Jianggan Li: China Tech Giant Expansion, Entering Southeast Asia & Venture Building Lessons - E345

· Southeast Asia,Singapore,China

“One important thing is that timing is super important. What's the right thing that you are supposed to do at a particular point in time? For instance, a big mistake we made back in 2014 was that we focused a lot of time on improving tech rate and operational efficiency, which essentially is needed for this business to be sustainable, but not at that early stage of the market where fundraising and market share still mattered more to investors and other ecosystem stakeholders. We didn't know. We thought that was the right thing to do and nobody stopped us.” - Jianggan Li

“Professor Chen and I devised a framework called POP leadership: people, organization, product leadership. We always thought that for any company to succeed in a foreign market, it should go with this order in terms of importance: leadership, people, organization, and product. All companies from China that survive the competition there are usually good in terms of expertise, product, and understanding of the specific domain they operate in, but they’ve been operating in a large single market where you can concentrate resources and leadership had enough attention. But when you go to other markets like Southeast Asia, every market is different and requires you to make decisions and assess the situation. It's a struggle for leaders. People talk about localization a lot, but localization should start with the mindset of the leader. The leader needs to be in the market, understanding the dynamics, the consumers, and the partners. If you don't have the energy to do it yourself, you might as well invest in someone you trust to do it.” - Jianggan Li

“Many Chinese founders have been used to a very fast pace of growth and death. You see this in Southeast Asia quite often because of the availability of funds, versus China between 2011 and 2016 because of the infrastructure issues and lots of things are not going to be as fast. Figuring out the elements for you to succeed, the infrastructure elements, people elements, and organizational elements that are missing will impact your speed and give you the right assessment. The last thing you want is going to a promising market, taking an approach that is too aggressive, and after a year and a half, I concluded that it's not a good market, but somebody else used all the infrastructure I'd built and acquired all the customers have educated and then built something great.” - Jianggan Li

In this discussion, Jianggan Li, Founder & CEO of Momentum Works, and Jeremy Au delved into three key themes:

1. China Tech Giants: Jianggan authored “Seeing the Unseen: Behind Chinese Tech Giants' Global Venturing,” which sheds light on the strategies and struggles of Chinese tech giants in global markets. He discusses the tactical decisions and leadership styles of Chinese tech giants, as well as intense domestic competition coupled with limited domestic growth in China,

2. Entering Southeast Asia: Jianggan and Jeremy talked about the recent wave of Chinese tech companies expanding into Southeast Asia. Jianggan explained that earlier expansion efforts were more opportunistic, with major companies like Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba making significant investments and acquisitions, contrasting with the current necessity-driven expansion due to policy shifts and geopolitical factors. He advises companies to prioritize understanding local market dynamics and building sustainable business models that integrate regionally and emphasizes the importance of leadership and dedicated resources in successful joint ventures and strategic expansion.

3. Venture Building Lessons: Jianggan narrated his diverse career path, beginning as a computer engineer, progressing through an INSEAD MBA, and then venturing into various entrepreneurial roles as Regional Managing Director at Easy Taxi, and co-founding multiple startups like HalalNode and PasarPinjam. He eventually transitioned to founding Momentum Works, a venture builder. He speaks candidly about the complexities and pressures of leading a startup, emphasizing the drastic shift in responsibilities of being at the helm. He learned during the time of the cutthroat ride-hailing market being dominated by network effects and a winner-takes-all mentality. His experience also highlighted the difference between managing an existing company and founding a new one, where personal stakes and responsibilities are significantly higher.

They also talked about navigating different market environments, the psychological challenges and emotional resilience required in entrepreneurship, and the strategic considerations involved in forming joint ventures.

Supported by Fluid

Did you know that over 70% of B2B trades are conducted on credit terms? Yet, many suppliers struggle to support this, leading to lost business opportunities. Fluid offers instant B2B financing with one tap, seamlessly integrating with marketplaces and supplier platforms. This payment flexibility empowers buyers to secure their purchases on credit terms or installments. This results in increased basket sizes and an influx of new buyers for suppliers. Fluid provides a great user experience and the ability to facilitate high-velocity trade. This differentiates Fluid from traditional digital lenders and invoice financing companies. Want to learn more? Get in touch with Trasy, Fluid's cofounder, at trasy@gofluid.io to learn more.

(01:58) Jeremy Au:

Hey Jianggan, really excited to have you in the show. You have been such a great resource on e-commerce as well as other regional trends on startups. So wanted to hear your story. Could you share a little bit about yourself real quick?

(02:10) Jianggan Li:

Thank you for having me, Jeremy. Good to be here. My name is Jianggan. I'm currently the CEO founder of Momentum Works, a venture outfit based out of Singapore. But for the last 10 years, I've been involved different kinds of ventures in Southeast Asia, starting with ride-hailing and food delivery, then e-commerce, a fintech and sold a fintech company in Indonesia, and now here I am. I'm originally from China, but I've been in Singapore since high school, so I spent more time here in Southeast Asia than in China.

(02:36) Jeremy Au:

You know, junior college, Nanyang Technological University. A Bachelor of Engineering honors in computer engineering all the way back then. So what were you like as a teenager? Were you very into computer engineering? What was it like?

(02:49) Jianggan Li:

Actually it was interesting because when I was about to come to Singapore, that was when computers started to become popular in China. And my friends and I sort of begged our parents to buy computers for us. And initially we didn't know how to play with it. Every single function, we could find a computer, you try to play with it. And, when we came to Singapore and the resources were much more available back then, in 2000, so, so we got to play a lot more with that, and then we said, okay, this is probably the future, yeah.

(03:14) Jeremy Au:

And what's interesting is that you eventually, doing engineering, but how did you get into the world of startups and technology? How did you make that transition?

(03:22) Jianggan Li:

I think there was a practical consideration when I was graduating from NTU with a computer engineering back in 2006. so lots of my friends want to look for jobs in banks, or financial institutions and many of them went to solve the larger companies like HP, IBM, et cetera. But I always thought I was a bit unsatisfied in entering these kinds of jobs and by coincidence, I was actually working as a simultaneous interpreter when I was in my final year I needed to earn some money. And and I bumped to a guy who started a sort of media slash consultancy company adoption in public sector. And he invited me to join and I was about to graduate. So I just did join and that was a small company. I joined as employee number six. Over five years, we built the company to 120 people. I mean, of course, not the same as what we would, sort of, look at startups nowadays with tech, right? But it was still a journey, like building a company from, scratch. Then think as a young person, you get bored once the company's growth hits the plateau at some point in time. so that's why I decided to, to go for an MBA with INSEAD. And when I was graduating from INSEAD, a friend of mine there said that, oh, he had a friend who was working for Oracle Internet and they had a company in that tried to enter in Asia. Do you want to run it? So that's how it started.

(04:31) Jeremy Au:

Just run the business as the managing director and cofounder.

(04:34) Jianggan Li:

I just run the business and I had no idea what the business was, I had no idea what the product was. And all I did was have two chats and they liked me and I was not sure, 'cause I didn't have enough time to think whether I would like them, but still, they gave the offer the same day.

(04:47) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And what was it like building Easy Taxi over those two years?

(04:51) Jianggan Li:

I think first you really made lots of friends. Because the company was at Global Scale and it was part of Rocket, as we're joking about it, every non-German running a key position within EasyTaxi became good friends. And you're really figuring out lots of things not only yourself, but with people who are working with you, people who are running the business in different countries. I was running Southeast Asia. I was particularly close to the guys running the same business in the Middle East, for example, because we're always spending the same time pushing for the same tech features. So that's the first thing.

And the second is you spend a lot of time figuring out operations, figuring out business intelligence, marketing, and people. This is very good training for you to eventually run your own business. Although running your own business is very different from being a rocket founder.

(05:32) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And what was interesting is that you were at the start of the taxi wars between Grab , Gojek, Uber, and yourself, what were some lessons that you took away from that experience?

(05:41) Jianggan Li:

I think one important thing is that timing is super important. What's the right thing that you are supposed to do at a particular point in time. For instance, I think a big mistake we made back in 2014 was we focused a lot of time on improving the tech rate, and improving the operational efficiency, which essentially is needed for this business to be sustainable, but probably not at that early stage of the market where fundraising and market share still mattered much more to investors as well as other ecosystem stakeholders. So we didn't know. thought that was the right thing to do and nobody stopped us.

(06:10) Jeremy Au:

That's an interesting dynamic because a lot of these ride-hailing really has a lot of network effects and those network effects lead to a winner's take-all market. So as a result, if you know that there's a winner-takes-all market where you can eventually have to take a rate, 10 or 20 years down the road, then it requires you to act a little bit crazy in the short term. At that time, were people thinking about this like network effects and winner takes all, or was it something that people were still trying to figure out back then?

(06:34) Jianggan Li:

I think people are trying to figure out because I think the whole red herring thing across the world started around the same time. So you do have references like Uber, you have DD, but and, and we know that some of the investors have done different scenarios to to advise the companies what's the right path of growth, but like many things, right? when you are in it, running it, when you're facing daily challenges, sometimes you don't really have the energy to think about what matters the most. And everything we, like a few years down the road, when you do a review, it all makes sense, retrospectively but when you are in the ground, it's very hard for you to take a step out and see the bigger picture.

(07:09) Jeremy Au:

So you had a very fast and intense experience for two years at EasyTaxi as the regional managing director across Asia, across six countries with over total team, over 250 people. And then you wrapped it up and then you were like, okay, I want to do this again cause you went on to become a founder and managing director again afterwards. So I'm just kind of curious about why you decided to keep going.

(07:29) Jianggan Li:

We had actually a group of people who, at a very young age, in mid-twenties, late twenties, you were entrusted with lots of money and you were entrusted with a lot responsibilities. You had a team to run, and you had an exhilarating experience. So I think most people that I was working with would like rocket funders, find it extremely difficult for them to go back to actually work for someone else or work in a position where you need to have a lot of like reporting and stuff. So I think psychologically when you had like a high and you are always looking to not necessarily replicate it, but exceed that experience because you feel not satisfied. You want to do something else.. That might not be entirely rational.

(08:07) Jeremy Au:

So why is it not entirely rational from your perspective?

(08:10) Jianggan Li:

I think different people have different life goals and I think almost all of us took the path of high risk. You want to build something, but the thing that you try to build over the years tend to have high risk and you have high chances of failure. So for investment strategy or investing in your personal time and the key thing is not to make major mistakes rather than to to take a huge bet.

(08:30) Jeremy Au:

And what's interesting is you built 2 companies, right?, Both of them had very strong links with Indonesia. One was named Halal Node and another one was Pasir Pinjam. Can you share a little bit about what your learnings were?

(08:42) Jianggan Li:

The key thing is when you start funding your own company and raising money from other people, it feels very different from when you are a managing director running a company, that you don't personally own, or you didn't start and own a majority. So I only felt that when I was doing my own startups and of course, I mean, people have done lots of analysis to see which factors are different objectively, but the psychological effect is different because when you are working for Rocket, you can anytime tell them saying that, hey, I quit here's my one month notice. But when you and also you can always have someone to blame when a strategy doesn't work out, but we are running all your own things, psychologically, it feels very different. You are responsible for everything. You're responsible for the strategy. You're responsible for the people that you have recruited. You're responsible for the shareholders that you have brought on board. So you get much more sleepless nights compared to when you were Rocket founder, even though as rocket founder it's very tiring.

(09:32) Jeremy Au: From there you went on to, basically build out Momentum Works as well. So could you share a little bit more about that? Because there's a career transition, right? Because in moving from a founder and operator towards being a founder, CEO of Momentum Works, could you share a little bit more about Momentum Works?

(09:47) Jianggan Li:

So I think Momentum Works started in 2017 and before that I was, I spent a bit of time in the Middle East doing some e-commerce advisory. And when I came back, I was trying to figure out what to do next. And of course, I wanted to build something. And lots of people want to build things, but finding the right thing to build, find something that you're passionate about. Might not be that straightforward. So I was kind of lucky to bump into a few veterans in different parts of the tech ecosystem, they said, why don't you take some money and build a few things at the same time and use that to figure out what you're truly passionate about, what I truly want to believe uh, build, and I think what you mentioned just now, Passar Pinjam, Halal Node, we actually built under Momentum Works. I mean, some of them succeeded, most of them failed. And we had one exit, which happened a week before the pandemic. So we signed on the 13th of January 2020, and a week later, nobody could move anymore. ,, I mean, the period after that, the half-year kind of gave us a pause. We said, okay we had always been running nonstop, right? I mean, if one company fails and you recover a team, try to build something else, if the company succeeds, and if it was not for the pandemic, we'll probably go back into the market in Indonesia or any other emerging country in Southeast Asia and try to build something.

So because of the pandemic, we're forced to take a break. And it was weird. I mean, for the first time since 2020, when I first moved to Singapore, I got to discover Singapore properly. I've been to the neighborhoods and places I've never been to before, I mean, over 20 years. And then things started reflecting on what you should do next. and then Momentum Works evolved into something more of have insights arm and a consulting arm. We have an academy arm where we work with leadership programs for large organizations. And we still have a small venture arm but we become much more cautious and respectful towards ventures.

(11:24) Jeremy Au:

During this pandemic time, you also took the time to do some writing and you wrote the book, seeing the unseen behind Chinese tech giants, global venturing. And thank you for your copy. I definitely had a great time actually learning a lot, and what's definitely interesting was that. , I think that back in the 2010s, for example, it was all about American companies, Uber and Airbnb. But, I think around all the way up to 2020, it was very much about the Chinese companies, so Tencent, and I think we've seen so many founders in Southeast Asia who have been inspired by the Chinese approach because of maybe it's a better fit for GDP per capita, maybe it's a better fit in this approach, cultural affinity. I thought it was a really good behind-the-scenes look about what's actually happening there. Could you share a little bit more about your writing process? How did you decide to come out of the book? And what the writing process was like?

(12:07) Jianggan Li:

Okay. So before the pandemic, I was actually a guest lecturing at INSEAD at Change China Strategy MBA course. So professor was my coauthor. When the pandemic hit, And we were stuck at home and he couldn't do his executive education. I couldn't build any more ventures. So we said, okay, how about we took some of the materials that were prepared, some of the case studies that we have debated over like a couple of years. And let's turn that into a book. Writing a book is it's not only about writing. It's about, the whole process of coming out with product. And I was always joking to my founder friends that pitching for a book is like pitching for a VC. You write a pitch and submit that to a few publishing houses and there will be a publisher, which is like an investment manager, who comes to talk to you. And if he likes you, he will write a memo to the editorial board, which is like an investment committee.

And if they like you, they will give they will give you a term sheet. And then you, then if you accept the term sheet you negotiate a contract. So that whole process was interesting. But, that process also gives you discipline. When you have a contract, you have someone who are investing resources to help you with this book. Then you are more disciplined towards finishing it.

(13:08) Jeremy Au: So what was the writing process like? Like you would sit down every day for one hour. What was the process like for you?

(13:13) Jianggan Li: Initially, it was about gathering information because we realized that of course to develop like PowerPoint material for a four-hour course is relatively easy compared to having enough case studies, materials, and reflections for a 70, 000 word book. So initially we realized, okay, a lot of the things I've discussed about, we need to. No more. We need to talk to the people who are actually involved in that process. The good thing is that during the pandemic, everybody was stuck at home. So we got we really got easy to find like 25 to 30 executives to interview. Over a very short period of time, over about a month and a half.

So afterwards, how to turn everything into a coherent book was actually a challenge because you have so many stories, you have different perspectives so what we eventually did is that, thanks to the professor who has been very good at synthesizing stories into frameworks. And I had access to more stories if we wanted to look into the details. And that collaborative process took, gosh, a little bit more than a year to actually finish.

(14:09) Jeremy Au:

In terms of like your research in terms of Chinese companies, and how they are expanding globally and how they've been successful in China. ? Were there any parts of the research that surprised you, with any new findings or insights that were fresh to you?

(14:23) Jianggan Li:

I think we always knew that the leaders of many Chinese companies tech companies, with the notable exception of Jack Ma, were very quiet, deep thinkers. But before the recession, we didn't know, I mean, the sort of struggles they were going through. Dealing with this incessant competition and dealing with all the pressure from the market, from users, from the ecosystem, from investors.

So I think, I mean, I wouldn't say a surprise, but have much more respect for those founders. And after like a spending effort to piece together, I mean, what they have been through and how did they lead their company to where the companies are.

(14:54) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. Could you share any particular stories that you think, discusses the competition or the struggles or hard decisions that Chinese founders have to make?

(15:03) Jianggan Li:

Just to give you an example. So nowadays people think about the new generation of tech companies right? Meituan, Pinduoduo, ByteDance. These are formidable companies and some of them grew up, in the shadows of of strong incumbents like Alibaba and Tencent. ByteDance fought Tencent for a long time and Pinduoduo, when they first emerged and people said that it was impossible, they would break through the dominance of Alibaba.

And one thing, one thing we realized during the research is that the founders of these three companies, Meituan, Pinduoduo, and ByteDance, they all spent The same amount of years before they started, as a founder of different things, before they started the current company. Seven years, trying different things, having small successes, I mean, failing other things, and trying to find a fit.

And before they eventually said, okay I'm going to start ByteDance, I'm going to start Meituan et cetera. So their journey is much longer than people have thought. I mean, people think about, oh, these guys are young guys who started this amazing company. But there's a much longer journey before, before that as well.

(15:57) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And there you are. And we want to talk about this, right?

(16:00) Jeremy Au:

We wanted to look at the trends that impacting Southeast Asia. And what we've seen is that a lot of these Chinese tech giants have been expanding. And to Southeast Asia, right? I think they had once in the 2010s. Now, again, it's another wave. So what's your point of view on, Chinese tech giants and why are they expanding to Southeast Asia?

(16:17) Jianggan Li:

I would break this into waves. I mean, what you see, I, I think 2016, 2017, there was a wave of giant Chinese companies expanding to Southeast Asia. Tencent made a few investments. Baidu had a team in different countries and Alibaba was buying Lazada, investing in Tokopedia and its affiliate Ant Group, or Ant Financial at that time also building joint ventures across different countries.

I think at that time, so there was part. This kind of confidence, right? I mean, they have, they fought hard and won a battle in China and we go to another market, which is smaller which is. Earlier, in terms of the stage of development, how hard can it be, right? And it was also a bit opportunistic as well because China was still the main theater for them.

Whereas if you fast forward to today I think the drives would be different because for many of these companies, we've done quite a bit of research, but the growth in China is limited. They're forced to look for new growth. And of course, because of the policy and geopolitics, and I think expansion becomes a necessity nowadays for many companies versus some kind of like opportunistic pursuit back in 2016.

(17:19) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I think I was just sitting down recently and there was some news about how, for example, a lot of Chinese companies in a certain vertical that's been squeezed by the central government that are looking to invest in Southeast Asia because, they have cash, but they also need to set up new businesses.

And I think investing in businesses is a way for them to not only of course, make some money but also build out some partnerships, but also gives them some learning about the region so that they can eventually, expand themselves. So I thought it was an interesting conversation that we were about the strategic rationale for that.

What do you think are some of the steps that you've seen Chinese tech giants do in Southeast Asia from your perspective?

(17:54) Jianggan Li:

I think you mentioned about, but the investment can also lose your money. But if you, if your leadership spends sufficient. Time and mental space to, to observe to get a ticket, right? To get a ticket to allow you to observe what's happening in this region.

That gives you a much better understanding about what's going on. The dynamics, which might not be seen on the surface. And if you want to make a bigger bet you probably have already this risk a little bit. I mean, having that understanding. So, give you example, I think a while ago, a lot of Chinese founders, even large companies, when they come to Southeast Asia, they had this perception that I need to work with a big family in Indonesia, in Thailand, or in the Philippines. And a few of them jumped on at the first or the first two sort of opportunities that all parties that could collaborate with. But at the end of the day, these are very, very different organizations with different cultures and different expectations.

So sometimes it's not as straightforward for them to work together. And I think now many companies start to have this sense of, okay, I need to understand this market a little bit more before I do something drastic

(18:52) Jeremy Au:

That's very true. I think for example, we saw like Ping An, and then they also had the partnership, we have on to build good doctor in Indonesia as well. When you think about working with Chinese founders and Chinese companies expanding, I know you've been advising many of them.

(19:07) Jeremy Au:

What advice do you normally provide for them?

(19:08) Jianggan Li:

So there's one framework we devised in a book together with Prof. Chen. Which is called POP leadership, people, organization, product, and leadership. And we always thought that, okay for any company to succeed in a foreign market, it should go with this order in terms of importance: leadership, people, organization, and a product. these companies from China, if they survive the competition there, they are usually quite good in terms of expertise, in terms of product, in terms of understanding about the specific domain that they operate in, be it e-commerce or supply chain or offline retail. But they have been operating in a large single market where you can concentrate resources and the leadership had enough attention. But when you go to other markets like Southeast Asia, six large markets, six major markets. Every market is different and every market requires you to make decisions and to assess the situation.

So typically it's a struggle for leaders, right? So if Thailand is telling me to do this, if I manage Indonesia is telling me something else, who should I trust? How should I allocate resources? How should I make the right decisions? So our first advice is always that, I mean, people talk about localization a lot, but localization should really start with the mindset of the leader. I mean, the leader needs to be in the market, understanding the dynamics, understanding the consumers and partners. And if you don't have the energy to do it yourself, you might as well invest in someone you trust do it. I mean, otherwise it can be quite challenging.

(20:24) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. So I think for example, we saw that, the example they had for Ping An they had a JV with Grab and then they set up Good Doctor and then. Ping An announced earlier this year in March that they are exiting their JV, for example, clearly that wasn't as expectations what they had going in.

So what advice would you give your Chinese companies, right? The founders of leadership team, what advice would you give them? Is it find local leaders or, combination? What advice would you do to avoid some of these issues or problems

(20:52) Jianggan Li:

I think I think when people get into joint ventures sometimes they look at the resources that the other party might provide, right? I mean, the access to market, the on-the-ground distribution channel, et cetera, et cetera. But the challenge here is that when you form joint venture, unless you assign a fully dedicated person to run it, who has full, Control of the resources that that, of this joint venture, because what we've seen typically the case, even with JD's joint venture in Thailand and Indonesia is that you still require both parties to continuously dedicate resources and and and the person running the joint venture might have not have access or the political power to push for things.

So that always became difficult. So when people enter this. This kind of joint venture agreement leverages each other's sources. I also, can consider deeply what kind of people you have and what kind of people, what kind of culture you have, what kind of organization you have. Can it work effectively together?

If it can't maybe you should I don't know, carve out some resources dedicated for this joint venture instead of I don't know, relying on goodwill on the motherships on both sides.

(21:54) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. We were discussing that. We've definitely been seeing like an influx of Chinese founders, as well as Chinese capital to Southeast Asia. Do you expect that trend to accelerate? Do you think it's stay there roughly the same flow, or do you think that's going to decelerate, in the years ahead?

(22:08) Jianggan Li:

I think the influx really started since April and May last year when Shanghai was experiencing a lockdown and that caused a bit of uncertainty amongst many people in China. So people started exploring opportunities elsewhere and many of them came to Singapore. Some of them from Singapore, went to Dubai, went to Europe, and many of them went to the Silicon Valley, and some of them went to Australia. So these people are mobile. They are looking for opportunities, but depending on their expertise and their willingness to explore, some markets might offer them some opportunities that they can grasp. Some markets might not. So what I see now is that many of these people who left China last year, They're still going around looking for opportunities or just trying to understand different markets, trying to make a decision where they are going to dedicate their next three to five years to actually build something or invest in something.

So I would say that overall there are much more people in China who are trying to expand their business outside. And, but But whether it's going to accelerate or not the successful ones eventually will be a small part of this large cohort. So my sense is that there will be a group of people who figure out how to do things and who can potentially become successful that will disrupt the whole ecosystem.

(23:12) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And I think what's interesting is that, there's a lot of learning, right? So I think just last week I was sitting down with a founder, she was Chinese and she was very much exploring capital from Southeast Asia. And obviously I think pitching the company, but also very much learning about Southeast Asia, investment mandates and approaches. What advice would you give for founders of people who are moving to Southeast Asia to fundraise and build companies? Any advice you would give them?

(23:35) Jianggan Li:

I think many Chinese founders have been used to a very fast pace growth and death. in China, you can start a company, fail a company very quickly and then start again. So at least that was the case for the last decade. So you, in Southeast Asia quite often because of the availability of funds versus China between 20 11, 2016 because of the infrastructure issues and lots of things are not going to be as fast. And figuring out, what are the sort of elements for you to succeed and what are the infrastructure elements, people elements, organizational elements that are missing, which will impact your speed would probably give you the right assessment. I mean, the last thing you want is that, okay, I'm going to a market, which is promising. I took approach which is too aggressive. And after a year and a half, I concluded that it's not a good market, but somebody else use all the infrastructure I've built acquired all the customers have educated and then build something great afterwards. This is the last thing you want as a founder.

(24:27) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. On that note, could you share about a time that you personally have been brave?

(24:30) Jianggan Li:

I think now I reflect over the last 20 years, I actually made a number of mistakes and being brave is really, if you ask me, for one thing, is really like at a certain point in time when the company that I founded was going through a very tough time when I was losing like five kilograms over a month, when I would wake up at 4 a. m. in the morning for consecutively about a month and a half didn't give up and they eventually realized that was the worst time. The months afterwards became drastically better. So sometimes being brave is really about not giving up.

(24:59) Jeremy Au:

How do you keep the energy up to not give up?

(25:01) Jianggan Li:

I think at the end of the day, it's a drive that you want to do something great you want to continuously do something great and you have a group of people around you who you respect. And who you believe that is your responsibility to not let them down the trust that they have in you. So all these things come together but I wouldn't say that, okay it's iron heart, right? You don't think about distractions or potential doubts and stuff but eventually, I mean, the ability to let all this positive energy prevail, I think matters a lot. And also, entrepreneurs are lonely, but you always have people to talk to because there are always people who have been through the same journey as you.

(25:32) Jeremy Au:

Thank you so much. I'd love to summarize the three big takeaways I got from this. First of all, thank you so much for sharing about your own career journey. I thought it was really fascinating to hear about how you started out actually as a computer engineer who was, doing news across Southeast Asia to actually doing an NCA MBA to eventually becoming a founder and managing director in the taxi wars and other companies across Singapore, Indonesia. And then eventually, building out momentum works right as a venture builder. as well as becoming an author. So I thought it was really fascinating to hear. I think the career decisions you made each step.

Second thing I actually really appreciated was actually the lessons that you learned. I think you share a lot about what is it like to be a founder? What is it like to be a venture builder? And I thought that was a very interesting dynamics, like you said about not just the good times, but also the bad times and also how it's often too busy to even think about network effects and all these other theoretical stuff. Because, there's so much work that has to be done.

Lastly, thanks so much for sharing about, I think the Chinese companies about how competitive it actually is in Southeast Asia, but also discussing about how I think the shrinking growth plateau in China and the intense competition is causing a new wave of Chinese expansion globally and into Southeast Asia. I think you shared a lot of good advice to both the companies about how to think about how to do the strategic expansion, but also how Chinese founders who are personally moving should be thinking about how to build the businesses in a more sustainable manner, but also in a way that is integrated across the region.

So thank you so much Jianggan for sharing your journey and experience.

(26:55) Jianggan Li:

Thank you.