February 24, 2022

Mr Mark Hsu


11th Fleet

Mark Hsu is a Taiwanese-American entrepreneur and investor in Taiwan. His professionalexperience spans education, information technology and venture capital. As a founder, he wasa co-founder of notable companies such as Sina and KKBox. As an investor, he has been anactive angel investor and is Co-Founder/General Partner of Pinehurst Advisors Fund 1 andGD1 Fund 2. Across the two funds, Mark has over 30+ early stage tech companies under hisportfolio, including MaiCoin, Taiwan’s largest crypto wallet & exchange, CaCaFly, a leadingdigital media group in Taiwan and e27, the leading Southeast Asian tech media group.

Outside of technology, Mark has also founded numerous education companies and is athought leader in the realm of international education and educational technology. His currentpassion is running 11th Fleet, a company helping foreign companies soft land in Taiwan andTaiwanese companies step out of Taiwan.

He received his B.S. in Biological Science from Stanford University

Taiwanese-American Entrepreneur and Investor


Taiwan, entrepreneur, business, realise, companies, thought, people, Taiwanese, investing, question, money, world, entrepreneurship, important, sell, feel, market, big, read, years.


Limi, Mark

Limi  00:04

Okay, so it's just waiting for people to join. Hi. Hi. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the CEO class session. My name is Limi rush, and I'm the host of today's session. CEO class is global for impact initiative, and we want to organise different virtual fire chat sessions with the most excellent leadership worldwide. We want to inspire young people by their personal growth goals and growth. Today, we have the pleasure to invite Mr Mark. So to tell us about his story. If you have any questions for him, feel free to type them in the chat. And we'll check them at the end of the session. So Mr Mark, welcome. Thank you. How are you doing today? Good, good, good. You know, it's a pleasure for me. I'm very excited to meet you a little bit more. I've gone through different workshops and webinars. And I have followed your website and What 11th Fleet does. And it's crucial for me because you are my first Taiwanese American entrepreneur and investor who is active in Taiwan. So can you tell us a bit about yourself? And what do you do? Yeah, sure.

Mark  01:14

First of all, thank you very much for having me on the, on the caught class or show. And then. And then thanks for, you know, everyone who's in attendance. I don't know what time zone you're in. But you know, if you're obviously in Taiwan, it's 930. You must be pretty dedicated at night if you're staying up to listen to kind of a business talk. As you mentioned, I'm Taiwanese American. My parents were from Taiwan. But I grew up, mainly in the States, born in the US, and then went all the way through to college, and then came back quite a bit, you know, a long time ago. 1996. And, yeah, so, so, going on? Yeah, nearly 30 years, right. 2026 27 years. Wow. So obviously, Taiwan was a very different place then. And I get this question a lot, too. Your parents immigrated from Taiwan to the US, and he grew up in the US in San Francisco Bay Area. Why did you come back? And I think, you know, what I tell people is that, back in 1996, the world was very, very different. You know, there was no China No, India yet, right? No, Brazil, you know, none of this kind of large markets. And, for me growing up in a suburban, you know, us, you know, Taiwan, then was very exciting, right? So back then, in 1996, you were kind of a student of Asian history, right? Like, you know, back then, Taiwan was known as the economic miracle grown like 8% a year GDP for 30 years straight. And so for me, and then, you know, its peers were Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, and South Korea. And so for me, you know, as a kid growing up in the suburbs of California and then seeing the pace of development in Taiwan. That was very, very exciting. And so, I got the first taste of Taiwan, you know, obviously, visiting family during high school and college. And I just thought, wow, it was so exciting. And then. So after college, I came here out here in 1996. Yeah, so.

Limi  03:31

Wow. So it's been almost six years. Oh, yeah. Well, thank you for the quick introduction. And I think it's exciting when I see your profile, and I understand when you say, Well, it started like, family trips. Still, then it's something that actually environment that liked. And thank you. I do, I will say, understand that you love the best of both worlds. You love the YLF San Francisco love that they want. So you decide just to go back and forth. And make most places your, you are your home. So it's nice.

Mark  04:06

Yeah, I think early on, like many people in their early 20s, and perhaps even 30s, it's not entirely clear that you don't feel 10grown-up. And so I was kind of, you know, back and forth between the Bay Area and Taiwan, I would say probably the first ten years. And obviously, you know, as you move on to the next stage of your life, you know, I got married, and then I thought, you know, and then, you know, my business also got a little bit more traction. So then you kind of have to pick a place and, you know, now, you know, as you know, I'm waiting to middle age at this stage. I have kids. You know you do, appreciating what Taiwan has to offer, right, you know, it's talking about before the show, it's very, very safe. It's an excellent and convenient place to raise,e kids you know, so you know, kind of like changing the seasons. You see, I was here when I was young and then you know, obviously, in my 30s 40s, you know,

Limi  05:07

yes, and I don't understand. For me, that will always be Chica. That was my first big city to live in on my own. And then I was like my second one, and I'm, like, I'm going to make it different. I'm going to go, live entrepreneur. I'm going to find other stuff and networks. I understand that little spark, that little spark. Now, for me, my entrepreneurial spark started when I was, I was eight. And my neighbour gave us some cookies, and they were delicious. And my mom had a pharmacist when she told me, and I told her, Mom, I can't bake. I can't bake. I surely can't cook. I told her this is neither can I? And I told her kit, can I grab? Can I order some cookies? Can you pay for them, and I will sell them, and I will make money. And she's like because I want to buy my own Barbie set. I told her I wanted to do it my own. And then she was like, Okay, I think it's nice that you, my mama, as a self-starter. She's like, I think it's nice that you're a little young, but you want to do it yourself. You want to get your toys. And then she's like, but we're where you were. So marketplace where we sell it into goo. And she's like no to your clients when they go to buy mats when they go for any questions. I'll be next to you selling them. And I think it's fun. I think back in the day. She thought it was a joke. And she thought it was like, okay, she wants to play dolls. But now she wants to do something else. And I played to be an entrepreneur. And as I go back, I'm like, maybe that's how it started. And then, as I went through the university, I used to sell makeup in my college years, and my mom's like you never needed. Like you were always an active worker. So how come you were always like selling makeup doing things? I'm like, I just really like it. I like to. I like to do the pitch, I like to do the selling pitch and know that somebody got the rise, and they want that product, even if they don't need it. And how did it start? How did it begin for you?

Mark  07:03

For me, I think, you know, very, very similar. I guess I think most entrepreneurs will find that. If you don't know, what exactly was the point? But you know, it started probably in childhood. For me, I guess? I would say no, obviously, my notion of entrepreneurship has evolved, you know, in the probably the last 30 years. But yeah, when I was a kid, one was, you know, I came from a family of doctors, right? And I just thought, well, you know, the expectation was to be a doctor, but I just didn't feel it in me, right? Because I saw my dad's lifestyle was terrible. You know, there were I remember vividly as a, as a child, that, you know, I would go for a whole week not seeing him, right, because when I went to bed, he had come back from the hospital, he was a surgeon, and in the mornings, because he had come home so late or had done emergency surgery. And then when I went to school, you know, like, you know, I just can't pour milk over cereal and go and then. So one it was, I kind of knew that I, you know, I didn't like that lifestyle, even though, you know, being doctors for procedures, whatnot. So I would say the first kind of inspiration was like, I wanted to find something that was, you know, a career that was not medicine. And given that, you know, came from three generations of doctors, there are many expectations. So I would say, the honest answer was just, I knew that I didn't want to be a doctor, right? And this was like when I was like nine or 10. And at that time, you or I held the pressure. But I said as I progress through schooling, I was never like, you know, an extrovert, right? So I think I always enjoy problem-solving. And I think as a kid, perhaps, you know, thinking back probably, I don't know, insecure or a little bit arrogant, right? Always, you know, kind of thinking that, you know, there, there must be a better way to solve something. All right. And then, one of my pet peeves was like, you know, I don't know if you guys ever had a teacher you didn't respect because they weren't that smart or that together. And so I think throughout my, you know, upbringing, like teenage years, you know, middle school, high school, I hated that teacher. And I thought that I would hate having to take instruction for someone. I thought you knew. I didn't, you know, believe they are much intellectually correct. And so it was a nice theory, you know, these series of kind of thought processes. And then I think what triggered it for me was, as I was alluding to, early on in the conversation, it was, you know, in a world where it was, US suburbia, and You know, the fast growth of Taiwan. And then I was coming back into high school and college during the summers, I naturally felt the attraction in Taiwan, right, like, things were rushing. Back then, in Taiwan, it seemed like, you know, like, I come back, and it felt like the street was full of money. Everybody was like, you know, immersed in this prosperity, right. And, you know, my, my relatives, you know, we're all very generous every time we come back, you know, feasting, I was like, wow, like, much more exciting than, you know, getting, you know, drive-thru a hamburger, somewhere in California. And so started as that right. So the notion of entrepreneurship, you know, I think, is very different from, you know, my understanding of entrepreneurship now, but it started with kind of this, this spark inside this, you know, sort of, it's a combination of, you know, this curiosity, wanting to solve problems, and also not wanting something and then that that led me to this path. Right.

Limi  11:08

Wow. I do think so. And I to daily is monies grow from their potential and actual scale up to an enormous size, capitalising on international opportunities, different places. How could you start?

Mark  11:31

Why? Yeah, so great, great question. I mean, you know, I've been, like, you know, a serial entrepreneur for the last, probably close to 30 years. My first company started when I was in college. Right. So it is. I like to think it's probably the last company that I'll like to be in an operational role. Yeah, just because, you know, I think, it's a culmination of many experiences. So just like a quick recap, in my 20s, I started internet companies and education companies, some of which are still, you know, going, alright, I've left the business. And then I got ten years ago, 1012 years ago, now, I started playing that wearing the hat of an angel investor. And I've parlayed that into a couple of venture capital funds. Yes. And, you know, investing in others. And before I did that, I thought that you know, that that was my calling, you know, investing in others, right. But I think, at the end of the day, I feel that I'm still an entrepreneur at heart. And so when I was investing others, you know, there was still as an operator, I think, you have this frustration, where, you know, you know, what I learned is, investing is easy. You know, before I started, I didn't, you know, realise how easy investing is, is just writing a check and giving to someone, the hard part with investing is getting the money back, right, like, you know, getting a return on the money, right. And what you learned through the process is that once you write that check or wire that money out, you have no control of when that money will come back. You may never come back. Right. And so I think, you know, I did invest pretty much I think, for, you know, for ten years. I realised, okay, for, for me as an operator at heart and entrepreneur at heart, you know, I'm not a finance guy, I realised that, yeah, it's, you know, it's this helpless helplessness, you're coaching the entrepreneur, you know, but as the old saying goes, you know, you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make a drink. And so, then I thought long and hard, and, you know, luckily really kind of came together about three, four years ago. And so if I were to start one more company, kind of what, you know, what, what were the criteria, and without, you know, going into, like, a deep, you know, it was, it came down to, you know, I wanted to start a company that, you know, that I thought had an opportunity, right? And obviously, the other criteria is I think it had to have meaning because I was hopping around 45 At the time, and I thought that you know, it's important to do something that you know, that you're willing to go to work, like, you don't have to push yourself to go to work, right. And then the other is, I wanted to build a company that had no timeline, right, like meaning I don't want to you know, like, be on any type on anyone's, you know, like a timeline. I want to be off my timeline. So if, you know, if I can't sell it, that's fine. It's a keeper. So it started with that. So I kind of, you know, by 45, you know, kind of know what I want I what I don't know And so the long-short of it was, I saw the kind of on a macro level, a huge kind of wage gap between Taiwan knowledge workers and what, you know, kind of, let's say engineers were getting paid out in Silicon Valley. But I knew having lived in Taiwan and being Taiwanese that, you know, I think what Taiwan has a lot of is, you know, intellectual capital, you know, the professionals here are hardworking, they're very, very ethical whatnot. And I thought that's, you know, at that time, my thinking was, I wanted to bridge this wage gap between Taiwan and specifically the US. And the thinking the original incarnation in the original thesis of the LEM fleet was trying to convince American tech or software companies to kind of bill like an r&d lab in Taiwan, and we will be the person to help bridge that. So that was the thinking. So that was, you know, kind of the thesis and, and I thought that you know, Taiwan from a markets perspective, if you treated as a market, it's not that big, right? 23 million people. They're bigger markets. However, if you flip it around, if you see Taiwan as a supply of intellectual capital, start small, right? Because like, if you have 23 million educated workers, potentially, right, that's the state of New York in the US. And no one would say, you know, I wouldn't want to build like an r&d lab in New York. Right?, So from that perspective, I thought, well, then, you know, it's great to be in Taiwan. And lastly, having, you know, obviously, heritage wise, I'm Taiwanese, and also have lived here, you know, nearly 30 years, I felt that, okay, it's something or Taiwan is a product, you know, that that is of high quality, and that I have 100% or 110% confidence in selling to the world. So I think, you know, you've been in sales, the hardest thing is trying to sell something that you don't believe in or that products not very good. But in this case, you know, I'm not, I don't need to, I don't need to come up with the product, the product isn't, you know, just Taiwan, right. So that's just, yeah, that's how I started was just, you know, kind of, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do. And I wanted to find something that would fit my kind of personal criteria given, you know, my life stage. And, of course, you know, it didn't go as I plan, but then, you know, we kind of stuck to this kind of overall arching theme and then kind of pivoted as, as necessary to get to where we are today,

Limi  17:46

in this case, as a critical partner as a key strategic partner, in the person who persuades and influences potential investors, what service does 11 feet provide? Because I know there are different types of services that you provide.

Mark  18:05

Yeah, I would say right now, we kind of, you know, kind of arrived at three, I think, as, you know, at this point, sort of three, three and a half years into the business, we have three lakes, right, the first leg is it turned out to be Visa Services, right? Because we felt that, you know, mainly because of the pandemic, you know, like, Can't any longer fly in and fly out. And so, actually, one big leg is Visa Services. Right, and then looking back, it makes a lot of sense, right? Because if you're not Taiwanese, you have to resolve your residency issue first before starting a company. Right. So So, Visa Services, we take on a lot of Visa Services. The second is recruitment. Right. So that's, that's consistent with kind of the original idea. But it wasn't a direct sell. Because what we learned was early on, you're I had my partner, co-founder units fly around, you know, the world will like tech events. And what we learned was that if it's someone who has no Asia experience or has not been to Taiwan, they, you know, cannot get what we're talking about. Right. To be honest, someone on the other side of the world cannot distinguish Taiwan from the Philippines, Thailand, or Vietnam. So then we've narrowed down our focus. We targeted what I would call hyphenated Taiwanese. So Taiwanese Americans have these Canadians. How many Australians, right? You know, with Taiwanese heritage, even though they may not have grown up here when you tell them about the intellectual capital in Taiwan, they get it right because their parents are from here. And then the second group, we found that our message resonated with was Taiwan's regional peers, which were like Singaporean and Hong Kong companies because, again, we didn't have to explain too much. They understood, you know, what Taiwan is good at, and whatnot. So, that was an easy sell. And then the third leg now is kind of broadly like business services. So now, like, you know, in Silicon Valley, they call it like an outsourced CFO, CEO. You know, like in Taiwan's context, Country Manager. So really, it's kind of taking our know-how, and then helping, you know, not necessarily just early stage can be split, just any company, who's not quite yet ready to commit like a total headcount for like a CFO or seal role. And we can play that role for our clients. Oh, and

Limi  20:51

I think that's important, especially with all the time, all the risk, it's nice, like, actually, you take the risk, and you guide the company, so they focus on growing and their projects. And I've seen it, especially in Taiwan. I'm shocked with Costco, Carrefour IKEA, how they work in Taiwan. And will you set your philosophy for your companies and the way you guide your clients? Think global, but act a little local for the local touch? Or how will you suggest when you meet a client?

Mark  21:24

And it depends on, you know, I guess, what their objectives are? So, obviously, uh, you know, some of our clients are looking to come into Taiwan. And I think I've, you know, by no means this is a scientific study. Still, I think just kind of, in general, some general, you know, observations, right? European companies, European entrepreneurs, tend to look at Taiwan more like a market. Because they won't automatically say that Taiwan is a small market, right if you think about the Netherlands or Scandinavian countries, population-wise, they're so bright, smaller than Taiwan, so it seems like European companies will look at Taiwan as a market. So that conversation with European entrepreneurs or companies is a little bit different, let's say for, let's say, American companies, in American companies, beliefs, the companies have encountered don't look at Taiwan as a market, or rather, they see it as a source of like engineering talent, or just, you know, staffing, right. So the conversation would be very, very different, depending on your objectives in Taiwan. But you're right, you know, there. There's a high level of thinking like you know you do, but you need to adapt and localise, right? In terms of managing how you feel about things and whatnot.

Limi  22:56

And I think it's imperative because as being Latin American, and seeing how being bilingual has opened doors and how Latin America's potentially growing to compete with the Philippines with the outsourcing world, I think it's important to know that Taiwan from that population 1%, it's International. So there's more potential because they're low 20s. But they're a very diverse culture, but more talent, more growth. So it's. I think it's a golden opportunity. And it opened doors to another topic, how we manage culture, corporate culture, how do you work culture for you in? Like, well, you have to be like, the first culture?

Mark  23:42

I mean, for me, I don't know. In Taiwan, it's challenging to be diverse because it's such a homogenous population. But I think for our company, at least, I think we're a little bit more varied than your average Taiwanese company. Right. But I think the most important thing for us is just. We're philosophical. We're what we're, obviously, because of my background. Philosophically, we're very different from the average Taiwanese company, I think. I think we, you know you, don't have a lot of trusts, right. I believe trust is a significant value, at least in our organisation, right? Because, again, kind of alluding to my earliest story about how I sort of stumble upon entrepreneurship, not wanting to be like, you know, taught or managed by someone who, whom I didn't respect or whom, you know, I didn't look up to, I think, well, at least that's always been kind of my motivation for being an entrepreneur. So likewise, I think, you know, I tried to be, you know, like, a very transparent leader, you know, I, I'm not going to ask my colleagues to do things that I wouldn't, you know, personally do myself, right. And then also, I think I try to treat Just a straightforward philosophy, maybe it's a Christian value that was like brought up in Sunday school. I'm not particularly religious, but I think I've always liked the stories I've always read with me. You know, treat others like you would treat yourself or walk in someone else's shoes. So I've just stuck to these very, very basic principles, I think, from childhood. And, and I think, in many ways, because they're so simple, it's very, very scalable, right? Because you were just adhering to two simple principles, as opposed to writing down rules, you know, like, he must, you know, put your head down at 1 pm and take a nap, right, which is, as a common practice in Taiwanese companies.

Limi  25:40

No, and I understand because especially when you start living in Taiwan, I've been into one for five months, and I do see a slight cultural difference, that they actually make their deal-breakers, especially, I think, a little bit more extrovert, I'm more while I will do what I want. And then I'll ask for forgiveness. Or I will be I want this, and I won't, I won't let you until I get it. Right. And we do see something different from the cultural perspective. It all goes by, it all goes by, and it's all about adapting. And in this case, do you have any mentors guiding you through the journey? Even if it's been a very successful 30-year journey?

Mark  26:26

What do I know that I tell people that, you know, you guys, like are fortunate in this age, because you know, with a one, one tap, you know, you can access information pretty easily online, right? We were still living in the analogue world when I first started, right? So it was not very easy to connect with people. When I first started my entrepreneur journey. I would say that, you know, I, I can't, I don't have a go-to mentor. But I think I have a lot of good friends or people that I trust that in times of difficulty, or in times of doubt, I could always turn to them, you know, for most, you know it's my wife, you know, she's been. Right, right. But, you know, I think I would say I read a lot, or I'd encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to read a lot, right. You see, I tell people, like, you know, some people like to golf, I want to read annual reports or shareholder letters, you know, because I think you can learn so much from the shareholder letters, like, you know, business, what, you know, business luminaries like Warren Buffett, you know, right. And if you could, I mean, I have not gone to all his shareholder letters, but I've read quite a number of them. Right. And then on the on Berkshires West website, and, you know, you could go back, and it's entirely free, right, and you're reading about the thought process for, you know, one of them, you know, probably the most significant investor of his generation, right. So, yes, you know, I feel like there's so much if you're passionate about business and entrepreneurship. You live in a time where you know that information is available, you know, with a click right.

Limi  28:21

You told me that you started with an undergraduate in biology, and you weren't seeing the entrepreneur part. How do you match? Or calibrate the financial topics? How do you get a push? Because I know a lot of entrepreneurs, I wish I could do this, but I don't know anything about numbers.

Mark  28:47

Okay. Well, I mean, first of all, I think the number aspect of the business is straightforward. Yeah, I don't think it even goes up to algebra. If you think about it just goes up to sixth-grade math lessons. You can add, subtract, multiply, divide. The number I think I was very fortunate of I did take. However, you know, I was a biology major and econ minor. I took a class at Stanford in valuation in finance, and commonly, you know, professors, you know, like, teach that. Still, it was led by a PhD candidate at the time, I think he later went on to, you know, to Michigan University of Michigan's faculty, and he was, you know because he was hungry. He gave everything in his class, and he taught it like no other, you know, more established professors. And, and I felt like, you know, that one class kind of really covered everything, right. I mean, um, and gave me a good framework, to think about, you know, just sort of know the financial aspects of a business. Right. And then, of course, you know, I think being an entrepreneur, you know, you're essentially self-taught, at least I was self-taught, you know, in accounting, and then when you, like, I remember as an, as an undergrad, you know, I think I did take a course in industrial engineering that was, you know, maybe covered accounting a little bit. It, you know, I didn't get it at the time, but then after you run your business, and then then then you kind of cross-reference, you realise that you know, accounting is, is just, you know, it should be pretty intuitive, proper? But the most important thing is just managing your cache, right? Like, if you look at your bank account, you know, it just needs to stay positive, unless you have, you know, extra funds or, you know, debt. Right. So, I think learning through, you know, having to bootstrap and manage your own business, you know, was kind of the best lessons or best teachers, right.

Limi  30:57

You know, it's exciting, because in my case, I will say, I, my knowledge, I like to say it's actually from the streets, more than the street smart. Like, I would watch things quick. But when I was, when I graduated from high school, it was tough for me to say, I want to be this in the future. I didn't know. And I started, I remember, I enrol in Psychology Club. Then I registered as an industrial engineer. And then, when I travelled abroad, I tried industrial design and a little bit of fashion design. Yeah. And as 2008 became a little bit of an issue with the financial crisis, I came back to Honduras. And then I'm like, my mom's like, hey, my parents are like, we need to decide this, like, are you going to law school? Or are you going to business school because those are the only two you need to knock out? Right? So I went to marketing, I studied marketing. And I realised like. The problem was not the topics. The problem was actually that what I wanted to do in the future was control all of the product's areas, know how to sell it, and then learn how to enter a new market and create that need and satisfy that need. And it was adorable. It was nice how life, actually, will connect the dots for you at the end. Yeah, we'll have a plan. The plan will not work. It's a little bit like poker, sometimes you have your cards, perfect cards, but you play with them. And eventually, you get connected. And in my case, I lose. I'm not a good poker player. But you get to the role you ultimately win. And for this new strategy, especially with the Korean COVID-19 crisis, what will be the best advice you will give to the young intrapreneurs?

Mark  32:44

I think yeah, I mean, you know you know, in the US, right, the hashtag great resignation. Right. And people, you know, have, I think I read somewhere that, you know, small, you know, the business formation has stagnated in the USA has declined, but because of COVID, it, you know, spiked, right. So, I think, you know, I guess my feeling with COVID is, you know, I think the whole world has, you know, been impacted. And I think on the individual level, you're, for sure, kind of reexamining the priorities are life, right. And then I think, at least on my Facebook or LinkedIn feed, I've seen a lot of my, you know, old friends from the states just kind of click their corporate jobs, right, because I think they realise, okay, life is short. And maybe it's time to see them seize the moment, mainly because my friends are, you know, middle-aged approaching 50. You know, I think, yeah, they realise, yeah, they realise that you know, if you stayed, you know, like, I guess the pandemic has forced a lot of, you know, I think most people have, have kind of used this opportunity to examine, you know, their lives to figure out what is essential. What is not, you know, yeah, so I think that it's, you know, that transition will create a lot of opportunities. Right. That's what we're seeing. Right. Recently, our businesses have been very, very strong, like, in terms of, it's not us pitching. It's just like inquiries, right? Because I think the US, you know, you've been in the US, US, is essentially very US-centric. Right. And, but I think this kind of remote work, work from home, has awakened a lot of US companies and entrepreneurs to say, hey, I don't need to hire me. Remote work or, you know, used to be like, a company in Silicon Valley. And then you have a worker in Colorado, right? What that pandemic has kind of inspired people to think, hey, you know, why am I just limiting myself to work in Colorado? Would it be cheaper to have a worker in Taiwan? Or to in Bali? Right? And so so yeah. So, you know, I think, like, as I said, when we first started this in 2019, sending one of my colleagues flying around knocking on doors in North America, you know, people weren't that interested in Taiwan. But now I think, you know, even American companies are saying, hey, you know, we don't just need to limit ourselves within the US, you know, that talent can come from globally, right? And I would say, I don't know, how many, what percentage of your audiences in Taiwan, but I think, you know, imagine if you're in Taiwan, you know, and, you know, studying, and you could stay in Taiwan. And then you have the English ability, the language ability, and you can draw us type salary, it doesn't even need to be a Silicon Valley base salary could be just a US salary. And you're living in Taiwan. It's a lavish, great lifestyle, right? Like, if you can manage the time difference, right, because that, you know, what you're getting paid will go a long way. Right. So I think, you know, it opens up a lot of opportunities. And I think you just have to kind of. I would encourage people to embrace it, right? Because I feel like this is going to be a multi-year trend. You know, people will, you know, I think we're moving to a world where if you have talent, you will be rewarded. And you'll be rewarded at close to a global market rate, right. But then, the flip side is, if you don't adapt, then essentially, it's like having no geographic mobility, right? Because then you're kind of locked into whatever the prevailing wage is in the market that you're in.

Limi  36:49

Yes, and I understand, especially with Upwork. I remember before, like, for me, this was something new. For me, it's like, I go, I think I'm a millennial, that's a little traditional, like, I will overthink if I want to move to another job. Right? So when I even arrive in Taiwan, I'm like, okay, is this good? Is this good, but now the new generations are ready to hop in, they pop the go from entrepreneur back to work. And I think it's perfect. Ideally, this new generation tries new things, especially Upwork, where you can stay global because you can work from another company, have an international boss, party, local and see your family. So I think it's something different. It's a new opportunity. It's a golden opportunity. Like I, it's opening for the future of work. Yeah. And the prep work, just like technology, just like Metaverse, is going fast. And we need to adapt from a client perspective to an employee perspective. And in this case, what will you advise them? If they want to be an entrepreneur in the future? What will you recommend them to be a CEO? When do they upskill? I think that's the most important. You can create a team. You can have a great idea. But when is it that you upskill? When do they decide? Okay, I'm going to this person to be my critical strategic partner.

Mark  38:17

I mean, you know, it's the question, how do you become a CEO? Or how do you become an entrepreneur? Yeah, okay. Yeah. I think you just have to, well, this is what I would say. Not everyone is suited to be an entrepreneur. Right? And then, and I honestly mean that, right? I think you have to examine first, you know, your motivations, right? Because many people, you know, perhaps, you know, come to me and say, hey, I want to be an entrepreneur because I want to make a lot of money. Right? If that's your starting point, then my advice is, then don't be an entrepreneur. Right? Because I think, you know, you think everybody is Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, you know, Bill Gates. No, no, I'm not anywhere near that. Right. Okay. So there are a lot of risks. Right? So I think, if you want to make money, I think there's a clear path to making money, be a lawyer, be a professional, be an executive, right? That will be more lucrative for most people by being a professional. So I think that you have to examine your motivations. Okay. After you realise that, you know, an entrepreneur may not make that much money, then you have to then, you know, I think the next question you have to ask yourself is, do you have the temperament? The emotional, the EQ? Oh, I guess you're right. I don't think it's so much discipline. I think discipline is one aspect of it, right? But many people believe that you know, they think I'm brilliant. So, therefore, I'm going to be successful as an entrepreneur. Perhaps I also felt like that, you know, when I was younger in my 20s, but having kind of gone through these, you know, 2530 years, I would say that the most crucial thing is soft skills. Right? You have to set aside your ego. Right? Because business is not something, it's not academic smarts, right? It's not. We can't go in, you know, there's no equation, there's no, you know, concrete answer. Right? I often tell people that, you know, the market is always right. Right, like, you push out a product, consumers just won't buy, you tweak the marketing, they still won't believe, you know, you say, you know, I don't have enough budget, I spend more money, and they still won't buy, right. So are you right? Or is the consumer, right? The consumers? Right, right, the market just does not, you know, there's no market for your product, right? So you have to be able to, you know, take in feedback, right. And for many people who have been booked smart all their lives, it's tough to say, Hey, how come I cannot reason this out? Right, like, you know so that I would say, having kind of taken this journey, 2530 years, I would say that one I know, honest advice is not everybody is suited for entrepreneurship, because it's like a roller coaster ride. And if you cannot stomach the volatility, then you know, temperament wise, you know, it's not suited. Number two is like, if you are into certainty, stability, you know, predictability again, you know, those are the wrong characteristics. For you know, becoming, you know, there's Yeah, entrepreneur. Yeah, yeah.

Limi  41:54

And I think there's like a. It wasn't Lincoln. It was just like a post. And it says, like, if COVID didn't take the hustle and the entrepreneur out of you, just not there, like, validate yourself in one. Yeah, because I think that COVID quarantines it, it emits many opportunities. And most sometimes we invest so much on social media, like all a lot of our budget. And it's all about the play by ear, I think sometimes. Does anybody hear what's going on the streets? How will you fix it? How did you come back, then? It is exciting. And in this case, I know you told me that you like to read a lot. What will be the book that's right now, like, your guide, the one you will suggest or that blog, where we get that inspiration right now, for the mark of this generation?

Mark  42:50

You got a more old school. I think if you had to read in person, I still go. I would still recommend reading Buffett. I think his logic is the way he sees business. I think you know that that will pass the test of time. Yeah. So I would say go back and read as many of his shareholder letters, and I think you also see the evolution of his thinking, right? It just gets more precise and more transparent and more apparent. Right. And I think, I mean, I'm not cumbersome, compare myself to that. I guess what I'm saying is, as you get more experienced, I feel that you have more clarity, you know, in many things, right? And I think from a business perspective, you know, sometimes, you know, I often kick myself in the, you know, in the behind and say, you know, why didn't I start, you know, like, do this earlier? Right? How come I didn't arrive at this understanding earlier in my career? Right. So So I think, you know, I think the basic business principles don't change, right. The other thing is, I believe it is essential to distinguish what luck is? And what is repeatable? Right? There are a lot of aspects of the business. That is due to chance, to change, right? But if you think about it, if you want to be continuously successful, then what you need to find is a strategy or a repeatable methodology. Right? So someone their best analogy, you mentioned poker, right? If you had great hands, a novice poker player could be the winner or, you know, Blackjack, any of these table games, right? Yes. But then if this person wins the very first time and thinks that all sudden, you know, it's a very, very easy game. And then you know, just like piles all the savings and says, I want to be a professional gambler, chances are by the second or third filter, you know, they don't have the skills. They'll be bankrupt, right? So there's a difference between hitting the jackpot, once versus, you know, are you like, you know, can be successful throughout your career. Right. And, and so that's, you know that that's the chip there, there was another point I want to add, you know, to the end about, like, how do you know whether, you know, you know, can you become an entrepreneur? Or what are the characteristics? I would say that, again, it's not too kind of not to rain on prospective entrepreneurs per raid. Still, I would say that most people probably are more well suited to be an intrapreneur, meaning that you can have entrepreneurial characteristics or you have entrepreneurial drive. But you know, I think it's tough to be like the whole package. And so if you know that you don't fit into the corporate setting, but you don't want to tolerate the volatility of being, like, you know, your boss, and you know, like funding everything. Then the other approach might be, you just help, you know, entrepreneurs that you admire, and that have the same values, and you work with them to help, you know, achieve bigger things or more incredible things, because I feel like a mature or, you know, a successful entrepreneur. The key is understanding their strengths and weaknesses. And so I think a successful entrepreneur would always, you know, always find talent, always, you know, if they see talent, they'll know, it's talent, and they would want to work with someone who's kind of they're here, right? Yes, and I think.

Limi  46:39

I will agree with you, especially. Because sometimes the key, when we're lost the key, is to go back to basics. And start seeing where we can change where we can prove and keep remodelling, regenerating shapeshift into what's going on, or become the best version, not like whatnot. Sometimes, some people will copy what's outside but be the best version and work with improvement. And it's just like a tennis player, as a soccer player, like once you know your game, once they see how you play, they will copy it, and then you're like, what happened? So it's always about bringing something new to the table. So I think it is exciting, and from this site, if you can start again, now that you have a clearer view, a journey, will you do anything differently?

Mark  47:30

Yeah, you know, as you know, I have two young kids, right. And so I think this is the same advice, like, you know, that I would give my kids, right if I could go back in time and know what I know now. Right? And obviously, that's not possible. So that's why I would say I construe it as advice for my kids. If they want to go down the entrepreneur journey, I think I would ask them to dream bigger. Yes. Right. But it's not that easy, right? Because when I started my entrepreneurial journey, you know, I had a lot of constraints, which was like, I, you know, my family wasn't very supportive. So I was on my own. So I had to find a business that could also sustain me daily, meaning that, you know, you know, I needed to pay for rent and you know, food, right? So obviously, in that situation, it's challenging to think big because you're, like, you know, you have to manage for the short run before you could get to the long run. I'm hoping that for my, you know, my kids or if you're in a position, where you can think bigger than then go for it, right? Because, you know, if my, my kids were to go down this entrepreneurial path, I would say, hey, you know, the basics I got, you think big? If not, if you're just doing it for the money, I say, Go, find a job. Yeah, so that's my honest advice, right? If you're doing it for the money, find a job because I think a job it's going to be, it's going to be a sure payoff. If you want to go, you know, truly build something, then if you know, think big, right? Because, especially you know, as you mature and get older, you'll realise I mean, when you're young, you know, I've been there when I was a starving college kid or new, you know, grab that as you get older, you clear? Without a doubt, you know, the constraint is time. Right? Because we only have a finite time, you know, right on earth. And also, as you mature, you know, through your life stages, you know, you want to do other things. It's not going to be all just work right. So,

Limi  49:48

yeah, no, and it's nice, like at the end before we go to the questions and answers. I want to do the most challenging question ever. So thank you for being on fire. Chat, but from your intrapreneurs circle, who will you recommend to be our next guest? Who is that intrapreneur that you say it got to know about him? Is doing this incredible thing. It's hot, leaving you to need me to tell.

Mark  50:13

you. Yeah, without question. It would be Alex Liu, CEO of my coin. I was fortunate to be an early investor in my currency. And for those of you who perhaps have not heard of my cash, my queen's two biggest crypto exchanges. But you know, Alex is an entrepreneur that I respect tremendously. In the entire 15 years, I've been investing, I feel, at least personally, he's the most put together the, you know, the best entrepreneur, Matt, right. So I highly encourage you guys to seek him out to speak on the programme.

Limi  50:55

That's perfect. And in the meantime, we're prepping for questions and answers. Tell me are you hiring?

Mark  51:02

Am I hiring? I'm open to meeting. So even if I don't have any immediate opening? I like to find ways to work with gifted individuals.

Limi  51:20

That's perfect. Robert says for Pinehurst advisors, current portfolio, how do you plan the exit? Is IPL feasible in Taiwan? How do you deal with Taiwan? Small capital market?

Mark  51:38

Yeah, great question. I think I think I think we have two companies that I think potentially could exist for most of our companies. I mentioned when my coin terrible is, you know, probably our big hit. And the other is perhaps not too well known to the general audience, but it's called Calcar. Fly. It's a company that, you know, a reseller of, you know, kind of Facebook ads now line ads, whatnot. There have been talks that you might look at Taiwan IPO. So I think it was, Robert, I mean, I think his questions on the spot, you know, tailwinds. I wouldn't say that Taiwan's capital market is small. Because if you look at it from a market cap perspective, you know, probably excluding China and Japan, second only to Hong Kong, in Asia. However, I think it's heavily weighted to semiconductors and tech. So if you're not in that space, then it's tough to get a reasonable valuation or get institutional investor attention. Right. So So, I think from a market cap perspective, it is not tiny. But it's just very, very like one dimensional, right. And so it's, it's not a great market if you're not doing what Tywin is good at, which is, you know, semi series, you know, material manufacturing components.

Limi  53:22

And now, from San, Mr Mark, great personal story, I'm 34, and leaving a six-figure paycheck in a few months and starting my product design startup with a partner back in Malaysia. With 10k. Bootstrap, if you didn't know what to venture into, what would you do?

Mark  53:42

I think I would still, you know, I think you need to start with a thesis as I said, you know, you obviously, you're doing very well, you know, if you're pulling 100k per paycheck. And so, if the thinking is like to replace that paycheck, like overnight, to be honest, I think the odds are, you know, long, correct? It's not. It's like I said, it's not easy. So I guess then it's essential to figure out why you're leaving, let's say corporate or something very, very stable, and what you feel is your calling, right? Because what I've learned is, you know, I've taken over kind of smaller businesses, you know, inherited them from, like, you know, founders have backed, and I realised that if you're not even interested in the business, right, it's tough to drive it for. So I think, as I said, entrepreneurship, it's really, as cliche as it might sound, it's not about the money because I believe there are better ways to make money. So I think it's. The first step is to look within you and figure out, okay, what's his motivation, right? To leave corporate and to want to venture out and then and then, and then the second is, of course, whatever you're using. Your initial kind of hypothesis or thesis, be prepared to tweak its pivot. Right, because that's natural. Right. So. So I think, again, from an academic setting, we're conditioned to believe, you know, we have to find the correct answer. But I feel like on this journey. You can never find the correct answer. At best, what you can do is just eliminate, you know, non-workable possibilities. Yeah. So I think you have to prepare for that. Yeah.

Limi  55:32

And in this case, Stan has a question. And he wants to reference the book company of one why staying small is the next big thing for business. But his question is, how do you think about a three-year hustle of a six-day work versus slow and steady startup growth?

Mark  55:52

I, I would, you know, for me, philosophically, I'm more about the slow, steady startup growth. And in fact, I had a conversation earlier this morning with an old friend that I hadn't spoken to in a long time. And he, you know, was also asking me about, you know, how he wants to make the transition from corporate, it depends on the type of company that you want to start, I feel that you know, a lot of times, you know, the VCs, the typical VC, or this Silicon Valley thinking is like, you need to throw a lot of money at it, right. But my feeling is that it depends on the problem you're solving. And the company, you know, the product or service you're offering, sometimes, you know, what you need this time, right. And I was using this as an analogy, like, when I started in 2019, I had one colleague fly around to the US to Hong Kong Singapore to attend the startup events. And I'm thinking, you know, as a, if I were wearing the VC hat, or the typical VC, if I had VC money, they would say, one to hire two or three, four more people, and fly you're, you know, fly everywhere, right. Now, looking back, you know, because blimp fleet, we now have, you know, some traction, I would say that, you know, had I spent so much money initially, or had I had other people's money, I think I would just burn quicker. And I might not have lasted till now. Right? And what I realised now is like, this business just requires time. And then I had back in 2018 when I first thought of this business. I had no idea. I mean, I don't think anyone had an idea that COVID yet. And for a while, I thought COVID would destroy the business. But now, actually, I think we're benefiting from COVID. It’s because it changed our mindset. Talent can be anywhere in the world. So again, as I said, not everything, actually, most things, you know, cannot be planned out. But I would say that the key is having that staying power, right. And so by a slow burn, you know, you're just, you know, if you're for me, you know, like, I believe that what I'm doing will work. So what I needed was just time. So again, there's no easy answer. I think it depends on what you're going for flip sides. If you're going for a consumer trend consumer fab, you need to move quickly. Right. So it depends on what you know. What do you think your strengths are? And what idea you're going after.

Limi  58:28

Now that, thank you, thank you for your time. It's been a great conversation. I told you before, like now, it's just like friends and everything. And it's has been a pleasure. I feel like I already made more. And I think what you do what you do daily. If you go back, you will say 30 years, but I want to tell you, it inspires. It inspires it to get us a little bit into venture capital. And then, like we want to invest, we want to get everything or business plans because sometimes people have a great business plan, but we just got that fear to show it to pitch it. So thank you for being that critical strategic partner, making dreams come true, growing in those dreams, and going to places that most business owners have never imagined.

Mark  59:17

When I think, thank you for having me and thank you for the people listening in. You know, I enjoyed the conversation very much.

Limi  59:25

Well, thank you to everybody and have a great night. It's been a pleasure being with you. Bye-bye