Episode 182

Tony Thai  ·  Building HyperDraft

“If you feel passionate, I encouraging people to do it!”

Tony Thai is the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, a legal tech startup that is transforming the future of how legal work is done. Tony is a veteran attorney who has practiced at some of the world’s most prestigious law firms and in-house at multiple technology companies. Prior to becoming an attorney, he was an experienced software engineer. When he’s not growing HyperDraft, he is an adjunct professor at USC Gould School of Law and enjoys hiking and playing video games.


HyperDraft provides custom document automation software for law firms and legal departments. Users can save 90% of the time typically spent on drafting legal documents. HyperDraft provides immediate value with included implementation and customization services. Today, HyperDraft is used and loved by legal professionals across the U.S. and Canada.


Social media handles:

Website: hyperdraft.ai

LinkedIn: @hyperdraftinc

Instagram: @hyperdraftinc

Twitter: @hyperdraftAI

Medium: @hyperdraftAI

Listen to the podcast

Watch the interview

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Bryan Pham: Hey, everyone. Welcome to our episode of the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have a very talented CEO with us. His name is Tony Thai. Tony, welcome to the show. 

[00:00:09] Tony Thai: Thanks for having me, Bryan. 

[00:00:10] Bryan Pham: Of course, Tony, tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you develop this entrepreneurship journey?

[00:00:16] Tony Thai: Yes, so I grew up mostly in Southern California. I grew up in a little city called “Garden Grove”, home of really good Vietnamese food and actually at the time a Korean Barbecue. I think our claim to fame was we have Steve Martin, our alma mater from Garden Grove High School. It’s a pretty small city, but pretty fun growing up in SoCal.

[00:00:40] Tony Thai: I had my typical kind of Asian childhood. I think what I’ve talked about is a little bit before and people don’t believe me when I say it, but I was not a very good student when I was a kid. I was pretty lazy when it came to schoolwork. That’s an oddity and I locked my way into getting into schools and going to law school.

[00:01:00] Tony Thai: It’s a little bit odd, but yes, I don’t know, man. What else? What else can I talk about when we come to my childhood? 

[00:01:06] Bryan Pham: Yes, I think you’re not giving yourself enough credit. It does take a little study and a little hard work to get to the schools you got to and to be in the position that you got in.

[00:01:14] Bryan Pham: And I just want to highlight every single garden girl, the person I met has a lot of swagger for some odd reason. 

[00:01:20] Tony Thai: Oh yes! I know. I forgot. I didn’t mention that. 

[00:01:22] Bryan Pham: I don’t know what they do in that small city, but everyone seems overly confident, which I know. 

[00:01:27] Tony Thai: Now you’ve met the first guy. Who’s that? Maybe I am overly confident actually. 

[00:01:30] Bryan Pham: No, I’m just kidding, but yes, it’s great hearing about your childhood and I saw a post on Instagram today. The post is like, I think I saw a post about this kid. He was like, yes, I didn’t really care about high school, whatever, but now I run like a multi-million dollar business.

[00:01:44] Bryan Pham: I don’t know why your story and that story sort of correlate with each other. I’m like, wow, it’s a lot of commonalities. I want to ask you, like, what made you want to become an entrepreneur? Was this something that you always thought about a lot growing up? Was it something that your teachers told you or you woke up one day? You saw a movie and you’re like, I want to become this.

[00:02:00] Tony Thai: I think an entrepreneur is like a large -like classification. I think, if we were going to break it down, like working at a law firm, being a lawyer, you’re an entrepreneur naturally like that. You’re selling yourself, that’s it, or you’re selling your legal services.

[00:02:13] Tony Thai: It doesn’t matter what law firm you’re at. If you’re not a good lawyer and not a good service provider, you’re not going to get a ton of work, whether it’s internal or external. For me, entrepreneurship is just understanding the underlying business that you’re performing and then figuring out how to connect with the end client or customer.

[00:02:32] Tony Thai: And for me, it was always like, I never thought about it, like entrepreneurship. I always thought, what’s the most efficient way of solving the problem, right? And if the problem exists, at the customer level, then I’ll build something to help solve the pain points at the customer level. But if it’s internal for a large corporation, I would be willing to do that as well.

[00:02:50] Tony Thai: It just so happens from the stuff that I’m passionate about going direct to the end user. It is the more likely and more efficient route. That’s what opened up our entrepreneurship to me, it’s an efficient play. And I think the other part of it is, that people think that entrepreneurship entails a ton of risk and it does not hear me wrong.

[00:03:07] Tony Thai: If you run your own business, you’re selling yourself. There’s always the risk that somebody won’t buy, and so people always have that fear. That’s the kind of fear of rejection and not being good enough. But again, like I’m a little bit odd and I don’t think of it that way.

[00:03:21] Tony Thai: I think of it as just calculated risk, like everything you do. You take a job with a business. There’s a risk that they go under. They lay you off or they fire you, all that stuff, that’s all calculated. So when you start your own business and you become that entrepreneur, like there’s an inherent risk in that as well, but you’re just making those calculations to figure out. Is it worth it to me?

[00:03:40] Tony Thai: Does it make sense? and for us and my company, it made sense for everybody involved. 

[00:03:45] Bryan Pham: I like that story a lot. You’re right. Entrepreneurship, yes, is a risky feeling. There’s a lot of uncertainty every day. You don’t wake up bored. That’s the fact there are probably more bad days and good days, to be honest.

[00:03:55] Bryan Pham: But as you said, depending on the business that you’re in, it could always be very calculated. You always plan your risk and be more risk-averse moving forward. Looking at your bio, your LinkedIn, and everything, I know your experience as a sophomore engineer. And when I look at you, that’s like an alternate universe that I could have been in. I used to work as a software engineer for about 10 years. I studied for my law, and my LSAT stuff, trying to get to law school as well. It’s funny because I didn’t finish law school and my corporate lawyer right now is someone I took LSAT classes with. Just ironic as hell.

[00:04:26] Tony Thai: Awesome. 

[00:04:26] Bryan Pham: So I’m going to ask you like, walk me through your, let’s say after college, right? Walk me through your thought process and journey. What was your first job? What was your second job? What was your biggest takeaway from these jobs? Because what I learned about talking to entrepreneurs on this podcast is that no matter what stage you’re in, you always draw upon every single experience you ever had in your life to help you make decisions as an entrepreneur. I want to hear about that part. 

[00:04:48] Tony Thai: Yes. That’s a great perspective to take and yes, to take away from that, so not to bring it back to my childhood, but it does frame it up a little bit. So I’m going to be clear on this, right? I was not successful in high school, not successful in middle school.

[00:05:00] Tony Thai: I refuse to do homework, whatever. If I could do it over again, would I do it that way? No, I wouldn’t. I would’ve just played the game, and followed the rules. I nabbed the high score so I could get into college a lot easier. Apart from that my dad lost his job. I think it was just the year before I was graduating high school.

[00:05:17] Tony Thai: And so I had to take a quote-unquote gap year to make ends meet. It wasn’t a choice if I’m being honest with you, right? Like I had to make ends meet for the family, so I went off and tried to get a job. I tried to get a job everywhere. I applied to Taco Bell. I applied to Home Depot. I laughed out loud at Home Depot because I was pretty small.

[00:05:35] Bryan Pham: What year was this, by the way? so we have a reference. 

[00:05:38] Tony Thai:  7 0 8, right? Okay. Yes, just around the first recession. Some of them hired me, but they weren’t hiring me. And I had a good friend say “Hey, my dad needs a website made-like, can you do that?

[00:05:51] Tony Thai: I said, sure, as I’ve tinkered with software. I built that website and he was so happy with it that he referred more business to me from other folks. That kind of just spiraled. Then I started doing a lot more tech development and software development. The turning point for me, going from entrepreneur, building this business, and paying for a mortgage to deciding if I should go to school was when I got yelled at by a client. One of my clients was happy with me and he said, hey, where did you graduate from?

[00:06:18] Tony Thai: And I said, oh, I haven’t gotten to school. He told me I was stupid and he is like this whole wonder kin thing you’ve got going on, that’s not going to last forever. You need to apply to school. You need to get in and you need to go right. It’s for peer signaling. So I did that. To pay for both school, and family stuff, I worked full-time while I was an undergrad. My primary focus was easier and the jobs were longer. There was enterprise software development, basically stuff that other engineers found boring. I would just do it because it paid the most. That was my first introduction to big business and building systems for them.

[00:06:56] Tony Thai: You were in it for, sounds like 10 years. I did this process which I’m sure you’re familiar with, right? extract and transform load processes. And we want to talk about boring stuff, like man, that is the most boring of boring stuff that you could work on, but it paid the bills.

[00:07:11] Tony Thai: I got a lot of experience, not only working in software engineering but also, interfacing with clients. When I was doing these deals, I would have to hire lawyers because I didn’t know what a contract looked like. They are such foreign concepts to me, so I hired these lawyers to draft and negotiate deals for me.

[00:07:27] Tony Thai: I just got so frustrated having to deal with them. That’s one of the kinds of factors that led me to think, hey, you know what, maybe I just go to law school and lose better and not have to pay these, I’ll censor myself. These folks have so much money when they clearly don’t understand what the heck I’m doing.

[00:07:43] Tony Thai: And so that was one aspect of it and the other. Many other aspects, but since I was such a failure in my entire life. Like doing one thing nice for my mom and aunt who, who raised me basically, I would be lying to you if I didn’t say. That was a major motivator. You know what I have given you so much grief.

[00:07:59] Tony Thai: I will go get the JD. It will make your life. You can brag to your friends about it, whatever it is. But I will use it for my own business. That’s what led me to law school. I just wasn’t as smart as you and didn’t pull the ripcord. So I just went through it.

[00:08:12] Bryan Pham: I wouldn’t say that. I think the common theme in this podcast so far is how humble you are. I feel like you’re not giving yourself enough credit. So you got to USC law school, man, it’s hard to get into that school. Congrats on that. 

[00:08:21] Tony Thai: I thank you for that. No, I just met with USC today. It is just kind of, I was meeting with Chloe Reed there, who meets with a lot of alumni. She asked me why I started the business. I told her that it is out of obligation and she was like, what obligation? I feel like I’m such a lucky guy. So lucky, I ran, I got to talk to you. I ran into Ashley when I was working at Goodwin. I ran into like most of my team working at Goodwin and stuff like that. I just want to be able to give back to the community and building the business was a part of me giving back to the community.

[00:08:53] Tony Thai: But yes, man, I like the one factor that I’m like. I always tell people I will never claim to be the smartest guy in the room. That will never be me. I like being in a room with people smarter than me. But I will always be the most hardworking person in the room.

[00:09:05] Tony Thai: Nine times out of ten, that works well, whatever it is you do, right? If studying for the LSAT, for example, right? Like there are some people I met and would study with. They would get 178, 179, near perfect every time. Just off the bat. I wasn’t that lucky, I had to study.

[00:09:19] Tony Thai: You study and then you get there. And so I’m probably a good example of what happens when you don’t study. This is what happens when you put in the work and try to get it. 

[00:09:26] Bryan Pham: That’s also very inspirational to hear too. I feel like this is my point of view too.

[00:09:31] Bryan Pham: I never felt like there’s no such thing as a dumb person. You’re just not putting enough effort into it, or you haven’t found your zone of genius yet? What motivates you? What doesn’t feel like work to you? Everybody has that zone, but you just have to find it.

[00:09:44] Bryan Pham: Some people find it at different stages where that be like you said, obligation. Try not to disappoint their parents. It’s such an Asian thing to hear. But I want to dive deep into HyperDraft. Why did you create the HyperDraft? I know you mentioned earlier that you learned most of your business skills working as an engineer. And then going to law school, because you’re like, hey, guess what? I could do it better myself. 

[00:10:02] Bryan Pham: The HyperDraft is unique because I feel like it combines everything that you are, right? As an engineer and a lawyer, I just want to hear more about it. What’s the origin story behind HyperDraft? 

[00:10:12] Tony Thai: Yes, I love that man. And I appreciate it too because it is how it feels like when we start it, it takes a little bit of distance to be like, yeah, it’s random, right? It’s random that this guy, who’s an engineer on the enterprise side, decides to go to law school, and then does the law school thing. Then, work on it and build this out.

[00:10:30] Tony Thai: I wish I could say it was more planned. Some of it, it’s happenstance. After my one L-year, usually, you’re supposed to apply for what’s called a judicial externship. You got to work for free. For a judge, it’s probably framed. It should be framed up differently, but that’s in my head.

[00:10:43] Tony Thai: That’s what it was. I’m like, that’s not going to work. I got to pay bills. And so I didn’t apply to any of that stuff. I applied for law firm jobs. I got a job with the law firm and the law firm needed me to do corporate M & A. I’m sure you’ve got lawyer friends that will tell you a one L in law school, knows nothing about corporate law, like nothing zilch, nada. 

[00:11:06] Tony Thai: It was a steep learning curve. When I jumped into your point before, I love talking about pattern recognition and pattern learning because it’s so powerful. With all the contracts, I realized at the end of the day, it was just software.

[00:11:18] Tony Thai: It’s just code, slightly more ambiguous. But it’s just code, and so I enjoyed reading through and drafting code. That’s weird, like an obsession. It’s an obsessive-compulsive aspect of me. I loved every part of it, I loved every word, every character, everything. 

[00:11:34] Tony Thai: The problem I discovered was, as an engineer, we’re so spoiled. We build these tools that help streamline stuff. Lawyers don’t have any of that. We have Microsoft Word, and that’s buggy. You still won’t find most lawyers touching Google docs. God forbid that people use a web app.

[00:11:52] Tony Thai: So when I went back to USC for my second year, I met up with Professor Michael Chaslow. He taught at the USC small business clinic which I was in. I would talk to him about this. I’m like, dude, you don’t realize how bad this is. He showed me and I would show him.

[00:12:07] Tony Thai: And he is, oh, I’m sure somebody’s built this, right? Because we’re lawyers at this point, so we’re very pessimistic about our ability to build a business around it. We’re very resistant to doing that, so we looked around. We couldn’t find anything, so I advised a few companies to try to get them to do it.

[00:12:24] Tony Thai: They just never were able to get it there. I got to the point where I was in practice and I was like, you know what, I’m going to make this money. Then I’m going to outsource it. I will hire engineers to go do it. I tried that for a year and blew a few hundred thousand dollars on it. Then I realized that there’s this huge communication gap between engineering concepts and legal concepts. I just got them to talk to each other.

[00:12:46] Tony Thai: It takes so much time. Time in the legal field is money, so the more time I spend talking about it and not doing it myself, the more I’m just wasting. So ultimately, it got to a point where I’m practicing from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM and I’m coding from 10:00 PM to 3:00 or 4:00 AM.

[00:13:04] Tony Thai: It’s not sustainable like we have to make a decision which is, around the time I decided like we’re getting traction here. There is software being built and it looks good. We already have a few clients in the hopper. My current clients on the law firm side of things want to use the software.

[00:13:20] Tony Thai: So let’s kick off and do this. So that’s rambly. I’m sorry for that.

[00:13:23] Bryan Pham: But you’re not rambling. It’s fine. 

[00:13:25] Tony Thai: Yes! Hopefully, I gave you a timeline, so this started early. The kind of rumination around the idea started in law school, and then I was such a pessimist.

[00:13:35] Tony Thai: That’s the theme, right? Like I’m such a pessimist and I didn’t believe in myself. By the way, I didn’t give enough credit to one of my mentors, Chris Wynn. He was like a brother to me and he was one of my clients. He helped coach me into being a CEO and got my ass in gear.

[00:13:48] Tony Thai: I don’t know if I can cuss here, but you’ll bleep it out. 

[00:13:50] Bryan Pham: It’s fine. It’s fine. You’re just communicating raw emotion. Lots of things to love about that. I think the fact that you thought about it, you saw a gap in the market, and most importantly, you took action, right? Honestly, I think all of us can go through our day and be like, I wish I had this app.

[00:14:04] Bryan Pham: I wish that was done better. I wish for this and that. Those are all business ideas. The fact that you saw it and you found your unique ability to solve that problem. You took action on it and found traction. Not a lot of founders could even say that they found a product market fit. You found this miracle thing that people talk about in the tech product market fit. You find your customers, whatever it is, you find your customers first and you win for it.

[00:14:26] Bryan Pham: So it is also you man. And again, I feel very similar to you because I am a little bit more of a pessimistic person, right? I’m always like, ah, am I the right person for this? I used to think that was just me. Then the more founders I talked to on the Asian host podcast, which I would talk to like over 150 founders, that everybody has those thoughts. The doubt is why me? The, oh, no, like maybe I’m not a good enough mentality. I think that’s the very common theme of imposter syndrome. And, you found your traction, and you were able to take it to the next level.

[00:14:58] Bryan Pham: You found the right mentors. Those are all secret ingredients to success. The fact that you think that you’re not the smartest person in the room is also your superpower, right? When you’re not the smartest person in the room, guess what? You take a step back and you listen to people around. You’re able to incorporate more ideas into your product, which I feel, takes a great amount of EQ- emotional intelligence to do something like that, admitting that you’re not smart.

[00:15:21] Bryan Pham: Then finding a way to bring a team together through culture, collaboration, through the exchange of great ideas. So the next question I have for you is after you found traction, did you go out there and raise venture capital money? How did you keep yourself moving? And when you first raised your first round of funding, what was going through your mind? I know a lot of founders get excited. A lot of founders get scared, but what was going through your mind? 

[00:15:45] Tony Thai: That’s such a good question, man. And I’m going to answer your question for sure, but you’re going to spark something. You can cut this out, but you talked about having that imposter syndrome, am I the right guy to do it? What do you do to overcome that? And so before you answer that part, what do you think the reason is for having that feeling? Because it seems to be a theme, with entrepreneurs and especially on the Asian side, what do you think is the cause, and what helped you get over it?

[00:16:11] Bryan Pham: Yes, for me, I feel like everybody goes through that. It’s just humane. Whenever you put yourself out there, you always think, am I the right person for this? Your insecurity shows that everybody is very insecure in different ways. Everybody has doubts in their soul, in themself, in different ways. But then the people who can acknowledge those feelings and not sweep them under the rug and admit that this might be a part of strengths and weaknesses, I think this helped us reflect.

[00:16:41] Bryan Pham: And when we reflect upon ourselves, upon our everyday work, we can re-evaluate everything and look at things from a different angle, so I don’t necessarily see it as a weak thing. I just think it’s very part of human nature to just have those doubts and have those feelings and be able to acknowledge them.

[00:16:56] Bryan Pham: I don’t see them as a sense of weakness. 

[00:16:58] Tony Thai: Introspection, I like that a lot as a theme. Yes, I love it, man. Alright, sorry. I played Uno-reverse on you there. Back to the question of like, what was my thinking through that process, all that stuff?

[00:17:09] Tony Thai: I’m very conservative when it comes to, as Ashley will tell you, planning and strategy. The thought was we need to have at least 16 months of runway, no matter what. So just me and two-three other employees must have that runway.

[00:17:22] Tony Thai: I built that up through savings. That was step one. Step two is, okay, let’s ask, see who’s willing to chip in. Chris Wynn, my CEO mentor, is one of the first checks in to invest. Then, my former bosses and the people started to try to throw in some cash. We started with at least a little bit of a pot to work with, which gave me a lot of confidence.

[00:17:40] Tony Thai: And then, around the time we started raising valuations were getting crazy. People were raising money left and right. I was a venture capital attorney and so I like to see the term sheets come in, you’re just like, wow, this could be me. I could be raising 3 million on a 15 million valuation with no product.

[00:17:57] Tony Thai: At least we had a product, but some people were raised with a dream, right? like just a pure dream. Somehow, they were able to sell that to the venture capitalists. I had a really tough time selling the venture capital, which is fascinating to me, because I’m sitting here thinking, wait, hold up, I’m your lawyer.

[00:18:14] Tony Thai: I’m telling you, this is a problem. And you’re like, no, so you know, there are two risks when an investor evaluates your business, right? Product market fit is what you were talking about. Then, there’s execution. If there’s a product-market fit, that’s great. Then the next step is, can this team execute?

[00:18:32] Tony Thai: So in my brain, I jumped the gun and I jumped to the conclusion of obviously. Then, this is where hubris comes in. You think I’m humble, but this is where the hubris came in. I was like, obviously, product market fit. It stands. I’ve proven it. I am the target market, so I just have execution risk to prove up.

[00:18:49] Tony Thai: So when I started pitching, I did a terrible job. I didn’t even explain the problem to investors. I would just be like, clearly, there’s a problem. Here’s my solution and this is why you need to accept it. I just learned over time that investors were like, hold up. You need to tell me, show me that this is a problem first.

[00:19:04] Tony Thai: And then, we’ll get to the execution, like whether, or I could believe that you do it. I had to retool a little bit to prove that there was a problem. And now, it’s very obvious that legal tooling is lacking and a little bit of industry education helped. And then, I got to the execution risk support argument part of the pitch.

[00:19:25] Tony Thai: I distinctly remember this one investor who used to be a software engineer. He grilled me on engineering and computer science concepts. In the end, he apologized. He said, I simply did not believe that someone who had a decent engineering background could go to law school.

[00:19:42] Tony Thai: It made zero sense to me and so I’m sorry for that. But, I had to grill you on it. I’m like, okay, great. I’m still not going to invest because, like legal, it isn’t big enough for me. I’m like, why do you waste my time? So I was pretty knocked down and depressed on the first go-round when we tried to raise money.

[00:19:58] Tony Thai: And then we realized, who gives us money? Customers. So then I was like, oh, we will just get customers. Yes, we started getting more customers. That was great. That was starting to pay the bills and then, the second wave of investors. Now this time, not me going out, but them coming to us because they’re like, Hey, heard about you guys.

[00:20:13] Tony Thai: Would you like to pitch to us? Then I got sucked in by the siren song yet again and wasted some time doing that. And then I realized, you know what? I don’t even want to do it this way. The way that I want to solve the problem is the way that our team wants to solve the problem, which is the value proposition first.

[00:20:30] Tony Thai: And then, we will worry about the sale later. The difference between us and our competitors is pretty much the team that builds the product. It is the same team that had the problem in the first place and that’s a unique situation to be in. So you cut out a lot of what I call internal thrashing that happens because normally you would have to. 

[00:20:53] Tony Thai: Your end user talks to a product owner, product designer, product manager, whatever you want to call it. That person would talk to a PM and a UI UX designer and an engineering person. That is five-six layers of discussions that need to happen for us. We get an email from a client that says, hey man, it would be great if I didn’t have to send signatures out by myself and you guys just automate all that for me, I’m like, all right, cool.

[00:21:16] Tony Thai: Give me two weeks and then we get it done. Then they’re done and they’re happy, right? That’s what it takes. So for us, it turned out that not getting funding was a competitive advantage because what it helped us do is it helped us focus on what mattered, which is making money. Getting clients and listening to the clients, that’s how you get the clients and that’s how you make the money.

[00:21:38] Tony Thai: So it was very logical for us. But if we had gotten the cash, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think we would be where we are today. I think we would be a little bit further behind because cash gives you too much flexibility and it gives you too. If you have too much flexibility, then you’re not as focused.

[00:21:54] Tony Thai: You’re just chasing multiple shiny objects as opposed to one concrete target. 

[00:21:59] Bryan Pham: I like the fact that you put life in the hard. Some people like cushions. Some people like 16 months of runway or more. I’m just kidding. Love it. 

[00:22:07] Tony Thai: I like it too! What’s even better is like being in a cash flow-positive mode.

[00:22:11] Tony Thai: What is something the people call it to default alive or something like that? Default mode? I forgot what the phrase is, but like basically, unless we screw something up, we’re perfectly fine. That’s a really exciting position to be in because we don’t have to say yes to everything we can say no to stuff. That’s empowering. 

[00:22:26] Bryan Pham: Yeah. That’s awesome to hear. I think most businesses should be built that way. We’re seeing during the crypto craze of people raising 25 million dollars, seed round or a round or something like that, you’re like, wow, these evaluations are through the roof.

[00:22:39] Bryan Pham: But guess what’s happening right now, we’re seeing a crypto wind here. We’re seeing a lot of startups doing lower and their evaluation. Why? Because they’re not getting enough customers. They’re not making enough revenue. And I feel like the model that you’ve built, although it does take longer to scale up and grow.

[00:22:55] Bryan Pham: It’s highly sustainable. You keep a lot more equity in the company. Eventually, when you get acquired, go IPO or public, whatever it is like you own a lot more of the company, you’re a lot more resistant to the bull market, the bear market, and all these things, because at the end of the day, your product is very focused on your customer and you do you darn a good job.

[00:23:15] Bryan Pham: I’m going to keep coming back to you. So hats off to you, man. That’s an amazing story to hear. 

[00:23:20] Tony Thai: No, man, I appreciate it. And yes, I wish that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing it. The way that we’re doing it is we hope that it’s a good signal to other people that you can do this.

[00:23:29] Tony Thai: Just don’t listen to the hype all the time. It’s always good to ask, so there are rules, right? And I’ve said this before like you shouldn’t ask a person, was it the phrase? Don’t ask for a gift horse in them, like when I ask women, like, why do you date me? This seems like a bad idea for you. Don’t do that. 

[00:23:44] Tony Thai: And then, I would ask the investors, like, why did you put in money, I’m just curious. What about me? And they’re just like, one investor said something that kind of hit hard. He’s good at listening to advice and then knowing when not to take it and I was like, oh, interesting! , and that’s the thing! 

[00:23:58] Tony Thai: You should have your ears open. You should listen. You should listen critically. Listen to the perspective. I hate listening to critique. It hurts. I’m human. I’m not weird like I’m human too, but there’s always a grain of truth in it. If you can do that now you’re cooking with fire because then you see the world as it is and not as it should be. That’s a powerful position too. 

[00:24:18] Bryan Pham: Yes! Definitely, man, being able to incorporate different ideas into the vision without changing the vision. It is a really important skill for a founder, right? Especially a first-time founder, where a lot of times you wake up and you’re doing things that aren’t done before.

[00:24:36] Bryan Pham: There’s no blueprint for it. You can’t Google for it. You can’t look on Wikipedia for it. A lot of it is trusting your gut instinct. And sometimes, what you need to do, you’re but you’re scared of it, so you ask for advice. I think the most detrimental part is taking advice that skews you away from what your visual intention is.

[00:24:53] Bryan Pham: I think it’s a really good skill to have. It’s a great job, Tony. 

[00:24:55] Tony Thai: Appreciate it, man. Hat’s off to you like you’re doing the same thing on the Asian Hustle Network and I was talking to Maggie before, it is impressive what you guys have been able to build out from scratch at sunny. 

[00:25:05] Bryan Pham: I appreciate that. It has been easy, but I think every single founder goes through a similar experience. Whatever we’re doing is never easy. We have a lot of conviction and purpose that what we’re working on will change the world. I guess the next part of the podcast is I want to focus on Tony himself. 

[00:25:21] Bryan Pham: Tony, how do you take care of yourself? How do you take care of your mental health?

[00:25:25] Bryan Pham: Whenever you have a bad day as a founder, what do you do to overcome those bad days? Do you take a walk? Do you go out with friends? Do you talk to someone? Do you have a therapist? I want to hear about how you overcome your struggles. 

[00:25:36] Tony Thai: Yes! I think for a lot of people, exercise is one way they use to cope.

[00:25:41] Tony Thai: For me at this point, I’m trying to treat it more. Brushing my teeth doesn’t have the same therapeutic effect, because I’m already brushing my teeth, it is not going to help. There are two things that I do. Maybe it’s a little bit childish, but I play video games.

[00:25:55] Tony Thai: I play video games when I’m super stressed out and people ask me like, why am I into it? The nice thing about video games is I’m so immersed and I’m such an intense person that I always put a hundred percent into whatever it is I’m doing. So for me playing video games like I’m in it, I’m yelling, but it’s just a complete distraction.

[00:26:15] Tony Thai: It lets me breathe, and it seems a little bit counterintuitive. Like I will do that and then I will meditate. Then the other thing I’ve been doing a lot more is, I’ve been coaching my little brother to play golf. That’s been fun for me. I like teaching and I like coaching and seeing him pick it up because I was such a fanatic around. Golf is rewarding so that has been nice, to be able to spend some time with family and just hang out. 

[00:26:37] Bryan Pham: I like that way of dealing with stress. I think, especially, as Asian-American or Asian entrepreneurs, there is always that thrill part of the hustle culture.

[00:26:45] Bryan Pham: I work a hundred hours a week, I don’t get stressed. I just stay in the office all day. I hate that. But with your mentality and your answer, it’s more well-balanced. It’s what I like to hear. Go out there, work out, play golf, teach, spend time, and go do things you like to do.

[00:26:58] Bryan Pham: Entrepreneurship is not about sitting in your office, stressing about it all day, looking at business plans, and thinking about how to grow the business. That doesn’t help. I think rest is equally as important to running a business as to running a business. You need a balance. 

[00:27:12] Tony Thai: I would say this all the time. This sounds extreme, but I would say this all the time. I would have associates come to me and they would be like, hey man, I got to pull an all-nighter. What’s your advice? I’m like, my advice is don’t pull the all-nighter. There’s nothing in this world legal that you need to kill yourself, literally kill yourself for it.

[00:27:27] Tony Thai: Like you don’t need to do that second if you’re adamant and you’re going to do it anyway. I will give you option B, which is to take a four-hour, three-hour nap, or two-hour nap. And they’re like, why would I do that? I like it because you hit a point of diminishing returns at one or 2:00 AM and everything that should take 15 minutes now takes an hour.

[00:27:45] Tony Thai: So if you invest the time to take a nap, you will get it out faster. When you get up and pour a cup of coffee, it’s just pure numbers, right? You will get it back out in 15 minutes and you will have got two to three hours of sleep. I know this sounds.

[00:27:59] Tony Thai: Brian, aren’t you glad that you don’t have to do that because that was being a corporate lawyer, man? It’s that level of intensity, but yes, I agree. By the way, it took almost 10 years to figure it out. It takes time to figure out the balance. I wasn’t good at it either. 

[00:28:11] Bryan Pham: Yes, you’re right, and it’s funny too because you’re like the fourth founder of this podcast to talk about taking naps and then being more productive afterward.

[00:28:20] Bryan Pham: So it’s a proven strategy, right? To reduce stress and get the rest that you need, just don’t let us screw your sleeping schedule. 

[00:28:26] Tony Thai: Productivity is not effort. That’s the decoupling that people have to understand, right? If you spent five hours doing it the wrong way. I got this question.

[00:28:38] Tony Thai: They’re like, what is HyperDraft? I’m like, if I was going, to sum up, HyperDraft, it’s me coming by seeing a bunch of lawyers who’re gardening. They’re just using those little trials with the tree and they’re just like trying to use a shovel. And then seeing the way that they change their perspective of oh, now I can do this, all their stuff.

[00:28:54] Tony Thai: I’m like, they will find other things to waste their time on. But spending all that effort with the trial, there’s no glory in it. And that’s the hustle thing that you just hit on, which is, dude, I’m not impressed that you killed yourself.

[00:29:07] Tony Thai: I feel a little bit sad for you like I’m not impressed. Is it a good mode to have just in case always? It’s a survival instinct. Great. You don’t need to press on that all the time because, by the time you turn 45 and everything hurts and aches, you’re having all these health conditions.

[00:29:21] Bryan Pham: Yes! Everything hurts now so it’s not pushing me further. So Tony, in the last part of the podcast, I want to ask you a final question. That question is what advice would you give to a struggling high school student right now, academically, about his future in the real world? 

[00:29:37] Tony Thai: I heard some great advice recently, which is just perspective, which is that there are no dumb people in this world. It’s all about finding your genius. It takes time and it takes everybody a little bit differently, like the fact that we try to scale it out and you’re going to figure it out in 12 years or go to K-12, everybody grows and evolves differently.

[00:30:00] Tony Thai: That’s around the same time, but you don’t need to feel rushed because you have your whole life to work. And my point of encouragement by saying that would be a benefit though to playing the game. You had to choose. You make that decision. Does it make sense for me to play that part of the game to make my life a little bit easier?

[00:30:18] Tony Thai: So I have more options or do I feel so passionate about what I’m doing? That I want to pursue. If you feel passionate, I’m encouraging people to do it, but don’t be like me and be lost, right? Like I was lost. That was my problem. I was lost and also felt like a failure. It just compounded because I didn’t find where I belonged, where I felt like I belonged. So it just, if I was a little bit more patient and willing to play that game to get the points, give myself time by myself, time to grow and figure that out. That would have made my life a little bit easier, but it all works.

[00:30:56] Tony Thai: I’m on a podcast with Brian, from Asian Hustle Network, it doesn’t get better than that. 

[00:31:03] Bryan Pham: No! Thank you, man. I appreciate that. I’m in a podcast with Tony Thai, dude, a successful CEO power entrepreneur. 

[00:31:08] Tony Thai: We will go out and I was talking to Maggie about it. You guys are out in Nevada, or Vegas? 

[00:31:12] Bryan Pham: Yes, we’re out in Vegas now.

[00:31:14] Tony Thai: Something Chubby Cattle?

[00:31:16] Bryan Pham: Yes! We’re going to Chubby Cattle for sure, one of the best shops places in Las 

[00:31:20] Bryan Pham: Vegas. 

[00:31:21] Tony Thai: Love that spot. That will mean I’ve won. I’ve made it. 

[00:31:23] Bryan Pham: It will be archery anyways. 

[00:31:25] Tony Thai: It will be awesome, man. 

[00:31:27] Bryan Pham: So Tony, how can our listeners find out more about you and reach out to you online?

[00:31:30] Tony Thai: Yes, you can check us out on social networks, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, hyperdraft.ai, or check us out on our website, hyperdraft.ai 

[00:31:40] Bryan Pham: Awesome! We’ll include all that in the show notes, but Tony, thank you so much for being in the podcast today. 

[00:31:44] Tony Thai: Thanks for having me, Brian. It’s a pleasure.