Uncertainty is a very, very scary thing. It’s like jumping and not knowing where you’re going to land. I think that on its own is scary. It’s like you don’t know what’s gonna happen next month. Maybe today you build a product. Tomorrow, no one wants it. Or you build something small and you think it's nothing and tomorrow, 10,000 people are on it and they’re like, oh, we want more of it and you can build fast enough. And being able to stay on top of that as well as maintaining some sort of balance and being in the right headspace or taking care of yourself health wise, there’s a lot of things that lie in the balance that we have to manage as founders, so definitely huge experience, very nerve wracking, but also tremendously exciting.-Zabrina Chew
Zabrina Chew was previously the Co-Founder and CEO of Soda, a community-centric social discovery platform. Prior to that, Zabrina spent almost a decade in thought leadership, gaming, and start-ups. At Singapore's Economic Development Board, she has collaborated with Fortune 500 companies, McKinsey, BCG and The Conference Board. At the global gaming giant, Ubisoft, she led and guided strategy, operations and growth of APAC teams, before taking on the role of Head of Operations at a rising startup building a blockchain-enabled energy ecosystem.
As a creative, she performed internationally and taught the violin, as well as ran a blog with 1.5k subscribers on travel, food, and literature.
Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hi, Zabrina, so excited to have you on the show. You’re a female founder tackling the community space, previously worked at the Singapore Economic Development Board, and multiple startups in the region. I’m excited to hear your story.
Zabrina Chew: (00:46)
Super excited to be here, thanks for having me.
Jeremy Au: (00:49)
Zabrina, for those who don’t know you yet, could you share a bit about yourself?
Zabrina Chew: (00:53)
Yeah. So I graduated from SMU with a double in accounting and finance. Spent a couple of months abroad in Barcelona at ESADE. So there I was, studying things like anthropology and marketing. So yeah, as you mentioned, I started my career in the EDB. It was a real steep learning curve coming out of school because. We got to interact at the global Fortune 500 C-Suite level. At that time, I was helping to organize as part of the organizing committee for that. It was like the World Economic Forum equivalent here in Singapore. So I was also publicity lead. I found myself having to negotiate deals with CNBC, Bloomberg, etc. So very steep learning curve. But I still remember this fun story which I have from that time when I was actually stuck in a lift with Jack Ma trying to figure out how to make that small talk. So yeah, that I think pretty much set the trajectory for the rest of my career after the EDB, I took a leap into video games actually. And this is something a lot of people don’t know about me. I’ve been a huge gamer since I was six. First game I was playing with were those war strategy games like Age of Empires, huge fan of that. So I started my career in Ubisoft and was there for a couple of years heading out strategy operations for the region. It was a really, really fun time, had the best mentor who was also the MD. So I had a lot of fun working with the teams there, building the games at that time. We were looking at how games were even changing as well away from box games and to live games. You have communities, things like that. So it’s a really very exciting time. Then I decided I wanted to cut my chops in startups. Jump from the pan into the fire where I was hitting operations at a cleantech startup in Singapore and then more recently I’m working on Soda.
Jeremy Au: (02:44)
Awesome. Zabrina. What were you like growing up?
Zabrina Chew: (02:50)
I’m the only child. I think I grew up very independent. I had to get used to being alone. All the time. Maybe that’s why I spent so much time gaming, so it was huge in gaming, I think, because even from a very early age my parents introduced it to me to learn things. So I used to study my science and math through playing games, and that actually helped me do really, really well ‘cause I spent hours on that. And then, of course, on the fun side was things like Age of Empires where we actually are strategizing about how to build your empire and things like that. So gaming has been a huge part of my life since I was six, and I think in terms of entrepreneurship, I actually think and I don’t know how it even came about, but I’ve always been somewhat entrepreneurial. So like one of the first things that I started selling my classmates was those nerds candies? They come in like these boxes and then they’re like these small little round things that I used to pick it up from the condo Mini Mart because for some reason they were selling it really, really cheap as compared to the school cafeteria. I would make almost like a profit of 80% on each box, selling them that, and then later on as I grew a bit older, I was selling oil blotters by sheet ‘cause I don’t know why it was all the rage then. So I think it’s always been kind of there even when I was growing up.
Jeremy Au: (04:12)
Amazing. I love this kid selling candy. It feels like this common index or indicator of future entrepreneurial activity. What’s interesting is that this background and you ended up choosing to join the civil service. So what was that like?
Zabrina Chew: (04:33)
When I was graduating? It was really like I was choosing between two. Really. And civil service wasn’t like my first choice because at that point I was coming out of SMU, everyone was kind of funneling towards investment banking. To be honest, everyone was going there. It was finance or nothing and I was kind of actually on that path until I found out from my seniors they’re spending their time bringing coffee around and making pitch decks. I guess that’s how it all starts. Maybe. But I was like, do I want to do that right off the bat? So I wasn’t sure and the opportunity to join the EDB came along and that’s when this whole summer summit thing started. Where it was promising a huge exposure for, especially if someone just newly came out of school. So I was like, why not? There’s no better way than to get that kind of exposure. So that’s how I actually ended up in the EDB doing that.
Jeremy Au: (05:34)
So what was that experience like ‘cause a lot of people see it as a relatively common path in Singapore, but, across the regions of Southeast Asia, it’s a pretty uncommon thing to join a civil service. So what does it mean from your perspective? What was it like?
Zabrina Chew: (05:47)
I actually think that there was a lot to learn there. I mean, because you’re expected to kind of interact with people on such a senior level, you kind of have to grow up fast. And what was great about the EDB specifically, is that there are so many brilliant people, and these are cream of the crop who have gone to all your top universities and come back. And so it was really great being part of such a strong, brilliant group of people that really challenges you to push yourself all the time. It was a very dynamic forward thinking group that people may not necessarily think that way of when you’re talking about the government. So it’s not what people think for one. And secondly, there was a lot to learn even I think some of the best practices because everyone is so meticulous there is like their processes to things. So it kind of teaches you some of these hygiene standards and best practices that you may not pick up elsewhere, so I felt I was a great place to start.
Jeremy Au: (06:47)
Any tips for people who want to join the civil service, I guess. But I think they may not want to stay there forever. How should people think about it?
Zabrina Chew: (06:57)
It depends. Usually people who don’t want to stay there forever will probably leave. Before the five year mark, that’s my guess. But usually in the first few years, yeah, I would say it depends on which part of the government you’re joining. But for EDB it didn’t feel like it was very rigid or anything. It was so dynamic. It was almost like any other MNC. It’s just that maybe it’s a lot of Singaporeans compared to elsewhere. Yeah, I think it’s a great place to start because it gives you such a macro perspective, across the board, like across different industries, verticals, you kind of see it at that level and you’re able to kind of move between different verticals and areas before you actually choose to maybe specialize in one. And I think that’s a great place to get your bearings
Jeremy Au: (07:39)
If it’s so good, etc. Why did you choose to leave?
Zabrina Chew: (07:44)
Good question. Well, I think for me, I like to be hands-on. So for me it was about playing a direct role in driving certain outcomes or working directly on projects. I think when I was in the government, at least for my role, it was a little bit of a step out. It’s always at least an arm’s length and I want it to be in the team itself. I think for me it was also about a variety of experiences as well as the diversity that I really liked in the private sector and it was also about pursuing a passion and what opportunities there were for me to do that. Of course, when Ubisoft came along, it was like WOW, now I get paid to do the things that I love. Why not? So I knew it was the step in the right direction.
Jeremy Au: (08:35)
OK, you gotta explain this one. Ubisoft came along. What does that mean for that to come along?
Zabrina Chew: (08:48)
I think I was at a point where I wanted to, like I said, get my hands dirty. I was open to opportunities. I think it was in life, there’s a bit of what would you call it sometimes coincidence or fate? So actually the recruiter is connected with me on LinkedIn, but at that point a lot of gaming companies etc, were mainly hiring for technical roles. So what I did was actually put myself out there and I wrote to them and said, hey, this is my profile. I’ve been a huge gamer, a huge fan of all your top titles, and played all of them. This is where I could potentially value add and if you have a position that is suitable for someone like me, let’s have a chat and see where we can take it from there. So it was almost like being opportunistic, really creating your own opportunities. I think that really worked out.
Jeremy Au: (09:44)
When you think about all of that, you obviously made the decision to join. So why join? I guess I’m still is this just because you love the game so much or because the push versus the pool top cuts through that a little bit?
Zabrina Chew: (09:58)
just never been in situations where it's been a major push factor. Usually I'm quite happy and I'm doing well where I am, but for me it was like you only have this much time. So what are you going to spend it doing? And I feel like you have to be inspired. You have to be excited about what you’re doing and building. For me, I wanted to pursue a passion and that’s why I took the leap into video games and it was definitely a huge shift. I mean, it’s going from government all the way to the other side of the spectrum - highly creative, very, very different space. And I had people asking me. Oh my goodness. Did you just move the video game? So what are you doing? Video games? Didn’t you just come from the government? Everyone was pinging me all of a sudden, so I think there’s quite a shocker. I’ve never really made conventional decisions, but this was a clear case in point of that. But yeah, it was to further a passion and eventually build out something in that direction
Jeremy Au: (11:22)
You’re starting to hint about the culture shock and change from one place to another. So what was that change that you noticed upon working at Ubisoft?
Zabrina Chew: (11:10)
Very interesting question, Jeremy. I think firstly, the gaming industry as a whole is very, very male dominated. I think I cannot tell you how many times I was probably the only woman in the room and how many times I was the only Asian in the room, so it’s definitely a huge, huge culture shock going there. That was one, I think. Secondly, it’s a very creative environment and you see that not just. In the people that they hire, but also the way things are done. It’s very, very different from when you’re heavily process driven in the government here. It’s more about experimentation. It’s about trying different things and seeing what fails and what doesn’t, doing a lot of testing. I think in product we talk a lot about A/B tests and things like that. That kind of stuff. So it was very different, I think even the process behind the way they do ideations about games was much more loose and oftentimes I guess in any creative field sometimes people are lost for some time before they find their path whereas in the government it was like you’re always working towards something clear and you have a vision. Foresight for like 5-10 years. So that was very, very different.
Jeremy Au: (12:24)
That’s interesting because the two parts of it were creative as well as the, I guess the gender ratios and representation. How did it feel for you? I mean, to be the only Asian and women in the room. I mean, I think a lot of people often talk about feeling lonely. How are your thoughts about that?
Zabrina Chew: (12:43)
I would say that the initial stages, especially because they knew I was coming from the government, I definitely had to prove my chops. I had to get my street cred up because for one people usually assume you’re a woman, you don’t really play games. What are you doing here? Or there are a lot of, I think, ideas that people have when they look at someone like me, so I definitely had to prove myself. I remember in video games when we make a game, it's like over a couple of years. So some of them can be 5-6 years in production and in between that long overarching timeline. There are all these little milestones where we check in with the teams to see how the build is going, how the game is progressing and we would play the build up to whatever stage we’re at. So I remember very early on when I just joined Ubisoft. I think this was like the second meeting. Maybe in like my second week of work we had to go for a milestone meeting and these are with the top senior level devs who have been working on this game that they’re presenting that to the management team. And so I’m sitting next to the MD at the end of that, the senior producer passes the console controller to the MD and says OK, now you can play the build. He looks at me. He says, Zabrina, why don't you play it? I'm like, oh, this is some moment where I either fly or die. And at that point, I was so nervous. But I’m like, I have to prove myself. This is not the time where I wanted to mess up the rest of my time at Ubisoft, so I told myself, don’t chicken out, let’s do it. Let’s take a risk. I’m going to prove all of them wrong. So I took the controller and the senior producer started looking at me and said don’t worry, OK, because everyone in the Dev team has failed this level. Everyone has died, so it’s like, OK, you know that’s that’s the benchmark. I’m going to get past that. All I aim to do is survive. So that’s what I did and that was amazing. I think actually I would say that was one of the earliest pivotal points for me joining video gaming because after that the producers were pinging me saying in Zabrina, your street cred is now through the roof. I was like, yes. I think that kind of set the stage for the rest of my career at Ubisoft and really, really helped a lot. It was really taking a risk, you know, having to prove yourself, being brave and sharing your opinions, no matter what the seniority, I think everyone is entitled to share an opinion as long as it’s rational and well thought through. So that definitely helped.
Jeremy Au: (15:08)
Wow. I’m so amazed as well. You trash all of the developers and you survived. There’s no guarantee if I was in your shoes, that would have survived. Feel like my reaction skills and everything have fallen off a cliff. Out of curiosity, what games did you play back then versus now,
Zabrina Chew: (15:54)
Now as an entrepreneur, I hardly have time to play games. Unfortunately, what I do now is watch playthroughs and some people don't get that. My founder friends are like, why are you watching people play and like you don't understand, I don't have time to play, so I watch them.
Jeremy Au: (16:08)
Wait, I do that too as well. So you're not alone.
Zabrina Chew: (16:12)
I used to play a lot of war strategy games like Age of empires. I used to play that a lot with the AC boys, actually. During the holidays, we would convene online at a certain time and spend the whole day playing. And then when I was in my teens I was playing a lot of first person shooters. I’m sorry if I’m geeking out here, but it was like Halo, Call of Duty...I don’t know why. I have a feeling my dad secretly wanted a son or something. He kept buying me these games, so I kept playing them. It was like zombies, shooters. Assassin’s Creed was one of them, so that’s why I joined Ubisoft, Counter-strike, etc.
Jeremy Au: (16:49)
Yeah, that’s amazing. Well, my sister is always better than me at first person shooters, especially Counter-strike. She got into clans like the MP5 clan, etc. And then I was not in any of them because I wasn’t good enough. So there we go. And so there you are learning your role in gaming, in the private sector and then you actually make a decision that you want to double down on this technical and tech career. So talk us through that.
Zabrina Chew: (17:11)
So I think for me, I’ve always actually been interested in tech as well as in the creative. That was what first got me into video games and later on now building Soda, which is a mash of all my favorite things. So tech I’ve always been interested in even in the earlier days when we were first introduced to a little bit of programming robotics in school, I was very interested in that. I think I joined the robotics club and started doing that when I was maybe 10 or 11. So I was always interested. Tech, of course, is a very exciting space. I love how dynamic it is and how it's such an enabler across so many different industries. So I knew that this was a space I would love to be in, but at the same time, at my heart, I’m a creative person, so I spent like years in music, in the arts. So it was like how do I combine all of that and find a space in which I can play and work in. So that kind of leads to where I am today, where we are building a product, working very closely with creating experiences for people. That is where I currently live.
Jeremy Au: (18:20)
And what was it like to become a head of operations at a startup because that’s an interesting transition.
Zabrina Chew: (18:25)
Yeah, I feel like with every leap or every career shift, it’s always like a huge learning curve. As head of operations, it was about scaling the team, growing the team, growing out capabilities. When I first joined, I think I was employee number 11. There wasn’t much in place in terms of processors and things that would allow us to move a little bit faster. So I really had to dig into that and problem solve. One of the biggest things that I realized at that point was the stuff that you took for granted in corporate doesn’t exist anymore. Back in corporate, it’s like there’s always someone to help you solve a problem. You can throw it to legal and there’s a legal team that will help you look through all the terms to tell you what’s OK and what’s not. You need to do hiring, you send that over to HR and they will manage it for you. But in a startup with Limited resources, limited people, you kind of have to do everything. It’s a very team effort, but in a way it was also nice because it was almost like a family where you kind of go through the highs and lows together. So it was another big culture shock for me, I would say, going from Ubisoft into a startup, but it was really great because we got through building from ground up, we got to look at regional partnerships and when I was there, we were doing something different. It was almost like Uber for clean energy is how I would describe it. And whenever you’re doing something different, there’s a lot of resistance. And so it was a very different life from what I previously knew. But at the same time, with each win came an immense amount of accomplishment, achievement, happiness that I don’t think I would otherwise have been able to experience in the corporate environment.
Jeremy Au: (20:10)
Yeah, it’s interesting because you started at civil service, which is the biggest organization possible, then you went to Ubisoft where it’s an order magnitude smaller and private, but still large. And now you are this early employee at this startup. So talk us through a little bit more about what was that culture shift as well. So you know there’s no one else you gotta do it. There’s no legal. What other changes?
Zabrina Chew: (20:34)
I would say the volatility was a huge thing in companies of like 500. It’s definitely not as volatile as in a startup because I felt like a lot of things were changing all the time. Sometimes you have no choice but to be very reactionary because you’re a small boat in the middle of a big sea. And in the space where we were playing, it was before the open electricity market and things like that. It was a time of huge change. So it was constantly having to stay on the tips of our toes, constantly seeing what’s in the news, what’s coming out tomorrow, what’s going to happen next week and trying to plan ahead. And that’s really, really hard to do. So being really, really quick and nimble was key. I think being in the startup previously you can be fast, but theirs is not on the same kind of spectrum or velocity as in a startup.
Jeremy Au: (21:31)
You spend a couple of years there and this is really interesting because now you decide that you want to become a founder yourself? So how does that happen? How did you discover along the way? When were you like, yes, I want to become a founder or start up my own?
Zabrina Chew: (21:44)
I think it’s always meaningful to build your own thing. I’ve always wanted to build my own thing. So I think it started from when I started selling those nerds. So I’ve always wanted to have my own company. When I went into the startup, it was actually with the mindset that eventually I would want to build my own. So I knew at some point that I would come out and build my own, and I was thinking about it for some time already and I was exploring ideas, thinking about different spaces and what I’m most passionate about, you know. And of course, coming out to start your own is also different from joining a startup, and now everything is on you. What really pushed me was, I think , some personal experiences. So for me just a little bit of background. Today we’re building Soda as the home of communities so that people can interact with their various communities, whether it’s like groups of friends or alumni, business groups, etc, we see it as a space for which they can connect with the people who are most relevant to them and have the necessary conversations that they should be having. The authentic conversations and gatherings that people can help each other with. It came from a personal problem space where firstly I was looking for a cofounder and found that incredibly hard to do because it’s harder than dating. And so I was on every other platform that I could think of trying to look for a cofounder. It was incredibly hard because it’s very hard to look for a targeted profile. People have to have the same sort of mindset as you and be ready to start business. They have to be somewhat complementary to you. You have to be able to work together. There’s so many things that you know better than I do. It was super hard. The second time was actually when I became a mom and I was looking for playgroups for my daughter, and I was trying to look for others, like moms because we’re kind of going through the same experience and being a new mom is a difficult journey. So I was looking for people who are like minded moms who are also still very passionate about pursuing their careers, equally ambitious, but at that point in time during the same stage of mumhood as I was, and that was impossible to find. I went on websites, joined groups, parenting groups, playgroups. This is probably something that is unique to female users, is that you get a fair amount of harassment. And I was like, well, why is it so hard to find a meaningful community to be part of? And that’s what really pushed me out because I felt so sick. I literally felt nauseous and sick when I received some of those messages, I felt the calling to do something about it.
Jeremy Au: (24:28)
So let’s talk about community. What’s happening here? Why is there so much harassment?
Zabrina Chew: (24:33)
I think one of the challenges with a lot of the platforms is that they are too public. When it's too public or when there's anonymity, people kind of hide behind that. There is no accountability of how you’re supposed to behave or what’s acceptable, what’s not because people get away with it. So it becomes almost like cowboy country. When we look at communities and meaningful connections, actually usually there needs to be some basis for that. And what’s interesting is we talk about 7 degrees of separation. Most of the people that we need to actually meet or that we’re looking for are usually maybe just in one tier out from the people that we know. So that’s what we’re really focusing on. And also because staying close to your immediate networks also ensures some sort of safety rather than randomly picking out someone from the street and hoping that that works out for you.
Jeremy Au: (25:27)
It’s interesting because in your past jobs, you also had to deal with the community as well, especially in the gaming industry, I think. The player community is also not known for civility or diplomacy sometimes, and I definitely remember that because my sister and I would also be gaming in right, she would get a bunch of harassment. And I’m just like in the same match as her and I’ll be like, yo, oh, like, that’s my sister. So when you think about designing a community and how you think about it, what are some key principles that people should be thinking about to make sure that it’s a safe yet valuable environment for people to be in?
Zabrina Chew: (26:12)
One, it’s about having very clear objectives and when the Community is running rampant and they’re not driving towards anything, it’s very hard to achieve any specific outcome. People kind of don’t know why they’re there or how they’re even expected to participate. So that’s one thing. The second thing is enabling people to participate and we think that today, we think about how we let community members participate - let’s just give them a tag group and they can talk. But the truth is 95% of them are not gonna talk because you’re just having one narrow channel or things like that and it takes a lot for someone, especially someone who’s new or hasn’t had a history of participation to stick their hand out and say like, hey, I want to say something so people are not going to do that. So we’re talking about breaking it down into bite size interaction points. So today we’re starting with helping people find small group conversations to be part of. But in the future, that interaction would take many different forms. It could be things like challenges like hey, Jeremy, I challenge you to achieve something that we’re both pushing each other to do and it’s like mutual accountability. It’s fun, it’s engaging and that’s what we’re really looking at. Approaching communities from that kind of angle, that actually brings in also some of the stuff that I learnt and experienced from gaming, into unlocking the true value of communities and enabling them to actively participate. Like if you give someone a blank piece of paper, they’re not never going to know what to write, so they’re going to just throw away the pen and say forget about it. But if you tell them, oh, I want you to write about A and then write about B, they will do it because they have some sort of guide on what is expected of them and how they can behave.
Jeremy Au: (27:57)
What would you say is the power of community?
Zabrina Chew: (28:00)
I think there is a lot of collective wisdom in the community and I think that’s one of the most valuable things that we could do. For me as a founder, what I want to do is learn from everyone else’s mistakes so that I don’t make the same mistakes and that shared experience, that collective wisdom is hugely, hugely valuable, no matter what field we are in. Whether you’re thinking about changing your career, whether you’re both going through something like motherhood, I think we all know that kind of value. Secondly, we’re human beings were wired to be wanting to be around other people, it’s a very natural need and it’s almost primitive how we’re wired that way, even from the very early ages like the Stone Ages is where people kind of clustered together for safety, so I think it’s also about that support structure where people kind of can understand and support you through whatever it is that you’re doing. And we think that today we’re thinking, oh yeah, I have, like 1000 friends on Facebook. The problem with that. Is that not everyone can empathize with your specific situation, and if someone cannot empathize with you, there’s not much value that they can actually bring you or support that they can actually bring you.
Jeremy Au: (29:12)
What do you think about power users versus lookers versus members in the community?
Zabrina Chew: (29:18)
Power users by power users, you mean like champions, right? I think there will always be some of those people who are more enthusiastic about certain things than others. So I always think that you will have various kinds of participants in any group, like, even in any social group, you have some, there are more extroverts than others, for example, just as a starting point, I think that’s inevitable. But the question is also how do we unlock value from everyone else who may not be comfortable in certain, let’s say, type A kind of settings. How do we create environments in which they would be comfortable in. So it’s very interesting that you mentioned this because more than half the world are like introverts, actually, and these are the people who usually don’t speak up in the community. Yet they’re also some of the smartest people out there. So how do we unlock it for them? Even today, when we were looking at group dynamics, one of the reasons why we are structuring things in small groups is because it makes them more comfortable. It’s about creating environments in which people can participate and feel comfortable participating. I think that’s how we can really unlock these other users and really close that gap between the Super users and everyone else because there’s so much value to be created. If people are more active and engaged in what they’re doing. They’re also more likely to be responsive when there are things to be done.
Jeremy Au: (30:44)
You’re saying a lurker is just an introvert?
Zabrina Chew: (30:47)
Not necessarily. I think sometimes they just don’t know how to participate. I mean, I wouldn’t call myself an introvert. I’m actually an ambivert, maybe even leaning towards extrovert. But I would say that in a lot of groups that I am currently in, I don’t really participate because I don’t see a way in which I can contribute to a specific conversation at this point in time. So I choose not to participate. But that doesn’t mean I’m an introvert in any way.
Jeremy Au: (31:12)
Do you think there’s a certain amount of engagement or ratios or heuristics that you feel you should design a community towards?
Zabrina Chew: (31:20)
I think it depends on what the outcome is. So back in the day when I used to run a social network if you will, where we would bring together 50 to 60 people each month curated a guest list and we organized a mixer for them to broaden their social circles and meet each other and we would actively be there to broker those connections. So in that setting at that time, 20s, dating was like a huge thing. It was top of mind for most people. So in that context, definitely, I think having a gender ratio, paying attention to gender ratio is important just because that’s the kind of outcomes that we’re driving. If you’re looking at the Motherhood group, definitely, it’s going to be all mums, that’s going to be all women, for sure. It really depends on the kinds of outcomes that you’re driving and there are times where it makes a difference and other times that it really doesn’t. And sometimes we talk about how you try to group people of the same age together. It makes sense in some, but in other instances, if you’re talking about, let’s say, entrepreneurship. Does it really matter that a first time founder is like 50 or 20 or 30? I don’t think it really matters because you’re all going through the same shared experience together.
Jeremy Au: (32:31)
So wrapping things up here, could you share a time that you have been brave?
Zabrina Chew: (32:36)
I would say leaving my job to start Soda was actually a big move for me. I remember making that decision and leaving. It’s almost like you’re out in the wild. I think that was very nerve wracking for me. In fact, I think I shed a few tears because I was like jumping into the unknown. I’ve always been in environments where I could somewhat predict where I was headed or where I was going to land or go. Jumping out into the wilderness was very nerve wracking and it took a lot to just say goodbye to everything that I knew. But at the same time, I think the journey of entrepreneurship has been such a wild ride of highs and lows that I think anyone who has never been a founder would not be able to experience or understand. And so I regret none of it. And I’m super, super excited about what we’re building and what we can potentially bring to the wider community.
Jeremy Au: (32:31)
What’s so scary about it?
Zabrina Chew: (33:35)
I think uncertainty is a very, very scary thing. It’s like jumping and not knowing where you’re going to land. I think that on its own is scary. It’s like you don’t know what’s gonna happen next month. Maybe today you build a product. Tomorrow, no one wants it. Or you build something small and you think it's nothing and tomorrow, 10,000 people are on it and they’re like, oh, we want more of it and you can build fast enough. I think in the startup environment, I mean from my experience so far, things just keep happening, things change so quickly, rapidly all the time that it’s sometimes quite overwhelming. And I think being able to stay on top of that as well as maintaining some sort of balance and being in the right headspace or taking care of yourself health wise, there’s a lot of things that lie in the balance that we have to manage as founders, so definitely huge experience, very nerve wracking, but also tremendously exciting.
Jeremy Au: (34:30)
How do you recommend Founders manage the fear?
Zabrina Chew: (34:34)
I personally believe in facing it head on. I guess it always helps to tackle the root of the fear. For me, for example fear of heights I tackled by doing the highest bungee jump that I could find. Because I really think there is no way to run about it. Another way would be to break it down into smaller pieces and find out how to tackle each one of those before tackling the bigger one. That’s how I would say we would do it.
Jeremy Au: (35:00)
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Zabrina, for coming on the show. I’d love to paraphrase the three big themes that I enjoyed from this conversation. The first, of course, is thank you so much for sharing your intentionality about your career, especially how you became a founder. I love how you started out in the civil service, which is the biggest organization out there, and then you work your way down 4 levels, right down to Ubisoft which is a large company, a multinational corporation, to a startup where you’re an early employee to now being a founder yourself and I love that very intentional path because you shared that you always had that vision of always having something of your own and takes patients, takes time. But it’s also the most straightforward way to discover your childhood vision or something that you actually want to do and I really love that plan. So few founders actually have that sequencing, which is so important.
Second, thank you so much for sharing about community design. I really enjoyed some of the high level points around like personality types, extroverts, introverts, ambiverts and how to think about how a community should be designed and to be effective for everybody and very excited to see what soda and everything else you built, especially in the past is.
Lastly, thank you so much for I think the fun tidbit I guess of being a female gamer and gaining cred about it. I thought it was a fun story because it’s not just a hobby that you had growing up, but also something that you have actually. Done deliberately, intentionally as part of your career driving career decision as well as gaining credibility in the first ninety days, but also something that is a way for you to articulate some principles of community since then as well. So thank you so much, Zabrina, for coming on the show.
Zabrina Chew: (36:44)
Thank you so much Jeremy. It’s been a great blast.