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The Beertelligence Podcast - smart people in tech, design, product & entrepreneurship discussing breakthrough ideas and tactics over beers.

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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12 - Building culture at Airbnb in Asia and leading with authenticity - Alan Chang

“I would have been a better manager, better leader & better friend had I known the difference between compassion and empathy.”

Alan was born and spent most of his life in the US between Hong Kong & North Carolina. He sold his first company in 2009 and then relocated to Hong Kong to further explore Asia.
In 2010 he went all-in on digital businesses after he saw Groupon explode in Chicago and helped a friend’s company that was able to partner up with Groupon in Hong Kong.

As he continued to network in tech in Hong Kong, he was introduced to the Airbnb founders in 2011 at an event and quickly bonded over some of their shared values. So Alan decided to postpone his next entrepreneurial venture and instead join up with Airbnb and eventually become the Regional Manager of Northeast Asia.

For the past year, Alan has relocated back to Silicon Valley and is now heading up Special Projects for Airbnb. One of his key projects was helping the design, strategy & expansion strategy for newly-launched Experience platform.

Alan is a no-BS, very authentic guy who is well connected to his personal values and carries that authenticity and connection into his daily life at Airbnb.

In this episode:

+ How he tricked his mom into loving Airbnb
+ How he got into Airbnb so early on
+ The importance of core values driving your career
+ How he personally reflects and maintains his set of priorities
+ How he developed the confidence to be authentic
+ Idolizing Michael Jordan’s story but not idolizing people
+ Why you should hire people you’re ‘scared of’
+ How to build a culture, especially in a remote office in Asia
+ How to get global teams to build trust & empathy across cultures
+ Using Discovery Insights across all of Airbnb
+ His favorite interview question
+ Talking some his favorite potential hires out of starting the job because their goals didn’t align well to the role
+ How he could BS his way into a Michelin starred restaurant
+ Battling his “resting confused face”
+ The difference between Empathy and Compassion
+ Why Compassion is more important for business leaders than Empathy

Insights Discovery:
https://www.insights.com/us/products/insights-discovery/

Alan on Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/changalang/

Alan’s book recommendations for startups & culture:
1) Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt
http://amzn.to/2ugDBVZ

2) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
http://amzn.to/2sSzeg6

3) Start With Why by Simon Sinek – I first discovered it on Ted
http://amzn.to/2sSmXbN

4) The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
http://amzn.to/2ugBxNM

5) The Lean Startup by Eric Reis
http://amzn.to/2ukXdcf

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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11 - Managing large corporate teams in China at Apple & IHG with Starbucks China CMO Emily Chang

“In China, everything is possible but nothing is easy.”

Emily Chang talks with us shortly after she joined Starbucks as CMO in China. Before that, she was managing a large team and overseeing more than 270 hotels in the hospitality industry at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®).

Before that she was the Head of Retail Marketing, Asia for Apple where she worked ‘in startup mode’ to be the face of Apple brand in Greater China. She shares some of her favorite stories about how they handled the size and stresses of new store launches there.

Emily is a very down to earth executive who has managed to be extremely successful in the world of marketing without ever feeling that she was a marketing person. We touch also on some of the cultural differences she sees when working in the US & China.

Her background was originally in Biomedical Engineering but found herself excelling at Procter & Gamble (P&G) working across every aspect of consumer package goods in the US & China.

In this episode we discuss:
– Blogging on LinkedIn vs writing a book
– Her motivation for writing & sharing
– How ‘congruence’ is essential in a career
– Strategies for balancing a marriage and career, across multiple geographies
– How to manage culture changes at a large corporation
– The ‘end’ of marketing & rise of customer experience
– Differences between CPG, retail & hospitality
– Need for ‘play’ in corporate settings
– How balancing a personality paradox like confidence & humility can appear as powerful
– How her family uses their spare room to help people in need
– What it’s like growing up as an immigrant in the US
– What makes a good mentor
– The differences in work culture & style between the US & China

Emily on Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/emilychang8621/

Congruency: critical to job satisfaction.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/congruency-critical-job-satisfaction-emily-chang

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie
http://amzn.to/2tz3i3L

Baobei Foundation
http://www.baobeifoundation.org/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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10 - WeChat marketing expert Matthew Brennan discusses latest trends in China

“WeChat is like the operating system for your life in China”

Matthew Brennan has been in China for 13 years, working in many different cities and eventually finding his way to research and becoming a WeChat expert.

Matt cofounded China Channel, which organizes China’s largest WeChat marketing conference series for international companies. They also produce a massive amount of content in the form of blog posts about WeChat & China tech.

Matthew spends his time working as a consultant, trainer, writer and public speaker. He’s also in the process of writing a book called ‘Building your Business through WeChat’ and his opinions regarding WeChat and the China digital ecosystem have been featured in global media:
– The Economist
– BBC
– The Financial Times
– Forbes and more.

In this episode:
– how to operate official account as foreign company
– the challenges of writing a book
– some of the ad products coming from Tencent
– how Tencent is driving search & AI forward for WeChat
– the decline & transition of the newsfeed, pushing people out of WeChat
– the challenges of social networks when they become a hybrid of colleagues & life mixing together
– how Tencent thinks about getting people out of WeChat & to talk more
– how people can make a job just selling in WeChat groups, like buying luxury bags in Paris & selling through WeChat groups
– live streaming & other unique China business models
– the state of micropayments in China

Matthew on WeChat
https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-brennan/

Amazon FBA in Guangzhou – sourcing from China selling on Amazon
http://www.chineseimporting.com/how-to-get-your-shipments-from-china-to-amazon-fba/

Fenda:
http://chinachannel.co/fenda-answering-questions-wechat/

Xiaomiquan:
https://www.xiaomiquan.com/

Dedao: subscription content for audio
Download on itunes link

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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9 - Rui Ma China startup investing at 500 startups & Rookie Fund - The Beertelligence Podcast

“Why Finance?” “Basically because I was a shitty engineer”

Rui worked 4 years as the Partner for Greater China at an early stage investment fund called 500 Startups. She spent 3 of those years in Beijing and 1 year in Mountain View where the company has their headquarters.

Rui, pronounced like “Ray gun”, was born in rural China and we follow her career path as she went from China to San Francisco and back again, investing in startups, raising a new fund (maybe) and figuring out her next big thing.

Rui has always been interested in educational technology so we spend some time discussing the opportunities she’s looking for as she kicks off a non-profit called Rookie Fund, which is a student-run fund for investing in other student entrepreneurs in Asia.

She also shares a lot about her career decisions, motivations and life overall, like for example how she lost her fiancé and her job on the same day as she bought a new house in Shanghai. And how that ended up being one of best days in her life.

In this episode we discuss:
+ Changes in San Francisco after 10 years in China
+ Surviving the first dot com boom & bust
+ Failing Newtonian physics twice
+ The value of working with good mentors
+ Some good & bad advice she received about career guidance
+ Resisting FOMO – the fear of missing out
+ Benefits of experiential education “apprenticeship” over traditional education systems
+ The future outlook of cryptocurrency
+ Communication gaps in education
+ Using time off to focus her career before raising a new fund
+ Getting good & bad advice
+ How losing her job and fiancé on the same day was the worst day that eventually became the best day
+ RookieFund and how students can be trained to invest in other students
+ Working on confidence as a skill
+ The benefits & drawbacks of an executive MBA
+ How to develop a “Growth Mindset”

Books:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
http://amzn.to/2sNjOtV

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD
http://amzn.to/2r53mnE

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane
http://amzn.to/2sNdrqJ

Companies:
Rookie Fund:
http://rookie.fund/

500 startups:
http://500.co/

INSEAD Tsinghua EMBA:
http://tsinghua.insead.edu/

About Rui:
Rui on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruima/

Rui on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/ruima

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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8 - Florian Bohnert - Mobike Bike Sharing in China - The Beertelligence Podcast

“Working in a Chinese startup is another way to read the culture.”

Florian (富天宇) is Head of International Expansion at Mobike and Co-Director at Startup Grind Shanghai.

He has been in China for more than 7 years and started out doing factory inspections in Shenzhen.

He then moved to Changchun for a year and ended up in Shanghai, where he cofounded (and exited) from a startup called WeSmart in the SAAS space that helped corporate offices save money on their energy bills.

The focus of this episode is around his experiences in China & startups over the years, with heavy focus on early stage startups since he was the first foreigner hired by Mobike, a booming bike-sharing company in Shanghai that uses QR codes to unlock & rent bikes, picking up & dropping them anywhere around the city.

In this episode we discuss:
+ Interest in Asia early on
+ The value of foreign accents
+ How Shenzhen went from incomplete to ‘finished’ in 7 years
+ Visiting factories in China
+ Speed of tech adaption in China, especially WeChat pay
+ How founding team is more important than any industry in China
+ How he became the first foreigner in Mobike
+ How different bike sharing is in China vs previous bike sharing with fixed locations
+ Why Mobike is going international now
+ Comparing working for a French-owned company vs Chinese-owned company
+ How going to the museum & the zoo contributed to his environmentalism
+ Redesigning products to be cheaper, lightweight and more ecofriendly “Ecodesign”
+ Why China was so well set up for bike sharing at this time and going to massive scale
+ How bike sharing companies are dealing with the regulation challenges
+ What some ideal features to add to Mobike
+ Cultural differences showing up in how peoples interact with bikes as urban population’s social commitment
+ Why he wants to do stand up comedy

Article about mobike trips to the moon in terms of distance:
http://en.people.cn/n3/2017/0421/c90000-9206051.html

Documentaries by Morgan Spurlock
Super Size Me
http://amzn.to/2sNwIrk

The greatest movie ever sold
http://amzn.to/2rZE6Ue

Ted: The greatest ted talk ever sold

Habits book – The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business Paperback – by Charles Duhigg
http://amzn.to/2r1x9Nl

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

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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7 – David Lennie – Big Data Netflix Shopify – The Beertelligence Podcast

“Good data work has nothing to do with technical skill”

David Lennie is currently SVP of Data & Analytics at Shopify, a booming e-commerce startup that has seen steep growth recently, up more 400% since they went public in May 2015.

Before Shopify, he spent almost 5 years at Netflix where he managed a team of 60 employees and delivered a big data analytics platform across all areas of Netflix.

And before both of those he was head of Business Intelligence for Playboy, where he designed and deployed the company’s first corporate data warehouse.

David is a thoughtful and reflective manager who discusses at length the human parts of managing a team, even if the work itself is all about the numbers. We discuss mentoring, hiring and firing and everything in between as it relates to running a business.

We also spend a fair amount of time discussing corporate culture, specifically the infamous Netflix culture of Freedom & Responsibility & David’s first-hand account.

In this episode we discuss:
+ Netflix corporate culture
+ People & processes, when they’re good, when they’re not
+ The diminishing returns of adding people to a team
+ Working for a Canadian company vs US company
+ How process is organizational training wheels
+ Patty McCord’s Netflix culture views
+ Why performance improvement plans (PIPs) are useless
+ How hiring data is so misleading for HR
+ How analytics can be applied to culture, process, benefit
+ How having the proper question up front is important to designing data structure
+ How mentoring & people development is what he enjoys most
+ Challenges of fake news & newsfeed via algorithms
+ Using an Executive coach & insights they can offer into work style & motivations
+ The hype & dangers of machine learning & AI as it becomes more prevalent
+ How AI can inadvertently reinforce systemic problems
+ When and how should AI be merciful
+ How & when you should take more risks, not letting life to slide by

Links:
Netflix Freedom & Responsibility

Documentary DamNation (trailer)

David on Linkedin:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/dlennie/

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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6 - Dan Shumow - Security Cryptography - The Beertelligence Podcast

“I like bullshittin… Some might say I’m quite skilled at it.”

Dan Shumow is a Senior Software Development Engineer in the Security and Cryptography group at Microsoft.

One of his more notable accomplishments was when he used a mathematical proof to show how a government-created random number generator could have a built-in backdoor, which was later confirmed after the Snowden leaks came out.

Dan shares many stories in this podcast, including the Snowden story, why Microsoft didn’t want him to share it and how he made the decision to go ahead. And totally different stories like how he wanted to be a ninja when he was a kid, beating up the neighbors trees and getting into trouble and how this connects to him becoming interested in cryptography.

We spend time discussing what it is exactly that a cryptographer does and he shares his views on education, the “internet of things” (aka how the “internet of shit” that makes us less safe) and what a regular person can do to educate & protect themselves about web security.

 

In this episode:
+ How a love of ninjas led to cryptography
+ How drugs can sometimes help resolve a crisis
+ Being involved in airport protests after the travel ban
+ Some fundamental changes needed in education, relative to tech
+ Why he doesn’t keep his Alexa turned on all the time
+ Early versions of the Kinect recording ‘adult moments’
+ Steps people can take to protect themselves online

Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Shumow

Wired story on backdoor
https://www.wired.com/2013/09/nsa-backdoor/

Microsoft page
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/people/danshu/

Some work he did in Crypto got a lot of attention in conjunction with the break of the SHA-1 cryptographic algorithm:
http://shattered.io/

He likes street art and has an instagram for it:
https://www.instagram.com/dbonemcshumonster/

And once he told a story about his favorite tagger (Shitbarf) at the Moth in Seattle:
https://youtu.be/HaDzSkidgAc

Books mentioned
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
http://a.co/itgg2Nu

Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge
http://a.co/c9egoyi

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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5 - Marius Ionita - F&B Photography - The Beertelligence Podcast

“We wrestle bears, that’s what we do in our country.”

Marius is a 20-year veteran of the Shanghai Food & Beverage (F&B) industry having worked in clubs, bars and even opened his own restaurant.

Marius was born in Romania and moved to South London when he was 18, finding work early on in restaurants. From there he moved to China in 1999 and became a part-time DJ for 15+ years.

Now, with 18 years in China under his belt, he’s the CEO of Kollektiv, a group of design & photography freelancers . His company also dabbles in Event Management from time to time.

What is the “jpeg horse”?
As a bit of background, the “jpeg horse” refers to a picture in Brandon’s apartment provided by his landlord that is a picture printed of a horse that is such low quality that you can see the pixels clearly when you are up close. And luckily this is glued to the wall.

 

In this episode:
+ Differences between Shanghai 1999 & Shanghai 2017
+ Russian jokes in the office
+ Menu & food photography
+ The “Shanghai slide”, how great restaurants quality drops dramatically after 6 months
+ How being crazy helps in the restaurant business
+ Lack of music growing up in communist country
+ How ‘drunk talk’ can lead to good business ideas
+ How in 1999 all the foreigners knew each other & they partied with the Marines
+ Tips for eating street food & avoiding skewers outside nightclubs at all costs
+ Project management, communication & how to manage last-minute client deadlines
+ The importance of full debriefing of clients to ensure smooth projects
+ How entrepreneurs should invest more story, time, energy & soul into their brand
+ A school for F&B owners
+ How music controls flow in restaurants
+ How running a restaurant dominates your life & why so many people quit
+ Staff turnover in China issues
+ Partying & waking up an another town

Mentioned in this episode:
Tai An Table
http://www.smartshanghai.com/venue/13949/taian_table

El Willy F&B group & Tomatito:
http://www.elwillygroup.com/venues/tomatito/

Find Marius online
LinkedIn:
https://cn.linkedin.com/in/mariusionita

Web:
www.kollektiv.co

Wechat ID:
Kollektiv_Hub

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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4 - Ben Whitter - HR Employee Experience - The Beertelligence Podcast

“Fuck this podcast, order me McDonalds, I’m on my way to meet with HR.”

Ben Whitter aka Mr Employee Experience™, is CEO/Founder of the World Employee Experience Institute. He started out working in hotel customer service in Spain before transitioning into employee training & development roles.

After working across many sectors in the UK, he landed a large organization in the UK where he then started focusing in specifically on the role that HR plays, or doesn’t play, in organizations. He set out to motivate companies to focus in on the overall employee experience and streamlining the HR parts of the organization to focus on that.

FYI – This episode was recorded early Saturday morning instead of our normal afternoon sessions. Hence how slow & rusty we are starting out.

 

 

In this episode:
+ Momo’s hungover podcast idea
+ Spain customer service on a small island
+ How to deal with angry customers
+ How “being seen” is so important for the service business
+ Why isn’t HR a business leader
+ How “people are our greatest asset” are usually full of crap
+ Designing companies from ‘pre-hire to retire’
+ Airbnb stepping up on employee experience
+ Does HR need a re-branding?
+ How Airbnb is doing well with designing the office environment & spaces makes a big difference in trust & belonging
+ Adidas setting up a think tank about the future of work
+ Google setting up an area for staff to create new business & investments from internal funding
+ Use of employee engagement surveys vs continuous feedback loop
+ The importance of trust & transparency
+ Unique changes in the Chinese workplace
+ How staff decided to cut pay instead of firing people, which becomes a trust building exercise
+ Challenges at building company transparency in Chinese companies
+ The other executives who should move into HR / Employee Experience
+ Tesla’s progress on employee experience in China
+ Is Holocracy part of the solution?
+ Is unlimited vacation a good idea?

Mentioned in this episode:
AirBnB Chief Employee Experience Officer
https://www.airbnb.com/careers/departments/employee-experience

Google’s Area 120 startup incubator
http://fortune.com/2016/04/25/google-area-120-startup-incubator/

Life at SAS
https://www.sas.com/en_us/careers/life-at-sas.html

Netflix’s culture of Freedom & Responsibility:
https://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664

Employee Experience Seminar in Europe:
http://www.icongroupltd.com/agenda-employee-experience-seminar/

Find Ben online –
LinkedIn:
https://cn.linkedin.com/in/benwhitter

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/TsunamiLeader

Personal website:
http://www.benwhitter.com

Company website:
http://www.worldeeinstitute.com

Music:
http://www.bensound.com

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