Proud Limpongpan: Career Zigzags, Crypto & Blockchain Learnings & Bust Cycle Layoffs - E198

· Harvard,Thailand,Popular,Women,Podcast Episodes English

"I used to be an extreme planner. Since college, I planned that I wanted to go to HBS and run my own company but life is not a straight path. There's always a reason behind things. Make sure you take full advantage of every single opportunity that presents itself. Even if you're stuck in a boring job at first, think about how you can make that better. How can you connect with mentors in your field or someone from a different team and how would that lead me to a different opportunity? Don't be afraid to make the jump if an opportunity presents itself." - Proud Limpongpan

Proud is Chief Marketing Officer of Zipmex. As a trained economist with both strategy and operational experience, Proud brings deep expertise in tech strategy and marketing to make finance fun. She has worked with private equity firms and multimillion dollar companies across nine countries, as well as invested in and built companies from scratch. She grew her latest manufacturing company by 16x in revenue within 3 years. Prior to Harvard Business School, she was a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, focusing on establishing strategic initiatives for C-suite clients.


Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hi Proud. Happy to have you to show, another Harvard MBA alumnus, but more importantly you're doing some intense stuff in crypto out of Thailand and for the world. And so really excited to share your journey and your insights for everyone in Southeast Asia. So, for those who don't know you yet, could you share a little bit about yourself?

Proud Limpongpan: (00:48)
Hi everyone, and thank you so much, Jeremy, for having me on your podcast today. So, my name is Proud. I'm currently Chief Marketing Officer of Zipmex. Zipmex is, for those who don't know, a digital platform that focuses on digital assets. We're sort of like the gateway to anything you need in terms of trading, saving, experiencing, and even payments in terms of digital assets.
My background is that I was a management strategy consultant before, went to HBS, came out, was working on an operational arm of a firm and then decided that I wanted to make this jump into the world of crypto. And so that's where I sort of landed now.

Jeremy Au: (01:23)
How did you get started in your journey career wise? Because you decided to become an economist and eventually joined management consulting. How did that set of career decisions happen early on?

Proud Limpongpan: (01:36)
Honestly, I had a very wise mentor who taught me to just follow the money and I mean graduating at that time at like in 2010 from LSC, degree in economics, a lot of people did that. A lot of people, I think, went into banking. A few went into consulting. I wasn't really sure what to do at that point, so I just try many things and ended up thinking that if I wanted to consulting, then perhaps that would be a stepping stone to focusing on an industry that I would really like and end up finding a really great mentor who is still a mentor to me to this very day.
It really taught me that that is the one thing to get right in your career, to have a good mentor who was a partner in the telco and tech, then TMT and BCG, and then just sort of went down the rabbit hole in that way and just looked at whatever opportunities that came about to just jump on them.

Jeremy Au: (02:25)
There's a joke that all the BCG consultants end up leaving eventually, myself included, from Bain and my wife from McKinsey. What do you think about that at a high level?

Proud Limpongpan: (02:34)
I think that's true for an extent, because I think like you mean that the motto of most of these firms are like up or out and out could be a good thing or a bad thing. It could be that you're not really surviving in the realm of consulting or just that it's just really not for you. And you think that other things are more appropriate for your future career, your skills.
In my case, I kind of knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and just really jumped at the opportunity to apply to business school at a rather young age. I only had two years of work experience, which is pretty rare for someone who didn't do the two plus two programme at HBS and then went through that route to then go into operational private equity.

Jeremy Au: (03:11)
I think that's interesting because you also started your technology career, TMT, Boston Consulting Group and then later on from there. So how did that transition happen from your perspective, from a generalist perspective to more technology?

Proud Limpongpan: (03:25)
I think it's because I found this mentor of mine in consulting in BCG and he was a partner dedicated to TMT. So then by just working with him a lot, getting absorbed into that and at that point I think a lot of the cases that we were solving, we had a lot of telco clients that were really looking for what to do next because a lot of their revenue in terms of voice and SMS were getting eroded.
That was a time when, you know, a lot of people were spending more and more time on their phones, but they were just using data packages rather than voice or SMS. So, I think that first shift in the user behaviour in terms of telco and tech was really interesting and it was like quite a pivotal point in defining how I think about things in tech in general as well too.

Jeremy Au: (04:05)
And what's interesting is that after all of that, you actually not only went to Harvard. How is that like from your perspective?

Proud Limpongpan: (04:13)
I think it was great. I mean, I think that was a dream come true for most of us who actually got there. I think it was great in the way that also it really broadened my horizons. I wasn't really sure what I would expect going in, coming out. I think most of us, especially for those in Asia, really know the university just for the brand name that it has.

Probably not as many people and not as many friends that had gone there, which actually makes the whole alumni ecosystem a lot stronger for when you graduate. But then it also taught me a lot of things about soft skills that would later be a lot of use in my career after my MBA. So, I think a lot of people think that we're going to go in to do it and we are going to learn accounting and finance and all these things.
But actually, the stuff that you learn from HBS is a lot more on the leadership qualities and whatever it takes to solve problems that are just coming out of nowhere.

Jeremy Au: (05:03)
I think that's also where you started transitioning more operator roles after that, right? You sort of look at Ennovie as a leader there and an executive. Could you talk about how that career choice happened?

Proud Limpongpan: (05:13)
Yeah, that was actually very random from a CV point of view. So after HBS, I was helping out Catterton with one of their portfolio companies, they were looking for someone who spoke Thai and they had just bought a jewelry company that they were trying to transition and looked into the supply chain of…that company, happened to have a lot of their manufacturing operations within Thailand and Bali.

And so I jumped straight into that, was sort of like the right hand person to the CEO, looked at all the different aspects of the supply chain, making it more lean, building new factory, and then like going into e-commerce, launching retail stores from the brand, being a wholesale predominant brand at first. And then I figured out, you know what, I've always wanted to do something that would link Thailand to the world anyway.

And I just realised from that portfolio company that a lot of the jewelry manufacturing happens in Thailand. So, I sort of did a mini search fund and bought a very small factory. It was a 20 person workshop. That was basically Ennovie. We rebranded to Ennovie – Energy, Innovation, and Life was where Ennovie came from and then from then on it was sort of an uphill battle to secure loans from banks in order to have an SME company that was doing something that a lot of these like big industry players were already doing with in Thailand.

But it was quite an interesting feat that we did. And now we're at, I think, 400 workers now. So, I'm still a shareholder of the company. I'm still a director of the company. But I think mostly operations are now being handled wisely by a lot of my colleagues that have a lot more experience in the jewelry industry.

Jeremy Au: (06:46)
Amazing. That does sound random, but it's actually kind of like, you know, well put in place of the operator perspective.

Proud Limpongpan: (06:54)
Yeah, I was more like jumping on the opportunity that presented itself.

Jeremy Au: (06:57)
And then eventually you transition into crypto, right. So how did that journey start?

Proud Limpongpan: (07:02)
That was a matter of jumping into an opportunity presented itself as well. So, I always knew about crypto, have a good friend in my year at HBS as well that went on to create his own exchange in Mexico, had a friend from LSC that was doing a similar thing in South Korea. So, I knew that there were these kind of business models already that a lot of my really smart friends were into, and it was something that I realised that if this is the future then I really want to get in on it.

I don't care if the Start-Up is going to fail in the future, at least I have developed some expertise in it. That was sort of like my thinking when I jumped in, but then I got sucked into the rabbit hole and I realised how important blockchain technology is in general to development of the future of finance, the development of a lot of new applications that we are seeing now in Web3 and so on.
Looking in hindsight, it kind of made sense now I'm connecting the dots backwards, but I think back then it was just like a, Hey, this is opportunity. Like, do you want to do this?

Jeremy Au: (08:00)
When you think about all of that, that was actually relatively early as well back in 2018, 2019 to explore transition. I think it got really hot in 2021 for sure. So, what was your thinking about exploring crypto as a vertical? Because previously obviously had done consulting slash TMT, in terms of tech media and also there had been looking at jewellery.
So crypto is a very new vertical for you. So how did you go about thinking about the risk versus rewards of entering that vertical?

Proud Limpongpan: (08:33)
I think, in a way, it's a new vertical, but if you think in the grand scheme of things, if you think back to like, let's say like 1999, 2000 dotcom crash, like back then, like you, it's kind of like where we are with crypto at the moment and especially if you compare it to 2017, 2018, that was like the last bear market before this year.

So, in that sense, it was kind of like, okay, this is kind of rock bottom. It can't get any worse from here unless it's going to disappear into nothingness, which I think a lot of people that really were into it really believed that it wasn't going to go that way. And so that was kind of like why I was like, okay, let's take this chance.

Even if it doesn't go up, at least you've given it a try. And I think that that part of like, okay, it can't get any worse than this already. You know, this is the worst. So why don't we start building up and when the next bull market comes, we're ready for it. So, you know, I was like the thought that went through my mind and I think having been a consultant before, you absorb new knowledge very easily and you learn new things at a very fast pace.

So, that allowed me to pick up a lot of the things. Previously, I was actually Chief Strategy Officer, not Chief Marketing Officer, my title only change after Series B, because our investors were like, okay, you're a B2C tech company. You got to focus on a lot of the marketing and all the growth functions. So that's what happened. But in terms of my being chief strategy officer of a totally new vertical, a totally new industry, that wasn't very hard thanks to like my experience as a BCG.

Jeremy Au: (10:01)
Was interesting of course is that you're building all of this from Thailand and Singapore and looking at Southeast Asia as a region. How do you see Southeast Asia and crypto interacting? I think firstly on a consumer side, but later on we'll talk more about the start-ups/founder side.

Proud Limpongpan: (10:17)
Yeah, the consumer side. Let's just say that like I think Southeast Asia is extremely, extremely hot, especially Thailand. So, I think the reason why we also started with Thailand and my team actually is only me and one more person who's Thai, the rest of our executive team are from various different countries, from Hong Kong, Australia, France, you name it.

Thailand had a specific regulation that came out in 2018 that allowed for legalization of crypto exchanges. So you get these licences, you can actually apply for licences in terms of being an exchange, being a broker, we even have a regulation for ICOs that's kind of similar to IPO's in a way. So that sort of regulation framework allowed a lot of high net worth individuals and institution money to just come in and sort of it really legitimised the industry as a whole.
So that's why I think on the consumer side, like everyone feels a little bit more safe. They don't really question whether this is a scam or not. And it’s more about like, okay, which exchange should I be using? Should I be using a centralised exchange? Should I be going to defi straight away?

From a customer point of view, because there are these solid regulations in place and because regulators are always pushing us as companies in the industry that are licenced and regulated to educate the customer, it really shows a lot of maturity in the mindset of the customers that we bring on as well.

Jeremy Au: (11:38)
And I think what's interesting to see really Thailand come out a little bit as a hub for crypto in Southeast Asia along with Singapore, right? So how do you think that's playing out from a founder slash start up perspective?

Proud Limpongpan: (11:50)
Yes. I think companies from outside of Southeast Asia view Southeast Asia as like the next frontier. So, they're not going to focus on it yet. And for things like crypto, right, you have to make sure that it's super easy to onboard. So then like there's a lot of like tech and regulatory capabilities that need to be set.

So for us, because we are licenced and regulated in four jurisdictions that means that you can use Thai baht, you can use Indonesian rupiah, you can use Singapore dollars, you can use Australian dollars and you use USD to buy crypto from us. Whereas like a player that comes in that is not as regulated, you have to do like…for example Binance uses a peer to peer sort of system that's totally unregulated and most people who are not risky or who don't want to operate on things outside the realm of the SEC would not really want to do that.

So then like big players from the US that might want to come into this market, they will have to get these regulations in place. And then the second thing is like just on the community building as a whole, all these different countries that I just named except for like Singapore and Australia, they have their own local like capabilities, communication, ways of doing community stuff and things of that as well too.

So that sort of local understanding is also needed, especially if you're trying to target mass adoption of cryptocurrency or digital assets in general rather than just like trying to get the first mover advantage from this initial group.

Jeremy Au: (13:12)
I think it makes a lot sense about why there's a strong need for localisation. I'm also curious about the entrepreneurial activity because it does feel like there's a lot of founders in crypto coming from Thailand, I mean Singapore as well. But any insights on why there are so many crypto?

Proud Limpongpan: (13:27)
Yeah, Indonesia, Vietnam like there's a lot. I think we're seeing a lot more because, in general, I think maybe because there's not as much funding from a lot of the big U.S. firms into Southeast Asia yet, although I think I mean, there's a few firms that have just…a few VC funds that have announced big race in the past year as well, targeting Southeast Asia.

Some deployment has been happening, but nowhere near the scale that they deploy in the U.S. So they're like a lot of times even for us at Zipmex, we fund other businesses within the ecosystem to build up the ecosystem. And then I think we announced it as well. So that's sort of like loop that when like us as a Start-Up funding other smaller start-ups and ecosystem and then us like PR-ing it to our customers.

That's sort of to give you a bias that there's a lot more of these like people out there. I don't think there's like as…there's not like that much more people who are entrepreneurs in cryptocurrency or in digital assets compared to other verticals. But I think because of the way that we do marketing in this industry and the way that we also like push any sort of thing that we do and our support for the ecosystem as a whole is different.

So that's why there's a bias and like, oh, there might be more of these entrepreneurs around when actually it's just about the way that ecosystem works.

Jeremy Au: (14:40)
Interesting. I never heard about it that way. So, you're just saying that crypto founders are better at marketing, I guess, than other verticals? It's interesting that I haven't thought about it that way.

Proud Limpongpan: (14:50)
But that's just marketing, right? Because I mean, like you said, you hear the news of like, for example, like earlier this year you hear FTX building out Blockfi and things like that. So it's not about just like the marketing but also about like bigger players coming in to help smaller players in times of need and things like that. So, I think that's why yeah, you also get the sense of like, okay, this is a new industry that we want to build, that we don't want to let it go astray even in times of bear markets and things like that.

And so how do we build towards a better community overall and a better ecosystem overall as well? Rather than just like, oh, you're doing another crypto, Start-Up, I'm doing this like I don’t have anything to do with you on that kind of thing.

Jeremy Au: (15:29)
What we've noticed obviously for crypto is that there's always bull markets and bear markets, right? And so, yes, at some level, I’ll love to hear from you what you think is the long term…I won't say bull case, but what do you think the long term value of blockchain from your perspective is? And I would change tact and we'll talk about why are that bull and bear cycles I think in crypto and I guess this podcast will be evergreen because I'm sure there'll be a few more cycles in the future.
But tell us more about why you think that long term that because you know, it's like 10, 20, 30, 50 year time line of the value of blockchain.

Proud Limpongpan: (16:01)
Yeah. So, I mean, applications of blockchains are…I could talk a lot about this. There are so many applications, but because we've been talking about digital assets and stuff already, maybe I'll shift gears a little bit to talk about supply chain. So, for example, like we mentioned my other company Ennovie earlier, we are implementing supply chain tracking for jewelry.

So, in this way, you know, customers can see from mine to retail stores like where their gemstone comes from, how it's being put together, where is it being sent to and all these things. So, there's whole aspects of supply chain tracking have been something that is quite common and quite asked for already in retail in like for example in the fashion industry for like clothing, not so much jewelry, until now.

So, I think those aspects of supply chain tracking is going to be huge in the future, especially with increased ask for transparency out of these type of companies. Other types of blockchain applications would be like what banks are doing within themselves and how are they improving a lot of what they're doing. For example, before, you know, banks have to settle with each other, the whole swift system.

How can banks then use distributed ledger technology to bypass SWIFT or to do some sort of wholesale trading agreements in a way that is faster and more reasonable in terms of transfer costs as well. So those are like two big other applications of blockchain technology that is not to do with digital assets. Now coming back to like digital assets, I think the long-term view is this whole view about this web3 economy.

I think I'm really excited by that because you have a very different group of people coming on board with this application. It's not just the folks who are, you know, into finance or into crypto trading into like saving anymore. The value proposition of these things is so much more different. Like you see, like, you know, movie producers, you see celebrities that are producing and have teams that are like producing like different things.

Now people could say, like, this is like a fad. And by the time we revisit this podcast again in a year's time, maybe a lot of these entities would have been gone. I think the concept and the way people are interacting with each other, that's not really going to change from where we are at this moment in time, because that consumer shift is already happening.

The fact that like we are on our phones, on our computer, like at a much higher rate than we were five years ago. That's a trend that is ongoing. That underlying trend has nothing to do with crypto at all or to do a digital assets at all. But the sort of blockchain technology being the enabler for more things to happen, for more value to be created.
I think that's the exciting part that we're going to see.

Jeremy Au: (18:38)
Yeah, and I agree with you about a lot of it, which is that there's a lot of long term intrinsic value to a blockchain, really kind of automating and simplifying and disintermediated a lot of the middlemen that are out there. And so, a lot of that value does feel intangible or invisible to consumers or me in the real world.

And I think a lot of that value is just invisibly taken away by all these other people and I think blockchain has a lot of value there. It's just that there's this crazy thing happening called like the boom and bust cycle or the bull in bear cycle. That seems to really make it very difficult, I think, to get past…I don't know what it is because I think VR has had some of that, right?

You know, Bull - VR is going to change everything to – it’s never going to do anything and then it's coming back up and coming back down. But it does feel like a little bit more steady, right? If they make sense, the hype cycle and the fear cycle does feel less…controversial or less intense than that of the crypto cycles, which seem to be happening every few years.
So how do you think about that? Why is it happening to such a magnitude from your perspective?

Proud Limpongpan: (19:44)
So, I think in times of crisis, this is something that happens in equities market as well, not just the crypto market. It is that because the number of holders of the tokens or the coins in crypto, it's much less…there's a lot less liquidity than equities market. And so, whenever someone tries to do some sort of price movement, the swing is higher.

So, I think that part there will always be booms and busts in everything in terms of the market to sort of business cycles as well. So, I don't think that part is anything out of the ordinary or wrong for crypto markets. It's just that it's a lot more exacerbated. There are no like circuit cuts and things like that.
So, what you see happened with Luna in the middle of the year, that is something that happened in the equities market before. Before, like we had all these like rules and regulations and before the Fed was set up like a lot of these things like happened in the traditional financial industry as well. As the crypto industry matures, you'll see a lot more safeguards being put in place, especially as more and more retail players come into it.

Now, in terms of boom and bust, of trends like VR and all these things, I think it's because people tend to think that these trends are a profit-making opportunity rather than trying to understand the actual underlying value of what this new technology can bring. So, if you're just listening to like, for example, like since the beginning of this year, every single like partner, a corporate partner that we had have come to us with their digital transformation plan.

And that plan involves the metaverse in like at least one slide. And it's just like because it all came about because Facebook changed their name to META and they're like, okay, Facebook is an industry leader in technology and if we want to digitise, we have to go where Facebook is going, simple as that like they're trying to catch this train.

They don't know where the train is heading, but they just want to be on the train. So that thought alone is already going to cost this whole boom and bust cycle in terms of the way people view things. So, I think it's more of like the framing. So, like is the boom and bust just like the fad that people have or is it really the actual underlying technology's worth? Because if you look at the underlying worth of the technology, I don't think it's a boom and bust. I think it's like we are eventually going to get there.

Jeremy Au: (22:00)
And that’s a really interesting way that you talked about it, right, because you're basically delinking the boom and bust cycle of the financial markets that blockchain's powering versus the hype versus bear cycle of the underlying technology. And I guess that's a fair point because there's no such thing as a trading market for VR headsets no matter what happens.

So, the headlines kind of really jump on top of it. One interesting thing that you’ve mentioned was this used to happen a lot before the Fed and regulators came in and safeguards and I totally agree with you about the wildcat banking era where everybody was allowed to be a bank. Every state, every town had a tech bank.

And so, there were bank runs and so on and so forth and states had to figure out how to save their banks. And, you know, the Fed eventually, at a federal level, created that. So, I think that makes a lot of sense as analogy, which is how regulators came in to regulate the equity markets that you talked about, as well as increasing liquidity.

How do you see that playing out from your perspective for crypto markets and blockchain? Because one of the big pieces I think is like there’s three parts to it. One is supposedly decentralised in terms of value. Secondly, I think it’s very much cross-border, which is kind of a very big difference, I think, from a financial system. And thirdly, I think there's a very strong desire to disintermediate or automate those intermediary roles, which reduce the role for a human regulator to be able to find a human executive to squeeze a human trader for somebody.

And so how do you see that playing out from your perspective? What is the right role for regulators? What do you see that panning out from your perspective?

Proud Limpongpan: (23:29)
Yeah, I think this is something that like a lot of regulators are also scratching their heads, trying to think as well, because there's a fine line between regulating and stopping innovation in terms of like going back to like the equities market, how it wasn't really regulated before. I mean, things like insider trading was not illegal, right? Stockbrokers, front running their customers was not illegal before, like taking bribes from companies was not illegal before until like, I don't know, the 80’s or 90’s, something like that.

So then like things that you would think are not imaginable right now on the trading floor happened before, and that's why I like this whole like cowboy state of crypto and things like that. I think it's because it's just the beginning. Do we need regulators step in or is the market going to self-regulate?
I think we see a lot of platforms that are like trying to build out this whole defi aspects. They know that these are issues and they're trying to build in the guardrails themselves as well too. So then for example, you have like these like staking mechanisms that are purely on a smart contract basis and you already code into the smart contract what can and cannot be done.

So, I think in the future, whether regulators step in or whether like that the industry self regulates, I think we have to wait and see. Yeah, but from a regulatory point of view, yes, because it's cross-border, it's quite hard like a lot of regulators think very differently. Not every country has this like regulation, like in Thailand, where you have to have a licence to have a crypto platform.
In Australia you just have an AUSTRAC certification rather than a proper like ‘licence’ licence kind of thing. So, I think like that is something that you have to see.

Jeremy Au: (25:01)
Makes a lot sense and I think it’s interesting because I think Southeast Asia regulators are also relatively dispersed. I mean, if you look at, obviously, the U.S., the Fed obviously has the regulatory control over the whole U.S. and, to some extent, the global financial system. I think if you look at EU, there’s, to some extent, coordination or regulation, but across Asia and Southeast Asia, there's a lot of dispersion.

And like you said, there's Thailand, and Singapore that was relatively pro crypto friendly. And I think recently the regulator came out saying that they would be very stern on start ups. And now, of course, we have Indonesia and Malaysia who are both under religious authority sites said that crypto is haram, is not in accordance with their council's decisions.

So, I think there's a lot of variation. I think it's interesting where Start-Ups have to deal with this regulatory arbitrage or regulatory difference across borders, right. Which makes it difficult to scale a regional crypto company, at least it feels like that for me. What do you think about that?

Proud Limpongpan: (25:58)
Yeah, when religion comes into play, that's a totally different issue. I think that's why a lot of players that are coming into this industry, they're more and more trying to build on the decentralised side so they don't really have to answer to anyone. This is a world that a lot of even traditional players are trying to tap into, whether it be through for example, like, you know, Robinhood has plans to roll out this like wallet of theirs. Coinbase, for example, has a whole different part of them that is not within the original Coinbase app that is now based on like a decentralised world and things like that.
So I think it just all depends on how this decentralised aspect pans out in the future.

Jeremy Au: (26:36)
Do you feel like decentralised can work out? How does that work? Because I think from what we just talked about is we expect regulatory action by the U.S. in some form faction, I guess China already acted by just banning it out. So I guess there's no more cross-border impact of that, I guess. But how do we think about that?

Proud Limpongpan: (26:54)
Yeah, but you still have people from China like on these platforms, if there's a will, there's a way. They will find ways to get on it. Maybe it would stop mass adoption for a certain extent. You never know what's going to happen with regulation like in the next few years. Now, they might allow you, they might allow you next year, or they might not allow you again.

I mean, the U.S., as you see, has been coming like at Ripple, at like Binance Coin, like years after they were launched. This aspect of being able to not attack but I mean like, you know, go after these players on like a historical basis is actually quite worrying because then a lot of people would just be really scared to do any sort of innovation that touches the customers where regulators can come and issue a fine or some sort of statement that scares away other potential customers and ruin reputation or whatnot.

You'll see a lot more viewpoints in terms of how regulation develops in country by country. You see the countries that are like more friendly to this, having a lot of more people move there. I think like for example, like for tech stuff, right? There's so many of in Puerto Rico because of that and people moving into Portugal because of that reason as well.

So I think it's really hard to predict what's going to happen just because it's a very fluid thing like this whole regulation aspect, even though it shouldn't be, and the fact that consumer behaviour is shifting and so sometimes regulation also cannot catch up to these behaviours as well too.

Jeremy Au: (28:21)
On that note, I’ll love to kind of like hear you out and shift towards the last chapter which is hearing a little bit by your personal side. Could you share about time that you personally have been BRAVE?

Proud Limpongpan: (28:30)
I mean, since you're talking about boom and bust cycles, I think I would have to mention about letting go of people in bust cycles. I think that's like the hardest part to do in a career and no matter how many times you've done it, whether it's like one person or it's like a group of people in terms of a bust cycle, lay off.

I think that's something that you really have to put a brave face on. I mean, there's been times where, I, in my previous jobs and whatnot, like, I don't even want to go to the office for the whole week because I know that I would see people that I would have to let go very soon. And it's this totally depressing.
So, I think that sort of that mental impact on yourself as well when doing this, sometimes it's because they're not really not performing. And so, you just have to say bye, but you do have a more personal connection to them or the fact that, okay, like there's a bust cycle going on and you have to like let go of some of the fat that the company has.

Yeah, I think these are the things that I feel that maybe not just me, but anyone I think in this position would have to be really brave to enact it.

Jeremy Au: (29:37)
Yeah. It makes a lot of sense and I think it's hard to do it with empathy and with the directionality because sometimes things are out of control like you said - the macro fundamentals of the company and I think balancing that with the individual person's requirements is an impossible balancing act. I think from an executive perspective, one interesting thing is this that I think there's a lot of conversations about the huge wave of layoffs that’s already happening in technology and in Start-Ups, do you have any advice for people who are kind of like on one side, I guess for people who are going to be doing the letting go off?

And later on about advice for people who are going to transition to new roles, but for people who are kind of enacting layoffs and laying off people due to macros and fundamentals, why advice would you give to them?

Proud Limpongpan: (30:27)
So, if it's to do with macros and fundamentals it is probably a group of people that are being laid off rather than just one person. A couple of tech firms have done this, help them in terms of putting together a talent hub, trying to help them find their next journey, the place to start the next chapter and things like that.

I think like these things are tactical things that you can help them with and I think should be done in terms of like, you know, how you message it to people, how you do it to people. So, there are companies have like several ways to do it. Some of them just like, you know, put them in a town hall and walk them out.

Some people just wake up with an email from the employer being like, Sorry, your access has been revoked because you're being let go. But those things are you have to also balance with the security of the company and security with company versus being a little bit more human about it. So, I think it's something that cannot be done lightly.

And I think a lot of times a lot of these companies that seem a little bit inhumane, I think it's an error of communication or the way you communicate in general. It's not like they want to be inhumane about it. I think it's just the way that you have to like to make sure that your internal comms is a little bit more empathetic as much as it can be.

Jeremy Au: (31:36)
Yeah. Is there any advice that you would give for folks who are going through career changes in the current market, bear market? Any advice you do in terms of career search or transition?

Proud Limpongpan: (31:48)
Yeah. So, I think you should listen for the signs because like for me, especially, especially for my direct reports or people who are quite senior in my team, I would sort of give hints already that cuts are coming. Hey, this might not be the most suitable place for you at this time of your career.
Like watch for hints from your employers to see what is happening because in most times they can't really tell you if it's going to be a big layoff because you have to tell everyone at the same time. And also, if you're in a high growth tech company, chances are you have a talent acquisition function or you have outside recruiters that are helping you.

So, I think these recruiters or these functions are like the best people to place you in your next part of your journey. And I think just like lastly, like, it's probably not your fault that this is happening. It's probably something that it's a larger element being at play at the moment. And so just, I guess, stay strong and it could be a window for a new opportunity in the future.

Jeremy Au: (32:48)
Yeah, I think I love the phrase about you saying it's not your fault. I think that's a big part for so many tech folks. I mean, the reality is like 90% of start-ups are going to fail from the starting founding all the way to even the public markets and then 90% fail rate means that, you know, 90% of employees are going to be laid off at some point, not even including, obviously, the bull and bear cycles that we talked about for the largest tech companies.

I think one thing that people forget is that joining the tech world is often very flashy, very glamorous. But there is a very significant risk because 90% chance the company is going to fail. I think people really don't talk about it. That fact that you have to keep your resume updated, you have to keep your relationships with head-hunters and recruiter strong because the markets can change.

So, any advice that you give for folks who are kind of starting out and graduating because, you know, you went through a couple career shifts from consultant to private equity to being an operator, and now as a CMO, any advice you give for people in terms of thinking through their career vision early on in their career?

Proud Limpongpan: (33:51)
Yeah. So, I used to be an extreme planner, so I sort of plan since college that I wanted to go to HBS and then I wanted to run my own company and things like that. But life is not a straight path, so there's some zig-zags that you do. There's always a reason behind things. Just make sure you take full advantage of every single opportunity that presents itself, like even if you're stuck in a boring job at first, like, how can I make that better? How can I connect with, like, mentors in my field or in my company from a different team that would then lead me to a different opportunity and things like that, and just don't be afraid to make the jump if an opportunity presents itself.

Because, for me, it was kind of like, okay, it doesn't really make sense to my career, but maybe I can gain like X, Y, Z from this experience or I can perhaps try to then shift into this later and things like that. So it's all like that. Nothing is always black and white. And a lot of people, also like hate rejections, like especially Type-A people that go to like do MBAs and things like that.
Like sometimes the rejections are like the best thing ever that's happened to you. And yeah, I think just be aware that life’s not a straight line.

Jeremy Au: (34:57)
I love that. I love what you said about life is not being a straight line. So just to recap the three big things I took away from this conversation.

The first is, of course, thank you for sharing about your career. And everybody's career is not a straight line, about how there’s zigzags, especially from your perspective as a consultant to an operator to where you are today in crypto. And I thought it was really interesting for you to share some of that thinking about what you learnt along the way.

The second was, I really appreciate you sharing about crypto and blockchain, about the long term value of what's really powering the technology and applications out there. And also talking about Southeast Asia's role in terms of the heterogeneity, in terms of experience and regulations and consumers. And I think we also had a good discussion actually about…and personal learning actually about a delinking of the financial markets and blockchain empowering versus the fear versus greed cycle of the technology itself, which is an interesting dynamic that I hadn't thought through.

And lastly, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about your personal story about how I think everybody in technology as a Start-Up Tech professional, yourself and myself included, really have to stay on top of it because career change is kind of like the norm rather than an exception.
So, thank you so much for sharing.

Proud Limpongpan: (36:10)
Thank you so much for having me. And yeah, there's always an unglamorous side of tech that people don't really talk about as much.