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22 - How growing up Chinese in Valencia helps Victor Chi Sun run a design studio in Shanghai

“I gain through those super stressful moments, like in a restaurant, rush hour, delivering everything, I love it.”

Victor is a graphic design freelancer turned entrepreneur who runs Chi Studios in Shanghai. Although he wanted to design cars as a kid, he’s now an owner of graphic, branding & visual design studio.

Victor’s parents are Chinese but he was born & grew up in Valencia, Spain. There he was one of the only Chinese kids around, growing up with people looking at him & saying ‘oh Chinese, Chinese…’.

We spend some time diving into how his early experiences impacted his life & career. For example, how he inherited his work ethic from his parents while working in their restaurant as a kid. Or how early in life he was shy & introverted, wanting just to be invisible & to fit in. But how that ultimately changed later in life as he embraced his differences and it led to him being more successful.

Now Victor fully embraces his unique upbringing to combine Chinese culture with a global design perspective for his clients in China.

+ How he transitioned from freelancer to Entrepreneur
+ Being one of the only Chinese kids in Valencia
+ Struggling to be ‘invisible’ as a kid
+ Working in a Chinese restaurant in Spain
+ Benefits of working from a young age
+ How he saw being different as an advantage in college
+ The value of Chinese culture but with Spanish / global mindset
+ Transitioning from an industrial designer to car designer to visual designer
+ Maintaining single or multiple version of oneself
+ Separating family & business apart with his wife leaving the business
+ Working with spouses & cofounding a company together
+ How ‘being yourself’ can even help to the grow the business
+ Getting shit on by a bird and how it can help with networking
+ How to get rid of work stress
+ How happy people work harder

Victor’s studio – Chi branding & design
http://chistudio.cn/en/home

Victor on linkedin
https://www.linkedin.com/in/victorchisun/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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21 - How to blend Chinese philosophy and technology with Azure Yang UX Transformer at SapientRazorfish

“Philosophy facilitates a good environment for technology to do it’s job”

Azure Yang is a mix of UX designer and Chinese philosopher who’s currently working as UX transformer for Sapient-Razorfish.

Azure is Shanghaiinese, born in a more rural setting outside of the downtown city area where he was always misbehaving and trying to sneak away from his parents house.

Azure comes from an artistic family and so early on thought that he would be a designer.

This shifted over time as he became a web coder and worked for Microsoft. Since he felt very comfortable in solving problems and had a more analytical outlook, he shifted much more towards UX.

He’s currently now focusing on how he can bring elements of Philosophy, both Chinese & Western, into how he builds products and services..

In this episode:
+ Always wanting to do things in new ways
+ What it was like growing up in Shangahi during the opening up of China
+ Working in Microsoft China
+ Transitioning from visual design into interaction design & user flows
+ How his life seems modern at the surface but he’s actually quite traditional
+ Helping people to find what they truly want in life
+ Uncovering the pattern or the “rules” of the world
+ Differences between a “Chess” type problem or a “Go” type problem
+ How studying philosophy impacted his career & craft
+ How he tries to align his vision with client expectations
+ How 80s & 90s culture had strong theme of “exceed yourself, become the hero” or “fight without thinking, you’ll be king”
+ Changing themes in Japanese manga & Chinese manga over past 20 years

Find Azure:

Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/azure-yang-96699615/

WeChat:
azyreyang

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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20 - There's no single answer to understanding Chinese consumers with PT Black of Nike

“Nobody should know how runners run more than Nike’s running team. Why would we hire someone for that, that has to be us”

PT Black is Senior Director of Brand Experience at Nike running the brand strategy & planning for greater China. He’s been studying Chinese for almost 25 years and has lived in Shanghai for 17 years.

On a day-to-day basis, PT Black works closely with the consumer insights and research teams for Nike in China, with his ultimate goal of using what he learns to help improve people’s lives.

He’s originally from Boston before he moved to New York, only to end up in Shanghai where he’s been ever since.

In this episode we discuss a wide range of topics from politics to using bars to improve your Chinese to even the tricky decision to send someone to jail for stealing from you.

We also discuss some of the challenges he faced growing up and finding his place in the world and what it takes to operate effectively in branding & advertising in modern day China.

In this episode:
+ Why he studied Chinese long term
+ Why you should never do the same things over again
+ How to argue or not argue about politics
+ Coming to terms with working in China
+ Cultural habits like the habit to “the answer” as opposed to the many answers
+ Working across Chinese & German cultures at Siemens
+ Why he wears the same thing everyday but has 450 pairs of Nikes
+ Dealing with the pressure to be active at work
+ Mastering his own discipline
+ About procrastination vs planning

Links:

Instagram @ PT Black:
https://www.instagram.com/ptblack/

Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/pt-black-3b8b766/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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19 - How Jan Smejkal hustled from a rural town in the Czech Republic to Startup Grind in Shenzhen

“Hustle all the time if you want to build something for yourself”

Jan Smejkal currently works for Startup Grind as Community Director for the China and APAC region. Previously he had started with Startup Grind as a community volunteer and, because of his increasing interest and involvement, he was eventually asked to join as a full time employee.

Jan grew up in a rural town in the Czech Republic. His family was hard working and stable, which gave him a good base to get involved in many extracurricular events and communities.

This active participation and motivation gave Jan the confidence to set up a partnership between Charles University in Prague and Peking university in Shenzhen in order to move there on a scholarship.

Jan is an extrovert and is happy to be a showman and a salesman when gets up on stage. He learns from many of the people he meets and places a huge emphasis on his own self improvement.

In this episode:

+ How hustling for travel money can give you positive learnings for your future.
+ What is ‘Startup Grind’ and what they do.
+ The business model of Startup grind and how do they manage their events.
+ The 3 different methods Startup Grind have to help Startups sell their product.
+ Creating a small business on the side for education & for fun.
+ Jan’s parents and their influence of them in his young life, creating his current ‘lean’ lifestyle.
+ Jans extroverted nature and how he relaxes from the consequences of being an extrovert.
+ Spending the day with Gary Vaynerchuk in Hong Kong and his influence on Jan.
+ Learning about yourself and having fun by being out of your comfort zone.
+ How to hire good interns.
+ The instant feedback loop and how to forget the negative things quickly.

Links:
Linkedin:
Jan Smejkal
https://www.linkedin.com/in/yourchinaguy/

Jan’s YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/smejkaljn/featured

Video blog about day with Gary Vee:

‘Extreme ownership’ by Jocko Willink:
http://amzn.to/2Dh4WcR

‘AskGaryVee’ book about family, self awareness and being the good person in the room:
http://amzn.to/2BeAYV6

‘The Daily stoic Book- 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living’ – about life and perseverance etc. about Stoicism. By Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman.
http://amzn.to/2BPyqR9

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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18 - How organizing meetups led to Rise Hong Kong, Asia's largest conference with Casey Lau

“This was all without sponsors, without pay… we went to events, they sucked, so we wanted to make a better one”

Casey Lau is one of the pioneers of the startup scene in Asia and more specifically Hong Kong, which has been his home base since moving there from Vancouver when he was 21 years old.

Although he went to school for graphic design, he now splits his time between Web Summit RISE (conference), Startups HK and Blue Startups in Hawaii and he describes himself simply as a ‘Startup connector’.

Casey built up his reputation in the startup scene through a constant evolution of design & tech, building small business in the early days of the internet before getting heavily involved in starting StartupsHK with 5 friends.

Casey has a very proactive attitude and has made a career and a life from sharing his personal knowledge of running internet based businesses while keeping on top of the latest technology.

 

In this episode:
+ Casey’s background, and moving to HK (Hong Kong).
+ Using a Mac in Asia 10 years ago vs technology now.
+ The pro’s and cons of the universality of the English Language.
+ When and why Casey started the first web design studio in HK.
+ The Internet culture of helping each other.
+ Why there’s is such a wave of interest in startups now
+ The differences in speed of success in startups between Asia and America
+ The 2nd wave of podcasts, and their connection to the start-up scene.
+ The different ways people are consuming podcasts.
+ Business models for podcasting.
+ How StartupsHK functions (then and now).
+ How Casey became the ‘co-host’ for Web Summit RISE conference.
+ Why Web Summit RISE conference is so special.
+ The value of ’Night Summits’ and pockets of different specific activities.
+ The ways Casey keeps himself creative and inspired.
+ Being a digital nomad today, and the growth of co-working.
+ The importance of ‘just showing up’.
+ Starting meetups and how to keep them going

Links:
Web Summit RISE:
https://riseconf.com

RISE podcast
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/rise-conf/id1212269228?mt=2

Collision conference (New Orleans):
https://collisionconf.com

StartupsHK:
http://www.startupshk.com

Blue Startups (Hawaii)
https://bluestartups.com

Casey’s favorite podcasts:
https://medium.com/hashtagpodcasters/podcasts-i-listen-to-and-podcast-resources-a9c0034ba619

Info on the podcast scene
https://medium.com/hashtagpodcasters/the-state-of-the-podcast-industry-at-podcast-movement-2017-20d1c7a0017c

Robotics debate:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1NxcRNW_Qk

Giro Dreams of Sushi – documentary:
http://www.magpictures.com/jirodreamsofsushi/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Ve7ec1HpY

Twitter: @casey_lau
http://twitter.com/casey_lau

LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/caseylau/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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17 - How being sued at 13 years old led to building startups in Asia with Ryan Shuken of MOX & Chinaccelerator

“He bought cocacola.com & sold it for $2million. And I thought, that’s so stupid, I could do that.”

Ryan Shuken started his life as an entrepreneur at a very young age and he now shares his years of learnings as the Program Director for Mobile Only Accelerator (MOX), a start-up accelerator that focuses on Android applications in developing countries. He and his team work mostly with start-ups that already have their product and now need to grow it in multiple countries around the world, often at the same time.

Ryan (33) was born in California & moved to China when he was 18. He started his first business when he was 12 years old, just as the internet was starting to become more widely adopted. He bought web domain names of neighborhood businesses and waited for them to sue, before counter-suing and settling on terms to sell the domains, all accompanied by his mother of course. He went on to teach himself to code and also to clone popular websites as he crafted his own path through entrepreneurship.

Once in China, Ryan studied International Trade and Culture and then had short stints at other colleges around the world, before settling in Shanghai and working with The China Startup Pulse, then Chinaccelerator, and now MOX.

Ryan says he has done all of this with the support of his family, most of whom also run their own businesses. Then we dive into how this fuels his motivation to help other startup entrepreneurs realize their dreams.

In this episode:
+ How MOX’s program for startups works.
+ Buying domain names when the internet was young.
+ Making web clones with people you meet on the internet.
+ Why Ryan moved and the lessons from living in China for more than 15 years
+ ‘Secret Co-founders’ and the importance of discussions.
+ Can anyone be an entrepreneur?
+ Accepting weaknesses and making up for it with hard work.
+ Getting perspective through failure. Then using these perspectives for mentoring.
+ Teachings of rapid iteration, reduced risk, and building for the customer.
+ How problem solving and focus helps a messy ‘backstage’ look polished and perfect to the outside world.
+ Home brewing beer
+ A new community podcasting space in Shanghai

Links:

SOSV (MOX and Chinaccelerator):
https://sosv.com/

The Original Content Room (The OC) podcasting studio:
Located in Shanghai, People Squared, 28 Yuyuan Dong lu, building 3
[Not currently public – add brandon-owens on WeChat to get connected to Ryan for more info]
http://www.people-squared.com/hero_center.html

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries:
http://theleanstartup.com/book

Ryan’s Twitter:
https://twitter.com/rshuken

Ryan’s Linked in:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/rshuken/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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16 - Managing a company while being an introverted CEO with Ronan Berder of Wiredcraft

“Managing people is still an enigma for me”

Ronan is founder and CEO of a successful app-development agency in Shanghai called Wiredcraft, which has offices in Asia & Europe.

They eventually found themselves working on projects in the international development space, such as building apps for the South Sudan referendum and other projects for both the UN & the world bank. Now they’ve focused more on larger corporate clients like Starbucks.

He was born in the south of France and moved to Tahiti when he was young, moving around a lot as his family was working in the army. He has spent many years in the US as well.

He considers himself a massive nerd, all the way from childhood through to studying math & physics later in life. He leads his company as a very intelligent but fairly introverted CEO who has to balance how to manage others & constantly be in social situations.

 

In this episode:
+ How he started his company as freelancing that snowballed into a proper company
+ Differences between building an agency vs building a product
+ Underestimating what it takes to build a product
+ Differences between design & engineering
+ How to sell the methodology by almost making an agency itself into a product
+ How he used drinking as a crutch to handle introversion
+ How he designed experiments to figure out how to interact with people better when he was young
+ Challenges of managing people as an introvert
+ How a lack of sugar coating leads to misperceptions of arrogance
+ The effects of alcohol on introverts networking

Links:

Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronanberder/

Wiredcraft:
https://wiredcraft.com/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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15 - Scaling both a career & company through Y-Combinator & China with CPO Teng Bao of Strikingly

“We were scared, like the jobs that we had, made us scared for our futures.”

Teng Bao is cofounder and Chief Product Officer of Strikingly (Sxl.cn in China) which is a website building tool that went through Y-combinator and has scaled from 0 to more than 1 million websites since its inception in July 2012.

Teng is currently heading up product design there and got into product by way of trying to design video games when he was young. His interest in games led to coding and eventually to overall product design. As he puts it, “videogames are purely UX” and he sees a huge overlap in building a good game and designing a product for smooth user experience.

Teng has started several companies in the past few years before and during his time at the University of Chicago before meeting up with his current cofounders to launch Strikingly. In this episode we discuss his career journey, which used a lot of ‘well I don’t want to do that’ to eventually find his way into moving to California and joining Y-combinator.

From there, we then track the company’s journey to Shanghai and building out the team with China-focused products to supplement their current US-based web design products. We also delve into some of the strategies they use to develop and nurture their international company culture.

In this episode:
+ Moving to the US when you’re young
+ Making flash video games
+ Which parts of gamification translate well to product
+ Being a summer intern in finance
+ Advantages of being a mix of a designer & a developer
+ Crowdfunding for school projects
+ Battling against constant self-doubt
+ Being rejected by Y-combinator
+ Then fighting back into Y-combinator
+ Moving a company to China from Silicon Valley
+ Building products for the Chinese market
+ Cultivating an ‘international’ company culture

Links:
Teng’s site:
http://tengbao.me/

Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/tengbao/

Strikingly:
http://strikingly.com/
https://www.sxl.cn/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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14 - How cooking pumps up WikiCookJoyce for a VP corporate strategy job at Publicis with Joyce Ling

“When something is happening top down, you think about their reactions from bottom up. And then you’re able to find the right strategy right in between.”

Joyce Ling is WikiCookJoyce, a food & cooking WeChat KOL influencer, when she’s not managing a large team at Publicis.Sapient as VP of Strategy. Joyce lived in Taiwan before her family moved to the Bay Area. She attended the University of California Santa Barbara with a dual major in fine arts & Chinese literature.

Around that time, Joyce started working in the makeup industry and eventually found herself moving to China to help Sephora launch there. After that she spent ~4 years in Dior where she split her time between training and Product Marketing. An interest in digital marketing led her then pursue agency life at Razorish & Digitas before roles at Michael Kors & ToryBurch brought her back to the fashion & brand side.

She’s now back on the agency side at Publicis.Sapient overseeing consumer insights and digital strategy development while on the side becoming a WeChat KOL for cooking. Joyce runs a popular account called WikiCookJoyce posting food and personal recipes. She even met her current boyfriend who was a fan of her blog and so we discuss how this just might be one of the smartest dating strategies around.

In this episode:
+ Her journey between Taiwan, US & China
+ How art is connected to the makeup industry
+ The importance of employee retail training
+ Meeting her first boyfriend in an AOL chat room
+ Why she became a food blogger on WeChat
+ The fear & drive of going on your own into the unknown
+ How she met her boyfriend through her WeChat blog
+ The “work” personality vs the real “Joyce” personality
+ The rituals she tells herself to get ready for a very social workplace
+ 10-minute problem breakdown strategy
+ How she uses food rituals to break out of her introvert shell
+ How management is seeing the best in people & knowing how to get it out of them as individuals
+ How to manage your own reactions
+ Using you early life interests to find the meaning in your work
+ How cooking can help you organize your thoughts

Joyce’s book (Amazon China):
https://www.amazon.cn/从厨房到餐桌-Joyce-Ling/dp/B01HRF23YQ/

Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/joyceling/

Instagram: (don’t click if you’re hungry)
https://www.instagram.com/wikicookjoyce/

WeChat Official Account: (see above, same warning)
WikiCookJoyce

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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13 - Why Kevin Chen left finance to tackle the global language education market as CEO of Italki

“After 10 years, some investors joked you should have IPO’d or died by now.”

Kevin Chen is co-founder and CEO of Italki.com, a language learning social network and marketplace for connecting teachers & students for private classes. Before that, Keven also cofounded Famento, which sought to use social networking to help families record and share their family history.

Kevin is a reformed finance guy who spent several years working at Merrill Lynch & Lehman Brothers in London, New York and Japan. We speak a lot about his personal backstory and how he struggled to work in an environment that while mentally challenging and interesting it was ultimately unsatisfying.

We talk about how he made some of these big career decisions, the interactions with family about it, a cross-Asia backpacking trip and eventually moving to Shanghai with no plan, just a feeling that it was the right place to be.

Kevin is a really intelligent guy who’s in a somewhat unique position of a managing an extremely cross-cultural team in China with a Chinese cofounder. We talk about some of the unique challenges he and his cofounder face when trying to set a company culture while also rapidly scaling from a small, lean team to more than a hundred.

In this episode:
+ How “Liar’s Poker” got him into finance
+ Working in finance in NYC vs Japan
+ Using solo travel to reflect
+ Being a first-time founder
+ The desire & importance of documenting family history
+ Should people become chatbots after they die?
+ His motivation to start Italki
+ Challenges of building single company culture in multi-cultural business
+ Being a “bridge builder” cross-culture CEO
+ How to handle rewarding early loyal employees vs new staff needed to grow

Books;
Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
http://amzn.to/2uwvZ38

Mr China by Tim Clissold
http://amzn.to/2wReRSo

Wild Swans Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
http://amzn.to/2uR8g8U

The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur) by by Hannu Rajaniemi
http://amzn.to/2vPSrnG

The Hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz
http://amzn.to/2fC7Lh3

Linked in
https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinchen501/

Email him
kevin at italki.com

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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