Jimmy Ku on Transitioning from Founder to Executive, Leading Alongside Justin Kan, and Start-Up Myths - E30

· Failure,Founder,Executive,USA,Podcast Episodes English

"I highly encourage folks that are really excited about some kind of problem they really want to solve or some kind of product they really want to see into existence, to go and try it out …When I was hiring folks for my team, I definitely looked at that experience as a positive. It was never really a negative experience if someone went out and tried a startup but ultimately failed." - Jimmy Ku

Jimmy Ku is the COO of MixerBox , the premier provider of mobile media applications with over 300 million downloads and users who have spent over 120 billion minutes. MixerBox is backed by investors such as Y Combinator, Initialized Capital, Infinity Ventures, and more.

Previously, Jimmy was the General Manager of Fundraise Concierge at Atrium where he helped startup founders with the process of fundraising. He spoke to over a thousand startups during 2019 and helped his clients raise over $200M in funding. Jimmy also has experience as a venture scout at 10X Capital and Grishin Robotics.

Jimmy graduated with honours from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with degrees in Business Administration and Economics and started his career as a management consultant.

Jeremy Au: [00:01:25] Hey, Jimmy. Good to see you again.

Jimmy Ku: [00:01:28] Hey, how's it going?

Jeremy Au: [00:01:29] Yeah. I mean it's awesome to be able to chat startups with you, because you are the pro on this whole deal.

Jimmy Ku: [00:01:39] Thanks, man. Yeah, I'm really excited to chat with you more about this.

Jeremy Au: [00:01:42] Yeah. For those who don't have the wonderful opportunity to know you, this is their great chance. How would you introduce yourself and your journey so far?

Jimmy Ku: [00:01:50] Yeah, absolutely. My journey really started as a management consultant. I was a strategy and management business operations consultant at Deloitte Consulting. Started there, but while I was there I realized I really want to be in startups and so decided to start my first startup, which is a travel planning startup. I started it with some great folks like Steve Chen and my friend James Chen. The three of us started this travel planning startup. It was part of TechCrunch50, actually, back in the day when it was the biggest startup conference out there. We were in the same class as companies such as Yammer, FitBit, TrueCar, Dropbox, some other amazing companies that were out there.

That's my first foray into the startup realm. Then from there, have been a founder of multiple startups, have been an advisor, have been an angel investor. I'm currently a venture scout for Grishin Robotics as well as 10X Capital, and I'm now the chief operating officer of MixerBox as well. So my journey has transitioned from me being a startup founder. About four years ago I actually transitioned a little bit more to an advisory type role so I was working at a frontier technology accelerator at that time and then a little over a year after that had gotten recruited by my friend, Justin Kan, who of course is the founder of Twitch that got sold to Amazon for over a billion dollars. And Justin was creating this new company called Atrium and he wanted me to come over and lead up this new division called Fundraise Concierge. So also an experience helping a lot of founders with their fundraising process and then I've now transitioned back into the startup realm as the chief operating officer of MixerBox.

So a lot of different things. I've seen all kinds of different elements of the startup realm, having been a founder myself, been an executive, been an advisor to a lot of startups, so really excited to dig into any of these experiences with you.

Jeremy Au: [00:03:41] Amazing. There's so much juicy stuff to go through. Take us back in time. What was it like when you first joined the tech world and joined the crazy world of startups?

Jimmy Ku: [00:03:51] It was interesting. I think the first foray ... I think a lot of people read articles about startups and then get really excited about the opportunity to start their own company and my first foray into it was a travel startup. It was called GoPlanit and at the time I'd been a strategy consultant and so had been trying to find something I was really passionate about. I remember me and my friend James actually were talking about ideas back-and-forth. We finally hit upon one we really liked which became the company, GoPlanit, and of course that was part of TechCrunch50 back in the day. I think it was 2008 or so.

And that transition from moonlighting in the evenings over to full-time was a pretty big shift for me, but we were able to get some funding, get the product out there and it really is a massive rollercoaster ride. Some of the highest highs I've ever had and some of the lowest lows were during these experiences at the startups. When you get funding it's great, when you've gotten your customers it's great. When we're hitting a recession or when the numbers are going down it's not so great. It's a really learning experience, but I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world.

Jeremy Au: [00:04:55] What was it like to transition from a founder in those early days to becoming an executive and advisor? What was that transition like?

Jimmy Ku: [00:05:05] It was actually really easy for me because I had started my career as a consultant, so constantly helping other people. And now it was helping startups with advice and info from my own experiences. So it was actually a pretty easy transition. So I really transitioned over when I left my last startup to go work at the accelerator and now this accelerator was focused on frontier technology, so this is a lot of buzzwords like AR, VR, AI, ML et cetera. So it was really cool, exciting new technology these companies were working on, so I was really excited to work with these founders.

Those 40 founders, I started working with them on growth strategies, I started working with them on how to think about their partnership strategies and then also specifically around fundraiser. I did a lot of work with them on fundraising, connecting them with the investors and then figuring out the right way to run an effective process. And that experience really gave me a lot of additional experience as an advisor around the fundraising process. When Justin was thinking about creating Fundraise Concierge, that's what he and I talked a lot about was not only did I know how to create something new as a founder myself, but I had seen fundraising from so many different angles as a founder, as an advisor, as an investor myself that I could speak to what investors are looking for, as well as how to position a narrative as a founder. And also to better speak to the founders as an advisor. I'd been able to see myself in all these different situations and was able to really lead myself into an advisory role pretty easily.

Jeremy Au: [00:06:41] You've seen so many leaders, and have seen leaders at consulting and Deloitte, you've seen leaders beside you in action as a founder, you've seen leaders in action while you were advising them and you've seen leaders in action, reporting to them as an executive. What is your key takeaways around leadership in the tech world?


Jimmy Ku: [00:07:02] I think there's two major areas that I'll talk to you a little bit more about. I think the first is I really like leaders that lead by example. You and I were talking about this at one point, about leaders who go above and beyond and showcase how things should be done. They put in the extra effort, put in the long hours, make sure to showcase how important it is to deliver great service or great products. I think that leading by example is an important characteristic for a great leader and so that's something I know that I very much focused on when I worked with my team in building up Fundraise Concierge. Something my team members recognized and realized very early on is they're going to get emails from me in the middle of night. Whenever things needed to get done, it's going to get done whether it's from me or someone else and I'm going to make sure that the delivery of the services we provide is top notch and I have to showcase the importance of that.

And I think that's also something that I enjoy about working with John Lai. John is the CEO of MixerBox. He and I have a very similar work ethic and he's very similar in that regard. He wants to make sure that he leads by example. He's very careful, he's very mindful about how to do things. An incredibly, really smart guy.

Now another leader and another type of leadership style is obviously the last person I worked with, Justin Kan. Justin's very famous. A lot of folks are in awe of him and what he has been able to do. He is incredibly eloquent, very, very intelligent and very successful. Obviously his leadership style is also very unique. What I found about working with Justin was Justin is actually very hands-off when it comes to his leadership style. He wants to put people who are very smart, very capable into a leadership position where they can take over. If he puts you in charge of something, he's someone who allows the leaders that he puts in place to be able to do what they need to do.

I remember one meeting early on when we first started. I was asking him what were his thoughts about this and he said, "Well, here's what I'm thinking, but at the end of the day you're in charge. I want you to take charge of this. You have full reign to do whatever needs to be done in order to succeed, in order to achieve what we're talking about. Here's our goal." He set the goals, but at the end of the day he's not a micromanaging type of leader. He was someone who really allowed me to be able to go out there. That's ultimately why I think my team was able to be so successful. We were able to help our clients raise over 200 million last year, primarily because we really have hit upon something really exciting and I was allowed to build something from it, so that's really exciting.

Now, the leadership style may be a con to balance it out. One leadership style I've never been a fan of is someone who is a very big micromanager. I remember when I was a consultant at Deloitte I had some instances in projects where the managers were micromanaging everything that needed to be done and those were the instances where I just couldn't stand it. I mean I needed to get off that project, I needed to get out of there and just couldn't stand it anymore and so those are things I would avoid.

Jeremy Au: [00:10:08] Definitely seen the two sides of that coin. The differences between those two styles myself. From your perspective, you've really seen all this leadership. What have been some challenges that you've overcome along the way?

Jimmy Ku: [00:10:23] Anyone who wants to be a startup founder has to be just a little crazy. The startup founder lifestyle is not for everyone. You work long hours and you don't actually get paid. The startup founders themselves always get paid less than everybody else, even your first few employees. It's always a difficult process getting through, but you do it because you're excited about it. If you're not excited about what you're working and you think you're going to get fame and fortune it's going to be very difficult when the tough times come.

One of the things I generally talk about from my own experience was my last startup that I started up. It was called Loup. It originally started up within the mobility space. We actually changed it into a logistics business. But during that pivot, that was when it was probably the most difficult time for me. We of course cut our own salary. We were running low on funds and we needed to make this happen. We needed to transition an entire company into a new product, pivot the company. We were launching in a new market, so I was living in San Francisco at the time. We moved over to Seattle, so my co-founder Abtin [Rostamian] and I moved ourselves basically. Just uprooted ourselves, went over to this new market, launched this product and it was a really, really difficult time getting this product up and running. The two of us lived in a little studio and of course we're getting on each other's nerves because we're seeing each other 24/7. We're working crazy hours and we're trying to get this thing to work.

At the same time, you see the bank account continuing to go down. But as we got the product up and running, as we were able to launch it and start getting customers, as we were getting feedback, things of course got a little bit better to a point where we were able to get a larger office and then get a little more traction. But I think I mentioned this to you. For a little over a year I had a little shower curtain, a little bed in a corner and 24/7 I was living in that little corner and then I'd wake up, I'd shower and we actually had a shower in the office. But I was living in the office. And you do what needs to be done in order to make it work. But at the end of the day, it's a very difficult process and you really need to be excited about what you're working on, otherwise you probably won't be able to get through that.

Jeremy Au: [00:12:36] That's quite a crazy thing and I think I remember similarly, we won some technology startup award, like MassChallenge, right, and the grand prize. And everyone has been congratulating us. And they were like, "Oh, you must be out celebrating, Jeremy." And I was like, "No, I'm working in my no bedroom apartment."

Jimmy Ku: [00:12:56] Exactly.

Jeremy Au: [00:12:56] Still working on a laptop and getting some stuff done. I didn't get a chance to celebrate. And I remember at 1 AM I was like, "You know what? I need to celebrate." So I got some delivery to celebrate and that was a thing. Yeah, that's the real founder life.

you've seen the transition for yourself as a founder, you've been an executive. I think for so many founders it feels like they're worried about becoming a founder because they worry it's going to fail and if it fails they have to go back to becoming an executive or join a startup as employee. So they're kind of terrified to do it because they're like, "Oh no, I'll never be able to get a normal job ever again. Or if I do it I'm totally screwed for my resume." And on the other hand, you also hear founders who are worried about if the startup doesn't work out, or it does work out, what's it like to go back to becoming a startup executive and no longer being a co-founder as a title.

What do you have to say about that psychological transition and preparation?

Jimmy Ku: [00:13:51] I think the exciting thing about being a founder is you're going to get experiences you probably would never get in a large corporation. You get to do so much and pretty much wear every hat possible within the organization. Anything that needs to be done. I think in terms of the first question you had, which is whether or not this could be a bad thing for their resume, I don't think so. I think someone who's actually gone through the process, you're going to learn so much more in a short period of time than you would ever learn just being another number at a large corporation. I think that actually it's a great example. And depending on whether or not it's successful or not, I think you'll have really good stories that come about out of it and you'll definitely have a great learning experience from that.

So I highly encourage folks that are really excited about some kind of problem they really want to solve or some kind of product they really want to see into existence, to go and try it out. Of course, it is a difficult lifestyle so go into it knowing that, but definitely I think it's going to be a good experience. When I was hiring folks for my team, I definitely looked at that experience as a positive. It was never really a negative experience if someone went out and tried a startup but ultimately failed. 80-some odd percent of startups fail, so most startups are going to fail.

At the end of the day, did you go and do it and what was the result from that experience? Because at the end of the day you're going to have learned stuff from it and I think that's going to be helpful either way. Now the other thing you said was what if it is actually maybe mildly successful. Maybe you didn't sell Twitch and become financially secure but you created something that had value and it was interesting and you had a really good journey and maybe you sold the company. Maybe you didn't, but you had some kind of successes during that.

Is it difficult to transition back into a large corporation? I think it depends on the person. If you're someone who's just really excited about being an owner, a founder et cetera, you will probably find another opportunity to do that. You have another idea or you come up with something else. A lot of founders just move on to their next role. They'll find another cool thing that they're really excited about. Your success could actually be the springboard to something else even if you don't have something else.

I had a situation where I just kind of transitioned from my own startup over to an executive position. This was still a startup, but a growing startup that was looking towards being ready and preparing for an IPO, had raised hundreds of millions of dollars. It was a growth stage startup. But what I was able to do was I still leveraged my learning. It was a travel planning tool which I had created called GoPlanit, leverage that to become an executive at Rearden Commerce or Deem and that was still within the travel space. And I actually had taken a lot of the learnings I had at GoPlanit and created a new product at Deem that was then showcased at PhoCusWright. I was one of the 35 young leaders there.

You can still take your experiences and leverage it into a larger organization. I think that's certainly a possibility as well. It really just depends on what you're excited about. I don't think it's going to be a negative whether it's a monumental success or a somewhat failure.

Jeremy Au: [00:17:02] You've mentioned not just being an executive, but also helping companies go through the fundraising process as an adviser and then eventually full-time creating the Fundraising Concierge for Justin Kan's company at Atrium. Tell us more about the problem Fundraising Concierge solves and why that problem exists.

Jimmy Ku: [00:17:22] Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for that. This is really exciting. I've talked about this a lot. I think what ends up happening for a lot of founders is fundraising is something that quite frankly is just very tiring. It's a process you have to go through to get the capital you need to grow, to survive, to thrive. At the end of the day, it's not something every founder enjoys or is good at and so this is a situation where there certainly can be instances for coaching, for people to help with various elements of that. That's what we were able to build at Fundraise Concierge, which is to guide the founders through the process. We worked with founders that were looking for Seed, Series A and Series B funding. I mean, if you're talking about C and beyond, that's a very different process but if you're talking about Seed, Series A and Series B, the way you run a process is pretty similar. C versus Series A / B is a little bit different, but I can talk about both of them, but I think that would be a whole other interview.

But I think what we ended up realizing was that there were a couple major things that we can help founders with. The first is really the narrative. Justin likes to say this and I like to say the same thing which is your company and building it is the hardest part. You've already done the hardest part, which is to build a company. Wherever it is at, whatever metrics you have, they are what they are, so you want to package it up and you want to make sure the investors understand that. But the way you package it up, how you position the company and your strategy, how you position the opportunity to investors, that is really, really important.

I think another piece of it that I recognized as I started working with a lot of these founders was that the whole process of managing a fundraise process was a burden for a lot of founders. It's something that takes a lot of time and so if you can have a group of people really help with managing the project management, figuring out the right investors, figuring out how to do the proper outreach and preparing the founders, preparing them for how to get in front of investors, what to say, how to answer questions. All of those things are very, very important and so that was another big piece of what we ultimately offered.

And then of course, once you start getting in the offers and term sheets and the process starts moving, there are a lot of questions, there's a lot of discussions about how to properly negotiate, what terms are important and so those are things that we worked with our founders on as well. I mentioned of course that we helped the clients and companies we worked with raise over 200 million last year and it was an incredible experience. I talked to over a 100 companies a month. When I counted at the end of the year, a little over 1,200 companies. So I heard a lot of stories and had the chance to talk to a lot of people last year.


Jeremy Au: [00:20:12] What would you say are the hidden structures of what it would take to build a fundraising concierge? Because I think that's what so many angels are supposed to do, right? Which is angels are supposed to help you incubate a Seed round and introduce you to VCs. Seed VCs are supposed to help you get to the Series A. But it doesn't seem to work like you said. What's the hidden mechanics that make a dedicated, independent concierge operate better than classic VC pass-the-buck approach?

Jimmy Ku: [00:20:46] Yeah, it's interesting. I don't know what makes it work better. I think it's just a little bit different. I think what I found to be interesting was inevitably every founder that I talked to thought that they just needed to get in front of the investor. They thought if you make the intro, I'm going to take care of it and everything else about it. They really didn't think I would have provided a lot of value. Looking over my financials. "No, no, no. I got that. I've got a team. We're good to go." Looking over the pitch deck. "No, no, no. I got that. I'm really good at pitching."

What I recognized as I talked to more and more founders was all of those things are truly, truly important and those are all things that founders actually need more help with. It's not really the intros because the investors that you have already for your company, and the people within your network can make intros. The intros is what everyone thinks they need. It's actually not the important thing that's going to get you the final ... I mean, it's important. You absolutely want a warm introduction but that's not what's going to get you the money. What's going to get you the money is if you have the right narrative, you have the right story with the right numbers and you're pitching to the right investor.

So a lot of legwork is actually really, really important. I think a lot of founders don't really talk to the investors about that process, so we were able to really help with creating a foundation and preparing the founders before they go out there. I think that was actually the big difference. And then the other thing is we obviously want them to succeed but also thinking about it more as a consultant because we were a consulting division. It was just thinking about the problem more from the perspective of a consultant. How can I help you with this fundraise? What are the ways I can help you with this fundraise? That was a mentality the group had that was, I think, very different from what was out there and then we were really the only folks offering this as a coherent service.

For folks within Series A, Series B, there were a lot of folks within the seed stage. That's accelerators and others. Then I think when it comes to Series A, Series B, got great folks like 500 Startups and Y Combinator that have some programs that really help their own companies. But let's say you're not already part of that ecosystem. You don't really have any other options, so a lot of times the founder, they're on their own. And so we were able to find and talk to a lot of founders that were quite frankly just on their own and found that we can provide a lot of value in having a short conversation with them about how to run it much more effectively.

Jeremy Au: [00:23:11] That's actually interesting which is that you're talking about the organizations that have such support in some form, which is they said accelerators, which are large and reputable who have the community support and the structural support like YC that act effectively as a fundraising concierge to the next stage, which is you talked about some independent VCs who do that on an individual basis. Then obviously I think what's interesting about Atrium was that it was a law service that was harvesting clients from this process.

What would you think would be the economics of the pricing / business structure of what something like that could look like?


Jimmy Ku: [00:23:51] It's really interesting. I've had a lot of people reach out to me and say, "I'm thinking of building something similar. Can you walk me through what ended up happening or what worked and what didn't work?" I think there's a lot of different ways to think about building this up as a business. The way we approached it was as a consulting business. If we approach it more as how can we help our clients be very careful about which clients we wanted to work with, because ultimately there's only so many hours in a day, so we had to be very careful about selecting the right clients we wanted to work with.

And then finding a way that the clients we were working with would ultimately see value from it, regardless of whether or not they were, as there were several clients that we worked with that ended up not raising or deferring their raise and they still found value in the process that we worked on with them. So that was really important for me ultimately in building this organization up, was that no matter what ended up happening, we would be able to provide some value to the clients that we worked with.

That's something that I focused on. I think in terms of anyone else who's looking to build it up right now, there are obviously broker dealers, the broker dealer laws to look into. I won't get into too much about that but there's a lot of investment bankers and bankers that do stuff like this. There are also people who have considered more of a consulting type approach like us and then there's also people who are thinking about it more from the perspective of how can technology do this work and that's usually a platform for connecting people. So I've definitely seen several of those, which is more like you as a founder come onto our platform and we'll connect you to investors that might be interesting in what you're doing because we're vetting out both sides of the equation.

I think there's a lot of different ways people are approaching it but the end of the day, this is such a big space that I don't think there's any one perfect way to approach it.

Jeremy Au: [00:25:38] what misconceptions do you find that startups normally have about fundraising?

Jimmy Ku: [00:25:43] Yeah, I think the main misconception a lot of founders have I would say is that ultimately just get me in front of the investors. Just make the intros and that is they view the intros as the highest value, I think and as important as that is, a warm introduction is absolutely important for getting the process started. If you don't have the right narrative, if you don't have the right short blurb even, if you don't have the financials backing it up, you're ultimately wasting your time. They're not going to have the conversation with you or you're going to have one conversation and it's a one and done. And you ultimately waste your change to have a good, meaningful conversation with that investor and make a really good first impression. I highly recommend focusing on a lot of that background work.

I think one of the other misconceptions that I've seen is that maybe they don't understand the importance of that narrative. I've worked with a lot of founders. I've seen a lot of founders get into certain pitfalls with regards to narrative. I'll give you a couple examples real quick. The first being a lot of founders do this. They tend to focus on their day-to-day issues and they start going down the path of talking about what they're really focused on, on a day-to-day basis, which ultimately is not at all important when you're talking to an investor. What you ultimately want the investor to understand is what is the market opportunity and why is this a great investment. What is their return on investment going to be? That's what they care about.

But if you start talking about all the nuances and these tiny product features, you're losing them. You're not giving them the full scope of the possibilities and it's not very exciting to an investor. I think I've seen that a lot. People really focus on that. They get too technical, they start talking about things that are quite frankly not that relevant to an investor and so it is really important actually to think about how you can frame your story, because how you frame your story could be the make or break. You'd have a great business and you could be very, very smart, but if you're not framing it properly, you're going to fall on deaf ears when you have these conversations with investors and you're going to end up just having these conversations over and over and it's going to be a long process and it doesn't go anywhere.

Jeremy Au: [00:27:59] As you think about that process for founders, you've probably seen a lot of stressed out founders, right? They're out of money, they need money.


Jimmy Ku: [00:28:08] When you see that money go down in their bank account it is very stressful. I mean this is your life and in many cases people are putting everything into it, so it's absolutely a stressful time for people. I can totally understand that.

Jeremy Au: [00:28:20] So how do you handle that conversation? What advice do you normally give to founders? Because you're in the business of helping them inject cash into the system either as an advisor or in terms of helping CEOs fundraise? What do you think about the psychology of it?

Jimmy Ku: [00:28:36] That's a really interesting question and I think there's two major things I generally talk about. I'm an advisor to a couple firms and startups and there's two major ways I think about it or have conversation with them about it. The first is to stay positive. Whenever a founder that I'm an advisor or a company I'm an advisor for comes to me, and you can tell the founder's really stressed out, I think the main thing for us to have a conversation about is how to stay positive because you're ultimately going to need that real positivity when you get out there. And so I really want to inject that positivity into the conversations with them, have a really good, meaningful conversation.

Even if it's about things that I disagree with them on or I want them to work on things differently or whatever it is, I want to relay that in a very positive fashion, so I think A lot of times founders just don't have anyone to turn to as well. I've had a lot of friends where we have the same conversation. It's really hard to have a real, open conversation about what's really going on with your startup because everyone says, "Yeah, it's a hockey stick. We're killing it. Things are great." And the reality is no, they're not. They're really hard and the startup world is really hard. It's really hard to have a real, genuine conversation with someone and I think having someone you can talk to as an advisor, as a friend, I think is really important so that you can keep that real positivity going and to be really open and transparent about what's going on so you can have a real conversation that would get to then actionable steps. I think that's something that I generally look to do or talk to my founder or friends and companies about.

I think the other thing is to think about how you can de-stress. This is really important. You're going to have to know yourself. For me personally, there's two things that I do that really help me out. One is I'll go for a walk and just get outside just go and walk aimlessly for a little bit. I think that's a good way for me to de-stress. And then the other thing that always makes me happier is music. When I'm really stressed out, I combine the two. I go for a walk with my earphones on and I'm just listening to music. I'm not thinking about anything and it really helps me remove a lot of the stress and to think more clearly. I think you as a founder or a leader or an executive just need to understand what are some ways for you to also do the things that will make you feel better and to de-stress and make the situation a little bit better for yourself.


Jeremy Au: [00:31:01] One thing I've always admired about you as well is how you've been able to build a community of 10X founders, 10X executive, 10X investors and I think that's something that people and founders often, on the other hand, feel like they struggle with. How do you go about doing that?

Jimmy Ku: [00:31:18] Yeah, there's one underlying principle that I live by and I strongly believe in this and I think the main thing for me is always give more than you take. I've always done this with all of my friends and other founders I speak to. I don't know if you recall our first conversation when we were just having a conversation about fundraising. I always try to give and at the end of the day my opinion is if I am helpful and was able to provide a little bit of guidance, a little bit of support, some kind of value to you, we can always find a way that we can work together in the future. Or even if we don't, we'll have a really good starting point for conversations in the future and possibly a friendship down the road as well.

And so my underlying principle, no matter who I meet and when I meet them has always been can I somehow help you? Can I give you something? Can I provide some value to you? From that perspective, then I think it's a really good springboard for the rest of our working or professional or personal relationship going forward. And I've taken that as an underlying thing for every conversation I have with folks. And during the last couple of years et cetera, I've met a lot of incredible people and I continue to just abide by that same principle.

Jeremy Au: [00:32:36] What's interesting is that it's so true because the founder circles are pretty small in any part of the world.

Jimmy Ku: [00:32:44] Yeah.

Jeremy Au: [00:32:44] Word gets around. I think reputation matters a lot on the peer level, especially because the market can feel so opaque. I think a big theme for people these days is obviously what if you're not in those networks because of geography, because of your background, because of your cultural upbringing? You're not part of that club, whatever the club is and wherever you are in the world. What advice would you recommend people ... I mean obviously one was the concierge approach where it's open to anybody who has a good idea. But what advice would you give them personally about how to think about approaching their problem?


Jimmy Ku: [00:33:20] You know what's interesting? The one really good thing about the COVID pandemic is that I actually think this is a great opportunity for those people who are not in the markets where a lot of investors are, to be able to initiate a conversation with these investors and have an investor want to have a conversation with you. Because it doesn't matter if I'm in the Bay Area or not right now. You and I are going to get on a Zoom call or some kind of video call. So does it really matter if I'm located in Taiwan or Colombia or Portugal? Not necessarily. So I think this is actually a really good opportunity for founders not in the markets where the investors typically are, like San Francisco or whatever, to really be more proactive in the outreach to these investors.

Now, cold emails generally don't work and it's very difficult, so I think the bigger thing right now then is how can you find someone who will be able to provide a warm introduction to these investors and what are some ways you can have the more open, genuine conversations with an investor? I actually talked about this on another podcast recently. I said, "Finding these connectors who can connect you is a great way to start off those conversations. Attending some of these virtual conversations can also be a good way to have a conversation with them. And then also maybe to spark up a little, heated debate or some conversation on Twitter and social media because a lot of investors are very active on Twitter and you will see what they're excited about based on what they're tweeting and responding to. So that can also be a good way just to get to know them and then maybe transition that into more of a face-to face Zoom conversation where you can really get to know them a little bit better.

I think it actually is maybe a possibly a good opportunity for founders who are that hustle, get it done type of folks and to really go out there and reach some investors that, quite frankly before, the investors probably would not have taken as many video calls.

Jeremy Au: [00:35:21] I remember one of the things that is pretty cool is that you've got to see some great people up close and in action. One of which, of course, like you mentioned is Justin. Any fun stories of Justin Kan that you remember from your time working with him?


Jimmy Ku: [00:35:35] For a while there I was sitting right next to Justin, especially when I was getting started. One thing I'll say is a lot of folks were ... Actually a lot of folks asked me this. Is Justin working all the time? He's very successful already. He's already sold a company. He doesn't need the money, so is he still coming into the office? Is he working all the time? I think that was something that folks weren't sure about. I mean Justin works harder than anybody else. He's there early, he's there late, he's running in and out of meetings. He's hustling. I was really always impressed by the fact that he was still doing that, regardless of how successful he's already been.

But also throughout my time there, I also saw how Justin prioritized his health, mentally, physically, et cetera throughout the process and I found that to be something I wish I was better at actually. It was something that he really prioritized. So yes, work, but also, I'm going to go to the gym for this hour. I'm going to go do this for an hour. I'm going to go meditate. He did a lot of meditating as well. I thought that was actually something that I took to be something I could do better and I learned from him. But he was very self-motivated.

I think one of the things he said really stuck with me, which is how to keep yourself motivated. I think there's this hunger and desire for a lot of founders but if you don't have that you got to find something that keeps you going. If it's not the money, was is it, right? There's got to be something that really gets the fire going and for Justin, he surrounded himself with really smart people he respected. People who are on the board, the advisors, the investors, et cetera. And he said, "I'm motivating myself because I don't want this to fail because I have all these really great people that I admire who are part of this journey with me, and that inspires me to work even harder.

I saw it. I saw him working really hard and that was something that I took also to what I'm doing as well daily, is just thinking through how I can motivate myself and then also what I'm hoping to be able to be better at is also balancing the health and the psychological and mental toll of being the founder and the executive.


Jeremy Au: [00:37:39] Wrapping up here, what support or resources would you recommend to others who are considering a professional journey like yours?

Jimmy Ku: [00:37:48] That's an interesting question. I think I read a lot of articles and news and things that are out there. Just be open to what's out there. Being mindful and reading a lot, I think, is helpful overall. I read a lot of blogs and news. But in terms of what I found in terms of tools that have helped founders with fundraising and others, I think there's a couple that I can point to. It's very remarkable how helpful social media is. Facebook is nice for friends. Every now and then it might also be helpful for your fundraise, but LinkedIn is incredible. LinkedIn is an incredible tool for finding investors, finding other founders, finding ways to get partnerships done. I thought that was one of the biggest tools that we ended up using and so I would highly look into how you can leverage that.


Jeremy Au: [00:38:37] I'm curious about this last question here. It would be if you could travel back in time 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?

Jimmy Ku: [00:38:45] First of all, I'm thinking about where I was 10 years ago. So much has happened in the last couple of years. You feel like you age a lot more when you're working on a startup. 10 years ago. Goodness. Oh, this was in the midst of the tail end of that first startup I was doing. What advice would I give myself? Keep going, because it was rough going through that first startup and it wasn't a success.

Actually, what ended up happening was we were going through an acquisition that ultimately failed and then I transitioned over to more of an executive role at a growing startup from my own startup and so it's one of those things where, yeah, I think the only thing I can say is everything happens for a reason, so keep going.

Jeremy Au: [00:39:34] And I also resonate with you about just keep going. And hey, look at where you are now. Do you think the Jimmy from 10 years ago would be surprised to meet you?

Jimmy Ku: [00:39:44] I think so. I actually told my wife this before as well. I think maybe not 10 years ago, but I know high school Jimmy would be pretty excited about where I'm at, what I've been able to do, the incredible folks I've been able to work with and meet. I think there's been a lot of really great things that has happened and I tend to look on the more positive side of things overall and so I definitely think yeah, there'd be some great things to look back on and some great experience that I've had so far, for sure.

Jeremy Au: [00:40:15] Amazing. Well, here's a toast to us, meeting ourselves in 10 years time as well.

Jimmy Ku: [00:40:20] Yes, absolutely. To 10 more crazy years within this tech industry.

Jeremy Au: [00:40:25] Awesome. It's a pleasure catching up with you again.

Jimmy Ku: [00:40:28] Absolutely, man. Thanks for your time today, Jeremy.

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