Social Confoes 011 – Scaling Startups in the Asian Markets w/ Reuben Noronha
Diego and Jean-luc are looking forward to having Reuben Noronha as our #SocialConfoes guest this week to talk about finding opportunities and starting up businesses. This social conversation will touch on different topics ranging from building and scaling businesses in South East Asia to finding opportunities in the crypto space. We might even jump into talking about creating content, productivity and/or even a little bit of music.
Reuben has spent the last few years building and scaling business in Asia. He built his first company, Nivaasa, in 2013 and ran it for two years. After that, he had the opportunity to build and scale multiple businesses at Zilingo. He enjoys the 0 to 1 phase and finding new ways for businesses to monetize.
Check out Reuben’s Podcast where he speaks to people about their experiences and learnings over the last 10 years. From PhDs to Musicians, Consultants to Entrepreneurs, you’ll hear from a diverse set of people who are doing really interesting things, at the same time, and figuring it out along the way.
You can also connect with Reuben:
- 0:00 – Good morning from Singapore
- 3:30 – What should people know about Singapore?
- 7:40 – Tell us about your first startup in India
- 21:13 – What does 0 to 1 mean in a startup?
- 25:55 – Economic vs Cultural freedom in Singapore
- 41:41 – Transition from your own startup to working at another startup
- 50:04 – Bootstrapping principles that young entrepreneurs should look at or ignore
- 55:30 – At what point did you know you were ready to leave the startup?
- 1:00:03 – Crypto Q&A
- 1:17:06 – What’s next for Reuben?
- 1:20:52 – Closing off
Video Version of the Episode
Feel free to join our Discord Server.
Reuben: [00:00:00] But if we go from nothing to now, we have something. And if you think of the the delta, if you measure how much, how much percentage change you’ve done from zero to one it’s infinite but you go from one to two, it’s a hundred percent. If I’m zero to one is infinite. So so that, that’s a part, I mean, enjoy the most. I love bringing things which are sort of dancing in my mind to reality.
Jean-luc: [00:00:20] And welcome to Social Confoes the 11th addition of Social Confoes I usually say good evening, everyone, but there might be some people watching say good morning too, because Diego, we have our first guest from Asia.
Diego: [00:01:00] That’s right. Remember when I was still in New Zealand and you always made a joke, how is it in the future?
I’m actually going to experience this tonight because we’re still on Tuesday, but our guest is on Wednesday. It’s going to be fun, talking to somebody in, is it March 24th? Yeah. So all the way in Singapore right now, and it’s early in the morning, so we hope he didn’t wake him up too early, but we have Reuben Noronha
I met Reuben during the podcasting fellowship I’m in and it was quite, you know, when you meet somebody and you just click when you see them, how they interact online. And we were both in this like global hack weekend, global builds weekend, like a hack-a-thon spanning of four days.
And we kind of are like both press as podcasts, but we also decided to join as teams and. I was like they invited us up as moderators as well. So I volunteered as a moderator, but then the funny thing when it came to Reuben, he was also in a zoom call and they called him them up and I love the way how he handled it because his team kind of, as he said, it fizzled away, but he was so lighthearted and so positive in a way he explained it that everyone like enjoyed the talk.
And it was a really fun conversation in that, like, you know, casual, but also. Fun setting as how things go wrong in a hackathon. And you get an idea, but you can’t even start. And I think that’s also gonna expand on the topic we’re gonna explore further on today on, you know, it’s kind of like startups in that sense, going from zero to one and building that out.
So without further ado, Reuben I want to bring you up and welcome you to Social Confoes. Hope. You’ve also got a hot beverage with you as we keep it casual.
Reuben: [00:03:04] Thanks. A ton guys. Super, super excited via, yes, it is 8:00 AM in the morning here in Singapore. So I’m technically in the future.
Jean-luc: [00:03:13] Yeah, we have some people in the comment section that are mentioning it.
He is in the future and also a shout out to Gregory for already giving a heads-up on the audio and the video quality. So most Surinamese people. Yeah. We’ve seen crazy rich Asians. So we kind of know that’s for instance, to what Singapore looks like. But for, for those of us, who’ve never been to that part of the world.
What, what should people know about Singapore that you feel like I I’m really attracted to this for the, for the moment that I’m living here?
Reuben: [00:03:50] Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s a double wide question, but I think Singapore is, is so for people who don’t know, Singapore is a small little Island state city state in the South of Malaysia in Asia they call it sort of the gateway to Asia.
It is one of the most developed cities in this part of the world. And I think what’s fascinating with Singapore is we look at the history. Singapore is actually what they call a third world country just about 60 years ago and a very short period of time, which is, I think less than 60, 65.
They’ve gone from like third world, which is literally marshlands to one of the biggest like metropolitans and the most forward looking metropolitans are out there. And I think what’s interesting about the city and why, why are you liking this is two things. I think number one, it’s such a multicultural place.
That is like, if you think of the average Singaporean, right? It’s a mix between, you know, somebody who comes from Chinese ethnicity, somebody comes from Malaysia, the city there’s a big community of Indian ethnic people here. So it’s very, very diverse and that sort of fuels into the culture of foods.
The language feeds into the food, the food here is fantastic. But also from a pure you know, business point of view, it’s a great place to be running and operating a business. Setting up a business facility takes maybe a day, setting up a bank account takes a day. Taxes are probably, you know, I, I would not be as low as, as, as the middle East, but they they’re, they’re very, very low as compared to the, as the region.
And it’s just a great place. It just is a place that just works so well. And yeah, I think, I think those are some of the things which, which sort of attracted me to come to Singapore and why I love living here. I was at dinner the other day and I was literally having, you know, with eight people cause that that’s the rule on Singapore, more than eight people can meet.
But each of them was from a different country and I was like, wow, like where do I get that? Like, yeah, I get that on ODP and On Deck. But I think how, how, like where else could you potentially get that? I think Singapore is just a fantastic place. You had so many smart people in the city and sort of very like forward and future looking.
Diego: [00:05:48] Cool. So, but you’re originally from like South of India, right? Goa, if I remember correctly and I heard great things about beautiful place by the coast. So. What triggered you to move to Singapore in the first place, because you were already like running a startup of your own in India and reading some of your backstory sold off and then work got hired by another startup in, I think based in Singapore. And was that the main reason you move or was there another, like a specific trigger?
Reuben: [00:06:25] Oh no, it’s totally random. Yeah. Like truth be told. Not, not when I look back and I’m like, Oh yeah, you know, I wanted to move to Singapore. It’s a great place. It was absolutely random so I was of course born in, Goa, which is on the Southern part of India.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. For some reason, my, I think for not, for some reason, my mum and dad thought I would get sort of me and my sister would get a better education if we moved to a slightly bigger city. So we moved to the North of India. I’ll spend most of my time, you know, schooling and growing up there.
And that’s where I sort of, I went to my first job. I started my first company. And then it was the end of the company when we were like exiting the company. There was this interesting opportunity of this, of, of, of the startup doing things in Southeast Asia. So they weren’t really in Singapore, they were in Bangkok and, and Indonesia.
And I knew somebody at the company I’m like, this would be cool. Like whoever thought that I would land up in Thailand or Indonesia to work. Right. That’s absolutely crazy. So I’m like, let’s give it a shot. And that’s how I, how I, how I landed up in the region. And then over time, you know, the headquarters moved to Singapore and they were like, you know, why don’t you move to Singapore?
And I’m like, sure. Like, okay, but why not? But not, there was no plan. Like, yeah. I was just like, okay, this sounds interesting. Let’s do it.
Diego: [00:07:40] Yeah. Sometimes stuff like this just happens and it lines up, but Before we explore Singapore a bit. I want to talk a bit about your first startup that you started with your friend. And you mentioned you guys exited and here, like the startup ecosystem Suriname, at least I’m not sure how it is Asia, it’s not very like what you usually see in the media with venture capitalism acquisitions or that, you know, business and economic language. So could you walk us through how that was for you in India, in your first startup and what does exiting actually mean in that sense?
Jean-luc: [00:08:22] Good question.
Reuben: [00:08:24] Yeah. So I think the first caveat is that I don’t think any startup ecosystem is what the news says. It is. That’s like the influencer version of what real life looks like. I need that. We realize that when we were running a company and we were like, every day, there was this new company raising capital, and we were like, what’s wrong with us, but why aren’t we raising capital?
Like literally every day there was a news of something raising capital. So I think one, one thing we realized when we were building the company, it was called Nivaasa and Nivaasa in Hindi means a home. So for context, the company we will try to solve for co-living we were sort of, we would take up large apartments or break them into smaller units not break them, but like divide them into smaller units and sort of sublease them to people like you and me who are moving from smaller towns of India to Delhi and bergamot, which was very well pleading because, you know, finding an apartment, finding an apartment and especially nice apartments is very, very hard.
So think of this as like the, WeWork for residential property, that was sort of what we were trying to kind of build the real question of what an exit means. So we had essentially been doing this for about two and a half years. Wherein we bootstrapped the business. And what that means is we were essentially profitable.
We have a profitable, small business, just like any other business, and that’s how this is, should be profitable. But anyway, we were doing that business and about two years in, we made it a couple of decisions where we wanted to sort of raise venture. We wanted to scale faster, and those didn’t really pan out because that wasn’t really, you know, in sync with what we had, how the business was, was evolving.
So we used to stage when, and be like, you know, we don’t see us as this for the next 10 years of our lives. And like, there was a lot of other things, but we were quite burnt out as founders. So we decided that, Hey, you know, we need to, we need to, we need to stop. We can’t be operating this business with all of our you know, with, with that a hundred percent commitment.
So there was another company, a competitor, ours in the space. And for us, it didn’t an exit was we went and spoke to them, be like, Hey, this is what we have. Do you guys want to buy this. This is what our liability that these are what our assets are. This is what customers we have. This is what we have, we want to buy.
And we’ll as simple as that, they were like, show we’ll buy you negotiated on, on, on how the assets would transfer. And that was it. This is a very, very simple, like, like most exits are nowhere close to this. There’s a lot of like delusions, which goes in, there’s a lot of like conversations with go on, but at an early stage, actually, it’s not, not very hard.
It’s just, Hey, I have something you want, do you want it? Can we agree on a price?
Jean-luc: [00:10:55] That’s interesting because in, in, in, in general, people are really, and especially in Suriname I’ve been asked once to buy out a company that was exiting and I was looking at, I was like, yeah, but I don’t see the unique selling point in what you’re trying to offer me.
There is nothing. I think you were in a better place because you actually had spaces, our actual pleases and clients that were already profitable. And I think that’s, that’s a misunderstanding when, when people talk about an exit or selling off the company is you do have to have a profitable company in order for people to be interested.
So I, it’s interesting to hear you talk about like, why are we not getting the venture capital? Why are we, why are they getting, but did you, did you get funding, or did you have to do everything from scratch and build up enough that you had enough capital to pay out the salaries and enough capital to invest?
Reuben: [00:11:56] Yeah, so we did not raise venture capital. And basically, me and Louis was my co-founder. We bootstrapped everything. So we put out our savings into it. Now what’s interesting is the business we landed up in and, you know, in retrospect, We are actually landed up in a pretty good business, right?
Because like we were profitable and all the money we were actually earning was going back to the scale of business. And to give you context where the money was going, we were essentially acquiring property. So we would go to agents would help us acquire new properties. And, you know, that was a fee we would pay.
We would also invest in furniture. So, and that sort of webbing, we would take an assets, we would buy furniture. And, you know, you can imagine typically VCs are like, no, that’s too asset heavy. You don’t want that. And I, I get that, but pure business-minded point of view, the return on investment on that furniture of mine was amazing.
Like I was recovering the cost of my furniture in one year and their furniture will last for five years. That’s five times, like that’s, I think a hundred X better than maybe putting my money a fixed deposit. And so those are the things that we will see. But yeah, I think at the end of the day, what we also launched is businesses is like, yes, it is about profitability.
But it’s also about growth. You know, how fast can you scale? Is this a scalable solution? And I think I see, I see value in that, but also, you know, really thinking about cashflow because you might be a profitable business, but if you have bad cashflow and I’ve seen this in more traditional businesses that, that cash is King and that’s what sort of gives businesses eventually cash,
Diego: [00:13:28] speaking of cashflow and especially you guys going into part assets in, in that sense. And I, I get what you were saying that, you know, in investors, they usually look at this like kind of a risky choice going in hard assets, because you’re not sure when you’re getting that money back. I recently had a conversation like this on cash flow. So in particular, you guys were operating in the bigger cities and.
I assume there’s just an assumption that in India like many other I guess I’m not first world countries, usually people go from the rural areas to the city. And this has basically the, the gap that you guys saw. Yes. So in that sense that weren’t there any other like traditional or just other platforms, like your startup in these big cities, because I imagine India with having a billion population, that there should be others thinking of these similar things, or is it just, just that there’s so much demand that it doesn’t matter how many others there are?
Reuben: [00:14:44] Yeah, it was a lot of, you know you’re not the only company in this space. In fact, one of the. No, the first companies will enter in real estate. Well I’m sure you have, I don’t know if you have, you have to have a death was property listed where an owner’s appropriations would come and list these other properties available.
And there will be like, Hey, I’m interested in that property. I’m share that. What we were sort of doing was in my opinion, was version to have that same business, to think of Craigslist, right? You ha you have the listing that sites already there, but now there was sort of like an Airbnb kind of opportunity, but in just listening wasn’t enough, people had to find good apartments.
People had to have a good experience when moving into that apartment you have to realize that in India, and this was in a stat, that we came across that, real estate yields, which is, you know, if you think about the rent you make on your apartment, how many years does it take for you to recover the cost of your apartment?
It’s one of the lowest in the worlds. And what that means is that people, again, fact check me if I’m wrong, but it probably is pretty, pretty low. But what that means is that people don’t actually care about rental income per se. Like if I’m a landlord, I only care about the appreciation I’m getting on my property.
So what I’m, what my mindset is, a landlord is I’m going to get a house. I’m going to pop it in five years and I just need to keep it going. I don’t really care about making it a nice place. I really care if you know, the taps are breaking in the houses that I don’t get, I want to get this property. And five years, I’m going to flip it for maybe like 40%, 50%, sometimes three times, four times a class.
And that’s sort of the phase. What happened in India from, I think about 2002, 2003, 2010, 2012, which is sometime when we started the company, we’d seen this massive increase in real estate because India as an economy was, was growing they used to be, you know, apartment complexes that got sold out before even the first brick was, was late.
It was that crazy. So. It was just an investment. Right? And in that context, when you look at the actual house, you’re pretty shit. Like people don’t care about the landlord doesn’t care about. So we were like, you know what? People are ready to pay slightly more for that effort to get together, we got a good product and that was a clear arbitrage for us.
We would essentially go to the landlords and be like, Hey, if you’re going to make a nice mic, you know, they want to manage your properties. Property management is not who you think that popular thing in India. Also another interesting fact is real estate agents is one of the most unorganized industry in India.
So like in Singapore, every real estate agent is, is registered. But in India, I would say 99% of the real estate agents, just agents because they got nothing else to do. So yeah, it’s a very unorganized, disorganized market. I’m so happy with that landlord that he, we will manage your property. You’ve got a professional property management service and we will tell , Hey, you know, if you rent to us yeah. You based, I think more. But you had this great experience. You know, our processes are digital.
You can paint digitally; you can sign your leases digitally. So yeah, we were not the first company, but you could tell us, see this wave of these, you know, version two companies imitate try to find, create a better experience for people like you and me who are not satisfied with just the listing.
Jean-luc: [00:17:53] Diego. I want to jump into this because trans business, because if I get it correctly, the business was getting people that making it easier and cheaper for people to rent a space in a big city. Now let’s translate that to Suriname. I, and from our perspective, Reuben, you have to imagine that certainly students who go study abroad, they want their own space.
So, if you ask any Surinamese student who ever studied abroad, they always want it. They didn’t always get it because you don’t always have the luxury, but they want their own kitchen and they want their own bathroom. I think the kitchen is it’s not nice, but Surinamese students, they want their own bathroom. They’re very particular about, not sharing that. So was there a similar experience in India and how did they overcome that?
Reuben: [00:18:49] Yeah, a hundred percent. Like everybody wants their own bathroom. Right? Most people probably don’t want their own kitchen because you would just like, like, I think that this generation and era, the late, late twenties, we forgot how to cook, so we just order everything.
Right. So we don’t really care that much about, about the kitchen, but they want their own bathroom. So how do we solve this? So what interesting is in the way a lot of apartments were built in, in, in the one who would take on. Usually there was a one-to-one ratio for the number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms.
so if there are four bedrooms, they will usually four bathrooms. Maybe they might group bathrooms. Yeah. The challenge was that there was some bedrooms where the bathrooms were attached and that was the, that was the trick. If you had a bathroom attached to your bedroom, that was a premium. So what we were, what we were, what would happen is say, I took up this a four bedroom apartment.
I didn’t say it’s, you know, I’ll give you a thousand dollars a month. The, it will not be an equal split of rental. So if there are four people living there and that’s very common, the person who gets a better room would either be bigger or would have an attached bathroom, would be more rent. And at the end of the day, I think people have to, you know, weigh on what’s most important to them.
Some people like, you know what, I don’t want to pay the extra a hundred dollars. I’m going to go buy alcohol. And you know, that, that, that, that was important for them at that point of time. One interesting thing that I realized through this experience. We were essentially targeting young individuals and young working professionals, which are people who just started their first jobs.
But through the experience, and since you mentioned students, I think students is a more exciting market for one simple reason, right? The person who pays the money and the person who gets the service, I two different people when you’re a student, usually mom and dad are paying for the bills and you know, they’re okay. It’s like, Hey, like, you know, Diego, you, you got to go in a place which locks up at 9:00 PM, but absolutely that Diego would never pay his own money to be loved at a nightmare. Right. Seller kind of thing. But mum and dad would be like, yeah, I play premium because they take care of Diego.
And essentially, especially in India with, with, with at least a lot of women, right. You know, these hostiles and fingers are very, they stick, but, but your point yeah, like, like everybody wouldn’t get their tasks possible, but if you wanted it, you want you’d pay higher. But sometimes people wouldn’t, sometimes people prioritize things like going out, you know, buying stuff that yeah.
We can, we can live with. We can have an
Jean-luc: [00:21:09] economic decision.
Reuben: [00:21:10] It’s an economic decision. Yeah.
Diego: [00:21:13] Cool. Yeah, I, I had, I didn’t have issues when I was abroad, but I think that’s just speaks on how culturally, but also how you’ve been brought up. That’s factored into that. And I think the grip, the bigger picture as the bigger culture in general has an effect on that.
So shifting from, I guess, your, the, the startup in the real estate industry, deciding like this is not something we want to do for the next 10 years kind of being burned out and you guys bootstrapped it from scratch. So you talked about enjoying. This process from getting started to zero to one. Could you first explain what going to zero to one means? And then when do you decide that you’ve determined that you’ve reached that one and then you’re no longer a startup?
Reuben: [00:22:10] Yeah. Oh man, so let me answer the first part. So all of us than ideas, right? I think as humans, we’re very, very creative beings.
We’re constantly thinking about stuff and you know, more often than not most people have, have great ideas, but I think a lot of people, and I would say majority of them just get stuck in the idea, right? You have an idea and you, for whatever reason that you don’t have the initiative, you don’t have the confidence, or you just don’t know how to go from, how do you take this in your mind to actually make it real.
I, I jokingly tell people that, you know, I wish you could just see what is happening in my mind, like what’s happening in the canvas of my, of my head. And I’m sure we just understand that because then life would be so easy, but literally translating all of that into the first piece of reality, I take it from, you know, what’s happening in, in, in, in, in this castles, in the clouds to actually a physical thing you can feel and touch is what I would call zero to one.
It’s when, you know, you can of course see it, but when people are, other than you can see that, Oh yeah, like now that makes sense. Now I understand what you were saying. Right. And of course, you know, you can compensate that by being an absolute fantastic, you know, orator and people who speak. Right. I think, you know, politicians you know, people in the government are very good at sort of converting what they see in their mind or at least give people the perception of that.
So that people can be like, Oh yes, yes. I believe that. But yeah, like taking that from, from an idea to something in reality is what I would call zero to one. And on a more tactical level, what that means is say, you know, you’re, you’re running a company, right. Diego’s running a company and he’s like, Hey, we wouldn’t, you know, I’ve been thinking about expanding or thinking about starting a new podcast, you know, it’s an idea.
And taking that and I would say all the people like, wow, no, but taking that to the first, you know, piece of, okay, well, I can see this, okay, it’s happening? This is good. I would say that is a zero to one phase. So for us, for example getting a first apartment or getting a possible apartments when we were doing the, I was zero to one phase.
But if we go from nothing to now, we have something. And if you think of the the delta, if you measure how much, how much percentage change you’ve done from zero to one it’s infinite but you go from one to two, it’s a hundred percent. If I’m zero to one is infinite. So so that, that’s a part, I mean, enjoy the most. I love bringing things which are sort of dancing in my mind to reality.
When does it stop at one? That’s a great question. I thought I was at one in my previous company and at the peak, I had almost a hundred people on my team and I should think we were at one because it was just like so much more to do.
One of us had done like so much. So, so I don’t know. I don’t know. I think the way I would say it is when you, when you have something real and it’s like more than one, but one, one person believes that this is a thing, like, okay, I can see where this is going. And maybe they’re ready to like, you know, give you the money to give you their time.
Then I would say, yeah, you probably reached one, but yeah, one is is it can be long, very very, very like energetic.
Jean-luc: [00:25:19] Hmm. Okay. I do want to jump back to Singapore in a bit, because I think it’s some somewhere related. I’m going to give a couple of quick shout outs to Joseph. Thanks for joining. And what’s up guys and also Theo joining in from LinkedIn giving a big up and then there’s some questions. And to introduce those questions, I jumped out of the screen earlier because I had to get this book.
I don’t know if any of you guys are familiar with this one.
Reuben: [00:25:50] I haven’t read this, but yeah, I’m, I’m sure it’s a pretty good one.
Jean-luc: [00:25:55] Yeah. So this is one of the books that they say, like it’s a definite read for uh, for some people who are interested in, how do you go from a third, third world country to actually developing country?
Because it’s the story of, of almost like one person’s fish and how to get a country out of that, that of periphery and into the center of, of business. So that’s one thing, but in one of the things that you really, and that’s what we in a pre-call we talked about it a little bit, how competitive Singapore is and how actually it is a gateway in South Asia.
South East Asia for, for business. And then it jumps into a couple of questions. I’m going to read the questions that Gregory and Saph had in the comments. So Gregory mentioned, I heard Singapore has a lot of economic freedom, but little cultural freedom. So no freedom of speech, for instance, You understand it, and then also elaborating economically free, but social sociality authoritarian, and then somebody else joined in to say rumor has it. That is hard to get kids with foreign passports into good schools over there because nationals get a priority. So as you are actually an, an ex-pat in that sense of the word as well, have you noticed this and can you give us a like a little bit benefits analysis on, on what, what this actually means?
Reuben: [00:27:24] Yeah. So sort of, most of the other comments that it’s it’s it’s correct. I don’t know the part about the, the kids for a national, I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t be able to comment on that. But, but yeah, like for example protesting in Singapore is not allowed. You’re not allowed to do a demonstration without getting called on it.
So yeah, you’re right. I think, I think that if, if seen from an, from an international lens, you could argue that Singapore is a bit more authoritarian of Singapore. It’s less culture diverse. But I feel like if it’s my perspective to this is, and I come from India, right. Which is as diverse as it gets guys, like you travel three hours and the people don’t understand the same language.
It’s as diverse as it gets. And I’ve seen the challenges India’s facing. It’s a, it’s a beautiful country. It’s a very promising country. But when it comes to actually managing and pooling their country, it’s hard because think about this, right? You have people in different parts of the country. We, I think at 28 or over 20 official languages, I speak two languages, Hindi and English, but there are, so there are parts of, there are so many parts of India when I can’t even communicate to people.
How does one sort of, you know, managing and, and, you know, politically run the country, when you have such diversity. From a tourism from a food, from a culture perspective, fantastic. The bacteria comes out of running the country. It’s very hard set in Singapore and you know, you so the book talks about this and how Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, used to think about it is you don’t be able to set some very, very strong rules and you don’t have to break these rules within these rules. You have freedom to do stuff, but you, you do not break these rules. And, and that way I think you can argue that yes, you don’t setting those rules is authoritarian, but the other lens is like, you know, if you let people do whatever they feel like, is that really good or not?
I don’t know. I think it’s a debate which is to panning out. The way Singapore managed to, to no control Covid it is, is, is, is, is an example. Like you could not have done this if you weren’t an authoritarian country. And for the last 10 days, we’ve not had a single community case. But you don’t have a single case of COVID.
I think the last death for COVID was maybe like three or four months ago. And again, probably COVID is not a great example, but it’s a, it’s a recent example. You look at countries like India and the U S yes, they’re bigger countries, but you know that if they’re struggling to manage it. So I think the broader question is how much of, you know, like authoritarian is, is enough.
You have India and the United States in one hand, which is like absolutely free. And you know, the last five years both have shown this movement towards, you know, far-right and then you have, Singapore is like, you know what? We have to be able to control racial harmony, for example, here, there are more interracial like fight people.
Don’t like Christians. And yeah, they’re very strict about it. They like recently there was news about. There was this person who was planning to attack you. a Mosque and you’re blind to that, you know, Christians and, you know, there’s, there’s this locally ISD, I think, which has come a lot of other criticism in the, in the seventies and eighties, because the government would use that to sort of, you know, manage in internal turmoil, could use it against political opponents, but really use it to sort of pick up potential attacks.
Right. And you don’t have that stuff here, there is more racial violence. There are no racial flashes. And the government says like, you know, that that’s our job. We have to set these rules up. And that’s what we can. So again, I think at a macro, it probably take us another 50, 60, more years to really see if this model works or not.
But, but yeah, it is, it is more, it is more authoritative and the benefits are things like I mentioned, right? It’s the easiest place to do business. There’s no ambiguity, right. If I need something done and I follow the rules, I know I will get it done like India, for example, it will happen. Maybe like 20% of the times.
The remaining 50% ends, I would probably have to bribe somebody along the week. And on my side, if it’s like, you know, that’s the cost of doing business? Like when you were in there, like that’s the cost of doing business. If you pay tax, think of this as a, as, as a fact, that’s how other country functions.
Okay. Yeah, the U S people just call it lobbying. Right. It’s another way of that. So I think it’s a debate. I don’t know. I’m very happy possibly. I’m, I’m happy giving up some of my, you know, quote unquote freedoms of other benefits I get,
Diego: [00:31:49] I think, yeah, there’s always a trade off in that sense. If you look at how countries are run from authoritarian to democratic, to from what I’ve heard there’s even a level of meritocracy there and you, they, you know, put you in a position based on merit, on what you’ve achieved, but I quickly want to follow up on that part on the diversity aspect, because Ro-Ann had a. An interesting follow-up on that. So from her research she seems like whiteness also seems to be prioritized.
How does that affect doing business? And I know you also mentioned that the Western countries first-world countries where I guess the, the whiteness is prevalent while she says they get prioritized, it’s also hard for them to establish business aside from, you know, the quick setup. What, what, what’s your take on that?
Reuben: [00:32:44] Yeah, so I don’t think in Singapore, anybody gets prioritized, everybody’s treated equally. So if I am going to ask the question now and meet all the requirements and apply for, for, for, to set up a business, they could do so my, the law, it doesn’t make a difference.
Diego: [00:33:04] Yeah, as a quick follow up to that question, he traveled to through Singapore, I think.
And she, she noticed that just at the airports, you noticed kind of this different, that lighter skin people and people with darker complexions work in a kind of like different roles. So maybe that’s just a coincidence or not
Jean-luc: [00:33:25] really. Yeah. It could be a perception. I think it’s this do too, because we can, we can discuss this from a, I think Ro-Ann also has a scientific side as well and the research side to it, but it’s, it’s it, I’m not sure whether or not this is prejudice, but I think let’s, let’s flip it to another scenario.
Whereas you are somebody coming from outside of of Singapore and you’re. You’re not considered at all. Light-skinned so in, in, in the Western world. So tell us from your perspective that you feel that you had to work harder in some cases, are, do you feel like no, not only from a jurisdictional perspective, I was treated fairly, but also when it comes to the opportunities that I get.
Reuben: [00:34:13] Yeah. So see, I think most of the points I think there’s, of course, like I want to, Singapore is a spot that you see challenges here. Interesting like debate, which goes on is Singapore. If you think of the ethnicity split it’s majority Chinese have at least, I think 70% is Chinese. About 20% is Malay.
Maybe like 10% is India. And they keep jokingly saying, and this is public. Is, is Singapore ready for a non-Chinese president? And most people like nobody gets a straight answer. So again, I think that, like, you have to understand that it’s a young country. I don’t think there’s like, if you compare, this is I’m an actual prejudice and sort of use what’s happening in the U S to what’s happening, maybe like India against the Hindus and Muslims.
We are nowhere close to that. Is it ideal? Probably not. Like when I go to the cab, a government question I get asked is, Hey, are you in IT? Because most brown people. And I’m like, no, he’s like, Oh, he’ll feel guilty. So I personally do not, like I have not even felt, felt an ounce of racism yet. I don’t think opportunity has been reduced.
Maybe it’s my naive thinking maybe it’s my naive my naive reality, but I wasn’t, he had not faced anything. I don’t think like opportunity is, is like, I suffer for lack of opportunity. Maybe because, you know, I’m, you know, I’m further in that educational strata, which. You know, it’s educated. I have a college degree, you know, I’ve taught some stuff in the past.
Maybe that, that, that, that, that, that leaves a hole. But I would say Singapore, like scores a hundred, 100, but if you’re a score say, you know, let let’s, let’s, we’re going to different relative terms. I could probably score two times better or three times better than what’s happening here. So yeah, mostly it’s, it’s been fine, what’s an interesting fun fact is the smartest kids in Singapore, guess where they go, they all work for the government. The government makes it a point to hire the smartest of the smartest in Singapore. And I like that. I don’t know many other countries who do that. So
Jean-luc: [00:36:10] I think it’s brilliant.
Reuben: [00:36:11] It is, it is one of the, it is a very, very meritocracy think. And yeah, like if you work hard and that’s sort of what it was built on, You work hard and put in the effort and you will get the water. And that was out of the Singapore identity. Of course, you know, we’ve worked with hardware, the possibility that a lot of other challenges, the country faces today, like culturally and, you know, freedom of speech and things like that. But I think just like any young country in did as well.
Diego: [00:36:37] Yeah. And I guess yeah, just to add so from a research perspective, and I think you come with a unique set of backgrounds as well, but thanks for pointing this out Ro-Ann that we have to be cognizant of our privilege and of course there’s research being done, but what we can ask Reuben and it’s from here, his perspective from what he’s experienced so far, but.
Jean-luc: [00:37:00] I’m just heading with Reuben. No, I’m siding with Reuben on this, and I’m going to give a, I’m just quickly going to jump into the hire the best people for the government aspect. This is something that, that we have to seriously consider as well, because in, I think in certain Nordic countries, like in the North of Europe, they have a system as well where the best students become teachers.
And I think that’s a brilliant concept because not only, sorry, not only do we get people who are actually great at their job teaching, that’s a very brilliant approach, but also it not only from a meritocracy perspective, but just in general, I think it’s a really good approach. And also I think I like Reuben. I like what you’re saying, because I do want to point out that you have a chip on your shoulders in a sense that you, when you left India, you had already proper achieved, you have achieved something in life. You knew that you were going to succeed wherever you’re working the world. And I think that’s important to point out
Reuben: [00:38:03] Oh, a hundred percent. Not always about it.
Jean-luc: [00:38:05] Yeah. So Th th the thing that we shouldn’t forget is that if you have had success, if you would know how to go about business, and we had the talk with about self-confidence and self-efficacy, if you know, for a fact that, that you are capable of doing things and you’re put anywhere in the world you will succeed because you already have the idea that it is going to work for you.
And then all of a sudden, things like race, ethnicity, where you’re from, it doesn’t matter as much because you already know, like, if I’m going to abide to the structure, that’s there. Of course. And this is something that, and this is why I do want to point it out. And I, when I went to the Netherlands, I assimilated, I’m not saying you should always do that whenever you go to a country, not try to only integrate, but also try to assimilate.
But for me, it was easier that way, because then I knew that. Thanks. Weren’t decisions weren’t being made big because of my ethnicity or where I’m from. And of course, I got the occasional, like looked at my skin and it’s funny because for most of your interviews, people are quite white and most Dutch people are actually quite broad.
So, but I did get the occasional, like, Oh, you have curls in your hair and your Brown, so you’re not going to university. And then when I told them I was a university student. Oh, okay. So they were kind of surprised that the level of education that I was at, but for me, it wasn’t an issue because I knew I may not be, there’s a different set of rules.
I have to otherwise it’s. Not going to work for me. So I do want to find that out and, and, and I mean, you’re going to signal Singapore because you’re going to have a certain huge advantage. We would live for a day that we could open our bank account within a day, or start a business within a di other than in Suriname, it’s possible if you have the right connections and probably in other countries as well, and, and Dutch would nepotism, but just to make the connections you can find, but it’s really, really hard.
And, and we, if you’re going to go to a country where you have the benefit there, you’re going to have to adjust to the system. So I, I am siding with Reuben on that one.
Reuben: [00:40:22] Yeah. Yeah. I, I think th it’s not perfect and I do work for thing. I’m absolutely sure. I’m sure that is another research. Like another interesting fact, which is really disheartening is you go to like what they call Hawker centers, where they solve, you know, like it’s large food courts, It’s early, unfortunately, but most of the people who are cleaning dishes or people I’ve never seen that anywhere else in the world.
But it is, it is a reality because Singapore went from like, like a third world country that these people in the young girl to a possible country, but places like, you know, you would get stuff for like what you would get in down mean for, let’s say a dollar, but now that’s expensive and they’ve not managed savings and things like that.
So, so yeah, I I’m moving. I think that it’s, it’s, it’s perfect. But yeah, I think what Jean-luc was saying is it, is it is, it is, it is a plate off that has some benefits. I know the value of, you know, if you follow the rules and you get what you were promised, it’s so important because for example, most of the time that doesn’t happen, there’s a, you know, in between, which actually gets you from input to output.
So I, I think, I think it, it, it I’m aware of respond to that. I course come from privilege. I had the opportunity to land up here. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity lined up yet. But at the same time, I think I’m very a aware of the opportunities I’ve been given and I’m going to make sure I make most of it.
Diego: [00:41:41] Cool. And I think that’s a perfect segway to let’s say yeah to shift towards the opportunities. And I guess, especially in a business sense, cause we mentioned before starting a business, it takes a day or two. If you have all your papers, opening a bank account you can have that within a few hours and credit card in check, whatever you need.
You just need $1 to basically as startup capital as they say. So let’s explore this a bit more on from the business aspect. You’ve moved there to work for the startup as well. And. Can you walk us through first, how it was from having your own startup to working in another startup and then we’ll go from that?
Reuben: [00:42:28] Yeah. I was pretty nervous. To know you have all of this stuff like be your own Boss, and once you’re your own boss, you can’t work for somebody else. And possibly it was like complete bullshit. Like that was, they were just like things which are blocking me. So yeah, like going to this new space, the things I absolutely love is I moved to a company which, which at least we have a fair amount of capital at that kind of time.
So I just felt I had so much more resources at my, at my hands to be able to do the things that I really wanted to do, you know, five months earlier or six months earlier, me and my co-founder were literally arguing about, do we spend this $10 or not? And I think from a mindset point of view, that’s super important,
and then sort of build that frugality in my mind of how to behave with, with how does this operate. But, you know, I was not spending my, like my mental bandwidth on such decisions anymore, or like, okay, no, we want to do this money can help us do this better. So I think that was one big change in a positive change.
When I suddenly feel that I had access to a lot of more resources. So every, you know, unit of energy I was putting in was giving me a larger unit of output and outcome as result. So that was, I think, one of the biggest because like positive things from shifting from my own company to working at the startup, of course you couldn’t do everything your way, but but yeah, I think there’s, that was something I miss a little bit, but
Diego: [00:43:54] Would you say it’s like going from one to 100 in that sense that you kind of left the zero to one phase and moved on to one to 100 at another startup.
Reuben: [00:44:04] Absolutely. So, so when I joined this new company, I was, my entire job was to set up a new business vertical for them. So it was almost similar that they had this idea. They wanted to go from zero to one and that’s sort of what I spent the first, maybe couple of months green, but then, you know, it went actually from one to a hundred, but in, we actually built that business out, we hire teams.
I then set up new businesses within the company. So, so yeah, like it was, it was zero to one at the start and that sort of probably why they, why they hired me. But eventually I had to move to a very different mindset, which was, you know, a scaling mindset wherein we were growing the business, different set of problems, different set of challenges and hiring people and all of that.
So it was very exciting. Like the model of stuff I learned in those two and a half years, I would not in my wildest dreams, imagine that I could have learned that like, if anybody told me we want this available to be two and a half years, I’d be like, you know, , there’s no way possible.
Jean-luc: [00:45:00] So I saw, I was wondering if we were going to make the switch back to entrepreneurship as well. But here’s the, here’s the thing that I’ve, I have you discussed the comments of, of Tevin already, because I see that Tevin jumped in and he wants to dynamic shift the whole dynamic of the conversation.
Diego: [00:45:19] W we’ll get to that in a minute, Tevin and not sure if you can see this, but let me quickly address one thing quickly. So to Ro-Ann’s point she says she wants you to know that it’s not in any way trying to discredit your experience it, and that’s fair enough. Appreciate
Reuben: [00:45:36] it. No, I love it.
Diego: [00:45:39] We need a discussion. So we were trying to keep it casual as well and
Jean-luc: [00:45:44] Ro-Ann really don’t worry about it. We, it’s a casual conversation, so we we’re not taking anything personal at all. Don’t worry about
Reuben: [00:45:52] it. Not about that procedure. You mentioned the spice, because what you’re saying is true. It’s, it’s not, it’s not wrong, but, but no, I really appreciate that comment that takes about here.
Diego: [00:46:03] All right. So before we move to what Tevin’s mentioning, I, I just want to stick to, you know, the, the startup phase a bit just to not leave the train of thought. Yeah. Building out this new vertical, I’m going to want to 100 spending two and a half years here. And I imagine you learned a lot. So can you, I guess, two top things that come to mind from that experience that you’ve learned at this new company compared to your startup?
Reuben: [00:46:32] I think the first thing for show Diego would be how important it is. Like how important teams are I, like, you know, before I joined this company, I thought, you know, you had to be a smart founder. You know, you needed a CTO, you had to be like that. Right. You needed capital. And I think while all of that is important, through my experience at my previous company, I realized that the single thing which makes or breaks companies are the people who work there and you’re putting together a team and a really good team is by far the hardest thing to do. And I think that’s the single most, you know, most importantly we decide success or failure of a company.
I think that’s one thing I, I, and we are fortunate to have includes the smartest people I’ve met. Getting them as hot, keeping them is even harder because these are like how you got to do people like there, then including myself like they’re there to grow.
Like they’re not like they could have been running their own companies, right? So there you have to grow. So creating that environment, which is, you know, allowing everybody to reach their full potential is very, very hard. The bar is very high. Then I eventually was growing my team just to keep up with my team.
Like it was like, it was just like pushing me to be better every, every single day. So I think that’s one themes make all the difference. The second big thing I think I learned was I think my biggest takeaway from managing people is how, you know, like, so for context, but we were like, we’d be going to something the top a hundred at the company, the top a hundred leaders are went through this year long, you know, coaching program, which was basically designed to help you be, you know, understand this alphabet out so that you could just be a better leader and a manager.
And I think that was another fantastic learning experience, but in most of us actually, don’t really take the time to pause and think about why we do what we do. Why didn’t we behave a certain way? I’m reading this book called seven habits of highly effective people. And it’s sort of a lot of what we learned in that, in that.
Yeah. And yeah, just like with anything about being a manager, I didn’t think about leading people in you’re responsible or like really changing a mindset. And I think this slide puts it really well from, you know, a leader from the front door leader from the back. So if you think of armies, armies are led by the leader and the front, he’s like, you go in that direction.
Everybody wants you go in that direction. But if you think of, you know, like Santa Claus, right. He’s at the back, he’s really as a, in front of him, he’s, he’s like, sort of like that. It is like, I tell you what needs to be done, but you guys are high. So this concept of what some people use called the sovereign leader, but as a leader, your job is not to be the boss.
That’s sort of most common deception. That’s what, you know, when you have two people working for you, like I got to be a boss, you know, I don’t tell them what to do and if they aren’t working out and make sure that work is done, that’s when we think about it. And we, like, I just done that. That’s not a very effective way to do it.
But sort of being a servant leader, be like, Hey, you know, giggle for you to succeed. Jean-luc for you to succeed. What can I do so that you are successful, right? And if you’re successful, I’m successful. So switching to that mindset, and again, I think the caveat is this doesn’t apply to all jobs. This doesn’t apply to all organizations, but for organizations, which I think there’s the guys that Netflix uses the storm has high talent density, but of talented people, that same room you can’t be a boss, you have to be a servant leader. And I think that was another big takeaway for me from that.
Jean-luc: [00:50:04] And it’s much harder. It’s much harder to be a servant leader because you don’t get to, to go your way. You don’t always get to do the way you want, because in the end you have, you have to, you have so much time, like you said, and there’s talent.
And if you don’t. Do the right things to support them. They, they leave because they have so many opportunities elsewhere and you end up and you end up with the weakest links in that regard, if you don’t do anything. So it’s, it’s really, I do want to do jump into a couple of things. You’ve already mentioned that a couple of things that you’ve given, and then Diego has got to ask another question before we head into the crypto space.
But you mentioned bootstrapping and I think it’s important for young entrepreneurs to, to understand what, what bootstrapping is. You already discussed a couple of parts, but especially focusing on the people don’t think that having venture capital is the thing you need for a startup, but, but can you, can you give us like one or two basic bootstrapping principles that you did that you felt like these things usually young entrepreneurs spend a lot of money on and I really didn’t care anything about it. And it ended up being a good decision. Do you have some cases for us?
Reuben: [00:51:16] We’ll absolutely. Again, this is again, contextualize to the kind of business you’re running, but you don’t have to spend on marketing. I think you don’t have to spend on marketing on ads, Facebook ads.
This other story, just the other story. If you had an overseas company and you want to get your first hundred users, you’re burning up money by spending on Facebook ads, the burning of money you’re spending on Instagram, like start a podcast. You would probably get a hundred people who are interested in what you’re doing, and you will get the right a hundred people.
You will get the hundred people who care about what you’re doing. And at some point we’ll be like, Hey, I want to pay you money for what you’re doing. You’re not going to get that placing ads. So that’s one like as you’re bootstrapping and you’re in that mindset. And again, I think when you’re scaling. The first thing I would say is go raise money.
Because the only thing which stops you from scaling is you run out of cash. You don’t want that. Once you’ve hit product market fit, you know what your building people want it go and raise growth capital. And they’re, you know, the new hire teams, you know, sort of make sure that everybody knows what you’re doing, but for your first a hundred users, even your first thousand users, you know, people are recommending each other.
If people are like, you know, I don’t want to spend five minutes of my time. They seem to not look, then they’re not going to pay you the money. And that’s the only way to figure out if you’ve created value. Now, are people parting with money? I think giving you their money or not. If they’re not giving you the money, you’re kidding yourself that you’re creating that you’re not creating value
and again, I’m not saying that you need to do this all the time, but as you’re on the journey of figuring out product market fit, have you figured out what you want to be doing? I think it’s important. So that’s one. The second thing is I don’t have a lot of push having companies do it, but like spending on like office space.
I think even Dubai get office space. A lot of people like, yeah, let’s get an office or a second thing, sorry, betterment don’t register company. You don’t need to register them company to start doing what you’re doing at a lot of people like wanted to get a chart of account and I need to register a company.
Once you register a company, you need to, all of these filings, , it had zero value to your business. It’s just like, it’s a burden. So unless you figured out, unless you are getting in some cash and there’s a risk of the tax project comes on and be like, hello, what are you doing? Unless you’re at that stage, don’t like waste time and money setting up a company, things like that.
So I would say those two would probably be the one who the third one is
Jean-luc: [00:53:42] a good one to rent space, especially in time of COVID, you know, Especially in time of COVID it’s like, okay. So, and it differs, it differs. And we have to point out that people love your, your, the energy. So,
but, but yeah, and you’re right. It differs in contexts. Like it depends on what kind of company you have, but in some cases, but in some cases, if you don’t have to rent office space, and this is something you can, instead of renting off office space, you can go to a fancy restaurant for six times a month for the same amount of what you would spend on a, an office space.
And you treat your best customers just, just to put it into perspective. So I think, yeah, these are sort of some great tips.
Diego: [00:54:31] Yeah. Awesome. I think we’re going to sum that up. Ruben’s on the energy it’s
Reuben: [00:54:38] is that thing.
Jean-luc: [00:54:43] I take she should explain it. Yeah, unfortunately we can’t have the people that comment explain it in the show, but I think it’s, it’s, it’s a sort of, it’s a certainly seek for for head the RT, I guess, but really from a it’s from a positive perspective. So, so it’s good.
Reuben: [00:55:04] I forget a couple of Eddy energies is blessed.
Diego: [00:55:08] You’re getting the love and maybe it’s a fear, right. Set out. So
Reuben: [00:55:13] sorry, Diego, before I go on, and since you mentioned love, you know, you know what this is? Yeah.
This, this is an Asian thing. These are hearts two hands, all mad, so late. What happened? So, yeah.
Diego: [00:55:30] Yeah, I I’ve seen that. I think K-Pop popularize that but just to go full circle on this this pot startup you mentioned before, like things that people, you know you know, your two biggest learnings and three tips that people, you know don’t can basically ignore at the early stages.
But for you going back to the company, you’re at, you know, you mentioned servant leadership trying to get the best out of all these talented individuals in your team who are all there to grow themselves. And in that sense, you are also one of these individuals, even though you have that more leading, managing role to grow yourself as well within the company.
So, and as you said they, once they’ve reached that plateau to a certain degree, they leave and you as a manager gotta to decide, you know, It’s is it best for the computer company or not? So, at what point did you feel that you were ready to move on and how did that affect or how did that go with the management or the managing team?
Reuben: [00:56:34] Yeah. Yeah, it was super, super hard decision man. Like, because like, like I should work like directly under the CEO of the company. So I, I had, I had a large team there was a loss to do with the company. Of course, the pandemic wasn’t easy on the company. We were in the fashion business. So, you know, fashion got really, really hit, like, think about when’s the last time you bought any clothes.
Right. So the, the, the industry was hit pretty, pretty bad. But I think for me at a more macro was always going in the back of my head. You know, even when I came down to the company, it was just quite random. I never said I’m going to complete that. I hadn’t even heard about it. Like maybe three months, four months before I actually applied for them.
Like I knew there was a friend who was doing something there, but they’re selling clothes. Like, and the people who know me from, from, from maybe back in university, even for that. Yeah. Like people still ask me fashion, Reuben, what are you doing in a fashion company? My favorite brand is Uniqlo. I only wear like these colored tees.
So yeah, like it was me coming down to this country. So it was just for the experience that I knew this was like a stepping stone for me. I had to add so much more to learn. And I had to sort of, you know, I knew that I would eventually go back and try and start my own thing. And I think that with the pandemic, and I don’t know how counterintuitive it is anymore, but you know, with the word slowing down, I felt this was the best time to start something.
Because if I have the luxury of saying that, you know, I can probably, you know, manage survive for the one year, one and a half year. Right. I have that much more savings. No, the mindset of saving money never left me off for my first company. I’m like, you know, it is kind of how much money I made. I’m going to save this money because I want to buy myself, you know, runway.
When I shop my next company, I just felt that it was the right time for me to, to do it. And I think the Paralympic was the reason that, you know, most people like it was a counterintuitive thing to do of leave a job and start a company in the middle of the pandemic. So, so yeah, it was a very hard decision because it was comfortable.
But I think at that time I was also playing in the back of my mind is, you know, I’ve read about again, the Spotify coaching shop around for getting too comfortable in a spot to go. And, you know, coming down to terms with that, it’s so hard. You’re like, she was like, are you crazy? Like, why would you do this?
Like, of course people are telling you, but you yourself and you look at yourself in the mirror, in the bathroom, you’re like, Like why, like there are, is today. I’m like, Hmm, why did you do that? Like, I don’t understand. So, but, but no, I think, I think you follow the principles of renewal and you’re sort of getting too comfortable.
You need to sort of push yourself out. They say magic happens outside your comfort zone. So yeah, I think for all of those reasons, I decided that it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone, try something new and have a super hard, like, my team was like, Oh, like everybody understood why I wanted to do it.
They knew me as a person, and they knew this was going to happen at some point or the other. But, but yeah, like transitioning out was, was hard. The good thing is I had a fantastic team, so I was not worried about the business getting affected because I knew the guys who were heading these businesses were like the best in class.
And they were actually better than me. I founded in the business, which is why they were running the business. Like I wasn’t as good. That’s the one reason I hired them. Right. They, they stay A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s. So all of these guys were A plus. So I was like, you know what? The business is gonna be fine, but for me, it’s something I need to do next.
So it was bittersweet. I knew I was sort of moving on to the next phase of my life, but, you know, closing that and moving away from it. It’s an average.
Jean-luc: [01:00:03] Diego. I think I have a proposal with, cause we already had the hour mark and I know there’s a lot that we, we want to talk about. So can we kind of use quick fire questions for maybe 10 minutes to touch upon all the things that we haven’t touched upon yet? Just do it in a quick-fire form that we do get to know Ruben a little bit more, but we also get to talk a little bit about crypto, a little bit about music, a little bit about all the things that we haven’t dipped into.
What do you think.
Diego: [01:00:39] Yeah, I’m game for that. And if Ruben’s up for it, let’s go.
Jean-luc: [01:00:44] So we we’re, we’re going to ask you some A or B questions. Both is not the option. Of course. We’re gonna try to get you to, to answer a specific direction. I’m gonna, I’m going to go first and don’t feel if you want to explain why you chose an option, feel free to elaborate on it.
So the first one would be YouTube or Spotify, Spotify.
Reuben: [01:01:09] Okay. Because of my podcast.
Diego: [01:01:18] Oh. Quickly on that. What’s your podcasting platform of choice.
Reuben: [01:01:24] So I spent between Spotify and pocket case. Okay. Yeah. I just want to check them out. I’ll check them out on Spotify. It’s too much effort to go in a bucket case, the ones get any follow on.
Diego: [01:01:41] Okay. So crypto which do you think will crash harder or one already, correct? No, no, not a specific crypto, but we’re kind of in a bull run again. So we had the ICO run in 2017 and that’s around the time from our previous conversation, you got into crypto space as well. So seeing that boom and crash and having this kind of NFT De-Fi space run up again, do you think it will be as bad? Which will be worse ICO’s or the NFTs.
Reuben: [01:02:25] So actually I wrote a, I wrote, I say on this on which is a free title, I was wrong. This is not 2017. I taught that for the longest time when Bitcoin was at 1215 with Bitcoin hit 30, and then it hits 60 and I’m like, Reuben if whatever happens in the past, you cannot assume it’s going to repeat in the future.
It never happens. But yeah, I think the current NFT craze is, is, is a bubble for sure. There’s a lot happening in the macro where in, you know, a lot of dollars which are getting printed are sort of getting funneled into, into the kind of people are combined that contributes five clicks. So it’s good.
So people are doing it. But I think there will be a correction, no two ways about it. But I think what I was talking about in the essay is we’ve essentially gone from like, we’ve made a step function change every time this bull cycles happen. So in the first 2017 cycle, yes, it was a, it was it was a bubble, but everybody suddenly got much more educated about Bitcoin, about the blockchain.
And yes, a lot of us lost money, but we didn’t lose was an audience. And that has sort of compounded at least for me personally, over the years, which is why I’ve stayed in sector. The same is going to happen right now, creators like you and me, I’ve now sort of taken a step function, change on understanding how they can essentially leverage crypto and NFTs and all of that.
And it’ll take us some time to sort of, you know, fully capitalize on it. And maybe, you know, in two to three years, we’ll be doing this all over again. But, but yeah, I only believe that there’ll probably be a correction, but we’ll go back to a little bit, kinda go back to 3000. Will Ethereum go back to $80? I don’t think so, because I feel we’ve made a step function change on our understanding on how this work.
Jean-luc: [01:04:03] Okay. So based on that, I’m thinking of whether we should stay mainstream or really go deep dive, but I think we should, we should go mainstream. So, so let’s, let’s, let’s keep it mainstream and let’s go Cardano or ripple
Reuben: [01:04:27] just because it has that, it doesn’t mean going through a lot of like back and forth. And I think that, that was just more like, Oh, the last meeting one month. I don’t know that much about Cardano, but I feel it’s that they’re doing a lot. It’s suddenly a reason, I think, to the third, most market capitalized currency.
Diego: [01:04:43] Okay. I’m staying within this space. Let’s go deeper on NFT so within the NFT space, which adjacent industry do you see? Adopting first: gaming, or digital art.
Reuben: [01:05:09] So I think there’s all of the, both these industries already have some it, but I think it’s going to get super exciting in gaming. Like the possibilities are like mindless, like the simplest example. If I’m playing what I’m gonna say, World of Warcraft, right. And I’ve leveled up to, I don’t know. I don’t play world of Warcraft, but hypothetically I pay world of Warcraft and I’ve leveled up to 67.
I can potentially sell that character to you and you start world of Warcraft level 67. You’re going to waste your time going up that very curve. Right. I grew up, start the game from scratch. If you play need for speed, I can sell you a fully pen photo for the price. And that’s where sort of creates like a possibility the NFT. So I’m just like games are going to become micro economies. Like they’re going to be economist, just observing games and be like, Oh, like, this is, these are the laws of followed. So I am much more excited about gaming.
Jean-luc: [01:05:59] I’m going to jump into this one Diego, because I completely agree. I’m going to explain why I think it’s, it’s much easier for gaming.
My mom is a visual artist and with art, you basically, you want to create one art piece, like in exclusivity. That’s what makes an art piece expensive as soon as they’re multiple of them. It’s it’s kind of the failures, the art, and, and if you only have one off a certain item in a traditional art in physical art, it is still even if you can make multiple, because even if the serial number is different from the digital art, the fact that there are 10 pieces or even 10,000 pieces makes it a little bit more like, eh, but it’s not as exclusive as traditional art.
Whereas with gaming there, there much, there are many more dynamic dimensions that come into it and I do want to point out, I bought an NFT pack and NBA Top Shot pack this week, this past week. I do want to point that out. And I’m going to tell you that this is crazy. It’s really crazy. I do give people because there are some people watching what it is and listening and I’m like, yeah, but come on.
Yeah, you and a group of five people in the world are doing this. NBA top shot is a licensed NFT from the NBA with license moments from best from the, the biggest basketball league in the world. And the last edition of the last edition of packs had six. Yeah. 67, no, 76,000 packs, available close to $70 packs were available.
And there were 300 dose had people in line to get one. So just imagine that there’s an NFT which there are 70 thousand from a you’re taking like I’m easily going to get one because there’s 70,000 of them. And, and you get in line at a 300 thousand with people in line, and you’re a number 125,000. And you realize like, wait a minute, I’m not actually ever going to possess this unless I willing to pay at least three times their votes on, on, on the marketplace.
So these are really, and I didn’t understand this or till, until it happened to become aware, like, wait a minute for certain. And, and for certain markets, the NBA, there are millions of fans all over the world. So, and that makes it kind of hard for NFT art. Because you do want to kind of the exclusivity.
Could you say, like, I know the artist, I personally know what art is, so I think it gaming it’s much easier. And I think giving us a little bit further as well.
Reuben: [01:08:54] Yeah. I think there’s an interesting concept called in this podcast, somebody mentioned is the adopted adoption of digital art actually, it depends on how the artist thinks about it because the artist understands scarcity. They will be careful how much NFTs they release, because if the it’s like the it’s like the chicken and the golden egg right. It’s like, okay, one golden egg a day fine. But if you started getting ingredient, be like, okay, I’m going to release like 500 art pieces today.
And you’re like, whatever, like the analogy of getting the order, right then boom, then there’s nothing. So if artists understand scarcity, I think they will, they will survive and thrive in the NFT world if they think, wow, this is a good way for me to make multiple copies and make a quick buck. I think they might not win the long game.
Diego: [01:09:38] Yeah. And in that sense, it’s comes down to community. I think again, the community that those 100 true engaged followers and I think mentioning the art space Beeple is a prime example of that
Jean-luc: [01:09:53] mentioned in the comments as well, I guess.
Diego: [01:09:56] Yeah. So
Reuben: [01:09:58] Guess where Beeple lives Singapore. I’ve tried to find the guy because in the city Fun fact, Vitalik lives in Singapore, that’s what I’ve heard I’m not seeing it.
Diego: [01:10:11] Yeah. So for those of you who are listening are kind of lost in the conversation now, since we were mentioning random names and letters here, so let’s, let’s let me give some quick context. So NFTs are basically born out of the blockchain space and its application of blockchain.
And the recent craze has been on, you know, digital artists selling artworks, Jean-luc mentioned the NBA top shot. Why would someone buy like a 15 second clip of a moment in history that you can just watch on YouTube for free? And that’s kind of blowing up right now, coming back to the art example, Beeple we’ve mentioned community and why people would buy something like that Beeple is actually an artist I’ve been following for a few years now.
And Why I started following him. When I heard about his story was he’s been dishing out a digital creation from scratch every day for the past 13 years without missing a day. And that kind of built him like this cult following he’s, he’s worked for the biggest brands in the world as well, and still push out his own personal artwork just to get one bit better.
And this resonated with like a lot of people, I think. And when he found out about NFTs and dished out his first, you know, practice NFT that blew up that that’s ridiculous people are, it dropped a set for $1 each and don’t know how many there were, but people bought those up and they, they resold it for 80, $90,000 a piece.
So. If you think no, one’s going to buy that this community that you’ve built actually is going to engage. And now it’s actually, you know, using it to fund causes like climate change doing fundraising like that because he’s already made it. And I think he sold last week, the most expensive artwork from a, for a living artist.
I think I’m not sure if it’s in the top 10, but somewhere up there for 69 million equivalent us dollars for a digital piece.
Reuben: [01:12:27] Yeah. It’s crazy. You guys, in fact, should ask the audience, like if theoretically, Diego and Jean-luc could sell their very first podcast would, do you, like, what do you want to own that like you would act everybody could listen.
It’s like the Mona Lisa, right? You can go to the museum and see the Mona Lisa, but you not on the Mona Lisa. But if you could like everybody could listen to their first podcast, but if you could own it, what do you want to own that? But would you want to own that? Like somebody in the community might want to own that?
Jean-luc: [01:13:02] I was, I was in that space because Tevin was looking at me like sitting, like I was in my head was going around, but, but having our own moments and we’re going to have to of course change the name because it’s copyrighted but having indeed social Confoes like NFTs of social Confoes I mean, that’s, that’s just a brilliant idea.
I think we’re going to have, you have to give you at least 3% of every sale ruler head off, but I think, yeah, I think we’re, we’re definitely heading into, into that direction and I think people are going to slowly wake up and understand what’s going on. It’s going to take at least 10 years, because before this is mainstream and, and people will all understand about like, wait a minute, these people became, and we’re not talking specifically about us, but people of our generation, even younger that will become there are already becoming millionaires because they understood the space and how technology works and they were in front.
So, and that brings me to my last question because we’re, we’re we overtime here and I know we really want to thank you that you’re doing this for us, but how, how can we use this technology to bring, bring people more together if you would, if you would be given the opportunity saying like, okay, you’re in Singapore, you’re being put in And, and, and, and, and brain trust are at least a mastermind group to come up with a solution on how we can actually bring, bring people more together, use a cryptocurrency are using the blockchain.
What, what best use case have you seen our, what creative concept do you have in mind that can actually instead of separating two sides of the world, even more, how can we, how can we bring them together?
Reuben: [01:14:58] I think I would like maybe try to use that technology to recreate social networks. I think social networks, Facebook, Instagram they were started to bring people together. Sort of know what everybody’s up to, but I think where they reach right now is. It is very far from what they hope to start with.
I, for example, I’m hardly on Facebook. I don’t push on Instagram because it’s like, it does more harm to me in my opinion than, than good but I, and I think the two core reasons why that happened is these businesses were essentially built on taking our data and selling it to advertisers. And that was the fundamental business model.
And I feel what blockchain allows is, is a switch to that business. You can essentially set up a decentralized, you know, social, social platform, a social network, where in each of us, you don’t want that you love, you’re not selling it to advertisers, but you know, we give up commercial data. We want to, but you know, we, we find a way to sort of keep in touch.
We, we were getting the feed, which we actually want to see and not somewhat advertisers pushing now. Yes. We’re not like the problem of the people making life better than what it looks like. Still continues on social media. And I don’t think that that’s going to go away, but, but. But yeah, I feel, I feel there’s an opportunity to recreate how social networks work.
To be honest, my social network is WhatsApp. It’s my, it’s my groups on WhatsApp. That’s how I keep up with people and it’s very inefficient. So I would try to build a better social network which does not compromise people’s privacy. If it’s not compromised people’s data, which is not incentivized by showing people advertising, which is not incentivized by maximizing the amount of time they spend on the app the entire day.
But essentially solves the focus of, Hey, you know, can you sort of check in with people with the least amount of time, which is totally anti advertising this month. So yeah, if I had to trust that, that’s what I would do.
Jean-luc: [01:16:51] Theo calls it open social protocol, black bag, buy box, you blockchain. And everybody knows I’m going to say that’s hive,
but Diego, go ahead for the last question for tonight.
Diego: [01:17:06] Oh yeah. Okay. Yeah. So if you’re not a high yet hit us up later. But coming back full circle you’re at this next stage now you’ve got the plateau and you’ve built this runway. You’re in one of the, I guess, situate best situationally, geographically, places in Asia, you have access to markets to financial services, basically an ideal situation to make the most of it. What’s next for you?
Reuben: [01:17:42] So I think those are the spaces where I’m most curious and I think. I would like to be involved with the next couple of years is somewhere in the intersection of the creative economy. So like podcasts, I run my own podcast and I sort of started that, I think back in October, just to see what this intact leader world is, I’ve been making music.
I DJ. So I’ve sort of been like a creative part of my life, but never thought that was something serious. But now I see more and more people and the tools and infrastructure being built out to allow people to do that. Right. And at least in this area, especially like in most developing countries that always more people, the jobs, so sort of creates a more, more sustainable way for people to earn a livelihood and it’s getting easier and easier.
So the create economy crypto I feel that is absolutely the future. I think where we are right now is sort of where the internet was in 1970, 1980. It’s super hard to understand like probably only technologists really understand that. But I think in the next 10, 15 years, and we already see signs of it that are going to be like applications built on top of it.
The, the, the, the example I like to use is nobody really understands how Android works, but all of us enough candy crush. So let’s say blockchain is where Android is. The Android is being built, but a couple of years there were a lot of candy crushes. And, you know, I think it’s still a very early time to enter the space, the intersection of creators and crypto, the entire NFT space, I think is very exciting.
But I’m also quite passionate about higher education. It was also one of the reasons I, I signed up for On Deck because there were not, the few companies were trying to disrupt what’s happening in higher education and university. So, yeah, to be honest, truth be told, I don’t exactly know what I want to do next.
I’ve been, you know, throwing it around. I’ve been working on this project on the side called Rolodex which the goal is to essentially help people stay connected with people. They don’t meet that often. And. On the assumption that you just started off social media and liking somebody’s picture it doesn’t really mean you’re staying connected with them.
So I’ve been working on that project on the side, I’ve been running a podcast, you know, figuring out, talking to people to see what I want to do next, but hopefully in the next three, four or five months, I have something more concrete. But right now I’m just, yeah, I’m figuring,
Diego: [01:19:50] What’s the podcast name? Where can people find it? And you mentioned you’re not really on the socials, but still, how could people connect with you if you want them to connect with you? At least.
Reuben: [01:20:01] Yeah. So my podcast is called drum roll Reuben’s podcast. You can find it on, on Spotify, but that’s R E U B E N ’ S Podcast where I talk to people who have known for about 10 years about how their lives have changed over the last 10 years and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
So that’s that if you could find me on Medium I write a lot I won’t say a lot, but I usually put a lot of my thoughts on crypto, what I learned at my company. On, on medium it’s Reuben Noronha. I’d actually don’t know what it’s called. It’s probably @ReubenNoronha on medium. Yeah, we can drop it.
I don’t know if you’d like to find it, but and yeah, you can find it with, I’m trying to grow my Twitter. I feel that’s a cool place to be, but you can follow me @NoronhaReuben I usually retweet, I don’t tweet I retweet about crypto that a lot. And easy to do a lot of that stuff, but I plan to get a bit better on that.
Jean-luc: [01:20:51] Awesome.
Diego: [01:20:52] Thanks so much for being here with us Ruben and giving us the perspective on the other side of the world from the future. So appreciate that and appreciate also staying a bit longer cause we know how this goes. We always go over time. Once the conversation starts getting juicy. So appreciate your staying here for the people that, that tuned in. Thank you again for tuning in being engaged with us, asking the questions. That’s how we try to keep it social. And this episode will be released on Saturday on the podcasting platform. So if you have got friends, who’ve missed it refer it to them. Or if you want to relisten to it audio version of a more cut down version that’s going to be there and appreciate it.
If you guys got any feedback. DM us email us a new, website’s been recently updated with the newsletters section. So you guys can sign up there as well. We’re planning to build that out and get some more, you know, exclusive and more concrete content in that sense. With that being said, and look, could you do want to go to the comments one less time if we haven’t missed anything and then roll us out,
Jean-luc: [01:22:01] Tevin says what we talked about today what we talked about today, if you’re really interested in social media and you’re interested in blockchain, you have to check out hive hive turned one year old this past week, they were announced today as the winner of the most innovative blockchain product.
So really check it out. Some other comments. Thank you, Reuben. It was awesome energy. It was another great show. Thank you Stephanie for joining in and good to see actually the, the, the LinkedIn top comment jumping in as well, because we like, we like to know if that platform is also being fueled, which we just got acknowledged for.
Hey, this was. Social Confoes for tonight. We had a blast. Thank you so much. Thank you, Reuben. Thank you, Diego. And thank you for all of you watching commenting. We’ll be back next Tuesday at nine o’clock Surinamese time. See you guys and have a great week. Bye. Bye.