EP 291 – Sina Meraji – Learning Loop – I Stopped Being Afraid

by | Aug 23, 2023

The Asia Tech Podcast welcomed ⁠Sina Meraji⁠, the Founder and CEO/CTO at ⁠Learning Loop⁠ to the show. Sina is one of our favorite people for the passion he brings to the tech startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia, his thoughtfulness and his relentless efforts to be better.

Some of the topics that Sina covered:

  • How Learning Loop has grown and iterated since its founding
  • The power of getting Founders together to maximize their learning and maximize their luck
  • Overcoming fear and uncertainty and purposefully building expertise
  • Why Sina decided to start writing more content and the impact of the Butter Kaya Breakfasts
  • Singapore’s success story

Some other titles we considered for this episode, but ultimately rejected:

 
  1. The Stuff I Build at Learning Loop Is the Stuff I Stand For as a Person
  2. There Are Four Ways to Create Luck
  3. You Have to Fight Mediocrity
  4. You Can Trust the Green Light and Red Light
  5. That Is Luck, But I Created It
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 0:05
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast we have Sina Meraji, founder of learning loop with us today. Where are you? I love that space where you’re sitting. Where is that if you don’t mind saying?

Sina Meraji 0:18
I’d love to share. I’m in Singapore, this is WeWork, 9 Battery Rd. my favorite co working space in Singapore.

Michael Waitze 0:26
I’ve been by there, I’ve never been in there. But I’ve been by there. You know, it was funny the last time we caught up because it was so random and so serendipitous. But after I saw it was like, instead of just standing outside the supermarket like this, maybe we should just have a conversation and record it. Because there are a lot of things I want to ask you about. Thanks again for coming on the show. I feel like something’s having me. Oh, it’s my pleasure. It’s my pleasure, the more thoughtful people I can have on the show, I think the better off the whole ecosystem is to be fair, I feel like something’s changed since the first iteration of learning loop, right? Like, in the concept of Ed Tech, I feel like you were going to do one thing. And now you’ve decided, I think I want to do something else instead. So it’s not like the learnings that you got from the previous idea, aren’t there, I think, but what’s what are you doing now? What’s the iteration?

Sina Meraji 1:12
Yeah, I think it’s a great observation. So learning loop is a peer to peer coaching platform, currently only for startup founders. Essentially, what we do is we put founders in very small groups, and facilitate these weekly conversations between them based on what’s top of mind for them. Sometimes these are very personal and intimate about just how they feel. Sometimes it’s very much work related. But the goal is to maximize their learning and maximize their luck. Because building a star was really hard. Yeah, and most founders don’t have anyone in their life that they can consistently talk to about work interesting. They can talk to employees, or investors or sometimes not even to other founders, because there might be competition or so on. So yeah, we essentially help people talk more about the thing that has changed in learning loops, since the last time we spoke, or, you know, previously, maybe 2022, or 2021, when you came across learning loop is that I think I’ve always been obsessed with the intersection of, for maybe a good over a decade and a half, because I’ve been really obsessed with the intersection of social personalization and learning and learning in the form of consuming knowledge and doing something with it, and so on. And I think, over the past two years of iterating, and learning loops, that kind of evolved slowly into the intersection of social personalization and mental health. So the learning is there. But it became a subset of something bigger, as opposed to just an intellectual exchange of people learning how to do stuff. Yeah, I would say right now, our users aren’t learning to learn how to be. Because it turns out, most of them do have the answers within them. It’s just that their feelings like fear, uncertainty, confidence, so on that usually delays decision making. And by getting attention from other competent people, it seems like that that’s a huge multiplier. And I would say I’ve also become a lot more focused on the choice of audience. So I think last time we spoke, my eventual vision for learning is for it to help a billion people, you know, 10x their quality of life every year through a social learning platform. But right now, the question is, where do we start? I think last time we spoke that we didn’t have a specific starting audience and right now it’s only see Thursday founders VC backed and yeah.

Michael Waitze 3:28
So is the mental health edition on this thing? Is it based on your own personal experience? Or just on your, your interactions with you said what seed to series a funded founders that are funded by venture capitalists? You know, we talk so much about how mental health is important. And yet everybody seems to talk about it sitting on a stage, you know what I mean, with like, some kind of presentation behind them. But no one seems to me before you said that has really committed themselves to building that platform where people can actually go somewhere and talk to the people. You’re right. Like I was in Miami a couple of weeks ago now, and my sister who I hadn’t seen in a while was like, Hey, what are you doing? What are you working on and stuff like that? And like I could explain to her 1000 times what I was doing, but she has no frame of reference for understanding it at all, as not being a founder of something right? It’s just hard. Nobody gets it anyway, was it based on your own experience, or just on the ton of conversations that you’ve had with other founders or or kind of a combination of both? You think

Sina Meraji 4:25
it’s a combination of both is based on my life experience, not only the founder experience with generally seeing, just observing throughout my life, the difference between people who, who can who have the opportunity to talk frequently, versus people who don’t? Yeah, there’s something special about being able to just talk and be heard and be able to think out loud in front of someone who just sits and listens and watches you. Yeah. And that is essentially to me that is the learning loop. And a lot of people I don’t think habit, whether it’s founders and I mean, I mean if it puts our business aside temporarily. There are many People who go through very difficult periods of life for months for years. But if you ask them, How many people do you have in your life that you can talk to weekly that you’ve talked to this weekend last week? Most people say 0100. Yeah, we want to make sure it’s at least two. And it’s good ones. And I think there’s also, there are a lot of nuances to it. Because in the case of founders, founders are really competent people. They’re the innovators, when it comes to the learning, they’re very good at filtering noise, they’re very judgmental, when it comes to who they listen to, and who they will talk to. They’re very protective of their time. So there’s this element of the filter, they want to make sure that you talk to other people who are also as competent as them or more competent. But there’s also this psychological safety of can I share? Or will it be used against me? So for us to productize that and saw that through our design? I think that that’s something we’ve been doing well, recently.

Michael Waitze 5:48
Yeah, I mean, I think about this a lot. I don’t want to go all the way into this idea of depression, right. And I’ve been talking about this for a long time when people say like, oh, I’m really depressed, most of the time, what they mean is, I’m just really sad about something that happened to me. But if you’re really depressed, like clinically depressed, your confidence levels, I think evaporate. And that also means I think, at least for me, that your ability to share the things that are difficult for you are even more difficult, because you’re so unsure. And you feel so unstable, like how do you productize that?

Sina Meraji 6:21
No matter when you think about just future, like, what are some problems? That will be number one problems on everyone’s mind? 10 years, 20 years from now? Yeah, I think depression is going to be one loneliness is definitely going to be one. And these take a toll on so many things on confidence. I mean, I came across this TED Talks a couple of years ago, by this person in London, who runs a futurism Institute where they just look at different things, different trends in society, and they try to estimate if it keeps growing at a similar rate, or slightly higher, where are we going to be 2030 years, a few things that caught my mind, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. One was, in 2050, the population of pets will exceed the population of humans. The next one was record high depression, record high suicide rates, record low number of your intimate and romantic relationships. So that kind of seems like where the world is headed to. And I mean, it takes a toll on so many things, including confidence. But when it comes to this small group of users like founders, context is the most important things like for a person to feel understood, right, in a moment, to want to vent share more to want to open up, it takes a great deal of matchmaking with matching them with other people, we’re gonna get them to set some, I guess, rules or frameworks for how to less than how to show up on a conversation.

Michael Waitze 7:41
Yeah, you know, I’ve noticed as well recently that you’ve been posting, like, in a way that’s kind of prolific and I spend a lot of my time, at least my social, what does he call it? My social media platform of choice is LinkedIn, right? I’m there every day, a lot of time, looking for things, reading things, trying to follow people. I follow you a lot. And I noticed I don’t remember when this started. But I got kind of envious, because you started posting about what are you calling it a butter Kaya breakfast meetup in Singapore. We talked about this offline. But I’m really envious because I want to go. But I live in Singapore. And last time that I was in Singapore, I was so busy that I couldn’t do it. But this has to be part of that too. Right? It’s like one component of this. And I mean, there’s so many questions about this was how does that fit into the thing that you’re trying to accomplish? And is the group different every every two weeks? isn’t consistent show up from people like is it ever a point where like, you’re there with just like one of your buddies? Or is it always well attended? Like, how’s this working out?

Sina Meraji 8:40
That’s a great question. I think maybe there’s a question of me writing more content. And then obviously, like breakfast and in person events. Yeah. And also, you know, how to how do they fit into the business’s growth? I would say we’re building the product we’re building is social by nature, right? It’s peer to peer coaching. So the value of this network grows as more founders join it. Yeah. And to build a relation, and it’s a matter of relationship building, we’re facilitating conversations between founders is a very human thing. It’s not, I mean, tech facilitates, but at the end of the day is a very human thing. Very. So then the question is, do we want to build relationships only online? Or do we try to build it offline, too? And then bring some of it online? Right. So a big part of it is just that, can we build some strong network effects on the ground? In this case in Singapore, because I live in Singapore, because they’re all founders in Singapore, can we build some network effects, some intimacy, some depth and trust and privacy and some high quality conversations on the ground, and then gradually convert some of it to, I guess, members of the learning to peer to peer coaching platform? Yeah. When it comes to the content that I produce? I would say there’s, I mean, whether the events or the content is there’s two aspects to it. On the one hand, I think I’ve sort of aligned my intrinsic motivations and my extrinsic motives. machines, meaning the stuff I build that learning is the stuff I actually stand for as a person, right? So if the business is doesn’t exist, and the money is not a thing at all, I would still want to write these things. I don’t want to run these events. But now I have an economic incentives for doing it as well. So yeah, they do feed each other. It’s kind of my personal flywheel is my company’s growth flywheel. More people hearing about these conversations? Whether they read on my LinkedIn, my blog, or events, sign up more more users? Yeah, we can, we can, and then they benefit from it. So

Michael Waitze 10:29
yeah, I want to get back to the coyote breakfast thing really quickly. Because I do think that part of this idea of building an offline relationship and moving it online, I’m not going to make a value judgment as to whether it’s better than building an online long relationship first, and then taking it offline in a way I’m not sure it matters so much. I’ll leave that to the experts. But I do feel like we know so many more people today than we did before. And I’ll leave today and before to be self defined. And I think that actually adds to the loneliness, in a way because you’re never really connecting so deeply with anybody. And that’s one of the reasons why, like, I’ve even thought about asking you if I could go to the Cairo breakfast remotely, but even then I just thought it’s not going to be the same as being there face to face. And it will feel like an interruption in a way. Like if I’m there on a phone or something. You know what I mean? It’s not like really being there. But I do think that that adds to part of the loneliness. So the idea you’re building this offline thing, again, seems kind of cool to me. Anyway, just just an observation. I think part of that I think part of that less online, I mean, less offline, meeting up and speaking, is leading to a lot of this depression, lack of confidence and loneliness as a category. No.

Sina Meraji 11:43
I have come across research that says, for example, getting a hug from someone versus like shaking hands, or do these physical infractions do add, you know, there’s some neuro chemicals that they do activate. And I don’t know how different it is from online interaction. I mean, I’m kind of thinking I should run these events in Bangkok as well, we’ll bring the materials that bring them up, but better cayenne. I mean, there’s butter there. There’s part of kya there as well as coconut gentle level. Yeah, okay, we can, and we do have users in Bangkok. So I think we yeah, we have more than enough for having to meet up there. But the confidence part is, although I’m very conscious about it, like when you come to one of these events, that is not the things that I mean, yeah, it’s not the thing that stands out. So it’s not that the audience is low confidence, or, you know, depressed or lonely. Yeah, it’s one of the I guess, we are aware that it does make that contribution. But most of like, the founders who joined these things are online or offline, the thing they have in common is that they’re incredibly resourceful. All of them are received back. They’re incredibly collaborative and helpful. And, you know, we try to just compound their growth through these new human connections.

Michael Waitze 12:52
The reason why I brought up the posting that you do as well, I want to, I want to just comment on that a little bit, is because I feel it’s some of the most thoughtful stuff that I see. And I, like I said, I’ve been following you now for two or three years, I can’t remember. And I feel like a lot of people talking about building in public. But I feel like you’re building a company in public while you’re also building yourself in public. And I think that those things intersect, if that makes sense. That’s what I feel. And I feel like as I read your stuff, you’re thinking about it like deeply before you write it, or maybe while you’re writing it. And that’s kind of cool, too. And a lot of people stuff, like I see and I just like Buzz past it. But um, whenever I see something that you’re writing, I kind of click the read more button. And it’s long, you’re never really just writing like, you know, my mom called me today. And I said, Hi, it’s like, this is what I was thinking. And this is what the outcome of that thought process was. There’s a lot there. And I mean, I’m learning a ton from it. So that’s why I asked about why you keep doing because I do feel like it’s not just building in public, but it’s like you growing and learning in public, is that purposeful as well.

Sina Meraji 13:54
It is, and thank you for reading and for your kind words. I owe a lot of my growth personally, to writing. And I think I have a feedback I’ve gotten many times in my life since childhood, whenever I would write something is that many people would perceive it as me trying to portray myself as an expert. So you’re writing and verse to me it is you don’t write or publish a thought when it is perfect. You do it when at the beginning of the loop where because it comes to beginning of the curiosity,

Michael Waitze 14:31
it comes to you and you’re like, This is what I’m thinking. It’s funny. I’ve never thought about you that way at all. Actually, I’ve thought about you as somebody with a deep level of humility, but it’s like, this is what I’m thinking. Does anybody else have any ideas around this and please share with me? No.

Sina Meraji 14:45
Yeah, I’m happy. I’m happy to come across that way. I would love to I want to come across that way. I think there’s certain things that really intrigued me or interests me with their work life, whatever. I spent a lot of time thinking about them. I put them out there as like as fast Because I have enough material to tell the world about it right to get feedback and get agreement and disagreements and whatever, so that any will shape the next couple of weeks or months sometimes have that thought process until I’m suddenly at the point where I’m like, Okay, now I kind of I have a, I have a defensible opinion on this now, right? Now, maybe that could sometimes that could now be expertise. The reason I’m I do agree, I’ve been growing a lot over the past few years through building this company. Like I think one of the most challenging parts of building a startup before there is any success or win, which is where we are right now. We’re pre product market fit, we have a lot of things to celebrate, I think we have a lot of users who are having wins through our platform, and we celebrate those together, but at the same time by the standards of a VC backed company. I mean, we, you know, we’re too young recently to earn that, right. So one of the most challenging parts is what is that ratio between building in public versus just being quiet and keeping your head down and just working? Some people have this view that if you’re, you know, you should just not talk and should just be quiet and do the work? Some people are super talking about it all the time. Right? I don’t think absolute silence is a good idea and minimizes luck. Yeah, I think talking about it too much. And to the point that you’re not actually having any time to work. That’s a problem too. Other than that, there’s also this, I guess, character building that happens through building a startup, where you’re trying to really find your company’s voice in the in the world. On its there’s so much content out there. There’s so much noise out there, you kind of want to have this active feedback loop with people where you’re actively pitching the company in a different way. Yeah. And yeah, I think maybe like took a year or so for just not creating a ton of content. I still can’t articulate why why didn’t he might have been? Hmm. I mean, maybe it might be easier to think why I’m posting so much now and then see if you know, if that leads to that answer, yeah, I’m posting right now. Because I think every time I mean, on one level, operationally, and tactically, when I post, there’s a clear audience, I know who my audience is. Yep. I am part of the audience too. And there are hard conversations that you have, and I can share about them. And it’s useful when some people read what you write, and maybe they join the company. I guess I’m also more confident in my in just admitting that I’m good at certain things. Yeah. Feels like it. Yeah, I’m like, I’m 28. I do think I’ve taken the past two years just going through a lot of impostor syndrome and to realize, am I do I have the permission to say, I am good, like x y&z Or is it too much? Or is it rude? You know, you know, it’s not,

Michael Waitze 17:50
it’s not. And actually, I’m so glad. I’m so glad you said this, because I felt like you were even today on this call, I felt like you were struggling a little bit to say, You know what, I’m actually good at something. And because I feel now that I’m good at something I remember when we met, you must have been 25, if you’re 28. Now, because it was two, three years ago, something like that, right? And I think the more you do something, the more comfortable you feel about it, the more you’re like, No, no, I actually know something about this. But I know that there are things that I don’t know. And the only way to fill in the gaps is by saying the things that I think they know, and seeing if other people come back and say, Yeah, that’s right. Or actually, that sounds right. But here’s the other thing you need to know to add on top of that. And if you never say anything, you can’t get any feedback. And it brings up the other thing that you said you said it twice already. You kind of said it in passing, but I don’t think you mean it in passing. You said it minimizes luck. Just talk to me about this theory you have about how interacting with other people increases luck.

Sina Meraji 18:49
Marc Andreessen has a very good blog post on this from a theory 1000s That I mean, I’ve always kind of implicitly believed this idea that you can create luck. But that was the first time I saw someone create and give a framework on how to do it. I believe every time you tell the world, I mean, his framework, that summary is that there are four ways to create like, number one is just increase the motion, whatever you’re doing, you just go around, shake hands with random people, tell them what who you are what you do, and you just do that more than just you do it once in a while. And you’re more likely to get lucky than people who do what you do. But don’t do that. Yeah, exactly. Number two is you do the same, but you have an agenda. You go to specific places, shake hands with specific people and tell them what you do. Again, you’re going to increase your luck. Number three is, I believe, expertise. When you develop expertise in something, you’re more likely to get lucky than someone passionate about saying the same thing, but without your expertise. And then the fourth one is if you’re obsessed, obsessing over something full time, because everyone who thinks of that thing they will think about you and if they come across something, they will forward it to you. And if they meet someone that Oh, I know this guy, you shouldn’t meet him or this like you really should meet her. Maybe it might have been the whole risk Action News and the layoffs that has happened around us and the fundraising getting harder for many founders around us. I mean, I haven’t been fired up recently. But it almost I think maybe the first half of my founder journey, the first 15 months, or the first 1518 months was this environment in which I felt like, you could go many weeks without any one question without asking anyone asking you, at least in my circles, you know, why aren’t you growing faster? Or like, right? What is your biggest bottleneck, and stuff like that. So it just really felt like there was no strict feedback loop. And then the second half of it so far has been a lot more intense. Part of it might be because I really actively shifted some of my social circles. Yeah, on the one hand, I’ve been learning more, and we’ve been growing faster as a company. But on the other hand, I’ve also gained more confidence to say, hey, like, there’s this one or two things, right? I’m almost best in the role that because I’ve talked to everyone who’s great in that field. And in all of those conversations, it became one way in a way that they were asking me a ton of question, taking notes instead of me having much to learn from them. Yeah. And we in most areas of life, I will not say anything like that. But I think maybe one or two areas. I’m like, No, it seems like I’m actually that good. Yeah. And it’s, you know, why am I quiet about it? Why am I shy about it?

Michael Waitze 21:15
I want to add one just kind of anecdotal story to this, if you don’t mind. I remember reading a long time ago, and I can’t I still can never get it out of my mind when people say like, You’re so lucky, or you’re so fortunate fortune is different, actually. But luck, I do believe can be created. And I think it was Gary Player was a famous South African golfer, I think he actually won the Masters one or two times if you’re a golf fan. And I think somebody said to him, wow, that was a super lucky putt. You seem to have a lot of them, like during this tournament, and he just looked back at them and was like, yeah, that’s pretty amazing. The more I practice, the more lucky I get. I feel like it’s, it’s, it’s at least some combination of those four things that Marc Andreessen wrote about, you know, in creating your own luck, it looks like you’re gonna say something go ahead.

Sina Meraji 21:57
For sure. I think at this point, he bothers me if some good news is, if I see someone who hears a good news about someone else, and the first thing they say is, oh, they are lucky. Yeah, intimidates me a lot, we doesn’t even have to be like about me could be about anyone. And so I don’t, I really don’t tolerate it. And I think that’s also one of the things that as my confidence has increased over time, I’m a lot more confident in calling people out if there are opinions that I don’t agree with. In Southeast Asia, I think, particularly, it’s a lot more common to see. A lot of smart people that I’ve met in Southeast Asia, are less collaborative, initially, then people maybe in like people who come from West Asia, Americas parts of Europe. So it takes a lot more for a person is a smart person in Southeast Asia that I’ve met, to accept to ask for help from others, or to accept to open up and show vulnerability. And I think that’s a period of missing out on luck. Yeah, because you’re working and learning in a silo. Because you think no one can help you. And you are for whatever reason it is. So I think luck is, to me, pretty serious. I I like you’re one of the LinkedIn articles that I wrote recently about being default alive as a company, this gentleman who reached out to me, we had coffee, that we’re actually going to work together and something that I’m very excited about. And again, it’s like if I want to say, how did that happen? If I didn’t write that post? That wouldn’t have happened? Exactly. You know, that is that is luck. But I created. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 23:28
and again, like, I wouldn’t know you at all if I didn’t have this podcast, right? Yeah, I just wouldn’t know. It’s my effect. I wouldn’t know some of the other people that I know as well, if I didn’t have the show. Because it’s a great way for me to reach out to people and figure out a way to learn something from them, or add some value or whatever it is. But that’s not lucky. That’s like a lot of hard work in the background just like you. I want to ask you about something else you posted, because I feel like I learned something from this as well. And I spent a lot of time thinking about this. And it actually puts something into a format. Like I think a lot of people have all these thoughts, but they don’t have a good format for expressing those thoughts to people. You reposted this thing that Peter Yang from Roblox posted about Nvidia, right, because I believe that the CEO of Nvidia gave some speech somewhere that their own conference. Do you want to talk about why that resonated with you so much that you felt like you had to repost it, because I feel like this is so indicative. First of all, I feel like it’s relevant to learning loop because you started with this idea. You weren’t very far down that road. And then you’re like, maybe I need to back up a little bit and go down another road. And I think that the, with the honesty that that CEO had, where he was like, we had this client, we sold really hard to this client, we went back to them, we were like, look, we’ll do this thing and we’ll pay for this thing or whatever. But we’re not going to do that anymore. And the company almost died in this post was about it almost dying three times, but maybe you can tell me in your mind, like why that resonated so much with you.

Sina Meraji 24:54
For sure, I think the favorite part of that video was when the founder of NVDA I mean, Nvidia is such a successful company, he said I used to be successful until I started Nvidia. He goes into all right, all the failure stories and everything. I think there’s a few things in that video that really, I watched it into, like it was one of the first things I watched that morning when I saw it. Yeah, the fact that this is an immigrant gap means a lot to me. Yeah, the fact that this is a person who ran a company that yeah, it was going to die. And they were just really honest about it. And they put themselves out there. And there were few very authentic relationships that actually saved them in a few times. And also the vision, how he thinks about, I mean, how he’s been thinking about the evolution of the value chain there, in that hardware and AI industry said to me, all of those are really inspiring. There’s also this, almost like two different generations meet where there’s a generation that is graduating right now in Taiwan, and they’re super young, and with whatever mental model, and there’s this person who’s like, don’t walk, you have to run, whether you’re trying to find food, or if you want to avoid becoming food, you have to run you can’t walk. So there’s that intensity, that I really appreciate it. For me, I think there’s maybe this, I’ve had an inflection point, like last December, December 2020, where I feel like I just stopped being afraid of I don’t know, I wouldn’t say afraid of failure. But I do think I had some fears, maybe like, fear of disappointing someone or fear of losing some bets that I would take in the company. But I think ever since any person or any piece of content that reinforces my intensity. I love it. I want to keep feeding that part of me. Yeah, look, I think because I think this is a time, I think this is a time where like many founders on founder friends of mine, who that we started companies at the same time, many of them the companies are dead right now. And it’s, you know, it’s a time where you kind of when you see enough of that, and I had seen my dad’s business a couple of years ago. So I think when you see enough of that, you become real at some point. And you’re like, you know what, like, we have to increase intensity, you have to be less shy, whether it’s a decision on cutting the burn rate, or just like launching something or you know, having a heart counseling, your team member, whatever, just got to do it. I mean, that’s the right now,

Michael Waitze 27:09
here’s the thing, if you almost die, right, like if you survive cancer, you almost die. At some point, if you go bankrupt, and survive, you have so much less fear, because you’re like, I’ve already been as low as I can possibly go. And I didn’t die. And it was painful. But I figured out how to deal with that pain. And then almost by definition, you should have less fear, because it’s no longer an unknown. And that’s what humans I think our most of most fear is, if I do that thing, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. Right? And now that you’ve been throughout you, but now that one’s been through it, it just makes it a little bit easier, which again, is why if you increase your intensity level, but also getting back to these things with with Marc Andreessen, increase your motion, because by increasing your motion, you always have more experiences. And you should learn something from that. Like one of the things that I always say is I never turned down a first meeting. I had a meeting today with a guy, I had no reason to know him, Somebody made an introduction. And both of us when we got on the call just said, What Why are we here? What do you want to talk about? Because neither one of us plan this meeting. And when it was done, we were both like, I think there’s something here we could do together. I wanted to do this one thing in the inside my business and I’ve been trying to find the right person to deal with. And I think Wow, that guy today accidentally. That’s crazy. Yeah, super crazy.

Sina Meraji 28:27
Quite interesting. Like, I do agree with the part of what you said about you know, like, when you do something scary, then you become more confident, less scared. But I’ve noticed for myself, there’s more to that, like I there’s some life experience that they had some years ago, that we talk to a lot about it last time, that to me were the scariest thing I faced in my life. Nothing I first in the past three years of running this company has come close, but I did still become afraid of taking certain risks or like I had to almost kick myself out of comfort zone late last year. Yeah. And I was, again, I’m not like giving myself a really like minimum wage salary as a founder. It’s not that I’m living a crazy lifestyle. It’s not that I am spending my weekends doing anything other than building my company. But even with all of those are thinking about working seven days a week, you know, all of the constraints being applied pre product, Market Fit startup. Being surrounded by a lot of other founders. I felt like that still does still felt felt like you have to fight mediocrity. I almost want to call it that. Yeah. Because the world by default. And I don’t I can’t attribute it. Some of it might be I don’t want to speculate why there’s this default. It almost by default, the world is going to take you to a mediocre place unless you fight against them. It is I don’t fully understand why it works that way. But yeah, this last December, I felt like I had to make drastic changes, even as a person who’s gone through a lot.

Michael Waitze 29:57
So let me share let me share this. Let me share this with you as well. I do You think that it bends toward mediocrity? I think part of the issue is comfort. I talked to one of my business partners. And it’s almost feels like a regular cycle where like you’re very, very, very intense you’re in tenser and tenser intense. And then it just starts to slide off a little bit because you get too comfortable, right? And your product maybe feels like it’s in a good place. Or maybe your income has increased to a point where you don’t feel like I’m, I’m going to die if I don’t get another client kind of thing. And then you’re like, wait a second, wait a second, the vision is to be something much bigger and better. I forgot about that. Actually, I need to reraise my intensity back up, and maybe even higher than it was before. But I think it moves towards mediocrity. And not just for company founders, but just in life, because you just get too comfortable. I even think some of your interpersonal relationships can go that way, too. You just wake up every day and everything seems like it’s okay. And you lose that intensity. And you have to remind yourself every now and then I need to be more intense. Yeah.

Sina Meraji 30:56
I totally resonate with that.

Michael Waitze 30:58
I want to ask you one more thing. And then I’ll let you go. You also reposted this guy? What’s his name? Victor Killa. Sev. Talked about reading Lee Kuan used book. I should read it from third world to first because I’m at the age now. Right? Where like, my first time in Singapore was 1990. Wow, it just think about this. Think about it for a second, right. I literally I got off a plane from Tokyo in December, the end of December 27 to the 28th of December of 1990. And it all started because my buddy Gary said to me, dude, we’re gonna go to Malaysia for vacation. And I was like Malaysia might as well have been on Mars, because I had no idea where it was. But I’m an adventurous person. So I was just like, done. And I was like, Okay, where’s Malaysia? How do we get there? So, so we had to go to we had to go to Singapore first. And, you know, back in 1990, Singapore was a great place, but it was nothing like it is today. And to be fair, I think Singapore was born in 1965.

Sina Meraji 32:02
As a collective so I don’t I don’t shouldn’t know better believe so.

Michael Waitze 32:05
Well, why don’t we look it up? Let’s just Let’s just,

Sina Meraji 32:08
yeah, I know Malaysia is 1957.

Michael Waitze 32:11
So it had to be after that, right? Because there was a little bit of a tussle. Let’s just say Singapore founding. And I’ll tell you why this year, August 9 1965. Okay, and this is why I was thinking about this. I think this may surprise you. I was born on July 3 1965. So Oh, wow. So Singapore is my age. And when I got to Singapore in 1990, it was almost 25. And so was I, I actually I was already 25. And so was Singapore. So I feel like in a way I’ve grown up with it. It’s iterated a lot, and it’s life and so have I. But even back then, it seemed miraculous, what Singapore had accomplished in 25 years, and in the ensuing almost now 30 years, it’s accomplished more. Have you like, do you feel that when you’re in Singapore, you reposted it? So you must have thought something about thought there?

Sina Meraji 33:07
I’ve been watching Lee Kuan Yew videos daily for at least past few months. I think it’s just on my YouTube recommendation. And I just keep watching at least one a day for I think it’s been actually a couple of months. I censored for sure. I think in Singapore. I mean, I come from Iran. And I think Iran is out of phase where it’s having all these political issues and so on. And I think to me, almost a leadership vacuum, so to see to be in a place that I mean, I appreciate a lot of things in Singapore. I think many of my Singaporean friends don’t automatically even see until we talk about it. And then

Michael Waitze 33:40
but right. It’s not in a way it’s not fair to them, right. Basically,

Sina Meraji 33:42
it’s yeah, fair, that’s completely fair. I mean, there’s actually no expectation, like, for example, the idea that when you’re crossing the road across the road, and you know, there, sometimes you can trust the green lights and red lights. Coming from a developing country. That’s a big deal.

Michael Waitze 34:00
Because I live, I live in Bangkok. They like stoplight and what do I say traffic signals are optional. They’re there, but they’re just options Anyway, go ahead.

Sina Meraji 34:10
Or the fact that when you want to pay tax, you get it. You scan a QR code and you pay your tax and then it’s just, you don’t need to go to an office or the security or I mean, the cleanliness these things. And even like when I watched Singaporean politicians, you know, at the United Nations speaking, or debating or even internal politics, I mean, there’s a level of order and literacy and to think that one human, of course, he was a whole system, but to think one human built a system and sets values and laws in specific ways that avoided corruption for this long process. We were thinking himself

Michael Waitze 34:45
in other words, there are many stories about foreign governments, foreign entities, the CIA trying to corrupt Lee Kuan Yew and his compatriots with money, lots of money, right because they had tons of money. And he was just like, Yeah, I’m not doing that and That’s hard work, man.

Sina Meraji 35:02
It is hard work and even like things like the I mean, I was listening to him talk about him wanting to make sure that every citizen gets a stake in this country by owning a property that’s worth at least 300,000 bucks. Yeah, I mean, that is a level of thinking that I find pretty crazy. I don’t think there are a lot of countries in the world with the with this. I don’t think there are a lot of countries whose leadership has this intelligence to be honest yet not even close. Not just Lee Kuan Yew, but even like the current politician in Singapore. So I’m very conscious about it. I think we’re very conscious about it. And my friends, and I talk about these stuff frequently. Because I think we are very globalized group have come from different countries, we’ve traveled a lot. Your friends went to San Francisco recently for the first time, right and came back. And they couldn’t stop talking about Singapore.

Michael Waitze 35:45
Like they’re holding your life, right. Like I thought I wanted to live over there. But I think I’m just gonna stay here kind of thing. No,

Sina Meraji 35:51
this is funny. Like they were Yeah, they went to San Francisco came back with who take the bus or train. They’re like, Wow, it’s so clean. So again, but again, so this fight coming from a developing country, approaching Singapore, I always remind myself that not just single but anything any place any stage of life, any stage in the company’s growth, that feels good. We could take it for granted. You kind of need to trigger reminders to not get comfortable. So Singapore is been great. But I guess these days, I think a lot about like you like how do I make it better for myself or people that I interact with? And you know, I think, yeah, maybe me for more people.

Michael Waitze 36:32
Okay, I’m gonna let you go. This was a killer conversation for me. I really appreciate you doing this. We should do this more often. I mean, I’ll offer this toyou as well. No, no, it’s my pleasure. I’ll offer this to you as well.

Sina Meraji 36:42
No. The pleasure is mine. I think it’s funny that when we when I bumped into him in Bangkok, for the first time, because for context for people listening, or watching, I live in Singapore, Michael lives in Thailand, and I happened to be in Bangkok one day, and I bumped into Michael out of nowhere. And I was shocked. And I felt like five minutes I kept saying I can’t believe you’re like I’m seeing you. But Michael was super chill just telling me about podcasts telling me about revised. Yeah, I mean, I really glad you could do this. And I hope that your audience will have a good time listening. But my answers were not too long.

Michael Waitze 37:16
You’re very welcome here anytime. Thanks for doing it again. I really appreciate it.

Sina Meraji 37:21
Thank you have a great rest of the day.

 

Latest Episodes:

EP 314 – Nirali Zaveri – CEO of Friz – We Want to Simplify the Workflow of a Social Media Manager

EP 314 – Nirali Zaveri – CEO of Friz – We Want to Simplify the Workflow of a Social Media Manager

In this episode of the Asia Tech Podcast, we spoke with ⁠Nirali Zaveri⁠, co-founder and CEO of ⁠Friz⁠, about her transition from a corporate job, to founding a neobank for freelancers to pivoting towards a SaaS platform for marketing tech. Nirali discusses the challenges of scaling her initial venture, the strategic decision to pivot, and the lessons learned from being part of Y Combinator. 

read more
EP 313 – Maaike Doyer – Epic Angels – Using Wealth as a Proxy for Financial Literacy Just Blows My Mind

EP 313 – Maaike Doyer – Epic Angels – Using Wealth as a Proxy for Financial Literacy Just Blows My Mind

The Asia Tech Podcast welcomed ⁠Maaike Doyer⁠, a Founder and Managing Partner at ⁠Epic Angels⁠, back to the show to discuss a recent article she wrote on ‘⁠Why Stricter Angel Investing Rules Miss the Mark⁠’. In the 3 years since Maaike founded Epic Angels along with ⁠Hester Spiegel-vdSteenhoven⁠, the network has grown to nearly 300 female investors across 27 countries!

read more