I think it just goes back to that Henry Ford quote about people not knowing what they want, until you give it to them. And I guess for content that can be true. Because sometimes we try to look for people who are asking questions, but sometimes they aren't even asking questions yet, but we could still reach out to them in a way and make them realize that, oh, they were actually interested or curious about this. Because all these algorithms base it... I mean, not just words, words and then now images as well, because that's what the algorithms base their algorithms on, the words that the images that you use.
- Paulo Joquiño
Paulo Joquiño is a writer and content producer for tech companies. He shares the stories and insights of founders and investors in Southeast Asia as the senior content strategist of Insignia Ventures Partners, through the firm's official publication Insignia Business Review and podcast On Call with Insignia Ventures. Last year, he co-authored and published a book with Yinglan introducing the region’s startup ecosystem and their views on company building in Southeast Asia -- Navigating ASEANnovation.
As a university student, he took up multiple work opportunities in content and marketing for startups in Asia. These included interning as an associate at G3 Partners, a Seoul-based marketing agency for tech startups, running tech community engagements at coworking space and business community, ASPACE Philippines, and interning at workspace marketplace FlySpaces. While in university, he was also a member of YouthHack Manila, an independent student-led startup organization, where he organized local and international events in Manila and Seoul, including hackathons, pitching competitions, and accelerator programs. He graduated with a BS Management Engineering at Ateneo de Manila University in 2019.
When he's not blabbing on about startups and VCs, he's blabbing on about Kpop, Kdramas and other Asian pop culture stuff, which he talks about on weekends with friends on the Weekly Stan Up podcast.
Jeremy Au (00:00:01):
Hey, Paulo. Good to have you on the show.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:00:03):Hey, Jeremy. Thanks for having me. How's it going?
Jeremy Au (00:00:06):
I am super excited to have you on... Because you're someone who feels like someone who, similar souls. In the sense of we're both podcasting. We're both doing content creation in terms of VC thought leadership in Southeast Asia. We both have interesting hobbies. So I'm really excited to share about how you're spearheading Insignia's thought leadership on one level, but also your personal interesting story as well.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:00:35):
Yeah, I think it's just really exciting to meet somebody who is also really interested in the same things that I am, in the sense of creating this type of content, about these kinds of topics, for this audience. I think especially in Southeast Asia in particular, it's kind of hard to find somebody who's doing, I guess, similar things to what I do. And I was really happy to find you along the way. I think it was a clubhouse session, right, where I learned about you, and then I listened into this session with you and Nick Nash, which was really great. And then that's how I found out about The BRAVE podcast. And yeah, really great of you to have me on the show. And really a pleasure. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:01:17):Yeah. I'm really excited to go into it. So for those who don't know you yet, could you share a little bit
Paulo Joquiňo (00:01:23):
Sure. Yeah. So I am currently a senior content strategist at Insignia Ventures Partners. So Southeast Asia VC firm based in Singapore. Typical regional VC firm. And I guess, to give a little background as to how I ended up in Insignia, I guess that might be more interesting, is, this is actually my first job right out of university. Although I've been with the startup ecosystem, or rather interacting with founders and VC actually since I was in high school. So I first joined my very first hackathon in 2014. It was one of the very first hackathons actually in Manila at that time. And I guess now, you probably wouldn't call it a hackathon, it was really more of a pitching competition, because we weren't like coding all the time, you were a lot more focused on the pitching aspect, and the business model.
But yeah, that was an experience for me. And then I ended up really liking what the organization behind that event was doing. So then I joined that organization, it's called YouthHack. They still do a couple of different events here in Manila and other countries as well. But I joined them, helped organize some other pitching competitions, trying to get more students interested in startups. That was the whole... Yeah, Silicon Valley was still showing at the time. Everybody was still trying to get in and figure out what this whole space is.
And then, in university, I started to... As I was trying to "preach" this startup gospel to students, I realized I can't really preach it if I don't actually experience it myself. So I ended up trying to look for jobs in startups. So I work for a couple like co-working spaces and marketing agencies for startups. And then eventually found myself in a venture capital firm. And that's where I am right now. And it's been really great so far. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:03:15):Amazing. And could you share a little bit about some of the amazing work that you've done of Insignia, especially in regards to thought leadership?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:03:23):
Yeah, I think one of the first things that came to do at Insignia was really help in terms of creating this, I would say, content machine. And we started off by creating our own little version of First Round Review, or Harvard Business Review, whichever one you know. And we call it Insignia Business Review, in case the association isn't that obvious yet. It's just basically a blog from the firm, and sometimes you get a couple of different contributors here in there. You just talk about the region and all that jazzy stuff.
And then the second thing that I sort of introduced into the content machine was, we also tried to do podcasts as well. So I think it came at the right time that I started a podcast in Insignia, it was around April 2020. And just then, COVID restriction started hit events. Not many people could hold events. And so podcasts became, I guess, a convenient way to be able to do mindshare without sort of the hassle of figuring out Zoom or all these event platforms, while still getting the word out there about different things.
So yeah, I helped set up this for this podcast for Insignia. And yeah, I guess the last thing and one of the really, I guess, to some people, might be crazy, things that I did last year was actually work on a book. And it helped that I was just mostly stuck at home, and still stuck at home actually. But for the better part of last year, I spent writing a book with Yinglan on the things that we've learned over the past few years when it comes to Southeast Asian startups. And yeah, so the book is Navigating ASEANnovation. ASEANnovation because Yinglan wrote a book a couple years back called Chinnovation. So now it's like Southeast Asia, so ASEANnovation. And yeah, it was published November last year. And yeah, it's been really great because got to talk about it to different people and see how it's been helpful to some people as well.
Jeremy Au (00:05:27):
Amazing. I mean, I think you all have really pioneered how though leadership is being done, especially in the region, at the VC level. And I think is really amazing to see some of the great content that you've been doing. I definitely have listened to some episodes on the podcast while going for a walk and stuff like that. This is-
Paulo Joquiňo (00:05:46):We got to support each other.
Jeremy Au (00:05:48):Yeah, I know. I gave you like and subscribe you.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:05:53): Right, right, right. Right. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:05:54): Smash that follow button-
Paulo Joquiňo (00:05:57): Get the notification-
Jeremy Au (00:05:58):podcast.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:05:59): Yes, yes, yes. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:06:02):
There you are. I mean, obviously you're interesting, because you're doing honestly, three things, transitions that are interesting, right? One, obviously, transition between university to professional career. The second one of course is transitioning from a consumer to being and writing thought leadership, from strategy and content perspective. The third thing, of course, is that you're transitioning from having work at startups for junior level to becoming and joining the VC landscape, which is table.
So that's a really interesting set of transitions that you had. How was that transition for you? Did you find it fun? Was it challenging? What do you think about that transition?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:06:40):
Yeah, I think let me... So those are three different transitions. Maybe I'll just go through each of them. I guess, I'll tackle the second one first, which is you mentioned, going from a consumer... Because yeah, I do love consuming a lot of these different content about startups. It's how I got to learn about the ecosystem when I wasn't going to events, before the pandemic. And now that I'm in that position where I'm also creating content and sharing insights, not necessarily my own, but being that, I would say, wordsmith for these founders and investors to share their insights on the region, it's quite interesting because now you understand the weight that comes along with sharing your own opinions or perspectives.
And on the other hand, also being aware of the value that it has. Because it's pretty intangible in a way. You're not necessarily really connecting it to like KPIs. I mean, obviously, you can just like measure views and subscriptions or whatnot. But especially for a VC, it doesn't necessarily translate into like, "Oh, if somebody reads this article, they're going to invest in the company," or, "This founder is going to join our portfolio." It doesn't work like that. But at the same time, you still realize that these words actually do have power and they can actually influence.
I mean, how I discovered Insignia was actually through thought leadership, interestingly enough. I mean, I was working in this marketing agency in Korea, just collecting names of different thought leaders in Southeast Asia, and then Yinglan was one of them because he had written a couple of articles in Forbes. And that's how I ended up connecting with him on LinkedIn. So yeah, it was pretty interesting that the same thing that I'm doing now is how I got the job, or how I got introduced to the firm.
And I think, in terms of like producing content... Yeah, I just remember something that I think it was my English teacher back in grade school told me. He was like, "Don't just be a consumer, be a producer." The statement isn't that qualified that much, but yeah, looking at what I'm doing now, I hopefully I'm able to actually not just consume things but also produce things that are helpful to other people as well. Yeah, so that's the that's the first transition.
The second transition from uni to first job, I mean, I guess it's not that different from anybody else who's going out of uni and taking on their first job. I guess it was different for me, because this first job is mostly remote. I don't... Well, I mean, I guess now a lot of people are taking remote jobs for their first jobs, but pre-pandemic, it wasn't that much of a popular choice, I would say. And to an extent, some people even like advised me against it. They would say like, "Just take a stable job first before you try and do other things." But yeah, I was just really interested and really passionate about doing this whole content thing, so I took it anyway.
But yeah, being in Insignia and working remote for most of my time at the firm is quite interesting. It's like I've only been to the office like what, maybe like less than 50 times. Less than 20 times even, I mean, if you count several days as one time. Yeah. So it's been quite interesting. And you started appreciate the value of different tools, like Slack, Zoom. And without those tools, I'd be pretty difficult to sort of coordinate with different people from different countries. Yeah, it's been quite an interesting experience.
And then the third transition you mentioned was sort of like the local, moving from a local junior, kind of pitching to students sort of scenario, and then now working in VC. Yeah, I think it's quite different. It definitely matured my understanding of how startups work. Obviously, when you're working in pitching competitions for students, it's very basic level stuff. But still valuable stuff, I'd say. But it's still basic, and you don't really question what happens. Say, they were in pitching competition, say they get connected to investors, you don't really think about that. You're just thinking about, how great is the idea, and let's get investors interested. But you don't really think about what happens after that. And now working in a VC, you do start to think about that. And I do start to realize the importance of what happened after afterwards. So I hope I covered everything. Yeah, that was a lot.
Jeremy Au (00:11:26):
That's a lot of transitions. And I think one thing that was interesting was talking about the metrics for success for thought leadership/content and how super fuzzy. And I struggle with the same thing. Because obviously, the nice thing to look at is just be like, okay, number of listens and downloads, number of readers. I think that's the most obvious way to look at it. But I also think to myself, like, hey, at least if you're looking at it from a VC perspective, the audience is really small. It's like what, like 100 founders, 200 founders across the region at any one time. So it doesn't matter if you do thousands or tens of thousands. It's how many of the 100 or 200 really got to have that chat with you. I was just kind of curious how you think about it.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:12:15):
Yeah, on some level, you do want to get like a big audience. But what the word big means actually, compared probably to other types of content marketing, is quite different. Like say you get 100% market share of the mindshare here in South Asia, it's still pretty small, as you said. Just a few 100 founders, maybe a few other investors. And maybe, I guess even possibly, other foreign investors who are interested in the region. But it's still small.
And so you, it becomes less about getting more and more numbers, and actually creating sort of either a community, or creating, as I said earlier, sort of that content machine or reliable source that people sort of subscribe to or follow. And I guess in startup lingo, the word for it is retention, or stickiness. Yeah, you do want to get the right people in and you hope that those people will actually continue to listen or continue to read whatever content you come up with. Yeah, so that's how I look at it. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:13:29):
Yeah, I mean, I think that's the key part, is the core audience that you really care about, like founders who you may potentially invest in, LPs, I guess, downstream investors. Those are the kind of folks that you want to make sure that you, like I said, have that stickiness. What do you think is a successful podcast, from your perspective, or content machine? How would you define a successful one for VC?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:13:54):
I think, obviously, for VC, you obviously want to tie it to the VC business model. So you obviously want to tie it to whether or not the content actually either brings in a founder, who the investment team will eventually be interested in enough to actually follow through with, or an investor who could potentially co-invest or do a follow on round with the startup, or a possible hire, like senior leadership, who eventually like say finds your content, becomes interested in that company that you featured for example, or a company that you wrote about, and then begins to search them out, look them up. And then maybe even a potential hire for the firm, who could be really great and in terms of growing the company.
But the common thing about all those four things, all those four "use cases", is that it's really hard to connect the end scenario of, say, getting the hire, or getting the check in, or getting the investor into the cap table or whatever the use case is with the actual creation of the content, because you're not really able to track. And even if they do end up making the decision, I'm pretty sure it's not 100% because of that. but it does lay the foundations. It could lay the foundations, could set the conversation.
And I am pretty fortunate that there were some times where like the founder did message me, or the investor would send me a message saying, like, "Oh, I read your piece or I listened to your podcast, really great, really helpful. I learned about X and Y." And I guess even if it's not consistent, it's not a consistent feedback cycle, just those messages sort of signal to me that I guess I'm in the right track somehow, even if I'm not really able to at the end close the loop entirely. Yeah, at least there's that.
Jeremy Au (00:15:54):Yeah. I mean, I think that's the question all of us have. Because as content creators, we're just writing messages into the void a little bit.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:16:02):Right. Shouting into the void, hoping somebody will shout back.
Jeremy Au (00:16:02): Yeah, exactly.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:16:07):And hopefully, it's not just an echo of your own voice.
Jeremy Au (00:16:16): No, that's exactly it. It's nice to get those nice little letters or the messages, just to be like, "Hey this is interesting." I also get messages like, "Hey, there's a typo here." And I'm like, oh, oops.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:16:25):
Oh, actually, yeah. At least, actually, any message that signifies that they actually read or listened, whether it's positive or not so positive, I mean, it's still validation that they actually clicked the link and actually checked the content out. So it still gives a boost in terms of validating what you're doing. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:16:46):
Yeah. So I think it's interesting. Because that's the question is, there's a soft side, there's a quantitative side. When you look at the landscape, how do you see like thought leadership and VC have evolving in the future?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:17:02):
Yeah, I think there's definitely going to be more... Because one way to see it is, before, VCs were just really focused on closing investments, focused on company building. But then they sort of realized that, in addition to all these portfolio management stuff that they do, this could actually also help in terms of building their brand reputation, which is arguably the most important currency in VC. And so, you have firms like a16z, or even First Round, created these massive themes, almost like separate media companies to an extent, that sort of control the view of the world of people who actually consume this content. And I think Southeast Asia in particular isn't there yet in terms of that, but I think, it's sort of headed there. Especially since there's increasing demand for these types of perspectives.
You have a lot of foreign investors coming, asking questions. Probably the questions are different now. Obviously, 10 years ago, probably the questions were like, "What is Southeast Asia? Where's Indonesia?" But now the questions are, what's going to happen to the E-commerce market, consolidation, blah, blah, blah, all that stuff. So there is definitely a huge demand for answers, regardless if the answers are going to be true or not, there's a huge demand for these perspectives. And I think, with that, you'll have a lot more ownership from the VCs. Ownership in terms of, we have to own the content that we create, we have to own the thoughts that we create, as opposed to simply relying on media platforms.
Obviously, newspapers and journalists and media platforms will still have a large and important role to play, but I think VCs aside from doing that, aside from doing all these PR relations, they will want to create their own source, and their own publication to an extent, to control the narratives that they share with people coming into the region. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:19:11):
I mean, you raise a really good point. Which is, I think the questions are getting more sophisticated. So even in the past, I think the general consumer was like, "What is a startup?" Now, it's like, "What is my optimal fundraising strategy in Southeast Asia?" which is even more specific. I'm just kind of curious, is that how you brainstorm titles or content ideas? Is it more like a bottom up thing where people, they ask you questions, and then you just make them into titles? Or is it more the other way around, which is, you have a big idea, and then you have pillars that you want to talk about, and then go that way?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:19:50):
Yeah, I think it's both. You have to do both. You do have to listen to what people are asking, and definitely people are will ask a lot of questions. Especially if you're a VC in South Asia, they'll definitely ask a lot of different questions, from big topics like GoTo merger, or Grab SPAC, to smaller topics, I guess, with regards to specific portfolio companies, for example. But at the same time, you also try to think about what isn't being asked. So you have that part of the content creation strategy where you think about, where you consider everything that's being asked and try to answer them, and use that as fodder for your content. And then there's that other part where you start to ask yourself, what isn't being covered yet? Or what kind of angle isn't this information being... What light isn't this content being shown under? You do have to do both things, I think.
Jeremy Au (00:20:55):When you think about all of that, do you ever feel like we're going to be contented out?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:21:04): Oh, like saturation.
Jeremy Au (00:21:06): Saturation.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:21:06):It's like Zoom fatigue, but for content.
Jeremy Au (00:21:10):
Yeah, I know. I've just talked out loud, my brain. Because it is like, you're generating content, I'm generating content, I know a few other folks generating content. Do you think they'll be like... What happens when, I don't know, is there a share endpoint where there's a black hole of content where everybody's just like, there's so much content that is just saturated, or?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:21:34):
The interesting thing is about this whole concept of content we're talking about, it's not necessarily data or information or facts. Obviously, it has to be rooted in those three things. It has to be rooted in the facts and data, obviously. But it's not just that, it's obviously you have the layers of opinions, you have layers of perspectives, and different lens of looking at things, which I think there's no ceiling to, because it will be different for every person. As soon as a new investor comes into the community or starts their own career, they probably have their own unique perspectives, they'll start their own podcasts, start to write their own things.
And I think from the consumer end of things, those who are consuming content, I don't think people will necessarily get tired, especially for the people who are looking for answers or who are looking for different perspectives. I mean, obviously, if you're a person who's not looking for anything, but just keeps getting fed these things, like in newsletters, for example, then you could get tired, I guess. But if you're somebody, like say, aspiring founder, or an undergrad who's trying to learn more about the ecosystem, wants to think about starting their own company or join a VC, then the idea is, you want to consume as much as possible. You want to get as diverse a pool of content as possible. Which makes having various perspectives actually more important. You actually want a lot of people to create different types of content.
And it's not really a one to one thing like in other markets, where I get one reader and that reader can't read your other stuff. There's no exclusivity. People can read as much as they want. And it's just a matter then... So then, if you think about competition, your competition is really with yourself, in that sense; can you actually get into the bandwidth of that person or your target audience?
Jeremy Au (00:23:34):
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And it rhymes with what I think about is like push and pull. There's a lot of information that people are trying to push to you. It's like broadcasting. And I think every time we release a piece of content, we're pushing that content out obviously. And those who actively follow us will get that push notification equivalent, through like newsletter, or it shows up in a podcast feed. But I think the real value is actually in the pull approach, where like you said, someone who's on a hunt for something is going to devour 10, 20, 30 pieces of content in a very deep manner. Probably mediated by Google.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:24:14): Unavoidable.
Jeremy Au (00:24:16):
Unavoidable. So Google is the gatekeeper. And then they're going to go through that list to be like, "Okay, well, I learn everything about this company." Or, "I want to learn everything about," like you said, "Who's going to win the Shopee, Grab, or GoTo." So I think those are the things that kind of gets people's brains going.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:24:35):
Yeah, which goes back to one of the things you said earlier, which is, it's really about finding those people, finding those few hundred founders, for example, who are asking those questions, or finding this future generation of Southeast Asia founders of South Asia investors who are trying to learn about the ecosystem. And yeah, it's really about finding the right audience who will actually fit that pull strategy as you mentioned. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:24:59):
I think that's the interesting thing, because it just feels like there's this trend I think of more and more thought leadership. I mean, obviously, I think. And also there's a function of course of VCs learning from the States, but also, I think, is a function of the entire ecosystem is getting smarter. Because the truth is 10 years ago, I don't think anybody in southeast Asia really had the credibility to write about how to hire your VP sales for unicorn exit. And those people, they didn't really exist. I mean, they could write about it, but not in a very credible or very distributed way. But now I think there's a lot more folks who just go on Medium, and they type something up, and then we all re-share it via WhatsApp and say, "Hey, this is useful."
Paulo Joquiňo (00:25:42):
Yeah. Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I mean, you have now the concept of like the mafia. You have people from these unicorn companies that have exited, for example, and have that credibility, as you mentioned, to be able to talk about what it took to go from 0 to 100. And so with all that validation, it ties in with what we mentioned earlier about the questions becoming more sophisticated. As a function of people gaining more experiences and companies maturing and all these validation happening for the these different companies, then people started to ask more sophisticated questions. And then that increases the demand for these types of thought leadership, which people with a lot more time these days and the pandemic, have the time to actually fulfill. So you have a lot more people starting podcasts, blogs, and all that stuff. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:26:40):
Yeah, and I think that's the crux of it, which is, everyone is writing, and it feels like, at one level, we're trying, as a result, to make it more useful, we had to become more niche. We had to get more specific on a topic to really get that nice juice. But then it feels almost like contradictory, because the other push is, how do we make this go more viral, Right?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:27:01):
That's actually an interesting problem, because I think I also face it a lot in terms of thinking about content. You obviously want to target a specific audience, but you're not exactly sure what questions they're asking. Obviously, you want to answer all their questions, but it doesn't really make sense to do things one-on-one, obviously. I mean, obviously, there are different platforms for that, but when you think about how specific do you go, but at the same time, you still want to create something that everybody can relate to. I think that's where the value of stories comes in. Because, certain experiences or stories, they're still specific. So they're not predicated on, this applies to everybody.
You still have that sort of message at the beginning, like, this is their story. But at the same time, when you listen to it, based on the way it's told, people can take away different things from it. And in that sense, a lot of people can still relate to it. So even if that story is about that particular company, or that particular founder, I guess, depending on the way it's told, and that's where our jobs come in, people can actually get different things from it.
Jeremy Au (00:28:21):
Yeah, I think we're almost trusting that if we create a content as designed for the niche, we're trusting that the algorithm will take us there, Google or whatever, right? Because I remember I was using TikTok, and I realized that I was getting pretty engrossed in it. Because I think you figure out the kind of comedy you like. So I love comedy where people are making fun of, this is terrible, but how terrible their Chinese language skills are. Or Americans showing off that they're really good at Mandarin. And parodies are very stern Chinese teachers scolding you for your poor Mandarin grades, which is a very unique set of school comedy which doesn't exist. Because I would never have gone on Google and typed in like, "Chinese literacy jokes/comedy." But they can figure it out. So it's interesting.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:29:18):
Yeah, I think it just goes back to that Henry Ford quote about people not knowing what they want, until you give it to them. And I guess for content that can be true. And I guess that adds a level of nuance to what we talked about earlier about this pull strategy. Because sometimes we try to look for people who are asking questions, but sometimes they aren't even asking questions yet, but we could still reach out to them in a way and make them realize that, oh, they were actually interested or curious about this.
And yeah, to an extent you do have to rely on these like platforms, not just Google, but like Spotify for example for podcasts, to actually reach the type of audience you want to reach to, which again goes back to this importance of actually really choosing the right words. Because all these algorithms base it... I mean, not just words, words and then now images as well, because that's what the algorithms base their algorithms on, the words that the images that you use. So yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:30:20):
Well, that's interesting, because you and I were joking recently, because I sent you a very congratulatory WhatsApp message to be like, "Hey, good job with the meme images that you deploy," and you were like, "Yeah, it's all about the memes these days." So what's up with the memes? I mean, they caught my eye, and it made me laugh, and it got me to click. But is that working out as a strategy? Or is that something that is more like you're personally interested in memes?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:30:48):
I think that this actually is an answer to one of the challenges that we mentioned earlier about, how can you go niche, while at the same time still attract or create relatable content? And I think memes is one of that, because memes are sort of a language in themselves. And at the same time, you can transpose whatever specific topic you want onto that meme, and then send it out, and then people could actually, even if they're not entirely familiar with what exactly the context of that meme is, they might still find it funny for some other reason that you yourself the creator didn't really know. So I think that was quite intentional on my part to actually start using memes in my blog posts and the blog posts in the Insignia Business Review.
And yeah, I guess it's been working well, I mean, the fact that you kindly shared it in this chat for our own means, and we've been seeing more people engage... I guess it helps especially with social media, because you can talk about the blog, but it doesn't really necessarily get people to read it. And I guess the memes sort of serve as a hook, I guess. It's like, "Oh, that's a that's an interesting meme, funny meme. What's the context? Why did they share that meme." Then that's when they check things out.
Jeremy Au (00:32:13):
Yeah, I think there's a lot of truth there, because I think it creates curiosity about a meme. Because a meme is such an easily digested one second consumption piece. So it's a great way to get someone's attention. It creates curiosity. And it creates humor. And they always say, if you can make someone laugh, then you've already persuaded them of the argument.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:32:37): Yeah, right, right.
Jeremy Au (00:32:39):So it's funny, because you're like, okay, memes as thought leadership. Because memes is low, brow,
right? It feels like it.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:32:51):
Yeah, it's something that you wouldn't really associate with, I guess, like an industry like VC that is very serious, and all about numbers and stuff, and then suddenly you introduce memes, but I mean, they that's actually where you can get people to actually engage with the content, is when they're not necessar... Because the people that you want to engage with, you're trying to share content that they think about almost like 24/7. And so memes are sort of a way to catch them in unawares. It's like you don't really want to stress them out about thinking about all these other things, but then you try to make it a little bit more casual, a little bit funny in a way. And that brings them back to, I guess, the more serious topics that you want to share about.
Jeremy Au (00:33:40):
Yeah, there's a lot of truth there. I mean, that's the tricky part, is this, you're trying to talk about some serious topics which is niche in a higher level stuff. And then you're also going, trying to digest it, so that it's convenient and fun to consume. And I think that's also, if I look at the stuff I've been reading, that's also, I do feel like I'm reading way more than I used to as a kid, Because as a kid, I used to read encyclopedias with the illustrations. And that was fun. And then somewhere in the middle, it became very boring with all the textbooks with no images, just text. And I was struggling to get through. While on parallel, I watching like GI Joe and these cartoons, Spider Man and things like that.
And now, I think that it feels like these two things are kind of coming back together where we're trying to make them accessible, and fun to learn, which is interesting. And I don't know, it's a challenge even for me, when I think about what I consume and create.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:34:45):
Well, a few years ago, people were sort of discounting social media pre 2010, for example. Like, it's just sort of like a fun thing that that kids do, like myself when I started my account before 2010. Just a fun thing, add people, say hi to people, etc, etc. But then suddenly, you find all these different use cases for social media in particular, and all of a sudden it's become a crucial part to any firm strategy, and it's become sort of integrated in how we deliver messaging and all of that. And yeah, I guess it's certainly part of the way we do things now.
Jeremy Au (00:35:32):
Yeah, I mean, it's interesting because it feels like the truth of messaging apps is that, it feels like, millennials and Zoomers, anybody who is a founder, nobody reads the Financial Times, or the big article magazines as much. A lot of it is WhatsApp, Facebook. I've consumed most of my news that way. Do you feel like that resonates with you?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:35:56):
Yeah, I think on some level, if you think about it in terms of like a funnel, then definitely these messaging apps are definitely at the top. Because you don't really have the time to read everything, and so you just go through this menu of different titles that people are sharing, or interesting say memes that you see, and then links that follow. And then that's where you start to choose like, "Oh, which one am I actually going to spend 5 to 10 minutes to actually read through, if I actually want to read?" And then there's even that question, if even that type of person reads. Some people just want to consume their information through video or podcasts, for example, which has created that that whole new space for us who are interested in podcasts.
So definitely, yeah, messaging is certainly a part of it. But then you also have to think about trying to translate piece of content into as many different media as possible, right?
Jeremy Au (00:37:01):
Yeah. And it's something that I noticed that you've been an expert in, master at doing, which is that content waterfall of, you're producing in one type of content, but then you're allowing the consumer to consume multiple formats of that same content, whether it is listening or reading or whatever.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:37:19):
Right. Yeah, you just want to try and... I guess in the beginning, it was more of trying to figure out what will stick, what the audience really wants to consume. But now, it's more of the really realization that, "Oh, people want to consume different things. Let's just try to accommodate as much as possible." So for example, we do an interview with a founder or a guest, and then that podcast there's a transcript, and then we turn that into an article, and then obviously that gets turned into a social media post, and you create memes for that social media post. And then more recently, we started doing TikToks, as well. So you could turn some of the insights there into a TikTok.
And then now, out of that one interview, you've created a bunch of different content which then could be recycled, actually. And which is one of the great things about doing these types of content specifically around the stories of founders, for example, or around the insights of investors. Because, I mean, to some extent, they can be quite timeless, even if they're referring to specific events in history, people could still find wisdom in them.
For example, when the pandemic hit, all of a sudden, everybody's asking all these investors who were in the '08 crisis and the '02, '03 crisis, to start talking about what their thoughts were at that time. So there's that certain rhyme and repetition that comes with content and that makes the job, I guess, in some ways easier, because then you don't necessarily have to create or reinvent the wheel all the time. You can just refer to the things that you've done in the past and then reuse that or repackage it in a different way; maybe a book that you've done, maybe you can splice it up and then get some quotes, turn those quotes into TikToks or memes, and then share it around, and then that could be content that that anybody could use.
Jeremy Au (00:39:17):Do you feel like it's a lot of work to repurpose all that stuff? And do you think it pays off?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:39:21):
Yeah, I think it pays off in the sense that you are trying to get different people through different types of content. For example, with a social media posts, you want to... For example, on Instagram, typically a lot of Indonesians on Instagram, so that could be a bit more targeted towards them or a lot younger founders on Instagram, for example. And then TikTok is for an even younger audience, potential interns or potential people who might be interested in joining these companies as a fresh grad hires. And then you have newsletters or blogs that are more for I guess older people who are more used to reading things. And then podcasts for people who prefer to listen to different things.
So I think it is worth it because you are trying to... And it's important to have that awareness that you are targeting different people for these different types of cross pollination, so to speak, in terms of the content. Yeah, it's definitely important to be aware of that so that you don't feel that you're just doing this repetition for nothing. Because then you realize, oh, I actually catering to different people, and there's actually value in sort of recycling this content and actually repurposing it or repackaging it.
Jeremy Au (00:40:44):
Yeah. I mean, I think it goes back to what you said, I don't think it pays off in a short term, but I think it pays off with the, like you said, the long-term. Because like you said, it's kind of classic, and I think there's a bunch of content you did about the pandemic. And if there's a pandemic in 20 years time... Yeah, people will definitely ask questions, "Oh, how were businesses during that time?"
Jeremy Au (00:41:05):
Exactly. So hopefully there isn't another pandemic. But to some extent, it's evergreen data. And then obviously you say, it's not really a story about a pandemic, it's a story about adversity. It's a story about an economic recession. It's a story about geopolitical conflict and turmoil. And all those different themes can come out again and again. So I'm just curious, obviously you're thinking so much about all this stuff, what do you consume? I'm just curious. Because you're producing all this stuff. And then I'm just curious, what do you consume? You mentioned, I guess you consume First Round Review, a16z, The BRAVE podcast?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:41:56):
Yeah. I mean, I do have a lot of different blogs and podcasts that I look up to. I mean, especially in the first few months that I started listening to podcasts at all, I was definitely a fan of the StartUp by Gimlet which since finished, in quite a spectacular fashion actually. They talked about the acquisition by Spotify. And all these different resources and blogs, like Scott Galloway, although he's not really purely a tech commentator, he just comments about the economy, like the US economy in particular and US society in particular. Then there's also Ben Evans who's a bit more of US plus Europe. And Stratechery as well, more in the business model side of things.
So it's just a bunch of different sources that I don't necessarily seek them out. It's more of, I just go on Twitter for example, or go on different social media and then scroll through and then spot, oh, this seems interesting, or this author seems worth following. Then you start to follow them and you start to consume. Yeah, I don't necessarily search for specific things, I just expose myself to as much as possible. And obviously at work and even amongst peers in the industry or friends, you do share a bunch of different articles around, and you have all these different chat groups and all of that. And that's where I get the stuff that I consume. Yeah. That's just the startup stuff.
Jeremy Au (00:43:34):
Do you feel like the solution is just to be, "Here is an interesting topic that someone talked about in America. So let's just localize it to the Southeast Asia region." Is that one way to think about it? Because I think that's how sometimes I think about it. It's just, I read this thing about, I don't know, SAFE notes. And I'm like, okay, this is quite different from Southeast Asia, because not everybody gets to use a SAFE. There's like the CARE note in Singapore, a bunch of different structures as well. Sometimes I read something about China, and I'm like, "Okay that's not the same from a Southeast Asia perspective versus the US perspective. Maybe I should localize that." I don't know how do you think about it? Is that something you're thinking about?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:44:16):
I mean, that's definitely a part of it I'd say, you'd be a fool not to actually focus on those things. I mean, all those three questions that you mentioned are all different sources of content already. You could just write an article to answer each of those questions that you just asked. And that's definitely something that we do as well. I mean, the book that I mentioned earlier, ASEANnovation is precisely an example of that. Yinglan wrote about China's tech ecosystem a few years back, and now that Southeast Asia is getting pretty hot and there's a lot of questions about the region, now he thought it would be the right time, and invited me on board as well to help out in writing this book.
So yeah, I'd say, definitely a part of how content should be thought about in this region. I think about it like, the people who are asking questions about the region actually experienced some of these things already. They either experienced investing in the US for example, or they built a start up there, or invest in China, so on and so forth. They're definitely looking for the local version of things. So there's definitely that audience. And if there's that audience, then there's definitely room to create content for those kinds of questions.
Jeremy Au (00:45:32):Well, in parallel, I also know you run a fun hobby podcast.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:45:36): Right.
Jeremy Au (00:45:36):So I want you to share a little bit about that before we.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:45:42):
Yeah. Okay. I wasn't really expecting to talk about this part, but since we've been talking about content, content for me is really something that goes beyond the whole startup ecosystem where I'm working in right now. At the core of it, I just really like to tell stories. I like to learn about the stories of other people, to ask questions and then figure out where they're coming from. In that spirit, me and my friend we started this podcast mainly just to have a stream of consciousness, conversations, mainly about Asian culture. Our view on different things about Asian pop culture, from food to travel, and mostly music as well. We talk about K-pop obviously, and my friend is a little bit more versed in like Chinese pop, like Mandopop and rap all of that stuff, so she talks about that as well. And we talk about a different variety of topics.
And I think one of the more interesting things that we've done in this podcast is actually invite people to actually come on and share their own experiences, following being fans of like different aspects of Asian pop culture from the Esports to different K-pop groups, to singing competitions, all of that. The podcast is called The Weekly Stan Up. I guess it comes from the Stan, this whole Stan culture. Then we try to make it... Since we were both fresh grads working our first jobs, we decided to, how can we make it sound corporate. It's Weekly Stand Up, and then we remove the D. So it's just like Weekly Stan Up. Yeah. Obviously we post weekly. And yeah, I mean, we're actually open to anybody coming on our show actually, and just sharing what they follow or what they "Stan." As long as it's, I guess, related to Asian pop culture.
So I guess even you Jeremy, if you have like a hidden passion for certain music groups or certain things that you want to share, then happy to have you on the show.
Jeremy Au (00:47:56):
My gosh, you're making me suddenly go to myself say, oh my gosh, am I a Anglophile? I got to think through this, what exactly Asian pop culture do I consume a lot of. I guess not enough. I think that's something I've been starting to do a lot more, with watching The Parasite and The Host movies, So I was starting to try to get back into it a little bit more.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:48:22):
Yeah. Sometimes we even have people on the show who are like, "Never heard about K-Drama and K- Pop before," and then because of the pandemic, then they started discovering all these different things and now they're hooked. Yeah, those are some interesting stories as well.
Jeremy Au (00:48:37):
Yeah. I mean, it just empowers us, because I spend so much time either traveling for work or also being in the States, either working on my startup and, blah, blah, blah. And I think what happened was, it's just, at the end of the day, it was this way too hard to consume Asian, at least to me. This is just-
Paulo Joquiňo (00:48:57): The exposure isn't just there.
Jeremy Au (00:48:59):
Yeah. Because if you walk into any movie, and it's all your Hollywood movies. So you can just talk about Fast and Furious. I don't like watching Fast and Furious. But if you did watch it, you could connect with everybody in a world simultaneously. Or you watch Transformers or these more universal properties, like Harry Potter. And it's universally consumable and it's universally community. Whereas I think the interesting part about it was like, I think this pandemic has helped me actually get a little bit more nichey in the content I'm consuming as well.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:49:38):
But I guess, just to comment on that quickly, at this point, I think it's becoming less and less niche, in a way. Because even if you see even with interviews with Hollywood stars, there's always a question, "What K-pop are you listening to now?" They always say either BTS or Blackpink. Then it sort of become part and parcel of what people consider to be pop culture. I mean, that's just K-pop, and there's obviously other things that are up and coming. And yeah, I definitely think Asian pop culture in terms of the global perception of what is pop is definitely carving a slice out of that. It's really exciting, just as exciting as it is to watch Southeast Asian startups get a lot more attention from investors. It's that same kind of increased exposure, and you definitely need a lot of connect creators like you and me to start talking about these things.
Jeremy Au (00:50:39):So we're like K-pop bands and singers maybe?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:50:44):I mean, not necessarily the singers, but we have to... Are you familiar with the game and also Netflix TV series called The Witcher?
Jeremy Au (00:50:52):I watched the Netflix show, yeah, definitely.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:50:57):
I mean, in the show there was the bard. He sings the song, Toss A Coin To Your Witcher. And I think in a way, we're not the Witchers, but we are like that bard who actually composes the song, tells the story of the Witcher. And to an extent, the songs even reach more than the actual show, to an extent, or actual story to an extent, or even the character itself. Because for that specific example, you see people covering that song who aren't necessarily following the show, under SoundCloud or whatever. And that way, I guess, it sounds similar to what we do in terms of content. It just makes you realize how impactful telling a story can be.
Jeremy Au (00:51:42):I love that, the Witcher analogy. Was is it (singing).
Paulo Joquiňo (00:51:51): (singing). Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:51:53):Then the Witcher is just like, "Shut up. Stop following me. Stop chronicling my journey. My journey is
totally normal. It sucks. It's very tough."
Paulo Joquiňo (00:52:01):Which is actually not a foreign response from some founders or investors. They'd be like, "Why are you
telling my story?" Or, "Why are you so interested in following me," something like that. Yeah.
Jeremy Au (00:52:18):
Yeah. There's a lot of truth to that, because I think to them, they're living it, so it doesn't feel interesting. It's not inspiring to them, because it's just themselves. And they'll see all the tough times. And then, like you said, the bard is there to not obviously have fun in one way, but also to show the real reality of it.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:52:40):
And actually, not just show the real reality, but also turn it into a "artifact" that people will actually want to listen to. Because if the bard had just told the story and just said, "Toss a coin to your Witcher," blah, blah, blah and not sung it, then I probably wouldn't actually remember those words. But because he sang it in that melody in that way, and then repeated it, and all those different things, then it becomes an earworm, and it sticks in your head, and you can actually reference it a few months later on. So I think there's definitely those two elements of showing the reality, and then actually packaging it in a way that people actually remember it.
Jeremy Au (00:53:21):
I love this analogy so much. I mean, I think that's a perfect piece. Yeah, you're right, because without the melody, without the arrangement, if you read out the lyrics, Witcher would be the most boring thing. So I guess, instead of us being a bard, if we just let memes as cover, and make it more digestible for folks.
Paulo Joquiňo (00:53:44): Right.
Jeremy Au (00:53:45):
Obviously, starting to wrap things up here, but obviously things haven't always been easy for you over time. Because you're juggling, you did that transition from university, VC and then you've been very much pioneering thought leadership in this approach, in this geography as well. So could you share in your past some difficulties that you overcame and when you were brave?
Paulo Joquiňo (00:54:10):
The difficulties, I guess, especially in relation to the transitions that I mentioned earlier, it's definitely trying to adjust and find my own rhythm to life, I guess. As you're, for one transitioning from university to your first job, and then two, this job isn't a full-time job. You're not going to the office every day. You're not reporting to someone all the time. But you do have things that you want to accomplish. So finding that self motivation, and self discipline to an extent, was something of a challenge for me as well. Especially because when you're stuck at home and it's easy to just like go to your bed, fall asleep, or end up doing something else entirely. You really have to find that why, and that purpose.
And not just that. I think, because a lot of people put a premium on the why and the purpose, finding all of that stuff. But I think it's also about finding what I would say are believers. Finding people, it could be friends, it could be your family, it could be your colleagues as well, who actually not just support you, but it can actually hold you accountable to what you want to achieve. And I think this applies not just to work, but anything goal related, anything that you want to do in life. You do have to find that group of people, those believers, who you can actually talk to when things are going tough in terms of achieving that goal, or when you're getting bogged down, and just reminding you that there's still more to it and there's still a lot that you can do.
Yeah. So that's the sort of the challenge that I've been having over the past year, more than a year, I guess. And with the whole uncertainty with the pandemic, you're not really sure about what the working conditions will be, how I'll be working in the next year or next couple of months. But I'm grounded by the fact that I'm doing these new and exciting things every day, every month. And that keeps me awake at night sometimes, but it also wakes me up in the morning to actually energize me and get me through the rest of the day.
I guess I didn't really answer your question about being brave though. But yeah, to quickly address that one. I wouldn't necessarily cite a specific instance, but I think one of the things that I've had to learn to do, and I wish I had been taught more as a student, was how to say no. And I qualify this in the sense that, especially if you grew up in a environment where you're always encouraged to be a go getter. Especially in the startup scene, it's always you always got to fake it till you make it, move fast, break things. There's always that, to an extent, a yes culture involved. Say yes to the challenges, overcome it, etc, etc. But at the same time, you have to know which battles you want to fight and which ones are worth putting your time in. And I think that's the kind of bravery, I think, that isn't really talked about that often, and something that I've had to face a couple of times.
Thinking about where I wanted to work after university. Because obviously that's when you start to realize that saying yes to one means saying no to a bunch of other things that could potentially in your mind, or when you're talking to these different companies at least, you start to think, "Oh, could be exciting." Then you start to think about opportunity costs and all of that. And that's when you started to learn how to say no, I guess, in a way. And obviously this is a 23 year old speaking. But as you grow older, you definitely learn to say no more, a lot often. And to some people that could be... Obviously, in a pop culture, that has been represented as part of being old and being a lot more restricted, and there's some pushback on that.
But at the same time, I think if you really want to find meaning and find value and find something that you really want to do in life, then you do have to end up choosing one thing over the other. There's definitely an opportunity cost to everything. I mean, I experienced it when I had to choose my first job, and even when I had to choose my course for university. I guess, it's kind of tough when you grew up in an environment where it's all about saying yes, and it's quite easy to say yes, actually. So that's definitely how I've experienced it, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to experience a lot more often in the future. So definitely excited for that.
Jeremy Au (00:59:17):
I think it's that become more subtle and complicated, and then the no's and yes's become more subtle as well and intricate. So thank you so much for coming to the show. There are three things that I really enjoyed from this conversation. The first of course was your triple jump from student to professional, from consumer to producer, and from startups to VC. And I really appreciate the tips that you gave for people on the things that you consume in term of media, how you think of new ideas to create content. And also, to some extent, the bravery and the learnings to be able to say no, in those career transitions or trade-offs.
The second thing I really enjoyed so far as of course thought Leadership. I think you are 10X versus anybody else in the VC thought Leadership space in Southeast Asia, because there's nobody else. I think lots of great thoughts around what success is, how to measure it, how to think about it, how to produce, how to do a waterfall. And lastly, of course, thank you so much for the wonderful analogy of the bard from the Witcher. That was definitely a true point, because I think it's the part where we're not pretending to be the hero of the story, but we're helping to both articulate what's actually going on in the hero's journey, but also packaging it nice and tight with a nice musical melody and some memes. So thank you so much for that, Paulo.
Paulo Joquiňo (01:00:54):
Yeah. I think it was definitely a pleasure to, at least for the past hour, be sort of a Witcher in a way. And then thank you for being such a great bard. I'm definitely learning a lot as well as a fellow podcaster, as a fellow interviewer, and how you handle interviews. It's really great to be on the show. And I really appreciate that you were able to find a lot of these things helpful. Hopefully your listeners also find some of these things interesting to listen to and find helpful as well.
Jeremy Au (01:01:27):Awesome. Thank you so much, Paulo.
Paulo Joquiňo (01:01:29):
Yeah. One more thing is, if you're listening to The BRAVE podcast, then you're probably also listening to On Call with Insignia Ventures, our podcast, as well. Available everywhere you listen to podcasts. So hit follow for both our podcasts, and you pretty much join the club that's all exclusive club of Southeast Asia content creators. But anyway. And also check out the book; Navigating ASEANnovation, especially if you're just breaking into the startup ecosystem and want to learn more about this region in particular, how companies have been braving through the pandemic and being resilient, and what are the new, interesting business models or companies that we're looking at in the region, then definitely check out that book. It's on Amazon. And I think in Singapore, it should still be in bookstores, like Kinokuniya. Yeah. So thanks again, Jeremy.
Jeremy Au (01:02:29):
Thank you so much, Paulo.