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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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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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