Sales in Asia Ep 12-13: Start-up Sales in a Downturn with Jeremy Au, Monk’s Hill Ventures


· Press,VC and Angels,Start-up



Jeremy Au talks about his journey through UC Berkeley, Bain, founding 2 startups, and transitioning to VC and angel investing. He shares his perspective on the startup sales downturn and the tremendous impact of sales skills on his success. He also discusses the challenges that startup face, the lack of talent in tech sales, and considerations sales professionals should be thoughtful about before joining a startup.

Check out the podcast here and the transcript below.


Benny Tan: (00:00)

Should founders have good sales skills?

Jeremy Au: (00:07)

A hundred percent. The truth of the matter is that the founder's job is a crazy job, right? First of all, you need to rally people to work for you. Number two is you need to rally people to invest in you. Three, you need to rally customers to buy you, and this's such a crazy thing to do all the time. To top it off, you have no money, so the only thing you got is what other savings you got and what other skills you have.

Benny Tan: (00:29)

You are listening to Sales in Asia, your gateway to sales practices in Asia, and I'm your host Benny Tan.

Can founders succeed without sales skills? As startups face increasing pressure to deliver, how can they not only survive but thrive in this challenging climate? At what point and cost should startups hire its sales team, and how do you attract, develop, and retain them? Jeremy Au is a VC and Chief of Staff at Monk's Hill Ventures, an angel investor, author, mentor, coach, and a podcast host of BRAVE Southeast Asia Tech podcast with more than 10,000 subscribers.

We discuss startup sales in a downturn, and hear Jeremy's perspectives as an ex-founder, a current investor, and a mentor to startups. In the first of these two-part series, Jeremy shares his early days, why and how sales skills shaped his success, why sales skills is essential for founders, and the differences in sales between startups and organizations.

Good morning, Jeremy.

Jeremy Au: (01:44)

Hey, morning. Good to see you.

Benny Tan: (01:45)

Thank you very much for being on the Sales in Asia podcast. It's a real privilege to speak to you. Just as an introduction to our audience. I know you as a founder, entrepreneur, investor, VC, mentor, coach, author, podcast host, and also a father of a couple of kids as well. So you are a thought leader in the Southeast Asia startup ecosystem as both an investor, as well as an advisor. So, besides this very brief and probably it doesn't do justice to your accolades and accomplishments, is there anything else that you'd like the audience to know about you?

Jeremy Au: (02:22)

National Service member, led my motor detachment on indirect fire missions.

Benny Tan: (02:28)

Oh wow.

Jeremy Au: (02:28)

There we go. Just gotta add that one in as well. Just kidding. I studied at UC Berkeley, then I worked at Bain as a Management Consultant across Southeast Asia and China and consumer tech. Then, I built my first company, which was a consultancy for over a hundred clients in the social sector, and bootstrapped that to profitability. I was the first salesperson, the only salesperson for a long time, the marketer, everything. Eventually, I sold my stick to my co-founder. I went to Harvard to do my MBA, and then there I built a second company in education tech, growing it from seed , series A, to about $8 million of revenue. And I eventually set that to a global daycare chain. After that, moving back to Southeast Asia and joining venture capital on the other side of the table.

For me, it feels like a lot of different things and like a bit of a rotational program. I think for me, what it has been is two things. First of all, it's been a journey of self-exploration in terms of the roles that I want to play, what are my personal skills, what I like, what I don't like, who are the people I like to hang out with, who are the people I don't like to hang out with. And at the core of it, what I realize is that is very comfortable with the fact that I love coaching, I love community building and I love teaching.

These are things that I think when I was younger looked down on. It's oh, you're a teacher. You're a community builder. These are things that people are very judgey on. You had to be a doctor, a lawyer, a business person.

Benny Tan: (03:47)

Especially in Asia right?

Jeremy Au: (03:48)

In Asia, right? Because I think skill sets are not attached to professions in a sense. So I think, honestly accepting myself of who I am has been part of that journey as well and I'm in a happy spot right now.

Benny Tan: (03:59)

That's great. Clearly your story is actually very inspirational and not only, we don't count by the number of followers that you have on LinkedIn, but then the type of impact that you have actually made on people. So, the thing that we're gonna talk about is really about startup sales, particularly in the downtown.

And to get your perspective from that rotational experience that you have, founder, salesperson, VC, advisor, and so on, right? So, a big question that I have, for you to talk about before we go into this is, how much of an impact has sales as a skill made on your success today?

Jeremy Au: (04:36)

Tremendous. I think, sales is, again, it's one of those skills that I look down on, right? Just imagine your parents if you're like, oh, I wanna do sales. But it's a skill, and I think one of the things I always remember was, obviously I grew up and I wanted to be a medical researcher. I love computers as a gamer and these are the things that you do as a kid.

I was writing poetry, so there's all these things that you do as hobbies and so, so forth. My first experience of sales, I always remember was at UC Berkeley. I had joined a group called the Berkeley Group, which was a social impact consulting club. What was interesting about that conversation was that I got to basically have a wonderful time consulting and helping a whole bunch of different nonprofits and social enterprises get better. So that was a big part of it. The other part of it was helping out, organizing and finding new members to join the club, and at the start of the semester, they had this thing thing called tabling. What that means is that, in the university, there's this concourse where people had to go to class, it's actually through the south entrance, and so all the different clubs would have different tables there, and I actually really enjoyed it. I was one of those people who really enjoyed volunteering as a tabler. I did my fair share, I did bit more of my fair share eventually because I was a leader in the club, but basically for every semester, for eight semesters, I was recruiting new people to join a club.

So it'd be like, if people come, and they're like I'm interested in a club, and you explain to them. It's who are you what major are you? And after that, based on that, then you can do that sales script. And I build it out the art. That kind of like, and then I realized it became a you could say a script but it was just fun. And I would just be like, time will fly by and I'd be like, oh, I did a two hour. This just went by and I talked to a couple hundred people. And I always joked that so many people remember me because I was that tabler who was just very fun, enthusiastic, being very personal. The good news was I love the club. I love the community I love the people. I love the friends. And they changed my life, so it made me a very natural salesperson. Right. It's just that I was also an extrovert and I was happy to personalize the message and I was happy to feel at some point I was, feel like I could feel myself getting better at pitching various folks. And it's funny because that skillset eventually came out handy over time. Right. When I built my first, social impact consultancy, I was consulting. Nonprofits and in Singapore and Southeast Asia, same skillset, right? , I had to pitch people to join.

People thought I was crazy. People thought I was like, I always remember I emailed thousands of friends on back then Google groups and Yahoo groups, right? Was the, way to get, distribution, right? And email everybody say, please come and let's see what was gonna volunteer.

And I remember it was like, like over basically a hundred people turned up and. Just like the number of people who just listening was fine. And obviously it's pitching enthusiastic. I made my slides, terrible slides in retrospect. But well, I was very proud of my slides back then. And then yeah.

Like the number of people who stepped up the volunteer was just a handful. Honesty. Right, right. And I remember obviously being in two minds about it, right. One part of it. very crushed. Right? It's oh, over a hundred people. I pitched, it was like, only, like less than five people volunteered to help us out.

The bursting from scratch. And it's depressing actually, because you're like, doesn't mean that, the feedback that people had and my brother was like, oh, do nonprofits and social enterprises, do they want consultancy services? , do they want to get better?

How are they gonna pay what kind of work gonna do? The social sector will never adopt this. People don't want to help out. And so people are very like, and I was like, no, it only works in California. Right. I can see it's totally happening. I've worked with nonprofits in social enterprises in Singapore.

And I felt like a crazy person saying it, but you know, you just go through, again, repetitions. Right. And I think that's where my training at tabling right. On that university, California Sun. Right. Really helped was because it was like at, outside of me, it was like, wow, half a hundred people.

Yeah. I got. 3, 4, 5 people. That's pretty good, right? , like that's a pretty good hit rate. It's just and you did a one go and everything, right? And then, you kind of work from there and you start continue pitching people one-on-one in groups and lunch groups.

And now if you go today, know, obviously Conjun consult is still going strong. Now you have all kinds of, you organizations that are doing consultancy for. Social impact in Singapore, right? Bridgespan is here. Burg is here. , we paved the path, right? We were there first. We built it first.

And now nobody asks the questions like, oh, do nonprofits and certain enterprises wanna get better? I'm like, duh. Of course they wanna get better. Right. And of course they're willing to pay, but you know, they have a different calculus. Right. So I think I wouldn't, I think sales was helpful from, I think obviously a skill.

It was also helpful as a core memory, but also I think it's a very good mindset to have, right? Which is that, you're just sharing the message and. people don't like you, and then they walk away . And then some people like you, but they get bored and they or they don't follow up and reply to your message.

That's okay. And then some people like you, they hear you and then they follow up, right? And heck, one of 102 of 103 of a hundred is a pretty good hit rate. And that's very different as a mindset, I think.

Benny Tan: (09:17)

Yeah. Right. So I think the mindset, so one of a mindset is actually about taking rejections, being able to grow a thick skin and say, look, we're gonna get a lot of rejections.

Yeah. Thick skin part was

Jeremy Au: (09:28)

Very hot. Right. It's a great tshirt. Thick skin. Proudly thick skin, as a good shirt, right?

Benny Tan: (09:32)

I think we should print that together. Yes. Yeah, exactly. Skin,

Jeremy Au: (09:35)

Proudly thick skin. Just everyone else was like, oh, don't be thick skin. I'm like, oh, he's not thick skin. Or, I'm proud to be thick skin.

Right. Yeah. I Later down a road when I was, the venture back startup, obviously some things are easier cuz you sell a customers, et cetera. But now you're selling the VCs right? Venture capitalists who are trying to make a decision whether invest in you or not. Yeah. That's a good decision that they have to make.

And then you gotta sell them. You gotta tell them, you, of course you're not selling them, but also you're carry the feedback. You adjust it. It is. A feedback loop, right. That you're working on. Right. But it's still a form of sales. Right. Like I talked to maybe a hundred VCs, probably at least, and I'm still member the Excel spreadsheet and be like, Excel, right? Novo, right. SAP CRMs. Not Airtable then. Yeah, exactly. It's not air table. Yeah. It's it is like top two, but you know, terrible person. okay. Checked out, interested doesn't get it, but interested, like you, and yeah. That's a form of sales, right? And so I think it's a great skill set to have and I think it's underappreciated as a skill and undervalued by society and if you're doing sales you're, you're helping somebody find out they should buy something, right?

Benny Tan: (10:39)

That, that's a great perspective. And so we're gonna jump into, startups sales in a Downton, we're uncovering the three main areas. For example, what's the difference between startup sales versus a virtual organization?

Yeah. Right. And how startups can attract, enable, and even retain talent, particularly in this climate. Yeah. And the last is about how startups can overcome the sales challenges. Yeah. So, as a precursor to that did you ever go through any top sort of formal sales training, learning. , in your

(11:07) Jeremy Au:

Life? No. I don't know. Is that like a what, like Harvard of sales out there? ? Yeah. I don't think I've ever been to . Obviously I think, as when you young, you exposed to sales, right. You're exposed to the insurance policy sales person. , I think you're watching the insurance policy sales person.

Sell to your parents and end up pointing at you as well, and you're like, oh, okay, just a salesperson, . And of course, you see it in sales pictures as a consumer. I think, honestly, I say my first, was like really the scripts that you get, right?

School clubs, organizations, how do you hire people? How do you pitch people? Those are not the sales scripts, right? Keyword words, key frames that you have to frame. I think I would say that, I think consulting is probably, when I was at Bain, probably became more explicit about sales, right? But I think they wouldn't necessarily be like sales in the sense of like selling a product, but really consultative sales, which just saying, okay, how do I sit down, review, how do I really understand your problem? , make sure I really understand your problem. Say and play it back to them, and then give them your honest answer, right? Which may or may not include your product, right. And service and your. , and then if they trust you after 5, 10, 20 iterations of that then yeah. They'll. , 10 million , I think focus consulting project. Right.

Benny Tan: (12:19)

I think in that one one paragraph we just described, what sales is really, what should, what it should be, what should, what it should be like.

Jeremy Au: (12:25)

It's good for, it's real good for consultative B2B sales, but it's not obviously selling don't know.

What's it? No always be selling, sell, it's obviously closing, sell cars and stuff like that.

Benny Tan: (12:35)

Right. Okay. Yeah. So you've you are, you're currently invested in a number of startups. So, so maybe the first question, around a team is is there a difference in the way startups we sell versus let's say it's an virtual organization? What are the differences that you see?

(12:50) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I think the. The question is really about, startups and mature organizations and often, honestly, David and Goliath. Right? Right. And I think there's often a very easy way to think about it in the sense that when you're a large organization is very straightforward.

Your product what has worked in marketing script, your persona, your pav. And so everybody's very specialized. Right? So, there's only a certain way to sell it, right? Right. So you get the specs and then, they sit down with you and say, okay, this quarter, this year is your commission targets, these are your targets.

This is how you break it out into your regional breakouts, in terms of your target list and let's go hustle. And I think it's a very team structure that you see, right? Yes. And I think as a consultant, I got to observe that right? Once at a. Hardware, electronics company that was doing that, and then another that was split out by geography. And I also gotta see a consumer packaged goods company in the beverages space. , break it out by channel, right? . And so I gotta see those things. I see the sales reps and they're very different, right? One is like all nerds and engineers who happens to like sales and they work with engineers to, co-produce and co-designing, sell these hardware pieces in the sales approach.

And of course, our approach is like the Japanese restaurant guy is a Japanese guy and he's wearing on top of it. And then the persons like, selling to disco is much more of a party guy, big belly. So, but I think but I and it works, right? Because they know what the product is.

The product's very clear, the targets are clear. , you already have a long term relationship and even if you leave, or probably another salesperson's gonna come in and, join the team, right? . Whereas I think for a startup is almost like, David, right? Which is you had to be very focused, right?

You're selling one product, whatever it is. You're not selling 10, 20, 30 products. If you don't sell a product your companies did, right? If you sell the product, you don't get anything. Maybe you get equity, maybe you get cash, you get a pat in the back, but you're not gonna get massive sales bonuses the way that you may do, for example, because it's much, when you are in Goliath, more, you know the market often very saturated, right?

Those people have been sold to multiple times by multiple products. I think the focus is very key for a startup. Like just being like, what is that key message that I'm selling? , they're often selling to people who are underserved. So they tend not to be selling to people who are saturated.

They tend to be selling people who have never heard of the category. Or never bought something in that space cuz it's never happened before. So, for example I just heard there's a company that is basically like a B2B version of, chat G p T right. Open ai. So literally the guy just told me about it yesterday.

They enclosed Alpha, but basically what he's saying is there's generative ai, but now we've made it much more business case for this very summarization, interesting notes, whatever. So imagine if you're like a salesperson for them and a closed alpha. It's bonkers because first of all, the product's not complete.

Right? It's still in alpha. Okay. You can't really sell it yet cuz it's closed, so you can't add people easily. The pricing models hasn't really been to Herman yet. The company may forward in a couple of years, . Nobody has bought this thing. No business has bought generative AI at all. Midjourney is, it's because it's still free, right? So it's, yeah, well it's, well check GT is selling it for $20 per month. Oh really? Okay. Yeah. Now, but they're only giving you like, more 24 7 excess and anyway, but it's such a weird product to sell and nobody's ever bought it.

IBM has bought it. Microsoft hasn't bought it. They don't use it internally. You. Mom and pop shops haven't used it yet. Yeah, I software companies haven't used it, so everybody's, nobody knows how to sell this thing yet. It's so weird. You know what I mean? So who is the best person? Is it me?

Is it gonna be a, an engineer? Is it going, do you talk about the speed? Do you talk about the price? Do you talk about what's the use case like? So then the salesperson of our startups, not just sales, but also a feedback loop, right? You are also taking the feedback from the customer and using that to channel and change the marketing message, the sales message, even maybe even a product roadmap.

And so that high velocity closed. Feedback loop is really key, right? . And so when you work as a startup person in startups, you have to be like, yeah. It is not oh I want to get my marketing, packet. I want my air support . I want a Navy to bombard them with 100 messages or LinkedIn.

And then when I come in, I'm just here just to take the ground and close the deal. You don't get that. You are like commandos, right? In the, you gotta do everything yourself. You're a solo man. Maybe you one a two men team a treatment team. You gotta do it all yourself. And you've got no support, right? And nobody knows where they are, what they're doing, et cetera. So I think really that mindset is very different. Yeah. Right?

Benny Tan: (17:06)

And that goes back to the first question I asked about the sales skills. Yeah. So, should founders have good sales skills?

Jeremy Au: (17:11)

A hundred percent. The truth of the matter is that, the founder job is a crazy job, right? First of all, you need to rally people to work for you, right? Number two is you need to rally people to invest in you. Three, you need to rally customers to buy you, right? Right. And that's such a crazy thing to do. all the time, and to top it off, you have no money. So the only thing you got is, whatever savings you got and whatever skills you have, right?

And I always remember I remember when I was, my first company was again, I was starting to nonprofits, social enterprises. , I had no office. So I'll work out of, I don't remember the Raffle City. There's a Starbucks there, right? That was there for many years. And so, it's right out, it's obviously central and so people will be like, oh I'd like to meet you at your office to have the meeting.

I was like no. I'll travel to you. I'll meet you. Yes, let's meet you in Central. I'll meet you at Raffle City. Starbucks. Yes, . The thing is, I was already working. Entire morning anyway. So the good news is I'm always on time for a meeting.

Benny Tan: (18:05)


(18:06) Jeremy Au:

Okay. Never late because I'm never late cause I was there the entire time.

And the guy comes in, of course I make sure that I don't like all my papers and everything. That always looks so obvious, right? So I'll just be there on my laptop, my phone, the guy be like, oh, I'm sorry I was late. How long have you been waiting? And I'll be like no. I'm happy to meet you here in Central.

And then I'll just pitch them, as the client. And then after that they'll be like, okay, let's go separate ways. And then I'll be like yeah. And I. Pack my things, right. Put it in my bag and then I'll go play the seat . Yeah no, that's two half years. You gotta walk around a shopping mall, look at a few books, walk around in about 10, 15 minutes.

You walk back, they already laugh and then you go, then you sit in another seat in a Starbucks and then, so that's how you do it. Right? And cuz none of your first clients wants to buy somebody who is like a. Who wanted to buy from a, a fresh university, graduate consultancy, services from them, never been done before.

Who was to buy from this guy versus, you're buying from somebody who's, from their perspective, somebody's traveled down to the city, earners willing to negotiate terms, willing to be taught full about the process. , and willing to example the team at a very low price point to make it happen.

And then also there's a refund guaranteed as well, like then, that's someone that you want to potentially buy from, right? And then you book from there, right? So, Yeah. think sales is key for every founder. So many founders and honestly, like that's a big part of it.

I would say it's probably one of the biggest make or break factors for our founder today is can you sell? Right. Look, you're not gonna be like, like the car salesperson in terms of sales, but you, you gotta sell the way that you want to sell and that the customer wants to buy.

Right, right. You I always, I Angel invested in a company called Ever. Right. And they're doing cyber security. , and, selling a solution for chief information security officers and CTOs and CFOs to buy, right? . And, peop and I met them and obviously, we hung out and obviously, cyber security, I'm not an expert on.

Right. But one thing I did know was that the two co-founders was that they used to be chief information security officers themselves. Right? Right. At Air Asia . So shout out to, ever shout out to Garaf and Fabrice, yeah.

Benny Tan: (20:09)

So a lot of domain expertise there already. No expertise, but they know how to sell.

(20:09) Jeremy Au:

They know, okay. They know how they want to be sold to. Right. They didn't get the solution they wanted and so they went up building themselves and I was thinking to myself like, yeah. These folks know the customer, these folks know what they want to buy, and they know how to sell to them. Because birds of a feather flock together. Right. So I think that was the path for me is yeah, there's a no-brainer for me to say, even though cybersecurity is not something I want domain expertise on. But I feel, and my judgment is that the great salespeople, not because they are again, car salespeople, but because they really understand the customer and they're willing to.

Be part of that journey over the long term. Right, right. And I think that's such a key part, is I think a lot of founders, oh, I'm not a salesperson because, salesperson, again, like I said, is insurance policy opening up a bank account and Oh, that's what you think, right? Yeah. It's like, like, oh, you watch movies, but it's so much more sales. Sales is basically saying are you, yeah. Transaction as a sale, but. , but they're giving you money. And they're giving you money because your product's supposed to change your life. Right? Right. Change the company, change their career. so I think it's not just a sale, but it's the exchange of that requires consideration.

Benny Tan: (21:20)

Right. So as an investor that is certainly a trait that you actually look for, right? In Vanda, right? Yeah. So, so in your experience, what is the reason why some startups fail when it comes to sales then?

Jeremy Au: (21:29)

Lots of reasons, right? . I think the most obvious one is you're not good at sales, right?

So, or, and when I say you're not good at sales, you know me from a marketer's perspective, you're not good at marketing. , or from a product designer's perspective, you say you, you don't understand a customer. But what that fundamental breakdown at an earlier stage is, you're selling a product that people don't want, right?

And there are different ways to intervene. You could sell it better. Maybe it's because people don't wanna buy it cuz it's packaging and format. Maybe because the product is not designed or doesn't deliver what customers mind. Or maybe you're selling to the wrong customer, right? So I think that flexibility, the humility, and.

Openness to the customer feedback and that ability to iterate is key. And so the sales process can break down at earlier stage. , I think later on, of course what will happen is the next stage after that would be you sell to early adopters, but that market is not big enough or it's too early. Right.

And so there's a big of a bit of a race, honestly. Right. To can you educate the market. And that's very tough cuz we are often creating category. , you could be right. It's just that you could be right 10 or 20 years in advance, right? , it's like VR headset sets are metaverse and everything.

I'm just like, yeah, not performing well in the public stock markets. But when I put on my VR hit set. , all the other players are kids. Right. , they're like teenagers and young, like they're like eight years old or five years old who are on VR of me. And I'm just like feeling like this old person.

And I know I'm my mid thirties and I'm like playing like tennis with this kid. Okay. And I'm just like, . Anyway, like you could be right. But I'm just saying you could be, you could, but it takes time for the market to get to where you want to be. Right? So same thing for generative ai.

You could be a salesperson with generative ai. , I think you're a hundred percent correct. In a hundred years, I bet you that every company in the world is gonna buy generative ai. It may not say Generated. Yeah. And talk. You may. auto complete emails, right. Or they may say 24 7 WhatsApp customer support. It may not be caught generative ai, but it's gonna be there it is. It's gonna be so fundamental, but, as a startup, as a founder, are you selling now? Do you wanna sell in five years, 10 years, 20 years? I think there's always that timing, or your early adopters.

Maybe you say it may be a dead end, right? The way that you. And of course the third thing I think that breaks down of course, is you know, adding founders, they are often the best salesperson because they're the only salesperson after a while, right? Right. So they keep doing it over and over again, but then to trust and to train and to financially and non-financially incentivize the sales.

People team to take over. Okay. Is a very big gap that I think is missing not just for lots of founders, but I think it's particularly missing in Southeast Asia because I don't think we have a deep bench of great tech sales people. But more importantly, great tech. Hit of sales slash sales leaders. I think we have probably a handful I would say, who are kind of like domain experts from my perspective. Right. And that's why I'm so happy to be here on this podcast. I'm glad to get educating folks , because we need more. Great. Head of tech sales, crush it, be VP sales, be the chief sales officer, whatever it is I think there can be a lot more homegrown talent.

Benny Tan: (24:30)

Thanks for listening to Sales in Asia. That was the end of part one of our session with Jeremy O of Bangs Hill Ventures. If you've enjoyed this show, please subscribe and shared with others. Click on the next episode for part two of Startup Sales in a Downton on Sales in Asia.

Start of Episode 13

How easy is it just to not only attract them, but also to retain them?

Jeremy Au: (25:01)

Well, the fundamental reality is what is the economic product that you're selling and what is the value of that product? The truth is, if you're selling $10 products or $10 a month, you're not kind of for a salesperson. You're if you're a SaaS, B2B is $10 a month or a hundred dollars a month?

You gotta be product LED marketing. You're probably doing product led sales, right? In the sense that your product has to be word of mouth and referral and performance marketing, right? . But I think when you're starting selling okay, your product is. effectively, I don't know, $10,000 a year.

Right. And your lifetime value is probably about a hundred thousand dollars a year. Now that's when you're starting to say okay, I can do, have salespeople, junior salespeople on a team. But if a product is a hundred thousand dollars a year coming out to a million dollars, Right. And so the truth of the matter is, when you mention about Singapore salaries, it's good.

Singapore folks are smart, educated, hungry, ambitious, and they shouldn't be selling cheap products.

Benny Tan: (25:58)

You are listening to sales in Asia, and I'm your host, Benny th In this episode, we continue our chat with Jeremy Al, VC and Chief of Staff of Mons Hill Ventures. We find. How deeply do VCs get involved in sales structure, operations, and strategy? What are the secrets to attracting, developing, and keeping sales talent in a startup?

Why equity as sales compensation in a startup may not be enough? So let's jump in. Yeah I agree. And so I, and I think that's a, what you said, it's a really great segue into the second part, which is around hiring salespeople and only hiring them, attracting them, enabling them, and also retaining them.

So, yes, we agree that that one of the key qualities of our founders is the, it's the ability to sell, but at some point, that ability, the skill sets needs to be. And as a startup, when VCs I would like to get your perspective when you are investing in a company, right? One of the things that you don't want them to do is to spend too much money on marketing and sales tech tool.

And so that you just want to go out there and, and get things done and get revenue. But and you mentioned that there is a gap where it comes to the transference of skillsets, you at least hiring right kind of salespeople, in the organization. How can that be resolved, for startups, know, what should startups think about, because they're weighing between, well, V gave me so much money.

They're not asking me to now grow at all costs. They want me. I celebrate my path to profitability, but at the same time, also I had, there's a lack of talent there. So how can startup founders resolve or solve this issue today?

Jeremy Au: (27:35)

Yeah, it's a awkward conversation all the time, right?

And there's no good answers. Honestly. There's no easy answers. US is quite simple, right? It's like Google Tech sales and find a competitor or somebody. like in the same category and has about five years or more experience. So for example, if you're building, I'm using example B2B SaaS tool in the us probably what you do is you look for somebody who's done it already, right at a competitor you admire a benchmark company you admire.

And then you call the guy and say, Hey I'll pay you the same salary on the base, but I'll give you lots of equity, right? , and the guy will be like, yeah, I did my three years on my four years there, right? I have whatever I'm done. I would like to join your team and get it right. So I think that's the, and I think that's doable actually still in many ways.

I think there are lots of folks who, truth is when it comes to sales people, they have to understand the customer. Right. Like I think understanding the product is probably the easiest part of ramping up. Right. But understanding the customer and actually having relationships already is pretty hard.

So I would say step one is, yeah. , look at your benchmarks, competitors, people, your spec, and go rate them for talent. Right? That's one. I think the second category that's, is actually honestly like junior talent. So people that you think are junior and the truth is nobody really has that tech experience, but you know, you feel like they have a shot, right?

And they understand your product. They're passionate about mission. Yeah. I think it's worth giving them a shot. I think there's lots of smart, great, hungry, ambitious folks all across Southeast Asia who are happy to build and happy to, build out their career in sales.

I think you just had to give them a shot. Right. Because they don't wanna sell.

Benny Tan: (29:10)

But is it easy to attract, talent in that way? Because, I especially if you look at Singapore now, they said that the benchmark for graduates are like four or $5,000. That's just for graduates alone.

Right. But we also now have a, have quite a number of of tech sales that are available because of the downtown they, yeah. They call cut out. But then how easy is it just to not only attract them, but also to retain them?

Jeremy Au: (29:31)

Well, the fundamental reality is what is the economic product that you're selling and what is the value of that product?

The truth is, if you're selling $10 products or $10 a month, kind of afford a salesperson. If your SaaS B2B is $10 a month, a hundred dollars a month you gotta be product. LED marketing, you're probably doing product led sales, right? In the sense that your product has be word of mouth and referral and performance marketing, right? But I think when you're starting selling okay, your product is. effectively, I don't know, $10,000 a year. Right. And your lifetime value is probably about a hundred thousand dollars a year. Now that's when you're starting to say okay, I can do, have salespeople, junior salespeople on a team.

But if your product is a hundred thousand dollars a year coming out to a million dollars. Right. And so the truth of the matter is, when you mention about Singapore salaries is good. Singapore folks are smart, educated, hungry, a. and they shouldn't be selling cheap products. Their salary, like you said, is at least five grand a month.

That's 60 grand a year for base, probably at least the bonus. They give them at least a hundred grand all in, right? Be up to 200 grand. Guess what? If your product is a hundred dollars size per month, you can't afford 200 grand per year salary full stock. Because? Because that guy can't do enough sales.

But if your product has a lifetime value, Not just 10 years, maybe it's the customer's gonna be reviewed for a hundred years because your product is that good. Then guess what? If you have a product that's $10,000, you have a hundred years to it, there's a million dollar product, then Yeah. You know that $200,000 person who is gonna close five accounts a year, a month looks like a steal because basically you're saying like, wow, this Singaporean or expensive person.

Is costing me 200 grand, 300 grand, 400 grand, whatever it is, but it's generating me like, $5 million of customer lifetime value a month. That comes out to six, $60 million. Then you're like, what? Paying 1 million for $16 million of customer lifetime value. It's no brainer. So I think the reason why tech startups kind of struggle a little bit is costing is. They think like they can't afford and they think talent's too expensive. But it's not that. It's more like the product and the lifetime value is not fully considered or not mature enough or not sticky enough to justify a salesperson to be there, right?

So same thing is I. If my bicycle is broken, guess what? I don't need a world class mechanic to do it, right? , I can just jiggle some stuff. I can do it myself, right. Right. But if I have a car, I'm like, no fucking way. I kind of, I don't know how to fix this thing.

Right. And let alone electric car. I'm like I have no idea. Right. So, right. So I think you gotta have the right tool for a right situation. You needed a right team member for a right economic.

Benny Tan: (32:00)

Okay. So as a, as an investor, when you when you evaluate, let's say, when you do your quality reviews or reviews of the, of of your, the performance of the companies that you invest in, how deep do you actually get into when it comes to things like putting in a sales structure, sales strategy, and so on? n terms of influence or events of even getting your hands dirty.

Jeremy Au: (32:19)

The truth of the matter is that VCs are investing in about, 20, startups for example, for fund, right? So, a mature company, a fund of maybe managing 20, 40, 50, 60 companies as a portfolio.

And obviously there'll be team members that join the fund to help and support. Is this, that, I think for me as a founder, when I was working with VCs, I think where they were most helpful was really at the strategic level. That's one. So like strategy product at a high level. Trade offs, the budget.

And I think the second level is that I think if the partner or the investment team member on the other side of the table has that experience, direct experience, then I can ask them about it. But I think it's quite dangerous to ask a VC from my personal experience about stuff they don't have personal experience on, and it's not dangerous in a sense that they're not gonna say something malicious, obviously. Right. But I think they're obviously gonna try to best be helpful and provide that thing. But I think that founders can often overweight the credibility of their advice because they're vc. So a lot of people come to me, for example, right?

And you're talking to me about sales and oh, about the sales, about economic, blah blah, blah. But you ask me, Jeremy can talk about designing the sales structure. I can be very helpful that I can provide something, and I will sound very smart. I'll sound very confident doing it. , and I could be wrong because you're a sales guy, I'm a sales guy, right?

And then, but promise is that, and then if it was coming from someone else, your BS meter was this beep. And then you'll be like, ah, disregard. This guy doesn't know what talking about. But because I'm a vc, I sound smarter, I sound whatever. Then, so, so for me I'm a little bit more.

I've been on both sides of the table. I've bought venture capital and I've sold venture capital. I've bought bot members and I've sold bot membership, right? I've bought advice and I've sold advice. Right? And I think seeing both sides of the table has made me say day is all situational.

And the founder and executive decision maker is the person who has to triangulate pressure test and eventually choose the best advice. And. What I've seen for founders, for example, for sales advisors, they may talk to the VC and say, okay, what have you seen? Or whoever it is. , they'll talk to other founders who have one or two or five years ahead Right.

And get a sense of how they do it. Right. They talk to tech sales leaders who are gray head, right. And then they get advice and then they talk to young salespeople and then you know, the iterate they design and then they put it all together in a way that makes sense. Right. And then most importantly they say, this is the plan for next one quarter

And then if it works, that doesn't. We see, and then based on the experiment, then we improve it over time. So that's a how I think about it. Okay. Yeah I think hat's a really great perspective.

Benny Tan: (34:45)

So let's close this out because I, this conversation out. So looking at the current climate today for, I think it's quite challenging, but maybe it's not as challenging in, in some of some of the regions here.

What advice do you have for startup? to overcome this climate, particularly in whether or not you should just be in a survival mode or thriving in sales, what strategies would you recommend for them, right? But in order at least for them to continue to exist, but also to actually thrive in this climate.

Jeremy Au: (35:18)

Yeah, I think I'll do it two, right? The first of all is like what your founders do and what should founders do in the context of sales? Right. Okay. I think at the highest level is you just gotta sell, you gotta talk to the customers. Sell. Have coffee, have dinner, have drinks. Don't just be doing it over Zoom, you gotta do it in person and you gotta, you go for walks. Just really talk to the customer, really understand them. And don't be afraid to ask them, what will you pay more for? Right. I think the number, especially in the recession, I think the truth is a lot of companies are not mindset to buy from new vendors. , but I think they often are a mindset to buy more from the current vendors because, they've overcome the implementation gap. , they have some trust and they, trust, they have a good experience, hopefully. Right, right. So I think a lot of founders are just very afraid to ask oh, they have this planner.

It's oh yeah, I have this, thousand dollars per month plan and is working out well. But they don't often dare to us, and I always push them. It's like, why don't you ask them and say, what would you ask them and say, what would you pay $10,000 a month for? Right. What additional features do you have?

Because if you have an existing customer, you're already a relationship. They're already sticky. I think you're often able to build products built on features that. To you are much easier than to build for new persona. Totally different buying journey. Total different user experience. It's easier to bolt on those features and get to that $10,000 mark using the existing data of relationships and processes and that unlocks a lot of growth because then suddenly, not only they start over a thousand dollars product, for example, but then now they can't have $10,000. So obviously some customers who burn and at have attrition and churn in the first month, first three months. First year. They don't renew at year one.

But then for the existing customers to keep going, they can upgrade. And then net revenue retention. really is an incredible boost because then you know that your custom acquisition cost has been bought, paid for once, but you know that your lifetime value is expanding. It's not just a thousand dollars, but $10,000.

And then more bot than now that you have even a mindset to be like, oh, now I can sell $10,000. You can sell maybe one day a hundred thousand dollars product. Right, right. It's not because you had the repetition. Right. Now you can sell more right to the same product, 10,000, a hundred thousand. Million dollar, why not, right? If those companies really like you and they really appreciate your services and they're growing because of what you're doing for them , they could eventually down the road buy a million dollar product from you. Right. Right. And I think you look at Salesforce today, like you mentioned earlier, Salesforce did not start out selling these, a hundred million dollar contracts.

They set out much smaller tickets and it grew the customers . So I think that's how I think about it from the founder selling dynamic, is don't be afraid to. Ask them, what will you pay more money for? Right. That's great advice. I think if I go one level down, I think when comes talks about founders and sales teams, I think about it and now I'm like getting asking.

He's are you sure about Jeremy? Jeremy? But here's my advice, I have is just keep it simple. Don't try to be smart with your variable compensation plan. It's very simple. , if you make more money for the startup, you get paid more. Right? Okay. Full stop. And yes, you pay cash.

Yes, you pay equity, which kind of encompasses that. But if you are looking for sales people, these are coming from people who are very com, familiar with variable compensation cash, and they're there. Right. and they have lots of great opportunities at lots of different companies different opportunities.

So you wanna bring on board, be generous, right? Like obviously do your math, do your finance modeling, et cetera. Maybe your cash payments are not all upfront because you have a cash flow cycle. Maybe you have to pay them out at month three once the contract is done. And then maybe you pay a second payment at over a one year mark.

One they renew. So there are different ways to pay more but just be generous because you're just saying you want some great killer salespeople. You don't wanna manage a salesperson. effectively, just check in, check out, right? Doesn't really care about numbers. Be generous and keep it simple, right?

Don't add funky accelerators or caps, or ceilings, whatever. It's like what you wanna do is the more money you make for the company, the more money you make. There's no ceiling. You make me a hundred thousand dollars today. Well then, that's okay. Or that's whatever it is. But, and I'll pay you 10%, 20%, 30%, 50%, whatever it is, right?

But you know, you just be willing to do that, right? And then and then you make me, but then if you wanna make me a million dollars, then I'll pay you more , right? I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna slope it down, put a ceiling there, stop, put a ceiling there. You're like, no. And then maybe this guy gets sell $10 million, and you're like, oh, I'm.

Everyone else is gonna be jealous of this guy crushing 10 million. No, you should be like , you should keep the $10 million sales guy don't like, like it's great. Do more. Right. Ask him can I, put some people under you. How do I make your life better? Right? Right, like this, and because and the reason why is also is because I think there's is a lot of folks when you manage sales people, I think Goliaths tend to.

Compromise. The great salespeople, the ability sell more cuz they think about a team, the Replaceability, they don't want anybody to have a keyman risk. Right. So just staff that the Goliath will be thinking about. But as a startup, like if you don't sell, the company dies. Right? Like the engineers that go have a job, you go have a job, you bend through the tree as your life.

And also a lot of the dcs that you know they're giving you fundraising. They're looking at the shape of your growth. , they're giving you valuation. There's a multiple of your revenue , a multiple of your contribution margin a multiple of your growth rate. Wow. And so a great salesperson is not just giving you sales, it's also giving you work for your engineers to do.

It's increasing your survival rate. It's giving you a better evaluation, multiple, gonna give you more money to bring fundraise and bring into your company and hire better other. So you find a great salesperson, or you somehow discovered someone as a great salesperson on your team. , like just don't cap their potential and just be generous. and of course be rise in how you'd be generous. Right. Don't kill your cash flow for this guy, but you know, the generous guy is, like the great salesperson is gonna be like, oh yeah, I get it. This is how they understand how the payments are done.

They get paid in month three when they actually finish the pilot and they get paid year one for renewal. Yeah. Everybody gets that. So just create a wise. revenue share. That shares the upside in a generous way. And then, yeah, I think some amazing stuff can really happen. So that's my advice. And then you're like, no, you're wrong.

Benny Tan: (41:21)

No. I think that's fantastic advice. So, may I ask you for one advice for sellers out there today. People who are, the sales professionals who are now thinking of, either joining or start restarting their career in a startup, what advice do you have for people who are thinking of going into a sales in a startup?

Jeremy Au: (41:40)

I think there are many salespeople who are transitioning, right? Because, obviously there's they're laid off. For example, they just, just border selling.

I said, managed financial products or, so they wanna try a different sales approach. And so for example, I think one thing I gotta hang out with Gregory, the founder of End Hours, right? And he was just saying Hey, he. Picking off all these great, relationship managers relationship managers from City Gold and DBS treasures.

Because he was like, yeah. It was like, we are building this robo advisor, but this robo advisor is a great product. For not just middle class folks. But it's great for upper class folks who wanna manage their products because, they're smart, they're savvy, they know how to manage their own portfolio, and they don't want to drive all the way to Paragon. Sit down, get your free fucking ticket, get your little cookie and your tea, sit there for 20 minutes, and then have a conversation with someone who doesn't really understand the market, but paid by commission. Right. And then you have that conversation and you do ping pong here and there obviously it works for some customer segments, but also sharing like, Hey, the best salespeople are the best consultative relationship managers who, they wanna do fee only, right?

They want to be, for example, right? They wanna be paid effectively, fee only. Right? In a way that's much more aligned with the interests, which is, why should we be paying you to give you access to products? Right. We should, so, so it was an interesting piece where he was just saying yeah, we're able to pick up great talent.

And I think that to me is a great story that, I think you're a salesperson and you're frustrated, right? You're being paid by commission at a Goliath company, an incumbent company that doesn't value your innovation, doesn't value your creativity, doesn't value you bringing in the lifetime value of that

There are startups that are willing to take you in. It is just that you have to sit down and be very careful and be thoughtful. , I think a lot of different things, right? It's do I believe in this product? , right? Do I understand the buyer of this product? Right. Which is very, I think, underappreciated as a skillset. Yes, and then thirdly is what do I need to change and how do I become a commander instead of being like, the Marines. Right. Right. How are the, the army. Right. So because, and so first of all, it's like the truth of the matter is that only one out 40 companies.

Startups, the funder as stage will become unicorns, right? So the truth is there's a high def rate. So the truth of the matter is, do I believe in this company now? So that means you have to go talk to startups, you have to meet the founders. You see if you appreciate them, like the products, see the future.

And you have to be willing that even with all of that due diligence, you may enter my situation where you picked the wrong company per se, but you did two years there. Three as therefore, is that you? Those, the chops, right? Of how to sell tech. Right? So I think that's number one is, you have to be a company you understand and believe in.

Two is you have to understand the buyer, right? So I think a lot of people think they understand the product. But that doesn't mean you understand the buyer, right? Yes. And I think a lot of sales people are like, okay, I sold financial products, therefore I'm gonna sell financial products there, right?

And it's just nine and day difference because it's just a totally different customer segment. Maybe you're selling product. on the street. I'm just giving example. Right. know? Right. You're doing like cold street sales, right. Of like DBS products. I'm just an example. Right. And suddenly, you think you understand financial products, but turns out now you're selling to retired doctors and lawyers who under investment money.

Well, it's the same product ish, but it's not the same buyer. Right. So I think really thinking about you, understanding the buyer is much more important and. Spending the time to invest that time relationship, coffee chats, relationship building long timeframe is really important. And I think can be a better filter than filtering for the product.

You understand, but honestly, filtering for the persona you understand? Of course. Then after that, you have to then pitch the founder and say Hey, I understand your persona because abc, right? . So that's number two. And then number three is that I think it's really. The fact that, again, you don't have the marketing campaign, you don't have lots of performance marketing ads helping you, you don't have a script, you're probably to write your own script, right? Yeah. You don't have a packet. You don't have brand guidelines, all these things that you're supposed to have, right? And there's no harm in asking, but you know, if you're on day one or a job, my recommendation is say you look, you sound very clueless.

If you say Hey, what's your brand marketing outlines and what's your thing? Sound super clueless cuz it doesn't exist. Right? But what you could say is Hey, do you all have any Slack messages or any prior WhatsApp discussions about our brand approach? Do you have any prior user interview notes that you've made?

If you've done any brand guidelines or stuff, if you happen to have it, that'll be great. If you don't have it, that's fine and I'll start work on it soon, right? Right. There's a very different mindset, right? Yes. If we're just like, I must have it, therefore I can start my job, that's the army, know, you really get down and do it, little dirty work. Yeah. Bondos, right? You do yourself right. You man, pack your own food, water, right. Medicine, you know everything. Right? You gotta do it all.

Benny Tan: (46:16)

Thank you very much. I just want to close this with RapidFire questions, just to get, know you a little bit more. So just answer the first thing that that comes to your mind.

So, describe Asia in one word. What's that? The answer.

Jeremy Au: (46:31)

You say that. I'm like, I just think of Malaysia. Truly Asia. Right. Which is like what? Marketing tagline. So, it's just a great marketing slogan, right? Right. Because it's hard to describe Asia. So you say truly Asia, right? So you're like, everybody wants the true Asia. Right? Okay. So the authenticity the locality then Malaysia, right? So it could be Singapore through Asia, it could be in Thailand through Asia. So yeah, if you ask me one word, what would we be? Ah, it doesn't like me joking. Asia. Europe, okay. and what I mean by that is I think Asia is a very western construct, right? Because there's so many different cultures, so many different histories, so many different cultures, so many different trade routes. And so, when you say Asia, there's India, China, and then you add something in between like Thailand and then you're like, those are like three different and the distance between those three countries are so huge, right?

Right. But then you're, but it's kind of the way, like maybe sometimes people say oh, Europe, right? Europe is Russia, uk and France. Right. It's it's a huge continent. Right. And there's a lot of, history's, a lot of routes. So I think, I think a lot of people look at, for example, I think often say know, so Asia is like Europe before the eu.

Right. There's a very fragmented, very different cultures, different languages. I think I think people have to sit down and say when people would laugh at you if you said, and everybody knows okay, I, I can sell to the French, therefore I can sell to the British.

Everyone just laugh at you straight away. Right? Okay. So if you say oh, I can sell to the Thai so I can sell to the Vietnamese, everyone's gonna laugh at you as well, right? But I think there's a mindset. I feel a lot of I've met a lot of Chinese and American companies and they're looking for like a Southeast Asia general manager.

So they're like, well, you want this person to hit sales for the whole of Southeast Asia? And I. Oh, what, like like selling in Singapore is totally different from selling in Indonesia, right? So, so me, I'm like, so which product is your market most likely selling? Which is your core market that you have, right?

And so if your core market is Indonesia, maybe you know, your head of Asia will be based in Indonesia and will just happen to cover these other markets as satellite, approaches. But you know, was the core of that thing, right? I think. Asia is Europe. Okay. Asia is Europe. Okay, good.

Benny Tan: (48:38)

So, you've lived in the US and you've, lived here as well, but if there were any other country to, to live in, what would be your favorite country to live in?

Jeremy Au: (48:45)

I think for me, I love Singapore. I loved the 25/7 bustle. I love the food, I love the culture. I like, like the melting pot. And I was surprised because I found out that New York is actually very similar to Singapore, like the high density, all those issues I mentioned are very similar. Lots of food, obviously different profile, different makes, but a lot of similarities actually.

So, I really love living in like Singapore, Jakarta. I'll say probably more, Jakarta kl Manila, and so. New York City's closer to all these countries in terms of hustle and bustle and all that stuff. San Francisco is actually much quieter, actually, in a strange way. Even though it's a lot more tech.

Benny Tan: (49:24)

Yeah. So would it be New York then? You mean there's a city to,

Jeremy Au: (49:26)

Yeah, I guess so. I would say so, yeah.

Benny Tan: (49:28)

And a favorite country to work in today for you?

Jeremy Au: (49:32)

Oh man. If I could work in I'm, I would love to just be like a Southeast Asia digital nomad. That'd be awesome.

Like I was just like, body's a big one, but there's great places in Indonesia they can go to, bono brunai like this, if I did kids, I love you very much, but as I saying, if Daddy didn't have the kids , I'm just, and I was all, if you had a kids 10 or 20 years down the road, right?

Right. Then a job was there. , I'm just saying would it be nice just to travel? I'll just be like, okay, this month I'm going to be in, Bangkok, right? And this work, I gotta meet people, do my video calls. Then next month I'm in, like City or. I don't know. Isn't that, I don't know. I don't know. I love Southeast Asia. I love Okay. You know everything, okay, Southeast Asia.

Benny Tan: (50:14)

So, from that, I'll just have a couple more questions. Yeah. Is, do you have a favorite country to vacation? I think you sort of answered that just now with that. Never mind. We'll skip that. Do you have a favorite food in Asia?

Jeremy Au: (50:25)

Favorite food in Asia? Yeah. Besides chicken, maybe . That's about a favorite food that I like to eat. Yes. and should not eat . And then, and the favorite food that I try eat as much as I can, so I think, so I'll give you two answers. Okay. The favorite food that I love to eat and I really shouldn't eat is oyster omelet.

Okay. This it's delicious. It's gooey, it's got umami, it's got a qq, got a crunch, it's got a salt, it's got a sweetness, it's got umami. And it's hot. They come here at home, so I love to eat that. Man. Have you seen those? Like I watched a YouTube video of how much oil they put in there to make it that the starch, it's maybe starch.

Yes. LA and oil. Yes. Your favorite food cook. And then a bunch of oysters on top. It's just like from a, it's this not keto at all. Let me just put it there. I don't think it's in any diet. And I found out like one dish of that is like a thousand calories. Oh my gosh. Just so dense. Okay. So I just find myself like every time I eat wine, I wanna eat a whole thing.

Especially with the chili. Okay. But it's just end up blowing a whole budget, calorie budget there. So that's one. I think the food that I like to eat, I do eat regularly actually is . So I just make it myself, right. At home, I eat outside. Okay. But you know, it's very simple, right? It's just true.

Bunch of like fish, food, et cetera. You put some dashy or stock in. And then you just boil it, and then you know you're good to go. Right? Right. Really healthy, really simple. I think there's so many different versions of that all cross Asia, right? It's like winning combo, right? It's yes, bunch of rice, noodles, tofu some fish stock or chicken stock, and then, and then I just eat that everywhere, right?

Chicken fires you a different version of that. You just go to every country there. There's a version of it.

Benny Tan: (52:05)

Yeah. Okay. That's great. And last two questions. One taboo in Asia that you would never, ever break that you are aware of.

Jeremy Au: (52:13)

Ooh. Shoes in bit? Shoes and bit wearing shoes in your bit Ah, okay.

Shoes in bit. Yes. On your bit room. Yeah. Yes. Ah, there was such a, I remember I was studying, I went to undergrad at uc, Berkeley, and then, yeah, obviously were in dorm rooms and everything. Right. And it was just, all bunch of friends were all chatting and then, this lady, just jumped on my bid shoes on and I was just like, and then, obviously there's a, all of us in a room and.

Almost obviously sitting on a chairs course, maybe sitting on a bed. But I'll you, I'll feed her on the, she jump sideways and her shoes on a bed, and then my eye, her shoes are on the touching the bottom of the bit. I was like, that's not that's the type of you, I got no shoes inside the house, okay. If you have to, you wear slippers, I guess, but nice. Not the hotel, those, like those basic disposable slippers if you have to but, be there for home. And my job is to make sure that we wipe and mop the floor as much as you can.

Benny Tan: (52:59)

Yeah. Okay. Okay.

And the last question, just in Asia, you've traveled around the world as well, so. What are some of, or if you have the name one best Asian cultural practice that you've seen, what would it be?

Jeremy Au: (53:15)

I think the best Asian cultural practice is really about relationships. I think it's gotten a bad rap, I think for example, the, we as really economist and it had this whole section on Kwani, right? , know, the Chinese version, which is the word for relationship. Right. And I think there's a lot of relationships in Southeast Asia and.

I think at the end of the day it's more there's a long term relationship. Society has some stability. This is I set of understanding and people know each other for a long time. And we'll know each other for a long time more. Right. And so I think relationships. Are there because we're human, right?

We're not transactional, we're not robots yet. Matter of time though. So, so, so you look, but every transaction is part of a relationship. Right. Right. And I always, I think my boss paying at Mongs Hill, he wrote this great metaphor, which is back in the day, shop houses. Right. People used to, Southeast Asia, they used to have these two story houses, right? Ground floor is you're selling a business. And then your top floor is your family and your employees live, right? . And so when you're buying stuff, fish or whatever, there's a transaction for staff, right?

But then you actually get to know, the business owner, you get to know the family, you gotta to know the kids. And so there's a relationship that actually ends up happening, even though so in that shop house, right? . And you see those heritage all across South Asia, right? Right. And I think that's still true, right?

Which is that I think, we're in business. Yeah. But it's, it, yeah, there are transactions, I gonna invest in this, I gonna invest or not but as a relationship, which is, are you gonna trust me to do the right thing on your behalf? I'm not gonna run away with you your money. I'm gonna make, invest in it when it comes to my interests or your interest.

If I may a promise, because of our relationship, I would do it in the agreed upon interest. Right. Right. And I, I, and I think, some of the Western focus on Transac. It's a function of companies trying to scale very quickly and trying to hyperscale the business. Cuz you can't build relationships with, 10 million customers.

Growing from one to 10 billion in 10 years, for example. Right. So it's hard to build that long term relationship. But I think when it comes to that, I think there's a much better appreciation of relationships over time. And I think let's not shot salad, obviously. I think what we mean by relationship is basically saying , we have had history together, and we will have a future together, right? . And that's the call of the relationship today. I like that. Therefore, there's a transaction today that could potentially happen. , but that past and that future has been there. Right. And I think sometimes if you're just so obsessed about what's happening today, then you know, then you burn the future.

Right? That's it. Full stop. Right. The future relationship. And I think that's how I think about it.

Benny Tan: (55:34)

Well, Jeremy, thank you. It's been. I think an astonishing interview. You've got great insights. You've got a lot of credible suggestions and no, you're not a bad silk guru. So, I disagree with that.

And so I think there's a lot of fantastic takeaway from from this episode. And thank you very much for your time Yeah. And your insights. And I hope to be able to see you again. And meanwhile, good luck in of your.

Jeremy Au: (56:00)

Like you said, this is the second chapter of a long relationship. Yes. Thank you very much. Pleasure. Yeah, thank you.

Benny Tan: (56:09)

You've been listening to Sales in Asia, and that wraps up our chat with Jeremy O of Monks, Hills Ventures. If you've enjoyed this podcast, do share with your friends, associates and colleagues. Feel free to also drop me a line or follow me on LinkedIn to offer suggestions for this. Till the next time. This has been many fun of sales in Asia.