes sense for me. And so I know that after you graduated, you founded your second company. So at that point in time, were you already working on this while you were in business school? Did you like have that idea and was already building this while you were there?
Or were you also applying to jobs at the same time?
(35:54) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. You know, we started out in the first year really kind of exploring mental health. I think that was something that I was very much interested in. And we basically ended up looking at, you know, which populations had the most incidence of like, you know, depression, we kind of narrowed down like a couple of key targets, right?
You know, one was College freshmen, right? And sophomores who are transitioning to a new college. That's a big stress point. The second was kind of first responders going through PTSD and so forth. And then the third group of course was that we went through and discussed was like really mothers with postpartum depression.
And so I think we interviewed, you know, kind of like over a hundred new moms and so forth and Basically, what we came up with was that the interviews with them and the social workers and the doctors was that I think most of them were actually very frustrated with the lack of quality childcare options in the US.
So as a result we kind of said, okay, like. Here we are. Okay. And I remember there was this doctor who was like very much like, okay, you know, you know, it's understandable that they're frustrated and depressed by the lack of childcare. They can't go back to work and so forth. You know, this is a good time to let them, you know, learn meditation and do peer support groups.
And I remember thinking to myself, like, well, that's a perfect medical answer, but it really doesn't solve the problem at all. Right. And so, I think that's where I kind of said to the team, I said, Hey, let's pivot. Let's explore this and say, how do we solve it. You know, the child care problems specifically, and I think that's how we got started.
(37:23) Jennifer Ong: I'm interrupting my very own episode to let you guys know about my career coaching program that's designed to help you go from lost and frustrated with your corporate job to living and crushing it in your dream career. So if you're feeling unfulfilled despite having that perfect prestigious high paying job, or if you're someone who's great at chasing and acing other people's dreams, but have no idea what your own dreams and goals are, well, today you're in luck.
I'm sharing my three step framework to help you find your passion and get career clarity. If that sounds like something you would want, check out today's show notes to download the free guide now. All right, back to the episode. So you started building Cozykin which is the name of the company that you came up with which was basically to find nannies to help solve these mother's problems.
Right. And you were building this in the U S at that point in time, but I know that. Eventually you did eventually come back to Singapore, ended up in the VC space and happened in the VC space for a good amount of time now in Singapore. What made you decide to move on from your second startup?
(38:30) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. So I think, you know, it was a tremendous experience and I thought it was a great culture that we built who were very obsessed about, you know, quality childcare, you know, work. And there's all kinds of crazy stories about. What we had to do in order to kind of, like, get the standards up and kind of, like, redeploy great childcare for moms who really needed it because there's such a shocking deficit, honestly, of quality childcare in the U.S. and I'm very proud about our team and, you know, our purpose and our mission to really kind of, like, try to solve that. I think at some point it was just realized that, hey, you know, we can't solve this federal issue at all because, you know, it's such a huge problem, right? And so I think we were solving the problem for a good chunk of folks in our cities, but it's this a slog, right? And so we had that conversation to say, Hey, what do we need to do to make this better, scale this impact? And so I think we had a fortunate opportunity where a high ground education, right, which was a global education chain, basically had reached out to us and said, Hey, we're interested in exploring a partnership.
On acquisition. And so we're very much able to eventually sell the company to them and then bring our, you know, nanny sharing approach, pedagogy, and then kind of distribute that. Right. And I thought it was quite nice to be able to be working as part of a larger mothership because we're able to, I think, expand some of these practices that we had, but we also got to legalize this What you call day sharing, but eventually it became very popular during the pandemic, right?
It was called child care pods group child care, but we got that legalized in California, in Texas. And so it was just kind of nice to be able to broaden the regulation piece and actually create a whole new category of, you know, micro daycares in the neighborhood. So I think it felt like a little bit like we kind of accomplish I think a segment of the vision that we had and at the same point of time, I think in parallel, so the pandemic had hit.
And so I think there was this big scramble obviously to help. With child care, the situation across America because of essential workers because families in distress and so forth. So I think in parallel, I was working on that crisis. And then, you know, I finished up my 1 year as a general manager with them.
And at that point of time, I was very much having a conversation, then go on to be like, okay, what's next? And I think my heart was always to go back home to Southeast Asia. And so I was very happy to be back in Singapore with my wife. And yeah, just I don't know, resume my life, you know, hang out my friends again and say, Hey, I'm back, you know, over zoom because it's a pandemic. So, but it was nice to be back in Singapore. Yeah.
(41:08) Jennifer Ong:
Amazing. And I know that you moved into the VC space, which is quite a new industry and quite a different industry from your existing background. What made you decide to go into the VC space as opposed to, you know, founding another company, for example?
(41:23) Jeremy Au:
The reason why I joined VC is very different from why I like Venture Capital as an industry today. First of all I joined Venture Capital because I had a great opportunity. I had heard and got an interested inquiry from Peng Tiong you know, kind of like the founding partner amongst the ventures.
And he reached out and we had a conversation and then we basically said, Does this make sense? Does it not make sense? But what I had heard was that he was an incredible mentor for many folks in the founder community. So like I said, years ago, right, I was a social entrepreneur, but in effect, I didn't know it, but I was part of the founder community, right?
So you know, we would go on, you know, our batch would go on to build all these companies, so on and so forth. And I thought it was just really interesting to hear how many good stories there were about him in the community. And so I was like, okay, I want to I guess, look for him, you know, and learn from him.
So I thought it was a good opportunity to learn from someone that's one. Also, I think also I was a founder, right? I had to work with VCs and said, you know, this might be a good opportunity to see both sides of the table. So I can understand what fundraising is like on the other side of the table, but also understand some of the incentives and structures that they are thinking about.
So I thought it was a learning exploration at early stage. I mean, now looking back, I think that I think venture capital is a very good. Interweaving of many treads in my past life I've always enjoyed, as you can tell, right, I have always enjoyed about thinking about the future, right? And helping society.
That is a big one. The second one is very much about logical problem solving, right? 30, you know, I've been comfortable both building and advising and venture capital as a function of both. And I've always read science fiction and technology. And so finally, I think that was this nice piece where I was like, okay, you know, what does it mean to be stewards of capital to deploy that in founders building the future?
Right. And I thought it was a beautiful way to have all these themes come together. And I think one aspect as well is that, you know, For each of my past experiences, I've always been a volunteer community builder and, you know, teacher, right. And a coach. And I think that's something that was nice to be like, okay, you know, this is something that skill set that the venture capital industry appreciates because the founders that we invest in require coaching and support.
So that was a nice experience to pull that all together.
(43:46) Jennifer Ong:
And so for people who are trying to break into the VC space. What are you looking for?
(43:52) Jeremy Au:
Venture capital is about investing in the future, but within a target mandate of building a billion dollar company within 10 years, right? And so a billion dollar company is a hundred million dollars of revenues with a 10X technology multiple in the public markets.
So as a result, I think what you're asking is you're asking for an incredible team to work with an incredible sense of mission and purpose, with an incredible team to build an incredible business model with the right incredible engineering and technology support. That's really difficult. And so.
I think what VCs are looking for is for people who are able to be part of that team, right? So I think a big aspect that I'm always looking for example, will be investors. Investors who are able to spot this talent, be able to highlight them and then to be able to invest in them. So I think there's a financial side that's there.
They're also always looking for people to can add value, coach them, create that value, help these founders either avoid mistakes. Or to help them make better decisions. And so they're always looking for that. And that could come across in different terms like portfolio success or corporate development and so forth.
And of course what you see is that at a senior level of venture capital the partners tend to do both, right? They're able to both invest but also provide a lot of value at a board level. And I think this intensive advisory process I think is under appreciated and underweighted by the market because, you know, generally we normally look at advice as something that's very like free, very light, you know, very non material in terms of impact.
But I think what we can see is, you know, there are so many instances today, you know, for example, in the fraud or accounting scandals that we see today in startups, you know, founders think they can get away with it in those cases. So those are bad apples are also, they think that, you know, it's a good way to create value, right.
That they're going to, and you know, you can imagine like if someone has sat down with them and said, Hey, you know, look, there's no way that this fraud, for example, can even be non discovered right. In 10 years, right. You got to go public one day. So in other words, you know, it's just like, I always tell people, it's like fraud is so dumb because it's not only the fact that you morally wrong to do it.
But you can't even get away with it. There's no way you're going to get away with it because you have to go public in 10 years. So all the numbers will come out. So why even bothering to misrepresent your numbers, right? So I think there's a negative side of it, you know, to demonstrate of like, when there isn't that.
intensive coaching or founders, specific founders say like, Hey, it doesn't even make economical sense to do this because he's going to get caught and he's going to lose your career or you can go to jail. But I think the positive version of that is I think there are lots of great founders who are young, right?
And I was a young founder twice, right? I was a young founder in my mid twenties, a young founder in my early thirties. And I think when you have that set of experiences, you're able to sit down with them and say, Hey, this is what. You know that you don't know and so let's talk about counting. Let's talk about how to hide people.
Let's talk about how to find people and let's also talk about things that you don't know you don't know, which is how we're going to fundraise the next bound, what are the key metrics we need to tackle. And so providing that coaching and advisory piece, because you understand the business, you understand the founder, and you have a core ownership stake in that founder is what's needed for that to be a really fruitful coaching relationship to happen.
And I think that's where I think a lot of the magic happens is when you have a great founder partnered with great capital. I think magical things can happen at a point in time.
(47:28) Jennifer Ong:
So really a really good mix of your consulting background and the numbers driven training you got there with your operations background, starting two companies and being able to mentor and grow startups.
That really helped you get into the BC space. Yeah. So I know that the VC landscape, well, I guess the overall economic landscape has really changed now with the Fed tightening and everything. Do you feel like that has really changed the way that you guys invest in startups as well? Or in the early stages, it really doesn't matter because your horizon is pretty long.
(47:58) Jeremy Au:
The answer is that it matters and it doesn't matter. The reason why it matters is that because when you're building the future, the question is why do people want the future to be built? And the truth is Venture capital is saying this blend of technology and business means that one day there's going to be a company in 10 years That is going to be making money right and money is a function of the value that company is creating.
So For example, Google makes money because back once upon a time, you had to go to a library to figure out how to tie a tie. Right. And I remember when Google came about, it was like a light bulb moment, right? Because before that, you had like AltaVista, Jeeves, you had Yahoo search, but you know, it wasn't great.
Right. And so now you could type in something like, you know, you know, what's the temperature on average in, you know, Estonia. Right. And then. Yeah, Google will spit out the answer for you. Right. And so, you know, I think Google is a billion dollar company because the value of that information, they're able to have a percentage of that value.
Right. But that being said, in order to underwrite that knowledge is that between now and the next 10 years is going to be a certain amount of funding with invest in and 10 years time, only then will revenues be happening between years, 10 to year 100. That means that when it's on the public markets at a point of time, that what is the value of that cash at a point of time.
So when you get zero interest rates, basically what that meant was that a dollar in 10 years is worth the same as a dollar today, effectively. And so. Obviously net of inflation, et cetera, et cetera. But, you know, I think that was a very clear understanding that as a result is much more compelling to invest in the future because, you know, you're getting penalized effectively for investing today.
Right. And now I think we're kind of reverting back to normal. Obviously there was a huge blip, I think due to inflation, due to pandemic, due to the, you know, kind of global security crisis, but I think what it's going to settle down to is we'll go back to a normal piece, which is that there is going to be a certain amount of inflation that's going to be consistent and there's going to be a certain amount of interest.
As a result rates that's going to be there. And that means that in some ways, there's now this hurdle rate for capital, right? There's an hurdle for us to believe. And that means in general, that as a result, capital has become more discerning, has become more focused on generating cash flows earlier.
And I think there's both obviously both good and bad. I would say what I mean by that is that, you know, the good side of course is that. You know, a lot of the bad business models are getting, you know, washed away right now. And so we see a lot of fraud, a lot of that stuff, you know, they can't keep going because there's no infinite money printing machine and going brr in the background.
And so as a result, I think, you know, that's getting cleaned out. But on the other hand, I think a lot of the deep infrastructure and deep tech stuff. That frankly we're starting to see the fruits of it today would only have been possible if we didn't, if we had, it's only possible today because we had zero interest rates for such a long period of time.
So we obviously had a lot of the farmer and mRNA vaccines by Moderna. We had open AI that raised hundreds of millions and eventually billions of dollars of capital. I'll get a nuclear fusion. which also has raised billions of dollars of capital. Those companies, those verticals, honestly, would have had much more difficult time getting investment if it wasn't for this interesting time period where we basically said, Hey, a dollar in the future is worth the same as a dollar today.
Right. And so, you know, all science fiction dreams are game, right? So I think now we're going back to that more. Intentional deliberate approach. So I think it's going to be much more about the commercialization and the production and deployment of these technologies that have been built out over the past 10 years.
(51:42) Jennifer Ong:
So would you say profitability is something that you guys would want to see sooner in a company's journey? With the change in macro conditions,
(51:53) Jeremy Au:
I think what it fundamentally was that good VCs would always have focused and said, you know, we do see the ability for this company to make a lot of profit in 10 years and between now and then We are comfortable with the unique economics of the business being profitable on a marginal product basis.
And what it meant was that we are underwriting the fixed cost of the business to scale to the next level, but at a fundamental level on a consumer transaction level, you know, it's a sound business. I think what happened was that, you know, when there was zero interest rates and there's a lot of money that basically, I think we got untethered from the unit economics, the marginal transactional side of it.
And so there's a lot of conversation saying like, okay, you know, a good example of this would be clubhouse, right? Cause I had a wonderful time at clubhouse for those who remember. But you know, basically they said like, Hey, we want to be a consumer social app and we want everybody to be using it. And I think they achieved that goal because they were viral during a time when everybody was stuck at home and nobody was allowed to talk to each other in person.
And so we all had to use clubhouse. But what they couldn't figure out, and, you know, I think it's also a part of it was they couldn't figure out how to monetize it as well. Right. And so I think the VCs were happy to underwrite because they saw that rapid growth, which was, I think, totally fair to underwrite that, that dream.
But I think you know, everybody knew that it was potentially kind of finding a potential bridge to nowhere, right? In the sense that there wasn't a sound economic model for how people would be. Charge for this business model. So I think it was an interesting dynamic where I think folks are still figuring out how to monetize consumer audio, right?
It's not solved yet. Obviously, podcast is one approach. You know, Netflix and Spotify, et cetera, is doing that as well. But I think Clubhouse is a great example of a company that got funding and it was an incredible experience. But at the same time, you know, wasn't able to figure out how to monetize in a sustainable way.
And I think in today's climate, I think that's something that the VCs would have sat down with them and said, Hey, we need to focus on this aspect first, or at least in parallel with the user growth.
(54:01) Jennifer Ong:
Got it. Got it. So what I really wanted to ask you is if I was a founder today and I was looking to fundraise, what are some tips you would give?
(54:09) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I think the biggest tip I'll give is just build a great business. And you know, that's. Really all of it, because I think if you build a great business, every VC would fund you, right?
(54:22) Jennifer Ong:
How do you define a great business?
(54:22) Jeremy Au:
Oh, great question. So you gotta, if you want to raise capital from a VC, I think you have to build a company and a business model that is VC backable.
In other words, is on track to build a hundred million dollars of revenue with a 10x, you know, software multiple within 10 years. And what that means is effectively, you need to double in size every year for 10 years straight in terms of revenue, and that's how you get to 100 million. So you need to be a fast growing company.
You need to have a product that everybody loves, that people are raving about and really enjoy. And you need to be building this in a way that's defensible. We're a great team. You know, I think that, for example, like, you know, building a laundry business, right, you know, where you're installing a laundromat at every block, right, that's probably not a VC backup of business because, you know, the scale that requires a capital intensity, but also doesn't really scale very well and the profitability margins don't really improve.
So that's something that would be a benefit for private equity capital, maybe a benefit for friends and family or working capital, but, you know, for venture capital, it's like, yeah, how do you deploy that? In a very fast, efficient manner.
(55:38) Jennifer Ong:
And in the early stages, how do you tell that about a company? How are you able, like, are you really able to tell a great company in such an early stage? Are there markers that you're looking for?
(55:49) Jeremy Au:
I mean, I think the simple fact is. Either you're solving a problem that people care about or you're not, right? And the truth is, there are way more folks who are solving a problem that's not really worth solving. So, you know, I think a classic version of it is like, you know, sitting down and having a conversation.
I remember we were discussing how to split the bill, right? And the founder was like, Hey, you know, I want to have this app to help us split the bill three ways or four ways or five ways. And I was like, Okay. It sounds like a nice consumer app to build. Why not? You can build it. Not a problem. And he was like, Oh, but I want to build venture capital business because I can believe I can make this.
And I was like. Wait, we can't make this huge, right? You know, I mean, I was like, is that a hundred million people who will pay you a dollar per year for this app to split? No, right. I'm just giving an example. But do I believe that maybe like, you know, a hundred thousand people around the world may pay you for this app, split the bill, a couple, it's basically a calculator, right?
I'm just like, yeah, you know, I can believe it could be a useful app on an app store. So I think there's a tricky part, right? It's just that as a founder, I think you get so much advice from folks, you know, and you get positive advice, you get negative advice and stuff. I think as a founder, I think you really have to sit down and say, if I'm hearing this advice from Jeremy.
Do I believe him or not? Right. You know, does he have track record to say what he's saying? Does he understand my business enough to have a very good judgment on my business? Then yeah, you just, Jeremy says, it's not a good idea. Just take it as one data point and then go talk to your customers, go talk to other folks.
So I'm not saying that I'm right. I am often wrong. So I think the biggest thing is I think the threshold from my perspective of the proof is You know, your customers have to love your solution. And I think without that, you just really can't go anywhere.
(57:40) Jennifer Ong:
And I know you personally yourself do a lot of angel investing as well. How do you decide what to deploy your own personal capital for?
(57:49) Jeremy Au:
Pretty much the same criteria. I think it's one. Two is of course, you know, generally I'll be investing in people that I believe I can coach and help, right? I think as an angel investment you get to have the position of being with.
I found that earlier some days, and so you could have that conversation very early about how to help them. And, you know, I think they have to like you and you have to like them, right? Otherwise, you know, this life is long. There are other investments to make in the future.
(58:15) Jennifer Ong:
And is there some sort of formula around angel investing in terms of like the percent of equity that usually founders will offer in exchange for X number of dollars?
Or is it really, there's no industry standard to this?
(58:28) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I think that founders generally will look to raise on a convertible note. Normally a safe and YC seems to be the general norm nowadays. And as a result, I think when you write this instrument you're basically saying we're not agreeing on a price, but we're going to invest in this right now and the price of what we're buying will be set upon by a later date, right?
And generally that works for investors. It works for me because I think the question is how do we get this company succeed in the short term is really, I think, the most important question.
(59:00) Jennifer Ong:
Got it. Got it. Okay. So it's not really like an X percent. So that kind of is determined in the future.
(59:05) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. I mean, you put in more, you get more of the company, you put in less, you get less of the company. Okay. So, so that is determined. We determine at a later.
(59:12) Jennifer Ong:
Individually. Okay. Got it. Cool. So one last question for you, which is you spoke a lot about mentors actually throughout this entire interview, and I wanted to ask you for any tips around mentorship, because I think that's really helped you in a lot of the.
Decisions that you made in your career, how did you go about finding these mentors and building these relationships?
(59:32) Jeremy Au:
I think that, you know, I think there's a variety of mentors, right? I think that structured mentorship programs, right? That could be a function of your company, for example, your boss you know, community programs.
There's also unstructured programs where you find someone who could be a good mentor and get advice on. I think that. There are many great mentors because by virtue of the fact that they have more life experience, right? So if someone has 10 years of experience and you have 20 years of experience in the domain, of course, you know, there's someone who's worth listening to and hearing the advice in terms of mentorship.
I think the question that many folks have to think about is, are you someone who is a mentee that a mentor wants to mentor? Another way of saying that would be, you know, if. That person was a mentor. Would they be excited to mentor you? So I think really demonstrating that they're paying attention, taking notes converting feedback to action.
Are all aspects that are really important for a mentee to demonstrate. Cool.
(01:37) Jennifer Ong:
Any just last parting words of wisdom that you might have wanted to tell your 18 year old self before he embarked on this crazy journey of, you know, consulting, founding companies, VC, something that you wish you had known earlier on.
(01:53) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, just listen to as many war stories as you can, right? You know, listen to as many profiles interviews in their own words, but also not just autobiographies, but also biographies which have a third person observer, neutral perspective on, you know, what careers are made off and what success actually gets to.
And I think that's something I've continued to do. You know, I continue to host a brave Southeast Asia type podcast, right? www. BraveSEA. com and I think that I, myself, when I'm interviewing all these folks, I'm learning from their own career stories, their own reflections, their own experiences, and I'm kind of like downloading that and saying like, okay, you know, this reminds me of that, this reminds me of the other story, this is another theme, right, and I think those stories kind of create a mini micro community in your own head and, you know, I think that, you know, When I was younger, I would have to read these biographies as the only way to hear these stories.
Right. But now I think, you know, the next generation is like, I really privileged and lucky to have podcasts, you know, as a medium and audio books to hear all these stories in their own voices, because now then you kind of get to hear, you know, what the traders are what the dilemmas are. And, you know, I think that creates that community outside your own personal bubble.
(01:02:06) Jennifer Ong:
Amazing. All right. So where can people find you aside from your podcast? What's the best way for people to follow you?
(01:02:13) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, you know, I think the podcast website is probably the best way, you know, as a community, as a, you know, sign up for, to join as a member, there's transcripts, there's resources for folks on how to fundraise as well as who to fundraise from.
And yeah, I think it's has my contact details there as well. You can find me on TikTok, on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on WhatsApp. It's all there on the website. So go to www. bravesea. com.
(01:02:38) Jennifer Ong:
Amazing. Well, thank you so much, Jeremy, for the conversation today. I learned so much from you and it's been a pleasure having you on the podcast.
(01:02:46) Jeremy Au: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure as well.
(01:02:56) Jennifer Ong:
And there you have it, my conversation with Jeremy. Here's a couple key takeaways that I got from this conversation. One, before quitting your corporate job to jump into entrepreneurship, Jeremy recommends test driving your career and trying out your business as a side hustle first. Jeremy founded his very first business in impact consulting while he was still working as a consultant at Bain and managed to build it to the point of profitability, which gave him the confidence to leave and take that leap of faith into entrepreneurship full time to.
Leaving a corporate job is very scary because we lose a lot of that structure and financial certainty that we're accustomed to. So one question that can really help you guys figure out if it's really worth taking that leap of faith is to ask yourself if what's ahead is more compelling and attractive to you than what you have today.
And I'm going to add on my own spin on this. For me, the big question I always ask myself when I am in a point where I'm not sure which decision I should be making is to ask myself, would I regret option a more or would I regret option B more? So for example, would I regret staying at my corporate job more or would I regret pursuing entrepreneurship more?
Number three, the most critical component in an entrepreneur that Jeremy looks for is self awareness. Jeremy believes that you need to be open to having those hard conversations with yourself and not let ego get in the way. And maybe sometimes the best path forward for the company is actually to hand your business off to someone else to take over.
Number four. On fundraising, Jeremy said, focus on building a great business. This includes being a fast growing company, having a product that everybody loves, and building a defensible business with a great team. And lastly, when looking for a mentor, think about it from their perspective. Would they be excited to mentor you?
Having the proper attitude when approaching this mentor mentee relationship is key. This includes paying attention, taking down notes, and converting advice into action. And that's it for this week. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Control Alt Career. Check back in a couple weeks Kenobi.
Kenobi is an education tech startup focused on helping university students find jobs. And Ben actually has a fascinating career story. He actually turned down working in private equity to build this startup after graduation. It's a really fascinating story, so make sure you're subscribed so you don't miss it.
And if you like this episode, I'd so appreciate it if you could leave me a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend who maybe isn't so happy with their corporate job and need a little extra inspiration. As always, thanks so much for tuning in and I'll see you guys back here in a couple weeks.