EP 270 – Paul Meyers – Head Coach at Asia Founder Coaching – Empathy Is Kind of Like a Superpower

by | Apr 19, 2023

Paul Meyers⁠, the Head Coach at ⁠Asia Founder Coaching⁠, needs no introduction. We were honored to speak with him. The title of the episode says pretty much everything about Paul. He definitely has superpowers...:-)

Some of the topics that Paul covered in detail:

  • Doing crazy things in the 1990s
  • Helping ADB set up their impact venture fund
  • Identifying the need for founder coaching in Southeast Asia
  • Having similar experiences as a founder himself and wanting to give back
  • Founder mental health, particularly when starting a high-expectation business

Some other pithy titles we considered for this episode (Paul says a lot of quotable things!):

  1. We Have 873 People in Common
  2. All I Can Do Is Take Care of My Side of the Street
  3. I Was a Merchant Marine.  I Was a Dry Cleaner.  I Was a Kosher Caterer.
  4. There Is a High Expectation of Success
  5. It’s Pretty Fun.  It’s Pretty Magic.
Read the best-effort transcript

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

Michael Waitze 0:07
We are on. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. I’m already smiling. Today we are joined by Paul Meyers, the Head Coach at Asia Founder Coaching. I don’t know what to say Paul, thanks for coming on the show. Sorry about last week. How are you doing? You look great. By the way you shaved You look like you’re 18 years old. I don’t know how you do this. It’s great to have you.

Paul Meyers 0:29
Back. Thanks very well. No, it’s great to be here. Yeah, I didn’t shave. I even showered this week. So special for your your podcast? Audience. Yeah, it’s a special week.

Michael Waitze 0:40
Why were they checking up on you? Like, I don’t understand why you would do it. Does it feel to you? Does it feel to you like we were in Ho Chi Minh? A month ago? Does it feel like six years ago? Do you know what I mean?

Paul Meyers 0:52
Yeah, it’s a long time ago, I think part partly because it was so intense. And I feel like, I feel like he he minutes really stepped up its game. And that I was running the entire five days that I was there. Yeah, same

Michael Waitze 1:08
here. So I was doing everything else that I was normally doing. And then I was doing that too. And I’ve said this before. And you’ll see as I released some of the other episodes from the NFU Summit. Like there was some pretty amazing people that were there. And just it was the best tech conference I’ve ever been to. Yeah, great, most effective, I think, yeah.

Paul Meyers 1:28
I really enjoyed it. It was my third time there. And again, I could feel significantly better every time. And there are more more quality people than I had time to

Michael Waitze 1:40
spend time with. Same here. Right. So same here. It’s one of those those grades. Yeah. Normally, at this point in the show, I’ll ask somebody to give like a little bit of their background for some context, but it’s like, you know what, I mean, if you do a podcast with Obama, do you ask him for like background? Or does everybody know? Because I feel like it’s the same with you? Is there anybody in Southeast Asia that you meet in the startup space that goes, Paul Meyers don’t know never heard of that guy.

Paul Meyers 2:08
I see it every once in a while in that I meet somebody we get introduced. And afterwards, they go to LinkedIn, of course, and see, and we have like, 873 people in common. And I’ve never met or heard of this person. So yeah, it does. It does indeed happen. It’s not common. I mean, you know, I’m not that well known. But you know, every once in a while you see that,

Michael Waitze 2:33
you know, I do this podcast, right. And normally, before we record I do with people that don’t know that well. And I always tell them on the prep call, like, don’t don’t say anything about yourself, because I want to kind of find it out and learn about you as we record and then have my listeners kind of go on this journey with me with you. That’s not possible, because everybody knows you. This one guy says to me, though, I think he was like a German guy. I can’t remember where he was from, I’ll figure it out. And he said to me, oh, yeah, I spent three months in Connecticut, because I told him that I was that I lived there when I was a kid. Like, it’s not a small state. It’s not a big state. And I was like, So where did you Where were you go? So when my brother lived in Trumbull, Connecticut? I’m like, Are you kidding me? He goes, have you ever heard of it? I’m like, I lived there for six years. Like I know the street where your brother lived. Anyway, that’s another 783 connections that we had in common. What is it about you? I think about this, I don’t know. But what is it about you that makes people like universally like you? And do you think that that helps you in the context? No, seriously? Seriously, you don’t have to make that face. It’s just a fact. Right? Yeah. You know, I meet a ton of people, every now and then I’ll meet somebody and I’ll say like, Hey, do you know this guy or that girl? And they’ll be like, Yeah, I do. Oh, he’s not that nice. Or, you know, whatever. But no one says a bad word about you. What is it? Seriously? What is it about you that’s so appealing? And then that translates into how you help other people? So that makes sense.

Paul Meyers 4:01
Yeah, I’m…

Michael Waitze 4:04
it’s a hard question

Paul Meyers 4:04
Its hard for me to say how we like why do people like me, right, I can I like I like to do is take care of my side of the street. But I tried to, you know, respect people when I when I need them. And I’m curious, I like to be curious, right. I think that helped a lot. And, you know, if you read Dale Carnegie, that’s one of Dale Carnegie’s points, too. I mean, that isn’t where I learned it. But it was nice to see it there too. I mean, being genuinely curious about the person that you’re engaging with, helps break down some barriers. And especially, you know, Michael, you’ve been, you’ve been in Asia a long time. Neither of us are from Asia or Asian. But having experiences and cultures that have our own, that it’s important to have a set of skills, the skill set that that allows you to communicate well with people who are different, right? Yeah, especially if you’re doing business especially, you know, as I get more and more into coaching are raising money are pitching that trying to find those common areas quickly is helpful in a survival mode, right?

Michael Waitze 5:09
Are you surprised sometimes by it, because this is like one of my favorite examples, if you go out to dinner with somebody barring the fact that they have not allergic to something, right? If they’re in a new culture, if they’re in a new city, and they’re like, I don’t want to try the worms kind of thing. Is that surprise you still? Are you just so immune to it? You’re just like, Yeah, okay, that person, because I think it says something about the way you think about other people as well. And I think this is part of who you are to is just really empathetic, if that’s a fair thing to say, right? Because if you’re willing to try anything, whether it’s food or not, then you should be willing to listen to all these stories as well and then be able to help out. No.

Paul Meyers 5:47
Yeah, I think so. I think I think that one of the tools as we’ll get into coaching in a bit, but that’s a find, as they do more coaching and get better at it as they do more of it, I find that empathy is really like kind of a superpower. Right? Understanding how other people think and work and feel, especially feel or React is important. And looking looking. Keep your eyes open and ears open for the singles is important as well.

Michael Waitze 6:19
Do you feel like when you look back? On the sum total of your experiences, right, which aren’t over yet, for sure. Not even close, that they’ve been preparing you at some level for the coaching that you’ve decided to do?

Paul Meyers 6:36
I’d like to believe so I think that certainly in the startup, my experience in the startup world, say since the mid 90s, yes. Prior to mid 90s. Not so sure I’ve done I did lots of crazy things before the mid 90s. I mean, I you know, as a merchant marine, I was a dry cleaner as a kosher caterer. I’m not sure how much those contribute to being a a founder coach, but I’d like to believe that just just meeting and dealing with a wide variety of people helps. net net right.

Michael Waitze 7:09
Did you say a kosher caterer like I’m involved? How can you like when can I get deliveries?

Paul Meyers 7:17
Just in high school, I had a friend whose mom was a kosher caterer, Ruth’s kosher catering, and it was the best paying job in town. So we did that. And, you know, I learned a lot of things.

Michael Waitze 7:26
Refresh my memory again, where did you grow up?

Paul Meyers 7:29
I grew up in Evanston, Illinois, which is outside of Chicago. And it’s where Northwestern University is a great place to grow up about 80,000 people, right, like just next to Chicago.

Michael Waitze 7:41
When I was in college, I went to Connecticut College and a lot of the kids that I went to school with came from Evanston, Evanston and around the Chicago area, so yeah, very familiar with it.

Paul Meyers 7:50
Yeah. For people that don’t know Evanston just think any John Hughes movie, you know, they were all shot in and around, including my Ferris Bueller parts of Ferris Bueller was shot there. But you know, the John Hughes movies were all all Evanston and neighboring suburbs.

Michael Waitze 8:04
Wasn’t 16 Candles shot around there as well. Is that

Paul Meyers 8:07
all of them? Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. Wow. Pretty in Pink. Yeah. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 8:13
maybe that’s what I was thinking of Pretty in Pink as well. We’ll get

Paul Meyers 8:17
Home Alone.

Michael Waitze 8:20
I always felt bad for the people that actually lived in that home alone house, they must have had people driving past there every day, and just like trying to break in and do funky, funky stuff there as well. Anyway, yes. When you decided to get into coaching, right. I’m curious why, first of all, why you started to do it. But also why you decided to do it in this place where you decided to do it right. In other words, when I was at Goldman Sachs, I think I told you this, there were coaches coming in all the time, I didn’t really understand what they were doing back then. Now I think I have a better understanding. But you went straight to startup founders? Why did you do that as opposed to broadening it out and doing more? You know, executive coaching at scale?

Paul Meyers 8:59
Yeah, good question. So let’s start with with with how, and then that kind of drifts into why. Sure. Night 2019. I was wrapping up an engagement with Asian Development Bank, helping them start their very first venture fund, and it was an Impact Fund for emerging markets, which was a great experience and, you know, the end of 2019, my engagement with them ended and I thought, Okay, I’ll take a couple months off, figure out what’s going on. And COVID COVID is what was going. So the opportunity for finding just getting a new job just wasn’t there. So I thought, okay, let’s just add and we got locked out here in Singapore, we got locked down pretty quickly. So I thought I’d take that opportunity to think about what I wanted to do, you know, in the next 510 years, you know, put together a plan. I have some time finally, to sit here and meander and think about it and talking to people who have a bunch of wacky ideas. It became clear that There was a real need for founder coaching in Southeast Asia. Whereas if you’re in the valley, pretty much every founder has a coach. You see it more and more on the East Coast see it all over the states you see, increasingly in Europe, not so much here for founders specifically. And so why founders specifically, it’s, I believe, that yes, everybody needs a coach. But I think specifically for founders, it’s a very unique high pressure journey that when you go through it, it’s hard. It’s difficult. It’s, there’s all sorts of hidden, hidden booby traps and things that you don’t expect. And it pulls and pushes and tugs on you. And all sorts of ways whether it’s your family, or whether it’s your, your own personal expectations, or your partner or your co founder, or your investors who are the market or you’re starting any business is difficult. But being a startup founder with high expectations is is intense, right?

Michael Waitze 10:57
Do you feel like it’s a lonely trip as well? It’s hard to explain this, right. But you see founders at events on stage, you see them talking to people, you see them getting swamped by venture, like all these kinds of things going on at the end. But at the end of the day, does it feel to you when you’re experienced that it’s just a really lonely endeavor? Even if you have a co founder?

Paul Meyers 11:17
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, and a lot of that is self imposed, right? We, we especially guys, okay, let’s, let’s, let’s qualify this a little bit more, especially guys, we think we can do it all by ourselves, right? And asking for help is difficult. And in some cultures, asking for help is even more difficult, right? You know, in different cultures in Asia, you know, raising your hand publicly to say, hey, you know, I need help here, I’m in trouble is not really done. Because it connotes failure. And it’s not failure. It’s just a recognition that you need help. But it takes, you know, it took me a long, long time to realize that myself. So yeah, you can isolate that you feel like all the problems that yours and your self imposed, and you have to fix them. And only you alone can fix them. A and B, there’s also a culture of, you know, the stars of six, the successful founders stars are all single, you know, solo printers, right? That if you they may not be heroes today, but they can look at Mark Zuckerberg, you look at Jack Ma, you look at Elon, Steve Jobs. You know, Elizabeth Holmes, Steve Jobs, you know, you don’t you don’t really hear about anybody else you hear about them. Right? So the media mantle of a solopreneur is very, it’s very compelling. And you know, we all kind of drink that Kool Aid.

Michael Waitze 12:37
But why are people so afraid of communicating? I remember this is a few years ago, right? I was reading the Ray Dalio spoke principles. And one of the things that Bridgewater instituted after years of trying to build like different types of cultures was this idea of rent radical transparency. Right? In other words, it doesn’t give you the right to be rude. But if someone says, Do you think this cake is tasty? You’re allowed to say, actually, no, there’s not enough sugar in it. And I don’t like chocolate kind of thing. But why is that so hard? Anyway?

Paul Meyers 13:09
I can only speak for myself and the culture. I grew up in different different flavors around where we are now. We don’t want to insult people. We don’t we don’t want to appear rude or outside of our status. Right? Some people can do it. Some people are very good at just being wanton and clear and saying what they feel. But in general, culturally, certainly where I grew up in probably where you grew up, you just didn’t do that. It’s like my grandmother used to go, oh, that dress looks lovely. All right.

Michael Waitze 13:47
Yeah, I think we definitely did. Does that mean at the end of the day, because look, I mean, I’m, you know, I’m building something, too. And there’s no one to lean on. You know what I mean? I mean, I’ve got a co founder, we do some stuff together. And but at the end of the day, it’s just like, I feel like it’s my responsibility. But I do think that there’s this mentality out there that men are supposed to just survive on their own, that they’re supposed to tough it out. They’re supposed to, you know, grit their teeth and move forward. Do you see this in your coaching as well, like the men approach you and say, like, hey, I need a coach, or, like, how does it skew for you?

Paul Meyers 14:20
Well, the weird bit is I’d say 80% of my clients are women. Okay, so that’s how it skews for me is that it’s far and away more women ask for coaching than men do in my experience so far,

Michael Waitze 14:34
but this is interesting, too, because you’re in Southeast Asia. So the idea is that there aren’t a lot of women who are series a funded and yet you’re still saying that 80% of your of the people with whom you’re dealing are ladies, how does like how does that work? Where are they coming from? What are they doing?

Paul Meyers 14:50
Well, they’re not all series A founders if they’re annoying, but because I you know, I also work with people outside of that. How does it work, I think But in my experience, you know, female founders are more willing to say, hey, I need help. You know, it’s hard enough being a female, it’s hard enough being a founder a subset of that is what like, less than 3% of all venture funding goes to women, you know, female founders. I mean, it’s like, absurdly small amount. So it’s like extra super difficult. So I think that just uh, on those friends alone, you know, women are looking for female founders are looking for ways to make sure they succeed and their whole and they’re mentally sound and you know that they’re not struggling the entire time. You know, any sort of support system is helpful if it works. So just looking at different ways of doing it.

Michael Waitze 15:44
So I know you follow this really closely, but you just said mental health you saw I’m trying to remember this woman’s last name. I can’t but her first name is AIX AIX type started a company called Oka Oka. Yeah, yeah, just got funded, right. And her whole, her whole business is based around providing mental health services to people that can’t get them anywhere else. If you listen to her founder story. It’s very personal for her right? She used to travel and travel to three hours to just get someone to talk to her and then wait there for three hours, right and then talk to someone and then go back three hours to go work on a military base somewhere because she was in the army or the Air Force. I can’t remember entirely army.

Paul Meyers 16:23
Yeah. I’ve worked with her before. And, you know, I’m an advisor. So I was thrilled to see that she, she was able to raise that money, because it took a long time. And it was really hard for her to do that. But I remember meeting her like at a tech in Asia event and what 2017 A long time ago, and she was explaining what she was hoping to do. You know, she was a military dentist, and I thought she was explaining that she wanted to do this and, you know, public public mental health for young people in Thailand. And great, it was a great idea. And I walked away thinking no way is this gonna work is absolutely no way she’s gonna be able to pull this off because like, you know, people in Thailand, young people in Thailand are going to publicly say, hey, I need I need I need help here. And I just didn’t think it was possible. I mean, it was my mistake, obviously. But yeah, they did. And she’s, she’s been very successful doing it has given a voice to, to a lot of young people, especially who, who need help and want to reach out and want to support one another. I thought that was fabulous.

Michael Waitze 17:26
I think it’s super fabulous. She’s such a great kid. And I’m so happy for her. And for the stuff that she’s working on. You know, there was an article, I think, on LinkedIn today about how Golden Gate was moving into Vietnam. We talked a little bit you and I were in Vietnam in January, we talked about it a little bit. I still feel like we’re in the early days of the venture capital startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia, I still feel like we’re really early, right? I mean, to be fair, we’ve only been around for, I don’t know, 10 years. Is that a fair number? 2012 11. Like pick a time but it’s not like two decades or three decades? Like it isn’t Silicon Valley? Does everybody have a role to play here? Right? Because if we’re building an ecosystem, it means that these little pockets of people that are existing inside the ecosystem can’t exist alone anyway, how does the coaching kind of bring all of these pieces together? If it does at all, like, what’s everybody’s role in it? If that makes sense?

Paul Meyers 18:14
Great question. There’s about three questions in there. Actually. That’s my

Michael Waitze 18:19
problem. You’re talking about curiosity. Curious, but But yeah, talking about the stages. And then who does what inside of this ecosystem work? Coaching fish? Yeah,

Paul Meyers 18:28
sure. So initially, yeah, I think we’re very much at the early days of, of venture ecosystem in Southeast Asia, I think, you know, obviously, Singapore, took the early lead there, and the government put a lot of money into it and made, you know, a very strong commitment to building that industry in Singapore. And they spent an awful lot of money in some of that work. So it didn’t work. But the result was obviously what we see right now. And it’s a very strong, vibrant, community and ecosystem here for which other Southeast Asian countries look to emulate one way or the other. So we’ve seen Indonesia move from, from almost nothing to a very vibrant scene, right. And that was because the government and industry worked together to make that happen. They changed some laws, and they put some government money and thought behind it. It’s happening in Vietnam. It’s happening in Malaysia, Thailand, Thailand, you know, and in Vietnam, Thailand is a little different, because it tends to be more internal in Thailand, not too many Thai companies come out of Thailand, which is often a requirement for big venture investment to be the next you know, deck of cards, the next grab to be the next whatever, which, you know, tie companies just because of the culture, the language find it difficult to do. And that tie come you know, the venture community has traditionally been corporate venture, private companies cvcs Right. That’s changing. So I am thrilled and encouraged to see these different pockets growing in the different markets. We Because obviously, every country is different, and every economy is different. But we’re really seeing some growth that way. As that matures, then what else can investors do besides invest money? Right? Is there expertise? Is there? Are there relationships? Is there support for the founders, so you’re seeing more and more. Now, the VCs have EIR entrepreneurs and residents who actually are helping companies, right? There are advisors who are actually saying, Yes, I know how to solve these SAS problems, or these, you know, public supply chain problems, where before it was, they just didn’t have those, right. And I think a component of that is, indeed founder mental health, because it’s really super important for both for the founders who are under a lot of stress and strain from internally imposed and externally imposed. That’s why the series a you know, you raise 2030 $40 million, and all of a sudden, you have a whole lot of other people paying attention to you. And, you know, kind of insisting that you succeed, that doesn’t, that doesn’t take the pressure off, right. So what is there to help make sure that the founders are successful, and then they are mentally strong and emotionally strong, and taking breaks and making sure they’re with their families and all those those key elements so they don’t blow up, you know, or crash and burn. I think that’s a key component to a healthy investment cycle. And if you’ve got to invest, right, a $5 million check or a $10 million check, maybe there’s some of that should go to making sure that the founder and the leadership team are, are mentally mentally strong and being girded for battle, right?

Michael Waitze 21:41
Yeah. Do you also think that the venture capitalist themselves again, if they if they’re in the same stage of maturity as the rest of the market? And I would argue that they lag a little bit behind? Right? Because once once, they’re sort of established VCs in any region, kind of everybody wants to do it, because it seems like a super cool job, right? I get to talk to people, I get to spread money around like, it feels like a cool thing. And if it works, I’m a billionaire. If it doesn’t work. My mom’s still proud of me kind of thing. But because it’s still early for them as well. Did they need coaching to do you don’t I mean, so that they know how to react and deal with founders in a way that maybe they haven’t had to do at scale before?

Paul Meyers 22:21
That’s a really interesting question. And it’s come up a lot in the past three months. Okay. Now, I haven’t raised a belief, but other people have raised it as well. I’m hearing it as is becoming a topic. I think a couple of VCs have reached out to me recently, as well, which is a first. Yeah, I think so. Because, again, there’s a high expectation of success. Yeah. And there’s no discussion of failure. Right? And right, and, you know, 10% of companies that raise a seed seed round, you know, move on and have any sort of, you know, exit event eventually, right? I mean, it’s crazy. You know, 90% of startups fail. Right? And so like, if you’re investing your, you have a five, one in 10 chance of something being successful, and you look at how funds are built, they’re expecting one or two of the 10 to pay back at least cover the costs, right? So you have a high failure rate built into the system. Often young people who come into being into the industry of venture don’t have a lot of training in terms of emotional training, right? Or what happens when it doesn’t work kind of training. Right? I mean, I don’t know about you, but you come from the financial industry. Were you trained to like, deal with failure? Well,

Michael Waitze 23:41
00. And let me let me give you an example of this, right. And I’ll never forget this day. I was new to the trading desk, and I was trading the whole curve, right for US government bonds. And the only reason why I was trading the hole covers because my boss was gone. He went on vacation, literally, like two weeks after I started. He’s like, good luck. I trained you up and I was like, oh, no, I could die. Anyway, the market started moving a lot. The The BOJ started doing stuff I was in Japan at the time, the FX rates started moving around a lot, which meant, which meant that the Bond started moving around, and the notes sort of moving around a lot. So I’m on the phone, not on the phone, but I’m dealing with a client, a big trade a half $1,000,000,000.05 100 million dollar trade. And I’m new at this. And my boss from New York calls, just randomly just to see how I was doing. And I was like, I can’t talk to you now Tommy and I hung up the phone, and he called me back and he’s like, What are you doing? You don’t know how to solve this on your own. I’m the only person in the world who can help you with this from halfway around the world. Tell me what’s going on. And that was like the first real example of coaching for me and it was my first example of I don’t need to score every goal myself. I don’t need to have the answer to everything. And if I can leave because he didn’t say to me You’re such an idiot that you don’t know this. He said, Okay, stop. Let me help you. Let me walk through this thing, we did this whole thing that trade made a half a million bucks. I’ll never forget it. And when it was done, he was like, Do you see what we did there? We helped each other out. And I’m telling you, this dude was like a typical Wall Street bond trader, he was a major pain in the you know what, but he understood how to coach. And I think that people don’t understand at some level how important that is. And that’s why I get back to the VCs too, because I don’t think they’re trained any better than founders are trained to understand what to do when things go wrong. Because when things are going right, you know, nobody really needs guidance. It’s really when things get a little, you know what I mean?

Paul Meyers 25:35
No, I think you were very lucky. You were very fortunate to have a boss like that. Because, you know, we’ve all heard plenty of stories that aren’t like that. Yeah. Not only not only in the bond industry, or the venture industry, but you know, all industries, everybody can relate to having a bad boss, Terry, you a new one in that situation. Yep. Right. So that’s why it’s important. And yes, when everything is going well, everybody see hero, right? But, but these are not, these are not easy times right? Now, if you’re a founder, a lot of money has dried up, it hasn’t dried up entirely. And there is money available for good companies, but it’s not as easy as it was 24 months ago or 36 months ago to raise your rates and a and for Raisa, you know, some sort of bridge round or something, right? I mean, it’s a lot a lot more difficult.

Michael Waitze 26:22
Do you see when you’re doing this? Do you see common problems cropping up in the sense that you’re like, I’ve heard that. And here are probably the three best ways and I’m just making it up right to address this thing? Or is every founders experience so different?

Paul Meyers 26:39
So there are common themes. And this goes back to want to why I feel like I wanted to be a founder coach is because I was a founder, right? And I’ve been through those experiences, you know, some great successes, you know, trading floor of Goldman in New York, going public on NASDAQ was one of them, right? But also just having to shut down a company and sell the desks that you were working at? week before I’ve done that, too. And, you know, that’s, that’s no fun laying off your team that you’ve been with for five years, because it didn’t work. So I sort of had that bread bread there. So the operational experience, I’ve seen a lot of it. And I’ve heard a lot of it just in my mentoring and being around the industry a lot in terms. So there’s sort of, there are common themes that way, in terms of the other side of the spectrum, which is the more personal stuff, right? What goes on in people’s hearts and souls and minds. There are some similar themes, right? Everybody has their own story. Sometimes you’re completely surprised by what’s going on. But I believe that, yeah, there are some themes, and a lot of them revolve around the number one theme is I hate my co founder. Right, yeah, I mean, maybe not hate, but like, They’re driving me crazy, right? It’s a very strong word. But they’re driving me crazy. We’re not getting along well, and it’s causing problems everywhere else, right? Because if you two are bickering, it’s like a family. Right? If you were bickering, what are the kids going to do? What? What are those meetings like at every single meetings going to be a fight? Do I want to go to that meeting? If I’m at one of the two primaries there? No, there’s that. So that’s really common. There’s stress around money, and people freak out when the funding isn’t coming in, or it looks like you’re going to have to lay people off or, you know, some people do either very brave things, or very, sometimes stupid things, or, you know, nothing at all right. And many of those can have repercussions, right? Harmful repercussions? Yeah, those are common as well.

Michael Waitze 28:47
What are the things that most founders are finding hard to deal with? With their co founders besides just the money? Is it I want to go faster than you? You’re moving too slowly? You’re not selling enough? You’re deciding on the wrong product mix? Or is it just all of these things? And I guess the bigger question is, if they bring you in to talk to them, I don’t want you to give away the secret, right, but like what do you do to try to fix that?

Paul Meyers 29:13
So to answer the first part first, I think generally, a lot of the problems between co founders is communication and method of communication. Right? Let’s say you’re a technical co founder and I’m a sales guy, okay? Right You’re going to see a problem very differently than I’m going to see a problem you’re gonna see a solution very differently than I’m going to see a solution right and how we communicate that to what we could be saying very similar things but our language of communicating them and our way of of getting to a yes are very different right? So a lot of it is simply that and that can just build up kapow. Just like a marriage you know, any sort of really was gonna say,

Michael Waitze 29:57
I feel like I feel like the best founders are guys and gals. Those that have been divorced twice. They’re like, okay, I get it. I know my strengths and weaknesses, I’m happy to be yelled at. I’m good. Now. Like,

Paul Meyers 30:07
there’s probably some study out there that says, you know, if you’re a third, third time founder and twice divorced, your chances of success are like 70% higher than everybody else. You know, I don’t mean to belittle it, but I think that, yeah, if you’re going through those kinds of things, you see what’s important in the conflict. And you see what’s important in the resolution isn’t even a conflict, right? How, how, what’s important in those situations, so I, I work with a tool called fingerprint for success. That’s a diagnostic, based around experiences with previous founders and Business Builders, that measures you and in 48 different areas. So you and me. And so if we do it as a team, we can sort of see where we are, structurally right, and how we compare to one another. I was very dubious when I saw it the first time because I thought it was kind of like voodoo, but actually it wasn’t. And when I was at Moody ahead of it at the accelerator program, fingerprint for success was a part of part of it already before I got there, and I thought, okay, yeah, we’ll see, you know, whatever, we’ll let this happen. And I saw founders going over major structural problems within days, using this tool. This diagnostic I was, I was convinced that’s what convinced me to actually get trained in and get certified. And because it actually worked, I saw people who that seemed to have intractable communication problems. Yeah, get over them. And in 48 hours, right, it was like, wow, that was amazing.

Michael Waitze 31:42
So in a way, it’s kind of like Briggs Myers, right? It’s like, what are the first time someone at least showed it to me? I was like, how can you tell like, but with four initials, what my personality is like, but actually, at some level, they’ve done a ton of work on this and works at some level. Here’s the thing, though. If it’s equivalent at some level to a marriage, and the marriage is having a problem, and one of the partners says, look, let’s go to counseling, and I’m not quitting at one for one. And the other party goes, I’m fine, you’re insane. The counting is not gonna help me at all. I don’t need it. But you might need it. Do you see this as well with co founders to where it’s like, you definitely need some coaching. But I’m already amazing.

Paul Meyers 32:20
Yeah, you see if at that, I think that’s when like investors come in and board that hopefully advice, users come in and say, Hey, you’re going to lose my money, you’re gonna lose our money, there’s a lot more at stake here than your ego or your, you know, whether you’d like brown more than green or green more than blue. You know, it’s more, it’s more than that. There’s a lot at stake on the table here. So aware investors and aware board members should and I hope, we’ll do more of encouraging founders to get coaching when there are problems

Michael Waitze 32:53
like that. Yeah. Which gets back to this idea of if you’re building an ecosystem, a startup ecosystem, everybody’s going to have the role to play in the success of the invested companies. And frankly, and some of the companies that don’t get invested, but still thrive inside of the ecosystem, because everybody else has built this infrastructure there. That just makes it easier for people to lean on others to get information. But also the ecosystem itself is powerful enough that it can support a bunch of people that have not potentially been funded. I see a lot of and maybe it’s just because I live in a bit of a bubble. But I see a lot of this stuff you’re doing on the founders circle. In a way it feels kind of like secretive to me, like it happens in a place that’s undisclosed. I feel like maybe there’s just amazing sushi being given away there. And I’m just not invited. What is it? The founders? Yeah, yeah. But what is the founders? Like all joking aside? And sure. How is it different from everything else that you’re doing? Like, it’s a bunch of people in a room? Yeah.

Paul Meyers 33:45
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So um, a little bit of background founders circle was not my idea. Actually, it came from from two friends in Bangkok. Ame, who everybody knows am Amrit, right. And my coach a guy named economica Gormley, that came up with it and started it in, in Bangkok. And I saw it, I thought, hey, that’s, that’s kind of cool. Can I borrow that and do it in Singapore. So visually, their idea is going in a different direction slightly for them, and it’s going to make direction for me, but it had had those common roots. Basically, what we do is it’s a mastermind, a three hour mastermind session with a limited number of founders. 12 is my optimal number. And we talk amongst ourselves about issues that founders have and can open up about and be supported by and what I you know, one of my tenants of support for founder mental health and founder coaching is talk to other founders, right? It’s, I’ve been through it, I can help you more than some person who hasn’t been through it right and hopefully, so having a group of founders who are going through their own thing, but can maybe support you in your areas of conflict or your Dark or you’re unhappy or something, that’s, that’s what it is. And the magic of it is, is just that, you know, if people feel comfortable enough about sharing, and in non prescriptive ways helping one another. And that’s what I try to cultivate. And it’s every month, you know, I do it once a month in Singapore, and it’s 12 people and every, every session is different. It’s it’s really fascinating. It’s fabulous. I really love it, I come out of it. Just super, super charges, three hours. So you know, three hours of intense 12 people in a room, and I come out. Wow. It’s wonderful.

Michael Waitze 35:36
Yeah, I mean, it’s got to be awesome, right? If you can get a group of people together that are really willing to share, right? Because if there are three guys in the back, that are just like, This is ridiculous. But then they I guess they wouldn’t be there, right? Because they know what they’re getting themselves into. But if you can really get people to share, and not just the best practices, but like, like, last week, my dog died. And I just couldn’t get over the fact that that happened. And then the funding that I was supposed to get disappeared, like, how am I supposed to deal with all this stuff at the same time? Yeah, it just gets really hard, right. And again, this gets back to this idea of, I feel like I’m operating in a vacuum sometimes is what a lot of founders think, right? Because all these things are happening. They’re happening in real time. They’re happening super fast. And nothing that I’ve learned before I did this has prepared me for this, even though you feel like it did in a way. You’re like, Hey, I went to Harvard, like how come? I can’t figure this thing out? Right? And you’re just so different? Yeah,

Paul Meyers 36:28
it’s there. And I think the Dukes come down, the protection comes down, you know, a small group of non investors, and they’re sort of your peers, but they’re not your co workers. And they’re not your co founder, semi strangers, you can you feel a little bit more comfortable doing it. One of the really interesting bits here is that the dynamic is entirely different, depending on the gender mix, right? Tell me to have more women in the group? Well, let’s, let’s put it this way more guys. In the group, it’s very prescriptive, you should be doing this, you should be doing that you should be doing this right? And what far less so when there’s a equivalent amount of the equivalent number of women in the group, and is much more supportive? And have you thought about this? Have you thought about that maybe look at looking at it this way, looking at it that way. And I really try to hold people back from being prescriptive in it. But it happens much more easily when there’s more women. So I’m always asking for female founders to join. And I find that when we have gender parity, they’re better sessions. Clearly. That’s how it works.

Michael Waitze 37:36
As many female founders as you can find, we should bring them on and get them on the show as well. Right? The the diversity of opinion that diversity of gender, the diversity of everything actually is frankly very important to us. I’m including you in that us because I think it’s very important to you as well. And the more different voices I’m gonna have. Sure if it’s 5050, male, female, you get this different dynamic. But if it’s somebody from Indonesia, somebody from Japan, somebody from California, right, somebody from Vietnam, and you get them all in a room together, that’s where it gets really amazing. No,

Paul Meyers 38:05
yeah, actually, I was counting during the last founder circle, and it was people from six different countries, out of the out of the 10 that showed six of them were from different countries, and, and there were more women than men. And it was a it was a serious, serious session, I was really gonna we got really deep, I really liked that. One thing about founder circle is just kind of interesting data point here. I thought when I set it up, it would become a it this is either a a way to make money or be a direct funnel to coaching, right? So after three or four months, I thought, Okay, I like doing it for free. I’ll try it, try to raise, put some fees on it, and charge $35, right for this three hour session. Nobody signed up 00 people signed up for a $35 session. So I spoke with some other people and they recommended just don’t stop charge. That’s horrible. Like, why doing this. But now I’ve come to the point. It’s kind of like a Petri dish. It’s kind of an experiment. Yeah. And every episode is different. And I learned new things. And I try new things. And I hear new things. And I’m thinking, what a great opportunity it is to just like learn new stuff that outside of me, I don’t have to do the talking right. Everybody else is doing the fact that it hasn’t become a direct funnel to to coaching. I’ve had a couple of one off kind of sessions with some of the folks but for now, for me, this is like this is like a little grad school treat. Right? I learned something new every month. And it’s fabulous. I think I’m helping people. And it seems like you know, I’m building a community here that is starting to work with one another. And what’s it going to look like in six months? I don’t know. But right now, it’s pretty, pretty fun and pretty magic.

Michael Waitze 39:43
But again, isn’t this the key here? There are a few keys right? And that is one you get to learn something every month from people that either you didn’t know a little bit before, you know, a lot better now. That’s the first thing. Yeah. And that’s priceless, right? Even even at our age, the ability to learn stuff like that. You can just add it into all the other things that you have learned over time. Totally. And the other thing as well as you might actually find it in that room. There’s a founder here who’s looking for a co founder or a founder there who needs somebody somebody to help. Or they’re like, if I just had a technical gal to do this for me, and there they are in the room, and then you were the person. There’s a word for this in Japan in Japanese, I can’t remember. Did set them up? And that’s never gonna go away. Right? And sure, it may not turn into cash directly in the coaching business, but that never goes away. Ever. And that’s amazing. I think. Yeah.

Paul Meyers 40:33
Yeah, I think so too. And I slow learner, they have to have like seven sessions, six or seven sessions. They’re like, Oh, yeah, it’s a community here, right. 10 people show up on average for six times 60 people in this community? Well, what do I do with that? And so a lot of my thinking now is how do I build this community make it? There’s a lot of founder communities, a lot of startup communities right now. But how do we make this into something different and useful without being over taxing or overbearing?

Michael Waitze 41:04
Yeah, I mean, anytime you build a vibrant community, something great has to come out of it. Right? So good for you. The last thing I’ll ask you, before I go is what keeps you inspired.

Paul Meyers 41:15
All of this man, I feel like I get to learn, I get to I get to help people, I get to learn, I get to see new things. Right? I feel like I think all of us want to do something good with our lives, right. And I think as we get older, I hate to say, oh, as we get older here, but I think I think that becomes even more important that I don’t think of it as a legacy per se. But I’d like to believe I’m more serious about doing good things now than I was in my 20s or 30s. Right. And this is a way of doing that. I’d like to believe that it’s helping founders. I don’t have the time or the energy of the patients to do another startup. I don’t know that seven to 10 years, you know, I just, I can’t do it. But I can help other founders change the world by supporting them, and helping them change the world. Right. And that’s how I sort of see my role in this. This, this riding off into the sunset bit. You know, that’s what I’d love doing that. I think that’s great. And if it works fabulous, and if I can learn stuff along the way, it’s even better. And I’m very happy with that. In terms of, I’m settled with it internally, right. I feel like this is a really good thing for me to be doing now.

Michael Waitze 42:27
Paul Meyer is the head coach at Asia founder coaching. That was awesome. Thank you so much for spending the time and doing this today.

Paul Meyers 42:34
Thanks, Michael.


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