Being born in a small, university town in Illinois and moving (back) to Hong Kong when he was 9 years old
The benefits and drawbacks of joining a new school and making new friends
His Mom’s family were business people, Dad’s not so much
Encouraged by his Dad to study bioengineering; could always transition to business
Actually doing stem cell research, loving the science but itching to do business
How working at a bank helped him understand how businesses actually work
Taking the leap and starting his own business
The inevitable bifurcation of your circle of friends
How the car mount business led to an Instagram marketing business
Building a team remotely and attending remote-work events
Remote working was still a bit fringe and parts of the experience were not great
Wondering how to replicate that feeling of working together in an office in an online setting
Making a bet that remote working was going to be a long-term trend
The importance of having a well-thought-out mission
Using technology to create human experiences, not solving problems
It Felt Like One Massive Suburb
You Can Start Off With Something
The Whole Part of Entrepreneurship Is Discovery
I Was Done With School
One of Them Always Leads to the Other
It’s a Great Idea One Day, The Next Day It’s a Bad Idea
Create Authentic Conversations that Develop Meaningful Relationships
I Want to Host a Conference. Can I Host a Conference?
Humans Do What Humans Do Best
I Was Born In Illinois
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Michael Waitze 0:00
Michael Waitze Media. Telling Asia’s Stories. The Asia tech podcast is brought to you by IR leaders in performance and experience management. People expect to collaborate, communicate and connect seamlessly from wherever they are, especially in a hybrid work environment. But delivering that seamless, simplified experience can be more complex than you realize. That’s where IR can help. IR’s performance and experience management solutions are designed to help simplify the complexity of the hybrid workplace by streamlining the management of your multi vendor, multi platform communications ecosystems, download IR’s Ultimate Guide to future proofing your hybrid workplace and find the right strategies to help you find and fix problems fast, deliver great experiences, and ensure the lines of communication are always open. Had to ir.com/asiatech for your free guide, and find out how IR collaborate can help you cut resolution time and half, reduce operational costs and improve user satisfaction by as much as 60%. That’s ir.com/asiatech. Hey, Hoyin. How are you doing? Thank you so much, by the way for coming to the Asia Tech Podcast today. I really appreciate it. How’s everything going?
Hoyin Cheung 1:32
Pretty good, Michael. I’m super excited. I’ve been looking forward to this podcast for some time. So thanks for having me on.
Michael Waitze 1:39
It’s my pleasure. I kind of want to go through this again. Tell me again, where you’re based right now.
Hoyin Cheung 1:44
I’m based in Hong Kong right now.
Michael Waitze 1:46
Yeah, and most people can’t see this. But I am looking out the window over your right shoulder and all I see is trees and normally when I think about Hong Kong, I don’t think about trees. Where are you? Exactly?
Hoyin Cheung 1:57
Yeah, it is it is really is a bit of a unique areas. I live in chimps actually, in Calhoun and overlook, like the Calhoun Cricket Club, the KCC. And just has like a bunch of forest area which is which is really relatively rare in in Hong Kong to overlook such a such a wide area of force. But it’s yeah, it’s great, great for the eyes.
Michael Waitze 2:19
It really is. And I think I told you this offline, but I want to tell you online as well, when I was at Goldman Sachs, I was expatriated to Hong Kong for a few months. And I actually lived at Gateway. So I lived in Tsimshatsui, which I could still cannot pronounce. But you know what I mean? And I actually loved living over there to be fair, right? Because most people live like in Central or in the mid level or something. Right? They take the escalator down to work and stuff like that. But I loved riding the ferry every day. Back when there was still a harbor, I guess.
Hoyin Cheung 2:49
Wow. Yeah, you’re right. Like most people, most expats do live on on the island side. So it’s, you’re really one of those rare people that lived on the dark side.
Michael Waitze 2:58
I loved it, though. Because it was like real Hong Kong, right. If you look at the restaurants that I went to at night for dinner, there were no other expats there. And that was made a great experience. Right? Really? Yeah, definitely. So again, if I’d lived in central if I’d lived in like the mid levels, I would just go up to God, what’s it called Hollywood road and all those other places where people went and go to a country? Yes. So yeah, that kind of stuff. Right. But I love being on the other side, to be fair. And that commute every morning on the ferry, just like the waves was just so awesome for me.
Hoyin Cheung 3:27
That sounds awesome. I love it. Awesome. Yeah.
Michael Waitze 3:32
And the great thing was and people wouldn’t believe me is that I had cell connectivity on the ferry. So I could actually make phone calls like back to Tokyo when I’m on the ferry. Nobody. Wow, super. Wow. Like, where are you? I’m like, I’m in the harbor. Anyway. Anyways, awesome. Yeah. Before we get into sort of the main part of this conversation, I’d love to get a little bit of your background and lessons.
Hoyin Cheung 3:57
Sure. Well, are
Michael Waitze 3:58
you originally from Hong Kong? Like when I first contacted you? I kind of expect you to be in California for some reason. But are you from Hong Kong? Yeah. Originally.
Hoyin Cheung 4:07
I was born in Illinois. That’s so great. Go ahead. Yeah, so my parents were working at this university, Illinois State University, like in the middle of Illinois, a small town of like, I don’t know, 50,000, no less than 50,000 people. My dad was a professor of biology. So I grew up there. And then when I was nine years old, I moved back to Hong Kong.
Michael Waitze 4:32
Wow. Do you remember Do you have memories of living there? Like what was it like growing up in the Midwest? I have no idea because, like my sister lives in Ohio, but I literally grew up in Boston, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
Hoyin Cheung 4:45
I mean, it’s, I feel like a suburb. It just felt like one massive suburb. You know, like it’s just one massive strip mall after strip mall after strip mall. You know, there’s like, Kroger and like Schnucks like those types of Midwestern market, you know, grocery stores or supermarkets, whatever. To me, it was like what I felt it seemed like sort of like the the a typical sort of place where you would imagine the United States, the majority United States to be like, you know, where it’s got a big house, and then you’re like a small town. Like, when I look back at it felt American, like, like that sort of typical American dream, I guess, in some sense. Yeah. I mean, it was great. A small town, I didn’t know that it was really that small until I moved to Hong Kong.
Michael Waitze 5:34
Do you remember that movie?
Hoyin Cheung 5:35
I thought it was a great experience. Yeah, I mean, it was it was one of pivotal moments in my life, because I had to leave all my friends. And then when I moved back, I had to go to a new school, new, totally new culture, like it’s like, basically moving to a different country. And like, the school systems are different, you know, my English was, my English was okay. Languages are right. But my math was terrible compared to those the schools that I went to. And like, it was definitely very hard to like, I remember, I think I was in second or third grade, I can’t remember. But for some reason, I didn’t know. We were just doing addition and subtraction. I moved back to Hong Kong, they’re like, you know, you needed to learn multiplication, like, in like, a week, right? Or, like, in a few days, or something like that. And I was like, struggling so hard with with that. And my mom also forced me to learn Chinese on the weekend, which at that time, was excruciating, you know, reading and writing, and I’m glad I did it. But it was just so hard to learn at the age of 10. People typically start learning that at like, you know, two or three or four. Yeah, they start process. Yeah, just start the process. And so like, that was definitely a quite pivotal sort of experience for me. Yeah.
Michael Waitze 6:51
So this is an interesting age to move. When I was nine years old, I moved from Massachusetts to New Jersey, at the start school, like at a brand. Oh, yeah, it was really hard. And I think the hardest part for me, you know, different than you, but like New Jersey is a very different place in Massachusetts. But the hardest part for me was that those kids had spent all summer playing with each other. You know, so they came into school with memories and connections with each other. That was very difficult for a nine year old to break through, because they were already connected. Right. Right. Yeah. And I think what Yeah, I think what it taught me back then was that like this human connectivity, and the ability to adapt was really important. And I think that’s why I love doing what I do now, because I help other people connect with other people. Does that make sense?
Hoyin Cheung 7:34
Yeah, yeah. No, it does. It does. I had those similar challenges to when you anytime when you go to a new school, and you have a new set of friends, or a new set of people that you need to interact with yet do a lot of catching up. Yeah. And you can only do that through experiences over time.
Michael Waitze 7:48
Completely agreed. And I had a different accent, right? Because I was coming from Boston. So I really spoke like a Bostonian like dropped away stuff. Yeah. So it was so it wasn’t from there.
Hoyin Cheung 7:58
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Oh, wow. Yeah, interesting.
Michael Waitze 8:03
But it’s weird now, right? Because we have all this technology that then ends up connecting people I didn’t expect to get here like this. But I want to talk about that in a bit too. But I want to understand your perspective, because you’ve built a bunch of different companies, right. And I don’t think you can remove your personal experiences from the companies that you’re trying to build. But I also want to understand this idea of like, I think entrepreneurship is more like a search and discovery effort. And less of an epiphany, if you know what I mean. Like, I don’t think somebody wakes up one day and says, I’m going to start a ride hailing company. I think they have to, like discover that they want to be in business for themselves. But figure out how is that is that fair?
Hoyin Cheung 8:46
Yeah, that’s definitely my my experience, you can start off with something. Yeah. But you know, my experience is typically whatever you started off with may not necessarily be the thing that you end up with. And so there is a lot of hope. I believe the whole point of entrepreneurship is discovery. And I think business is the process of discovering what resonates with the customer and what does not. So it’s just a massive effort of trawling and airing, at least from a young startup point of view, I think that iteration cycle is extremely, extremely fast, large companies, not so much. They don’t iterate so much. They’re not like trial and error learning so much. But for me when I was like doing things at scale that I was doing, which is not like the super fortune 500 anything, it was like that pretty much. So
Michael Waitze 9:33
here’s what I want to know, too, though, because you started off working at a bank like I did. You didn’t do it for that long. No, it’s really funny for me. Yeah. I always want to know, and you said your dad was a professor. So yeah, I always like to figure out if someone comes from an entrepreneurial family, so they just say nevermind, I’m never going to work at a big company, but you actually graduated from school, went to work for like a big business, and then said, yeah, yeah, basically, probably I can’t do this anymore. Got to work for myself. What Was that what was the reason for that?
Hoyin Cheung 10:02
Yeah, yeah, so actually, so my grandfather was in business and the rest of my family members, like my mom’s side, they do business one way or the other. My dad’s side is Mormon so that they don’t. And so my dad actually convinced, you know, I got I was very influenced by him. And he’s like, oh, you know, uh, he was a professor of biology. So I, I actually pursued a degree in bioengineering. And, and I had a choice between bioengineering or business at that time. And I decided by engineering because I thought, well, if bio engineering doesn’t work out, then I’ll just go into business. Like, I thought that transition is easier than the other way around. And that’s exactly what happened. I did bioengineering, I got a job. I was doing stem cell research. And then it just, it didn’t click for me, like, in order to be successful in that field, you need to get a PhD. And honestly, that just wasn’t what I was interested in, like, I was done with school, like, I just didn’t want to, you know, I don’t want to do any more school anymore. And then when I got the job, and I was doing stem cell research, which by the way, was really awesome, was really cool. But it takes like five to 10 years to get FDA approval. And like, every day, I was like thinking, how can I get this? What would How would I market this product? Right? You don’t? I mean, like, how would I get it how to actually get impact to people? And then that’s when I realized I was like, wait, I’m thinking about more about the business side, and really about the r&d or the, the, the actual research? Yeah, the science. And then that was point where, like, I realized, okay, I want to leave, I’m not going to do this. And then I got an opportunity to work in a bank to kind of just, I just didn’t know where to start. Yeah. And, and so I’ve had an opportunity, worked at the bank, and just started learning from scratch. Like, I took accounting classes I took, like, that type of stuff to like, understand, you know, finance and financial analysis. And so I started from very simple like, it was just, I was just doing budgeting, like budgeting and financial analysis on a monthly basis for the bank. Yep. So it wasn’t any it was I was working for the finance department. It wasn’t anything crazy, crazy, really, it’s pretty, you know, more like just normal stuff. And then that’s kind of like where I started growing in terms of getting the business acumen and understanding how businesses work and stuff like that,
Michael Waitze 12:21
when you stopped doing the stem cell research was what was your dad’s reaction?
Hoyin Cheung 12:27
I think he was a little disappointed. But at the end of the day, I think he understood, you know, at the end of day, like, I gave it a shot. So it wasn’t like I didn’t write. So if that wasn’t something that I was interested in, he he definitely was more like, yeah, do something that you are interested in. And so I think in general, those positive,
Michael Waitze 12:45
yeah, yeah. So what made you Then branch out and just start your own companies?
Hoyin Cheung 12:50
Yeah. So when I started working in the bank, and I started, like, understanding how businesses work, and I started reading a lot about other famous entrepreneurs. And that was when I started feeling like I wanted to do that someday. But my challenge was, I didn’t know what I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what what was the idea. I didn’t know how to pick ideas, I don’t know how to choose what to do. And it wasn’t until probably like, I first went in in 2000, I want to say 2006, just 6007 or working at the bank. And then it wasn’t until like maybe 2012 as another six, seven years after working doing various jobs, you know, as such, that’s when like, I started have enough knowledge where I was like, okay, you know what, I’m gonna try something on my own. And, and I told my friends about it. And then my friends, and I then started a company. And that was when that was when it started. And it was, it was, I was a bit lucky, because my friend already kind of already started a business before and so we kind of just did it together with his like, help and knowledge. Do you
Michael Waitze 13:54
feel like there’s a and this is a weird statement. But do you feel like there’s a friend bifurcation that occurs when you stop working at like an established company, jumped into the world of entrepreneurs? You know what I mean? Because, yeah, you know what I mean, though, like, like, I worked at Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs and all we talked about when we were there was that business. And I feel like when I stopped doing that, and moved into the entrepreneurial world, the conversations are so much broader, I guess, but also more just like, okay, is this an opportunity? Is that enough? Like, every conversation is around, what’s gonna work? What’s not gonna work? It’s just, I
Hoyin Cheung 14:28
don’t know. 100% 100%? Not only that, but it’s like, they will complain about their jobs. Yes. to certain extent. Yeah. And I can’t say anything. No, like, I can’t. I don’t, I don’t say anything. Like, it’s just like, we’re already at a different playing field, in terms of what it is. It’s not even worth me saying anything. I can’t share my perspective.
Michael Waitze 14:49
Because isn’t that like, Isn’t your thought always just like, we’ll just leave and just start your own thing. Like if you know better than what they’re doing? Why are you still doing that?
Hoyin Cheung 14:58
Exactly, exactly. And I And you’re right, you’re totally right. I would say that and, and so what I, what I realized was that the mindsets are just different. But But what’s interesting is when I did leave earlier, there weren’t so many people that were like thinking that but over time, I had more friends that did eventually come out and did eventually do their own thing. So I also think it’s a maturity thing as well, like different people mature at different times. But then, of course, there’s people that don’t leave at all. Yeah, they just keep on working in a job and all that kind of stuff. And so like, I think, there is definitely a huge bifurcation. And I try to tread that bifurcation as carefully as possible. Like, it’s not. Yeah, I don’t I don’t want to reveal. It’s almost
Michael Waitze 15:38
as if I did less than reveal the better. Yeah, in a way, almost can’t talk about how, like, it’s so difficult to build a company from scratch in a way that it’s difficult to wake up at five o’clock in the morning, take a shower and shave, put on a suit and go to work at a bank. I’ve done both right. They’re both hard, right? But the difficulties are really different, right? And then in one, you have real agency, you wake up and you go like, Okay, today I have to do these things. And if I don’t do them, it’s on me.
Hoyin Cheung 16:04
Right, right. Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s a totally different mindset. And, and then it’s almost like, you don’t want to, and I think it’s a I think it’s great to and that’s why talking to other entrepreneurs is really great, because then you can it’s it’s almost like the connections even closer to certain extent. Yeah. And I would argue that it’s closer than a person who works at one company talks to another person works at another company. It’s like, you know, oh, you have your job. My job is fine. But as an entrepreneur, like, yeah, the struggle is real. And everybody can always, like, discuss about the struggle. You know, it’s almost like a hobby. You know what I mean? Like, I play guitar, and you play the guitar. And we both we both play in a rock band. And we can always say, oh, yeah, my lead singer is this and this and that your lead say, oh, yeah, my drum guys like this. Oh, yeah. I totally understand what you’re saying. Like, it’s like, kind of like, yeah, it’s
Michael Waitze 16:56
like, how do I get that chord progression? I just can’t get it kind of thing.
Hoyin Cheung 17:01
It’s kind of like that. But jobs are like, it’s almost like an assumption
Michael Waitze 17:04
kind of Yeah, sued. My boss is a jerk. What do I do? How do you get from the starting the first company to remote?
Hoyin Cheung 17:12
Yeah, I mean, it’s so funny, because like, I feel like for me, this journey, I could, I could like, have a thread between all every single one because one of them always leads to the other. So the first one I started was, it was a car phone mount a magnetic car for mounts. So we sourced it from an Asian country. And it was literally like a mountain you put in your car, or you put a magnet in the in the case, in the case of your phone case, like actually, that piece of metal and then it would just stick to the carful Mount Carmel has like a little circle pad. And that little like, mountain just put in your car. That Carphone got became a top 10 car home out for like, three years on Amazon, we sold on Amazon. That was like my first foray. And it was it was successful, like we made money. Did we make a lot of money, like it wasn’t like, you know, crazy amounts, but it was, it was the first job or first kind of opportunity outside of my job that I was I was making, you know, cash outside of it. And that was that was awesome.
Michael Waitze 18:14
It’s addicting, though, in a way, isn’t it? Right?
Hoyin Cheung 18:18
Oh, yeah. Like the first moment where you’ve seen the money flow in it’s like, it’s a really amazing feeling. It’s we have really, really worked. Now what do I do? Yeah, yeah. And then your mind just starts just starts thinking more about it, and it gets sick is a great excitement. It’s a great feeling of excitement.
Michael Waitze 18:34
Yeah, keep going. So what was next then?
Hoyin Cheung 18:36
So after that, like I, so I tried to do this project where I was trying to get more customers, and I tried to, like, grow an Instagram, the Instagram account for that car, full amount company, right? I figured out how to do that. And so I grew the followers of that Carlmont company for like, I grew from zero to like, 10,000 followers within maybe like, a week or two. But I failed to drive sales from from that Instagram account. And this is like back in like, oh my gosh, 2012 2013. I mean, this is like a while back when, like, yeah, it can be like Instagram is more than, like 110 years old. And at the end, it didn’t work. And so I started just sharing it with people talking to people about it. People were like, oh, oh, you didn’t get any business. But what happens if I want you to do that for my fashion business? Right? And he said, okay, but I don’t might not give you any business that was like, oh, no, I don’t care. They just want followers. Yeah. And I was like, okay, so I started doing that. And then after that, I started putting some ads up on Google and the money to start flowing like people just for like, signing up for the service. It was, you know, and I ended up growing that business to like, 25 people, it was like 60,000 You know, Mr. Month, you know, I was like super psyched about it because I grew something from from nothing, but it was a bit it was a lot of luck to some luck involved as well. Like I had to Talk to people how to like how to hustle. There’s a lot of luck involved. And then after that, like my whole team was remote at the time, I tried to keep costs as low as possible, as lean as possible. So I hired people from the Philippines from Vietnam to do a lot of the work. And so then my team was, at that time just called outsourcing. Yeah. Then I learned about remote working. And I went to these like remote working digital nomad events. And then they’re like, Okay, so this, this is how you, this is how you run a run a company and this way, and the style is like, oh, okay, I didn’t know there was like an official. I didn’t know that. Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t know it was a thing. And this is like, what 2017 2016, something like that. So remote working was just this fringe thing. It was just a bunch of random people just going to Bali and like, you know, having a conference about the digital nomads, and all that kind of stuff. And then through that I am, I applied a lot of what I learned there into my company. And then I realized that there’s a lot of lot of things about the remote working workflow and process that wasn’t a really great experience, and really centered around how do I connect with my fellow teammates, really connect? Not just like, chat, like, I meant, like, how do I replicate that feeling that we were working together? In the same office? Yeah, so
Michael Waitze 21:19
one of the things I’ve been thinking about for a long time, right, and let’s go back to my experience at Goldman Sachs is periodically I would just get up from my desk, right to stretch my legs, but walk around literally to people I didn’t know. And just go, Hey, what are you working on today? What do you think the market is going to do today? How does that thing work? How can I use that and just literally chit chatting and not really, you know, not be asking about the football game from the previous night or whatever, but really just talking about business. And once you do that, then the group in which you’re working is now connected, at least for me to the other group. And then I could bring other people into those conversations. And it just seems so cool. But once I started not working at a big company, one of the biggest problems for me was, how do I replicate that walking around thing and these sort of serendipitous events that helped me create better connectivity, but also helped me learn stuff? You know what I mean?
Hoyin Cheung 22:09
Yeah. 100% Yeah. So so like, we at that time, we call it Hallway Conversations, and, and it was like, very difficult. So like, I was actually trying to replicate that I was trying to replicate that. And that’s where remote started to come from real was a map was like a 2d map, you look down, it was like, you know, like an architecture map or something like that, you could say, there’s a bunch of seats, rooms, and you could double click into each room, and your avatar, which was a little circle would go into that room. And then in that room, if there’s three other people, the three other people’s video would just show up on your screen. And if you moved away from that room to another room, then and there’s other people there, then those people’s videos would show up on that screen. And so I tried to recreate that hallway conversation. And that’s where real remotes kind of initial vision and initial initial idea kind of came from.
Michael Waitze 23:01
But were you sitting around thinking, look, I need to recreate it another company? Or were you just having this issue with this remote experience is not as optimal as I think it should be kind of thing. And then you thought, how can I use technology to be able to fix that? You know what I mean? Cuz you already had a company that was doing Yeah, $50,000 of MRR. That’s a real business.
Hoyin Cheung 23:18
Yeah, so at that time, I wanted to, you know, I wanted to do something else, like I was kind of, I wouldn’t get sick of it, but just wanted to go somewhere bigger, like, I think 60 KMR was probably the max that was gonna go. Like, I didn’t think it was gonna go any bigger than that. And so I was, I started to like, kind of was searching for something else that was bigger and solve a bunch more a bigger problem. And that’s when I when I started to do that. So I actually ran the Instagram, you know, that that company in parallel and use the funds for that to then basically experiment and test and try to find something else. So we was actually like, we went through like, I remember brainstorming with my team. Like we literally sat down just brainstormed, just tried to figure out what to do. It was and it was a win for anything from like, crypto sentiment analysis to like, like some financial payment pie by now pay later idea to something that looked like Slack. Like it was just like a whole bunch of random different, different ideas. Now,
Michael Waitze 24:22
isn’t this one of the cool things about being an entrepreneur and I kind of want to go back to my experience and even yours when you’re working at a bank. And that is once you build something that succeeds? And you can define success any way you want, right? But $60,000 MR is not failing, for sure. Right? This is a success story. But once you figure out how to make money or build businesses or attack problems that you see doesn’t then everything look like a market gap to you at some level and you’re just trying to figure out which market gap to fill. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, like, Well, yeah, oh thing. There’s this thing. Wait a second. This thing looks huge. And I know how to do things. Let’s do that. You know what I mean?
Hoyin Cheung 25:00
Yeah, like everything. And I think going back to your point about discovery, right? It’s that that’s literally what we did. Like we were trying to look at each problem space and identify, you know, okay, so what are the competitors? Like? What’s the overall trend of that market? You know, how big really, is that market? Are we going small business or medium? Like, you know, what, what is it? And that that piece of is, is interesting, because you make all these assumptions, you have to make assumptions. Yeah, you have to make guesses, right. And some of those guesses are true. And some of those guesses are not. And, and it’s like, you need to kind of pivot and, and I think like, there’s this one, this is one article, I was looking at reading Tim Ferriss book, like tools of time, I think, was just one phrase or one quote in there, there’s, it was like, everyone thinks that Tim Cook is like this amazing, crazy individual. And Tim Cook actually replied to the individual and said, You know, when you actually think about really look at me and some of these other guys, you’ll realize that we’re just every other guy. Yeah, we’re just every other person who is testing, trying things, trying to figure out what resonates, and failing. And I believe that, and I really resonate with that. Like, I was like, wow, like, that’s exactly kind of like what I did at a much smaller scale. But essentially, that’s kind of what we went through. Yeah, but
Michael Waitze 26:12
again, it’s this comfort level with, am I okay to fail. But it all starts with trying, right? Like even you said, like, I didn’t know where to start. When I was at the bank, when I was doing the stem cell research. Like, I know, I wanted to do something on my own, but I wasn’t really sure how to try. But the reality is, and it always reminds me of this. And literally, I’ll never forget about this experience. I went to Hawaii on vacation when I was like 22 or 23 years old. And I went with like a bunch of crazy people. And they’re like, Okay, let’s jump off this cliff. I’m not kidding into the ocean. And who knows? It could have been 10 meters high. It could have been four meters high, but it seemed high. Yeah. And everybody just started jumping in. You’re standing up there going. I kind of know I want to jump. But it seems really high. But once you do it, yeah. Once you like, yeah. Okay, first of all, it felt amazing. Second of all, nobody died. And third of all, I want to do that again. And I think that entrepreneurship is like this. No,
Hoyin Cheung 27:08
yeah, no. Yeah, it is. It is. The first jump is so scary. Like, it’s because that’s what I experienced that too. Like it was really difficult for me to go part time doing something. Yeah. And it’s all psychological. Yeah, it’s all psychological. There’s no rationale. Even the most I’ve spoken to people about this. Even the most rational people don’t. They don’t. It’s really, it’s, it’s about that, like, and the funny thing is, after you make the jump, you always said, Oh, my gosh, should have made that jump way earlier.
Michael Waitze 27:37
Yeah. 25. So, it’s just so interesting that everybody does that. But the other thing, too, is, and I think Tim Cook is a really good example of this. Is that once you hit a few singles, right, so this is an American baseball analogy, right? But once you hit a few singles, you’re like, Okay, I can see the ball better. Now. I’m gonna swing a little bit harder. You know what I mean? And then be like, Okay, I built this thing, but I know how to build it. So let’s try to build something huge. Yeah, yeah. I feel like there’s that remote is no.
Hoyin Cheung 28:09
Yeah, yeah, it was. I mean, I chose a trend. Like I said, Okay, I think remote working is a trend, I looked all the stats and everything. It was like, Okay, this is gonna be a trend. And I made a bet on that trend. Yeah. I did not make a bet on the on COVID. Though. On, on, on the trend remote working. And that was something that like, was like, like debt, obviously lucky. But being at the right place at the right time, and developing something where I felt passionate about, and I knew that it kind of solved the sort of greater purpose that I had. One of the biggest things of how remote came about was, I was able to tie myself to a purpose to a really solid mission. Why does that matter? That allowed me? Oh, yeah, it matters so much. Because as I’ll share with you like, why, what what it has struggled with? A lot of times when you come up with ideas, you’re sometimes really married to the idea. Yeah. Very married to it. Like it’s like, oh, this is my idea is gonna work. And you go through this like, roller coaster and everyone goes through this this rollercoaster. entrepreneurships. Oh, it’s a great idea one day, and next day is bad idea. The next days Oh, he has a great idea. And as a should idea, oh, it works. Oh, it doesn’t work. Oh, my God. It’s like, it’s just like this, this excruciating feeling. And I figured out for me personally, I forgot a way how to hack it was to avoid that. And the way I’d avoid that is when I was trying to figure out this next company. I said, I need to figure out what the purpose is and what the vision of it is. And I looked back at my current, fully remote team, and I said, okay, my mission is to create authentic conversations that develop meaningful relationships. And I purposely made it more general. More general. Yeah, it’s
Michael Waitze 29:55
actually this is really interesting. The right and instead of saying, I want to Build a specific technology that does this specific thing. It’s bigger. It’s a little bit higher level than that.
Hoyin Cheung 30:05
It’s a bit more higher level. Yeah. And so my initial idea was virtual office, I wanted to help people for Office Connect. But when I actually started selling it, and by the way, like, I can’t I don’t know if I should stress quickly. So I, I interviewed, I interviewed all these people that were running fully remote companies and ask them, What is your biggest problem? And what what did you like, what, how can I help you? And they all said, building connection with your teammates, they all said that, and I showed them the product, a prototype of it. They said, Yeah, I’ll use it. I built it, and then show it to him again, no one bought it. Very few people bought it, right. So I was just like, that’s like the classic fallacy, right? Validate before you build, right. And I totally, you know, fell fell for that, like, people are really, really bad at telling you the truth and telling you what they would actually do until they actually have the opportunity to do it. And so what happened was, because I had that mission, I had the opportunity. And here’s the pivot story. For remote, I had the opportunity to work with this virtual event called the remote work Summit. So I was trying to promote the virtual office to this remote work Summit, which is an online virtual event, across three days, teaching people how to lead virtual teams, create virtual teams, all that kind of stuff. So I’m like, perfect audience that’s just right on target. So the problem is, is that my product isn’t built for, like a conference, or an event, it’s built for an office. But in conversations internally, we always thought I thought about, oh, this would be so cool for, you know, if we created a virtual conference. So now I was like, Okay, let’s take a swing at this. Let’s take a bet. And one of the things I really love doing is doing one thing that has multiple, like five birds with one stone, yeah. And so this was one of those things, I basically spent one month to modify the product, so that it could host the conference, testing out the use case, but also trying to grow remote virtual office at the same time. So I was able to do two things. Yeah, at the same time.
Michael Waitze 32:15
Yeah, it’s so hard to do. What kind of mindset though, do you need to have, where again, you talk to every guy and gal that’s running remote company, you get all their feedback, they tell you that the biggest thing they want is x, you go out and you build it. You’re super excited about it. Because you know, you have customers coming, if I build this thing, they’re definitely going to buy it. They already told me, you work with your tech team, because I’m presuming you have a tech team. Right? Right, fired them up. They build this product as fast as possible. They get it out there you go to sell it. And everyone’s just like, No, thank you. What’s it like when you go back to them and say, Now, I really haven’t figured out and you go back and you try to fire them up again. They’re like, Dude, we’ve been through this. Do you know what I mean?
Hoyin Cheung 32:56
Yeah, I mean, you know, I was doing that for like, a few months. And, and like, it was definitely not a great feeling, obviously. Yeah, it was definitely very defeating. But because the mission, and I told him what the mission was, at the beginning, it was very easy to then say, hey, let’s try this conference thing. You know, I mean, like, let’s make these educated, educated guesses or, like, just make these, like, calculated risks that the word, let’s make these calculated, take these calculated risks, where I could do two things at once. Like, for example, if it was like a real estate conference, like I probably would have never would have done it. Like, I would have never would have modified conference for like a real estate, like, I’ll be like, it’s got nothing like that. That seems to be a stretch. But I was very lucky enough to do it for remote work. And that made a lot of sense. And so the mission allowed me and my team to then think, broader, and not just be married. The concept of virtual office, for me in that part of my journey was extremely, extremely important, because it made me super open to trialing and airing and finding what resonated the most. And it turns out conference is what resonated the most. I’ll finish off the story really quickly. So it was a 3d conference, we had 10,000 People go through the whole thing. Not a single person bought the Virtual Office product. No one bought it. Every single person came up to me is Oh, my God remote. So great. I was like, Okay, great. You’re gonna buy the virtual office. He’s like, No, I want to host a conference. Can I host a conference at such a great time, I was meeting people bla bla bla, and I was like, Oh, okay. Uh, well, you know, we it’s not a product. I’m not selling this yet. But, you know, let me talk back to my team and see what we can do. And that’s what I meant by resonating. It’s like, it was just literally night and day like, on one hand, people just like yeah, I don’t give a crap about this. And other hand, people were like expressing Joy Boy and this real feeling of wow, I had a great time connecting with someone else. And that was the first time that I felt that feeling online. I thought that was like, No, there’s no way you could do that online. But I actually felt that on a massive scale. And that’s when I was like, Okay, there’s something here.
Michael Waitze 35:19
And it’s funny, right? Because we operate in this world where there are so many companies out there that are trying to make these human real, like authentic human connections with people. And let’s be fair, they’re just like these toxic places. Right? Really create human connections, right? Do you And absolutely, do you. I mean, obviously, you notice the difference, and I got a chill. Actually, you saw me doing this when you were telling that story? No, but you know the difference. It’s like walking into a party or even an offline event where like, nobody really wants to be there. It’s no fun at all. And everyone’s just like, I don’t want to talk to you. And then you leave another event or a party you like, that was awesome. It’s so different.
Hoyin Cheung 35:58
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. 100%. Like, and it was, it was so unique, because it was such a thrill and an amazing feeling. Because it’s like, customers and potential customers. And people were telling, we’re giving me this feedback. And we record the testimonials. And every single person from like, a 55, six, like, all ages, we’re giving that and it made me feel that that the bottom line of what humanity is, no matter what technology, the form that technology takes, humanity is still a very raw, primal. The Human Condition is very raw, it’s very primal. And those things need to be solved. And, and then that’s when I started to have very well, one of the reasons why I left social media is because I always was really fed up, like, everything that you see today about social and how toxic it was, like I saw that like, like, long time ago. Yeah. And that’s one of the reasons why I left because I saw how toxic that it started to be before the toxicity became mainstream. And that actually drove partially why I wanted to create more authentic conferences, because I felt social media is not authentic. It’s, it’s anything but and I was trying to break, give an alternative and break through that. And going back to what I call what, going back to basics, what is the basics of humanity? And try to go back to
Michael Waitze 37:26
that? What is it about Remo that does this? Do you know what I mean? Because at the end of the day, it’s just technology where people gather, but what is it you think that makes it so authentic?
Hoyin Cheung 37:36
I think so what’s interesting about the platform is that like, if you think about it, what we do is we just bring people together, like you can think of it as like, the networking lounge at a conference sometimes. Okay, so it’s just the place really, right? You have some drinks, maybe you have some things here and there, you’ve got some nice couches, and then people just kind of come to it. And that context in that space, then does not much. I mean, that’s some from a contractual standpoint. But then humans do what humans do best wishes they socialize, they just talk to each other. And I think, what’s the difference? What remote does is that number one is, it allows movement, so you can go to anywhere you want. So there’s that serendipity is involved. Yeah. And everyone talks about machine learning and AI blah, blah, blah. And we I don’t know, I don’t know, if you see that. I think we all have seen in my opinion, when it comes to like Facebook, and all that kind of stuff, the failure in machine learning. I think having machines tell you what you should do and what you need to do. Takes the joy out of life. Yeah,
Michael Waitze 38:41
so like I I’ve said this a lot like when I took my first trip to Vietnam, and I think you’ll see how this comes together. When I first took when I took my first trip to Vietnam. We went to Hanoi, right. And we wanted to find this restaurant where they had softshell crabs. And I think it was called the piano bar. And this was in 1991. So long time ago. And maybe we had like the Lonely Planet Guide to tell us like maybe the street name, but it was just me and two of my buddies going. I wonder where this place is. And part of the joy in actually getting there was like, oh my god, we found it.
Hoyin Cheung 39:16
Yeah, you know what I mean,
Michael Waitze 39:16
that feeling of there was no map. There was no Google Maps, there was none of that. We just were like, Wait a second. That’s it over there. And you had the greatest meal in the world because part of it wasn’t even the food. It was just the getting there part of it.
Hoyin Cheung 39:29
Yeah, yeah. The experience. Exactly. The experience. Yeah. And, and it’s the experience of the unknown. And I think the human condition, like I think the human condition is all about life being unpredictable and unknown. Like comedy is about something that’s unexpected, right? And that’s how we laugh. That’s what we have joy, right? So if everything was predicted, and everything was already like in a machine already laid out to you, and you’re seeing the same thing over and over again. That’s not joy. That’s boredom. Yeah, that’s not life. That’s That’s like, you know, it’s just, it’s nothingness, this, this feeling of like, oh my god, this is so excruciating the board boring. And so I think movement and that serendipity is one part. And then the second part is that we have a custom floor plan, which people can completely customize. So we’ve got people creating like, a koi pond next to this like tree house, or we had people having a campfire, like, it’s just an experience.
Michael Waitze 40:28
So do you have idea because I was thinking about this, right? When you look at some other industries that have gone through what I’ll call digital transformation, for lack of a better term, or initially, what they did was they just took the offline experience, I’ll use insurance as an example. And they took a form and they turned into a PDF, and they said, fill out the form online. Right. So it was neat, but it wasn’t really transforming anything. It was just taking an offline experience and putting it online. Big deal. Right? Right. And I guess everything’s going to start that way. But are there things you think you can do now? Or are there ideas you have, you’re like, Okay, we have this platform. Now we’ve created this hallway where people can meet, they can also custom design, like you said, Put the koi pond in there, there’s no way you can do that in real life, like, I want to have, yeah, you know what I mean? But other other things you think you can do that are going to make that experience so much more immersive, that people maybe haven’t thought of yet? Oh, yeah, you and your team are going like, wait till we roll this thing out kind of thing?
Hoyin Cheung 41:21
Yeah, at that time. Yeah, for sure. I mean, even right, now, I still have a bunch of ideas still, that I just can’t wait to kind of like do and, and I think so that’s kind of like one of the core values of remote, which was what we call this humanity at the center. And it’s like humanity, the center really means is that don’t use technology to solve a problem. But use technology to create a human experience as as human as possible. What does human mean? Like I’ll give example. So we have different levels. So you can access one floor, you can access another floor. So how do you access the different floors, so we have an elevator button on the left hand side of the screen. So you can click on the elevator button as if you’re going up and down an elevator. And people immediately understand that, yeah, so that, to me is the definition of humanity at the center. And we do these types of small things throughout the entire product. And that’s where we come to design. And what’s funny is that those things are so small, but for some reason, it’s those small things that people come up to us and tell us Wow, that is so cool. Like, I can now relate this to my real life. But it has to be done in a very specific way. Like you can’t do it for all things. And you can’t do it. Like I’ve seen people do some of these things, and in a very unpeaceful way, or in a way that just doesn’t fit, there’s some things that you can do is very tasteful. And that contributes to that experience. Like for example, on one map, there was like a coffee machine and had like an end on it. And we were trying to make it like an espresso, but not to get like copyright issues. But um, people were like digging that they’re like, oh my god, you got this coffee machine. And and I was like, it’d be so cool. If I could order coffee from that could be delivered to my house. And guess what we’re like doing that stuff right now. Like we’re now doing virtual food and virtual copy stuff. So stuff like that.
Michael Waitze 43:09
But this is the other thing that I always love talking about once you build that platform. Now you can really do a bunch of other stuff with it that you didn’t intend. And I have this conversation with some of my friends about my own business. They’re like, you had all these ideas about how you’re going to make money, how was going to be a business? None of those things worked.
Hoyin Cheung 43:27
Michael Waitze 43:28
but now the other stuff is working that you didn’t anticipate, right? So I don’t think you sat around with your team at the beginning and said, we’ll build remote. It’ll be a place where humans can interact, and we’ll sell coffee through it as well. Like, I don’t think you thought about
Hoyin Cheung 43:38
that. No, no way. No, no way. 100% No way. Like, you’re right. You’re right. Like what what you thought at the beginning is never almost never what you think at the end, unless it’s super established short, short shorts, and you’re super experienced, they know exactly like what the problems are, you know, like, even then, like, you may not be 100% Correct. Yeah,
Michael Waitze 43:59
this gets back to the cliff jumping thing that I was talking about. You’ve already jumped. So now if one of your teammates says, Hey, let’s build the coffee thing, instead of just going that’s ridiculous. You’re like, why not?
Hoyin Cheung 44:11
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And like, it’s almost like you start to not be so judgmental. Yeah, you actually, you’re trying to remove the judgment. Because you at least for me, I’ve become very humble. I’ve been humbled by I actually don’t know, a lot. I don’t
Michael Waitze 44:31
read that this is the thing that most again that most people aren’t willing to admit. It’s like an even as a CEO, you’re supposed to have the answers to everything right. It’s like looking up at your dad when you’re four years old. Hey, Dad, how does the universe work? And you’re like, Oh, God, I really don’t understand, but I have to say something. But once you feel like you don’t have to have the answer. Then you’re free.
Hoyin Cheung 44:51
Yeah, 100% 100% I tell my my, you know, anyone who started a business or even my teammates all the time, like a lot of the times that the end Answer is not within yourself. Yeah, the answer is within the customer. For most, some things the customer may not have, like, for example, me creating the experience like innovating what the experience is, no one’s gonna ask for that. Right. But in terms of solving their problems, that’s always almost always within the customer. Like you cannot. You are not the right person to create a problem that the customer has. Yeah, exactly. That’s not your job. Your job is to interview them and understand what their what their problems are not to create
Michael Waitze 45:32
the problem for them. People come to me, they see what I do. And they’re like, Hey, could you do this? And I always say, Yes. And then figure out a way to do it. That’s right. Yeah. Again, in a weird way. It’s just like you said, they say, Hey, can you do X? And I’m like, absolutely. But in the conversations around helping them build that x, it may morph into y.
Hoyin Cheung 45:54
Right? Z. Exactly, exactly.
Michael Waitze 45:57
But I never say no, because
Hoyin Cheung 45:59
sorry, go ahead. And I’m so sorry to interrupt you on this. And like, I don’t know, if you like listen to some people, when like, they talk about, like, celebrities or whatever, where they get to work with different people on the project. And they don’t know where the project is going to be. It’s like a very artistic thing. Yeah. And people say art is like, in the context of like, TV shows or entertainment, whatever, right? It because it’s art, it’s more like, okay, malleable, and bla bla bla, but people don’t say that about business. But from my perspective, I think businesses like exactly like art, like, like, I would go as far as saying, like, businesses my way of expressing myself, because in business, what are you doing? You’re collaborating with someone similar? You don’t know the answer all the time. And you’re constantly you know, there’s a phrase, a good artists copy, great artists steals. I mean, businesses are constantly doing that. They’re constantly stealing from each other. You’re constantly like, putting together like an artist, team, this team, this thing, this thing, this, putting it together and making it your own. I mean, that’s literally the definition of, of what most entrepreneurs do.
Michael Waitze 47:03
And here’s the silly part is that people will tell you starting a business is like having a blank canvas, and then they lose the art metaphor right there. Yeah, yeah. It’s so silly. Yeah. Oh, god. Okay, look, I feel like I could keep talking to you forever. How can people get in touch with you if they want to? And then I’ll just thank you for being here. I really appreciate it. Go ahead.
Hoyin Cheung 47:23
Sure. I’ll put I’ll give you the my LinkedIn. So you can follow me on LinkedIn. I talk a lot about virtual events, authentic conversations on my LinkedIn as well. So you can follow me there.
Michael Waitze 47:33
Holly and Chung, the founder and the CEO of Rhema. I guess that’s the right thing to say. Thank you so much for doing this man. This was awesome.
Hoyin Cheung 47:41
Thank you, Michael had a great conversation. This is great. I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.
Michael Waitze 47:47
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