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Shannon Kalayanamitr brings over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, building and scaling large businesses from the establishment to exit; technology and startups; and investments, finance & banking, M&A, and venture capital. She is an American-born Southeast Asian rooted with deep networks in governments, business, and technologies.
Shannon is currently CEO and Founder of 5G Catalyst Technologies Co., Ltd., an end-to-end 5G technology and solutions provider for smart cities, healthcare, industries & manufacturing, and telecommunications in Thailand. She is also currently Advisor/Partner at Gobi Partners, a Pan-Asian venture capital, $1.2 Billion USD in AUM, investing in early to growth-stage technology start-ups across China, Southeast Asia, and Pakistan.
Prior to today, Shannon’s background comprises a combination of 2 main pillars with a focus on Southeast Asia at the global stage: Entrepreneurship, Operations & Technology, and Investments, M&A, Southeast Asia.
Shannon is a passionate Equality and Women Advocator, often seen moderating or speaking on topics on Women and Gender Equality with the UN Women. She is also a notable speaker in topics of Technology and Business in Southeast Asia and is advising the various Thai government agencies and the Eastern Economic Corridor [“EEC”] on its digital transformation strategy. Shannon has a BBA in Finance and a minor in Marketing from Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. Her name is Shannon Kalia and brings over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship. Building and scaling large businesses from establishment to exit technology and startups and investments, finance and banking M and a and venture capital. She is an American born Southeast Asian rooted with deep networks and governments, business and technologies. She is currently CEO and founder of 5g catalyst technologies co limited an end-to-end 5g technology and solutions provider. She's also currently advisor and partner at Gobi partners. A pen, the venture capital Shannon is passionate equality and a woman advocator often seen writing or speaking on topics on women and gender equality with the UN women. She is also a notable speaker on topics of technology and business in Southeast Asia and is advising the various Thai government agencies and the Eastern economic quarter on its digital transformation strategy. Shannon has a BBA in finance and minor in marketing from Thomas, not university bank Thailand. Shannon, welcome to the show.
Shannon: (00:01:33) Thank you. Wow. It's always weird to hear it all over again, but thanks. Thanks Maggie and Brian, I'm happy to be here. Thank you.
Bryan: (00:01:44) I want to start this podcast by saying you're such a bad-ass and we're so lucky to have you. Just listen to your biomes when we'll do even unfold during this podcast, you know, and for this podcast for you guys in Sydney, we want to cover Shannon's life, everything that's done up to this point and what keeps her going Hopkins in the very beginning. Janet, when you more,
Shannon: (00:02:09) thank you. Yeah. It's uh, like I said, I feel old stuff as I'm happy to share, happy to.
Bryan: (00:02:19) Yeah, let's start with your upbringing. Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
Shannon: (00:02:25) Okay. Um, so as you know, I live in Bangkok, Thailand now, but I was born in a little town called Portland, Oregon, um, way long time ago. Um, my dad where I'm Thai. So my mom and dad who was a, or who is an engineer and nurse, uh, had gone there for, to complete their studies. There were jobs available at that time. Then we moved down to California. So Cupertino, uh, in California when I was two, uh, and basically just stayed in the bay area. So we made our home in, um, in Fremont, California. Um, and I was living there. Uh, I, oh God, I remember. But the bay area. So, um, Milpitas San Jose, by the way. So it was. Oh, my God. Yeah. Cause I went like before COVID no, God, I went like 10 years ago and it changed. Um, so I left the bay in 1990. People are listening or they wait, that was when I was born. Yeah, so and, okay. So was there went to San Jose mission? I'm sorry, St. Joseph's Catholic school. And, um, we grew up there, loved it. Then my dad decided one day. Um, so we, you know, as a tie, every Sunday, we go to the Thai temple to learn and try to become Thai. So we practiced Thai dancing or we, um, we try to learn Thai. It was really difficult because nobody spoke, spoke Thai. And so, um, one Sunday, the then prime minister of Thailand, uh, went to that temple and basically got onto this whole entire thing called the reverse brain drain project. And what that is is he was trying to be like, okay, fellow ties, like come back to Thailand and help, you know, like help build Thailand and become this greater thing. So my dad got invigorated. And he's like, okay, I'm going to go. So, uh, we sold our house, moved back to Thailand. I didn't have a choice. I was 12. Um, I had two other, I have two other sisters. Um, and so I was 12, 10 and eight. We all moved back and, uh, and then I was in Thailand. Um, so we went to an international school at that time. This is so weird at that time, I actually thought that Thailand was a land of stilts and people rode to schools on elephants. Um, I feel like that's how they, uh, healthy, promoted and marketed like magazines and stuff. You know, I was like the worst tie. Right. Um, didn't even know anything about my own heritage, even though I had been to Thailand just to remember. So it came back and it was the city bustling and everything, uh, started in an international school. Um, And I do remember that even though it was an international school, I had. How to deal with so many things that one year when I was 12, like one culture shock, um, uh, what, basically I was in a school, but this school was also half kind of like a language school. So we had a ton of Asians, like ties, who, who were older than me, basically. They wanted to learn English. So if I was 12, there were like 15 year olds in my class. Right. So, um, somehow I got verbally bullied a lot because yeah, I looked at. Uh, I mean, I'm, I look Ty, right. But I don't act her speak Thai. And so they basically called me lack of a better word, a fraud. Uh, they they're really mean words, um, being hurled and, um, really mean things that were done, but at that time, and also I was weird. Um, so at that time, I don't know what happened. I did find a group of another effecting misfits, um, and something dawned upon me this one day. I remember I just clicked just like, okay, fine. I'm weird. Let's move on. You know, I'm weird. I'm just going to own it. I'm going to be this person, you know, and then everybody else, uh, when I was so the sixth grade. They all had boobs already. There were also attractive. The guys that I like, nobody liked me. I had my glasses, I was reading babysitter club books. Um, and it was terrible. It was like the worst year for me. So it was like this puberty thing. Plus I couldn't speak Thai, um, culture shock, um, misfits, but then, um, And some, um, my parents basically were starting to get a divorce at the same time. So a lot of challenges that happened at the same year. Um, fast-forward uh, got through that year. Um, I think the only reason how I got through that year was that, um, I had no other alternative because I had two other sisters I had to take care of, you know, be the older sister. I think us Asians, we understand that, you know, oh, you're the oldest sister you have to sacrifice like, and so basically a sacrifice of money, emotions, and feelings. Right. So, so I think that's kind of. Built the foundation for a lot of things I still hold to today. Um, and I think a lot of these struggles, uh, relationship or parental or moving or uprooting your life, you know, at such a young age and moving back and forth, it actually really does build your character. Um, so yeah, so I guess that's a long-winded way. I'm I moved over, I started school here. Um, then I ended up starting to have fun at school. So grade seven grade eight, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Um, and then there was this one year. So funny, I think I was in ninth grade. Um, it was before the Asian crisis and I think we were already seeing signs of the economy crashing. So there's this one year we had this influx of American or Australian or British Asians that came in our school. And it was really fun because prior to that, it was predominantly a lot of like Indians or ties or Filipinos, but basically predominant like Taiwanese, we had Koreans, um, but they were really from their country. Right. But we didn't have that influx of like the Asians or the Western kid. So this one year came in and then here came. A ton of hip hop, like, um, so we had got it. I'm dating myself now, but hopefully the people, that's why I asked you who's listening. Right. Relate here. But we had a ton of like Dr. Dre, Snoop dog, literally. It's part of my time too. So yeah, we were dressed up in our like hip hop clothing and then people would start. The brands and all this other stuff, and God, we even had our own east coast, west coast in Thailand. It was terrible. Oh, wow. That's a whole nother story anyway. But, um, back to back to that, so what happened was there was some things that happened during that year. Um, of course in your teens, um, you know, you, you go through your first heartbreak and all this other stuff that happened for me. Uh, then I decided to write a business plan to my dad saying that, you know what, it's time that I go back to the states. So, um, I wrote a business plan. Uh, and had all these reasons. I didn't know it was called a business plan. So basically I went, um, I got back to the states. I was, I went to Benicia high school, which was another kind of weird culture shock for me as well. Um, at that time I was a, can I say this? Like, it's actually like, basically I was fresh off the bus. So I got the opposite of that kind of racism when I came back. Right. So it's like, wait, you're not really American. Um, you know, the way you dress, the way you act and all this other stuff. And, and it was, it was a little tough, but I did find my crew, you know, my crowd and all this other stuff. And, and it was actually quite fun, um, to a certain point. And then, um, in grade 12 I decided actually it's a. Two things and think about serendipity in life. I'm the same guy that broke up with me. Wanted me back. Oh yeah. I know this is turning into a love relationship. I'll get into entrepreneurship a lot too.
Maggie: (00:11:43) I feel like relationships and heartbreaks and the people who you build relationships with friendships, they do mean a lot to the foundations.
Shannon: (00:11:55) So it's really, I mean, it, it, I mean, I don't know. Hopefully people can relate. Right. I, so I tell a lot of people they always ask, why did you move back to Thailand? You know, you're already in the states. Actually I got into some, I was just applying to universities. Um, and had I actually taken the U S university route. I would be completely a different person. So at that time, yes, maybe the motivation for me moving back was that guy, um, It didn't happen. I came back, he had a girlfriend, whatever, but, um, I came back and again, wrote my dad a business plan and basically mapped out that Asia's going to be the thing. Um, you know, the, where it's at in the next 10, 20 years. And that I wanted to be a part of that, but I wanted to be a small, what was a big fish in a small pond basically. And, um, and so that really was the true reason of coming back. I mean, I did also did believe that there was something in Asia. So when people ask me, especially people, when they're in the states or abroad, like why did you move back? Okay. The truth is there was that guy issue, but I really did believe that Asia was going to become, I mean, I was already there, so I already saw what it was. Right. So, um, I already saw what it was going to be as well. And at that time, China hasn't even become the powerhouse that it was. I moved back in 1996 and, um, and then, and then at that time that was the Asian crisis, but we were starting to see things technologically and testing neurological advances from China already. So I was happy. I did. And so then, um, I came back to Thailand, got into Thomasa, uh, which is an international program. Um, so I did finance also, also a big culture shock, but it was actually a nicer culture shock. Um, they're all, they're mostly tied a lot of international kids as well. Um, but definitely. It's not the university college experience you would get in the states. Um, but it was a nice way for me to get grounded of being Thai. Again, like the real, it was like being in high school, but then we spoke English. Right? Yeah. So, yeah. So those were some of the great best years, um, that I had, you know, in, in college. Um, so did that for a while. Barely graduated. Um, Didn't do so well, but I think that I basically, I'm a very social person. So extracurricular activities are really big to me. Cheerleading, throwing events, charities, all this other stuff. So I think for me, like one of the big things that I got from, you know, university is, um, Is actually the network and friends and, and fundamentals of finance. But frankly, I didn't know any fi like when I, when I got my internship at Pricewaterhouse, um, I got it because, um, I had interviewed for a position again, internship, um, at the corporate finance and investment banking division. And at that time they were only accepting people that were, um, Masters and above. And so I had gone in, at re read the papers about some debt restructuring that happened like earlier in the week. And somehow I found out that they were actually looking at a deal similar to that, um, without naming names. And, uh, and then I got hired just because we got into this nice conversation. Um, and of course I was an intern, so I zero I photocopied a lot. Um, but you know, from then, and this is the Dawn of technology, we got our emails and everything. And, uh, yes, this is that long ago. And so, because I was the resourceful young one that knew how to use and search things on the internet, um, I became a valued resource, so they ended up offering me a full-time job, um, and my English and Thai. So I, so one thing that I think my dad was being able to learn, to read and write Ty at a very young age. Um, I had to get a tutor and stuff. So for me, a lot of my friends, because it was the Asian crisis, right. They, if they only spoke English, uh, they actually didn't get a job. And if they only spoke Thai, they did get a job, but they actually got a really low salary. So for me to be able to like read and ride both English and Thai, granted my tie is like seventh grader, um, level, but it was able, it was good enough to, um, To work, you know, in, in PBC. So, yeah, so I started my career at PWC, um, and I was there for a while. Uh, we, we actually worked on an e-commerce in 2000 and it was just way before its time. Um, and then fast forward, I actually interned, um, in, uh, a company which was a subsidiary of Lehman brothers. And, um, yeah, so basically I, frankly, this is really idiotic of me, but when I was in finance school, right when I did my finance undergrad, I didn't know, um, the difference of the different types of finance jobs. There were so financial advisor, you know, all this other stuff, investment banking. So. Finally got into, uh, so did the internship actually got a job? Um, so worked at the Lehman brothers office in Bangkok, Thailand, uh, for about three, four years. Yeah, three and a half. Um, and I have to say those were the best fundamental years of my life because, um, and like, I dunno if you guys watch sex in the city maybe, but there's like four girls, right. So me and my crew, we had one, um, American Indonesian. She was from Tufts, one Thai, uh, from Stanford one, um, myself. Right. And then we had a Hong Kong. A girl from new NYU. And so it was the best time. So we just enjoyed our investment making jobs. Um, I was sent to the Philippines, uh, to do some work, you know, at 22, you're like, oh my God, I'm getting this flight. You know, it's like you guys, right. Once you graduate, then people start sending you places. So in, in Thailand, my first job was to go to the Philippines. So I'm like, bad-ass, oh my God, I'm so cocky. It was terrible. I don't know every right to be
Bryan: (00:18:53) pausing your early success and be able to come back to Thailand and. Refund your identityI think the, the biggest thing that I basically, from your story up until now, it's like the fact that you can meet just really well in both environments. Just speaks volume to your ability to sort of. Use your EEQ a lot and just adapt. And, you know, as we know, talking to a lot of entrepreneurs, we say eco is probably more important like you in business that need demonstrates that a lot. You know?
Maggie: (00:19:27) Um, I also wanted to. Um, I echo what Brian said. I also wanted to, to touch on that topic as well. You going back and forth from the states to Thailand that, you know, takes a lot of courage and, you know, you being born in the states and going to Thailand, going through the identity crisis and then going back to America and going through another identity crisis, but then it sounded like you were able to learn how to embrace who you were. Right. And then as you went back to Thailand to go to school again, um, you've grown so much, you know, and, and we could definitely see that and because you know exactly what to expect now, right now that you're going back to Thailand for the second time. So just really wanted to commend you for that for just like being so being able to like, be so mobile and really embracing who you are.
Bryan: (00:20:15) Yeah. We're gonna, we're gonna skip ahead a little bit and talk a little bit more about your experience as CEO of iconic.
Shannon: (00:20:22) Oh, my God. Wow. Yeah,
Bryan: (00:20:28) it was a transition working in fourth grade for nine years. Right. Or more. And finally, I want a business want to be a business leader. And how difficult was it during that time period?
Shannon: (00:20:39) Yeah, so that happened after, so I did the banking thing. Right. And then I joined a company called seeing Javier, which you guys probably know, uh, a promotion you're either like a C person or a Chang person Chung. Right. But then if you get the child, then you always get Chang overs. Good. One. Never heard of that joke. It's like the worst anyway. Um, yeah, so. So did that for a while, but the good thing about seeing how it was, um, I had gotten my feet wet in terms of events and, and celebrities. I had to take care of BJC, seeing some sports celebrities across the world. I had to take, um, miss universe. Um, and then I went, I remember going down to Hollywood and we were trying to get into like put, sing happy or into geisha house. And then like at that time, Paris Hilton and people were again so long ago, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are going to that Lindsay Lohan was down there. So we were trying to get ourselves into, you know, those kinds of clubs and, and, um, bars and whatever. Um, and so that's where I first understood the power of, um, Events concerts, media celebrities. Um, so I had a project that didn't go through with singer. I was very disappointed. Um, and then I realized that, you know what, it's never going to be my company. Obviously it's, it's a family company, uh, and I was never really going to be in control. So I started iconic media. Um, I have to say I conic media was not at the least a success for me at all. I mean, in fact it was a big failure. Um, I have started it, um, Trying to get into the TV stations here. I had a lot of access with Korean and Taiwanese dramas and sitcoms at that time. And, um, I thought that I had this, this thing at that time. I'm always very, I wanted to get into media education. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to share things I wanted to, um, be a voice or actually be the medium to bring other people's voices and messages to, to wherever I'm at. And that stems from a lot of, you know, me being in the states, seeing all these things, wanting to bring it to Asia. And vice-versa right. So, so I started, I kind of media with that vision. Um, the successes where I actually got brought to bring in Asia's next top model. Yes. I know it's not like education, but it was something right. Um, so I brought an alias next top model. I did some game shows, you know, brought some formats in the downside is I actually, and I threw a concert, a reggae concert. It was like 10,000 people, which is a lot of tours. That's awesome. And I even brought in like Diana King, big mountain and a bunch of these like international. I had a Japanese. Yeah, that's fine. Yeah. Just for kicks as well. And so it was a, it was a fun thing to do. Obviously we made some, yeah. But the downside is I actually wasn't disciplined enough. I didn't have the fundamentals for being an entrepreneur yet. You know, even though I did banking and finance, being able to run a company, cash flow, understanding how to hire people. It was, um, it was really difficult. I didn't have the discipline and my legal work was not on point. So I actually got screwed by some of the TV stations that would Sur like circumvented me and went straight to the Korean houses to buy their own content. So, so long story short for iconic, it was my first foray to being a, an entrepreneur. Um, it was fun. Um, but what ultimately killed it, um, was, um, there was one year in Thailand. Uh, there was floods and so advertising was. So that completely killed it. We didn't have any more cashflow and that was done. Um, I did do another project for TV after that. I used some of the experience, but that was under a consulting job that I built that's in a, another job, but basically me and my team got, um, a mandate to build, operate and, um, transfer over a TV station. Um, so as what was it maybe 10 years ago where, uh, Thailand was just moving from SD to HD TV. And so what they did was they reformed some of the spectrum that they had. We only used to only have 10 channels. Now we have. What 24 or what was it? 30? Uh, I forget we have like 50 channels now. Yeah. So they reformed it, they made into channels. And so we were hired by one of the big Thai businessmen to do that. So, you know, failure, it was really horrible actually. Um, and then got to re utilize some of that skill set there, but, um, that's, that's like hunting media.
Bryan: (00:25:59) I mean, you said where I started up life super hard and most likely your first startup. So yeah. And the fact that you kept going, they never stopped you and you have movie as long as you learn from your mistakes, you know, and obviously you're still successful. Now we live look up to you a lot, but I'm pretty sure at the time was very difficult. And it's like, he totally looked at herself, additional light, ask yourself, am I cut out for this? Has there been any time where you looked yourself in the mirror and you're just like, dang, like maybe I'm not ready for this. And how'd you overcome that? And start the next few companies, you know, like Moxie was one of them like how'd you overcome that failure and learn and continue growing.
Shannon: (00:26:44) I could count probably about three major times that I really felt lost. And, and, um, actually during the iconic one, that one was probably the worst in my now 43 years that I felt that I was really rock bottom. Um, I had lost, um, there are a lot of things that went wrong. It wasn't just business. It was also, I was 28 and a woman single, uh, just completely single. Um, and you know, when you're 28 Asian, uh, you're getting close to 30 and you're still single. And then you don't really know where you're, that's why the failure was even harder. Right? So you don't even have a partner and your career, you don't even know yourself what you're good at. So that was probably the biggest, biggest, um, and of course there were, um, Vices that you turn to and I have to say, and then you start hanging out with the wrong people. I'm not saying it's their fault, but you know, you just try to let go and, and a bunch of things. So a lot of things happen during those, um, three, four years. Um, I think the way that I picked myself up from that one, because that could have gone really wrong was that I think, um, I just, there were some things that I really regret, um, that went wrong and, um, and I woke up one day and I'm like, you know what, Shannon, like, you can't, this is not the end of your book. Like I have to say, this is going to sound really bad, but it was pride basically. And it was just like, you know, this, I can't, I can't go like my tombstone. So I realized, oh, that's the girl that did that, you know, or whatever. Right? Like she didn't even do anything with her life. So I'm like, okay, I need to do it. I mean, I have nothing more to lose. I'm already rock, rock, rock, bottom. What am I going to do? So I actually, and I use this every single time when I go through a crisis. Um, or when I'm lost and confused, is that okay? I give myself time to cry or whatever it is, you know, be in fetal position, like go wallow and whatever, and then, um, drink whatever people, you know, uh, as long as it's not dangerous. And then, um, and then I actually pick myself up and then I take a trip by myself for at least a week or two, and I grab a journal and I, um, I write down a SWOT of myself and I actually go through my values. Um, you know, I go online and I'm like, okay, what values do I like? What, what did I not like about what I did before? What did I, what am I going? I actually do vision boards or ten-year planning. And then I'm like, okay, where am I on that? You know? So, so I do all that and, um, And I find out some of the things that I like that's changed and some things that are just not me anymore. So for the long story short for that one, what happened was. The upside was, I had met my now ex, but a boyfriend at that time, the father of my children. Um, and that was one good upside. He gave me some inspiration cause I was just dabbling into tech. I didn't know. Um, Much about tech at all, frankly. Uh, and then when I came back to Bangkok, serendipity, my girlfriend, the Indonesian American, her she's best friend in the whole world, Patricia, um, she was like, Hey, Shannon, you know, I got this offer. Um, well I got this interview, that's a company called rocket internet. I have no idea what they do, but it sounds like it's kind of your jam. And then coincidentally, I got a LinkedIn at the same time from, um, rocket internet. So I went in not knowing what it was. They were looking for investment bankers and consultants, basically rocket internet, as you guys know, as a Sam we're brothers across the world, you know, global domination in terms of e-commerce. And I was the second employee at Lazada. So it gave me a. Another wind. Um, and, and I think that was probably the biggest change in how I got my first step into tech. I again, knew nothing about tech at that time. I was like 31 32, maybe just met my partner. Um, very Rocky, uh, because w I mean, not Rocky, but very new, right. So a lot of new things going on, but again, nothing to lose. So just dove into it. Um, and Lazada became such a boot camp for me. Uh, it was insane, like, just to understand, I mean, just to understand what tech was, how to bill, how to scale, where people look for, how to, like, he had a playbook, you know, and, um, Everybody was just so focused and, uh, it was a tough environment to be in, but into what it was that 2012, 11 or 12, that's when the internet or e-commerce boomed in Southeast Asia. And I think that was the ride that I was hoping for, that I had. About long time ago. And so that definitely when I was like, okay, now I'm on the right rocket ship. Okay. This is it. All right. Let's go. So that's, that's how so I dunno if I answered your question, but I do have a methodology. Yeah.
Maggie: (00:32:15) I just wanted to say. Yeah, I, I mean your resilience, you know, you were, you knew that you were rock bottom and to be honest, some people who are at that rock bottom phase, they never get out of there, but you knew exactly what you needed to do to get out of there and you, you know, instill those practices. Um, and I did read like an article saying that when you were at Lazada that really gave you that entrepreneurial push, which is what brought you to, to create Moxie. Right. And like, just like the 180 that that's brought you to, it was just really inspiring. Inspiring.
Bryan: (00:32:49) Yeah. I love that because a lot of us, you know, I've, you mentioned earlier or listeners to kind of skip a gap between 24 37 and in 60 52. Uh, so a lot of listeners are in that age right now where it's like, you know, they're in their twenties, thirties, early forties, and it almost feel like nothing's happening for them or nothing's right. Go for it. Right. And this just feels depressing. Really? Rock bottom. Yeah. I just, I love hearing your story and your perspective because it's so holistic of your whole life experience, all 42, all 42 years that you have. Right. And a lot of us right now, when you view like 28, 29 30, then I'm like, oh my God, I'm so old. Like, Sail anymore. I gotta settle down their families or my kids and whatnot, but guess what still moves on then it moves on. So I really love it because it's a story of resilience and kicked, continuing, pushing, innovating, because now your next company, which I kind of want to dive deep into more, it's like Moxie, right? I don't imagine that earlier Moxie, this is a company that kind of puts you in the map, you know, and we read some articles on that and you sold this company and this is where you truly flourish because after selling the company, I don't want to skip too much ahead. That's after selling the company, he started to think more about empowering other women, minority leaders, other other groups. I love that a lot because that's so similar to the mission east Asian hustle network and what you want to do, you know? And so I can't wait for you to just dive the deep into this next part of your story with Moxie. And tell us more about that.
Shannon: (00:34:27) Yeah, thanks. It's uh, it's been a ride, you know, I mean, um, so at Lazada, um, I did this thing called entrepreneur in residence where you just basically move around to different parts. And so I got to learn a lot of parts of e-commerce and I thought, you know, what, if they could do it. So could I, I mean, I also didn't have like that much money in the bank, right. That they did, but I didn't think that way at the time, very naive. Um, but yeah, so me and two partners basically moved, uh, started our own company. We raised some money, um, and at that time we were trying to be the. Lack of a better word, hipper version of Lazada. Um, and for people who don't know, Lazada is the Amazon of, of Southeast Asia where they are in six countries, uh, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia. And so I was part, I, I was the second time employee in the Thai office. So I was there, you know, when it was all starting and grew from God, how many people from like 10 people to 300, it was crazy. Wow. Yeah. Again, not by me. It's a great team, right? Like I was like under, it was, they had a bunch of bankers and consultants and so I kind of did the same playbook. So me and my partners who were also investment makers started Moxie again with that. So we couldn't, we didn't know our unique selling point yet. We weren't really sure what that was. Um, went through a lot of mistakes, almost ran out of money three times. Um, and then at one point, um, okay Sarah, any entrepreneurs here that are pitching startups, we were just struggling. I think in hindsight, there were two things. One again, back to the cockiness, we thought that, okay, we're bankers. We know how to do this. You know, we don't need to go to any of the startup events. I found out later that. As we know start-up is a complete different animal from SMEs. The way you pitch is different, the way you write things, the way you scale, hire people, the way you, um, metrics that you look at, you know, the speed and the, all this other stuff. And so there were other tricks in the playbook. Um, And I was just too cocky to, to get into that peer system, going to the conferences and whatever. So finally, you know, I woke up when I woke up, I w we realized, Hey, we should go. So we started going and, um, the community is so great. I mean, you know, startup community, we're so open, we share things. We don't worry about competition as much. Um, and then, because it's then a big play in a playing field. So, um, I started to make, you know, a little headway, I'm a bit older than the majority of the startup founders at that time. And, uh, we were talking a lot about branding. I have to say the one thing that we did right in the, in the beginning was our branding. We partnered with a lot of celebrities. We did a lot of social media and a lot of, um, charity impact. Um, and we had fashion shows. It was actually really cool. So, um, And so we got some kind of attention with that. So I was called on stage to moderate my first, my first panel. And I think that was actually the pinnacle or the turning point of how people started noticing us because I was on stage with a bunch of like big wigs in, um e-commerce so there was a CEO of Zilara, uh, who was the fashion, one of Lazada. Right. And then there was like two or three other. Uh, e-commerce that, um, a friend of mine kid would just like, oh, ALEKS classifieds. Um, and so with that panel, a lot of VCs, instead of me chasing them for, to look at my deck, uh, they actually wanted to know who I was. And so for people who are pitching out there, um, one of the tricks is not to do the push, but more the pull factor. Right. Yeah. And so I remember just another pro tip just since we're here. Um, I remember that one day I was listening to the panels. Other people were talking. Kylie who is, um, 500 startups in Malaysia, uh, around here, he was doing this amazing talk. He's like Dave McLaren, like just amazing talk and everything. And everybody is like flocking to give him their business card. And I tried to give him my business card and I'm like, oh, we do like an e-commerce. You didn't, you totally didn't look at me, put his in his pocket. Just completely didn't look at me. And then that night we had, I forget what happened, but we had a lockdown, not COVID related, but it was like military-related or something in Bangkok and nobody could go out. So I asked a friend, luckily who had a private nightclubs. So we opened a nightclub. And so Kylie was like, oh my God, I heard you did this. What's your name? I need to know what you do. And he had no idea. That was me earlier. Anyway, so it's a funny story because it's the whole entire, like, so the theory of that is if people like you as a person, they'll actually want to know what you actually do. So if there are any aspiring people or they're pitching here, tried to do the pull factor, not the push factor.
Bryan: (00:40:00) I agree. That's very effective. We always try and stay in. I mean, as you know, we raise money for Asian hustle network. We realized that, you know, it's better for people to ask more about us and create more value to the wall, you know, and what you did was a plastic example, creating value for someone's life. And they want to know more about you just be authentic. Right. Yeah. There's a lot of times where you approach people and that person thinks this person just asked me again to take her, you know, and change the mentality to be giving value as how you gain your leverage.
Shannon: (00:40:31) Would you guys are giving back so much? I mean, I'm sure that you guys interview a bunch of people out there that, I mean, not only do you showcase and amplify them, but I'm sure that there's a lot of people that support your cause. Like it should. I'm sure there would be a lot of people. Give me your deck. I'll look at it. See what's up. I mean, yeah. Uh, when, when you have a cause behind it, um, It actually goes a longer way back back in the day when I was trying to pitch with a cause, um, people didn't believe in it so much. They were like, what are you a charity? I think nowadays this is 10 years later. Right? I think you're in a good position because a lot of the millennials who are at the level that they can afford, even the older people, the forties and fifties of today, they, I think that. I mean, you said yourself, there's a bunch of 50 to 60 year olds that are listening to your podcast, this show. Right. And I'm sure that the reason why they listen to is because, you know, they want to get updated. They're very proud of their heritage. They want to see this go further and I'm sure if there's anybody out there listening right now, um, that they would be interested investors. Company, right. Absolutely.
Maggie: (00:41:59) That definitely is the goal. So we have so much to unpack, but I feel like an hour has passed myself out, like almost an hour, but I do want to talk about Gobi partners. Um, so I did read an article saying that in October of 2018, um, you know, you represented Gobi and in a pledge to invest 50 million USD dollars, um, in businesses established by women. And so we know that a lot of what you do is to support, you know, women leaders and women owned businesses. I want to know from you personally, like, you know, what is the driving factor, um, and you know, what brings you to want to support women leaders? And if there is any like, um, gender, um, inequality in Southeast Asia,
Bryan: (00:42:47) and before we get there, shout out. Love that. Yeah, we're all about that. And you know, this is where we super aligned because everything was read a lot of programs to support Asian women entrepreneurs out there and minority leaders. And the fact that you've been doing this before us, is that a blueprint that you've been doing this for a lot longer than us. We want to hear it a lot. Absolutely love it. And shout out to you.
Maggie: (00:43:11) Yeah. Shout out to you. I feel like just recently, they're now talking about it in the U S at least that, um, less than 3% of venture capital funding goes to women, led companies, um, at least in the U S that I know of, but you've been doing this, you know, when you started Gobi for partners. So I want to hear from you what your personal experiences like, and you know, what drives you? What drives you to want to support women led companies?
Shannon: (00:43:34) Yeah, I think. Getting into woman empowerment. In fact, before I'd never even used the word empowerment, I felt that it alienated men. Um, but I think that maybe I was just being, I was just dancing on eggshells. You know, I was tiptoeing around the fact and, um, it, it actually comes from when it actually comes deeply rooted from my personal family issues. Like my mom, a single mom. Um, I came back to, she came back to Thailand, right? She had to quit her a great job as being a nurse. She was an office manager here making a thousand dollars a month. Um, my dad who has reformed today, but he was just, uh, I mean, you know, Asia, like we cheat Thailand is on some list of being the number one cheaters in the world. And, um, and I feel that. A lot of things growing up, I did not see a lot of equality at all. Like my, the sacrifices that women had to make, the, um, things that we had to kowtow and do like a lot of. And I, I do talk to a bunch of my friends. So again, growing up, whether it be high school, all the way to college, I get a lot of women talking to me about relationship issues, what their family expects of them, what they can or cannot do. Um, the ceiling that they're trying to break, you know, um, getting, not even getting sexual education, having to even talk and think and have an abortion. Um, just a lot of resources are not available for women. And I feel that, uh, and I went through, I remember a woman, um, boss at Lehman once she actually, rather than try to encourage people to grow really was caddy and just did not want other women to grow so long story short. I think it just stemmed from a lot of. Issues that I saw a women around me and girls around me, um, that in Asia, and again, there's one more thing, which is in Asia, there's a culture of, um, hostess bars and the man goes into golf and then, you know, a bunch of these things and it's just not fair. And so, um, so what I wanted to do was of course, things are never fair in the world, but what I wanted to do was find other alternatives and paths for people to be like, Hey, okay, well, this has happened. It's shit. Right. But, but there's this too, you know, like here's other things you could do or here's a resource you can go to, or here's what this person did and whatever. So. All of that stuff went into when, when I was at Moxie, um, it was kind of two things. I already had this empowerment side of me, but I found out with my then first M and a partner that 75% of my target market of the e-commerce was, were women. And the rest of them were actually, um, LGBTQ. So we had a bunch of, and of course in Thailand there's we have a ton of LGBTQ. And so with that minority and, and, um, I just wanted to empower more. So I got to mix business with pleasure for the first time. And that was the first time. So Mazzi at that time was with women e-commerce and I remember when I was fundraising now. No. So that was all the issues. Right. Then I remember that, um, During that time, it was really hard for me to raise money. I was actually pregnant. Uh, of course didn't unplanned pregnancy and it was fundraising and it was twins. And so my, um, I remember the investors were looking at me and they're like, how are you going to raise kids and have a company as well? Oh my goodness. Yeah. So, so that's kind of maybe the first inkling of how I got about the business sense of what women needed. Right. So fast forward. That's how, when I joined Gobi. So Gobi has been around for this years, 20 years now. Um, also by, uh, um, Taiwanese American. His name is Tom Sao. And, um, his partner is, uh, QK MOC from Singapore, went to Berkeley anyway. So a bunch of Asian, Asian Americans or Asian westernized in Gobi. Um, and I was fortunate to join them. And one of the great things about the management was they really brought in, so actually they invested into Moxie. That's how I know Gobi. And they were the one, one of the ones that were like, okay, well, yeah, you have kids. But so, you know, I think you're resilient. I think you can multitask, you know, I think you could do this. You definitely know your woman product, I believe in the business and you and your team. So fast forward when I joined Gobi. I had met during that whole entire year of years of being in the woman scene. Uh, I went to Singapore, met, um, with pocket Stein from soul gal. I met with crib. I met with, um, uh, Google. There's a CVC I met with, oh, she loves tech, Virginia tan, Leanne rubbers, um, from China and from Singapore, I was in, um, in Japan meeting with this other woman group. Um, Well, they have issues there at Japan and then so everywhere around the world and all these women that just came together. So I have to say like the thing that you're hearing about now, um, it comes from a lot of these groups kind of getting on the bandwagon about. Seven years ago, and everybody started doing like, you know what, Hey, um, it's not about alienating men. It's about providing tools and resources to women. And, um, and because like you said, uh, 3% of total VC in the states because, um, two women, I know for a fact and a bunch of other women founders, for a fact that it was hard to do it and we have these other, we just need another path. Right. And so just to level or give another, you know, up on the game for people, and I think the latest update of the same stat that you have this year, uh it's 1.2% of total.
Maggie: (00:49:56) Yeah. I think in 2020, we went down to like 2.3. So I'm not surprised that it actually went even lower. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's also, you know, just your story about how, um, you know, because you were pregnant, you know, they didn't, um, think that you could run a business and raise your kids at the same time, but it's like, why can't we, you know, and I'm so glad that you were able to meet someone who actually, you know, believed in you because we're totally capable of, of doing that. And it's, it's, it's disheartening to see, you know, um, women who are pregnant or who have kids, you know, they have to go through that experience because they, they know that that is the perception that, you know, a lot of investors.
Shannon: (00:50:43) Yeah, it's a real thing. Yeah. What one group that I don't know if you've interviewed them yet. I do know that Shelly Porges is on your LinkedIn, but, um, there's a group called the billion dollar fund. I think now they're called beyond the billion, but Sarah Chen and Shelly are going across the world. So they were the ones that put that initiative together that you're talking about. So to raise a billion dollars and talk to funds like us to pledge X amount, To look for women founders, but also even if we say no, we have to help critique and help them grow because a lot of times, and maybe if you go through my articles that you see, I talk a lot about cognitive biases. So sometimes like, um, an investor would just say no to a woman or a man just to say, right. Um, just because of something they said or a peer or, you know, that doesn't fit the stereotype. And so what they are trying to do is they make the investor accountable. Here are the concrete ways and why I said, no, you know, so it's not just, you know, gut feel and all this other stuff. And so, and if it is at least you can address it. So this group. Well, we, I work a lot with, uh, Sarah, so that's how we pledged $50 million. And I think, I think as of last year, I think we hit the target already. Um, a $50 million deployed, um, throughout China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, all the way to Pakistan.
Bryan: (00:52:20) Yeah. That's amazing. Yeah. I mean, it's so inspirational to hear more and more about this, knowing that over in Asia, because I think. Weaknesses on this podcast that we don't have enough representation in Southeast Asia on the podcast. And the fact that we're listening right now and hearing all the great work and progress that you guys are doing it's so it was very touching breasts to hear that. Yeah. I'm glad, I'm glad we had an opportunity to really talk about this issue because it is something that we as Asians, we understand that that is deeply rooted in Asian culture.
Shannon: (00:52:57) Yeah. And it's still around. And even, I think the biggest issue here is that people are not aware. Um, there are a lot of women in C-suites, but they don't always have decision-making power, which is where it counts.
Bryan: (00:53:13) Yeah. And you know, you're still a Gobi. We see that, but you're also became CEO twice to other companies afterwards. Wow. That's absolutely amazing. And we love to see that you can you're continuously. Yeah. You know, you're breaking its own norms. You breaking is all odds and you're continuously grading. Right? What is being CEO for you? Like now? What is your day-to-day like? Because I can imagine it overwhelming busy, you know, and I actually have no idea how old your kids are on that task. It's like, how do you manage everything and take care of yourself?
Shannon: (00:53:53) It's uh, I have to say this new CEO position is definitely the most challenging job I have had ever. Um, so you heard the story I've been at e-commerce in banking, all this other stuff, but this time around, I am in five years. And it is, I'm definitely not a techie, right? I'm not from engineering, I'm from finance, I'm a business person. Um, the team that, uh, my co-founder is actually the tech guy. He's like the teleco guy. Um, but we saw an opportunity last year and, and we took it. Um, and I knew the, and I knew I wanted to do it differently. Um, but we're S we're up against, I mean, basically with 5g, what we're doing is we're trying to utilize 5g to power smart cities. And, um, I know it's a, it's a whole, um, Buzzword now, but I really believe me and my team really believes that with the power of knowledge and data, like we can actually use this to have more transparency, to be, you know, to bring safety to our citizens. I don't know if you know what's going on in Thailand, but we have, we've been under this democ, this, uh, government, which really, uh, I don't want to touch upon it, but there are questions about how it was elected and, and whatnot. So, um, so, you know, just having the power of transparency, um, being able to decentralized data at citizens fingertips, like that's something and being able to provide something that's really something that's still really deeply seated with us and how we're going to do it, the politics that work against and where we have major competitors. Um, it's tough. So to answer your question, like, what does CEO mean? I mean, Frankly when you're, it's, it's still a small startup. We have 10 people. Uh, we have partnerships with other companies which have about, which were all about allowed to utilize their other hundreds of people, which is good. So we try to be at the satellite, you know, and then we utilize, um, people in different partnerships, but, um, It's it's tough Like it's having to make the tough decisions it's having to. So not only do you have vision, but vision is just, you know, it goes so far unless you have to pivot. So we're in the middle of pivoting. Um, we have cashflow, we have, uh, understanding our competitors, trying to make sure we're a stealth and, and being able to do things the way, um, keeping our unfair advantage, um, and just trying to go for it. So it's, it's a lot, uh, luckily I have to say, um, yes, COVID slow things down. Um, but we were able to launch Thailand's first 5g smart city in March this year. So congratulations. Yeah, where it's, it's huge. Like it's huge for, for me. And, and so, um, it was a nice challenge to get over it, but it's just the beginning. Now we just woke up the monsters. Now everybody's like, oh my God, I want to do it. So I'm like, so, so yeah, but that, that was really tough. Um, and now we're in COVID so we have locked down again, which is actually delaying a lot of things, but, you know, everybody's dealing with it. The upside about COVID is I do have more time with my kids, so I have two girls, so they're twins, uh, fathers, Norwegian, um, and yeah, there's seven now and I see them every day. And so it's been really great to be able to work at home. You might have heard in the background, people walking in like a podcast lo you know, so seven. Yeah. But yeah, the, the other side is, um, I think the way I manage things is at home, I'm fortunate to live in Thailand where I am able to hire a nanny. So she's my parents. Like she runs this, this house, she gets the grocery. She cooks is drop off the kids at school, pick up the kids, you know? And so, um, I'm so fortunate to have that because, uh, as I mentioned, I'm a single mom too. Right. So, um, and I have my sister living with me, which, and she's a teacher, so she's, she's been able to help, but you can't do it alone. Right. So I I'm fortunate for that. Um, and COVID has brought us even closer, which is great. So a lot of challenges, um, but that's how I do it. You gotta manage the household, that it should work, make the hard positions and keep going. Right. I mean, now. Yeah. Now the biggest thing is I can't fail. If I find myself in a dark place, I cannot fail because of the kids. If not the kids won't have anyone. So for me, that's another driver for me. I mean, yes. I want to save the world health Thailand, but it's for my kids.
Maggie: (00:59:14) Yeah. Yeah. That's your why I love that. So what's next for you, Shannon? Like what are your goals for the next year?
Bryan: (00:59:22) The rest of 2020? How do you want to finish strong? And this question, it can be anything doesn't have to be strictly business because you're extremely fit. You know, when I talk to you, you're literally in the middle of a yoga session or something, planes and talking. No, I can't do that next year for the year. And what is your primary focus and how do you want to close out 2021?
Shannon: (00:59:48) Um, I'm trying, I've always been a very. Extroverted person. And, um, cov has been really good about focusing my priority. So this year, and last I have been very focused on kids, making sure I have quality time. I feel that with COVID, I don't even know when they joined second grade, if they're going to be able to read at that level. Uh, so, you know, tiger mom comes in right. Or dolphin, mom, whatever. Okay. So the kids, um, Work I, at the biggest thing, if, um, I mean, aside from kids, but I need to crack this even better. I know the potential where we're ahead. Now I have to keep that, you know, going, um, and if there's anybody listening here, who's in anything IOT or smart cities, please call me. But yeah. So, so I definitely want to make sure that this year ends well, um, for next year. Um, because it's, it's, it's, um, it's going to be rough. So, and this is exactly the tipping point that we need because now that we're coming out of COVID, um, supposedly, um, there's much more emphasis on automation and all the stuff that I'm doing in health and, and citizens and all this stuff. So, so if I can't do it right now, like, you know, Shannon, you have a problem. So work is a big thing. Um, health is also such a big thing actually. Gilda. I just picked it up in March last year or April last year. Um, I was a gymnast when I was younger, which is why I'm flexible, but I didn't have the discipline. Um, and, and so actually for anybody who hasn't taken up yoga, like I've tried it for 20 years. I always did it wrong, which is why it didn't work. Now. It actually focuses me every day. If I wake up and I have these wandering thoughts, stupid thoughts or angry thoughts, like it actually comes to me down. So, um, focuses. And then, then you feel like a warrior, you know, warrior princess. So you feel, you feel it was good for me to have that health, um, component come in because I've been really unhealthy for 20 years. Um, so those are the kinds of the big, big parts. I think like for me, just. Getting back with, uh, really close friends across the world. Um, my family as well. Um, love isn't really on the cards yet. Um, but yeah, I'm, I'm very happy with it. The quality time I'm having with my kids and, and being able to grow this. And I think you could only have like three, four real interests a year. Like if not, you can't do, I don't know. I used to say, you can have it all, but somebody else coined this and I believe her more. It was like, you can have it all, but not all of them at the same time. So, so yeah, I've been fortunate to be able to have, you know, different things at different times. And, um, I think that's also, it helps with the resilience. Right? Okay. This one's stocks right now. All right. Fine. But this one's good. So then we'll wait for that thing to be good. And then that thing anyway, so yeah, so, so that's yeah.
Bryan: (01:03:08) And we do believe you can have it all. So we just love that a lot in that mentality of never settling for that. Yeah, appreciate that. So we do have one final question for you, Shannon. And that question is what advice do you have for an aspiring entrepreneur looking to get started? It's something that you would tell yourself when you first started.
Shannon: (01:03:29) So I say this a lot, um, and I always go back to it. Um, I guess you already heard my story. I'm not the smartest person. Uh, uh, but you, you basically read the room, read the world, find out where the opportunities are. If you guys haven't read blue ocean strategy, please read it. But I think one of the biggest, biggest thing that has helped me at least, um, in my life is. Find out what's your unique selling point? What you're good at, what you can actually, um, you know, and the way I do this, because it's very hard to find out what you're good at. Um, you know, because it's, it's hard to analyze yourself, but. It's a lot of trials and errors and don't try for a year or two years, you got to try, like one of the biggest thing about learning, what you're good at is also what you're bad at. Right? So, um, a lot of things that, um, so when I do this analysis where, what I'm good at or bad at, like I said, the SWAT, right. I also do an analysis of the competitor set of what they're missing, but I really go down to the fight night. Right. And so with that, then I can start to see patterns in white spaces of where, and then you go into yourself, right here are your values and your strengths and all this other stuff in your network, what you have your assets and, you know, um, Soft skills, hard skills. And then you build that in. Then you're going to find this nice little space that you actually have an unfair, competitive advantage. Hopefully it has a good, bigger market size, um, right. Cause you can't be too niche or unless you really dive deep into our niche, who knows. But I think the biggest advice that I could give anybody is, um, you have to dig deep and really find out what that unique thing is. And it will change, you know, through the years I think for me, um, it took me three big iterations in my life. You know, each time three, four years, three, four years, three, four years to really find some things I'm good at. I'm still working on it. I'm still trying to find it. But do you slowly come up with that leg? It's not just MVP, but you slowly Polish it more right as you go. And I think that's just, um, It, it, it will help you go a long way, especially for those who, you know, didn't, you know, weren't the honor student in your class or, or, or whatnot, but, um, that does help if the are listening and are still studying. That doesn't mean you should not do good in school. Just say for the people who didn't do good in school, it, this is, yeah. So, yeah. So I think that that's, um, my parting words or advice.
Bryan: (01:06:17) Awesome. Thanks for that. Yeah. My biggest takeaway from that statement, it's like, you know, everyone's born being born with unique skills, strengths, and weaknesses. So being able to identify and go with your strengths, I think so often in society is that we had so much. Uh, like someone's negativity because they're like, oh, what can your weakness, what can this work? But when we change our mindset to really focus on our street, exactly what you did, you know, your strength is being social, being high IQ. And, you know, it goes a long way cause actually builds coffin confidence as you continue on your path. So really appreciate that advice a lot. Shannon and Shannon. How can our listeners find out more about you and reach out to you online?
Shannon: (01:07:02) Um, sure. Uh, I haven't been very active this year, uh, in terms of talks and everything, but very happy to be on Asian hustle. Um, but yeah, so I have a Facebook page, um, and it's the page, not the personal one because the personal one. Yeah. And so, so yeah, find me on Facebook and for the young ones. Um, find me on, I G I think my IgG, as you saw Brian, it's much more life rather than like, if you like the business stuff, then it's like, you know, I that's my LinkedIn, so Shannon, LinkedIn. Yeah. And then that's also the Facebook page, but then if you. Want the fun stuff. The thing is you're going to see pictures of my kids, yoga, bikini, my work, me talking and traveling. So, I mean, that's really it. So of, of my IgE, I don't know if that's really, um, inspiring.
Bryan: (01:08:03) Understood. So we'll also put all the show notes, guys. So worry about it. You don't have to Google search it, just go to the website and we got you.
Maggie: (01:08:09) Yeah. We'll include all of that in the show notes so that you can learn more about Shannon's life and her kids and yoga and everything else. Shannon. It was awesome. Having you on the show today. It was so amazing. Just learning about your story. I thank you so much for being yeah.
Bryan: (01:08:24) Thank you, Shannon. I really appreciate this a lot and I know you're super busy, so thank you for sending aside an hour and a half. Thank you Shannon.
Shannon: (01:08:35) And thanks for having me Maggie and Brian.
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