2Super Apps Dive (Grab, GoTo & WeChat), Vietnam’s World-Class Education System & Founder Leadership Transitions (Spenmo) - E292

· Southeast Asia,Vietnam,VC and Angels


“As a country, investing in education is a no-brainer, but often, education gets politicized and there is a cultural aspect of it. Rich people want their kids to go to better schools. They spend money on them and take control of what their kids learn. It can lead to a bifurcation where you can have more or less resource schools. That leads to people pulling their kids out of public systems to go to more private systems, which also leads to defunding and eventually to a negative cycle.” - Shiyan Koh

“At the end of the day, you have to be really clear and honest with yourself on what the actual math of user acquisition and repeat usage is. Be disciplined in seeing cohort profitability and getting people to come back. With ridesharing, people do a lot of price comparisons and they don't have as much loyalty. It makes the additional usage of other services weaker, whereas anyone who's gone to China and used WeChat or Ali has really been blown away by that ecosystem where you can do anything, and everything is run on the same payment rails. Ultimately, that is incredibly sticky and compelling.” - Shiyan Koh

“It's important for Southeast Asia’s education system to be well-managed. You need both the quality of management and the quantity of capital to go into it. Vietnam is turning into a technology hub because they are highly sophisticated in computer engineering and how they're looking at the world. Everyone says Vietnam is so good, but they don't talk about the education system decisions that were made 30 years ago. A lot of folks ask what it takes for this country's ecosystem to be a great technology place and I say we have to talk about education today, and in 20, 30 years, we're going to see that the technology system ecosystem evolves.” - Jeremy Au

In a thought-provoking conversation between Jeremy Au and Shiyan Koh, several key insights emerge. The discussion covers product-market fit, the challenges of monetization, the importance of customer education, and the dynamics of leadership transitions in companies. They also delve into the Vietnamese education system, highlighting its success and the factors contributing to its effectiveness. One key takeaway is the need for startups to carefully consider their monetization strategies and align them with customer behavior and willingness to pay. It is crucial to understand the value proposition and educate consumers effectively to generate recurring demand and avoid pulling forward future demand.

The discussion on leadership transitions reveals the ongoing debate between founder-led companies and the introduction of professional management. While some companies benefit from founder leadership throughout their growth stages, others thrive with the expertise of experienced managers. The conversation highlights the importance of striking the right balance between technical skills and management capabilities.

Lastly, they explore the Vietnamese education system, citing its success in achieving high-quality education despite lower GDP per capita. Standardization, gender equality, and investment in high-quality teachers contribute to Vietnam's educational achievements.

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Jeremy Au: (01:17)

Morning, Shiyan. Where in the world are you these days?

Shiyan Koh: (01:27)

I am in Bozeman, Montana.

Jeremy Au: (01:29)

Ooh, how's that?

Shiyan Koh: (01:30)

It's awesome. If you guys haven't been to Bozeman, it's the nearest airport to Big Sky, which has got some great skiing as well as the west entrance of Yellowstone Park. So, it's one of these booming, post-pandemic cities. A lot of people moved here during the pandemic for the outdoors and have stayed. There's tons of construction everywhere. The population's, like, 60,000 people maybe, but they have a Whole Foods.

Jeremy Au: (01:58)

Important facts. And it looks like you had some cute photos of your kids and partner enjoying themselves as well.

Shiyan Koh: (02:04)

I know, we spent a week on a dude ranch, which is kind of like a hilariously American concept. You know, you play cowboy for a week, but, you ride horses. You don't have internet. You're in the great outdoors. You go hiking, fly fishing. We caught some trout in the Gallatin River. That was very exciting.

Jeremy Au: (02:23)

Oh, wow.

Shiyan Koh: (02:24)

Do you know what the key to fly fishing is, Jeremy?

Jeremy Au: (02:27)


Shiyan Koh: (02:28)

A really good guide. You need the guy who like knows what's the right type of fly to tie onto your line and where the secret spots are on the river, where the fish hang out.

Jeremy Au: (02:42)

Is this an analogy for startups? The secret to a really good startup is a good guide like Shiyan.

Shiyan Koh: (02:49)

No, no, because startups are like a multi-year journey. Fly fishing is this thing you do on vacation and you really want to catch fish and you don't know anything about this place, and so, it's more like getting like an expert consult when you need to make one big decision, but it was awesome because the other guests were like, oh, what was your secret?

You know, when you went out and caught the fish and I was like, the guide? That was her secret. Don't even pretend you have some sort of skill. But yes, but because it's in a national park, you can't eat the fish. Once you catch it, you take your photo and then you got to let it go.

Jeremy Au: (03:27)

Okay, good to know. Well, I'm calling from sunny Manila. It's beautiful and I think I had a wonderful dinner with all the various VCs, obviously Foxmont, Kaya founders, 917Ventures, and HG Labs. It's really interesting to have that conversation about the ecosystem as well as to meet, honestly, about a dozen founders so far. It's really interesting to see the ecosystem grow, so quickly. The energy is high and excitement is there, and I think everyone's trying to look for more opportunities.

Shiyan Koh: (03:56)

Sounds good.

Jeremy Au: (03:57)

Yeah, I think it was interesting to see that, obviously, there's been a slowdown in Southeast Asia across capital deployment, but I think the Philippines was looking and growing from a smaller base. So there's been a dip this year, but to a much less extent compared to other geographies. So I think in some ways it is also less disruptive. No, there's less whiplash around the whole startup ecosystem. So it's been interesting to have that chat.

What happened over the past week in terms of news, I think one of them was, The Economist rediscovered Southeast Asia tech and Southeast Asia. I think it's very much because there's a correspondent now who's based in Singapore covering the region. I think that had, they had previously moved one of the folks, if not wrong, from China, and so I think it's interesting to see the conversations there. I think the first one they said was why Vietnamese schools are so good. And then secondly, of course, it's talking about super app companies in Southeast Asia not doing so well and being stuck in a rut. So let's do super apps first.

I guess everyone's thinking about it. So the article basically said that super apps are the idea of multiple blades of products and services and that the Chinese ones have done well because they're built around a core of profitable services and then other services feed into it, however, they felt that GoTo, as well as Grab, had not performed so well, and they compared this interestingly to Kakao and PayTM as companies that also had some similar super app dynamics as well. So it's not just a Southeast Asian phenomenon, but to some extent, maybe an emerging market phenomenon.

I think that they're trying to bucket all this together. So, yeah, not too much in Fresh Insights. I think frankly, it felt like somebody was explaining obviously Asian super apps to the West, but I thought it was interesting to see that big mention in an article in The Economist and Shiyan, I know you've previously shared some thoughts about super apps.

Shiyan Koh: (05:46)

I don't know, maybe. I mean I think this comes up a lot, right? Which is like, why are there super apps in emerging markets and you don't see them as much in developed markets? I think partially, that's like the level of competition that you see in more developed markets where, lots of people have already occupied verticals and it's much harder actually to go horizontal, whereas in emerging markets, because there's less stuff that has been built, it's much easier to go horizontal. And I think the issue of like, is the first service that you anchor your super app on profitable or is it meant to be a loss leader? Because if it is a loss leader, that puts so much pressure on the rest of the offerings to make the math work right on LTV. And so I think that's always been a challenge, especially when ride-hailing was very competitive when you had Grab, Gojek, and Uber who were in the market at the time, all competing, people spending vast sums of money that initial first app use case wasn't as profitable, and then we had to sell these other stories around financial services, food delivery, movie tickets, you know, what have you.

And so I think at the end of the day, you just have to be really clear and honest with yourself on what is actually the math of user acquisition and repeat usage and be pretty disciplined on, are you seeing cohort profitability? And do you get people to come back? And I think, my senses with rideshare. people do a lot of price comparisons and they don't have as much loyalty. So then, it makes sort of the additional usage of other services weaker, whereas I think anyone who's gone to China and used WeChat or Ali, has really been blown away by that ecosystem where literally you open it up and you're like five menus deep. You can do anything. You want a haircut, you want a massage, you need to order books. Whatever it is, it's all there, and it all runs on the same payment rails. And so, that ultimately is, incredibly sticky and compelling.

Jeremy Au: (07:50)

Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, if you are a startup and you're building, for example, in Vietnam, or you're building in Thailand, and you have a solid technology team that's built out one product, then it's easier from anybody's perspective to continue building some sort of blue ocean product in the same country, rather than having to figure out another geography. And then, there's probably another player who's also building the exact same product anyway already. So I think dividing and conquering the Southeast Asian markets by geography feels like an easier conversation to have strategically from an individual founder's perspective.

But I also really like what you said about the fact that you can do it badly, right? And I think we saw unfortunately that some companies, I think WarungTech is a good example. We had, uh, KUKA, Lumo, unfortunately, wound down. They raised $160 million, which was I think the star, honestly, of, Southeast Asia, kind of like tech in terms of growth rounds and so forth. And they wound down and I thought, graciously wound down and return 80 million dollars to investors. But it felt like there was a certain dynamic where I think in terms of the postmortem that was there, they had this initial product which was doing accounting for software for warungs. And then based on that, they would do lending, which is similar to Khatabook, in India, but eventually, it just turned out that these two products didn't really feed each other. Lending didn't really require the accounting side, and the accounting site wasn't generating, so it was an interesting dynamic. I don't know, it's not an easy play and not an easy set of lessons.

Shiyan Koh: (09:16)

Yeah, I mean, I think the thing that we always kind of run into in emerging markets is the willingness to pay.

Jeremy Au: (09:22)


Shiyan Koh: (09:23)

And when you think about the segment that you're going after, you know how much budget they really have for the thing you're trying to sell them?

Jeremy Au: (09:31)


Shiyan Koh: (09:31)

And you kind of have to be honest with yourself, like while they're happy to use it while it's free, once you start asking them for money, is it so valuable to them that they keep doing it? Do they want to pay? Or do they turn immediately? Because that's a kind of a sign that there's like, it's not painful enough, or the pricing doesn't work, which is why I think you see so many more transactional payment models in emerging markets than you just see subscription models, because that's kind of like a lot more aligned to people saying like, okay, I only make money when you make money, but I think you have to really be honest with yourself on that, which is like, Hey, I see this great uptake on my free product, but the rubber really hits the road when I start asking for money.

Jeremy Au: (10:12)

That's also something that emerging market investors kind of like, have been, I think aware about but also have been kind of like thinking about, but I think it feels like a lot of the US-based investors that have been investing in Southeast Asia are starting to kind of understand these set of dynamics as well. I think that was much less obvious, I would say, four years ago, right? So we had Tiger Global, we had Insight Partners, that was investing very heavily in many of these businesses. And I think they were very much predicated on that. Like you said, the assumption that that was the right product-market fit, right? You know, we had the right target customer in terms of willingness to pay. You know, there's lots of additional market size to go after.

Shiyan Koh: (10:48)

Yeah. I don't know though. I mean, I think you don't want to count out entrepreneurial ingenuity, right? It's possible. We just haven't quite found the right shape or format yet that really gets to people, but I do think it's, it's like lending businesses, right? People are like, oh my God, I have this explosive demand.

And you're like, yeah, you're offering people free money. This is not a shocking idea. Do you know? Or really cheap money that's not actually product market fit, right? Because that business is actually about risk management. It's not about who wants free money. And so I think with some of these other things, it's like, Hey, when I offer something for free, is it real or not? Does that actually turn into a real business? And that's a hard, hard question.

Jeremy Au: (11:29)

Yeah, I think one of the key learnings, and I was having this conversation with a founder who was kind of reflecting on some of these lessons, and I think one of the big lessons is that I mean obviously, nobody saves free money, right? I think it's very much having a point of view that we're trying to create a category and we're here to educate a consumer. And the promise here is that by educating consumers, we can generate that recurring demand over time. But what's been interesting to learn is that a lot of that actually may not necessarily be creating the demand, but may actually be pulling forward demand from future time periods, right? And so the moment you start trying to wind down that subsidy or consumer education budget, it actually doesn't, even your revenues don't stay up, unfortunately, and that's when I think this, depending on how much budget you went for consumer medication, how much that player was, et cetera. And that can be a very difficult conversation to have both at a board level and even internally, right? We're just like, Hey, now that we're turning off this pipe, we're not even seeing slightly less demand or continued demand as we projected, but it's actually almost as if it's a cliff because all that demand got pulled forward from next year into this year. And now, they're not spending because they aren't willing to pay any more, and I think they can make it a company very fragile, unfortunately.

Shiyan Koh: (12:36)

I mean, I think the reality is like customer education's expensive.

Jeremy Au: (12:39)


Shiyan Koh: (12:40)

And ideally, you can find something that doesn't have to change people's behavior too much.

Jeremy Au: (12:45)


Shiyan Koh: (12:46)

It's just that it's so much better, faster, cheaper, whatever it is, but it's kind of in line with what they already wanted to do.

Jeremy Au: (12:52)


Shiyan Koh: (12:52)

That you don't have to spend that much time or money teaching them how to do something.

Jeremy Au: (12:56)

It is always like, now, you know, I see a lot of founders who are saying like, we have second mover advantage and that's a plus these days because, you know, what would they say is like, oh, you know, first movers already spend all this money educating the market, and so so forth, and now we are second mover because we're picking up the pieces in terms of like talent, leadership, clients who have been stranded, and we learned those lessons.

Shiyan Koh: (13:17)

Yeah, but I also think that that's why it's like, not going broad on your initial target segment is also helpful. It's like actually finding a narrow segment that wants this thing that you have, that you don't need to educate them a lot. And they're like, it doesn't cost as much basically to reach them because they're super narrow. You know where to find them. They want the thing already, and you can kind of mature the product with that group before you go broad. Kind of buys you more time, basically, and it buys you learning for less money before you kind of go nuts. That's kind of what we try to encourage folks to do because it's really hard to change people's behavior. People are really lazy. They have high inertia.

Jeremy Au: (13:54)

Yeah, and I think on a similar note, we saw that there was Spenmo, right? And there was a leadership transition, and part of that, obviously, was driven by some of the headlines that I think Deal Street Asia put out in terms of internal management and leadership. And also I think there was also a noted that there was a very high mal valuation multiple from Insight Partners and Tiger to invest it in a company that was much higher than the comparative norms. And I think one of the conversations that was discussed was about product market fit in terms of what you just shared, Shiyan, and it says that the company was founded way ahead of where they were in terms of the product market fit, and I think that's one of the conversations. What do you think, Shiyan?

Shiyan Koh: (14:33)

Which part? Leadership transition? Funding ahead of growth? Where do you want to start?

Jeremy Au: (14:37)

Oh, it’s up to you.

Shiyan Koh: (14:38)

I mean, I think leadership transitions are tough, right? This is like when the founder steps back and you bring in so-called more professional management. Is that on the net better for the company or not? And I think there have been oscillations in this, right? I would say in the early days of venture capital, that was pretty common. Like companies were started by deeply technical people, and then at a certain point they would try to bring in these professional managers to come in and take the company to the next period. But then, we swung, the pendulum swung into a period of much more founder-friendly, like, hey, founders can take it all the way, and we just need to build the teams around them. And you know, you see founders kind of taking the company all the way to IPO.

Jeremy Au: (15:18)


Shiyan Koh: (15:19)

But that is still actually quite rare I would say. It's more common than it was in the past, but it's actually quite rare to say that like, Hey, I'm going to find a guy or girl who has all these amazing zero to one, one to ten qualities, who's also the same person who can manage a team that's running a hundred, 200, $300 million business.

I think that's actually quite rare. Most people cap out, and also for most people, it's really tiring. You get really, really tired, and at some point, you're kind of like, I don't know if I can do this, and maybe I would welcome taking a different role, more of an advisory role, bringing in more professional management and being able to participate in a different way in a business.

Jeremy Au: (16:01)


Shiyan Koh: (16:02)

I mean, with the Spenmo case, I don't have any inside information on this. The guy has been in seat, what, three, four years? It's a 2019-founded business, maybe. And I think something that we don't talk about a lot is that raising venture capital money comes with venture capital expectations.

Jeremy Au: (16:16)


Shiyan Koh: (16:17)

And the more money you raise and the more investors you have around the table, the more stakeholders you have, who are like, Hey man, I'll give you a bunch of money. That comes with certain expectations, and it may be that folks are not signed up for some of that stuff or didn't realize what that all was, and that there may be other people who are better suited to kind of take that business into that next phase.

Jeremy Au: (16:37)


Shiyan Koh: (16:38)

And it looks like they brought on a pretty experienced operator and, and capital raiser. So, maybe that's a few hints as to where the business is headed.

Jeremy Au: (16:45)

Yeah. I remember two years ago, and everybody really respected the Spenmo and Mo for the fundraise. In fact, I would say even envious as well for a lot of folks. So a lot of folks will come up and say, Hey, this valuation is not where, near the Spenmo multiple, for example. So you should look at Spenmo and therefore look at us. And I'll be like, okay, let's look at where the business is today, and let's have that conversation. And now, of course, now's another story altogether. So I think it's a shame, and I think it goes back to what we discussed in the past, which is that, unfortunately, a large fundraise comes, like you said, with large expectations, but it also isn't a marker of success. It's just a marker of some sort of combination of fundraising capability times the market conditions, times where the company’s at. I think it's from the outside in. I think, and I always remember when I found and raise then, and everyone's like, amazing, so much success, da da, da. And I'm like, oh my gosh. You know, it's more expectations, more work that needs to be done. And, not easy at all.

Shiyan Koh: (17:38)

This is another T-shirt in the line. Jeremy. I always tell people you didn't start a company to raise money. You started a company to make money.

Jeremy Au: (17:46)

Oh, yeah. Why is this so hard?

Shiyan Koh: (17:48)

Dude, I mean, getting people to give you money, customer money, I mean, not investor money is hard.

Jeremy Au: (17:54)

Yeah, it is.

Shiyan Koh: (17:56)

And so, I mean, even my daughter realized this, you know. You think like a cute little six-year-old selling cookies, everyone would give her money. Not true. Lots of people just walk straight past her, like, I don't need a cookie today. Sorry, I'm on a diet. No, I'm not hungry. I just ate lunch. I'm gluten-free. I mean, I don't know, whatever. A million reasons, okay? But it is hard to make money and we shouldn't expect anything different. That's all I'm saying.

Jeremy Au: (18:19)

Yeah. So, speaking about other Southeast Asian news, The Economist also discovered the quality of Vietnamese education in the sense they finally, I think, recognized it by talking about the headline, " Why Are Vietnam Schools So Good?" and I think they opened the article by talking about how Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of modern Vietnam, had put together a conversation and invested with the rest of the party, where even though the country's GDP per capita is about $4,000 lower than the regional pier Malaysia and Thailand, it was able to basically have an education system that teaches kids to not only outperform the counterparts in Malaysian and Thailand but also in Britain and Canada, where countries are more than six times richer.

They also mentioned how in Vietnam, students' courses do not show the same level of gender inequality that's really common in other regions. And then I think they talk about how female literacy rates in Vietnam have continued to improve, whereas those in Bangladesh and India, and Nigeria have fallen over time. And yeah, it talks about how Vietnamese is, investing in high-quality teachers, but also has a very strong command and control system around education to make sure that all of that is happening. So, yeah, that's the summary of The Economist this week for Vietnamese schools. What do you think, Shiyan?

Shiyan Koh: (19:34)

I mean, none of that sounds super surprising to me. If you really think about education, we have kids now so I think about education a lot more, but as a country, investing in education is a no-brainer, right? It's like, Hey, how can I increase the marginal productivity of all my citizens? Thus increasing GDP. Not a controversial idea, right? Like, okay, we should spend money doing this. Okay, we've agreed. Then the question is like, how do we spend money, right? And I think there are questions around like, do you have a national curriculum? Do you have a national accreditation system for teachers? Do you hold teachers to the same standard regardless of where they serve? How do those teachers get allocated? How does that curriculum get implemented? These are all sort of like managerial questions, right? It actually has nothing to do with education. It's like if you were a business and you were running multiple factories or multiple stores. It's like, Hey, how do I get a standard output? I control the inputs. I have an SOP manual. Not a crazy idea, but I think often, education gets politicized, and there is this sort of cultural aspect of like, rich people want their kids to go to better schools. They want to spend money on them, they want to like to control what their kids learn, things like that. And I think that can lead to a bifurcation where you can have more resource schools, less resource schools. And then that leads to basically people pulling their kids out of public systems to go to more private systems, which leads to defunding of public systems, which kind of leads to like a negative cycle. And so, I don't know, I mean, I don't know a lot of details about the Vietnamese school system, but I suspect they have some of the benefits of a communist past where there was like a lot of standardization, and the sort of gender inequality was not as bad, which is like, Hey comrades, we're all in this together, man. Like, let's go.

Jeremy Au: (21:17)

Women hold up half the sky. There's a common saying.

Shiyan Koh: (21:19)

Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly that. And so those things don't sound crazy to me. I'm not surprised that the Vietnamese school system is good. I don't know how it compares to Malaysia or Thailand or Canada. I don't know anything about those school systems, but I think if we all actually just thought about education as a business problem, it actually is not shocking why there are variants in educational outcomes because some of the decisions people make are like truly insane. And so, like in the US, it's crazy to me that schools are funded based on property taxes. So you're like, okay. Of course, there's high variance because some people are going to pay a lot of property taxes and some people are not going to, and that's going to result in different funding for schools, right?

Like, okay, that's not a crazy thing. The US doesn't have a national curriculum, so those are set at the state level, so you're going to see variance as well. And they don't have sort of a national accreditation requirement. They have sort of a public and private system. And so, and there's a lot of controversy over curriculum and, you know, parents wanting or not wanting certain things to be taught or not taught, and that creates a lot of political battles. So I don't know. Some things can be made more complicated than they actually have to be.

Jeremy Au: (22:31)

Yeah, and I think within the context of Southeast Asia, I think it's important like you said, for our education system to be well managed. That's one. And two, also, there needs to be an absolute amount of capital investment as well that's invested on a per child basis, so you need both the quality of management, but also need some quantity of capital to go into it. And I think there's a very large variation, right? I was in Cambodia and one of the things that we learned was just that the government was investing very little, unfortunately into the education system, right? And so there's a large number of international donors as well as private systems that were trying to cover the gap, but obviously, they can only cover the gap so far, versus a national priority. And I think it obviously definitely shows up in the kind of caliber of talent that is able to emerge from the children, but also I think it changes the economic futures, right? And then, fast forward 10, 20, 30 years down their life, and then, we have conversations about how wow, Vietnam is turning to a technology hub because they have so many engineers, they're highly sophisticated in terms of computer engineering and how they're looking at the world. It's kind of like, sometimes if you like, the conversation is like, snapshot dish. Everyone's like, wow, Vietnam is so good, but they don't talk about education system decisions that were made 20, 30 years ago. I think a lot of folks are like, oh, what does it take for this country's ecosystem to be a great technology place? And I'm like, well, we got to talk about education today, and then in 10, 20, 30 years we're going to see that technology system ecosystem evolve.

Shiyan Koh: (23:55)

I think culture also matters. I don't know. I have this sort of, when I go to a new country and I meet people, I ask them, not like the first thing, but you know, we get into a conversation.

Jeremy Au: (24:05)

You mentioned the first thing you asked is that.

Shiyan Koh: (24:07)

No. I ask them if I can see their home screen.

Jeremy Au: (24:10)

Ah, yeah.

Shiyan Koh: (24:11)

Like on their phone. Because it's always kind of interesting, like what does, what do people put on the first screen, right? Because obviously you might have tons of apps, but they're kind of on the second, third, fourth, I don't know, tenth screen or whatever, but what's on the home screen, right?

Jeremy Au: (24:21)


Shiyan Koh: (24:21)

And, without fail, every Vietnamese person I ask has at least one, generally two to three learning apps on their home screen.

Jeremy Au: (24:31)


Shiyan Koh: (24:32)

So it could be language. Either they're trying to improve their English. I see a lot of people trying to learn Chinese as well.

Jeremy Au: (24:38)


Shiyan Koh: (24:39)

It could be coding. But it's interesting to me, what is on your home screen? So I'm not going to maybe I'll ask you, Jeremy, what's on your home screen right now?

Jeremy Au: (24:47)

Ooh, well if you share, I share, right?

Shiyan Koh: (24:51)

Sure. Sure.

Jeremy Au: (24:52)

Let's see. Ah, wait, my phone's in sleep mode. So in the sense that it, it,

Shiyan Koh: (24:57)

What a cop-out dude!

Jeremy Au: (24:59)

What a cop-out. Wait, let me just, it's an early day. I don't know. You start first. You start first.

Shiyan Koh: (25:03)

Okay. I mean, it's not that great. I'll say there are a lot of messaging apps on here, because people refuse to align on WhatsApp, and therefore I'm also forced to use Telegram and Signal, and Slack. Okay, I have ChatGPT on my home screen.

Jeremy Au: (25:18)


Shiyan Koh: (25:18)

I have UpNext, which is like a news aggregator. I have Chrome, I have Google Maps, I have Twitter. I have my child's parenting gateway app so that the school can send me 10 messages a day about what they're doing at school. I have a workout app. I have the weather, and I have Chess because my kids are learning chess and I'm trying to not get left behind.

Jeremy Au: (25:40)

Okay, so I only have two and a half screens on my phone. I'm pretty proud of myself. So my first screen actually is, as widgets, so it's my Google calendar, my to-do list, a giant motivational sticker, which rotates a motivational quote.

Shiyan Koh: (25:56)

What does this say today? What does it say today?

Jeremy Au: (25:57)

Do more of what makes you happy. That's what it shows right now. So yeah, this makes me happy right now, Shiyan, chatting with you, and then a giant sticker showing the screen time cause I'm trying to reduce my absolute amount of screen time and I have to scroll to the next page. And then all the folders like bank, buy, chat, family, Google, gov, read, health, listen, record, travel, utilities, and work. So these are all folders that have all the apps. And then I have Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Photos, Messages, and Alarm. Then I have a Contacts app, LinkedIn, Chat GPT, WhatsApp, Spotify, as well as a coaching app.

Shiyan Koh: (26:37)

Okay. Maybe I'll ask the question. What are you trying to learn, Jeremy? Is there something that, would you classify on your list as learning or trying to improve yourself?

Jeremy Au: (26:46)

Ooh. I think my biggest one is Feedly. It's the RSS feed. So it's just kind of like scripts about like a hundred blogs that I respect and I read that every day. I try to batch that. I unsubscribed from all my newsletters and pushed them all into the RSS, and that's actually a very long reading exercise. If I'm just like going through, you know, all of that.

Shiyan Koh: (27:06)

Do you like it? Feedly. Dimitri from Cento tries to get me to use it.

Jeremy Au: (27:12)

The thing, for me, is that you saw from a home screen is that it's very geared around productivity is about getting stuff done, and then I try not to pick up my phone for anything else. So the only thing I would really read is the RSS feed that I trying to consume. I do create on TikTok. So I have that hidden away in a subfolder, on the last screen that's away, far away. And I really try my best. I put like a screen limit where I'm just like, okay, I only get like five minutes a day.

Shiyan Koh: (27:41)

That's really funny.

Jeremy Au: (27:42)

I know, right? But yeah, I think the big thing is I just don't have that many apps. I'm just fair focused on like, if I use my phone, I'm trying to do something or trying to communicate with someone.

Shiyan Koh: (27:50)

Okay, I'm going to move Feedly up to the home screen. Let's see how I do with that.

Jeremy Au: (27:55)

Well, I mean, you got to find the right curation of the right blogs that you like.

Shiyan Koh: (27:59)

Yeah, I read a lot, but that could be cool.

Jeremy Au: (28:02)

Ooh. Audible, I'll say, is something I listen to almost every day. Audible or Kindle. So I go to bed every night reading a book, right? It's either a sci-fi book or a non-fiction book. I'm reading about forecasting. The Science and Art of Prediction. That's one, but then I'm also reading, just finished reading Translation State by Anne Leckie. She's the first female author to win the Hugo and the Nebula simultaneously, so it's a lot of fun to read sci-fi as well.

Shiyan Koh: (28:27)

Oh man, we got to do an episode on sci-fi. I love sci-fi.

Jeremy Au: (28:31)

Ooh, what? I did not know that. Okay. Next time. Everyone, like numbers, are all-time low, Shiyan and Jeremy being total SciFi nerds.

Shiyan Koh: (28:40)


Jeremy Au: (28:41)


Shiyan Koh: (28:42)

I think anyone who's into technology loves sci-fi, right? Because it's like an opportunity to think about the future.

Jeremy Au: (28:49)


Shiyan Koh: (28:50)

And to weave a narrative, and if you read sci-fi from 50 years ago like a lot of it is kind of spot on. They didn't know exactly how it was going to happen, but they could imagine a world based on what they knew about reality at that time to be like, okay. I could see how technology could evolve this way to allow us to do these things, but also to wave a cautionary flag. Like, hey, if things do get to be like this, what could the impact on society be? And like, why might we not want to do it this way? Or my why should pay attention if things actually do end up this way? I mean, this is like, why you all these like, AI, what would you call them? Anti-AI, for freak out-ey people. I don't know what the right word is, but you know.

Jeremy Au: (29:25)

We'll come up with a cool name for them. Counter-AI. Contra-AI.

Shiyan Koh: (29:29)

Yeah. They're not like Luddites. Anyway, let's do a different thing on sci-fi, but we should all bring a book that we love and talk about like why it's awesome.

Jeremy Au: (29:35)

Yeah. On that note, is there one word that you're taking into the week? Because you asked me about motivational quotes, right? So I got to ask you, and it's like, is there an emotional word that represents your aspirations for this week?

Shiyan Koh: (29:48)

Oh gosh. Maybe gratitude. So it's my 10-year wedding anniversary this week, and I'm. filled with gratitude for my wife, my kids, my family. I'm on vacation, so I'm feeling, feeling really chill, and I'm really grateful for the life we've built together and we work and do crazy things, and then, you have a few, few weeks of a year where you're just like, Hey, this is pretty nice. We're like a good team. Oh yeah. This child is melting down, but it's all great, you know? So like, our 10-year anniversary with our kids in a motel room in Bozeman, Montana, and we're like, chicken, champagne in the motel room while the kids are asleep and it's awesome. Awesome.

Jeremy Au: (30:29)

Oh, that's amazing. What a sweet story. Oh, I would say it's aspirational. Yeah. For me, the world, I guess for the week is curiosity. You know, Manila, Philippines. Actually, it's my first time, in person here, and it has been so nice to meet many new folks and I know, follow my curiosity, right? Just ask lots of different questions and it's so nice. So, I'm looking forward to the rest of the week, just like, you know, and also-

Shiyan Koh: (30:53)


Jeremy Au: (30:53)

A lot of fascinating history. I need to get there. Okay. I've been eating a lot. Okay. I'd been eating adobo, sinigang. I'd been eating pork sisig. All the stuff that I don't get to eat, unfortunately, as much. So absolutely delicious. Yeah.

Shiyan Koh: (31:08)

Try to eat some vegetables. All right, have fun. Bye.

Jeremy Au: (31:11)

See you. Bye!