Michael Lints: Founders Journey, VCs Position of Trust & Sharing Your Writing - E129

· Founder,Start-up,Singapore,VC and Angels,Podcast Episodes English

The fact that we get to speak to hundreds of founders year in year out for the past 10 years, it gives you a lot of insight as a VC, if you’re open to learning and if you’re open to getting to understand the macro stuff because you’ve seen 60 companies in the payment space. You see 40 companies doing logistics. You see twenty companies doing agriculture. That gives you a certain insight and it gives you a certain opinion, and it gives you certain data that others tend not to see and that puts us into a very unique position. And I guess that’s how people are looking for help and support and guidance. If you’re a board member or if you are involved in a founder’s journey. And you’re not doing it once, you’re doing it like 60 times, then that also gives you insights and give you insights about personalities. It gives you insight about how people grow from being this really young insecure founder to someone running a billion-dollar company and seeing that journey really close from the outside in is really valuable.- Michael Lints

Michael Lints has over 20 years of experience helping innovative businesses obtain the resources, insights, and expertise they need in order to be successful. Michael has been a startup operator, investor, and mentor, and is currently a Partner at the Singapore-based venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures. He joined the firm in 2013 and is currently leading growth venture efforts, which include LP fundraising and portfolio management for Golden Gate Venture's investments at Series B and beyond.

Michael’s entrepreneurial journey began in 2000 when he co-founded an IT managed services startup in Europe that was acquired by a large data and telecom company six years later. In 2007, Michael founded a venture fund focused on Dutch small- and medium-sized enterprises to help them with capital financing, business development, and strategy. During the same period, he was invited to join the Economic Development Board Rotterdam as Vice Chairman. In that role, he launched the Young Economic Development Board where he brought together a highly influential Dutch network to develop a sustainable framework for public-private relationships that increased local business investment while leveraging the public infrastructure.

Outside of work, sport is an essential part of Michael’s life. He is a former member of the Dutch karate team and the former ambassador for Treknology (Trek bikes distributor in Singapore). Michael actively participates in Ironman 70.3 races and marathons. He is also passionate about social justice and uses sport as a vehicle to raise awareness for important issues such as civil rights, economic opportunity, and education. Besides sport, Michael is an active writer and writes articles regarding life, balance, and venture capital on michaellints.com.

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hey, Michael, welcome to the BRAVE show!

Michael Lints: (00:32)
Thank you, thanks for having me.

Jeremy Au: (00:34)
Well, I’m really excited to have you because you represent a really important voice in Southeast Asia startup ecosystem as a VC, as an operator, and as a guide for so many startups. So, I’m really excited to share your journey with everyone else. So, for those who don’t know you yet, how would you introduce yourself professionally?

Michael Lints: (00:54)
I would introduce myself as a typical operator turned VC, but the journey has been a bit actually special and adventurous. So, I am Dutch born and raised my parents are from the Dutch Caribbean, a small island called Aruba. In my youth, I was always intrigued and involved in technology. So, when I was, I think, was seven or eight, I got my first computer which I took apart, put it back together again and, so, for you young kids, you won’t know what I had - a MSX, which is like an old computer and I learn how to code assembly at a relatively young age. So, I went through university, getting a corporate job at ING which was fun, but I knew that I wasn’t made for corporate life and I wanted to build something on my own. So, fortunate enough, I had a good friend who’s like a neighborhood friend and he said I’m going to build a new company and do you want to join? And he had an idea of this Grand vision of building this e-commerce company, I just built an e-commerce department for the company I left and I said don’t, don’t build e-commerce, don’t do it. It’s, and I’m talking about 1999 – 2000, so early days and I said, oh, this makes no sense. You should do an IT consultancy company. So, we did, and we learned early days that people had issues outsourcing their IT. So, we build a data center and eventually that data center got acquired. So, I was fortunate enough to make a small amount of money and decided to just do something else, ventured into a new industry. So, I became an advisor for the Dutch Government as a Vice Chairman for the Economic Development Board, which is an amazing journey; did it about four years and learned so much, learnt about politics, which I also didn’t like and decided, you know, after that that I should go back to investing and I ended up through a weird journey doing my own investments first, trying to set up a small fund in Holland, and I ended up going to Harvard for an executive course, and one of my classmates introduced me to a friend named Jeff, who was at Golden Gate Ventures in Singapore. I bought a trip to Singapore and had a conversation about the ecosystem and what happened and what they’re looking for and I stayed, never left, so, been here since eight years.


Jeremy Au: (03:20)
Amazing what a journey in the classic, like you said - operator turned VC. So, I think the first question, of course, is that when you went off to Harvard, you went off to do it in quite something called strategic financial analysis for business evaluation. That was all the way back then. So, what was triggering your move to do that training/retraining for yourself and that eventual transition, both geography and career?

Michael Lints: (03:41)
I was always intrigued by…so our startup was not venture backed, so we were able to generate revenue pretty fast and become profitable after the first year. So, we decided in our growth trajectory we didn’t need any venture capital. But as we sold the company and a lot of founders said, hey Mike, you wanna invest in my company or do you want to become a board member or advisor because we’d love for you to sort of the help and expertise. I really wanted to get a better grip of how do investments actually work because I’ve been an operator for so long. I did politics, but I never sort of made proper investments, so one of my friends in Rotterdam. He said - dude, I just did a course at Harvard and it was amazing and you get business cases and the folks in your class, it’s really valuable. And I was like, oh, that makes a lot of sense. So, I looked up anything that was related to investments and and that’s how I sort of literally decided to make a move. And then I guess the second thing was, why didn’t I do this in the Netherlands or Europe? I just felt having a network in a different geography would be helpful, so I said Harvard would kind of open up a new network for me and that’s what I did.

Jeremy Au: (05:03)
Yeah, it definitely did because it led to a meeting with Jeff and you changing geographies. So, I think what was it like meeting Jeff and hearing the crazy idea to set up Golden Gate Ventures? What was it like? Were you like meh or like yeah, maybe, or like definitely yeah?

Michael Lints: (05:19)
It was inspiring. So, I met Jeff and Vinny in 2013, so we had dinner at a friend’s place. They were telling their own journey and Vinny spoke about why he moved to Singapore. Jeff told me about his previous work like being in private equity and then deciding to really focus on these tech startups and I was like why would you build a fund in Singapore? I mean, why not anywhere else and they were talking about the funds that they’d invested in and you know the likes of Fanad and MoneySmart and Carousel. I’m like this is intriguing. It’s really a very, very young ecosystem and I think there’s a bit of kind of proving themselves, and you’re saying, yeah, we can do this and we can build this firm and we can build this legacy and that got me inspired. I love that story and I felt these guys are onto something really good. And yeah, I just want to see if I can be part of that journey.

Jeremy Au: (06:16)
Amazing. Where were those conversations held over? I mean, it was probably in person, not like Zoom these days. Paint a picture of what it was like because on some level, they were pitching you, you were thinking about it as well, but where was this conversation held?

Michael Lints: (06:31)
Yeah, it’s funny, it wasn’t so much…I wasn’t pitching them and they weren’t pitching me. I think we just had a conversation that the three of us were – there’s something here. There’s something in this sort of dynamic between us as persons. I guess me looking for making the next step and them making an investment, trying to build something. So, it was more like – hey, what can we do? Can I be helpful with getting investors on board? I can go back to Europe and talk to my network of investors and see what I can bring on board. So, it was not so much about them pitching me, I guess it was more about us just having a conversation about what was happening in this ecosystem and it sparked something in me like “I’m excited about this”.

Jeremy Au: (07:17)
Amazing. Was that at a restaurant or a cafeteria?

Michael Lints: (07:20)
No, we had a…so, I met them multiple times. They were still at The Hub at Somerset in Singapore. So, a co-working space. So, I met them there and then we had dinner at a friend’s place. We were in someone’s home and it was very easy going. So, we had sort of time to chat and have some drinks as well. We were just at a friend’s place and just having food, that’s basically it.

Jeremy Au: (07:43)
You know what, we probably were at the same place because I was the first few members of Impact Hub Singapore. So, I was also working there and I remember seeing you drift in a few times, in and out, but I was always primarily working on the weekends out of there, in the evenings. So, we didn’t really overlap and, of course, good friends with Grace Sai. So, it’s interesting to see everyone kinda spread out from there from Jungle to Golden Gate to Grain to so many other folks, Glints as well.
Here you are in the early days and you move to Southeast Asia and you decided to commit as a venture partner. What was it like? You know, those were the early days, right? JFDI was still around as well. So, there was like two places to hang out at the time I remember like there’s JFDI (drinks) and Impact Hub Singapore was the other place to hang out. So, what was it like from your perspective, not just learning the ecosystem from a geographic perspective, but also helping build the ecosystem from a young perspective as well?

Michael Lints: (08:43)
I guess my first few months felt tough because I had impostor syndrome. I really felt like I’m this guy from the Netherlands. Yeah, I might have built the company, but who am I to sort of talk to founders in Indonesia and tell them how to build their company so I tried to sort of take a step back and learn as much as I could in those first few months. This is funny, I still remember and Vinny said you know what you should do, you should go to a conference and be a panelist or a speaker because that is 100% going to get you more exposure as a VC and in our firm and what it will do is we get a better grasp of what’s happening in the ecosystem. So, of course, I was talking to like a bunch of founders, but I always felt like I’m imposing, sort of an outsider looking in. So, I had my first, I think it was 2014 where it was an Echelon conference in Jakarta. So, my first trip to Jakarta, ever. And yeah, I just I just got there and I, still, at the conference, I felt so out of place. But it was, in the end, it was good, so, you know, I was sitting on the panel. I guess everyone was like curious. Like who is this guy? Where is he coming from? Why did Golden Gate Ventures hire this dude and why is he here? But I had a good time and I immediately was able to make some friends in the ecosystem and that helped me kind of ease in and sort of gain more confidence. You know, that was my first few months. Really feeling I’m 100% imposing on this ecosystem and I just really have to be cautious and careful about how I position myself. But, early on, I was fortunate enough to help a few of our portfolio founders, whether it was fund raising or kind of helping them with some guidance in terms of hey, I can help get you connections with folks in Europe if you need, or with folks in US, or I have network here of some investors that might be helpful, so that helped me, I guess, one, get confidence and also sort of build trust between me and the ecosystem and I tried to learn as much as I can and you know go out for drinks as you mentioned, go to JFDI, hang out at The Impact Hub for coffee. Yeah, it’s making sure I was talking through the portfolio. Like enough time about their fund-raising ideas and see where I could be helpful. But those were my first months and it’s really about learning and getting to know the ecosystem. I did have a culture shock when I got to Jakarta the first time, I was like whoa this is going to be the next big thing I was like whoa, I have to kind of see this through. It felt so messy. It felt like things were happening all over the place. There was no proper structure. Yes, it really felt like man. This is there’s a lot of work to be done for this to become like what it is now. You know what I miss? I think what I miss about those days. It was an early everyone was so hungry to build something and prove themselves. Every VC that I met was hungry, every founder was hungry, everything that everyone was doing something in this space, they were all hungry and that dynamic is, it was amazing. I loved it.

Jeremy Au: (11:59)
I still remember in those early days, I was also working at the Hub. None of us dared to call ourselves founders because it was a very weird phrase. You know, ten years ago to call ourselves a founder ‘cause you know everybody you work with was kind of a weirdo. Like will look at you as weird if you call yourself a founder. So, everyone was just walking around calling themselves CEO or president. Those early days, right? It’s interesting to see that now being a founder is still uncool, but definitely more cool with some folks that’s been an interesting shift. So, what else have you seen shift since then? You know, over the past eight years in the Singapore, Southeast Asia ecosystem, I mean less about the macro trends because we can pull up a market research report, but, you know, personally, in terms of the culture, people you’re seeing, how do you personally think about it?

Michael Lints: (12:49)
I guess the word that comes to mind is collaboration. I really found that, early on, there was a lot of collaboration between…I’d say, even between investors, between VCs, between Angel investors, between founders, helping each other out. It was really, you know, I wouldn’t want to overuse the word, but it really kind of a community of folks that were kind of trying to prove something. I’m guessing throughout that journey that community always stayed. The community never, to me, was something that never changed. Yeah, I can still pick up the phone and call any VC and have a chit chat about hey how you guys think about this? How you guys think about that? That door is always open. The early founders that I still have a conversation with about anything, could be about kids could be about life, could be about their next venture, so I love it. That sort of that openness and that community still exists. And it’s really it’s really tight knit community. So, I guess that’s one thing that I noticed over the years. The other thing that has always surprised me, in a way, I guess is, I guess Southeast Asia always felt like - this is our home turf. As in, the investors that are from here that kind of helped build what the ecosystem is right now…this is so funny, I'm a foreigner myself. So, I was initially surprised seeing foreign investors come in and being excited. I’m like, oh that’s interesting because the moment you’re part of the in-crowd, you don’t see the outside anymore. You’re not looking from the outside in, you’re always kind of in the inside. And then I had folks from San Francisco or from Berlin say hey, Mike, this is awesome. What you guys are building and it’s so much stuff happening. I’m like no it’s okay. You know, we’re just building stuff, but it’s literally someone from the outside seeing all these companies funding, new founders building a business, people leaving, I don’t know, Gojek and Grab and started their own business and for them looking, seeing it from the outside so they get even more excited than I was and I was really excited. That’s the thing that I really…it surprised me, initially. I get it now because yeah of course you have like companies raising a lot of capital, but initially I was like wow. This is people actually value what we’re building here. Like all of us, what we’re trying to do, people are actually valuing this. So, that was unexpected so early on. I guess the other thing was. As people talked about Southeast Asia as sort of this entire sort of union. I’ve always experienced it as no, it’s like really separate countries. Yeah, they’re fairly close in terms of flight time, but they’re still separate countries. For me, learning that dynamic, I’ll tell you the stories. Jeff always told me Mike “Vietnam is an entirely different beast than Indonesia than the Philippines and you have to understand even within Vietnam, the difference between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City”. And I always felt like you know it’s like Europe, you know so it’s yeah OK there are different countries, but the dynamic cannot be so different. And then my first trip to Hanoi. I was like, whoa, this is a cool place because it’s pretty relaxed like the old city kinda feels like Paris a little bit. Of course, because the French influence. I was like this is actually a cool place, you know, why is everybody talking about sort of the hustle and bustle? This is like pretty easy going and the finance industry is pretty, you know, put together. Then we took a flight to Ho Chi Minh City and I was like whoa, it is so different and kind of learning this sort of, you know, step by step getting input from friends and getting my own experience. I’m guessing that is so unique that is so unique to this region. I guess that is the biggest learning and it’s the biggest excitement. I’ve seen this over the past years, is this kind of learning all those differences and learning how to navigate it as an investor as well. Understanding that a founder from Vietnam does fund raising differently than a founder from Malaysia than a founder from Indonesia, like even those small nuances, is kind of important within our jobs and kind of learning that and you don’t read it in the papers. You know we don’t read it on Tech Crunch, but that’s the nuance of our business. And I love it, I absolutely love it.

Jeremy Au: (17:05)
Yeah I love both threads which is that I think it’s been nice to get that external validation from the world and everyone is starting to come in because they see that shininess of Southeast Asia. But from the inside Singapore is not Southeast Asia, their first flight is into Singapore, and they’re like off at Marina Bay Sands and Infinity Pool and like oh Southeast Asia is great and then they go to all these different places like, whoa, very different, right? Different countries. That’s always something I always end up warning everybody like you said and I think what’s interesting as well as we’ve seen so much change because I think we’ve seen layers stack on each other so you know the first wave being just like just getting high speed Internet in. And then all the various services that build on top of it right from e-commerce to logistics or fulfillment to aggregators. I’m so curious Michael like what parts of the ecosystem have you always been passionate about, themewise? Less about, you know, what’s hot or not hot, but what kind of businesses or startups kind of like say like oh this is something I understand or something that I enjoy kind of like working alongside.

Michael Lints: (18:12)
That’s a good question. It’s been less about a certain sector or vertical, although I do have a natural interest for payments. So, within Fintech, I do enjoy the complexity of payment structures, specifically cross border, but I’ve always been interested and intrigued about it and I’m actually quite bullish to see the development when it comes to banks really working with the sort of the payment startups in terms of you know, open banking API’s, sort of those platforms like I’m keen to see that happen over the next few years. So that is a thing of interest, but I’ve always been more someone that is appreciative of how founders operate not specific about - oh yeah, I like health care or I like payments or I like logistics. If it’s me, it’s always been around - how do founders operate? What I’ve always appreciated here is there’s different types and layers of founders so, I’ll give an example. If I look at the Carousel founding team. So, from the outset, you see early days young guys coming out of university and they are the cyber founders that are so heads down in their business and always focus on improving the product, taking feedback, giving their team the ability to grow and sort of Excel and that is unique for a group that is sort of young, doing this for the first time. You know they haven’t built a billion-dollar company before, so this is kind of the first time and seeing them grow into that role, that’s phenomenal. And then there’s these other types of founders that are more like ‘founder’ founder. They have the ability to sort of position themselves. So, I take Aaron Tan as an example where he when you talked to him, he talks and thinks like a founder - fast on his feet, understanding how to build partnerships, understands how to fundraise, understands how to talk to investors and I like those different dynamics between those types of founders like seeing their very, very young folks and you’ll see them become mature almost in that journey, but also seeing founders that are sort of, you know, founder from day one and they’re able to sort of have that aura around them. I think that gets me more excited and seeing those journeys and whatever happens, you can always say, hey we met seven years ago and I still remember you being nervous about raising your series A. You can talk through it and now if you’ve raised like a massive amount of money and you have like over 100 people working for you and that journey, I think that excites me more than anything else. I’m less about sort of just honing or owning or going deep into an industry. I’m more about sort of that founder journey because also in in my role I tend to be more involved when it comes to fund raising and sort of telling that founder story. So, that’s what gets me excited.
Jeremy Au: (20:56)
Yeah, that's so true and you know I still remember when I raised my series A and I was like oh my God what is going on and you know everything was nicer every sweeter and you just keep going from there as well. So, I guess the question I have for you is this. You know one interesting thing I do think about and reflect about is this like every founder can learn something if you put in a couple million dollars within them, because now they get to hire the team, they get to free up to get, maybe to hire a coach, develop more free time, so there’s this dynamic where, you know, to some extent, the funding helps gift the space for that professional development to go to the next level. And what’s interesting is that I remember as a founder, seeing peers manage to make that leap to the next stage and some people would not, and now that I’m on the other side of the table, I think you understand this as an operator turned VC is, you kind of have this judgment call to be like this person, if we invest, will be able to make it to next stage and conversely some people may find it more difficult to go to next stage. So, what would you say are kind of like the differences in the character or attributes that help someone be able to accelerate their learning with the acceleration of the business and capital versus someone who’s going to struggle more along that process.

Michael Lints: (22:12)
That’s very good question. I guess the biggest thing that makes a difference is how convinced someone is in building their business. You might say like that's odd because if you start a company, you're convinced about what you're building. That is not always the case. We still meet founders who you give those critical questions and they don’t answer them directly or they try to avoid certain answers. If it’s insecurity or if you don’t know yet, that’s fine, but you need to have an ultimate conviction that you and your team are the ones to do this and with that also comes understanding your shortcomings as well. So, for me, when we have founder conversations, I try to look for this. Are they extremely convinced about their business and what they’re building, but are they also aware enough of their own shortcomings and where they need to either adapt or find people to come in to help the shortcomings? So, I try to kind of look for that balance, and when it’s there and it’s clear, that’s when I think, oh yeah, you are actually ready to get through the next stage. We always celebrate funding rounds and I get it. You know, it’s part of our industry and if this is what we do. But literally, the funding round is like is a KPI and then you’ve hit that KPI. But you have like 10 more KPIs to fulfil and funding is like one of them. I’m always concerned when it becomes too big of an event itself. I want the rest to be a bigger event as what comes next into expanding and building your team like expanding your product, better understanding of your customers. How can you serve them better? What are you building towards? I think those answers need to be kind of more, those questions need more answering than over celebrating the funding. So, founders that get excited about the work they need to do after getting the funding. I think those are the ones that are unique in this business and they just tend to be more focused on just getting the job done, doing the right thing, hiring the right people and they talk about it, so they tend to talk about those next steps. There’s more intensity and say hey, the moment the funding comes in I’m gonna do X, Y, and Z. Because I think this will help grow this part of our business and sort of that conviction and that understanding of what you’re building. I think that is always key when these funding rounds happen.

Jeremy Au: (24:44)
Wow, I really like that. I wish we celebrate growing 2X or hiring a key executive. Those are probably more important and fundamental to the business than the funding around. I totally get it. I remember everyone celebrating me on raising money and I was just thinking myself. Oh no, I have so much more commitments that I just made in terms of the growth trajectory, right? And that’s a tough position. I remember just kind of like going through that process because of the outside in dynamic expectations versus you know the inside out reality. So, let’s talk a little bit still about the intrinsic motivation, because I think what you’re saying is that what you notice is that those who do really well are those who really care about the problem really feel like they have that conviction and team, and I think one thing I’ve started to notice, I don’t know if you notice this, but it feels like there’s a lot of people chasing problems they don’t love, but they think will make good commercial sense. And that’s a really tough position for me. ‘cause I, I’m always like, okay, this is a pretty decent idea. You’re really strong person and the founder. I’m just not sure why you for this problem. Do you have any advice for them? Because I think a lot of them, they’re obviously busy projecting, but a lot of people obviously…how would someone know this is something I fundamentally don’t love and I’m just not interested in. I should just like forget it versus I do love this problem, but I’m just having a temporary bout of fear versus I don’t love the problem that much, but if I make money in this and I’m successful, I’m going to start loving this problem and solution anyway. So, what advice would you give to them?
Michael Lints: (26:21)
I mean, so I would always say if you start at the end, if you try to look at yourself 7, 8, 9, 10 years out, would you still be working on this problem if you’re given a chance? If the answer is no, I want to get out of this as soon as I can. As an example, I wouldn’t raise capital. Because the thing is, you’re in this for long term commitments. The moment you make big hires or the moment you raise capital, those are more commitments that you could go into. And if you are not loving this enough, if you don’t see yourself doing this longer term, it’s just going to cause problems. And apart from you having the passion to make the product better to service your customers better, to build an amazing team that takes a lot of effort and I just don’t see how you can put in all this effort without actually being overly in love with what you’re building. So, for me it’s always about that combination. If you think that you’re building something with almost kind of no passion or love for it. It’s almost like a quick flip. Then make sure that that’s it. And as you hyperfocus to just doing that and just don’t, don’t you know cut out all the bullshit around it effectively if you wanna build a longer-term business? Yeah, there has to be a form of passion for it. You can’t do it off the cuff and say, you know what? I’ll just try this out. It’s a problem I don’t really care about, but we’ll see what happens. That doesn’t make great companies. Great companies make people that are dedicated to solving this issue and getting it done and making it bigger and convincing…and here’s the thing…you have to convince others that you believe in this because you start on your own. Then you get your first few hires so you have to convince your hires that they and once you’ve convinced them to become part of your team. You have to convince them to stay because getting them in is one. Having them to stay is something else like another different ball game. And then you have to convince investors if you’re raising capital and you have to convince partners and customers, you can’t do it properly if you don’t have a passion for the product itself, that is crucially important to me. If you feel that you’re solving something that you don’t genuinely care about, or really passionately care about. I think you should just rethink why you’re doing this and find an answer to that question.

Jeremy Au: (28:41)
That was really powerful because I think what you are fundamentally saying is there’s no harm, no shame in having those different dynamics between choice A choice B choice C. But staying true to it and actually aligning your team, your funding sources. To build out that, in that approach is really key, so that’s really important, so you know I love to ask you, you know, starting to wrap things up here, but could you tell us about time where you have been brave? You know something that you have to overcome or challenge that you overcame?

Michael Lints: (29:20)
I guess two moments have been brave and pivotal as well. So, the first one was actually telling the family I’m moving to Singapore. So, typically, when folks, especially when you move to Singapore, you basically you move into a job so you know you work for a big bank, everything is kind of sorted and settled and you kinda move and that’s it. When I moved to Singapore, I had no certainty where my job was going. Golden Gate Ventures was at the time of very young firm. I think they exist. Our first fund was we were two years in so it’s super early days. The ecosystem was young. I mean we had no idea if this was actually going to be become a big ecosystem. So, buying a plane ticket and saying guys this is it, we’re going to give it a go and see what happens and for me it felt brave because our daughter was just born. Yeah, I was telling the family have faith in me and let’s see what happens. That was a big one for me. I guess the second one is and because moving to Singapore has become such a big part of my life. The second thing would be writing my first article on Medium. The reason I’m saying this is I’ve been writing more as of late and most of them are personal stories. But writing this first very personal story, sharing my views. I’m sharing my insecurities, sharing what I’ve gone through, it felt like sort of putting pen to paper. It felt like a brave moment because it put me into a different direction as a person. So those two would be my brave moments.

Jeremy Au: (30:53)
So, let’s talk more about your writing and why is it scary for you personally?

Michael Lints: (30:59)
And I’ll try to summarize it. I used the writing to get to know myself better. So initially the writing was just for me. So, just got my notebook, wrote down my thoughts and it was mainly to understand my thoughts better and understand my actions better. And as I was, I was talking about the stuff that I wrote too, with friends and some would say oh man, I’m going through the exact same thing or I had the exact same experience or I never wrote this down, but it’s helping me to have a conversation with you about it. And I was like, oh, maybe if I shared it with more folks actually more people sort of empathize or have like, hey, this is a lightbulb moment, this is really helpful. So, in that journey was in that sense a big step because the moment you write about your personal journey you become vulnerable. People might like it. People might not like it, so it’s it is a bit insecurity to kind of hit the send button or the submit button and have it out there because once it’s out there it’s out there and people can judge and have an opinion about it so that brings insecurity. But I also felt very comfortable because I assumed that my journey potentially could help others define their own journey and help them define or at least help them face their own insecurities. So that’s kind of where writing, for me, came in.

Jeremy Au: (32:21)
You know, we’ve seen writing take on different forms. That’s obviously the top leadership key. So, it’s very like these are the three big themes coming up. And then there’s a sort of more technical which is really about founder advice and so forth. And then third, of course, is the inside out stories. The ones about the conversations, personal self-talk, dynamic. One interesting thing is that I wonder how you think about this, but as VC’s you know we tend to get a lot of inbound questions about all three levels and it’s kind of confusing to me because I didn’t change as a person at all from point A to point B, so I’m not sure. Maybe it’s impostor syndrome, but I feel like maybe I could talk about the big themes, I can talk about the technical stuff, but inside out stuff is like, you know, my story is not very different from everybody else. So, I’m just kind of curious how you think about people looking at VCs as inspiration or gurus or as role models. So how do you feel about that and process that?

Michael Lints: (33:18)
Oh man, that is a very good question. I spoke at a conference and I think it was in San Francisco. I was a little bit upset because I basically said I would prefer that people still see us as like normal human beings. I said it in a funny context because it was. The industry, us as VC’s, we were really celebrating ourselves, but I’m like yeah we’re still humans and we still have our insecurities and we still go through the restroom like anyone else. We’re not superhumans. But there is one thing though. The fact that we get to speak to hundreds of founders year in year out for the past 10 years, it gives you a lot of insight as a VC, if you’re open to learning and if you’re open to getting to understand the macro stuff because you’ve seen 60 companies in the payment space. You see 40 companies doing logistics. You see twenty companies doing agriculture. That gives you a certain insight and it gives you a certain opinion, and it gives you certain data that others tend not to see and that puts us into a very unique position. And I guess that’s how people are looking for help and support and guidance. If you’re a board member or if you are involved in a founder’s journey. And you’re not doing it once, you’re doing it like 60 times, then that also gives you insights and give you insights about personalities. It gives you insight about how people grow from being this really young insecure founder to someone running a billion-dollar company and seeing that journey really close from the outside in is really valuable. So, I get it so, we have a unique position, but I always say it’s a position of trust. People trust us. I always say this - It’s our obligation as VCs that we are in such unique position that we share this position with others and that we try to help others bring into a better position because we have all this information and because we have all these insights.

Jeremy Au: (35:20)
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. That was actually really powerful and a good reminder for both VCs and founders. I’d love to wrap things up here by summarizing the three big themes from this conversation.
I think the first, of course, was thank you so much for sharing about your personal journey from Europe to Southeast Asia and all the things you learned along the way, from persuading your family, I think that’s a good idea, to giving us a small window into what was it like to hang out at The Hub Singapore with Jeff and Vinny, to what you learn and had to counsel newcomers to the region about the differences between Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and all of the differences in between.
The second part I really appreciate was you giving the professional advice around how people and founders should be thinking about the problems they’re tackling and how well that aligns with why they are tackling it and being true to it from the more short term to the more like passion driven and I really love the advice you have is - none of these approaches are better or worse. It’s just that users have to be aligned about that process. About lining up the commitments that you make to funding sources as well as your teammates about what the truth of your timeline is.
Thirdly, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about, I think on one side, I think inside out is like writing and processing thoughts as human beings and VCs, but also outside in. I would say like the VC aura and the gap between that and the actual human at the core of it who, like you said, still goes to the toilet. So, thank you so much for sharing about how it’s scary, but also the rest. I think the position of trust that the VC can eventually build out if they’re thoughtful and mindful about what they actually bring as an observer and as a participant, yeah. So, thank you so much Michael for coming on the show. I really appreciate you being so brave and sharing about all the scary moments.

Michael Lints: (37:10)
Thanks again for having me, Jeremy, I really enjoyed this conversation. Appreciate it.