Ethan Ang: Glassdoor vs. Indeed vs. Nodeflair, Founder Persona Projection & Vulnerable Honesty / Dare to Lead - E266

· Podcast Episodes,Purpose,Singapore,Founder

 

"When you admit to not knowing and being scared, it can make you feel weak, but if you have the right team, they will want to help you even more. It's ironic, the more you say you can't do something, the more people come forward and offer their assistance." - Ethan Ang

“One of the most accelerating things for me was getting a coach. It helps because I realize that a lot of the mistakes or the reasons why NodeFlair is not growing as fast as I wish it could have been in 2018 till now and I'm a firm believer that the business grows as fast as the founder. A lot of the kind of bottlenecks or problems that we face was just because of my not being mature enough and not being clear with what I wanted.” - Ethan Ang

 

1. NodeFlair's design philosophy is to consolidate all career-related information on the same portal, instead of prioritizing employers over job seekers like many traditional job boards. Ethan doesn't believe that technology can replace the middle man in the recruitment business. However, he does believe that technology can make the middle man successful. He cites AngelList and Glints as examples of companies that have taken this approach.

2. Team building is a big part of what motivates Ethan Ang. He has realized that being genuine and honest with himself and his team is more important than projecting a certain image of what a leader should be like. He believes that being himself has helped him build a team that follows him for who he is. Ethan Ang's personal role models include more seasoned founders who have been candid with him about the need to be clear about what he wants and not just chase the startup dream.

3. Being vulnerable and honest with your team can be a courageous act, and it can actually lead to more support and collaboration from your team members. The maturity level of your team members is an important factor to consider when deciding how much to share with them about sensitive information such as finances.

Watch, listen or read the full insight including the startup books he recommends, the value of coaching to a founder, and his POV on job platform product development vs. competitors at https://www.bravesea.com/blog/ethan-ang

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Jeremy Au: (01:43)

Hey, Ethan, excited to have you on the show, you are a founder, looking to make things better for job seekers everywhere in Southeast Asia. So excited to have you on a show. Could you introduce yourself real quick?

 

Ethan Ang: (01:55)

Sure. Thanks for having me. I'm Ethan, co-founder of NodeFlair. What we do is that we are a career transparency platform and we offer pay slip verified salary data to Tech talents across Asia. We make money by recruiting for tech companies and today in Singapore, one in four tech talents use Nodeflair to make better career decisions.

 

Jeremy Au: (02:16)

Amazing. So how did you decide to be a founder in the first place?

 

Ethan Ang: (02:21)

So I think it's always in me to be honest, when my first company failed like terribly. I think it took me three to four months before I just like call it quits. Right. There was some time in 2017 when I paused school. Have you heard of NOC, like NUS overseas colleges? Yeah. I was supposed to go to the valley but nobody wanted to hire me. Everyone of my batch batchmates went over aside from me. Right.

Which is very sad. So I took kind of a leave of absence from school. Tried to do like random things, like be like learning how to code and things like that. And then I co-founded a company with my friend, right? In three or four months we realized, okay, it's not gonna work out. And then we just shut it and then it was always in me, right? The itch, and then I joined Shopback then. That was when I realized, oh, okay, execution is everything.

I joined Shopback when it was like pre-series A when it was less than 80 people and now there are thousands of people there. Right. But I was part of the team that helped them with recruiting, and launching teams in Taiwan and Vietnam. So day in, day out I was talking to engineers, right. And I realized it's not just Shopback that faces the same problem. Right. So that was where I just like started in 2018, 1 year on.

 

Jeremy Au: (03:27)

So five years building NodeFlair for career transparency. So, what was it like building it initially? How did you come up with the idea?

 

Ethan Ang: (03:37)

So actually interestingly, we only chanced upon the idea of career transparency only very, I wouldn't say very recently, but in the past one or two years, right? So when we first started, it was purely like, okay, you know what? We just wanna help companies recruit. But we were young and naive, right? We were like, oh, we thought that we could solve this space, this recruiting problem, right? So we just went straight to it without doing any kind of market research. We don't even know the space that well. Right. But I think we were very blessed because when we first started it was like a recruiting company.

It was pure recruiting, like an SME. Even though we had dreams to make it like a tech company, I mean, more into that later but yeah, when we first started recruiting health companies and we made some money and we just survived, right? It was until like, post covid, not in post covid, but like sometime in 2021 when we were talking to candidates and we realized, hey, actually everyone is like complaining. They don't even know what's the salary ban, HR is, very closed about it. They don't wanna tell them.

They were like, why not just use Glassdoor? Right? Find all the information. But they were like, oh, it's not accurate, and things like that. So we kind of spotted a bit of opportunity then and we decided to be like, okay, how can we make a more verified version of glass? So we created NodeFlair.com, right? We relaunched a site and then it was like a big hit. So at that time we just like realized that that's what really people wanted. We are solving not just a salary transparency problem, but just career transparency as a whole and that appealed to a lot of talents. So we just double down on it. Yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (05:05)

I mean, Glassdoor has been fun, right? So, sometimes, you know when I evaluate a new job or evaluating a friend's company, you type it in and then Glassdoor often is one of the top few hits, right? Because it's like always like, what, two unhappy reviews and five very positive reviews, and you're like, something's fishy here. So, what's right with Glassdoor? What went wrong as well from your perspective to say like, Hey, we're better than Glassdoor.

 

Ethan Ang: (05:34)

Right on. Like when you Google and then Glassdoor appears on the top, actually, if you type like carousel software engineer salary or something, company software engineer salary, actually no flat ranks higher than Glassdoor for most of the keywords. And in fact, we have been tracking several keyword searches that we rank first and are growing quickly.

So I think our SEO has been we have been investing a lot in SEO and we are trying to make ourselves rank at the top, right? Because we know we had the most reliable data when it comes to saying Singapore, right? To your question, what went wrong with Glassdoor? There was a question, right? I can't say that there's something wrong with Glassdoor, to be honest. I think there are still a lot of users who use Glassdoor, in fact, a lot of users use Glassdoor and NodeFlair, right? Like concurrently, there's no like, one place that they check, they check multiple places. Well, I think one of the key things is that their reviews are very strong, right? Everyone goes there for reviews.

There are a lot of emotions. Sometimes, it becomes almost like a gossip place, right? But when it comes to salary, we realize that the band, it's not accurate like we have real numbers, and when we compare, it seems to be very off. So we have some hypotheses and some theories, right? But if you go to Glassdoor today, the first page you're greeted with is actually to sign up. Or to add some information, you can't even read anything. It proves to be a very painful feature gate for many users. And the normal reaction is, how can I get out of that feature gate? And actually, you can put any data in, and you can get by. You can access a site. But what you realize is that one or two days later, your data that you randomly put in without any backing is on Glassdoor.

So, which is like, okay they're kind of pushing for the number of submissions, but at the end of the day, is it really verified? Is it real data? Right? And you have that kind of corrupted data, and that's where people are like, oh, okay. I'm not sure how much I can trust, yeah. So we are like, okay, maybe we should do something there. Yeah. So that was how we thought about it.

 

Jeremy Au: (07:31)

Yeah. I think the tricky part, as you said, is like, I think a lot of people use Glassdoor, but it doesn't feel like it has all the best reviews. Right. And honestly, it doesn't really feel like It's gotten a lot of attention or development or product improvements over time. Right. So it does seem to be continuing to harvest in reviews, but it doesn't seem to have any velocity in terms of product updates. Right. And I think a big part of it, actually, from my perspective, was I remember years ago I found out that, Glassdoor belonged to Indeed. Right.

And I was just so shocked. Right. Because I was like, Indeed there's the hiring side and then Glassdoor, I mean also has jobs as well. But it's about a review side, right. It kind of made me kind of very curious about how it all, operates and links together. What are your thoughts about that? Yeah.

 

Ethan Ang: (08:14)

Okay, so quickly actually, Glassdoor got bought over by Recruit Holdings and Indeed got bought over by Recruit Holdings. So, the biggest kind of puppet player is really Recruit Holdings and then they try to kind of force some synergy in between, right? I think what. According to some sources that I have, right? Not too sure how accurate they will be, but when they look at Glassdoor, they were like, okay, retention is good. There's a lot of people going there, re-engagement is high. Can we kind of like do something there? Right.

Whereas Indeed it's very kind of like touch and go, you come here looking for jobs off you go. But actually in these 10 times, beginning Glassdoor, right? So one thing that is not yet kind of exactly proven is how can Glassdoor generate value for recruiting, right? So I don't have enough sources to tell you that but I think at the end of the day it's also intense, right? So, for example, right,, a user that goes to Indeed has a high intention to apply for a job. Whereas you, Glassdoor, look at the same number of users, actually a higher up the funnel, right? Because they're there to kind of like read information. They're not exactly serious job applicants. They may be just considering right? Per traffic Indeed is more available. Right?

Because they are closer to the money or so. Unless they can do something to kind of spin up and generate CVs or generate some form of value for recruiting, I think it'll always just be a condenser. Right. Where you play on ads, you play on some other model where like cost per view or something like a cost me pressure or something like that. Yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (09:47)

These are separate platforms, which makes sense, right? I mean, from their perspective if you're a job applicant that's curious about it, you wanna know Glassdoor reviews, right? Versus Indeed is very much geared at candidates and, but very much is geared at recruiters too, kind of like putting a transaction dollar in to get candidates through the door, right? So I think there's some argument that each website kind of goes for different things and, but I think they also work very hard to keep their arm's length at the brand. Right. So it is just not intuitive that they're linked in any form or fashion. Right. And what we do know, for example, is that Glassdoor reviews are subject to review and monetization for the companies as well. You wanna explain a little bit about what happens there?

 

Ethan Ang: (10:27)

Oh, monetization. It's very interesting. So, if you look at Glassdoor, some of our main monetization kind of channels are like Job Ads, which is. I guess jobs are classified. It's very similar to Indeed, right? But one of the key ones is employer branding. Right. When I talk about employer branding, I mean charging some form of like fee subscription to give control to the employer to say re reply to bad feedback and having to cherry-pick some of the reviews to pin at the top. I don't consider employer bending because I think, of it as more like brand defence, right? It's like kind of someone holding a knife to, to, to your throat and like, do you wanna pay and can you do something there? Right, and that has been their kind of main channel.

But if you look deeper, right? Job Ads are super profitable. It's a super good business, right? The problem is with the Glassdoor itself, because you think about it, right? If you have very bad branding on Glassdoor, would you even advertise on Glassdoor? You wouldn't, right? But you would do it on Indeed. So I think that was really one of their main struggles with Glassdoor. And that's why when you look at Indeed like. They have reviews, right? Indeed actually, they kind of partner with Glassdoor. So some of the reviews actually appear on Indeed, but it's not as visible and it's by design, right? So you have to kind of click a few clicks in to see reviews and, but that, that's the crux of it, right? Indeed know that the game is employees first.

Employers pay Indeed, therefore they prioritize employers and make it like jobs first. Whereas Glassdoor is candidate centric, right? Where it's like, I want to show you the most realistic feedback, but employees hate it and employees don't want to pay for it. And that's why I think that it was one of the reasons why Indeed it's 10 times bigger than Glassdoor. Yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (12:09)

And what's interesting is that you took the opposite approach, right? Because you go to NodeFlair, you know you have consolidated all of them, right? They're all on the same portal in that sense. So what's your design philosophy behind that?

 

Ethan Ang: (12:19)

So actually I can't claim that we have it all figured out, right? But, we were very clear and we did test this, right? So, when we are part of the iterative accelerator program, we tried many things including monetizing using job ads and employer branding. And that was where we had like a salary learnings about why people don't even wanna pay them, I think one of our clients actually told us like, why would you wanna pay it where people talk shit at? So I'm like actually that makes a lot of sense. Right? This is why I also realized that that may not be the kind of the future of, our company.

But I think that we, at the of the day, I think we have to be very clear about what business we are in, right? We are in a recurring business. Hundred percent currently of our revenue comes from the executive such, which is a very consulting, very service kind of business, right? And the question is, how can we make it better, right? Grow it bigger do it better than the incumbents who are very traditional. So actually NodeFlair, our site is kept quite separate from actually the recruiting business. Right. So there's a team that's maybe looking at how can we grow the traffic there, but eventually generate some form of value for the recruiting team, but not in, in a sense where we monetize directly, like, charge employers cost for employer bending or job ads. No, it's like, how can we get users what they want, which is salary data, and use it as a hook to get them to submit CVs, which then is a lead generation tool for recruiting business and we've seen parallel businesses that do this.

One of them is Glints, I think they did it very well, where they get a ton of, CVs from their site. They don't charge a single cent, they don't monetize on the platform yet. But they get a lot of value from the platform, and at the end of the day, their core revenue stream is still services.

 

Jeremy Au: (14:05)

And as you see this it feels crowded, right? I mean, it feels like there's lots of different, career approaches, right? And there's all these different marketplaces, right? I mean, even in the US they scrape, and have Google jobs, right? They scrape everybody's carousels as well for their search rate for jobs. So where do you think it lands up? Where do you think the landscape will end up?

 

Ethan Ang: (14:29)

The interesting thing you talked about, like what other companies are doing well. To be clear, when we first started a company, we were running like an I would say traditional recruitment firm. But we did dabble with a lot of things when, back then, when hired.com was still a thing, right? Where it's like tech enables talent marketplace basically charging the same fees as traditional firms, which is very higher, like say 20 or 25% of annual, but not doing the recruitment work, right, which is like, okay, recruit, like, HR, you guys search yourself. I think it wasn't a very good outcome for them either.

So, we tried, but that wasn't a very good outcome for us either. Yeah. So, at least for me, I think operating in this space for a while, I do not believe that technology can replace the middleman because at the end of the day, right, I think if you see a lot of these kinds of HR tech companies, what they're doing is like, oh, okay. We are gonna be AI-powered. We are gonna replace the middle man. I never believed in that because I don't think that that's the way it works. Like, because at end of the day, finding us a job it's very emotional. Yes. I think that there are some requirements on both sides.

So for example, right, employers say, I want not js, I won skillset A, B, C, D. But actually, there are a ton of candidates that meet that required. But at the end of the day when they. You can't quantify that. Yeah. So a lot of this kind of AI, is trying to like, oh, read the JD read the profile, but actually what happens is that 70 to 80% of digital is made out of the cd out of JD, right? Yeah. So, I do not believe in technology replacing the middleman, but I do believe that technology can make it. The meter is successful, which is our approach and our strategy. And I've seen companies like Angel List, I think they rebranded or something like that. But yeah, the US is Angel List in Southeast Asia, I think Glint is a big player. I think they all took this approach and I think it's the right approach. Yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (16:21)

During this time, how have you changed and evolved as a founder and leader.

 

Ethan Ang: (16:29)

Interesting question. Yeah, so I think for, I've been, when I first started the company in 2018 just being super vulnerable here, right? The company has been around for close to five years, right? When we first started with a cofounder, we started like a recruiting business. Right. But I think at the back of my mind, of our mind is always like, we wanna be a tech company. There was this startup dream, blah. And looking back, I kind of cringe a little bit because honestly, like all I cared about was like, okay, we wanna be a tech company. We wanna be a founder of a tech company. What that means, we don't know. Right? We don't know.

We just wanted to run a tech company, be very successful to the eyes of, I don't know, like people we wanna raise VC funds. The more seasoned founders, right, like my ex-boss and, many founders who are kind enough and candid enough to tell you in your face. They're like, why do you need to raise VC money? I don't know. In my mind, I don't know and, on the surface, I cook for some reason. Yeah, so, it's always like this journey with yourself and struggles. Like, what, what are you building towards? Right. I was not super clear, at least with my co-founder a lot, and it was always like chasing this tech dream. But when we realize that at the end of the day, we just wanna do something useful, we just wanna create value, we are, we just wanna do something that can eventually win, then the approaches that, okay, we are actually a services business, but how can we use technology and make it better? How can we take more market share? What is our USP.

And you realize that actually, things are very simple. We are running a business, we are just trying to get much market share. And I think that has helped me a lot though from being very jaded and naive to be more realistic. Yeah, that is what I'll say.

 

Jeremy Au: (18:13)

So you mentioned there's a gap between you versus the founder that you wish you were. Right. Can you share a little bit more about?

 

Ethan Ang: (18:22)

I wouldn't say I'm the founder I want to be. I think I've honestly come, came a long way. Right? I think the, one big one is really being very naive which is like having this startup dream. Like, oh, I want, as I said, I want this tech. I wanna run a tech company. Whatever that means. I don't know. I can't tell you right? To evolve, to be super clear about what you really want. What I want, at least and just pursuing that relentlessly, I think has, one of the key things that make me do what I do every day one of the key things is all team building. So I realized that yes, I want to create impact, I want to build, a meaningful company and make everyone with investors, team, whatever, with, right.

But I realized team building was a big part, that I got a kind of like a revelation, right? So, Interestingly my friends know me as that crazy guy, that funny guy, and whatever, right? This person that they know, but in office, right. I'm like super different. And it's kind of funny because it's like, why is that? Like are you living a double life or something? Right? So I always have this impression that, as a founder, I needed this persona. I need to know this, I need to know that. I can't say I don't know. So there's this like persona that I try to kind of build towards. I read a lot and then I try to like build it up, but it becomes very unnatural. Yeah. Become very unnatural. Become a very different person. So my recent kind of revelation is just as cliche as it sounds, right? Just, be yourself. Just be genuinely yourself. And if people don't like it, they're a problem, right? It's okay, right?

They don't join you which is great. And, then you build a team that loves you, that, that follows you for who you are. I think it's much more natural. I think a lot of this also contributed to insecurity. So for example, when we went up fundraising, In 2019, and 2020, we pitched about what we wanna build, but people are like this is not, I don't wanna back this. I don't want to invest in this because of reasons A, B, C. Then I'll be like, oh, why? Why is that the case? Maybe I need to tweak my business plan to what they wanna see. Right? And then you do this enough, you start building something that people want to know what you want. And that was exactly what happened. Right? Which is like, right? Yeah. You're trying to build something that you don't want. You wake up, and you question what you build, what you're doing, what you're repeating.

So long story short, I would say is just not being super clear about what I want in the early days but now being super clear that has helped and being super genuine and just being honest with myself and building a team around that will want to follow me in this journey has been one of the biggest revelations, I say that has helped me a lot, even in my morale. Yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (21:07)

I mean, I think there's a lot of truth, right? I mean, I think we're always projecting, right? I mean, we're at work and we wanna be on top of it. And we want to be a good managers. And a good teammate. Right? And personally myself, I always tell people it's like, Hey, if you don't know how to be a good boss, just act like a good boss, right? And, tell yourself what would a good boss do. And then act like that person, and that's good enough because the persons receiving it, only know what you say and what you do, right? So they don't know what's going on in your mind. And if you commit to actually acting like a good boss, then in effect, you are a good boss. Right. Because that's what is the actual consequence at the end of the day. Right.

 

Ethan Ang: (21:44)

But do you still believe in that?

 

Jeremy Au: (21:47)

I still do I just think that people want you to be a good boss and sometimes it's worth simulating what that looks like. Right. And it's good for them. Right. It's like, I don't know. It's like, I don't know. You imagine if you're like at Starbucks, right? And then you're like, you're serving your Barista and another person is like, are you happy to give me a coffee? And I'll be like, no. Like, I'd rather be somewhere else, right? I mean, I mean that's bad, right? Because the transaction is that you sign up to be a Starbucks Barista, the transaction is that you serve them coffee, right? Even if you're good mood, or a bad mood, you serve them the coffee, right? And sometimes I guess leading a team, the transaction at some level and performance review mode is don't be an asshole and be a good boss. Right. And you gotta do it for one hour. Just do it for an hour.

 

Ethan Ang: (22:34)

But I disagree with that. That's the thing. Right? I went through that because yeah, like I always like, I read so much, right? About like, oh, what is it to be a great leader? Right? These are the things you need to do. Right? And then I personify that character that I kind of made up in my head and kind of like duct tape it with all the things I read, right? And then people can feel it, they'll be unnatural. Like even doing one on ones. It's bad. It's like they won't be honest with you. Right? And then, I was just talking to my colleague yesterday about why we even do one-on-ones. And I think a lot of people missed the point, right?

Because for us I was like, okay, come up with a one-on-one template, right? And then you just fill it up and make sure you have a routine. But what is our outcome? Realize that at the end of the day, it's just an outcome mantra. It's just taking care of our people, right? We want people to say, I love my job. And that means three parts, right? One is say, some form of career growth if that's what they're optimizing for and that's a finance element, let's not lie, right? So, how can we make that have some financial breakthrough? And the last third one is like, I have a best friend at work. I think these are the three main parts. And how do we make people say, I love my job? And how can we as leaders grow them to the direction that they want, that they will say, Hey, joining NodeFlair is the best design in my career. it requires very genuine conversation and you consider the person on the other side to be super vulnerable, right? Saying like, actually, I want to earn this amount. I want to grow to this level.

I aspire to be a manager, a leader by this age, and having this template sitting opposite, someone typing while they are talking about it and being this like this persona, this leader or manager, they won't be as vulnerable and they won't share that. And which is a problem also, which is why I feel like, I realize that people can sense it very well I think it's just a human thing and I can sense it when people are not being genuine with me. So, Yeah, I realize like, just be yourself and then just tell them like, I think the heart for them. Of course. You have to be like, you have to love the team enough to like, I really wanna succeed. You want the company a blessing to them. Then, of course, I think everything will guide. But yeah, I tried being that manager, whatever that means. Right. That image. Right. And it felt terrible, I have a team that like left me. I have a team that hates me. Like, so, like I don't wanna do that anymore. Like that was, 2018 to 20, arguably even 2022, so yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (25:08)

Yeah. I mean is a work it progresses, right? And the truth is in 10 years, you and I will be better managers because of experience, which means that as of today, we had the worst we have ever been in the next 10 years. Right. And I, I think the crux of it, I mean, the truth of the matter is that if your bad boss is better to be a boss with a script. Because you get to a certain level of performance. Right. But I think if you are already hit at a certain level of performance, it's intrinsic in you, you feel comfortable.

That's when I think you can be more natural and relaxed. Right. I think that's why we saw that in I don't know if you saw some of the research on teachers, they're out there, right? They're like, if you are a terrible teacher, it's better for you to have a classroom script that you follow and your teaching outcomes are better. But once you hit a certain level of proficiency, then you can let go of the script, and you can be better. Right. Be more of a teacher. So, for you, you've mentioned a lot about, kind of like looking up the founders doing a lot of research. So who is your personal role models from your perspective?

 

Ethan Ang: (26:02)

Role models, actually, it's not that far away. Right? So I think the first one is actually my ex-boss lot, right? I worked with him for Henry, right from Shopback. I worked with Henry for one year. I worked my ass off there. I, I think he is very candid, a little bit too candid at times, but I think when he gives you feedback or his thoughts you feel hurt, right? But when you think back one or two years later right, you'll be like, why didn't I heed that advice? Why you're so, why am I so stubborn? Right? Yeah. So, I always kind of respected his just his focus. He's very focused on his execution and his ability to just really push people. Somehow he can. I don't know, sell you that dream.

And I also have that dream myself, so I kind of know what it means, right? So I always looked up to him, to today and another person, Hui Wei, right? I just feel, I always, when I, whenever I look at Hui Wei or, just interact with him and see how he interact with his team, I always just have this one-word generality, right? I think one of the most genuine bosses. Of course, I wouldn't know the ins and outs. Right. But just from my kind of like quick judgment and seeing how he reacts and behaves around his team, I always found he's a very very genuine guy. And I told myself that I always wanted to build a team where with a bunch of people I can be vulnerable. Yeah. So I learn a lot from body language and everything and just be much clearer on what we're gonna build.

 

Jeremy Au: (27:37)

And on that note, have, when have you personally been brave?

 

Ethan Ang: (27:44)

Oh would say is the past, I mean, it's always a work in progress, but I think one of the bravest moments is the decision to be the mental switch to be vulnerable with my team, to go to my team and say like, Hey, I don't know how to do this. Yeah. And just say like, Hey, I'm scared. I'm really scared. Why are you doing this? I'm scared. Like, and just, and just be honest. Right. And you'll be so surprised that people actually will like, who look in your eye and like, yeah. I'm sorry, I didn't think that this will have this effect or whatever, and like, Hey, can we try this together? So, and I think being brave and having the courage to say, I don't know right is ironically very courageous. Like you, because it's not easy, right?

To tell people like, I don't know, I'm scared. It almost sounds like you're weak. But I actually feel that if you assemble the right team, when you are sort of weak in front of them and being honest with them. The more people want to help you. In fact, there is irony, right? The more you say you don't know, I can't do this. The more people come here and say, let me do this. And I think that has been the most amazing or the bravest thing I've done, which has served me very well. Yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (29:00)

I think a lot of folks many folks struggle with that, right? Because, they don't want to be vulnerable, they don't wanna be honest. I think they rather just kind of, like you said, channel the persona, right? Or, the, so what are some of the trade-offs that you think to happen when you are vulnerable and honest with people? Do people cheat you? Does it not work? How does it feel? Yeah.

 

Ethan Ang: (29:21)

I'll let you know the answer in one year, no, but I think I have early signs of that because, It's not, it doesn't work for everyone. Let, let's be honest. Okay? I'll give you an example, right? Cash and bank. Do you tell your team that? Okay, my answer depends on a certain group of people you can't. But the thing is, you can't count on certain people's maturity when it comes to, say, sharing such sensitive information. So I'll, I'll give you an example. If you're half a million in the bank, person A will interpret., Holy cow. There's a lot of money. Person B may interpret as this a sinking ship. Some people will not follow up with questions, which is like, what's your burn? How much are we spending? Are we profitable? Right? So half a million can be really very little, or it could be like super good if it's like super profitable, right? So the thing is some people are not candid enough or would not be curious enough to kind of poke holes or question deeper.

They may just take it as face value and like, this is bad, I'm out. So it depends on the maturity of the team as well. Right. Because you know the common one, since you're talking about Glassdoor, right? People look at the reviews and take it at face value. Is it true though that the company is that bad? We all know that there are some biases in the reviews. For example, are you gonna take it and accept that as the final. It can be a good conversation starter, but I think it cannot be taken as a conclusion. Right? And the same thing for this. When you're vulnerable, when I, at least when I'm vulnerable with my team, what I expect is to weigh right. They should reciprocate in the certain degree, or if they're uncomfortable, they tell me they're uncomfortable, and then give me the chance to clarify certain things.

 

For example, say cash in the bank. But not everyone will be mature enough to do that. Right. So I guess it really depends on the team you build. And that has been a big criterion for me right now for anyone who wants to work with me in NodeFlair and works with me directly, especially me they have to be vulnerable. It's a two-way street, yeah.

 

Jeremy Au: (31:22)

As you think through this, What are some of the books that you think are important that founders should read or that you found that personally have been great or instrumental in your professional development?

 

Ethan Ang: (31:40)

So one of my favourite books, and one of the first few I sort of like startup or business books I read is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, right? I think it's a lot of people's favourite. I just love the hustle. Right. But one of the things that changed me was this book called, okay, if I'm not wrong, it's called Dare To Lead by, Brené Brown. I think it has been a big part of our conversation today, which is the courage to, be vulnerable with your feelings and ironically, when you say you don't know, I think people will respect you more. Again, depends on the team you build. But at least that's my style. I think in the end it's just how do you build a team around you that is your style and you're most comfortable with? And this happens to be my style, I guess. I would just kind of continue that like, but yeah, these two books, I would say The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and Dare To Lead by, Brené Brown.

 

Jeremy Au: (32:32)

If you could travel back in time to let's say a time machine, back to the time when you were the only person in the NOC program to not get an attachment, right? If you step on your time machine and you got, coffee with your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?

 

Ethan Ang: (32:46)

Okay. So first of all, I really believe that things happen for a reason now, right? It is always a journey, right? But honestly, one of the most accelerating things for me was getting a coach because I think so I will literally tell my old self, Hey, just get a coach, man. Like it helps because I realize that a lot of the mistakes or the reason why NodeFlair is not growing as fast as I wish it could be in 2018 till now, I'm a firm believer that the business grows as fast as the founder. Right. And I think a lot of the kind of bottlenecks or problems that we face was just because of me not being mature enough and not being clear with what I want. And I think that one way to accelerate is to do self-reflection. Getting a coach would be very helpful. At least that has helped me a lot. So yeah, get a coach or do some self-infection or journaling.

 

Jeremy Au: (33:41)

Thank you. So, on that note, I'd love to kind of summarize the three big themes I got from this conversation. The first of course is I enjoyed the discussion between and comparing, Glassdoor Indeed and NodeFlair. So talking a little bit about, the journey from an job applicant or someone who's looking at reviews. But also looking at it from a recruiter perspective, some of the trade-offs around whether to advertise or whether to list a job or how to social candidates. And I thought it was very interesting to hear about the explicit choices that NodeFlair made initially and some of the changes that you made to pivot or kind of like ad products, right?

Including creating that more of that one-stop shop from the candidate's perspective. But like I said, still focusing on recruiters as another target segment. The second, of course, is I appreciate, I think your reflections around what it means to project a founder persona. So, the founder persona that you felt was really important to have or to admire versus, I think the mechanisms that you had to try to channel that. Right. And I think that a little bit of a debate about when it's useful and when it's not useful when you know you are capable enough to be natural or, and when you require more of a script.

And lastly, thank you so much for sharing about I think a consistent theme of vulnerable honesty, right? The goal of being honest with people who want you to be honest and are okay with you being honest, but also accepting that there is a vulnerability in that conversation. And as a result, you know how much Dare To Lead has been, a great book that has been a good catalyst for your own personal growth. I also love the phrase that you said about how the company grows as fast as the leader grows. And I thought your reflections around pushing for more executive coaching and personal self-awareness and growth is a really important lesson for many founders to take home.

 

Ethan Ang: (35:23)

Yeah, thanks for the summary.