Oswald Yeo: Glints Product-Market Fit Pivots, Indonesia Market Leadership & Beginner's Mindset - E285

· Indonesia,Southeast Asia,Founder,Start-up,Podcast Episodes English


"One pattern I've noticed is teams that are close and trust each other can talk about problems. They tend to go a long way together, and founders stick on the journey. The second one is a mission. If they have a clear mission and they're very clear about why they're doing this for a purpose larger than serving themselves. If you have a mission that you're living for, that you're fighting for, larger than yourself, then that will give you the motivation to keep going when things are tough." - Oswald Yeo


"It was the awareness that it's not only about working hard and going through the grind day after day, that's very important. You just have to put in the hours. But it's the awareness that clarity is key, especially when you're building and leading a team. If you're leading a hundred people, a thousand people, you can be working hard, but if they're all working on the wrong things, then your head is heading off in the wrong direction at a faster velocity. So having clarity and ensuring that you take a step back to make sure your team is working on the right things, executing the right strategy." - Oswald Yeo


"So one thing we have at our company, Glints, is a value called a beginner's mindset. We ask questions like, 'When was the last time someone gave you negative feedback?' and we observe how people react to that. Some people react defensively to feedback, while others respond well, becoming reflective and striving to improve themselves. At the core of it, it is ego, because if you can set aside your ego and reflect, recognizing that there are areas for improvement, I believe that, in combination with habits like reading or learning from mentors, it will propel you a long way." - Oswald Yeo


In a discussion between Jeremy Au and Oswald Yeo, the CEO of Glints, key insights emerged regarding Oswald's entrepreneurial journey in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia. He emphasized the importance of adapting to Indonesia's unique market needs and tailoring strategies accordingly, while also building a strong team based on trust and clear communication. Oswald highlighted the significance of gaining clarity through mindfulness practices like silent retreats and meditation.

Despite acknowledging funding challenges in the tech landscape, Oswald remained optimistic about opportunities for startups in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, and encouraged founders to prioritize clarity and strategy execution for success. He also shared insights about Glints' product market fit pivot, showcasing the company's adaptability to cater to the demands of the Southeast Asian talent market.

Additionally, Glints recently released the Southeast Asia Startup Talent Report 2023 in collaboration with Monk's Hill Ventures. The report provides comprehensive salary and equity data, startup trends, and valuable insights from interviews with founders, VCs, and operators in Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Overall, the discussion shed light on Oswald's entrepreneurial journey, highlighting the importance of local market adaptation, effective team building, mindfulness, and the positive outlook for tech startups in Southeast Asia.

Supported by Pollen

 Pollen is a private B2B liquidation marketplace. The startup connects sellers carrying excess inventory with bulk buyers across the world. The platform incorporates pricing, algorithms, dashboard analytics and sustainability metrics to find great liquidation outcomes. Hundreds of tons of usable products that would've been incinerated or gone to landfill is now used by happy consumers instead. Manufacturers get more revenue, buyers get cheaper, and the world benefits Learn more at www.pollen.tech.

Jeremy Au: (01:12)

Hey, Oswald, really excited to have you on the show. We've known each other for what, a dozen years now?

Oswald Yeo: (01:18)

Been many years.

Jeremy Au: (01:19)

I still remember the old Cooking King space at Impact Hub Singapore.

Oswald Yeo: (01:23)

At the hub at the Red Bus.

Jeremy Au: (01:25)

We were both in the newspaper at the same time as well for being entrepreneurs.

Oswald Yeo: (01:29)

Yeah. You were there for a better reason. I was there for being Singaporean parents' worse nightmare.

Jeremy Au: (01:34)

Dropping out of school to do a startup. Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (01:40)

Yeah. Great catch-up today, Jeremy. How have you been?

Jeremy Au: (01:43)

Yeah. No, that's good. I think this has just been a wonderful month, ely lots of ups and downs, but I'd love for you to introduce yourself real quick.

Oswald Yeo: (01:50)

Sure. Hey. Okay. Hi everyone. Oswald here from Glint. So co-founder and CEO started the company officially about seven years ago in 2015. That was when we launched the platform. When we first started the company my co-founders and I were still going to college in the US and we thought that we could juggle both the startup and our studies. That turned out to be a terrible idea. So six months in, decided to drop out of school in the US and come back to Singapore to build the company. That was when the Straits Times caused Singapore and its parents the worst nightmares. That was something that I was very proud of and showed my parents and the first few years were a struggle. This was not only our first company, but our first job. Right. So the first three years we're trying to find product market fit.

Went through lots of pivots and almost died three times as a company. And it was only in about 2018, and 2019 where we found the right business model and the business of the tech of there. So today we're one of the largest talent platforms in Southeast Asia. We serve over four and a half million users in the region to help them grow in their careers. Over 50,000 employers use us to grow their teams, and our mission is really to help realize the human potential of professionals in Southeast Asia. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (03:01)

Yes. So you said, with a moment of pride, right? That you are your parent’s nightmare and I think that's hilarious. I told my parents about dropping out once or twice to do startups and they were not happy, but I decided to stick to school. So how do you feel about that? Was it scary? Were you saw that article? Were you happy, or were you just heading down a building? What was going through your head?

Oswald Yeo: (03:21)

We were, I think very much heads down building. I think, but I think at the beginning of our journey, there was also a bit of too much interest in the press from our side. Like we were overly obsessed I think at the beginning with press and whenever there was good press, we were like, oh, this is like a highlight of the day, highlight of the week. Because we didn't know that we didn't know what mattered right when we first started there. It's not about getting press, it's about getting traction. It's about building a great product and so when you first started the press, stories like that excited us but looking back, Those were not the most important things today. What's most important for us is not the external validation, but really what we have built internally and what I'm most satisfied about. It's always seeing our people grow with us, seeing the business grow rather than things like press stories only. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (04:16)

Yeah. I think all of us were very young 12 years ago, I was also interested in all this press and all this other stuff and so from there, you decided to keep going, right? Which was the interesting part, right? Like you dropped out, you were building and it was a struggle. So could you share a little bit more about why you were struggling in that first situation? I remember it was an internship matching platform and a lot of, I remember, back then also, I think someone was telling me, I was like, is there any money in matching interns? B ut you all were very confident at that time that it was a good approach. So walk us through a little bit about the struggle, right? Because there you are saying it makes sense. You went to the press for it then, but you are also realizing that was very difficult. That wasn't very much money in it. Right? So what was it like that flavour? Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (05:03)

Yeah, it certainly was difficult at the beginning because we didn't know what we were doing, right? This was not only our first company, but our first job, and it was difficult for a few reasons. First, we had no experience, and second, because we had no experience we chose a really small market and third, we chose the wrong business model. So to give a sense of how little experience we had when we closed our first sale as a company. We didn't know what to do next, and someone told us that we should send a customer an invoice, and we asked the investor, what's an invoice? And that was the whole little experience we had. Right, and we're very fortunate to then have continued learning from great mentors and investors. Over the next few years, they help us plot the gap. But the second thing that we didn't get right at the beginning was the market.

We chose a really small market, which is such an internship market in Singapore, which is by itself already a very small market and so even though we got a bit of traction up front, it was really difficult to grow after we hit a certain saturation point and the third thing was monetization and in terms of business model we tried many different things at the beginning and we're all always just focused on getting user growth, but not revenue growth and that affected our ability to scale eventually because there's only that amount of traction you can get just by relying on the investor funding if you are not building a proper revenue generating and profit generating business. Right? So in the beginning, we were only, we're thinking that we were going to charge students for helping them find internships, quickly learned that they were not our customers and should be employers then we spoke to employers and we learned that it shouldn't just be interns.

They have a much bigger problem than just looking for interns and over, it took us, this whole iteration process, took us three to four years to get right, and eventually chose a much bigger market. Indonesia's cross-border recruiting and remote hiring eventually evolved the business model as well, beyond just internships to full-time hires and helping companies build cross-border remote teams and only then when we chose the right market, did we start to take off. So the market always wins. That's one learning we have.

Jeremy Au: (07:03)

Yeah. And what's interesting is you change geographies, you change your business model, and then you change your target customer, right?

Oswald Yeo: (07:09)

Change everything.

Jeremy Au: (07:10)

So you change everything. Is that so? Could you walk us through a little bit more about how you went through that product market fit testing? Like, was there like a moment, there was like a hallelujah moment that made you make it change your mind? Was it research? How did you change your mind? Right. Because those are very hard decisions to make.

Oswald Yeo: (07:28)

Yeah. Great question. I think it was, what we did was we of course went through many iterations and we tracked different business models. We did internship matching, we did graduate job recruiting. We did employer branding. We even did white labels, and we tracked many different things, and then we did placements as well because we were just so focused on looking for revenue and generating revenue in many different ways we were not focused on building a predictable and scalable way at the beginning.

So that was the first learning that we had, which is, it's not just about getting users and getting revenue, it's about building a predictable sales engine and a predictable value creation engine that we can keep scaling and eventually,, we realized that out of all of the business models that we had we had one which was actually in a huge market, which is core recruiting, right. As well as remote hiring. But we were then confronted with a choice of whether or not to continue all of our other product lines, like white labels, employer branding internship programs, student exchange programs, and a whole lot more. Right, and it was either we focus on just one thing or we shut down everything else and what was interesting about that moment was that it was intellectually very simple. What was the right thing to do? Cause you have too many product lines. You're not focused on what you do, you have to focus, right? Focus on one that's working and kill the rest.

So intellectually was very simple, but I think it just took courage. There's one thing I learned by building a startup so far, which is the most difficult decisions are difficult, not because they take a lot of IQ to solve or because they're intellectually very complicated. They're often very simple. It was very clear what was the right thing to do. They just took courage because the moment we did that, revenue plummeted for at least one to two quarters, and we had to be accountable, the investors, who had to be accountable, to the employees as to why, where the company is going and what we are building, right, and so that was the difficult part, which is plucking up the courage to say no to many different things. Focusing on one thing and building that out and skilling that out as a predictable sales engine. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (09:34)

So what's interesting is that you were part of JFDI, right? Yeah. So, I think what's interesting is how did you build your community, right? Because I remember that time we were a bunch of weirdos. Right. For me, I didn't even dare write founder on my card. It was not cool. I don't know. It's so, it was just always that weird dynamic right back then. So how did you build that community in the early days? Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (10:01)

Good question. I think at the beginning, JFDI was one of the turning points for us that plugged us into the ecosystem because before that we were working out of a small office in Mal Baton. It was remember the three of us, the co-founders, we not, we were in the office that's maybe the, they could fit maybe like two tables and when we got stuck, we just always got stuck, right? Because it was the three of us, we didn't know what we were doing. We didn't even know what was fundraising. We didn't know what Series A, or Series B were, and so when we joined JFDI, that was one way of really plugging ourselves into a community because it was a very great accelerator program. It was, I think it was one of the first in Southeast Asia, and it plugged us into a community of other like-minded individuals, but more importantly, also mentors.

Because this was our first startup. Having mentors was a great way to, to just learn from other people and to know what to do, and what not to do. So I remember just hanging out at the cafe at JFDI meeting so many people. One of them was Darius from 99 Co, and we chatted over coffee and 20 minutes later he decided to invest in us. So it was just serendipitous moments like that, right? It's when you have it. A community of people that just hang out together is the like-minded elite that leads to really great outcomes for everyone involved. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (11:18)

And I think during this early time we also went through all these near-death experiences. So could you share what the near-death experiences were for you?

Oswald Yeo: (11:24)

So many. Running out of cash was always a common trigger for near-death experiences, right? So in the beginning, we didn't manage our cash flow. We were not only looking at, we were looking only at revenue. We were not looking at cash flow. We weren't projecting our finances well, or we were always waiting too long before raising our next fundraiser cause of that, we almost ran off cash multiple times. And I remember one of the times we called all the employees, all the team members, into a room. This was like a month before we were running our funding, and we told everyone that, Hey, we had one month on the runway left. Wanted to be transparent upfront with everyone so you can make a position as to whether or not you will stay with us on a mission or you'll go and we'll respect that. Surprisingly, I was very touched. We were all very touched, and they all decided to stay right. Many of them are still in the company with us today, and they're now taking on really important roles. They've grown together with the company and it's the early team members that have helped to build the company to where we are today.

Jeremy Au: (12:29)

Yeah. I think a lot of companies go through that cash flow, right? And for you, you decided to keep going. So what kept you going? Because you had to go through so many tough times. We've talked about it a little bit as well. You also went through like tough times with investors in terms of strategy in his approach. So what made you decide to keep going? Right? Because I think I know why you started. You started because like you said, you saw an opportunity, you went for it, and you dropped out. You know that that's easy, right? But I think the reason why you start something is always different from why you continue doing it, right? And you went through so many near-death experiences. So why did you keep going? Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (13:02)

Yeah, great question. I think it's the people and the mission. So for me, I'm motivated by growth and impact. Those are my values. So as long as I'm growing and as long as I'm making an impact, then I feel motivated to keep going. No matter how hot it is, no matter how difficult it is. So in terms of growth what I've enjoyed about the journey, our journey so far is even though we've been doing this officially now for seven, almost eight years it feels like every six, seven months I have a new job because the company is growing quickly and what is required of me too, to take the company to the next level changes all the time because it requires different skill sets to lead a company of a hundred people compared to 200 people compared to now 800 people, right? So I'm growing and I'm learning from great mentors, great investors along the way from our fellow team members as well. So that's the first reason I'm growing.

And the second one is impacted. So I feel fortunate that we started a company in the human capital space and our mission is to help realize human potential. And so now we know that every month millions of people are using the platform to look for their careers, where we're facilitating millions of job applications. And so every day that we're working, we're making a real impact on people's careers based on our users and customers.

And equally important is also our team members. Right? One of my favourite moments it's not just about raising rounds of funding or growing revenue. Those are great, but it's seeing early team members that have grown together with us. Some of them join us as fresh graduates or join us with one year of experience, but are now leading teams of a few hundred people. Right. And they growing up together with us and just seeing people grow together with us it's really rewarding. So ultimately, growth impact is what kept me going about how hard it is.

Jeremy Au: (14:48)

How did you make the shift and decision to go from Singapore to Indonesia? So the product site makes sense, right? Cause you're looking for more profitable, more recurring revenue streams. But Singapore to Indonesia is not necessarily the most intuitive, right? You could have gone to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam. So what was that experience like deciding to go to Indonesia and how did you go about doing that?

Oswald Yeo: (15:09)

Yeah, I wish I could give you a very intelligent answer of like, market mapping and research that we did, but it was luck. I think we, at the first expansion market, we chose, we got lucky. We just thought, Hey, is this the biggest market? Because of the population, we had some local partners that we knew there, so let's try it. Right? And it started to take off, so we got really lucky eventually when we did our second and third market expansions. It was when we got a little bit more experience and we started to map out who were our early adopters.

In our case, we realized that a lot of our early adopters were startups or companies in the tech ecosystem. And so we're comparing back then, for example, between Vietnam and the Philippines, and this was about three years ago, we realized that the tech ecosystem in Vietnam was more mature than it was in the Philippines, about three years ago, more startups were really to higher-tech talent, and so we then chose Vietnam over the Philippines. So I was looking at who our early adopters were and of course a combination of market size and market growth. But in the very, very first instance in Indonesia, It was just market size and we got lucky. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (16:15)

So, a lot of companies expanded in Indonesia, right? So from the US, from Vietnam. From Singapore. So what were some of the myths and misconceptions about entering the market like Indonesia? Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (16:26)

Yeah. I think one of the biggest learnings we had, it's how important it is to be on the ground. During the first few months of expanding to Indonesia, I was trying to run it from Singapore, and that was, that didn't work because the iteration loops were too slow. So what it looked like at first was, we'll have a call with my country manager there, let's say on Monday, right? During the weekly call. So we'll have an idea, we'll say that's a great idea. Let's talk about this during our next call, either end of the week or next week.

And so the iteration cycles were then in weeks. Which is too slow for a startup. But eventually what we did when I move over and we were sleeping in the same apartment, is we're able to speed up iteration cycles from weeks into days, right? We'll discuss it in the morning, we'll execute it in the afternoon, and then at night in the apartment, we'll discuss it again and go through it again. And the next day we'll try again the next model and improve the model. So one of the biggest conceptions, or my mistakes I see is people trying to expand to a new country remotely, and that's difficult. That's one thing. Another thing we found, it's the importance of really using locals for the market. So, of course, there's the obvious reason, there's the obvious reason people understand the market, but there was a huge cost advantage in recruiting locals as well as compared to, as compared to only building our team in Singapore.

And that cost advantage eventually translated into faster iteration loops as well. Cause in the case of, let's say, building a sales team, when we're building a sales team in Singapore as a six-stage or series A funded startup, we could only afford to hire one or two sales managers at a time, right? And if that does, if that person doesn't work out, we will have wasted three months or easily six months in Indonesia, however, in Vietnam, we could then build up a team of we could build up multiple teams of sales managers around multiple sales managers for the same amount of money. And if one of them doesn't work out, we'll have a second or one that will likely work so that we can then continue scaling that compressed the iteration loops and allow us to execute so much faster. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (18:32)

And what's interesting is that you focus on building out talent. Right. So what have been your learnings regarding talent placement and retention in Indonesia? Right, because I think a lot of folks are building Indonesia and, or they're curious about it, but, I think they say things like, okay, education levels are rising, but not there yet. The professional skill set on the job training's not there yet. I mean, it's not just about Indonesia, right? I think this is a, emerging market kind of, view from a developable. So what have video your learnings about talent and human capital in Indonesia?

Oswald Yeo: (19:02)

Yeah, Great question. I think one learning building our teams in an emerging market like Indonesia, and it's a pattern we're starting to see in other emerging markets like Vietnam or the Philippines as well, is the importance of recruiting early high-potential talent while smart, really driven, but may not have many experiences, and then investing in them and grooming them as compared to just always trying to look up for the experience hire, that will be a silver bullet, right? In the early days, we were always trying to look up for experience hires that were drawing our team, especially given how young we were as well. And so We then always looked out for silver bullets. And more often than not, those always didn't work out. Whether it's for culture fit reasons, or whether it's for, many execution reasons, right? Even there might be good multicultural.

But the context that they were coming from was just so different. In the early days what worked was then just having fresh graduates or people have one or two years of experience. They were really hungry, really driven. And we invested in them, we coached them and they grew up together with us. And these people ended up being so much more loyal to the company as well. They act like owners and they are owners. We share a part of the company with them by ESOP, which eventually helps to form a call for the company.

Jeremy Au: (20:19)

So, I can't help but ask, would you tell your kids to drop out of school? How would you help them decide on that?

Oswald Yeo: (20:28)

I would help them to decide by I think both the heart as well as the head, right? So the heart is you gotta be sure what you want to do three to five years from now. And for me, back then I was pretty sure that I wanted to be running my startup. I was always interested in entrepreneurship and because of that, I knew that I'll be able to learn so much more about being an entrepreneur by really running my startup, then staying in school for the next four years, trying to learn from business professors only, right? So that's the heart of it, which is what do you wanna do, have clarity on that and have the courage to go after, but at the same time also having the hit to mitigate the risk. I think for us, we're very lucky. It wasn't a case of just blind bravado because Berkeley, both of our universities gave me an infinite deferment. So I can go back today if I wanted to. I could go back when I'm 80. So the risk was very well mitigated, right? If it walked out great. If it was that, if it didn't, I could have come back to Berkeley. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (21:32)

Who knows, maybe he'll eventually become an alumnus and hang out with me at the Berkeley alumni events.

Oswald Yeo: (21:37)

I have been to some of the events, so yeah. it's good fun.

Jeremy Au: (21:40)

It's a lot of fun. So I think it's interesting, right? Because like how many kids do you have?

Oswald Yeo: (21:47)

I have one today. Just turn, almost turning two. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (21:52)

Almost a wait. I have a two-year-old daughter.

Oswald Yeo: (21:55)

I think we had about the same time Covid babies, right?

Jeremy Au: (21:58)

Yeah. Covid and a government bonus. There go. So, I think what's interesting is that you have a big love for education. You think about human capital. So when you think about, your child and other people's children, what would you think are really important skills or knowledge to know for them to be successful in Southeast Asia and, say 20, 30 years from your perspective?

Oswald Yeo: (22:21)

I think the first one, and I'm trying to impart this to my son Leo, as much as possible is just learning to learn. And the thirst for learning and not, and knowledge and reading books because the war is changing so rapidly that I don't think there's a fixed set of things that, that I can say, well, I've learned this, you'll be set for the next 20, 30 years. But I think the meta-skill that we should all be equipped with, it's the ability to learn and adapt to new situations. And one thing that served us well over the past few years in starting a startup is the ability, to reconstruct our mentor models, to learn new mentor models, to learn from other mentors, to read books, and just to take on new challenges, right? So we never had a single set of principles that would say, we'll use this for the next five, 10 years. But we're always updating our principles or updating our knowledge. And I think the ability to learn and the ability to acknowledge what you don't know and have the desire to learn new things, it's probably what will serve everyone the most.

Jeremy Au: (23:26)

How would you teach someone to learn how to learn from your perspective?

Oswald Yeo: (23:30)

I think one, it's just an interest in reading from reading at the beginning, right? So one thing I'm trying to do for my kids now is to just get to enjoy reading, read more to them, and get 'em associated with joy. Yeah. And I think that's one part of it in terms of a habit. The second is in terms of mindset. So one thing we have at our company, Glints, it's there's a value called a beginners mindset. Which is the humility to acknowledge that, you're always less than 1% done. You're always growing and there are a lot of things out there that you can learn from, and we try to filter for that even in our interviews, we'll ask questions like when was the last time someone gave you negative feedback? And we'll see how people react to that. Some people react to feedback defensively. Some people react well, they get reflective and improve themselves. So, but at the core of it, it is ego cuz if you can put down your ego and reflect and recognize that there are things that you can improve upon, I think that's when that, in combination with habits, that reading or learning from mentors will bring you very far. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (24:38)

Is there anything that you're teaching your kids to learn that you think is non-mainstream? Like is there anything that you want them to learn that is different from how other parents teach their kids?

Oswald Yeo: (24:48)

He's two years old now, so, not there yet, but when he grows up a little bit more, I'm gonna set him up for John's classes at Doyobi for sure.

Jeremy Au: (24:59)

So you want your kid to learn coding or you want your kid to learn the metaverse or what's that?

Oswald Yeo: (25:04)

I would expose him to as many things as possible. Whether it's coding or whether it's arts, I think having a broad-based education would serve well, rather than just going really deep and specializing too early. Yeah, so it expo exposes him to different experiences.

Jeremy Au: (25:21)

Yeah. Awesome. Could you share with us a time that you have been brave?

Oswald Yeo: (25:28)

I think one time was when we decided to shut down five out of four of our product lines 5, 6, 5 years ago to eventually focus on the single one which is one of our core product lines today. And as I mentioned earlier, intellectually was very clear what was the right thing to do. It was intellectually very simple, but it took courage because we knew that revenue will plummet after you shut down for five of your product lines. And that took courage. Yeah. From the team. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (26:00)

Why was it tough for you?

Oswald Yeo: (26:03)

It was tough because we felt like we had to, put on a certain impression to team members, to investors that every quarter would be a good quarter at the beginning, right? And when we take decisions like that, it would affect growth in the short term. But when we thought about it, we realized that what's important is not just short-term growth, but building an enduring company for the long term. That gave us a lot more courage and clarity to make these difficult decisions such that even if we had to trade off the short term for the long term, it would be the right decision to do.

Jeremy Au: (26:33)

I think you've, frankly, Oswald, you're much more mature and poised as a speaker compared to a dozen years ago. How did you learn how to, kind like communicate and, a story told from your perspective?

Oswald Yeo: (26:49)

I think it's just being authentic. One thing I've learned is just having a, just treat such conversations as what they are, which is a conversation. I think maybe in the past I would worry too much about what people would think or what I'm saying and I would not be present, right, or not be distracted if I'm just super present and get focused on the conversation in itself. And just have a good chat. Then I think that helps go a long way.

Jeremy Au: (27:19)

What do you read? What do you read? One is for work and one for fun. Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (27:23)

For work. The latest book that I'm reading now, I think I had it here. This is pretty good. So principles, but these are not the core principles. It is not the one that everyone knows. This is a journal. Huh. I, yeah so it's like a guided journal. You can read through it, but more importantly, it prompts you to reflect. And that's one thing that I found important, in running a company, which is having clarity. So it's like a, it's a book by, it's a guided journal as well, so that helps. For fun, I'm reading some philosophy books. It's called the Book of Five Rings. It was written by Samurai in Japan, I think 4500, 4500 years ago. It's like the JapaJapanesesion of the Art of War.

Jeremy Au: (28:04)

So you have Principles by Ray Dalio and now you have what, the book of five rings? Got to check it out.

Oswald Yeo: (28:11)

It's pretty cool. Yeah. So it's written by a Japanese swordsman.

Jeremy Au: (28:15)

Yeah. And what do you read for fun?

Oswald Yeo: (28:18)

But the second one was for fun. Okay. I'll give you another book.

Jeremy Au: (28:21)

I don't know. That could be before work.

Oswald Yeo: (28:22)

Sorry. I'll give it, I'll fun one. I enjoyed the three-body problem. So that's one book I'm reading the science fiction book. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (28:31)

Yeah. Well, there's a TV series.

Oswald Yeo: (28:34)

I watched that. Yeah, that was good. That was what got me started with the novel.

Jeremy Au: (28:40)

Yeah. I don't wanna Mandarin. Yeah. I want to watch it, but I will get around to it.

Oswald Yeo: (28:47)

It's good. You can say you're practising your Mandarin. It's a great excuse for standing hours on a TV show.

Jeremy Au: (28:54)

You've met many founders, right? Over the past dozen years. Right. In Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia, over the past dozen years. And obviously, the average scenario is that the company winds down. Right? And you've managed to keep going and some bunch of other folks. So from your perspective, what do you think differentiates the founders that kind of like versus those that have to move on to a new chapter? Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (29:16)

I see a big difference. Well, firstly, I wanna acknowledge that. It's, there's no intrinsic there. There's nothing bad about moving on to a new chapter, right? Sometimes we've seen partners move on to start another company or join another company and they make a bigger impact. They grow more and that's very successful, right? But I think one big difference, a couple of big differences, I think one is do they have a team that they enjoy working with? One thing that has helped me get so far as well is the team. And that's both my team members, but also our board mentors and shareholders that I enjoy just going on this journey with because it can be lonely and, but when you feel down and if you have a co-founder or a board member that can, that you can talk to, that can help problem solve with you, that goes a long way in keeping you motivated for the long run.

So that's one thing. One pattern I've noticed, is teams that are close and they trust each other, they can talk about the problems. They tend to go a long way together, and the founders tend to stick on the journey together. The second one is a mission, right? If they have a clear mission and they're doing it, they're very clear about why they're doing this for a purpose larger than that of just serving themselves. Then they kind of keep going. One of my favourite stories and favourite books, it's A Man's Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl and he talks about how people who survived the concentration camps or those who had a keep out there waiting for them or spouse are there waiting for them, or a purpose out there can be as simple as them saying, I wanna reflect on this journey and share it with the reflect on this experience and share it with the wall after I get out. Right?

It's compared to people who are just always thinking about how they can survive for themselves. And it was those who thought about others that, give them that motivation and drive to keep on surviving. And I think it's very similar in the startup. If you have a mission that you are living for, that you're fighting for that's larger than yourself, then that will give you the motivation to keep going when things are tough.

Jeremy Au: (31:15)

Yeah. And when you look ahead to the future, what do you think are, the key trends that people should be aware of in tech and Southeast Asia if you are like a founder?

Oswald Yeo: (31:26)

Well, I think the first thing now that's top of mind for a lot of people, it's that there's a big slowdown in the funding environment and many people are wondering, oh, is this a great time to start a startup? Is this a good time to keep building? But I would say it is right, because it's, even when we first started the funding wasn't as, as in abundance as it was the past few years. So, and we saw many great startups of today that started back during those days, 2014, 2015 as well. They're huge, and I think the ability to thrive in such times of scarcity would differentiate the great startups from the others. So, even though this is a slowdown in the funding market and a slow in the business environment, I think it's still a great time to keep building. See, I'm still feeling very bullish about South Asia.

Jeremy Au: (32:14)

And any hobbies that you have personally?

Oswald Yeo: (32:17)

I like to do aside from just the usual exercising and taking care of itself physically, I think meditation, it's something that I enjoy and it has been the one thing that has given me so much more clarity and the ability to just step out and have a much calmer choice. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (32:39)

When did you first start meditation?

Oswald Yeo: (32:41)

On and off since about 10 years ago. But I started getting more seriously into it about six years ago. And one of the things I will do is go do silent retreats. So every year, once a year, I will go to this place called Bali Silent Retreat. You go there, lock away your phone, no devices, no wifi, and you just spend time with yourself. No talking to anyone as well. And it's like my version of a think wick, and I get so much clarity from that.

Jeremy Au: (33:12)

I've been to Vipassana twice.

Oswald Yeo: (33:13)

Well, the 10-day intense one. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (33:17)

Well, yeah, the first one I went because I wanted to go my first co-founder, so we went as a part of our conscious uncoupling process because, to both go in separately.

Oswald Yeo: (33:26)

Oh wow. This, that's nice. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (33:28)

Yes, best friends I went, my wife just accompany her. So when you do these retreats, I mean, you said that you started ramping it up about six years ago. Like what was that reason? Why did you ramp up? Yeah.

Oswald Yeo: (33:38)

I think it was the awareness that it's not only just about working hard and going through the grind the after day, that's very important, right? You just gotta put in the hours. But it's the awareness that clarity is key. Especially when you're building a team and you're leading a team, because if you're leading a hundred people, you're leading a thousand people, you can be working hard, but if they're all working on the wrong things, then your head just heading off in the wrong direction at a faster velocity. Right? So having clarity and making sure that you take a step back to make sure that your team is working on the right thing you're executing the right strategy. It's one of the reasons why I do these retreats because then that gives me the head space to think about things. To make sure that we are working on the right things and there aren't things that we're missing.

Jeremy Au: (34:25)

And when you think about mindfulness and so, so far, what do you think? Is Oswald, Oswald before learning meditation as a skill versus after any big differences in your habits or outlook because of your meditation habit.

Oswald Yeo: (34:40)

I think I tend to be a lot more reactive in the past. Maybe a larger ego. But I think this habit has helped me to gain a lot more clarity. That also helped me cultivate what we call beginners myself. There's the awareness that that, it's not about myself. It's about learning from people. It's about making an impact.

Jeremy Au: (34:59)

Awesome. So, I'd love to summarize the three big key takeaways I got from you. The first of course was I think, really interesting to hear about how you were founded, well, dropping out, and then after that dropping out for a bad product market fit and then you're slowly iterating, pivoting to get somewhere. And I, yeah, literally you change everything, right? You change your customer, you change your product, and you change geographies as well, right? did you do every kind of pivot possible, I thought it was really interesting to hear that I think an insider point of view about it, because I think everybody looks at you and it's like, it looks simple now, and more obvious in retrospect.

But I think really interesting to hear that iteration here. The second of course is thanks for sharing about, I think what was it like to choose the market, Indonesia, what you learned about, what's it like to build for the platform there, but also how to build a team there and how to accelerate the rate of learning and execution which is what you needed to succeed. And lastly, I enjoyed what you shared about, the beginners mindset, as well as learning to learn. I thought it was a, I think wonderful, I don't know sync between what you're hoping your kids to learn, but also what you practice over time as well. So, and that, on that note, you so much for sharing Oswald.

Oswald Yeo: (36:10)

Well, thank you, Jeremy. It's great catching up with you. See you around.