Entrepreneurship In China: The Lessons, Challenges And Revelations [OES S01E05]

In recent years, China has been perceived as an emerging superpower and people around the world have been trying their hand at doing business there. Faith was one of them but a conversation with a local made her realise the stark difference in the local culture compared to Singapore’s. Instead of backing down, she adapted and through her experience working at Alibaba, she learnt to appreciate, assimilate and work within the Chinese culture. She prevailed and she is now the co-founder of 8XP, a leader in smart retail solutions. Get inspired by Faith’s entrepreneurship experiences in China in this episode of Our Entrepreneurshit Show by The Financial Coconut.

Faith, like any other entrepreneur, had high hopes for her business ideas. However, she was not prepared for the unique local culture in China where connection is everything. Through her personal experiences, she learnt many valuable lessons about embracing the culture and working in an ecosystem that seems like an entirely different planet. 

The nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom she candidly shares in this episode will certainly inspire many listeners. Above all, Faith believes in being authentic, pursuing what you believe in and using knowledge as your power. Towards the end of the episode, she shares very helpful steps you can take to discover your personal life purpose. Listen out for that! 

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podcast Transcript

Faith: My craziest entrepreneurship experience was I think, around three and a half years ago, probably. It was a conversation with an investor.

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Reggie: Everyone talks about China as if it is a sure win, like bao jiak one, right? Bigger markets means bigger money, but is it actually the case? If you have yet to set foot on the land, you probably did not realize that they quite literally have a different operating system. Faith, co-founder of 8XP and a leader in smart retail solutions, which partner with many great brands, such as Shanghai Fashion Week, failed miserably when she brought her first startup over. She later worked for Alibaba, took time to understand the whole space, recalibrated herself and crawled back from the heart of innovation in Hangzhou, China. But when she first brought her startup there, some investors make her question if there were ethics here at all. Welcome to our entrepreneur shit show.

Faith: So we asked him that, “You know, so can you give us an example? What are the ways? That’s why we need you, right? That’s why we need you to give us advice, because we can only think about this. You know, we don’t know other methods.” So he basically said that, “Well you know,  one example I can share with you is that one of the companies that I know that is in the similar field, basically what they do is that they take some ‘special photo’ of the influencer and make sure that they won’t be heading to some other places, which is… threaten them in a way.” So, you know, that ‘special photos’ that he’s referring to.

Reggie: So like nudes lah.

Faith: Yeah. I think although he said that I mean, naked photo in a way, but I think that’s just sick lah because I saw similar news before as well. So that’s why that moment I was a bit shocked.

Reggie: I’m shocked, I’m shocked. 

Faith: Yeah, so the first thing that I react… I didn’t think too much. I just asked “Isn’t that illegal? You know, that’s the first thing that I said. 

Reggie: Mmm Singaporean. 

Faith: Mmm very Singaporean. That’s why my investor keeps saying that you are very Singaporean. So that was when he responded and said that.. I didn’t feel very offended after this is what he said.

He said that, he feels that we are very naive and young in a way. Although I don’t feel that I’m very young, but he said that I’m very young. Then he said that he don’t know how fierce this  competition is. He say quite a long time that the reason why he wanted to tell us this, it’s not because he wants us to do it. He feels that after the conversation, he liked our team, he liked our product, but he feels that in terms of the business, competition side, right, we didn’t have a clarity of how fierce it is. So he was trying to justify that there is people that’s willing to go to this extent.

Of course, they say that this is male founder. The company that did that is a male founding team. So after that, we went for a tea break and I was telling my co-founder and I asked myself if that is the extent that we are going for. As a woman, I think that we probably would never go into that area for sure, if we know that the condition on this thing is like this. But after that, we didn’t go with this investor because we feel that, although he said this way, but it’s also like a warning and a prep for you that even though we don’t need to go that way, but you must be prepared that when they invest money, you need to listen to their advice and whatever that would benefit the company the most. 

Reggie: So they’re not suggesting you to do that. 

Faith: They are not really, of course. Who will be on the paper and say maybe, you know, maybe the investigator said it, “you know, maybe you can consider that grey area”. We don’t know. What I feel is that when we are not having any agreement or investment, people won’t really tell you the truth. But they will hint you something. It’s for your own perspective and intake on whether what they’re saying is true and what are they hinting you in a way.

Reggie: And that was your experience in China, right? 

Faith: Yeah. 

Reggie: You never freak out ah?

Faith: Just when I go there…

Reggie: So when you just went there, that was your first major wow experience. 

Faith: Yes. And I remember clearly it was like in a Starbucks you know.

Reggie: In a Starbucks?

Faith: Yeah, in a Starbucks. We were meeting in a Starbucks.

Reggie: Okay. And then why do you stay on?

Faith: In fact, when I first go there, I didn’t really like China, like majority of the.. Not really the majority. So I didn’t really have a good impression of China. That’s what I would say because my dad has been having business in China for very long. So our Mother Tongue is basically Mandarin, it’s not English. It’s not that I don’t like China. It’s just that I don’t understand China. Because if you look at Facebook and the media, I always see news from Facebook and see, “Oh, this random guy is like, suicide. He’s going to jump the bridge. Everyone start taking a chair and sit and looking at him jumping the bridge. That is my perception of China, that they are very scary. You know, they don’t give a shit about human being, things like that.

But when I go there, I realized that, well, the media outside is so hecking biased. It’s so biased that I am shocked. When I go there for four to five years… actually five years now, I know some of the best friend and the people that I love the most there because I feel that China have a very special culture in a way, and I’m very obsessed and I love the culture. So I feel that they are misunderstood. I was talking about some of the mentors that I have was misunderstood by other people. So that is when I have a lot of empathy and I jumped in to really understand a lot.

So last time I used to share with people that some Singaporeans, when they go there, they will stay for 15, 20, 30 years. Some go there one year come back already. It’s extreme, they won’t be in the middle. Yeah. So I’m more leaning towards that. I’m gonna be there for 15, 20 years. Yeah, because I already told my parents I’m looking for a place. I have an apartment in Shanghai. My family, we have relatives in Fuzhou, so we have a place over there as well. So I really intend to go there for very long. Just come back here often.

Reggie: Of course, 在上海有套房, you can stay there.

Reggie & Faith: [laughter]

Reggie: Yeah. But what do you think is the difference? I mean, you said that in China, there’s a very big difference. It’s so much so that you cannot even call it a difference. It’s like another world. How is it like from Singapore?

Faith: Some common example that I’ll give other people is that because a lot of Singaporeans, they have trips. For example, we hosted the SMU team before, NUS then EDB, ESG and all these people. They go there, we host them before.

You know, something very funny happened when we are in W hotel. So we were having drinks. So in W hotel in Shanghai, the Bund, they have a place whereby they do art exhibition. So there’s nothing but a door. So what happened is that typically Singaporeans will go there and look at the door and say, 可以去拍照吗? Can I go and take photo over there? There it says nothing. So they won’t dare to push in but Chinese, if there’s nothing pasted on the wall, they would just open. The difference that I see is in China, if there’s no rules, anything is possible. In Singaporean mindset, if there is still rules, we need to be careful because we might break rules that we don’t know.


First, the people that I mixed with is very different. We don’t talk about open-minded because open minded is a very subjective thing. But the people that worked with in China, they are very what I say by.. For example, we talked about risk adverse, right? Some people in Singapore, for example. But China, they dare to take risks a lot. So if they like you, business is very fast. Singapore, there’s a lot of red tape if you want to work with mid to high. For smaller SME,  a lot of them rely on grants and support from the government. 

Reggie: There’s this trickling down from MNC’s business. 

Faith: So, you know, sometimes I don’t really like to share this thing because it’s my personal opinion. That is why I want to go to China. That’s one reason. I give you a quick example. As a business person, Jack Ma always say something, is 唯快不破. 唯快不破 meaning that speed is everything. I give you an example. Our government grant is awesome, right? But let’s say it delay your cashflow by seven months, the money that we have right now is the different money that we  got to have for two months later, seven months later, one year later. That’s why it’s always about speed of time. So the thing I feel is that, a lot of things is not within control in Singapore when I’m having business over here. If I take grant, I need to plan my cashflow, that this thing is coming one year later. I need the money now to grow. Do I go and get a loan or get an investor? Then this thing I’ll say they come back eight months later. What if eight months later when I grow up so fast that..

Reggie: It makes no sense.

Faith: I don’t need that money anymore? It’s always good to have on my account. You know, things like that. But I’m not doing a small business. So if you want to go for aggressive business, sure.  Then you need to know your game. For example, China and Indonesia is very similar. Connection and the network is very important. Singapore, somewhat, but you must understand the rules. One of the article that I was in one of the coverage, they were talking about how to survive in China. And I basically say that you play their rules. You first understand their rules, play their rules, then whatever you want to do, of course, don’t break the rule. You can change the rule, but only when you have a certain influence, that’s when you can change the rule. 

So the thing is that in Singapore, there is a lot of process. For company, you need to go to their vendor, this application and all these things. There’s a lot of procedure. That’s what we call. There is no grey area at all. But if you’re in China or Indonesia or some other place, there is a grey area. Of course we are talking about grey area not in terms of like legal. It’s about the company, it’s not that strict and the boss can bypass everything. So I give you an example.

I worked with a real estate group. We know the doctor of the group owner. Basically they can just open a green light. Things that’s usually done within six months, done within one month, then that’s it. There’s nothing wrong about it. It’s their own company. We’re not doing anything illegal. It’s just that they want this thing to happen before Christmas, right? Then you cannot delay. Then he just push it through. It’s a win-win situation, but it’s very rare that it happens in Singapore. And for a lot of tech company, they think that Singapore is like a testbed because fundamentally, the market is too small.

Reggie: For people that are trying to, you know, thrive in China, what are some things that they need to know? 

Faith: The first thing that my mentor, when we are going for China, you know, before that one week, we go and meet him and have lunch. I remember he suddenly become very emotional. Then I joked with him 为什么你很像在送你女儿出国? He say, you know, you girls are girls, remember to be careful, you know, don’t go to a hotel with other people. And he said, he was talking about this. Very funny, then I was like “wah lao, you very funny you know, suddenly I very scared.” You know what I was telling him, “if anything happen, can I find you?” They said, “yeah, yeah anything happen just find me. I still have a lot of connections in China.”

The first thing that he told me that always embed in the back of my mind is that first rule: if you want to do business in that place, go to that place. You want to do business in US? You don’t say that you’re stationed here. Go to US. You want to do in China, go to China. You want to go to Indonesia, go to Indonesia. So he says that that’s the first thing. Second thing: you become them. Becoming them is also very subjective, right? It didn’t say that you must become totally the worst side of things because every human being have their bad and good, right? So what he meant by becoming them in the way that they do business. So, you know, what we call, there’s a lot of 术语, 商业术语. 商业术语, meaning that, you know, you’re…

Reggie: Linguistics.

Faith: Yes. Then you are like an insider, you know this. For example, if we want to do business today, you talk about you’re Chinese, right is like very potato style for example, the very Westernised style. We wouldn’t be using so many words that we see, it’s all from 江湖 experience. So 我们会讲, 比如说怎么样, 你觉得这个东西可以谈吗?”  Then it’s like “what is this?” You know, but these are what they say, and it will show that you are totally.. So when my co-founder and me, the both of us is in China, right, people don’t think that we are Singaporeans. They think that we are maybe 我们祖籍是, 祖籍是福建. Then they would think that we’re Chinese. So that is the thing. That’s the first thing that they will feel that you are the same kind of people, which is extremely important. So if you go there, you have that kind of attitude that 就是你会中英文缠. That’s rule number one, no. 我没有中英文缠, 说中文的. So that’s the first thing.


Second thing is that you need to embrace the culture and love it a lot. In terms of 成语, 对不对, I know a lot more than a lot of my Chinese friends that’s around me, then they always joke that “oh my God, 你比我更中国人.“ They were joking about that because I read a lot of Chinese books so I can give you an example. I read 易经. 易经 is basically 周易. And I read Confucius, 老子, 道德经. So I read a lot of the Chinese traditional thing. That is why when I go to speak and sharing, I can put a lot of Chinese wisdom into things that I say. Then that makes it very interesting for the Chinese, because right now this is what we call by all this traditional Chinese teaching, right? A lot of Chinese also never pick it up anymore already. 

Reggie: Yes.

Faith: That’s why they will feel that “wow an outsider in a way, love China more than us.” So that’s a very interesting point. And they will be like “哎哟很好“. Then all these older people will be like “哎哟很好,你真的非常好.” We have this kind of approach. Of course I didn’t do it because I’m trying to fake an identity. Because fundamentally, I like it. So what I feel is that people that really want to do business in China, 如果不喜欢中国,真的不要去. There’s no purpose.

Reggie: It’s not about market size.

Faith: Yeah, it’s not about market size. 

Reggie: It’s not about growth. 

Faith: Because you will not make it for sure. Of course if you have a good co-founder that is local, then they can mingle very well then go ahead. It’s not making any sense if you, like a lot of people that I talked to will be like, “Oh, I love US. You know, I always travel. I don’t go to China. I go to US and Europe.” A lot of people say that, then it’s very hard to do business over there. “Hey, China seems to have a lot of opportunity there, you know, can you be my partner? And we do in China?” No, I don’t accept this kind of partner. Go to US.

Reggie: If you love there… 

Faith: Yeah, go ahead. Go there and earn money. 

Reggie: Okay. 

Faith: Yeah. That’s my attitude because one thing that I believe right, is the alignment and the coherent that you are looking for in life, meaning that this is what we call by 知行合一. 知行合一 is my life philosophy, whereby the way that you think, the way that you feel and the way that you act, there is alignment. So 你不要很像, 你心里这样想, but you do another thing. You will never be successful because that is your full concentration level in things that you do. 

Reggie: It’s not about success. It’s just so painful actually. 

Faith: Yeah exactly. Then if you are okay with that then fine. [laughs] 

Reggie: [laughs] Whatever. But then from Singapore, how did you ended up in China at first? 

Faith: Because my co-founder wanted to go. 

Reggie: Mm, but you guys were already doing something here. 

Faith: Yes correct. 

Reggie: You were doing pretty well. 

Faith: Yes. I wouldn’t say that we are doing super well, but in terms of the milestone that we want to hit, we hit it. So basically as an e-commerce platform, the first thing that’s most important is basically transaction, which is GMV right. The second thing would be how many users that you have. So that’s the main thing. At that time, our e-commerce company which is called Fashory, we worked with W hotel. We worked with a lot of Instagram blogger, like I mentioned to you. There was Nellie Lim, Melissa Koh and a lot of other people. We have events with them.

Then we realized that the transaction and conversion is too small because fundamentally, it’s not with the influencer problem, but really with the whole landscape in Singapore whereby the things that we are selling is too niche. The things that we’re selling is basically 70.. actually 100 USD and above to around maybe 1000 USD. So there’s when we are more like a Net-A-Porter, Farfetch model. So to think about it in Singapore is a bit hard. 

Reggie: A bit farfetch.

Reggie & Faith: [laughter] Woah, that’s good. You got it, you got it..

Faith: Exactly. So you know, when we did research, we did a user research with our exact target audience. That is our user. Women of our target audience, they are not that fancy in looking for clothes. You think about it in Orchard. I’m not trying to talk about the bad side about Singaporeans. It’s just a fact. We work, we wear slippers to Orchard. 

Reggie: It’s true. 

Faith: You know what I’m saying right? It’s just our way of living. We are not that, in terms of physical outlook vanity in terms of that, we are not that into this thing. That’s the first thing. Second thing is that majority of the women at our age group, if they get married, they decrease their own personal spending by hugely. Then where can I get money from them? Logically speaking. So that is when I realized that “ah, you know, testbed is okay, our app looks nice. We were featured on the app store. Okay, fine. Go ahead then.” And so our investors told us that either you guys choose to go to Indonesia or China, which makes sense, because for Indonesia and China, you can see people doing all this like vanity stuff a lot, China as well.

So that is when we were thinking that Indonesia would be hard. Cause we don’t really know how to speak the local language… 

Reggie: And not as passionate about it. 

Faith: In a way, yes. Because too close, you understand them right? China still can explore a bit. Indonesia, you go travel often, maybe like for… Or some friends, Indonesian Chinese over there, you know how it works. Then you know, their fashion sense a bit different from the fashion sense that you imagined. You know, it’s just different culture, different. 

Reggie: [It’s not our critique, it’s just a recognition as things are different. 

Faith: Exactly. Yes. Correct. I feel that the one very important thing about being a business owner and someone that wants to do something, you must have full clarity. There’s no judgemental. It’s just that you know where you are, you know your place. The kind of things that we sell is also not very relevant for their culture over there. That is why we need to be a bit considerate for the Muslim culture over there. You know what I’m saying, right? Then that is very difficult. We need to change our model and our whole content marketing. So that’s when we’re thinking that “yeah, maybe China easier since I can speak very well in Mandarin.” We went there a few times. Then at that time, we got connected with the 苏州工业 which is the 苏州 place. 

Reggie: Yeah. Industrial park. 

Faith: Yes, yeah, that one is another story.

Reggie: A lot of stories. 

Faith: I don’t want to talk about… no lah no lah so that’s what happens. So we decided to go there because we feel that when we weighed our opportunity, our localization complexity and the connection that we have, China seems to make more sense.

Reggie: But then, when you brought this baby over to China, you go through all those stuff. It didn’t work in the end. 

Faith: Yes. Go through all this drama. You know, like we always say we have a certain runway, you know, we were projecting a year runway, 12 months. We think that not bad lah, you know, because in Singapore is like very chill 12 months, like 省吃俭用 and things like that. You’ll probably survive things like that. So in less than half a year, we basically spent our cash then we realized that it was like what I always tell other people is that it’s another planet. It’s not even another country.  Give you a quick example. We were on Apple app store, Android Playstore then Samsung store in Singapore. When I go there, I realized that their Android store has no Google. That was “Oh, okay.” That was like.. That’s interesting. Maybe I feel as a good CPO, I didn’t do research. I didn’t understand China. Then after that,  there is basically a lot of stores. There’s Oppo, there’s blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. There’s really a lot. No joke. Then I was like, oh my God, you know, when there’s a lot of stores, you know what is scary? That means that you cannot have a centralized place whereby you do just one marketing for your CPI (cost per install) right? So you need to have 10, that means you have a 10 channel strategy and you need to find out your exact target audience, where they are. Then you just put on that thing. If that thing doesn’t work, then sorry. No money for the next channel already. Yeah. Then it’s not possible that everything you put like $10, $10, $10 and all these things, then that means that you don’t have a strategy, okay? That was the one thing that I realized. 

Second thing. People don’t really download apps. 

Reggie: Oh yeah. Everything is WeChat.

Faith: WeChat mini ad was rising at that time. Then a lot of stores open Tmall and all this thing. You think about it, even Zara and all this thing. They also have their own store, but everyone had Tmall. So then, okay. Shit, the commerce is so advanced in China. A brand that go in, they will go JD, go Tmall or go 唯品会. Right. Then that was when I realized that, shit. 

Reggie: 唯品会. I so long never hear this. 

Faith: VIP.com right. Yeah, yeah I know. Still ok, they are still there.

Reggie: Still there ah. 

Faith: Yeah, yeah. 

Reggie: Last time they will put the brochure at the lift. 

Faith: Yeah yeah correct correct. Yes. So that’s when I realized that, wow, like China’s totally another… you know, it’s like, I go back to zero. I thought that I could have bring something over to do a start, right? It’s like I have a chair then I can stand up to see what’s behind the wall. I bring the chair over, then realized that the chair cannot use. Then I cannot see what’s over the wall then I’m like standing outside. I’m still an outsider at that time. So after that, the founding team have a break. You know, like what they always say, the founder has storming or this like different stages. And all these things is very common. I think that the very interesting thing about starting a company is that everything is a lesson and there’s actually a lot more ugly thing than happy thing.

The fact remains because it’s a very tough lesson that you’re going to learn. Everyone is putting all their time and their life on something that they believe a hundred percent will work and devote all their time in it. That’s why you can see San Francisco, the suicide rate is so high for startup people because it’s their life. They have nothing but their work. So our co-founder have a break. It’s a very big break. That time, the co-founder is basically living in one apartment. You become a bootcamp. It’s like an army, it’s very common.

It cannot be like “Oh, you want to live there? We’ll live here.” You know, that’s where we worked 24 hour together. Then break. I borrow money from my mom to go and rent an apartment outside because I just want to fucking get out of this space because I think at that time I’m blaming my co-founder a lot because I feel that it’s like I found a very good excuse that I’m a follower, but I don’t have a good leader.

You know, I blame it on my team, but I don’t think that after I go out lah, after that period of time, I feel that I misunderstood the founder role. If I feel that there’s something wrong, I should also voice out, and not voice out at the end. You blame your co-founder, you know what I’m trying to say, right? 

Reggie: Yeah, I know. 

Faith: So that’s when I realized that I didn’t do well as well. There was a time whereby I kept drinking, getting drunk and going out with all my friends. This is what we call in Shanghai 酒池肉林. 酒池肉林就是 you are like drunk yourself in a pool, in a swimming pool with alcohol.

Yeah. I basically had that time for around two months. I don’t usually drink, I don’t drink any alcohol when I was in Singapore. I only go there to drink because I feel very stressed. That was my peak, I was very stressed. Then after that, there was a turning point, which I met some friends that joined Alibaba as a Singaporean. She basically said “the headhunter is interested to talk to you. Do you want to talk?” Now I’m saying that I don’t mind meeting more people and talk about it. That is when I was exploring opportunity that I was like, I probably need to go for some training. So that is when I received three offer, one from Farfetch.

Woah, very attractive leh. I was trying to learn from them. Farfetch, I think Shanghai or Beijing, I cannot remember. Another is Alibaba group. They never share detail one, very weird. They never share what project you will be working on. So the third I remember was, I think Airbnb. Yeah.

So it’s all experienced. You can see that all these companies is all experience driven, especially Airbnb. I was very interested in Airbnb, but I was thinking that Airbnb didn’t really have a… I did a research. They don’t really have a good presence in China due to 民俗 law. 

Reggie: Yes. Yes. 

Faith: Yeah. So a lot of other…

Reggie: Very 麻烦 one. Foreigner cannot even stay in a 民俗

Faith: Exactly. A lot of issue because you need to have the registration. Then I was like “Oh, I better not lah” you know. Then Farfetch, I looked at it again. I was thinking that “yeah I think I didn’t come to China to join Farfetch.

Reggie & Faith: [laughter] 

Faith: Then I might as well go to the US Farfetch, you know what I’m saying right.

Reggie: I know, I know.

Faith: Then I was thinking, actually Alibaba was my third choice.

Reggie: Mmm. 

Faith: Then I was like.. Hmm. I really think think think. I think at that time I was very depressed then that was when I think “Aiya Faith, you need to fucking wake up. You need to be an adult. Go and drill yourself.” Because a lot of people tell me very scary things about China company culture. I didn’t know. Then that’s when I was like “Aiya I just join Alibaba.” I didn’t even compare the package. They have a range that they say they can offer and things like that. Then at the end, I choose to go with Alibaba. But at that choice, I still haven’t do the 4 round interview. We have 4 round interview for Alibaba. So that was very interesting because I didn’t really want it, I was a bit casual. 

Reggie: Casual ah. 

Faith: I didn’t really prepare. I was very happy because after the 4 rounds which takes 6 months…

Reggie: 6 months. 4 rounds. 

Faith: Yes, because I was still doing my ownself so it’s okay and surviving okay because my mum gave me some money. So 4 rounds, very interesting 4 rounds. After that, when I finally joined and the HR, I don’t know whether she was joking with me or anything. She said that for all the rounds, I have very high score. They have a scoring system. After I joined, I saw the scoring system. We were talking about the package then that’s when I joined Alibaba. 

Reggie: So do you feel like… So you went through all that shit. Then you joined Alibaba. 

Faith: Yes. 

Reggie: So after you graduated from Alibaba.. 

Faith: Yes. 

Reggie: And you do your own company… 

Faith: Yes correct.

Reggie: So do you feel the difference before you joined, how you see things after you joined? 

Faith: There is a very different… I feel that that was my life-changing moment.

Reggie: From working for someone, right? 

Faith: Yes. 

Reggie: It’s interesting. 

Faith: So you know, a lot of people, it’s very funny that they are very judgemental and they don’t understand. I’ll give you an example. I love Alibaba. That was my best time of my life over there, one year. Because I worked very long hour and every moment.. 

Reggie: 九九六.

Faith: Yeah. Nine nine six. I tell other people don’t compare your five years working experience with me when I chat with my friend. Because five-year, you are working on the same thing. But when I’m working there for a year, I work very very hard and I never even looked at my phone. Every night we have meetings. I love everyone over there because it’s a very well-funded startup. You know what I’m saying, right? 

Reggie: I get it. Everything can try, everything can go.

Faith: Exactly. Then everyone is very open-minded, you know, you’re so excited. You’re not working, you know. I was very excited. There was one time whereby we are in Bangkok. We were launching something. Everyone wants to go and eat and we were discussing about what to eat. Then suddenly someone had a call and said “Hey, the backend team, come back. There’s some server issue. We need to fix it right now.” Then the backend team will be like “Hey, you guys go ahead. We will join you later. Go and order some food and eat first. We’ll come back later.” You know what everyone do? We said that “No, we will go back together.” A lot of people.. The front end, the UX, the designer and all the team, we go back together. The UX researcher also, we go back together. It’s so cool. You know, it’s like a army style. 

Reggie: Mmm. 

Faith: I like this style lah, maybe some of the people don’t like it lah. They would think that it’s like work-life balance, things like that. But I didn’t go for work-life balance when I want to join Alibaba. I wanted to learn. They give me a full opportunity to learn and give me the power to do what I think is right. You know, that is why that was life-changing because I feel that, the first thing that everyone asked me, “You know, can you share about your experience in Alibaba?” There’s only one word. The awakened point was that I was a bit egoistic and think that I’m very smart. Yeah. I think that I’m smart still now. But the thing is what’s the most different thing? The people that’s smarter than you, have wisdom, have EQ and have IQ than you is a hundred percent more hard working than you in Alibaba.

So what’s your excuse? That is when I realized that people need to work together. And after that,  Fuse was created when I was in Alibaba. My co-founder created it first. I joined back for only half a year after that.  I still go in as a follower in a way, doing my job, but I took out the opportunity to be more team player in a way.

But the complication was that we have 4 co-founders, which is a lot in a way. And investor told us previously they don’t recommend having 4 co-founders due to having the voting right being balanced off. That is their perspective, which I think is fair. Sometimes it’s very funny. When I was younger, I was thinking that I don’t give a shit. What you’re saying is crap. We love each other. We will never have this scenario, you know what I’m saying? 

Reggie & Faith: [laughter] 

Faith: No really, we are a great team.

Reggie: We are all here together, we came so far. 

Faith: Then I didn’t realise that you know, the only thing I can say about it is that I realized that uh..

Reggie: They got data. For lack of a better.. to put it, the investors have data. 

Faith: They have data, you are right.

Reggie: They know, they know. 

Faith: There is a list of things they will not invest in like couple, marriage couple and things like that. t’s all red light. 

Reggie: They have data.

Faith: They have data. So that is when I realized the fact of it. It’s not that you think that you are very smart. It’s actually a probability game and you’re testing the human weakness. So I’ll give you an example. What I realized is that a lot of people like us that’s very devoted to do things right, 可以共, 可以共患难, 不可以共享福.

Reggie: Mmm. 

Faith: A lot of company faced this issue. One of the very funny news that I saw in China that time was that there is a 3 billion valuated company that is doing what we call 无人驾驶

Reggie: Driverless cars. 

Faith: Yes. Correct. So they got a lot of money, 3 co-founders. They were very good buddies then they worked hard together then the valuation is so high right now. Then just one week, the company crashed because the 3 co-founders, they wanted to kick each other out so they can get more shares because it’s by vesting 

Reggie: Mmm. 

Faith: Then they think that the CTO and all these things would not be able to do so much anymore. That’s why they want to kick him out and get new people in. That was what happened. That was when I was looking at other news and I was like “they should select people carefully and all those things. That’s when I realized that money would really change a person. That is why, I mean.. details, I cannot really share that because there’s some stuff, but that was something that I realized. And that is why after that, one thing that changed me the most was that looking at co-founders, you really need to be talking with the person at a very clear exit. So I’ll give you example. If I ask you to be a co-founder, we’ll talk about how many rounds that we’re going to raise, exit strategy, what it is. Then by that time, if you still remain as the vesting for four years, you’ll probably get, for example, 15% of the share which valuate at, for example, [00:29:00] 20 million. If you’re fine with it, then okay. I think if at the start there is a certain kind of agreement like this, that would be better. But you will realize that if you never talk about this, your partner will come in and say, “I don’t want, I want 50 million.” 

Then that will be like, oh shit, you’re doing it halfway already. You do all these PR already, then how? So I realized that aligned interests is extremely important. Of course there is still things that will turn out not right. For example, maybe you have 20 million. Then someone want to buy your share and say, give you 30 million. This is also common when your company become bigger. But that is based on your ethics. Then that is how you see your co-founder. If you see your co-founder, that will do this kind of thing, is so greedy, then no chance. Maybe that’s just fate. 

Reggie: Mmm. 

Faith: Yeah. But there’s a lot of things that can prevent this thing from happening. Having very clear founders agreement, shareholder agreement, and make sure that there’s one person that must be you, that can protect the interests of the company. That is why the investor usually invest in that one person. So after that, I realised there’s only one way. That means it’s either your way or my way. You know what I’m saying, right? Because that will always work. What I realized that in start-ups, a lot of people feel is that you are too, um, how do I say detour? You know? 

Reggie: You drag too long. There’s too much negotiation. 

Faith: Why I talk about fast right, it’s because there’s no bad decisions. There’s only slow decisions or you don’t make decisions.


Reggie: Don’t make decisions is the worst. 

Faith: Yeah, the worst. I saw a lot of people don’t make decision, I’m like.. constipation. Like that,  you know what I’m saying right? I’m like…

Reggie: Worst.

Faith: Yeah. So these are all the things that I learned when I was in Alibaba because I saw the repercussion. It’s bigger impact than not making a decision. Although you make a wrong decision, some people will blame you and some people will need to be responsible for it, but at least things will move because you never see that it will implicate so many people.


Reggie: Yes. 

Faith: Which is very scary. 

Reggie: Yeah. 

Faith: That’s why having a broad picture, having clear understanding is very important.

Reggie: Yeah. I think a lot of people need to recognize you’re not operating in a vacuum. Your competitors are around the..

Faith: Exactly. 

Reggie: They are around the corner also. 

Faith: Yeah correct. Then they are waiting to eat you out. These guys are so stupid, you know what I’m saying? 

Reggie: At least when you try something, at least something gets going. You know right or wrong, then we move on.

Faith: You need to keep moving.

Reggie: Yeah, yeah. That’s cool, man. And you know, I think you share a lot of good juice and there’s a lot of stories. Yeah. I’m sure we can go on and on and on for hours, but I just want to ask you why after all these things, you still do what you do? 

Faith: Mmm so.. It’s very funny. Recently I also have this conversation with my startup friend. She basically said that, you know we were reflecting again. Because right now, our friends are talking about life goals, what do you want and things like that. So very similar to her, I feel that it’s just like, my friend keeps saying that “you know, Faith, you’re actually a very simple person.” Then I said yeah. Simple in a way that I just look at one thing. So the things that keep me going is that every day I wake up, that’s the first thing that I thought of. Some people might wake up and think that “Oh what should I eat today?” There’s no good or bad, you know, then that’s why they will be thinking that “I must eat this thing this week, or I must eat this thing today”, right? So maybe some people think that, “Oh, I’m worried about my baby, my kids. The first thing I wake up, I need to check my kids, if they’re okay”, right? For me, I wake up everyday and thinking “okay, what should I do for 8XP today? What is my top priority today?”

You know, we always talk about do everything in 25 minutes. You are trying to milk your time every day to make sure that you do the right thing for today, because tomorrow will be another case. So that is why.. What I do is that, the first thing that I wake up, I would think about, “okay, what do I do today?” Then I prioritize. So this is the most simple thing that I explain to others “What keeps me going?” It’s because when you keep thinking about it, it’s not obsession. I would call that your life purpose. You just feel that doing this is something that you want to do.


I’m not talking about product development and all those things. I’m talking about, you have an end vision. My end vision is for the past 10 years, I have experience in retail tech and e-commerce and I understand this much, and I can design a user experience. I feel that the future of malls and the future of space is going to change.

Reggie: Oh yeah. 

Faith: You know.. 

Reggie:  I’m very sure. 

Faith: That is why, since that I’m still young, I feel that until I’m 60, 70 years old, I’m going to impact the outlook and the physical look of how stores should look in the future. And I still have 30 to 40 years to go, which is so exciting. Because I think life as a whole. I don’t believe in, what we call by growing old and all this thing.


I think knowledge and wisdom is power. So I never thought of when I need to retire or when it is enough for me. I think that for my life goal, I want to be useful and do something that can impact a few. Based on whatever that happened in the past and the fate, seems to be in the retail and tech scene. Because I cannot be.. So in Chinese we call 三十而立, 四十而不惑. 三十而立 meaning that in 30 years old, best is that you have a skill set, which you build up across the years. 40 years old is that you have an unwavering faith that this is going to be something that you bring to your tomb or your coffin. 

So I’m very fortunate. I feel that when I’m 30 years old, I already have a very hard skillset whereby I can call myself an expert in that field. And until 40 years old, I probably have something that I’ll stick with until the very end of my life. So that is my goal, which right now I’m at a stage whereby I’m building something that I hope that 我可以到四十而不惑 yeah. So that is basically one.

Reggie: Thanks for listening all the way, and I know you’ve picked up a lot. I’ve picked up a lot, so much so that we’re thinking of cutting into two? But yes, a lot of good juice from her. I think something that really rang with me was about the whole like… you really got to be authentic about why you are doing what you do. And it’s beyond monetary value. I think for a lot of people that are trying to make more money, I think entrepreneurship may not be the best way for you, right?  

If someone asks me, “Hey, how do I become a billionaire?” Firstly, I’m not a billionaire. I cannot give you the exact advice, but based on statisticals, I think if you want to be a billionaire, then you really have to start your own venture. There’s no other way out. If you do your work, you do your thing, then maybe you can be a millionaire, but probably not a billionaire? But for a lot of entrepreneurs, I think, together with Faith and a lot of other people, the general idea is that you really got to pursue what you believe in.

But she puts in a very vivid fashion. So that’s one thing that I thought was great. And of course she shared about China, right?  Work in China is very different and relatively, for lack of a better way to put it, a bit more ruthless. It’s very different. Singapore is a bit sheltered. Over there, things are different. Actually all around the world, things are very different and being able to localize and being able to go out there and challenge and understand people’s way of business, people’s way of life, I think those are very, very honest feedback? Generally, I think that’s good. And since you listened all the way, listened to my review. Faith has something extra to share with you.

So one last question. I think you’ve shared a lot of good juice, but if someone wants to participate and be an entrepreneur, what is that one more advice you would give them? 

Faith: Hmm. Very practical advice. Nothing chicken soup style. Use a mind map. Use a mind map and start reflecting on your life and everything that happened to you so far and at the end, what is the exact vision that you see? Close your eyes for a few minutes and look at how you’re going to imagine yourself to drink a cup of orange juice and look at what kind of paper or your screen is reflecting when you are maybe at an age of 50. Then map back and look at the.. This is what we call by connecting the dots. What is it that you’re working on from last time till now? What are your passion? What are your interests? What are the things that you are obsessed? What are the things that the moment someone talks about, you’re very interested? Then you map where you are right now. Then map towards that vision. Are you going to be in a 70 floor store, robot coming in, then you saw your LED screen and things like that. I feel that a very important thing that if you want to do something.. not the entrepreneur, a creator, you need to be very visionary.

You must be able to imagine because nobody can paint the picture for you. When I was young, I tried to paint pictures for other people. But I realized it’s hard because it doesn’t come from inner. My mentor always tell me about inner engineering. Go deep inside to look at the vision that you are already looking for, and that is basically your calling.

So that is what I believe and that’s always what I do. A very practical way like I mentioned, vision the future, then connecting the dots from the past, using everything as a mind map, you will realize that that’s actually your brain. But you pin it out in a very practical way to realize what are the percentage that you always think of, and there’s a pattern in your past, and that will be the pattern in the future.

Reggie: Thank you. 

Faith: Yeah.

Reggie: Thank you. Thanks.

Faith: [laughter]

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