EP 212 – Denise Sandquist – co-Founder and CEO of Fika – I’m Where I’m Supposed to Be

by | Jul 2, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast was joined by Denise Sandquist, a co-Founder and the CEO of Fika.  Fika is Vietnam’s fastest-growing AI social & dating app…but when you listen to this episode, you will find it is much more than that. 
Some of the topics that Denise and I discussed:
  • Being born in Vietnam and adopted by a family in Sweden
  • Inspired by the power of social media and how she found her birth parents
  • The idea of Fika is more than just a dating app
  • Connecting people through interests
  • Understanding one’s self and the complexity of relationships
  • Building sustainable relationships
  • The happiness of seeing other people happy
Some other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. Relationships Are Very Complicated
  2. We Wanted to Solve Was Loneliness
  3. A Lot of It Is About Communication
  4. I Was Curious Why I Was the Way I Am
  5. It’s Difficult to Be Disciplined
  6. I Became a Spokesperson
This episode was produced by Isabelle Goh.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:29
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today, we are happy to welcome Denise Sandquist, a co founder and CEO of Fika. Thank you for the real time approval meter. Denise, thank you so much for doing this today. How are you by the way?

Denise Sandquist 0:48
Thank you, Michael. I’m fine. Thanks. And I’m happy to be here.

Michael Waitze 0:53
It’s great to have you here. Before we get into the main part of the conversation, can you give our listeners a little bit of your background for some context?

Denise Sandquist 1:03
Yes, sure I am. So I am 31 years old. I was born in 1991 in Hanoi, Vietnam, adopted to Sweden as a baby grew up in Stockholm. And quite normal childhood. I did military service as military interpreter and interrogator in Russian, after high school, brought to the Swedish Embassy in Moscow. After that came back to Vietnam, looking for birth parents didn’t find the new birth parents. So I decided to move to China, to study Mandarin, and maybe to come back to Vietnam. So that took me to China a little bit in Thailand as well to the Thai boxing and everything Vietnam, back to soccer, school economics, and a practice for you down the soccer socks for economics. And then fast forward to today got inspired to create fake Yeah, because I found my Vietnamese mom in 2016. Well, through a post that went viral. Wow. Yes.

Michael Waitze 2:04
So a lot of there’s a lot of interesting intersections here. Just so you know, my first time in Vietnam was in 1991.

Denise Sandquist 2:13
Oh, okay.

Michael Waitze 2:15
And, yeah, I drove actually from Saigon halfway through the country, and then got on a flight and went to Hanoi as well. Was there for almost two weeks. Wow. Yeah, at the time, Americans actually weren’t allowed to fly directly still from the United States to Vietnam. But because I was living in Japan. We went into the country, a lot of interesting things there as well. And when I was much younger, we had an exchange student live in our house for a year through the AFS program, and he was from Stockholm.

Denise Sandquist 2:49
Okay. So you were in Vietnam, the magical year, overnight one. Someone from from stock got?

Michael Waitze 2:57
Yeah. Because so you said you did military service. So I don’t have to ask the question. Like, is it mandatory?

Denise Sandquist 3:01
No, it’s not mandatory. Actually. quite rare enough girls do it.

Michael Waitze 3:05
Yeah. So what made you go into the military?

Denise Sandquist 3:09
And I wanted to change the world. When I was 17. I got into the diplomats Programs website by accident. And then I heard about this military service. It sounds very random. I understand that. But if you do this military service and study Russian, you can work at the Swedish Embassy in Moscow. If you manage to graduate. Yeah. What’s my motivation behind it?

Michael Waitze 3:34
And what is it? So you know, if I look at your LinkedIn profile, it says, I speak six languages. Where does your interest in language come from? I’m also very interested in languages. When I was in high school, I used to tutor French, my French friends make fun of me for this. But I lived in Japan for 20 something years, so I speak Japanese, right? Like you speak English. And I think language is actually really important. But I’m really curious where your interest came from? Was it just to go to the embassy in Moscow?

Denise Sandquist 4:01
Yeah, that’s a good question. I, I wouldn’t say I didn’t really see myself as a person who really likes languages before. I was always very curious, or I’m very curious in people. So I just understood that if I can speak their languages, I can understand people better. So I never thought that would be a person who would speak six languages. But my curiosity is curiosity and hard work.

Michael Waitze 4:30
Yeah, and I want to go back to this thing you said before, like, it seems kind of random that I wanted to do this. I don’t think anything. Is that random? To be fair, right. I think I think we’re taught our whole lives and this may be different for you that like these things are the things we’re meant to do. And anything outside of that are things that are random or like not normal. Right? I mean, I don’t I don’t necessarily see it that way. Sorry. Go ahead.

Denise Sandquist 4:52
Yeah, of course. I’m a very planning person. So I wouldn’t say that anything I do in life is completely random. Yeah, but Oh, yeah, I have them. I wanted to when he was 12 years old in Sweden, because to see between the German, the French and Spanish, I choose French because I felt okay, that is the hardest language of these three, so I can learn French, and then I can learn Spanish later. So and then with Russian, I mean, I wanted to work in an embassy when I was living in Moscow, I was just focusing on learning Russian. But then when it comes to Mandarin, I saw it as it’s an it wasn’t really an introduced, it was more that I knew that China would come up as the new sort of like superpower to go to learn through Chinese. And then same with with Vietnamese, I looked at a lot of the career benefits, I would say when they’re choosing languages and my curiosity for for people.

Michael Waitze 5:42
It just sounds so familiar to me. I mean, one of the reasons why I studied Japanese was because when I was your age, the Japanese economy was still ascendant, which is probably hard for you to imagine. And I wanted to study the thing that nobody else wanted to do for the same reason. I thought it was harder. And I figured if I could speak Japanese, it would change my career path. And it did. I mean, I’m still in Asia, because I studied Japanese when I was in college. So I get it. I mean, it’s definitely worked for you as well. No.

Denise Sandquist 6:10
Yeah, definitely. languages you can, you can stand apart from, from any others. And, of course, if you can communicate and get along well with certain certain people based on that you understand the culture and the language and opens up different career opportunities. I would say,

Michael Waitze 6:26
Yeah, I could not agree with you more. To me. I feel like if you live in a country, and you don’t speak the local language, you cannot understand anything that’s going on around you. You may think you can, but you can’t.

Denise Sandquist 6:37
Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 6:41
Do you disagree with me? You’re laughing? Yeah.

Denise Sandquist 6:44
Yeah, I know, obviously, I think it’s a huge competitive advantage to speak a language where you are. But there are so many people, you know, in Vietnam who don’t speak Vietnamese, or who are expats. So I don’t know how I would feel very handicapped. I would say if I will live in a country and don’t speak the language at all. Yeah, so yeah, but I guess after leaving, there are so many people living in accounting for so many years. And I guess that without speaking the language, maybe you can understand maybe 5%.

Michael Waitze 7:14
Maybe, yeah, I don’t know. Like I I remember when I was living in Japan, right. So I left there at the end of what 2011. And I remember there were guys and gals that worked with me that were there for 1015 20 years, whatever, didn’t really speak at all, except the we used to call taxi Japanese, right. So take me straight, make a left make a right get some gas kind of thing. I had no idea what’s going on around them. 5%, I think is generous.

Denise Sandquist 7:37
Yeah. Go ahead. No, no, I think maybe you’re right. You know, it’s very Swedish. I was feeling we don’t want there won’t be quite that. But yeah, maybe, maybe I think like you maybe want to leave on the hope that it’s that it’s more strict about it. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 7:56
So how long have you been living in Vietnam now? In total?

Denise Sandquist 8:01
About three years?

Michael Waitze 8:02
Okay. So long enough? Yeah. Long enough. Look, I was in Vietnam, like I told you in 1991. Right. And, you know, back then we kind of weren’t even really supposed to be that we had this pretty incredible experience. And you know, for a lot of the time we spent I like talking to the local people. And like I said, I couldn’t speak Vietnamese, so we had to default to speaking English. But, you know, if you think about the Vietnam war ending in 1975, it just was it felt like really far away. I mean, if my math is right, you don’t 75 plus 16 is 91. It wasn’t that far away. And a lot of people that were there still remembered and still told stories about it. It was pretty amazing to listen to. And I’m curious what your experience was, like when you thought I want to go back and find my birth parents. Right, because you mentioned it, right?

Denise Sandquist 8:56
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think when I, I, my mom passed away when I was nine in Sweden. So I think that’s, that was something that really, of course shaped me, but also made me think more about that. Some in a country far away. I have, um, like everyone else, and I have two parents, right. So for me, it wasn’t never it was never that I felt that I didn’t belong to Sweden. I see myself as, as a Swedish. Yeah. But it was more that I was curious about my why am I to be the way I am? What I get certain things from and yeah, especially when I was the same age as my birth mother. I thought that, okay, she wasn’t that old. 2022 isn’t that old? Actually, when I grew up 22 So it seemed like very, very old. And yeah, I think that’s when I came back to Vietnam in 2013. When I was 22. That was the first time I was back as an as an adult. And I think that you’ll experience from Mi SN adopting to look at everything and just I didn’t know much about Vietnam except for the Vietnam War actually, that’s capital or Sano. So it’s looked at everything. And I felt that, wow, what about if I would have grew up here would have been the same but like different like a different a lot of these things. So it just very I have nothing to compare with, because I’ve always been adopted, right. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with my biological parents. That’s to come back to Vietnam was very, very special for me the first time. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 10:29
I mean, it must have been amazingly special, right? I can’t conceive of this, but I do. I know what the impact of has been on me. And I’m not making an equivalency here at all right of just like, being away of my home country for my entire adult life. Right, without any guidance. And with that, you had plenty of guidance. Sorry, that’s when you were a kid. But I’m just saying, like just being outside, that the going home part must have been kind of exciting, but scary for you a little bit. No.

Denise Sandquist 10:56
Yeah. Vietnam, a lot of people say that I come back to Vietnam. But since I was three weeks when I left. It was an I didn’t have any Asian friends, actually, when growing up was that one nation friend. So for me, it was I just felt very, I was very interested in everything. And I felt that everything was very cool. And I didn’t have so much other thoughts about Vietnam. And I think that sometimes people say, a lot of people ask, How was it to work for Asian in Sweden. And it’s very interesting with this, how you how you look at things. And, for example, if someone if I would have any complex for being adopted for Vietnam, or Asian, if someone would ask me, where are you from? Maybe I would, I would felt that Oh, where are you asking? I’m, why don’t you ask me where I’m from in Sweden. And so that’s for me, it was always something. Yeah, something quite cool to say. Yeah. Yeah. That was quite embracing everything when I came to Vietnam. Actually, so wasn’t so scary.

Michael Waitze 12:01
That’s actually super cool. I love that idea. Right? Like, where are you from? Vietnam? How about Yeah, I’m over there. Like it’s boring. And

Denise Sandquist 12:08
yeah, it was always very proud to be from from Vietnam, even though I didn’t know much about it. And I think that my parents, my Swedish parents, my parents, when they were in Vietnam, in 91, they were treated so well. So when I grew up, they always told me about how nice everyone was. And friendly and helpful, man, how strong and nice Vietnamese people were. So that created this. This feeling of pride? I would say,

Michael Waitze 12:34
that’s super awesome. How does this lead into like, one of the things you’ve mentioned is that that experience led into the building of FICO, right? Do I pronounced that right? Yeah, perfect conversation. What’s the what’s the connection between those two things? Right? In other words, do you think there’s a life experience that leads into this idea of I want to build this platform that creates relationships? Do you know what I mean?

Denise Sandquist 12:59
Yeah, I think it’s funny how you end up but I really think that in a way, if you know yourself and what you’re passionate about, and you really, you’re not afraid to go for it, I think that you will sort of end up with what you’re supposed to based on your interests and passions. And when I’m saying that, Oh, why did I end up learning languages? And I think that a lot of people asked me, Are there any tips and in the end, it’s a lot of hours, a lot of hard work. Some people having Superman languages, maybe I have easier for languages, but it’s many hours. And I think that I wouldn’t have been able to spend those hours if I wouldn’t be passionate about actually coming to this level, I would actually be able to speak with people. So I think that my interest of helping people are wanting to connect with others with languages. So yes, I’m a social person, I like to really understand. Why are people like this? And always this are this is different, like, why is this different? So I think that in the end, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be with creating an app that will help people to connect and create meaningful connections. So this is, this is

Michael Waitze 14:02
a super good point, right? And I like to say and, you know, I’ve said this to you earlier, that you can’t disconnect who you are from what you do. And I know I can’t as well. But this idea that like relationships are important to you then leads directly into this, but also I love this answer to this question of can you give me tips for learning languages? Yeah, I can. I can give you some a bunch of tips. One. Be interested in learning.

Denise Sandquist 14:28
Yeah, right. Right. Exactly. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 14:31
And how about like, study really hard? Yeah,

Denise Sandquist 14:35
I think that’s with entrepreneurship man with that of different things. I really believe that you become really good at things that you that you like, because in the end, you have to spend X amount of hours and if you naturally don’t really really like it, it’s gonna be very difficult to be disciplined and do it.

Michael Waitze 14:52
Yeah, like I mean, I love eating great food, but I’m just not interested in the preparation of it. I love it as an art form. I love watching it. I mean super impressed by it because I think it takes a certain amount of effort and time. But I think this is true for everything. Right. In other words, I like to say that everyone’s an overnight success 10 years later, right? Like, how did you do that? Well, I mean, I woke up every day and just committed myself to getting it done really, really well. How could you not do it? If you did that kind of thing? Does that make sense?

Denise Sandquist 15:22
Yeah, yeah, totally. It’s you have I think, everyone we are lucky to be born with Easterners for for certain things. And if you’re easy for something, if you’re used to when we win, in this kind of feel, maybe we feel more encouraged to, to do more and more. But I really believe that with a lot of hard work, if you think something is fun, you don’t completely bad at it, and they do encourage you to do it. I think that you will excel over people that are maybe have easier for certain things than then you have.

Michael Waitze 15:55
I could not agree with you more. So tell me more about Fico. Like, what’s the idea around? Like it falls into this category of dating apps? But I feel like you think it’s something way more than that?

Denise Sandquist 16:06
Yeah. Yeah. So when I found my with his mom, I did that, actually, because I posted on Facebook. And then a lot of people shared my post. And I had been trying for three years to find her back and forth in 2013, to 2016. And what took me three years before, somebody took me 18 days, because people just connected me, first of all, people shared it. And then newspapers and everything, is just blow up sort of. So I was really interested in doing something to help people to create something that is more meaningful. And then maybe this fast connections that we usually have on other especially dating apps, right. And my cat came back to Sweden, after that I told my co founder, who has a background in engineering, physics and AI, I said that like we are individualizing so many, many things. If we have a lot of data on people wouldn’t be able to individualize the matchmaking process more. And that was the whole whole idea behind that, we need a lot of data, we need to create a product that people love, and people trust. And then romantic relationships is one thing, but a problem I really wanted to solve is, is loneliness. Gen Z and millennials haven’t really my generation never been so connected with never so lonely. And to have someone to talk to, to feel like you can talk to to have a friend. And also, of course, having someone to spend the rest of your life with if you if you believe in being with one person the rest of your life, it’s it’s a very important decision that you make. And that is why we started with dating. And what we do is basically we focus a lot more on on helping people to understand who they are personality tests zodiac, because when you’re going to make a decision, some people based on personality, some people based on interests, some people based on entirely on looks in Asia, Zodiac is, is more important astrology. And with a lot of information, we want to help people to continue the relationship also inside of it. Yeah. So with current dating apps, if you find someone and if you’re successful as a dating app, then you will match the person with the future, is it husband, or wife, or boyfriend, girlfriend, and then you will take away the app. So actually, there is no really true incentive for current dating apps to really help you to find someone suitable for you. But then we also

Michael Waitze 18:34
I want to make a point here, right? I don’t want to I don’t want to just run over this, right? Because I think this makes a really interesting point. The whole idea of an existing dating app, right? I didn’t even have to ask you this. You just went right to it, which I think is kind of cool. And I hadn’t thought about it, right. But the whole idea of the dating app makes it feel like they want to find a match for you. But kind of just like everything else that exists in the app world. The whole point is just to keep you there. No, no, in a way it’s just like to trick you there to keep you there. But it Matt and I like to make these online to offline equivalencies. Right. Imagine if you went to, you know, a bar to meet somebody, which I think is a perfectly fine thing to do. Right? People are gathered there just like they’re gathered up there in the mood to meet people. So like, they’re open to conversations and stuff. But imagine if like, you met somebody in a bar, you bought them a drink, you’re chit chatting, you had a great time. And then at the end, like that person never came back. And you could only go back you had to go back into that bar every single time. Do you know what I mean? Like that doesn’t work in the in the real world.

Denise Sandquist 19:35
Yeah, exactly. And that is why a lot of a lot of dating apps they are seen as there’s nothing wrong with hookah. Oh fine as well. Yeah. So they are great. Maybe for shorter say things and also to be here. Of course, you can find someone on a dating app. You can find someone on the streets in the metro like anywhere. Sure. That is Yes. As you say it’s it’s not optimized for you to find Find that someone really meaningful to connect with because the better you are at that, the higher the risk for that that person won’t stay in the app. So

Michael Waitze 20:07
yeah, but this is also really complicated, right? So can we just go back to this idea that the outgrowth of this was the idea that you can go online and with data in 18 days, you can do something that you couldn’t do in three years, because of all the data associated with it. And the artificial intelligence can then say, pinpoint to find your birth mom here, right. And also, you can get the support in the community, people can see it and help. In a way, it’s a much less complex issue, because there are just undeniable facts around that. But friendship is like this really? subtle thing. Yeah. Yeah.

Denise Sandquist 20:45
Yeah. That’s, that’s a really, really super interesting, good point. Yes, relationships are very complicated. And sometimes, I mean, we don’t even know what we want, right? Yeah. And who is the perfect person for you? Different than, than, for me, and etc. And that is why we are quite focused on that. The first thing is that you have to understand that who you are, and who you are based on lots of different things. Extroverted introverted, like this, don’t like this. And then when you understand who you are, and that comes with everything with job or everything that because we talked about the tissue, pursue your passion, if you don’t know what your it’s good to figure out, and what is your passion. And then when you understand, okay, and this is the way I am, so what do I want? And we want different things in different stages of life. Yeah. And some, some people don’t know what they want. Some people think that they know what they want and go back to this. This type of girl or guy who maybe isn’t good, maybe even for like a longer relationship? And maybe it’s good for you. It’s very complex. Yeah, it’s very complex. It’s a lot of different data points. It’s a lot of different. It is complex. And that is why, yeah, the market like the word looks like it does, it’s, we haven’t really been able to. Yeah. So that’s the whole the whole thing that helping people to understand, like, who are you? What do you want, and then we can do our best to connect people suitable for each other. It’s never gonna be that you open up fake and you say, Oh, this is the love of my life? Because that’s not the way the world works. Yeah, yeah. And we really believe in, things are going to be more and more digital, we really believe in the physical meeting. Still, yeah. So you can get to know each other online. And you can, you can chat, and there are many things to facilitate that. But then, if you’re going to have chemistry, like sense of humor, attraction, a lot of different things, then it’s good to meet up. So that’s that we cannot completely, that is why with a lot of data of the points, we can say that we are disord, about that you and this person would create something like that thing we’ll get along well, but then how many times isn’t there that we can meet that person? I mean, oh, my dating app? And then people think that oh, this is this is potentially like romantic start. But actually, they end up being friends, because you don’t know.

Michael Waitze 23:04
So I’m really curious about how this works, right? Because you don’t want to what’s the right way to say this, right? Like the incentive for a normal dating app is just to not create relationships, but to keep having you come back. But if fika is meant to be a place that like sustains the relationship, whether it’s romantic or platonic, I’m kind of indifferent. Is there a continuous data gathering facet of this that says, you know, as we know each other, and it’s not just you and me, but you, me and everybody else that we know, in our network, right? That it continues to gather data and say, oh, you know, what this type of thing is changed. Because awareness is like having real self awareness of who you are, is again, very complex, right? And it changes over time to like, I can say for sure that the guy wasn’t I was 26. He can recognize the guy that I am at 56. But I probably wouldn’t be friends kind of thing. Do you know what I mean?

Denise Sandquist 24:02
Yeah, good inputs, because and that is the thing that yes, so Dr. Billy now is that continued relationship inside of a gun. And it’s difficult right to find someone that you’re suitable with. But it’s also so difficult to stay together. Yeah, looking at data in the US and Europe, over 50% of couples get divorced, actually, yeah, marriages end up in divorce. And, I mean, I have never been married. I’m still relatively young. And I didn’t have I didn’t have a relationship that was longer than five years. So I think it’s very admirable to be able to like to stay together for say, 1020 30 years. And with life now. We’re so busy and that is also what we tweak. We also have noticed a problem with the difficulty of actually like staying together and sometimes Divorce isn’t a bad thing. Of course, if you’re not, if you don’t want to be together, okay, then. Well, then you don’t have to. But we believe that like in this world, when we We’re so busy. And we really have nothing that also keeps us together. So that is why inside of fika, so this is what we’re developing now is the continuation. So then if you meet your boyfriend, girlfriend or Theca, you can continue the journey inside. And that is as simple as having like a couple’s app they are very popular in in Vietnam. So it’s a photo of you and your partner, how many days we’ve been together, and you get to remind us about anniversaries. And that is sort of the MVP, the minimum viable product for something like that. But we want to take it of course, next level, so you can continue relationships with friends, whoever, because you have a specific connection with each person. And then when it comes to friends, all this me and my my friends will, we will catch up now for for one month need to catch up. And then when it comes to us as a connection, me and my, my close girlfriend, our preference where we going to eat together, what you’re going to do are different than for example, me, and if I would have a boyfriend and and and this means that there are conditions that you can do to a couple like to two people, and so me and my boyfriend, then we would have a specific case together. So that opens up also for different social spots. So it can be recommended cafes and restaurants, different things. And basically to have something similar to say, Google Photos you get, you get your mind at about all this was like one year ago and different things. And same thing is that we don’t need too much things actually to, like, well, we need more things to be remembered about each other. And if you have something that says that argument to get you been connected for this long time, and you take a photo every time you go and do things, you build your time together, Michael, you and me, we connected one one week ago, okay, Michael, the nice, you had this catch up this time, get your mind like keep the relationship back, keep your connection going. Looking this again. So it’s basically facilitating for so continuing the relationship. And then also inside of the tester is that for for a lot of couples, they like to upload photos together. And then what is the point of doing that? Because sometimes you want to share your love, sometimes you want other people to comment, like that’s quite normal in this in this world. And this means that we creating also like you can still get couples, like a friends media. So we were saying, you and your your partner, Michael, if you you have a Michael and Michael’s partner together go into these different dates and all these things. And they can choose Do you want to share it with others? Yes. Now maybe you keep it for yourself your timeline, we won’t share it with others. And then me as a feature user, I go in here and and I look at Michaels and Michael’s wife, Stan relationship and I Oh, I can see you. And then actually hashtag couple goals is quite big on on Instagram, for example. And what happens when we see others who have meaningful connections is that we don’t want to create this negative Fear Of Missing Out culture that Oh, I feel lonely. But rather than Oh, you can see you have a moment together. And then I can use figures as it becomes this, like we’re so open up fika I can see your connection together. You are my friend, I can see what you’re doing with your with your wife, maybe your friend different things. And if I would be single then and obviously you ask that as a couple. Now, I can also be motivated to find a person for me,

Michael Waitze 28:26
is there. So figure hasn’t been around for that long per se Right? So there’s probably not enough data inside of the app itself. But is there social data and relationship data that backs up this idea that you know, what if we share things and have reminders of happiness, that we’re more likely to stay together rather than to focus on because ever relationships hard? Yeah. And every relationship is complex. And you know, I remember when I was really young, I’ll tell you when I was like nine years old, one of my friends, they probably weren’t older than you are now. But one of my friend’s parents said to me, like, you know, because I asked her I’m like, do you ever argue with your husband and and she said, every single day, but she made this moving with her hands were like they were together apart together apart, like the whole time there was just this constant cycle. And it’s weird, right? Because in the online world, there’s so much negative reinforcement, but you’re suggesting this is positive reinforcement for your existing relationship? Is there data that says that like that type of positive reinforcement actually is actually better for the relationship as a whole even if it’s just friends? Yeah.

Denise Sandquist 29:38
Yeah, look look into like, reasons why, why why you break up what is why do people feel lonely? And a lot of the thing is, of course, about communication. Yeah. So it’s not complete. It’s complex, but it’s not complete rocket science. So why do you get divorced? Okay, communication, different values, like became so many different things. So it’s more that By creating something where that can help people to get your mind over each other, and communicate better also understand each other better. And sometimes, I mean, with couples counseling, and I don’t have much personal, it’s been very clear to me that it exists for a reason. And I think that, and obviously it exists for a reason. Because sometimes it’s good to have a third party that can be involved. And if you say that we’d figure that you can create, you can look up different levels together. Okay, so this many days together, you gamify it’s everything is looked about gamification, these days, you had them to use spend a long time together, for example, you have kids is meant for a long time together, you go on a date, X amount of times, and maybe you talk about this, maybe you talk about something that is not about this, and this and this. And I really believe that sometimes it’s good to have like a third party, something that really enforces you to to actually, like, meet sometimes to discuss certain things that may be important for you. Because there is communication, I think it’s a very broad subject. Yeah, lack of communication leads to a lot of like, difficult problems. In companies and a lot of problems. Yeah. And when people are living their lives, because we are we believe that you are connected. And we are in a in a sense that with social media, that we look more like maybe spying on each other, maybe not really like completely interacting. And actually, when we are so busy doing things working kids or looking also at social media, looking at others, they look so they look so happy. And well. A lot of focus on the relationship. You have to put in work in the things that you want to to work. Is this been more like? Like the 2020 tools way of focusing more on maintaining relationships? Not only like new, new, new, new new? Exactly, I was like,

Michael Waitze 31:50
Is there a part of you? That is particularly happy when you see other people happy?

Denise Sandquist 31:59
Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s yeah, I really like to. I think, when people make progress, and like they make progress, because they want to, like they did something themselves, and they feel happy about it. I think that’s, yeah, I think I wouldn’t be completely human if I wouldn’t do something. And for me, it’s very, I really liked when people grow when they, they overcome certain challenges. And they, yeah, people are hoping, of course,

Michael Waitze 32:27
did you expect, like when you came to Vietnam was part of the plan to start your own company, always? You know what I mean? Like, did you always think you’d be an entrepreneur? Or was this like a new thing for you? And did you understand the world you are entering when you did enter it?

Denise Sandquist 32:44
No, I don’t think I understood. I think I’m quite new in this story. Always learning every day.

Michael Waitze 32:51
Yeah, I don’t mean that. I mean, obviously, none of it’s easy, right. But there’s a big difference between, like, working at the embassy in Moscow, right for the for for the country, being at a corporate job and starting your own company. And I think that there’s an extra level of difficulty, right? It’s like diving off a five meter board. It’s like just working at a corporation. diving off a 15 meter board is like being a guy who’s who’s an entrepreneur, and I think diving off a 20 meter board doing a backflip and then a twist. And trying not to kill yourself as you hit the water is what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur. And, and but all of these things are different levels of complexity. I’m just curious, like, now that you’ve been in it for a while. Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot about yourself, but also a lot about what it means to be an entrepreneur? To be fair?

Denise Sandquist 33:39
Yeah. Exactly one year ago now, since I resigned as my previous full time job. So it’s like, it’s, it’s like it’s longer. Like 10 years ago? Yeah. Yeah, like the personal growth is we as a as a professional, and really put in different situations. For me, looking at my background, and who I am as a person, for me to challenge myself and to feel that I grow. It’s one of the most important things for me. And I mean, I don’t know what it’s like to not be a female entrepreneur. But I think that really, I sort of understood a little bit more about how it’s different, I think, quite late, actually. And I think it was yeah, I am a little bit late with that, because I am very individualistic in the sense that I was. I have, I’m used to be a lot with, with guys in military service, high boxing environment, like finance environments. And I think it’s, it was quite late, actually, that I understood that, okay, these are the things that are a bit different with being a female CEO and an entrepreneur. And this is quite interesting because it’s also very similar to this that growing up us as Asian folks in Sweden, because I remember I talked to an investor. And he said that he always, if he can choose between two people, he always chooses the underdog. And underdog, maybe being the one that didn’t come from. Is there like, welfare say, like background or like, yeah, yeah. And, and then I was, I was thinking that I’m actually, since I am one man. And since I’m like Asian and Yeah, actually I could be I could be seen as an underdog and like an underdog No. And then my co founder, because he has Chinese parents and grew up in I grew up in Sweden. And I remember two years ago, when we spoke about, he said that he had been encountering racism in Sweden. And I said, then, what, really? Because we are sort of yet we are from Stockholm, both of us. Sort of like similar. Similar like, yeah, acquaintances and friends. But not gonna be about a bit instead. Yeah. What I think you’re exaggerating, like, no, are you joking? No. Are you joking? How come that you haven’t been through this? Is that what like? I mean, who is who is telling you think like, whenever this happened, he was like, Are you serious? Like, do I have to explain this to you? Like, I think that I was like, okay, but are you sure that maybe you weren’t an outlier? Like, maybe that just happened to you instead? No, I think you are the outlier. And for me when going up? I, I don’t know, I used to, I can’t remember one time when someone like, when I was eight, just a guy saying something like, oh, like, like, you know, something bit like racist. And that was the only time and I’m thinking about this, like more that like, maybe I’m more ignorant, or is it? And I think that, like, we will never know what exactly it was, what it is. But I think the same with being female, female, female founder that I, for me, I just, I don’t think that I’m different, really. And I can only see that I’m different. Really, really, when I can see myself and other say strong, cool. Women. And they say that they can tell me about things that they have encountered. And and when I hear that, I feel that Oh, wow. And then of course, that opens up my eyes more. And I think that that is the whole the whole thing. But yeah, my experience is a bit special with it. That’s actually

Michael Waitze 37:27
yeah, I mean, good for you. And look, I’ll relay a story to you from 2012, I believe, or from 2013. And then I’ll let you go. But there was a, I want to get her name right. Alexis Horowitz burdock, who was the founder of one of the like, earliest startup companies in Singapore, she was from the United States, if I remember correctly. And back at one of the first events that I attended a tech in Asia event, you know, they brought her on stage and said this idea of like, she’s an example of a female entrepreneur. And she said exactly what you said almost 10 years ago, and that is, can I just be an entrepreneur?

Denise Sandquist 38:02
Oh, yeah.

Michael Waitze 38:04
That’s okay with everybody. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, yeah.

Denise Sandquist 38:08
Exactly. If I can do something to help. And if I can do something to encourage others, if I do something to inspire, and it doesn’t take much effort for me, I’m really happy to do it. So even though like I can see that I get, I get messages from especially girls, women actually forget from guys and girls, but from women, I can say that I feel so inspired. And it’s really great to see like a young, female entrepreneur and CEO like you. And that really gives me what you talked about if I could have to when people are happy, right? And I say that. Now I don’t see myself as super different as a female entrepreneur. But I think that knowing more now a bit because it’s a fact that very, very limited of the like, VC capital goes to female founders, not enough. Why are there so few female CEOs and all these different things? Like being in being a startup founder, female CEO, naturally, I have been forced. And also it’s interesting actually, also to think about, like, why is it like this? And suddenly, also, I become, and I have no problem with that. But I also have become like, a bit of a spokes person, how it is to be a female, CEO and entrepreneur. So yeah, that made me think more about everything. Quite interesting.

Michael Waitze 39:25
Awesome. I’m gonna let you go. I really want to thank you, Denise Sandquist a co founder and CEO of Fika. Thank you so much for doing this today.

Denise Sandquist 39:33
Yeah, thanks a lot, Michael. I really appreciate it. I enjoyed that.


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