Daniel Thong: Bootstrapping vs. VC, Unsexy Businesses & Philosophy Contrariness - E157

· Podcast Episodes,Founder,Singapore,Start-up,Purpose

Instead of maximizing your expected payoff, meaning you kind of do the probabilities and you say, "You know, I lose this and then I stand to gain this". At least the way I am, I realize that I prefer to do things where I don't regret that. I always look back and say, I wish I know what path A would have been. And I think that's, to me, that's what regret minimization is.- Daniel Thong

Daniel is founder & CEO of Nimbus, an office facilities management platform. He is a former LSE & Oxford philosopher turned entrepreneur. He aspires to build a company that impacts lives and helps the most vulnerable in society. He was recently featured in the 2021 Gen.T list of young leaders shaping Asia for his work in social entrepreneurship. His company, Nimbus, helps office decision-makers to run their office well. Nimbus handles office cleaning, maintenance and supplies end to end.

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hey Daniel, so excited to have you to show. It’s really interesting to have you because you are someone which is tech-enabled services and cleaning space which is a tough business but also doing this with heart of gold and so I'm excited to have you on the show.
 

Daniel Thong: (00:43)
Thank you, Jeremy. Excited to be on the Brave podcast. First time here.
 

Jeremy Au: (00:49)
So Daniel, of those who don't know yet, how would you introduce yourself professionally?
 

Daniel Thong: (00:54)
Well, I'm an entrepreneur. I am the founder of Nimbus. So I'm CEO and founder. I started Nimbus in 2017. So after a stint helping build two start-ups from scratch, I ended up in the B2B cleaning space where we do facilities management for offices, gyms and buildings, et cetera, so it's been a journey, and I think these journeys are correlated from my previous experiences. So happy to share it with entrepreneurs about this journey that I took.
 

Jeremy Au: (01:24)
So how did you first get the bug to join technology and entrepreneurship? Because you are a naval diver, you're a philosopher, so how do you even get there? Because you went to Oxford, but nothing there screams technology.
 

Daniel Thong: (01:42)
Yeah, I would say it's a bit accidental as an entrepreneur so I think my journey started when I followed basically the normal trek where I was going to be a consultant in the UK because I studied in the UK. As you mentioned, and by some stroke of luck I decided or unfortunate luck is that I decided to take a year off before I started my role, which was very common back then.
Before you start a consulting gig, you can say like, I'll take a gap year or whatever. So the idea was to kind of explore this entrepreneurial side of myself. But of course that year, 20, 14 or 15 coincided with Brexit. It was a wonderful coincidence that that happened. And so after that gap year and I went to China and Hong Kong, I was told that it was basically regulations on the quota. And so you've got to go back to Southeast Asia. So how I became entrepreneur and then how I got to tech was completely accidental in the sense that I didn't see myself going to tech. But when some sort of a stable role, that consulting didn't turn out to be stable after all, I came back to Singapore, which is my home country.
And then that's when I started to look at what are people doing that were more cool and I stumbled into the tech scene in Singapore, and that's how I started building tech startups for other people, starting with the equity crowdfunding platform called Funded Here, which was really my first kind of job after consulting.
 

Jeremy Au: (03:05)
What was it like joining that first tech company?
 

Daniel Thong: (03:09)
To be honest with you, I didn't know what to expect. I was referred by a friend at that time. We heard about crowdfunding platforms in UK. The pitch was that this is the first equity crowdfunding platform in Asia, so I was just basically sold that, OK, you get to build everything from scratch on the business side of things, business developments sounded cool.
So I just jumped into that opportunity to basically build something and I think it was exciting to get a sense that Asia seems to be lagging behind at times too. A lot of innovations we saw in the West, and then I just wanted to be part of building something. At that time I don't think I was confident enough to start my own business and my parents were entrepreneurs, so I kind of felt like I should start a business one day.
But I didn't feel as a graduate in philosophy, as you mentioned, that I was equipped to do anything else besides flipping burgers at McDonald's, I was not sure what I could do. And so and when someone gave you a chance to build tech companies in Southeast Asia, I obviously jumped at the chance. So that was really how I got into it.
 

Jeremy Au: (04:08)
And what did you learn from joining this company?
 

Daniel Thong: (04:14)
When you join a startup in Southeast Asia, at least the companies that I joined, they usually do not have more than 20-30 people in HQ at least. These are the two companies that I worked for. And when you are employee number five or employee number 15, a lot of things needs to be done. I think it's kind of exciting in a sense that you get to define processes or define how you think things should be done.
So there was that sort of exhilaration in that sense, and I think I'm quite a free spirited guy, you really enjoy kind of shaping things as they go along and figuring out hard problems for yourself. I think that was what really honed kind of that business acumen how to do sales, how to do BD. Basically you don't get much handholding in a startup of this size in Singapore is Asia; you're basically expected to be smart enough to figure it out.
So yeah, I've figured it out. To be honest, I don't even know whether till today that's stuff that is quite basic to people or not, but you do find that you get more hands on skills versus your peers who perhaps took the more typical path and worked in MNC’s or banks or consulting firms because you're a lot more hands on, you hustle a lot more, you don't get clients on your plate, right?
You've got to find them and you got to service them. Figure out how contracts are done, that sort of thing, my boss has basically always taught me to figure it out on my own.
 

Jeremy Au: (05:33)
That's the tough part about early stage companies is you're always being told to figure it out on your own. So how do you figure out on your own?
 

Daniel Thong: (05:39)
Usually how Southeast Asia works was that it was very greenfield. It's always what they will tell you, and they'll tell you that it is basically a paid for MBA, which was very alluring for me because I always considered after graduating to take an MBA. So from the perspective of Figure It Out on your own, I assumed that I was just given a playbook, which I was usually some sort of word doc.
But then you got a learn that and then kind of build on top of that Google Docs. So I would say that 10% of the document is useful, but then that 90% is really Googling. I had to launch a press...I remember that we didn't have budget to do press releases. We didn't have budget to hire anybody except for interns.
So figuring out usually entails you walking into, you know, putting yourself in the shoes of somebody that is an expert. Let's say I was a business development associate, right? But I put myself in the shoes of a proper business development person would do. And then I imagine what he would do and then I'd do it. That's basically how I have always figured that out.
So on the equity crowdfunding site, it was very simple, it was two sided marketplaces. So you had to find startups that needed fundraising and they wanted to give up a stake of their company in exchange for that. But you need to make sure that they're good companies. And then so you also had to make sure that the investors are excited about it.
So on the supply side, I figured out that you had to kind of hit the universities, hit these deep tech laboratories, which is pre entrepreneur first, by the way. So I went down to the campus levels and then on the demand site where you talk about investors, then it's really about helping my boss build up this community of influencers and affluent people and getting them excited about angel investing, which is very different from normal kinds of investing.
So there's a predefined kind of theory on how that works on the startup side. I think that was …there was no playbook on how do you find good companies, just you start hitting universities, you start reviewing pitch decks. Yeah, I was playing the role VC for a while which was just really funny. Yeah.
 

Jeremy Au: (07:41)
And then you decided to jump to a second company and to be an early employee again. The first time of course you do it because you have no idea what being an early employee is. So you do it out of ignorance and then the second time, you know what you're getting into. So why did you decide to be an early employee again of a tech company?
 

Daniel Thong: (07:58)
Yeah, so I think the first company, when I joined that company, I realized that it was actually a chairman model. I think you're familiar with it where it actually turns out to be an established company where the boss is already rich. So he founded another company, but he's not really an active founder.
I realized that that was not quite the startup experience that I really wanted to do in its purest form. So some friends of mine from Oxford, this was from the Oxford Connection where they were building a services marketplace this time around. And once again, it's a marketplace. And I thought I knew how that worked. They were building a marketplace and they were launching B2C services marketplace and expanding from Malaysia to Singapore. Then they wanted someone that they knew and they wanted to launch Singapore as a, as a general manager. So I was suddenly given a very big responsibility. Then I was sold the equity dream for early employees, promised in proper startup. So actually I would say the reasons why I joined a second company was really because I really still wanted to dive deeper into how startups work as a kind of thing.
And this time around, this second company was venture backed and it was exciting to just learn about how that works. And so I jumped at the chance of joining that company because I think the first version was more of like a new business unit as opposed to a real startup where it's like just got fresh funding, expanding, got a big role.
You hear about it for the first time in your life. You're not sure what they are. You meet everybody, this time round is a bigger team. 30 to 40 people. You're excited, it's in Malaysia. Grab came from Malaysia. You know good things about Malaysian startups and that's how I made the leap to launch Singapore for Mobile Services Marketplace.
So they wanted to do a grab play for local services which is basically using your mobile phones to find blue collar workers like cleaners and plumbers and handyman, technicians, et cetera, on a kind of a reverse yellow page model, which is equivalent to Thumbtack in the US more than, say, TaskRabbit. It was it was really like a lead generation model and that was quite unique, interesting. And given that I built Marketplace before they thought that I was relevant for that. So I was very grateful to be hired as a GM there and that’s how I made the leap pretty much defined my later part. But we'll talk more about that later. But that was why I made the decision to go to the second company.
 

Jeremy Au: (10:17)
One interesting part is that you're building that fintech, which is one is finance out of one is a very surfaced marketplace, which is a totally different structure. Yours is building and pushing, it’s also a venture backed. So what would you say is the big difference in tempo between the first company and the second company?
 

Daniel Thong: (10:34)
Yeah, I think the main difference is when something is founder led and when something is…when it's not a chairman model where there's an establish senior guy that has his idea and he task younger folks to build it versus the founder’s your age or like slightly three years older than you. He's raised funds. The energy level is different. You feel you are, it's a more flat environment.
You feel that everybody's dreaming and everybody wants to build this great dream and vision. And this was why I was so compelled to join them. Just for some context. My family, my grandmother was a cleaner. So this idea of kind of improving livelihoods, right? Which was kind of like the Grab story, was highly appealing, especially because I was raised by blue collar workers.
And so I was very attracted to this idea of how technology can really disrupt and transform this sector, which I have observed firsthand as I was raised by blue collar workers. And I think that the young energy, the fact that everyone's at the same age all dreaming on the same vision, technology, business operations made it very exciting. That was really, I think, a real proper startup.
And the fact, of course, that they raised money. And that was my first experience as well of what it means to be venture backed where you are basically on accelerated time and you have to kind of hit sort of milestones, really unlock funding or it's game over, which is a very scary thing.
 

Jeremy Au: (12:00)
Tell me more about why you said Equity Dream versus Game Over. Tell us more about that.
 

Daniel Thong: (12:05)
The idea that I think most people nowadays are more familiar with and back then it was more unconventional in 2015 was this idea that you would take a salary cut as an employee, you would get a substantially or slightly below market average salary to basically get some pay, but also some percentage of the company. Typically, companies will have 10% or 5% or even 15% pool of shares for their employees.
We were sold at least the idea and I don't think it's unique to this company, but every startup nowadays would sell you this idea that you're basically a business owner. If you stay long enough, you unlock that equity, you a business owner, and when things work out well, tremendously well, because we're going to list the company, we're going to be able to sell it later on at a very handsome valuation.
It's going to play out well in your longer term kind of return on investment and time. So that was kind of the game. So call you were saying that was quite new to me. In hindsight, I think more can be educated on this front for employees of startups. I think we have a lot of people that cover startup entrepreneurs stories, but not so much about what do you do if you're a startup employee, what you consider before you join a startup.
At that time, I just relied on the fact that I knew people that belong in that startup and they seemed like reasonable guys. And so I took the plunge.
 

Jeremy Au: (13:24)
So here's a chance. What advice would you give to people? What would you really say, like you need to know before you join a startup? Because that's so many startups these days. So top three things you need to like make sure you know before you go in.
 

Daniel Thong: (13:38)
So I think the first thing is that I think don't be afraid to ask some very relevant questions. Like if a company tells you that this is some e-stock for you. It’s worth 1%, it's worth like $1,000,000 I think a lot of times when you are young and you are not sure what you can ask, you actually should be asking founders about the traction, about how do they see this playing out to be a $100 million company and what are their current tractions.
And I think a lot of times when I was young, at least I dared not ask. I thought it was very uncomfortable to ask a founder for sensitive numbers because I don't know, maybe I'm Asian and I feel very is very you know, you don't ask these questions, but I'm sure, you know, Jeremy, in Silicon Valley as well, a proper tech company would have a very transparent culture.
The founders, if they are good founders, would be very transparent with all their employees about their current state of affairs, their runway and how long do they have left before they run out of money or what's their revenue like, what's their user base like, et cetera. So I think the first thing to know is really to be prepared to ask questions about the company.
And even if you feel it's uncomfortable, you have the right to know certain things before you make an informed decision because it's an informed decision. Number two, I would say is really do your due diligence. Don't assume that they say that they have all these in place that these things are in place. I think same thing that's how companies ask for reference checks for candidates.
I think it's also fair for prospective employees to ask if indeed these venture funds have backed them, if indeed people that work in a company really rate the CEO. Well, because at the end of day, start ups are all about investing in people. And if the management is not strong, you're going to have problems. So it’s good to kind of also know the people you're dealing with beyond the traction, right?
The ethics of the people that you're dealing with. And this goes to number three, which is that startups usually at a very early stage, at least from what I know, seed stage, series-A, when they promise you stock options or magic beans or whatever you want to call it. A lot of the times, it's not ready.
And I don't think you blame them really. The legals are not ready, sometimes. The agreements are not in place, but they may put it in writing. So it goes back to point two, know the people behind the firm. If the traction works out, know the people behind the firm, you really trust the ethics. And then the third thing is, of course, make sure that the paperwork is there. Make sure that the promises are made in some form of black and white could be email, WhatsApp. Because at the end of the day, you want to make sure that you protect yourself because as an employee's point of view, you are taking a substantial wage cut to join a startup. And I guess why do startups need people to take a wage cut? Because they are not cash rich. They would prefer to conserve their cash.
And so that's why they are offering equity. Right? And equity is expensive. And when I was young, I wish I knew that. Right? Equity is expensive. And so be very wary when people give equity and make sure that it is indeed a very good deal. So that is, I think, the onus of the folks thinking of joining a startup.
 

Jeremy Au: (16:33)
That's a lot of truth there. And I love what you said about magic beans as I have never heard it described that way. But I think documentation is important for both sides. I think there’s good faith employers and bad faith employers. I think there are also good faith employees and also bad faith employees as well. So I think it's documentation protects both sides.
And so what's interesting is that now you've had two early stage experiences as employees at two companies, and now you suddenly decide like, you know what, I've had two crazy experiences at two crazy companies. And now it's time for me to make my own crazy company of my own. What made you decide to become a founder?
 

Daniel Thong: (17:12)
Yeah. So if you go back to the start of the podcast, where why I wanted to get you to pursue entrepreneur activities, why I built startup for others was because I think deep down, I guess some part of me wanted to build something on my own next time, but I didn't know what it was and I didn't feel that I was equipped to have the skill set to do it from the get go.
And so why I decided to kind of build my own thing finally was because after having built enough experience under my belt, also having witnessed kind of successes and failures of startups, I started to become more confident about certain ideas and in particular, when I was in the B2C services marketplace, it was brutal, man. So the B2C space taught me a lot.
It taught me that no venture fund can save you if your business model is not working, no money in the world can save you. And it was very competitive and pretty much like what you see in Lazada and Shopee still today. Even at that highest level, you're still burning a lot of money. Truth be told, of course, we raise subsequent milestones, et cetera.
I didn't feel quite comfortable with this idea of like we're running out of cash in six months. We raised funds, we have 18 more months. After a while you start to feel a bit like the first startup where I wish I had a rich backer. It will give me that assurance that I am not always going to have the clock restarted. But then at the same time, you kind of want to kind of innovate and have the energy so I kind of wanted to figure out, is there a middle ground, especially given the fact I felt like the fundraising scene in Southeast Asia was still very difficult. You can’t come and just venture funds.
If the funds pull out, then there was this huge right sizing kind of event that is unpleasant so I think those experiences shaped me. And I think because I spent longer time in the services marketplace, like I realized that the B2B site was very unexplored and it was not an angle that the company was going down the route too because it was a B2C services marketplace.
Whereas at that same time, office managers from Uber or Stripe, they were coming to me to say, Hey, Dan, can you just kind of give me a total facility solution, someone that can not just clean my space, but move my furniture around, do some event clean up support, decorate my office? I just want to deal with one person.
I don't want to do it like your app all the time. That was when I realize that there was something there with the B2B site that was kind of like unexplored. And so when I left the venture craziness of the second company, I started to think deeper about can there be a more cash, cash preserving model where you don't follow the kind of price war game?
And that's when I dabble into B2B and it's quite natural, right? I think when you're young, you don't know much about the world except for how you consume things. So your natural ideas are B2C ideas where these are pretty much businesses and business models that are in your face. So it's very natural. We look at B2C, but as I had two or three years’ experience in technology and in service sector, you start to see B2B ideas as well.
You start to appreciate why facilities management is a very unsexy but very exciting space from the point of view of entering and disrupting something very archaic. Yet at the same time, that business model is, it's kind of proven. So that was really how I thought about my current company Nimbus and how we basically, after I left and spent about a year in the venture build a company, I looked at starting my own B2B kind of enterprise, tech enabled company.
 

Jeremy Au: (20:43)
As you built this, how do you think you have built your company differently as a result of your previous two experiences? So one that you mentioned was obviously designing it to be B2B instead of B2C for services. The other one was being very much more mindful of cash flow and your venture capital space dynamics. How else have you built your company to be more built upon the foundations of your previous learnings?
 

Daniel Thong: (21:09)
Yeah. So the thing I learned about B to C is that a lot of the tech is front facing. You have a shiny ad, your ad needs to be superb because consumers have high expectations, you're fundraising platforms needs to be really solid. If not, nobody would put money in there, but B2B is a lot more invisible. So for example, the tech that we saw, you go back to the idea of like when I was talking to a lot of office managers about needing a consolidated experience, you basically realize that they trust you because you have a tight operation.
How do you get a tight and efficient operation through technology? Well, you've got to think about backend instead of front end. You've got to think about how you manage efficiently hundreds of workers and then create a system where these workers are basically upselling stuff for you on the ground because you're cleaners are your air stewardess on the plane.
They're the ones serving your customer, they're the ones interacting with your customer every day. They're the ones seeing facilities’ faults on the ground and they're the ones rectifying. So how do you build stuff that would give accountability to your client’s space and at the same time create opportunities to upsell? So this value proposition was not as front facing as most people think of like, oh, it's a shiny app.
So you're not solving a UX booking problem solving a how do you create very seamless tech operations so that it works like magic and the customer just feels like the operations you're running is very smooth and it's something they understand. So the key difference, I think as well for what I learned was that cash is very important.
And B2C, there was a lot of emphasis on market share and not so much on like just basically revenue recognition and collecting cash on time and even sometimes making profit. So for us, we also learned that experience and basically went down the more sensible route where you're basically charging for a subscription for cleaning, you’re upselling stuff and you're just charging and making sure that you have systems that consolidate invoices that way clients want it, but also kind of collecting things timely and that sort of thing.
So a lot of the mistakes I would say I learned from B2C young companies that burned money and I kind of went the other direction. And I'm not criticizing kind of companies that do that because obviously Shopee and Lazada have built tremendous businesses. But I would say that it might not be for everybody.
So I realized quickly on that you in a venture backed company and then you know runway is eight months and sixteen months…I was not very comfortable with doing that and I think that is to do with me as a person I don't think very well when there's a shot clock. I'm forced to make a big decision in six months.
I think better maybe as a philosopher when I have time to read, time to ponder. So I felt that a B2B model worked better for me and with enterprises you're not dealing with consumers. You're dealing with people that pay on time, but you need to make sure that you collect their credits on time but they’ll pay you. And it's regular. It's frequent, you're not dealing with a micro consumer. You're not worried about that kind of churn in the level that B2C does.
 

Jeremy Au: (24:04)
Interesting. I mean, it's interesting because you've been bootstrapping this and building this and very structured way. It’s also interesting because you're building in a very unsexy business, right? Yeah, because, you know, it's tech enabled services and so do you ever feel like all these other people are busy fundraising with these very sexy business models and sexy fundraising models in rounds and you’re in there cleaning their offices.
 

Daniel Thong: (24:30)
Yeah, you get it all the time. I mean, a lot of my friends run startups, right? And a lot of those, you're right. And some of them are my customers. And you just see them on this crazy trajectory. The first point to make is that I've been there in those venture-backed style companies. So I know that deep down the hood you're worried about different things.
You'll worry about runway and all these things that I don't like to be worried about. So it helps that I've experienced that before. The second thing was that on cleaning. So having done services market place, I think one thing I realized and I think people should know that after so much coverage in the news is that the cleaning industry is a huge industry. It's billions of dollars. And I notice when I was running a marketplace that all my cleaning vendors were extremely wealthy. And for me, it's one of those things that's not very obvious because it’s very unsexy. At the same time, it was very inefficient. It's very manually run…payroll was done on a pen and paper like Excel at best and you see so much opportunities to create efficiency here with technology, simple technology.
So for example, our crew pretty much work on a mobile phone. They go around doing their work on a mobile phone, we track everything. Payroll is seamless. Whereas these sorts of inefficiencies create this opportunity that I saw in a big market. That was my perspective at time, of course, it has its challenges. But what I saw was competition.
And although competition seemed large, competition was easy and I think this goes to the point that you try to avoid competition, you try to avoid red ocean markets where it's bloody and you are basically operating on extremely thin margins. So Nimbus’ model, which aggregates all kinds of services which provides a holistic experience, actually allows us to be higher than market in terms of the price that we can charge as well as I think in terms of the overheads that we use to run our business substantially, like leaner, of course, there's this R&D up front.
That's why basically we still needed to kind of bootstrap and then get to a point where we can cover our tech overheads. But it was a journey. And the other thing I learned is that because it took so long, I also know now that what you hear in the media about startups and entrepreneurs is, is just 5% on the tip of the iceberg.
We don't know the struggles of these guys. We know that it may look glamorous on the outside, but every company, every entrepreneur, probably goes through their difficulties. So it's not always rosy on the outside.
 

Jeremy Au: (27:00)
Yeah, I agree about that. It's not always rosy. So wrapping things up here, could you tell us a time that you were BRAVE?
 

Daniel Thong: (27:07)
The thing that comes to mind is basically after finished building two startups, I think there was this inflection point where I was a bit tired, to be honest with you, from building two start ups consecutively in the last three years, I was unsure whether or not to venture into building a company on my own. So I really took some time to think about it.
I actually spent time as a PR in a venture building firm and it was still not enough time. I took six months to travel to clear my head, to really make sure that this was something I wanted to do. And because we started bootstrapping before we raised a seed round, it entailed putting in your own capital, putting in my own money.
So this was also something that I needed a lot of courage to do. I think at the end of the day, what really allowed me to kind of make that decision was really just regret minimization. So I think all the pros and cons in the world can’t really solve the answer to certain of decisions in life. I was not sure if this was going to work out.
Thankfully it did. But I think really what propelled me to make the choice was basically, I don't want to regret that I could have done this. So I went back into building my own company instead of working for corporate, which would have been the obvious choice. So yeah, I'm glad I did that and thanks for the opportunity to share this story, Jeremy.
 

Jeremy Au: (28:23)
I think that's a lot of good advice there. And I want to ask you one quick question. Follow up there is, you know, talk about regret minimization. What does that mean to you.
 

Daniel Thong: (28:32)
Instead of maximizing your expected payoff, meaning you kind of do the probabilities and you say like, you know, I lose this and then I stand to gain this. I think at least the way I am, I realize that I prefer to do things where I don't regret that. So I don't choose an option where having failed to take that path.
I always look back and say, I wish I know what path A would have been. And I think that's, to me, that's what Regret Minimization is. Yeah, it's like red pill, blue pill. Take a pill and then you look back and wish you'd taken the two of them. I think it's the simple idea of regret minimization. Yeah. And I've always lived my life that way actually looking back.
So you kind of make sense in hindsight that there's a certain pattern of decisions that you tend to take. But yeah, that seems to be a big theme in major decisions that I make.
 

Jeremy Au: (29:19)
You being a philosopher, it has been a big part of your life. I’m kind of curious what philosophy books or authors has been an inspiration and how has that evolved? You know, which ones were more for you when you were younger versus which ones are more for you now?
 

Daniel Thong: (29:36)
I was a philosopher of Economics. Friedman’s famous paper every MBA student has read about the purpose of the firm being profit maximization was highly influential, kind of writings that I typically enjoy as I grew older. When I was younger, I think Plato's Republic was still awesome. It was just pure abstraction about how you should build the ideal society, recommend roles, theory of Justice.
I was very influenced by political philosophy, and I think this also shapes. I think people that tend to do social impact stuff, or social enterprise work, or dealing with people of low wage workers. And a lot of this kind of thing influence you a lot? Definitely influence my way of thinking about the world. And then as you grow older, you kind of balance it with economics.
And so Friedman's stuff is amazing to read and to think why he's wrong or right. I think he's a great thinker in that sense. I also admired the work of philosophers like David Hume, which talks a lot about philosophy of science. And Smith. Smith was also a thinker, great philosophical writer as well. Really enjoyed his stuff.
 

Jeremy Au: (30:37)
What is the place of philosophy in a world of technology where everything is moving faster and faster. Should we just chuck it all?
 

Daniel Thong: (30:45)
I think apart from flipping burgers as a skill set, I think it equips you to think critically, zooms out, help you to see, filter noise and signal. And I think that that's been helpful. And philosophy always encourages people to kind of take contrarian views. And I think this alludes to your point that let's say like reading facilities management ostensibly is a very unsexy business.
Doing a subject like philosophy helps you be comfortable with being a bit different. I think that helps. I'm not saying they got me there straight away, Brexit helped as well, but it helps you to be comfortable being different and to be comfortable with your train of thought because you reasoned it out and you basically sought the most intelligent counter argument to your position and you feel that you’re still right.
That makes you more sure that you might be correct. And I think that helps me with my journey. For example, when you talk about when you face moments of doubt or when you look at other successful people around you, et cetera, I think having this good grip off of your yourself and contrarian thinking helps you to know who you are and the journey that you're on so I think that there's a role in philosophy.
Not sure it helps you to see the future. I don't think so, but I think it helps you to be comfortable being a bit more different. And I think we all know it takes a lot of bravery to be doing entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia.
 

Jeremy Au: (32:01)
Awesome. Thank you so much, Daniel. I’ll love to wrap things up by summarizing the three big themes of this discussion.
The first, of course, is thank you so much for sharing your early journey from school at Oxford in philosophy to accidentally becoming an early employee at a company where someone was more of a chairman to someone, where it was actually more of a VC-backed kind of company.
And I loved the learnings that you had as an early employee that let you learn really about the different speeds of the company and how you would think about as a result, the differences between bootstrap or slower speed approach versus more of a VC funded approach and how you lay the ball that it's about the speed and differences and how people should be thinking about it beyond the headlines and the nice offices and things like that.
The second, of course, is a lot of key takeaways about sexy businesses and unsexy businesses, which is not just about the context of office and facilities management and the fact that they're businesses that are actually wealthy businesses even though they're very inefficient. Also on a context was talking about what you learned that B2C often requires a bunch of optimizations that may not necessarily be fully optimized for profitability or for long term sustainability, but more of customer experience, or for fundraising, or for highly competitive cannibalistic markets and different environments, situations, and examples you gave. Also, I think multiple different examples you gave, which were really helpful.
And lastly, thank you so much for that little tidbit about for your philosophy, lots of key words for people to Google and how you think that philosophy isn't something that should be junked but lets you be contrary and have a divergent point of view for other people and lets you be a founder today.
Thank you so much, Daniel, for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.
 

Daniel Thong: (33:53)
Thank you, Jeremy, for having me.