Billionaire Cagematch (Elon Musk vs. Mark Zuckerberg), Grab & GoJek Layoffs and Singapore Press Holdings Audit Findings - E288

· Singapore,VC and Angels,Southeast Asia,Podcast Episodes English



“Grab has laid off 10% of the workforce, which is a very sizeable dynamic. Previously, they have been letting people leave and haven't been adding people. Effectively, a hiring freeze has been a way for them to tighten expenses. I did feel that the communication of it was done straightforwardly and no one's surprised about the layoffs in this crisis of tech winter. Since the announcement, their stock market price has jumped by another 6% and shareholders are appreciative of this move.” - Jeremy Au


“Full employment in Singapore is continuous. There are still jobs people are hiring for. It’s more of taking a job that wasn't necessarily your dream job, thinking about different versions of how your skills can be applied and being open to new opportunities, or taking a bit of time off, regrouping, and doing something independent. The good thing about Singapore is that the costs aren’t totally out of control, whereas in the Bay Area, the housing cost is very high, so it can be quite challenging to stay if you're not getting paid, and that leads to more dislocation.” - Shiyan Koh


“I remember an interesting paper that said that if you graduated during a downturn, your lifetime earnings are some percentage lower. It was an interesting analysis where you have your first job’s salary, then you get increments on that job at your second, third, fourth job. There's an interesting cohort effect where if you graduate in a downturn, you're always one bound smaller in terms of total compensation, which is a tragedy for a lot of people in this current tech space situation. If you're in different verticals like hospitality or communications, there are a lot of jobs that are still available to you, but it's interesting to see that the tech side suddenly loses that shine.” - Jeremy Au

Jeremy Au and Shiyan Koh engaged in a discussion covering various topics, including Elon Musk versus Mark Zuckerberg, the Grab and Gojek layoffs, and the Singapore Press Holdings report. Regarding the hypothetical cage match between Musk and Zuckerberg, Jeremy expressed his bet on Elon Musk, envisioning a media event of significant magnitude. While both individuals shared their perspectives, it remained a light-hearted speculation about the outcome. The discussion then shifted to the layoffs at Grab and Gojek, acknowledging the potential impact on employees. They highlighted the importance of handling such transitions with care and sensitivity, recognizing the challenges faced by those affected.

Lastly, the conversation delved into the Singapore Press Holdings audit report. Jeremy commended the transparency and detail provided in the report, emphasizing the value of acknowledging mistakes and learning from them. Shiyan shared a similar sentiment, valuing the comprehensive nature of the report and the opportunity for accountability and improvement within the organization.

Throughout the conversation, the focus was on understanding different viewpoints and engaging in thoughtful analysis. The discussion highlighted the significance of transparency, empathy in managing layoffs, and the value of comprehensive reports in fostering accountability and improvement within organizations.

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Jeremy Au: (01:20)

Hey, morning, Shiyan.

Shiyan Koh: (01:23)

It's morning for me. It's 6:00 AM.

Jeremy Au: (01:26)

Yep. 9:00 PM for me here, but we make it work every week. Shout out to AK Manon. An old friend called in from Boston and he said that he enjoys the podcast episodes, especially with you, Shiyan. Yeah, there we go. Our first American I guess listener I guess, it's always interesting times. Yeah.

Shiyan Koh: (01:46)

I continue to be mildly horrified that people listen to us talk.

Jeremy Au: (01:53)

Our speculations and hypotheses and wild guesses about the future.

Shiyan Koh: (01:58)

Well, we better put on a good show, Jeremy.

Jeremy Au: (02:03)

I know, right? So, I guess, I think that's three things. I think first of all is the Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg cage match. Secondly are the Grab layoffs and the Gojek layoffs in the context of that. And lastly, of course, is the Straight Times, the Singapore Press Holdings audit report has just come out with some final findings after our previous discussion about them, for the circulation scandal slash crisis. So, yeah. But let's go off first. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, what do you think about that cage Match today through at each other on Twitter?

Shiyan Koh: (02:36)

First of all, ridiculous. Second of all, my money's on Zuck.

Jeremy Au: (02:41)

Gotta explain. Why was your money at Zuck?

Shiyan Koh: (02:46)

He's younger. He's been posting videos of his jiu-jitsu training.

Jeremy Au: (02:52)

True. That's a very good set of moves to have.

Shiyan Koh: (02:54)

I think he like won a local match recently. I don't know, per social media. And I feel like I saw some report about him comp completing the Murph workout in under 40 minutes, which seems pretty impressive. But I don't know. What is this midlife crisis? People go find new hobbies and start challenging other billionaires while they're still young and virile. Like I don't know what's going on. Can I just say that two women would never do this like two female CEOs would never challenge each other to a cage match on Twitter? This is just absurd.

Jeremy Au: (03:32)

Sorry. That's so funny. This is like suddenly reminded me of Zoolander, right? A little bit like those, all these like competitions, about, who's better and so, so forth. Yeah, I gotta say you're right. I think it's, I think Mark Zuckerberg has the grapple game and it's really important. It's not just about punching and so, so forth. But I don't know. I think there's some energy with Elon Musk, I gotta say. He's got that. I don't know. You might have that killer instinct.

Shiyan Koh: (03:58)

I feel like he grew up in South Africa and there was some silly report about like, oh, he was in street fights as a kid. And I'm like, don't know if I believe that. He has been looking fitter recently.

Jeremy Au: (04:13)

Better recently.

Shiyan Koh: (04:14)

From photos, and there was a tweet about this, so people were like, oh, what's happening? And he's like, oh, fasting. And then like a few tweets later, he's like, and Wegovy, which is the GLP one drug that helps people with diabetes, but also has a side effect of weight loss. So, maybe he's trying to get to fighting weight in anticipation of this cage match. Unclear.

Jeremy Au: (04:40)

I mean, think about it. I mean, they tell each other and say like, look, let's, obviously give each other six months or a year, get a hype up. I mean, come on. Like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp, everyone's gonna be buzzing. It's gonna be like the match of the, I don't know, I wouldn't say century, but the decade, right? I think everybody's gonna be watching it. I don't know. Throw in TikTok CEO as well.

Shiyan Koh: (05:02)

Oh my God.

Jeremy Au: (05:04)

I'm just saying like, just throw it all the social media CEOs by as well. Right.

Shiyan Koh: (05:07)

Like you, you should put them on teams. Are you getting the Snapchat CEO as well?

Jeremy Au: (05:14)

Oh, Evan Spiegel. There we go. That'd oh, that'd be so great. Like, my gosh. I think that's obviously a bit of beef, right? Because I think Elon, Elon Musk was kind of flagging up that Mark Zuckerberg had recently spoken they wanted to launch a Twitter competitor, right? Because they felt like there was an opportunity, they wanna move their social graph from Instagram. So I think there is actually, I mean, it's not just like a, let's fight for fight sake, but it's also like, hey, I think there's a sense that, I think everybody's trying to get competitive, right? Because, I know like AI, right? Everybody's trying to do AI. Both sides have their own thesis on AI. Now they're both doing social networks. So I think, that, I dunno, what's the word? That piece is now changing to like, that encroachment into each other's boundaries. So it's gonna be an interesting challenge.

Shiyan Koh: (05:59)

Yeah. I mean, I don't know man. It's kind of an interesting question, right? Do you think Facebook can build a Twitter competitor and succeed? And secondly, like, is this a good use of their time? Relative to all the other opportunities in front of them?

Jeremy Au: (06:19)

Yeah, but I think the sense of opportunity, right, which is that Twitter advertisers have mostly jumped, right? Obviously, it's a membership structure. So I think it's an opportunity just to pick off more of the advertising budget that Facebook and Meta need. Right. feels like there's more like taking the opportunity, which I can't imagine Elon Musk isn't happy about. Right?

Shiyan Koh: (06:38)

Yeah. I mean, so I buy that, right? Which is that they have a much better ad system that has powered both Facebook and Instagram and that's a huge asset, right? Which is that an advertiser could go in and basically have access to lots of different types of segments and audiences. So that makes sense to me. But like, I don't know, like they just haven't really launched a product that's been successful, right? All the big successes have come through acquisition, right? So Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, I don't know if you want that either. I mean, it seems like a dumpster fire right now, but yeah, it's an interesting question.

Jeremy Au: (07:18)

I mean, Twitter does look like I think there's just a lot of analysis saying that they are headed potentially towards bankruptcy, to help reorganize the debts, the interest payments and so, so forth. So it's not impossible that at that point in time, that's gonna be a nice reset conversation to be like, okay, what's the new Twitter, I guess version three is gonna be?

Shiyan Koh: (07:35)

So Yeah. Then what's the Southeast Asia equivalent of the Zuck Elon Cage match? Like who would you put in a ring against each other?

Jeremy Au: (07:53)

I can't think of it. No, I can't think of any. I mean, I think overall I just feel like Southeast Asian CEOs and founders have been a lot more focused on, obviously their companies and the businesses and haven't really, been public about any personality or encroached even into the media space. Right. That being said, I think that, because that leads the second chapter, right? We're going to talk about the Grab and Gojek layoffs, right?

So, Grab has laid off 10% of the workforce, which is a very sizeable dynamic because I think historically over this time period they've been letting people leave and they haven't been adding people so effectively a hiring freeze and so that's been a way for them to kind of like tighten expenses this was for, but now decided to cut another 10%. Right. And so that's quite an interesting piece. But from what I've seen of them as well, I think they've done a pretty good job, at least in terms of communications, right? I think they've done a good job announcing severance, counselling services, and LinkedIn subscriptions to find, help, and find new jobs. So I felt like the communications of it were done straightforwardly and we've talked about it, right? Like, no one's surprised about layoffs now in this crisis on tech winter, so, is just another company's layoff and since then, I think their stock market price has jumped by another five, 6%, right? After the announcement. So shareholders are, appreciative of this move.

Shiyan Koh: (09:09)

Yeah, I mean, I think we've said this before, right? There's like, there's no great layoff, but there's a lot of ways to do layoff badly and I think from an execution perspective it was probably like pretty well handled. I think the question is, They did a small cut, I think in 2020 and then held off until now. And I think Gojek did one last year and then one this year. Right. And I think in general we see this and it's hard, but people just never cut enough the first time and it's often more demoralizing to have successive cuts than have one big cut.

But I mean, I guess for Grab these two were like far enough apart that maybe they thought they could pull it together and just with, natural attrition and a hiring freeze kind of get to where they needed to. But you, I don't know, I think it just seems like, you should try to do these things faster and so now then the question is, do the people who are left. Start looking because they're like, maybe there's gonna be another cut coming. Or do they feel reassured that like, hey, we're gonna reach, adjusted EBITDA profitability? I haven't looked deeply into the adjustments and like, how real this EBITDA number is. By Q4, I guess is the claim.

Jeremy Au: (10:32)

Yeah. That's a claim and I think it's doable. I think they have a quite sizable cash reserve after their public listing. So I think they also have some flex as well in terms of their timeline as well. So I think the buffer is much more I think stable, I think as compared to Gojek, I think who has I think, more capital requirements that they are out on the market for, right? So I think it'll be interesting to see how they also both, I think, make decisions about the various markets they're in as they compete. Are they gonna consolidate? Are they going to streamline? So it's quite interesting to see. How do you think this compares? Obviously, with the other, big tech companies, they have, Facebook obviously Meta and Google had multiple rounds of layoffs which was a huge dynamic. Right. Obviously, I think we see Uber and, DiDi for example around the world. How do you see this compared to other business models and benchmarks?

Shiyan Koh: (11:26)

I mean, I'm frankly surprised they didn't do it sooner. Right. I think everyone has been engaged in a big, and everyone who is burning has been engaged in a big exercise to get to profitability as they see that capital markets are no longer as forgiving of the unprofitable growth model. I think for Facebook and Google and the rest is a little bit different. Like they're not unprofitable, right? They're in fact hugely profitable, but it's more that people are looking at expenses and maybe slowing revenue growth and increased competition on the AI front and being like, well, what are these guys doing? And they are realizing also that they had built up layers of bureaucracy that were slowing down their decision making and limiting their ability to compete effectively and so I think those were made less of financial necessity and more outta the realizations, like hey, kind of, we have too many people here. For kind of the output that we're delivering, why don't we try to get to fighting weight?

Jeremy Au: (12:30)

Yeah, I think it's been interesting to see also where the cuts are going too, right? So I think recruiters have been cut a lot, obviously, because if you are firing people, you're not really hiring. So a lot of recruiters are out in the base. I think it's been interesting to see, for example indeed actually laid off the entire, engineering team in Singapore, which was a big surprise actually for many folks, right? Because they had spent a lot of time, money, and sweat to build out that engineering capability in Singapore and close it pretty much all down, which was quite dramatic from my perspective. Yeah, not easy.

Shiyan Koh: (13:05)

Yeah no. Easy answers. But yeah, I mean, I think we've talked about this before, right? Just like, when things are good, people tend to overhire and you don't notice it because growth kind of masks a lot of sins. And then you know, when things turn, you end up cutting. I think the one notable exception is Apple, right? Apple hasn't laid off and partially it's like Apple didn't grow as fast if you look at all the headcount numbers. And so I think that kind of operational discipline is actually pretty impressive because people's tendency is to wanna build their own fiefdoms, and that usually comes with adding more headcount.

Jeremy Au: (13:49)

Yeah. I mean, I think it's also to do with, like, Apple probably has had actually a longer operating history, right? As a firm, right? Then a lot of companies like Google and Facebook, like, even like, I remember after the great financial crisis in 2008, right? And they started hiring, before that it was relatively, streamlined and you didn't really suffer. So I think it's an interesting dynamic where I think some of the funds with that. History of going through multiple boom and bar cycles actually has started to be like, okay, how do we stay like, like you said, disciplined in the good times, but also during the bad times?

Shiyan Koh: (14:24)

I don't know, man. Even McKenzie ran layoffs. McKenzie's been around for a long time. But you saw their headcount balloon. You saw their headcount balloon kinda in the last three years as well before they did the layoffs. Banks are notorious for this, right? In good times they are always over-hire and then when the downturn cuts come, they cut, so.

Jeremy Au: (14:52)

I mean, yeah, man. Such a rough time, honestly. Yeah. Where are you starting to see people? Actually, I'm starting to see folks who have been laid off in the first wave. I'm starting to see them at their new jobs now, actually. So, I've seen them in marketing consultancies. I've seen them freelancing. I've seen them at larger companies, tier two or tier three companies. So that's what I've seen. What else have you seen people hit towards?

Shiyan Koh: (15:22)

Yeah, I mean, I haven't that's pretty consistent. Because I hang out with founders like they're not firing themselves. So, I'm a bit not tracking that as closely. But yeah, the few that I have seen probably end up freelancing and I think, if you are sort of like a designer or an engineer or marketer, it's actually a skill that is pretty in demand. It might not be like at a company full-time role, but people are always looking for projects to be done and you can kind of hustle stuff together and who knows, like maybe people find that independence and that agency really fun and they turn it into something, or they use it as a time to like workshop ideas and think about other things.

Jeremy Au: (16:11)

Yeah. We discussed that at a previous time, right? Which is, we gave advice about how to handle if you were laid off, how there's light at the end of the tunnel and how to navigate the skill sets that are needed. So, for folks who are listening, they can obviously check out that previous episode. But has your thinking evolved between that last episode, which was several months ago to today? Obviously, we've seen more layoffs than we've also seen the markets start to change.

Shiyan Koh: (16:38)

No, I think it's pretty much kind of where we were a couple of months ago, right? I mean, there continues to be full employment in Singapore. There are still jobs people are hiring for. So I think there's this sort of like, do you take sort of something that wasn't necessarily your dream job or do you think about like different versions of how your skills could, can be applied and kind of be open to new opportunities? Or do you like to take a bit of time off and sort of regroup and think about, do you wanna do something independent? So I mean, I think the one good thing about Singapore is I think most people, their costs aren't totally outta control. And so, getting laid off is not necessarily like as traumatic. Whereas I think like often in the Bay Area, people's housing costs are very high and so it can be quite challenging to stay if you're not getting paid and then that leads to kinda like more dislocation, so.

Jeremy Au: (17:38)

Ah. That is something that I do think that's different, which is that I've had a lot of folks who are obviously thinking about jobs between the US or Southeast Asia, and obviously up till two years ago. Right. I think a lot of folks were like, I wanna be an employee in America. It was very straightforward. But I think I've met about two folks who are kind of like students and for them, it's like they're very concerned because there aren't jobs actually in the Bay Area for them, even though they want to stay in the Bay Area. Right? And so they're thinking about returning to Indonesia or to Singapore and having that conversation.

So that was an interesting dynamic and it reminded me actually of my own experience. Back in 2000, 11, right? There was like that position between east and west and the 2008 financial crisis was pretty bad and I mean, thankfully I didn't graduate in 2008, but I think a lot of folks who graduated in 2008 really struggled because of that great financial crisis in the US, so.

Shiyan Koh: (18:31)

Yeah, when there's a downturn, they're less likely to hire foreigners, right? They're gonna hire Americans first, yeah. And there are just fewer jobs. But it could lead to like different things. So I don't know. I mean, I think it doesn't feel this way necessarily, but like if you graduated from college in the US you're a pretty competent person, right? Like you're actually highly skilled and, there's many places you can apply your skills. It might not be exactly in the spot that you thought, but like, I think one thing you end up learning is like there's so many different industries and professions that you had never really thought about or knew existed and you kind of have to be open to exploring them.

Jeremy Au: (19:20)

Yeah. I think that's the, what were you like, I mean, when you graduated, I'm so curious. How did you make a decision about your job?

Shiyan Koh: (19:28)

Oh, I mean, I graduated in a boom time, right? So it's a little bit different. But I had a summer internship and that turned into a full-time offer, and I had enjoyed my summer internship and so when they said, do you wanna come back full-time the following year? I was like, yeah, this sounds great. But I mean, I probably could have benefited from a broader job search. I mean, I had a great time. I wasn't, I was an investment banking analyst at JP Morgan, which, was not particularly earth-shattering. But I think if I were to like, go back and advise my, 21-year-old self I think I would've challenged myself to like to do a broader search and explore more things because there are just so many other things out there to do. So you know, you don't necessarily have to go down this sort of straight, narrow path kind of right out of the gate.

Jeremy Au: (20:26)

Yeah, there was actually this interesting paper I remember now that said that if you graduated during a downturn, Your lifetime earnings is like some percentage lower. I don't know the exact numbers that I'm gonna say, so I'll probably just link to it in the transcript here. But it was kind of an interesting analysis, which is that, that you, cause you know your first job, salary, then you kind of get increments on that job right at a second, third, fourth job and so there's an interesting cohort effect where if you graduate in a downturn, you're always like one bound smaller, right? In terms of total comp which is just I think a tragedy for a lot of folks in this current situation in the tech space. Obviously, I think if you're in different verticals like hospitality or communications, I think there are a lot of jobs that are still available to you. But it's interesting to see that the tech side suddenly loses that shine.

Shiyan Koh: (21:16)

I mean, I think that's why some people delay graduation, right? If they feel like the market's not good, they're like, okay, I'm gonna get a master's try to delay and like graduate into a better job market. I don't know if the math of that actually works out though. I'm kind of curious. I don't know if anyone's done research on that.

Jeremy Au: (21:33)

What's is the game theory behind what's the optimal path? I don't know. I think we saw that actually in China, right? Because there's such a strict pandemic, what's the word? Controls that a lot of students actually end up doing master's programs and that's why there's a huge graduation cohort this year and I think the central government is struggling to find jobs for all these university students actually. So it's kind of an interesting change in the Chinese model.

Shiyan Koh: (22:01)

We'll see if it unleashes a wave of entrepreneurship in China.

Jeremy Au: (22:07)

I guess so I think, maybe, I don't know actually, I've noticed a lot of Chinese entrepreneurs who are in Singapore now because they're, they feel like they can be entrepreneurial in China, but they don't feel like they're gonna be rewarded with the success of entrepreneurship. Right, and they have known people who have been arrested before they went public or they have heard stories or alumni who have gone through that situation and so I think a lot of that entrepreneurship. Like pathing, right? It's just like broken as an end step. Right. For a lot of folks. So it's kind of interesting to hear.

Shiyan Koh: (22:37)

I don't know. I mean, I think the pendulum is swinging back. I did see an interesting stat, I'll have to find it, that it's actually easier to go public in China than it is in the US or Hong Kong markets. So there's like a lower revenue threshold. And the other sort of dynamic is that the Chinese retail investor is creating demand for IPOs because there's limits on how much money they can take out of the country. It's 50k, and then they also put a cap on how many houses they can buy. So traditionally, real estate is like the target. Investment. And so that money needs to go somewhere and it ends up flowing into the stock markets and so, I think if you look at the last year of IPOs, right, the ones listed in China whether it's on the main or starboard of outperformed the Hong Kong and US IPOs of Chinese companies. So I don't know, I thought that was an interesting data point.

Jeremy Au: (23:39)

Well, I think it ties on to like the previous episode we discussed, Sequoia, China's spinning to Hongshan and there being lots of financial rewards, right, for the Chinese market, both on the domestic, but also on a global listing approach. On that note, I cannot help but say that I've also done my research on botanical species and HongShan, it means redwood and Sequoia is one of the redwoods, but they're three redwoods.

Shiyan Koh: (24:06)

Thank you for the incredibly pedantic clarification, Jeremy.

Jeremy Au: (24:14)

I just wanna say that we were both right. That's what I'm just trying to say here. Okay. We just, we were both right. I want to correct it for the record. Well, this came out organically, but it was redlined around by braiding a little bit. Okay. So, on that note, I think we're also talking a little bit about what we wanna cover in The Straight Times and Singapore Press Holdings. There was that previous episode where we discussed that there was an issue where there was let's say, potential fraud at that point of time alleged of about 10 to 12% of the total circulation numbers for the trace times and that was discovered and then what we have now is that the internal committee has now released that report and they talk about in very specific details about how the numbers care about how it was done. I think to some extent the knowledge that people had about the various programs, but they also I think, removed the names of the different individuals. And they said that they are decided. To refer the case to the police. So I think those are an interesting set of findings. And then you and I reviewed it, what jumped out at you, Shiyan?

Shiyan Koh: (25:15)

I mean, it just confirmed I think that people were knowingly doing it. So, there's this whole section about like, they called it Avatar. I thought that was pretty funny. Yeah, it was commonly known that Avatar meant these fictitious copies that again got sent to the cocky bookit warehouse and destroyed. And I don't know, the whole thing just seemed a bit ridiculous to me. Like, nobody like whoops, I accidentally destroyed repeatedly thousands of copies of news. Like, obviously it was deliberate. So I mean, I'm glad they did the report. I appreciate the transparency. They said management was aware of it.

There were a couple of instances where they were like, oh, but no one at the board was aware of it. So the management was concealing it from the board. But I kind of worry that at the end of the day, they're just gonna charge some low-level circulation employee when clearly, that person wouldn't have done it without a bad set of incentives set by a senior person. But like they've turned over the whole senior team right at this point with the takeover. And so it's like who is gonna be held accountable for this? Not to mention the separate fact, right? Which is like, they're taking like a billion dollar shareholder of taxpayer money to fund this media enterprise and I don't know, do you feel like you're getting a billion dollars worth of value, Jeremy, as a Singapore taxpayer?

Jeremy Au: (26:48)

Well, I mean, it's like the BBC, right? I think there is space for, government-linked to media and you can call this a charity, a nonprofit public trust. But I think, the concept of NPR for example.

Shiyan Koh: (27:00)

Yeah, but the BBC's good.

Jeremy Au: (27:05)

I think there's a lot of British people who are very angry with the BBC cause of their, Suppose that are possible or alleged, biased or slant or boring. So I think a lot of people are quite frustrated.

Shiyan Koh: (27:15)

I just feel like we are capable of doing better. Sometimes you read the newspaper and it's like, is this a press release? Like.

Jeremy Au: (27:27)

But I enjoy My Lunch With Sumiko. That's, I always read it.

Shiyan Koh: (27:33)

Does that still exist?

Jeremy Au: (27:34)

It still exists. It's always such a pleasing read. I feel like I've been reading it since, I don't know, forever. I don't know. I feel like one of those old people who open up the Sunday copy and this goes through, or the comics, and I know I'm of those old people who like print on Sundays.

Shiyan Koh: (27:54)

Oh my God. I don't, I can't remember when the last time I had a printed newspaper was.

Jeremy Au: (27:59)

It's so soothing. You open up, you open your breakfast and then you know, you, you negotiate with your family members. You know who gets which copy to go first, ugh.

Shiyan Koh: (28:09)

That's quaint. That's quaint. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I wasn't super surprised, I guess. I'm glad that, they released it and it was transparent. But I don't know. You read it and you just feel a little bit sad, right? Like, I don't, they did redact the names, but it's like you couldn't possibly have thought you were doing the right thing.

Jeremy Au: (28:28)

Yeah. I mean, some of these programs felt, more understandable, right? I think there were like, what, eight different ways I think of the ways that circulation got boosted and I think. Some of them were like, barter and it felt like, I think it was conceived of a good intention, but then at some point, as you said, the incentives got warped and then people made the wrong decision and kept it going. Even though, I think for one example they had they knew that most people were not accessing the thing, right?

The digital subscription because they had numbers, but then they counted that, they counted a digital subscription the same way they count print, right? This is like if I submitted the print to you, that circulation, right? Therefore, if I sent out a code and you never used it, it's also counted. So, I don't know. I was like looking at this and I was like, yeah, like out of all the programs, I think advertised by far the worse. Right? Worse, right? Which is like, they flat out know that it's going to the warehouse and then it gets destroyed and recycled. Right. I think that's worse and then there's a bunch of other programs. But I think there were other programs. I think there was like, I think there were other clients that paid money. There was also a link to I think a fund, an internal fund.

For charitable donations and it just felt, at some point, it was just like, yeah, that's, at some point it was just like systematic which was so disappointing. But I think I feel relief actually, cause I think there's a lot of detail in the report. I don't know. I actually enjoyed reading the whole thing and felt like, okay, at least they're transparent. At least they said it out loud. They say all these other things. I feel like there can't be more bad news. Hopefully, fingers crossed, touch wood here. At least I think you're very clear about how everything happened, right? From my perspective.

Shiyan Koh: (30:04)

Yeah, so I agree, right? Which is like, I value transparency. I don't know if it was fun to read. You need new hobbies, Jeremy. But. Yeah, I mean, at least it wasn't swept under the rug and then now I think the question is like, who's gonna be held accountable and like, does that actually change the behaviour of the organization? Like they made a bunch of recommendations.

Jeremy Au: (30:25)

It will. Of course, it would change there, is that just an organization you understand send people to get charged? You have a whole report, I think. I think people will change how they circulate the numbers and how they audit the numbers. At minimum.

Shiyan Koh: (30:41)

Sure is it gonna lead to a better product?

Jeremy Au: (30:44)

That's a different, that's a different thing, right? That's different, I don't know. I think you gotta clean up the house first, right? And then you can go, paint the facade and make it all nice, right? At least that would be my impression fix this first, get the foundations in and then they can focus on fixing the product. Right. I don't know. That's my hope, I guess. What do you read these days? Actually, Shiyan, I'm so curious.

Shiyan Koh: (31:17)

I've been trying to read a lot of the AI papers that are being published, just trying to get a better understanding of the progress in the field. Yeah, I mean, and I read, the FT, the Wall Street Journal, the standard stuff, the information. But yeah, I don't read. I don't know. It's been a long time since I've read anything physical.

Jeremy Au: (31:45)

Interesting. I think I read The Economist, physical and digital. So that's been interesting. It feels like a slower pace of news and I try very hard to block Google News and all these, like daily news stuff because they kind of get to me, and there's just so much information. I also read, I think, like you said, Asia Tech Review, right? With John Russell and I think there's some interesting stuff actually on Substack actually. So I, followed them on RSS, right?

Shiyan Koh: (32:19)

I'm trying Feedly on the recommendation of a friend and it's supposed to kinda like learn and like serve you stuff, but also able to take your subscriptions in. Oh, I like Stratechery.

Jeremy Au: (32:34)

Oh yeah. Great. Great Read. Very dense though, so.

Shiyan Koh: (32:38)

Yeah. But I love and he's so consistent. Yeah on his reporting, so I think it's excellent. And you can consume it in a podcast format. You don't have to read it. Cause he has like a thing where he'll just read his daily update. So I think that's good and then I actually like podcasts for like longer form stuff, so when they do sort of like deep dives or interviews, like Ben Thompson, does it with CEOs acquired, does it with companies. Lex Friedman does it. So I think those are also excellent.

Jeremy Au: (33:13)

Yeah, I find myself actually consuming a lot on YouTube these days. So like infographic cartoon, animated explainer videos seems to be my preferred, I don't know, input. So like biology on economics. It just seems to be like they take the work to summarize it, right? And then they put the infographics. So it's just, I don't know. It clicks better for me in my brain and also have been reading a lot on Kindle as well, obviously. So I think that I think the issue is, that's like information diet is just like, yeah. Straight times are competing with this. Right. I don't know. It's a tough it's a tough job for a national newspaper.

Shiyan Koh: (33:49)

Yeah. Glad it's not my job.

Jeremy Au: (33:58)

Okay, well, I'm gonna still support Straight Times. I hope they pull through and I hope they keep running My Lunch with Sumiko.

Shiyan Koh: (34:05)

They billion dollars, Jeremy. I think My Lunch With Sumiko is safe.

Jeremy Au: (34:09)

Yeah. 10 more years. You know what, six seasons and a movie for Lunch With Sumiko. On that note, I'd love to summarize the think three big I conversations that we had. I think, of course, Elon Musk and Mark sound like you're betting a Zuck, so.

Shiyan Koh: (34:25)

Who are you betting on? Are you betting on Elon?

Jeremy Au: (34:28)

I'll bet on Elon if there's a six months, lead-up, which I believe will happen, right? So, I believe it will be the media event of the year or the decade. Yeah. I mean, I'm just saying like, everyone is live-streaming, everybody will be watching. I don't know. I don't know what the media teams are thinking about, you never know it could happen. Right. And then, they put the proceedings to charity. Right. And then, it's a bit of fun and everything. You can see that happening and then the second thing of course we talked about is the Grab and Gojek layoffs, and about how the timing and how we think there's a lot of impact for folks and how it's handled it. And lastly, I think we talked about the Singapore Press Holdings, the final findings of the report and I think it was interesting to hear your point of view about how I think it's good to see the detail and hopefully it's time for a new chapter. All right. See you Shiyan.

Shiyan Koh: (35:19)

Okay. Good work. Take it easy, Jeremy.