EP 247 – Victor Cho – CEO of Evite – Disconnect From the Messiness

by | Dec 16, 2022

Asia Tech Podcast recorded an interesting conversation with Victor Cho, CEO of Evite. Evite is the world’s leading digital platform for bringing people together to celebrate their most important life moments. 

Some of the topics discussed by Victor:

  • How being immersed in coding help Victor understand what he wanted to be and do
  • Victor’s take on why the social media system is very hard to correct
  • How robots help promote more simulated interactions when parties are away from each other
  • One of the biggest tensions that the society is going to face
  • Companies only really scale when one builds leadership at every level
  • The benefits of having a framework put in place

Some other titles we considered for this episode:

[Communication Becomes Way More Important]

  1. It’s Just Different
  2. Is That the Humanity We Want to Build?
  3. You Are in Way Less Control
  4. Finding Value Out of It

This episode was produced by Stephanie Ng

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

Michael Waitze 0:03
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. This shouldn’t be a goodie and Welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by the amazing audio voice of Victor Cho. Most recently the CEO of Evite, Victor, it’s so amazing to have you here. How are you doing? I’m doing great. It is a pleasure to be here. Oh my god, you sound audio signal. Where are you based right now, by the way

Victor Cho 0:28
I live in like, I call it the Bay Area. But then I realised some people are like, well, we have a bay in our town, right? That’s like, it’s very like Silicon Valley centric. So I live about 20 minutes south of San Francisco.

Michael Waitze 0:39
Nice. Okay, in California. And are you from California originally?

Victor Cho 0:43
No, no, I’m a I’m a nomad. I’ve lived all over. I was born in a small Midwest town, which is a crazy story. In Seattle, Philadelphia, New York. San Francisco,

Michael Waitze 0:55
please sound like you sound like I do. I was born in Santa Barbara County lived in Boston, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, then back to Connecticut. And then of course, Tokyo and now Bangkok. But yeah,

Victor Cho 1:06
yeah. Oh, Philadelphia, and I live in Philadelphia as well. My parents still live there. For those people that don’t move around. I I’m always amazed. Because the world is just such an amazing place. I

Michael Waitze 1:17
went to high school with guys and gals. And they’re like still living within five miles of word of the house in which they were born and went to high school. I’m dumbfounded by this. I think it changes your whole world perspective. Yeah, for sure. Right. Even if you just moved from Connecticut to California, it’s like a different world. But staying in the same place your whole life, I think limits the way you think about things. Anyway, let’s get a little bit of your business background for some context, before we jump into the main part of this conversation. Sounds great.

Victor Cho 1:43
How far back? Do you want me to go?

Michael Waitze 1:45
You know, go as far back as you want, really, because there’s a career progression that I think is really important, right? I had a conversation with a guy yesterday who like worked for a bank for a while, and then started building his own companies. But I like to say like everyone’s an overnight success. 10 years later, right. So the first thing you did is kind of related to the things you’re doing today. But the further away you get from it, the less related is but I don’t think you can separate those experiences, because I think they inform what you’re doing today. Yeah, yep. But I mean, maybe when you started realising what your philosophies about work

Victor Cho 2:18
were, yeah, so I haven’t got a be probably an outlier from that perspective. Because when I was a, I’m gonna go way back. When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to be the CEO of a technology company, another software company, why? It’s a good question. So this is the CIO date me. But this was way back in 1880s 1987, maybe there was this thing called the Commodore 64, one of the very first I remember single computers, it was an amazing device I got I was blessed to get that for Christmas present, or a birthday present, I can’t remember. But I got immersed into coding. And I just I loved it. And I just knew, this is what I want to do with my life. I want to be around this device and around software. I also knew I wanted to be a general not a soldier. I actually didn’t know what a CEO was because I didn’t have any mentors to guide me. But I just my favourite book was Lord of the Rings. And as after I read those books, I said, I want to be Aragorn. I want to be the general and on top of the strategy in a business around the software, right.

Michael Waitze 3:22
But there is this concept right of generals and soldiers, but you need good soldiers to be a great general, right? Like you can’t lead nobody. Yeah, no, no. Can’t lead bad soldiers. Is that fair?

Victor Cho 3:33
Yeah, no, absolutely. Those definitely were simpatico. Yeah. So yeah. So going back to your question that took me down a, a very planned career arc. So I started in computer science, at University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. And literally, there was a programme that there was a dual track Business and Technology. And I was in the process of getting into that programme. And I remember opening up a textbook. And I remember remember the graph, there was a little pie chart, and it said, this is the distribution of CEOs and what degrees they get, really, and there was this huge sliver for marketing. And then there were sales and there was other stuff that there was no slavery for tech. And I literally, after seeing that chart, I said, Oh, I’m in the wrong field. Because I know where I want to go, I want to be a CEO. So I switched out of the engineering school, and went into the business school, because it was in service to that end goal, which again, I’m a weird kid. I knew that early on my career arc, then from that point took me through places like Microsoft, my own startup, but every job that I took, was in service to basically building the skill sets to be able to go run a business myself someday. And that culminated in my last few roles. I was CEO of two different companies. One you might know by Oh photo or KODAK Gallery. I did a four year stint there. And most recently was the CEO at Evite, the online invitation service for seven years.

Michael Waitze 5:00
So being a general is different than being a soldier, completely. But you kind of have to know what it’s like on a day to day basis to be a soldier to be able to manage those soldiers. I don’t think it’s any different from being a great CEO and having great and building great employees. Yeah, absolutely. This I feel like this, there’s this thing about you, that likes to understand sort of the minut details of something but not only about today, but about what are those details that I need for tomorrow to be a CEO. I mean, it is very strange for a kid and it’s not so strange for a kid to say I want to be a CEO, everybody aspires to be something right. And funnily enough, like, I never cared, I never wanted to be a CEO. I just wanted to have enough money. So I was never poor again. So everybody has different goals, right? But what do you think it is about you, that makes your brain so organised that you’re willing to sit down and figure out not what am I doing today? But what do I need to do to get to tomorrow?

Victor Cho 5:54
You know, I just think my brain is wired that way, from the youngest age, I’m always thinking, what’s the end state goal? And that goal may be 1020 3040 years out, which is I think, probably the the weird part of my wiring is I have a very long term planning horizon. And I’ve always had that. And that wasn’t I wasn’t taught that. I think that was just yeah, that was my intellect saying, How long do I think I’m gonna live? And how long do these things generally take? And okay, so it’s reasonable for me to want to be a CEO and whatever, 20 years? So,

Michael Waitze 6:22
did you play sports when you were growing up?

Victor Cho 6:25
I did not. I did not I did not have I had poor vision and was too poor to have glasses. So it was really bad at sports.

Michael Waitze 6:31
But maybe maybe the better question to ask is when you were sitting in a class at Wharton, or at Penn, right, I’m sure you could look around and figure out who the smart kids were, and gravitate towards them. Right. But I guess the other question is, could you also figure out when you’re at work, who the great leaders could potentially be, you know what I mean, just by observing them in the same way, you could go, oh, that lady over there is going to be amazing at in this class. And I want to become our friend so we can work together to do it. When you’re managing or even when you’re going through your career. Did you were you able to look around and say, That guy is going to be amazing. I’m a

Victor Cho 7:05
huge framework guy. So to the chagrin, maybe even if my team so I will codify my thinking into documents or structures or schematics? And no, absolutely, I very quickly came up with a schematic in my head a framework in my head of what creates great talent. If I observe those things in individuals I can it’s, it’s not in the five minute conversation. Sure. But over the course of working with someone for some period of time, I will rapidly formulate a point of view of yes, they have all of the raw materials that they’re going to need to become, I call it infinite runway. Employees, like this is an infinite runway employee. Yeah, they can mould themselves into whatever they want to become.

Michael Waitze 7:46
Do you think that’s different for tech companies than it is for other types of companies? Who do you think this is consistent across organisations and that any organisation, you can identify the people using the same framework if you know what I mean,

Victor Cho 7:56
typically work mainly in tech, but even within that has been a spectrum of businesses. It’s been pretty enduring. So I’ll say for any knowledge worker based business fair, for sure. I think this works. You threw out

Michael Waitze 8:08
two company names right at the beginning, when when you said I worked for Microsoft, and we’ll get to evite later. But he said I also worked for Kodak. I must be either a little bit older than you were a little bit younger than you. But I remember watching Kodak as a thing, right? And tell me if I’m wrong. But was Kodak in the Dow Jones Industrials, at one point. I’m just trying to remember I’m sure I’m sure it was. It was right. But it got taken out. And there’s an external perception about what happened at Kodak, I guess in the 90s. I’m trying to remember exactly what the timing was. If you were at Microsoft, and if you were in a management position, you were probably there during incredible growth, right. So again, from the outside, it looks like fun, like, okay, next year, we’re up 25%. So management is more just like, keep doing your job. It’s not I know that. Yeah. Kodak was different. Right. So Kodak invented the digital camera. Obviously, they were in a film businesses, which is a chemical business at its core. But what was the difference between managing it Kodak and managing Microsoft? If that’s okay to ask?

Victor Cho 9:08
Yeah, no, absolutely. Two bits of context. One is completely different business, as you mentioned completely. Microsoft was hypergrowth Kodak was in disarray was actually one of the biggest corporate turnarounds are tempted to do one of the largest corporate turnarounds in corporate turnaround history, and I joined and when I joined it, I I chose to run a business that was also requiring a turnaround. It was an online photo business that had been damaged by Facebook, basically, Facebook in the mobile phone. And so it was on a systemic decline. So I always describe this as my double masochistic. I was gonna ask you why this goes back to my high school, my weird kid brain, which is I knew for me to ultimately run a large software company someday I needed to understand how a small company operated, how it operated at startups, getting more scale going through hyper growth being damaged, right having to go into decline, and I had never done turnaround or repair and so I was like, what better way to go It learning than to jump in with a bunch of amazing executives, like the executives at Kodak came from HP, they built one of the biggest, most profitable businesses in the history of business. And they were gonna come in and try to turn this thing around. And so my mindset was holy cow, I’m gonna learn an amazing amount from being on this journey. I don’t know what the outcome is. But I just know I’m gonna walk away with a better toolkit in terms of managing, oh, God, it’s there. It is a completely different beast. Actually, every I think this is an epiphany, of course that I got over my career. Every business at every stage is a completely different beast, in terms of how you lead it. Yeah, yeah, whenever I joined a team, I have this weird preamble where I’ll kind of describe myself and how I work. Say some things I probably shouldn’t say, in terms of how I function. But one of the things I do say is, I am a situational leader, because of this experience that I’ve gotten over time, meaning there is we’re in Stage A, I am going to run this business a certain way. And we might hit a point where things that were no longer important to me are now suddenly very important to me. And you’re gonna think, Oh, why? Well, why did Victor suddenly Wait? Why is that thing now suddenly important when it wasn’t? And it’s because businesses at each stage right need very, very different things. So no, I know, I think you hit the nail on the head at Microsoft. I mean, when you’re when you’re in an ambient ecosystem that has its flywheel humming. It’s literally the hire. Yeah. It’s guided by the number of people that can hire that fit the talent profile, right? It’s, it’s literally raking in money and trying to figure out what do we do with all this money? So our profit margins don’t get too high. incredibly different from Yeah, yeah. But what do we do with this business where the core business model is degraded? I’d say every, every dimension, there’s there’s no business dimension, that’s not different, almost in terms of leading through those,

Michael Waitze 11:46
can we just maybe get a couple of, I don’t know, nuggets around, not the day to day, but you know what I mean, like, what the challenges really are for managing through that kind of crisis and what it’s like when you come out the other end, right? Because again, you learn, you specifically chose to go to a place where you felt like you could learn a bunch of stuff from very seasoned executives who had built a really big company, but all of you actually went to a place and said, Okay, this thing could die. How do we fix it? So how do you manage through that? Yeah, no,

Victor Cho 12:18
I’ll give you a couple. If you think of every company is just, it’s like an organism, right? It’s got it, it’s got its energy, it’s healthy, or it’s not. Companies like Kodak are very unhealthy. In terms of the employees, right, employee morale is very difficult to hold, when a business is shrinking sure, when you have successive rounds of layoffs, and so the ambient energy when your flywheel is humming, and you’re in the news every day from a positive perspective, and your stock price is doubling every couple of months, you don’t need to spend a lot of energy building employee excitement, right? It’s it’s there, right? You can just kind of go, yeah, there’s a huge chunk of my time that I had to spend, write with, in a transparent way, in an empathetic way, with the employees, because there are questions of like, is our business even going to be around? Like, why are we here? Why are we working here, even if this thing is going to fail? And so that’s just one tactical example of, you know, 20% of my time spent on organisational and employee energy versus Yeah, almost 0% of your time.

Michael Waitze 13:24
Can you take some of that empathy and transparency stuff that I don’t necessarily want to say you learned, but that you had to go through when you were at Kodak, and then apply it even in a place where there’s no crisis to be even more effective as a leader inside? Let’s say Evite?

Victor Cho 13:40
Yeah, no, absolutely. I think I’m trying to think if I was, I don’t think I was coached on empathy and transparency. It’s, again, it’s one of those things where I just kind of view the world, I always try to elevate myself above my position, and just say, abstractly, what is the right thing to do in this situation? And I saw the power of empathy and transparency in leading through crisis. And absolutely, I’m like this, this is a powerful. This is a powerful lever, and it really should be part of every leadership toolkit. So I’ve carried that with me through. Wow, yeah. The one other business that I ran.

Michael Waitze 14:18
I want to I want to come back to that as well. You mentioned earlier, you’re big on frameworks, right? And if you look at your own sort of career accelerator framework, this was something that was really interesting to me, right? Like, do I have the required capabilities to do something today? Do I add positive energy to the business around me? Right? In other words, do people perceive me as someone who’s going to be add energy or take energy away? And am I having real impact? And I’m curious if you can go up higher to the organisation itself. And see if from a management perspective, wait a second, I’m looking down does this organisation have the required capabilities? When we go To sell to people, do they feel the positive energy of us? Or even if we have a great product? Is it negative energy that they’re getting? And can we prove to them that we have real impact? In other words, does this work not only on an individual basis, but on an organisational basis as well?

Victor Cho 15:14
Oh, that’s a great one kudos for being able to rattle off that those framework components like good job. Excellent. No, yeah, it’s funny, I hadn’t thought of applying the employee framework to the business actually have a separate framework for the business health, which has elements of that. But the framework I have for business health is it’s around stakeholders. So it is, you know, is the business delivering what I call a game changing customer value, customer base, right. Now, is it is it? Is it profitable? Is it healthy from a shareholder perspective? Does it does it have a high performing organisation, have engaged employees right driving it?

Michael Waitze 15:52
And also, is it adding value to shareholders as well? Yeah.

Victor Cho 15:55
Yeah, no, absolutely. Shareholders a third. And then, you know, I think, a very unique frame and that I like to talk about a fourth, which, like, the fourth stakeholder, which is what which is this is the societal impact footprint of the business? Because I do I do believe every business at any kind of scale is, is responsible, not just for those three that and most businesses think of those three, like, are we delivering for customers, employees and shareholders, right? Increasingly, I am worried about not the inability of businesses to think about that fourth stakeholder the societal impact. But yeah, at a high level, there are some, there are some damaging things that are happening as a result of business operations that I think need to get rented.

Michael Waitze 16:37
Right. So these typical three stakeholders, right customers, obviously employees, obviously, and shareholders, this is standard. And this has been around for decades, if not centuries, right? That’s right. I feel like there’s a secular state change taking place. I do an entire show that I call the social innovation podcast. And I do we have conversations all the time about impact impact investing, as my friend one of the shows that I one of the sorry, guests that I had on the show, Andre Munez, just just announced $100 million capital raise for his company called next gen foods. They’re building a plant based food business, they’re taking $100 million to expand from Asia, where they’re based in the United States. So congratulations to them. Awesome. Yeah. But like you see this as a fourth stakeholder, is there a conflict between that fourth stakeholder? And the other three? No. Is there just a massive opportunity to build your business in a way that now takes into consideration society as a whole? And is that in and of itself a transformational way to create even more value for shareholders?

Victor Cho 17:41
Yeah, so it’s very annoying to say, nuanced that there’s there’s different company profiles, and they’re all going to behave slightly differently. So the example of the company that you mentioned, and I would cluster with that, with that business, all the benefits corporations, the B Corporations, the nonprofits of the world, right, the companies that are out, literally, their core business, is trying to do something super positive in the world, okay, here’s the business is trying to cure cancer. I’m like, Okay, awesome. Every employee can feel good about that business. And for those businesses, the stakeholders, the employees, shareholders, the employees, societal impact, everything is actually fairly well aligned, which is nice, right? And those businesses succeed, employees are energised, and society gets better. There’s a whole classification of businesses, though, you know, tapping into your point, which is exactly right, where the societal impact of those businesses is going to be at odds with with some of those other stakeholders, and particularly with the shareholder stakeholder. Alright, so if you have, if you have a really gnarly second order effect to your business, and it’s causing damage in the society, but to go fix it is going to fundamentally change the profitability of the business and pear the profitability of the business, there is now an innate conflict. And that’s I’m super concerned about those types of conflicts, because we don’t in our current capitalist society, we don’t have a great way to resolve those conflicts, shareholders are gonna win out in that battle, at least today, for the most part,

Michael Waitze 19:11
but then how do you see a company like and I’m no shill for Elon Musk, right? But Tesla was really the company that proved that you could build an electric vehicle and people would give you $58 billion of revenue every year and create almost a trillion dollar market cap. Yes. Which is more valuable.

Victor Cho 19:27
I put Tesla in the bucket of its core business model is doing an amazing thing for the world.

Michael Waitze 19:32
Yeah, exactly. Right. Because the whole idea there was let’s take away carbon emissions, let’s be carbon zero or net carbon negative and create a battery business essentially. And then other businesses could use it. And like I said, I have this social innovation podcast and we had the CEO of a company called amp Dawn and amps basically makes highly efficient batteries for construction sites because 11% of carbon emissions in the world are driven by building buildings. Right and a lot of people to whom I speak say that these these As big as problems are actually the biggest opportunities and you’re right legacy businesses, like look forward, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Volkswagen, all these big car companies now are saying we’re going to be fully electric in five years or 10 years, but again, pushed by Tesla do this. Yeah, yeah. So this second order, which I agree is very important, the first order of business very easy to understand, right, we make this thing here on here our margins, here’s our profits, stakeholders when customers when an employee’s when, but the second order impacts are really important, because most people don’t understand them, but the companies definitely understand them. Yeah. And that conflict has to be resolved that I think it gets resolved with profit, actually,

Victor Cho 20:39
because our company figures out a better model. Yeah, ultimately disrupts that business.

Michael Waitze 20:43
Yeah, cuz BMW is gonna be all electric. And the only reason why they were driven and not the only reason, but one of the reasons why they were driven to do that is because they looked over at Tesla and said, $60 billion of revenue week, we left on the table. Let’s buy batteries kind of thing. And um, no, I’m simplifying. Yeah, yeah.

Victor Cho 21:01
No, no, I, to the extent that there are industries like that, where you can, in fact, build a superior business model, right, then yeah, the economic model can ultimately win out a great super hard example is, you know, I know, Facebook gets bashed in the news all all the time these days. And I’d say rightly so in many ways. So So here’s a company, here’s a company where their first order business, I think they legitimately believe it is doing a good thing in the world connecting people. The vision is to connect exactly, it’s to connect people. And it’s done that in a phenomenal way scale that has created some phenomenal benefits. So first order effects potentially great in a number of areas. And I think internally, they could look at themselves and feel very good. I’m gonna go, yeah, we’ve helped foster democracies, we’ve we’ve connected people that have been disconnected forever. Now, there’s a wave of second order effects coming from their business that are heightened media scrutiny right now. Right. Things like well, is overuse of social media, increasing teen depression. And teen suicide is the fundamental content distribution nature of how these networks are created, creating a bifurcation and thought across the society creating micro pockets of disinformation. Yeah, probably benefited from it at scale. And it’s better. Exactly. So that’s a great example where yeah, you know, first order effects, maybe you feel good second order effects, ooh, you don’t feel great. But you know, he made a comment, which I thought was was fascinating, you know, the company will know, I think this is one of the hard problems, a lot of times the company might think there’s an issue, but they can also easily wave their hand and say, you know, what, we’re not the only social media company, there’s Snapchat, there’s Tic Toc, like, you can’t blame it all on us. And so the insidiousness of the second order impacts are, it’s almost like tragedy of the commons, right? That they may be having a massive contribution, but you can’t draw that definitive causal link. And therefore, the system is very hard to correct. It’s very hard to correct unless people step forward and just say, You know what, this is not acceptable, we don’t even want the potential to be contributing to this, right? And we’re gonna get, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna get out of it. And it’s going to impact us on the bottom line, that takes a level of integrity and leadership that it’s there in pockets across the society, I just said, I would love to see more

Michael Waitze 23:18
of it, I would love to see more of it, too. When you think about, because you said this earlier to you like I was the CEO and the leader of both of these companies. And I’m thinking about doing that again. Now, you’re gonna do that, again, in a world that’s completely different. I don’t know when you joined evite, but definitely different than when you joined your previous company as a CEO, right? Because COVID. And it’s just chant. I hate talking about this, but it’s just changed so many things. I’m wondering if you go back and look at all of the frameworks that you’ve created over time? And obviously, they’ve iterated and changed over time, for sure. For sure. Do things need to change as well, because of the remote nature of work that’s happening, we’re now if you build something, or even if you join something, you could have workers literally in every time zone globally? And how does that change the way you look at leadership and do these things, this is why I want to get back to this to empathy and transparency become even more important. And my first

Victor Cho 24:12
thought is communication becomes way more important than that model because you have such a distributed workforce. And those the social ties that normally get created in a business, when you have face to face connection, are no longer there. And so there’s there’s a whole replacement of communication flows that you’ve got to figure out how to architect right, super quick answer. None of my frameworks are actually at that level. I tried to build what I call enduring frameworks, which is I think you have, well this thing lasts, well, this thing lasts for the next 1020 or 30 years. Like is it something that’s just foundational to how you think about strategy or how a company operates? And so yeah, the good news is right now at least pick up to go back and scrub my scrub by doc. I don’t think anything changes but no, absolutely. On a tactical day to day basis, our leaders going to have to think about their employees differently. Think about everything. Yeah. Projects, processes, you know, time management. Absolutely. It’s a huge shift.

Michael Waitze 25:09
It’s a gigantic shift. And that’s one of the reasons why I think this, this is why we were joking about this right before we started recording. That’s why I think this matters so much like how important is media is a weird term. But how important is it to you to be like producing content and to make sure that people understand what you’re thinking and how you’ve built these frameworks over time, if that makes sense? Do you know what I mean? Like, is there a way for you to share that stuff at scale with people where you couldn’t have done that before?

Victor Cho 25:38
Absolutely. One weird irony is I am very light on the social media side of the world. Yeah. And a lot of ways by design in my last job, running Eve, I actually there was a very strong, in some ways, anti social media bent that I was taking. Yeah, even it’s all about bringing people together face to face. Yeah. And pushing those interactions out into a virtual sphere. From my perspective, and I still believe this, even though I’m no longer the CEO there. Those are inferior interactions, right? We are, we are biologically wired to get the most fulfilment from in person connection that happens in person. I mean, there’s literally right now we’re looking at each other virtually, but I could reach across and like physically grab your hand and shake it. I mean, literally, our bodies will get flooded with oxytocin and serotonin. It’s exactly it is just different. And so ya know, I’m a, I don’t have super large online followings to kind of spread the word to actually do things like this, which is trying to let you leverage other people’s great work and try to get the message out that way through other channels.

Michael Waitze 26:41
So I can’t you’ve been at this for a while. And this is more just a question from me for something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. And I’ve argued, consistently that technology can’t replace human interaction, right? So I don’t want a robot delivering a pizza to my house. I want a guy or a gal who’s in high school who was in college because I want to be able to tip them and I want to be able to chit chat with them and tell them hey, you know what, this is a hard job. I know it’s raining outside or it’s snowing, but this will build character robots don’t build character. But also because I think like you said, humans just viscerally want to interact with other humans.

Unknown Speaker 27:20
Right? Yeah.

Michael Waitze 27:22
But I’m watching. And I say but carefully, right? Because my grandfather taught me at a really young age that everything that comes after the blood is what you really mean and everything before the blood is just like a setup for shit you don’t believe in anyway. And my grandfather probably did swear, but does. And again, you can think this is goofy, but like does the metaverse and the advancement of technology and our ability to build sort of real haptic experiences remotely? Does it have the possibility to change the remote interactions and make them feel more face to face and more human? Like, have you thought about this at all?

Victor Cho 27:59
No, no, I’ve said that. The crazy irony is I am a huge technology geek. I love it. I love technology. It was one of the first they probably got one of the first VR systems when it came out, right? I had a telepresence robot. This is funny, he’s talking about robots. When I was doing the job at evite, I actually live in the Bay Area, right in San Francisco, I would fly down, but I’ve got young children, and I wanted to be more present. So literally, I think you guys have seen these on some of the TV shows like we had had a telepresence robot in my house. So yeah, in my hotel room, on the days I was travelling, I would literally roll around the house as a robot be able to see the kids playing and sometimes interact with them sometimes babysit sit at the dinner table. That’s a great example where the difference between zero interaction, which would have been the case without it right, and some presence was was absolutely valuable. Your question was a little bit different, right? Which was, hey, can can the haptic dynamics and you get to the point where more and more of that in person experience get effectively faked. Right? And you get the same chemical releases that say no, absolutely. Right. In

Michael Waitze 29:00
other words, you the people can’t see me, but I’ll explain what I’m doing. I’m grabbing the arm of my microphone, just lightly. In the same way that if I wanted to make a point with you, I’d, you know, I’d just be like, I’d touch you on the shoulder. But if you could feel that even remotely, it would change the way that that interaction felt. And I think that, again, if you go all the way back to the Commodore 64, which when you saw it looked like magic. Yeah, it was inconceivable to your parents at that thing could do what it did, but to you was normal. And I feel like all of the things that you’re talking about from a management perspective, the empathy, the transparency, the managing through crisis, as you apply it to remote teams, which are going to be at least in my mind, the way teams get built. I was talking to somebody yesterday who is building a business called the Virtual actuary. Super interesting, trying to create a community of actuaries that then licenced themselves out to big insurance companies. Really interesting business people. All remote, all remote. He’s based in South Africa, and he’s got business all over the world. But if I can simulate this, I think it takes stuff to a next level. And I think in the same way that that feels like magic today, pick a time. I can’t. I don’t guess well, but is it 10 years? 20 years out. But I think when that happens, all of these frameworks, this is why I asked you this question become just as relevant for remote teams. At the lower level, and at the higher level, because this is now possible. Does that make sense? No, sorry,

Victor Cho 30:33
it might when Michael says this. He’s grabbing his microphone staff. Yeah, no, ever reminds me of a didn’t get a lot of play. But there was a great Bruce Willis movie called surrogates. Did you ever see that movie? No, the concept of surrogates was very simple. It was a future state not too far in the future, where every imagine you have a big pot in your house. And you lay down in this pod, and you connect yourself to a robot that is out in the real world. But all of the tactile signals are being fed into your body. And so literally the entire society lives through surrogates. Right? It’s not too dissimilar from what you’re describing, right in the metaverse, and that could be a digital surrogate, it could be actually a physical surrogate actually loved it as a sci fi premise because it was okay, this is actually one possible, right. But to me, I don’t know. This is not a religious frame or a philosophical frame. It’s just more of a with my humanity hat on. I’m like, yeah, maybe maybe we could go technically do that. But why would we want to do that? Like, what do we want to live in an environment where we’re literally, because that’s the extreme end of that, right? We’re literally all alone in our houses. And in this movie, everyone gets overweight, because they don’t need to be good looking. Right? They’re their surrogates are actually very attractive. So everyone’s overweight. Right? And not showered. Actually, it’s kind of like COVID. Like, is that the humanity we want to build? And I would argue emphatically even though I love technology, no, no, we don’t we, we want we want people to come together.

Michael Waitze 31:56
Yeah, I mean, my premise is really based on in, I’ll give two examples. One is the one you had with your children, right? Where you had that sort of simulated robot experience where you could be with them, even without being them. But you could extend that by that actually making it you know, hug them in a way, right? So they can feel that feeling that’s really positive for society, but you want to be with them in person, for sure. But in during the times where you can’t. And from a management perspective, it’s the same thing. I want to sit in a room with my team. And if I can simulate that, and pass papers and shake hands and stuff, it just makes them feel more connected. That’s what I want. Do I want everyone to have a surrogate now? Because it’s bad for society? Yeah, it’s really bad for society. But to me, it’s more of a technological question. I’m not thinking philosophically necessarily about it. But because this idea of a pod is something that I think about every day, right, you can see me but you have no idea where I am. We did this, I think when I was when we were prepping. But I could do this. And if I had done this, from the beginning, you would think that I was sitting on that floor with people walking around behind me. Now that’s right. Right. You saw the guy just walk behind me? Yeah, yeah, he’s he’s the guy filming this, actually. This is why I love talking about technology. But what I wanted to think about was all of these frameworks and stuff that you focus on, which is fascinating to me, right, because I have not done that and codified all this stuff, in the context of how technology then makes that possible at scale. Yeah,

Victor Cho 33:25
no, it’s a fascinating time. It’s one of the biggest tensions I think, that our society is going to face. I mean, you can see, not just my kids, any kid that’s out there know any parents with kids, right? See the addiction that children have with the device, like young kids are literally losing the ability to have normal in person interactions, because they are so glued to this phone device. And to write instant message is just one example. So you take as these new technologies rolling in that that pole to disconnect in some ways from the messiness of in person interaction because it is messy, right. It’s messy, and it’s sloppy, and and it’s bi directional, and you’re in way less control. I think that’s going to be a societal tension for the whatever the next 50 100 years if I

Michael Waitze 34:17
agree, I don’t know. I mean, I’m a technology enthusiast. And I think at the end of the day, even through transitionary periods, like we’re in right now, things get better. They don’t get worse, but we can talk about that later. Do you before I let you go? Do you want to talk about your course or do you not want to talk about that at all?

Victor Cho 34:33
I’m sure No, no, we can mention that. Ya know, one of the things again, super passionate about frameworks, also super passionate about cultivating leaders, and I’ve got a philosophy and any business that I run, which I call recursive leadership, which is no company is going to scale with a singular, strong personality just dictating what should be done. Yeah, companies only really scale when you build strong leadership bench at every level. So I’ve always spent a lot of time and energy doing that coaching my team to do that. And, you know, as I shifted out of the CEO role, I had a lot of folks that work for me that that said, Hey, can you put some of that coaching stuff online now that you’ve got some time? And I thought about it for a second. And I thought, yeah, that’s actually a great idea. One because it’s gonna force me to put it into more structured form to hopefully somebody will find value out of it, but three, and this is just the way my brain works. It’s gonna save me time later. Yeah, whatever time is gonna take me now to codify it in whatever new organisation I go run, or I’m on the board of, you know, that should be able to point people to it in the same way I do with my, I’ve got a tonne of frameworks on my website at Victory show.com. So it makes it very efficient for me to leave because I’m like, Oh, now yeah, now we’re going to do strategy planning that’s on page two of this framework. Read it, and now we’re gonna go into it. So it’s all about getting time leverage as well, from a personal perspective. Perfect.

Michael Waitze 35:49
Okay. I will link to that as well. In my show notes. I really want to thank you for doing this Victor Cho, as we said, most recently, the CEO of Evite and I’m sure there are big things to come. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I

Victor Cho 36:01
really Michael now. It’s been a pleasure. I had a great chat.

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