Intro

MHV Partner Michele Daoud chats with host Jeremy Au in the latest episode of MHV Podcast

In the MHV Podcast, we speak with leading founders, VCs and operators on their journey in Southeast Asia. In this episode, Jeremy Au, MHV Head of Strategic Projects and host sits down with Michele Daoud, MHV Partner with a decade of experience in technology and operations, having worked in Silicon Valley, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast or watch the video on Youtube.

Prefer reading? Read the transcript below:

Jeremy Au:

Hi, Michele. Welcome to the MHV podcast. I'm glad to have you on the show.


Michele Daoud:

Hey, Jeremy. How are you?


Jeremy Au:

Good. So excited to have you because you've just been an amazing advocate and champion of so many founders across Southeast Asia, and I'm so excited to share your journey with so many folks out there.


Michele Daoud:

Thanks for having me.


Jeremy Au:

Yeah, so for those who don't know you, who are you?


Michele Daoud:

My name is Michele Daoud, and I'm a partner with Monk's Hill Ventures, so focused on investing in early stage start ups in Southeast Asia. I've been with the fund for about five years now.


Jeremy Au:

So, how did your professional career start?


Michele Daoud:

I actually started in strategy consulting, focused on telecom operators. I'm an engineer by training, but I think I kind of knew that I was not going to work as an engineer, even as I was taking my degree. I got started in consulting because, in a way, it's a great way to get exposed to more industries and travel as well. I was young and fresh out of school and didn't have a family back then, so being able to work in different countries for different organizations and learn about business after having done engineering is [to do that. I was based in Dubai. I was covering emerging markets with my first project actually in Indonesia. That's where I spent the two months, fresh out of undergrad, working for a telecom operator in Indonesia.


Jeremy Au:

What was that first project like in Indonesia? I mean, I too remember working on telco projects in Southeast Asia and it was very eye-opening looking at mobile churn rates and multi sims and everything.


Michele Daoud:

It was very enlightening for me to be honest. Like I said I had an engineering background, so going into an organization like a telecom operator in Indonesia, the scale of the business, the complexity of it, and trying to figure out how we could add value as a small team of three was a great experience. I think also, I grew up in Lebanon, which is a tiny country, and so then being parachuted into Indonesia where everything is at a different scale was super eye-opening for me as well and probably planted the seed for my return to Southeast Asia many years later to work in a market that I think is unlike anything else that you see anywhere. I've never lived in India or China so I can't compare. That's a different dimension, but for me it was such a cool learning experience.

As a consultant, you do get to interact with pretty senior folks within the organization so you learn a lot from that and there were some language barriers at times that we had to figure out and definitely a bunch of folks that didn't necessarily want us there as well so that's a people dynamic to figure out as well. But overall an amazing learning experience for me.


Jeremy Au:

Yeah, and what did you take away from that time. Any good stories about your time in Indonesia at the time?


Michele Daoud:

Consulting is hard. I mean, it was my first introduction to the real professional world and we definitely worked hard and around the clock. But it was actually also really cool to see how in the short span of a couple of months we actually can come up with recommendations that if implemented properly have an impact on the whole organization and a telecom operator in Indonesia, that was one of the biggest ones. Ultimately, the ramifications of what you're doing impacts so many people in the country that are using those services. So it was actually really cool to get the sense that my work mattered in a way and could have an impact on people's day to day life. So I enjoyed that very much.


Jeremy Au:

Yeah, and it's also interesting because that was really the first wave of opening up access for the digitization of so much more services down the road with that telco and data and bandwidth.


Michele Daoud:

Yeah, definitely. To put things into context that was 2008, 2008/2009, so it was really the early days of all the infrastructure being set up and the early days of access to connectivity for a lot of people in this part of the world. So yeah, it was really cool to be part of that.


Jeremy Au:

Yeah, amazing. And then you went on to do more projects and so forth. Could you share more what happened after that?


Michele Daoud:

Yeah so consulting, the whole premise is you do a few months at a time, different projects. So I ended up spending quite a long time in different parts of the Middle East, but also in Africa. I had a project in Sudan where I spent time in Khartoum, which was even from a personal level such a cool experience as a woman to be working there. I spent time in Tunisia as well on another project, and that was a range of things. Some of the projects were really interesting, around launching new mobile value propositions for telecom operators, coming up with the whole strategy on what would the offering look like but also what's the distribution strategy, how do you onboard the distributor, what's the training that you do there, what's the aftercare service that you're going to provide. So, we had the full suite of considerations for a new launch.

But then other projects as well. I mean, this was 2009, so some of the other projects were also around what should we do for the survival of the organization and how do we think of human capital resizing and treating employees fairly despite the circumstances. Those were a bit harsher I think from an emotional standpoint to work on, but also still as important in terms of ensuring the overall survival of the organization. Some of those lessons have actually taken as well for my current, my time as a VC now, where you work with startups and they go through ups and downs, and there are instances where you have to make tough calls. I think it's our role as well as board members and investors to help the entrepreneurs make those tough calls, and ultimately trying to be fair with the people because you are dealing with people as well, but still keeping an eye on the overall outcome, which is well, the organization has to survive. If not, then the overall impact on everyone working for the company and the customer is going to be way more important.

Different kind of projects, which I think was, again, in terms of your exposure to the business world as someone who was a few years out of undergrad, I think for me that was really insightful.


Jeremy Au:

Amazing. This is an interesting dynamic, because this is an interesting position where you're being a consultant and this business dynamic and world of telecoms and very technology dynamic, but it's also based on this fundamental base where you've studied mechanical engineering as well. I'm just kind of curious-


Michele Daoud:

Yes, not the most useful degree in this context.


Jeremy Au:

Well, I mean, it's a transition there, so I guess we're kind of doubling back there, but I guess why did you study mechanical engineering in that scenario?


Michele Daoud:

Look, looking back I'm glad I did. I think engineering in general gives you a kind of a good set of critical thinking skills and some base to use them in whatever context. It's a degree that, I mean, it goes back to why I think education is probably not where it should be today. They ask you to make a decision when you're 17. I had no clue at 17 what I want to do or who I want to be or where I want to spend my time. So for me, the decision was, okay, I'm actually pretty good at science and math. Engineering is one of those degrees that keeps the door open to different careers. Why not?

I actually started as a computer engineer and then I switched to mechanical engineer because I thought the third year project that we had, which was over the whole year, was more interesting. We had to build real cars and then race against different teams, so I thought that was cool. That was the extent of my thought process when it came to switching from computer engineering to mechanical engineering. I've always known I didn't want to work as an engineer. It was more to get the base for whatever I would do next.

Actually, switching from engineering to consulting is a decently common path. Consultants actually do hire quite a few engineering grads, and then you learn the business books on the job, I guess.


Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I think it's interesting, because you've managed to weave both of those experiences together. Technology is really the focus of both those dynamics, of both the engineering foundations as well as the business side as well.


Michele Daoud:

Yeah, that's a good point. Ultimately, throughout my career I've spent quite a lot of time interacting with engineers, as a technical consultant but then later on in Google as an investor, obviously, and I think the immersion into engineering as I was going through the training myself gave me a better understanding of how to interact with other engineers, probably a bit of credibility as well when I interact with them because I kind of know what's going on. But looking back if I had to do it again, I probably would have stuck to computer engineering. I think it would have probably been a bit more useful in my career, given that I didn't go down the path of pursuing that mechanical engineering career.


Jeremy Au:

Interesting. So computers over racing cars.


Michele Daoud:

Computer over racing car. I don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much, but yeah.


Jeremy Au:

We've got to put up a picture soon of that racing car.


Michele Daoud:

Honestly, it was a cool project. I mean, there was a little bit of strategy behind it. It was four people per team and you had to design your car in a way that would actually do well in different competitions that required different things. You actually could only change one thing from one competition to the other. You had the racing competition, which has a bunch of requirements for the car, but then you had a tug of war, where obviously the requirements were very different. You had an obstacle course. It was a cool project. I don't regret doing it.


Jeremy Au:

I feel like this is a good analogy for startups, though.


Michele Daoud:

Yep. I've never thought about it that way, but for sure.


Jeremy Au:

You've got different requirements what your stage is.


Michele Daoud:

You have to choose your battles and then compromise.


Jeremy Au:

Yeah. It doesn't feel so bad, actually, when you put it that way. There you are. You started to talk about it, which is there you are, you're consulting. You started transitioning into technology, right? You're at Google and Turo. Could you talk about that transition to technology?


Michele Daoud:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's always been something that I wanted to do, I think, and also you'll hear that from a lot of consultants. After a while you kind of just want to be part of the organization. You want to be on the side of the table where you're actually part of the company that you're providing recommendations for. Tech, part of it happened accidentally, part of it happened deliberately. I think I was always interested in that industry, but I also had a former colleague that had transitioned to Google and kept on saying amazing things about working for the company. That's about how the transition happened. A bit of it was opportunistic.

I actually moved to London, so I started covering Europe and North Africa and the Middle East as a region. Again, another great life experience for me. I had never lived in Europe. It was my first actually time in a developed market per se, although I was still covering North Africa and the Middle East as a market. I started doing, I was in the new products and services team, so looking at display advertising platforms, and a bunch of new platforms that we had acquired, and thinking through the implementation into Google but also setting performance management tools and helping with the business plan and setting the sales targets for the sales team. I guess a lot of the things I had been doing as a consultant, but now really for the company I was working for.

Yeah, I really loved my time there, actually. I didn't spend that long at Google. I spent a little over a year. I thought I would spend longer, but then business school happened, but it was overall a very... It's a great culture. It tells you a lot about what a successful, big tech company should look like. The company's managed to keep a sense of innovation and a sense of personal initiative from different employees despite the scale that it has, and I think that's actually very telling of how do you keep a culture of innovation within a firm. I think we had a few, maybe 10,000, 20,000 employees, at the time so it wasn't at the scale that it has today, but still a big company. It was a very different perspective for me.


Jeremy Au:

Such a large company. Decided to go smaller and smaller, right, or younger and younger, or faster and faster, and you landed at Udemy. Tell us more about what was it like at Udemy and what scale there was and what you were doing there.


Michele Daoud:

Yeah, yeah. No, that was exactly the reason for me leaving Google and actually going for a MBA. I wasn't sold on doing an MBA first thing. Actually, I only applied to Stanford, and the reason why I did that was because I wanted the access to civic environment, entrepreneurship, and the startup scene there, and for me it was my ticket to get there. Already my decision to go do an MBA was based on my intention to start working with startups. Even throughout my time there, I started getting involved with startups. I advised a few. I entered a few startup competitions and got a flavor for it.

Then upon graduation I was very clear. I wanted to stay in San Francisco and the Bay Area, more broadly speaking. I wanted to really be immersed in the civic environment, and I was looking for a company that had a social mission I could align with as well. I wanted a for-profit company, to be clear, but I did want something where I could align with the vision and the where impact of what the company was trying to do would speak to me. I came across Udemy. It was a very small company back then. I think it was a small company back then. I had heard of it through a friend of mine from my consulting days who had recently joined them. As I started speaking to them, I actually realized there were a few alums from my university as well that worked there, and just the caliber of the people was outstanding.

Even the founder. I mean, the founder's story just really resonated with me. The founding team of Udemy, I don't know if people know that, but they're actually Turkish people, and the founder himself grew up in a small village, middle of nowhere, Turkey. His parents were teachers and he had access to a computer, and through the access to the computer, he actually taught himself math and participated in math competition, and actually won a scholarship to move to Ankara and study there. He firsthand experienced what the impact of technology had on his life and what the impact of access to education had on his life. Because of that, he built that platform, Udemy, which uses technology to democratize access to education and really enable people to yearn for another life, basically build another life for themselves through technology and through education. That for my was very compelling, the purpose, and that's why I decided to join Udemy as a company.

I was considering joining as the head of marketing for DoorDash back then, which I think was 10 people. So looking back, I'm not sure that was the best financial decision I made, but definitely an amazing experience there.


Jeremy Au:

Sorry, that's so funny. A lot of people make similar decisions at a time. It's like A or B, and it's always hard to tell at that stage as well. What did you learn from that time at Udemy? There you are, obviously building this incredible company. What did you learn from that time?


Michele Daoud:

Udemy was a really eye-opening experience for me. I think it was my first true entrepreneur experience. I joined, the team was small. I joined as an individual contributor and started building teams. It was really the true startup experience that I was yearning for. I wasn't a founder, but I was still an early employee and I definitely felt like I got to shape the direction of the company, got to influence some strategic decisions. It's a very rewarding feeling.

I also was managing people for the first time, and managing a pretty large team. I think I actually got to experience a lot of the textbook MBA experiences around people dynamics and people issues and management and how do you keep people motivated, how do you manage people that are way older than you, how do you deal with all of that. At the core, that's what a company is. It's a set of people and a set of people dynamics, and the better you are at managing and dealing with those, the better you are at building a successful organization, which then ends up succeeding as a company overall.

Yeah, there's a lot of things that we did wrong. There's a lot of things that I think we did quite well. Looking back, it was one of the most positive experiences from the profession, just because of the speed at which things moved and the impact that a decision has on the complete trajectory of the company.


Jeremy Au:

is that you make decisions along the way about what it means to be a leader, to be a manager. Were there any interesting experiences along the way that you learned about yourself as a leader or manager from that experience?


Michele Daoud:

Yeah. I mean, I think you learn what kind of leader you want to be as you're exposed to more and more of those decisions and over time. I don't think I came into the company as the leader that I am today, and I think I probably won't be the same leader that I am today if you ask me again in five or 10 years. Like I mentioned, I joined as an individual contributor, and then I was actually asked to then manage my peers who had onboarded me. Some of them were not happy. You can imagine they were not happy with that. It's quite challenging. How do I earn their trust? How do I convince them that I actually have something to bring, knowing that I've never managed people before? This is purely a leap of faith from my boss.

I think, I mean, it’s going to sound cliche but it goes back to authenticity and dealing with people in a way that's authentic and is representative of who you are. It's kind of acknowledging the challenges and acknowledging what in the situation may not be optimal for the person you're managing, but then also kind of getting buy in into what's the broader vision here. Why are we doing this? How is that action supporting the overall purpose of the organization and ultimately of the end user? Udemy was a bit unique. There's a lot of companies like that, but the mission was really critical to what. It was self-selection in terms of who was working for Udemy. The motivation was really driven by the impact on the end user, so bringing those conversations back to how are we extending our impact was always helpful.

Yeah, then there's been a lot of talk about vulnerability and showing vulnerability as a leader. I think it's a topic that's been exhausted, but it couldn't be more true. Acknowledging some of your own shortcoming, showing up as someone who's genuinely trying to make a difference, someone who genuinely trying to help them as an individual, I think also helps. Yeah. There's a lot that we can unpack in there, but ultimately I think it taught me that as a leader it only gets rewarding if it's true to who you are and if I'm treating people in the organization the way I would want to be treated as well.


Jeremy Au:

Interesting. With those reflections, you eventually decided to transition to looking and exploring venture capital, right? What made you decide to cross over to the other side of the table?


Michele Daoud:

Yeah. I think, look, my decision was primarily driven actually by a desire to move to Asia. That was I think, that was really the driver for my move. I wanted to move to Asia. Just like with anything in life I think it's a set of circumstances. I had always had, I mean, since my time in Indonesia, I think moving back to Asia was something that I was really planning on doing at some point in my life. I also knew I was not going to live in the U.S. I'm more an emerging nation kind of person. I grew up in emerging markets. I think hacking emerging markets has a very different application than in developed economies. From a geography standpoint, I knew I wanted to go back to Asia. I think the scale of things, the timing of transitioning to the startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia was very appealing to me.

Then at the time my husband was actually considering two job offers, one in San Francisco and one back in Hong Kong. So we're like, okay, let's actually make the move. It's now or never. That's something I've always wanted to move. Then this is where I started trying to get to know the startup ecosystem more. I knew I wanted to stay within the startup ecosystem. I wasn't necessarily set on switching over to VC. As I started talking to more people, I actually got introduced to Peng and Kuo-Yi, the founding partners of Monk's Hill Ventures. I started chatting with them and actually picking their brain on that system and trying to get a better sense of what was going on, what were the interesting opportunities, and gradually as I was speaking to them started to realize, "Wow, actually switching to VC would be such a cool experience. It would give me an..." I was new to the region, so VC, would actually give me access to the whole region and learn what were the startups that were actually in the space or the industry that were interesting, leverage some of that experience running a company in the U.S. to support a nascent ecosystem.

Ultimately, the impact is quite important for me and it seemed to me like it was an amazing platform to kind of expand that impact and actually help entrepreneurs themselves with pursuing interesting missions. That was really the driving factor for my transition.


Jeremy Au:

Amazing. I'm so curious. What was it like crossing over to the other side from your perspective? What was that shift like from your perspective? Because lots of people ask, right?


Michele Daoud:

It's definitely a transition. There's so many things that are different as an operator versus as an investor. First of all, the timing. Time has a different notion. When you're an operator running a startup, your impact is measured day to day, hour to hour in a sense. You have weekly goals and monthly goals and you really see the impact of what you're doing, and those little steps along the way are really important to the direction of the company. As an investor, when you're making an investment decision, you have to take into account the shifts in the macroeconomic environment, and you're making decisions for five, 10 years down the line. Where do you think things are going to be, and how do you back the right company, the right team with all of that in mind? The reality is you have early signs of how the company is doing, but you really don't really know how you're doing as an investor until way later in the cycle. That's a completely different frame of mind, so that was the first one.

The second one is just how granular you have to go. That's I think, even having hired a bunch of people from an operating background, I think it's one of the toughest transitions to do, going from an operator into an investor. As an operator, your natural inclination is to want to really go into the details of the business and understand every little thing of what's going on so you can influence it. It's very important to go and integrate into. As an investor, it's actually not useful to do that. For the investment decision, you end up wasting the entrepreneur's time. I think it's very important to understand what are the things that I need to know to make a good investment decision and what are the things that I'm actually curious about but are not actually going to help me make an investment decision, and how do I prioritize and how do I let go and be okay having some areas that are a little less clear to me because they're not as important from an investment standpoint?

Secondly, of course, after you've invested and you're sitting on the board and supporting the entrepreneur, it's also being okay being that coach and being that start partner, and supporting them in making their decisions, again, without going into the nitty gritty of understanding every aspect of the business, because it would not be useful. You're wasting their time with the micromanaging. That's not what a successful investor does. That transition is I think something that's an interesting change in perception and natural inclination that you have to do over time. Yeah. But overall, it's such a cool experience. As an investor you end up working with companies, solving very different problems in very different markets. You have the bird's eye view of the whole ecosystem. You're looking at a different scale, versus being very heads-down on one company, one set of problems, one set of competitors. It's just a very different perspective.


Jeremy Au:

One interesting thing is that there is a lot of trade-offs as a result, which is like you said, transition of being a founder who is now on the investing side. There's also benefits I guess hopefully from being a founder who is now an investor. What benefits would you say those are from being a founder who's now on the investor side of the table?


Michele Daoud:

Look, I think I always say there's no one path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. There is successful entrepreneurs from all walks of life, and I think that's true of the investor as well. You have examples of successful investors that have come from different paths of life. That's a thing that when you do early stage investing, having been a founder or an operator at a startup is definitely helpful. It gives you some, I mean, practically speaking I think when you're assessing a company, when you're working on the board of a company, it gives you that practical lens on what's feasible, what's not, and it gives you almost a better flair I think of what's going on under the hood.

I think it's obviously very clear that when you're supporting the board of a company, a lot of the issues that the company might run into you may have run into yourself. It's not to say that you can't be capable as you go, the more companies you've invested in if you haven't been an operator before, but I think it does give you that experience earlier on in your career as an investor. More importantly, I think where the real difference is is in terms of credibility. I think ultimately the West entrepreneurs have a lot of investors they can choose from and they want more often than not, they want to have on their board someone who's been in their shoes before because they rightly or wrongly assume that that person will have a better sense of what's going on and will be able to better support.

At the core it's about founder empathy. It's about truly being able to build that connection with your founder because you generally know what they're going through, and being able to support them along the way, again, because you've been in their shoes before. Yeah, I think particularly for early stage investing. I think as you start going into growth investing it's less relevant, but particularly for early stage investing, it's really helpful.

One thing I would add is I think what's particularly helpful is to have been part of the growth story of a company. I think starting the company is great, but also being able to see how you get a company from seed series A all the way to a C series or whatnot. It's a very different toolkit that you need, so having someone who's actually been able to take a company through the different stages of growth I think is really helpful, particularly for a ecosystem in Southeast Asia, which is still nascent, where there's few people around you you can turn to that have had that experience. You have few people that you can go to for advice. So having an investor there has had that perspective that can help you lay the right foundations early on to prepare you for those next stages of growth I think is very helpful.


Jeremy Au:

What advice would you give for founders who are thinking about fundraising and thinking about picking the right investor? It's such a tough one, right? There are so many investors. There's pharma founders who are investors. There are investors who are now investors. There's capital running around. What advice would you frankly give them to think about in picking someone?


Michele Daoud:

Yeah. Look, when it comes to fundraising I think there's a few practical elements of planning your fundraising in an effective way, and then there is the people element of choosing an investor. Practically speaking, first advice is start planning early for funding. Don't wait until the last minute. Don't wait until you're running out of cash. Not only because the fundraising process itself is going to take some time, but also because way before that you need to know what you want to look like for the next stage of fundraising. Start being clear as to what are the milestones you want to hit, how do you get there, and how do you start fundraising early.

There's other we can go into in terms of what makes a good fundraising conversation, how do you present your company, how do you basically share authentically where the company is at in a way that's compelling to investors, that they want to actually buy into your vision, but also where you're actually being authentic and genuine about the challenges that you're experiencing, because you actually want someone on your board who knows that, first of all, who's okay with that, and who's willing to support and help you with your challenges. That's a whole discussion we can have on that.

At the core when it comes to choosing your investor, there's some elements that you can look for, a checkbox that you can look for. Do you want a fund that has a better brand, which helps you when you're going to announce your funding be associated with a brand and then hopefully help with recruiting and then your next rounds of funding as well? Do you want a fund that has maybe worked with companies in your industry or adjacencies or in similar companies in a different geography that can bring some of that expertise and learning back to your company?

But at the core it's really about the individual partner. You're going to have a partner on your board, and yes, you're going to have access to the rest of the partnership, but really the interaction is going to be primarily with that one. In our case we have two partners on the board and we have an associate, so it depends on the fund, but really understand who is it that you're going to have on your board, how bought into your vision are they. Do they genuinely get excited about what you're trying to do? Are they going to be gung-ho about pushing you and supporting you in achieving that vision, and how do they deal with founders when things are not going their way?

I think it's easy for any fund and any partner to get excited about a company that's doing really well, but you're going to have ups and downs as a founder. How are they going to deal with you when maybe things are not looking as bright or there's an external circumstance like COVID that is completely unforeseen and is actually changing the direction of your company? It's very important to have that personal affinity with the person that you're talking to. Do you feel like you can be genuine and authentic, open up about your challenges? Do you feel like they're supportive? Do you think that they have the right toolkit and the right connections to help with that?

But also spend quite a lot of time talking to founders they've invested in. Those are actually the people who are going to give you the best window into what it's like to work with this finance partner. What have been their individual experience in terms of practically speaking what kind of support that they have been seeing, and what has happened when for some of them things haven't gone as well, and then make your decision based on them.


Jeremy Au:

For yourself, Michele, how would you say that you bring to that table yourself?


Michele Daoud:

Maybe you should ask some of the founders I work with.


Jeremy Au:

I know, but that direction. Still got to ask. I mean, what do you try to bring? Because you've been on both sides of the table now, right? You've been an operator that has been in the trenches building, scaling, and you know how hard it is to build and scale companies. Now you've been on the other side at a board working with founders, believing and growing, and you've done that with multiple iterations. Now having done all of that, what would you say this is the core of what you want to bring in that interaction, rain or shine?


Michele Daoud:

There's a few sets of characteristics of who I am as a person. My background, my work experience, my studies, all of that, and then there's a set of who I am as an individual. There's also the platform that I have access to. I am part of Monk's Hill as a fund. I have access to Monk's Hill as a platform and all of what that can bring. I think if you go back to look at what my personal experience is, I think I've had the chance of working in different continents in different markets, and I've had the chance of seeing how things are done at different phases as well of the growth of a company. I've been part of very early stage companies, I've been part of very large companies, and anything in between. I think that usually is a good perspective to bring, knowing where you start off from and where you want to end up.

I think the fact that I spend time with the markets means that I can also, I the chance of having networks in those markets and experts and advisors that I can tap into as well, and that is usually quite useful, particularly for a firm in Southeast Asia that may not have that access. I've had my own set of experiences with BD and marketing and strategy and operations and whatnot that I can bring to the table. But I think at the core, I like to think that I invest in businesses that I'm genuinely excited about and I think I've mentioned it before, I think tech in emerging markets has such an incredible valuation potential. I genuinely get excited about the founders that I work with and what they're trying to achieve. I think having that kind of sidekick as a founder can be helpful.

As a person I tend to be a pretty positive person and I kind of see the best in situations, and I think that can be helpful as well, especially if the founder is going through some hardship or whatnot. I also am very focused on as a person and with my friends, I'm very focused on mindfulness and responsible leadership and mental health. I try to make sure that when I work with founders, that's always in the back of my mind. Do they need support as a person, as an individual, before being a founder. How is the individual behind that company, that founder doing, and what can I do as an investor to help with that? I try to bring a little bit of that, my interest in that field into who I am as an investor.

Then last thing, like I said, I'm part of a platform. I'm privileged to work with people who have been in the ecosystem for a long time, who've been serial entrepreneurs. We have a set of operating advisors that I think is worth in terms of the skills that they're bringing, network through our ITs. All of that I think is really helpful for an entrepreneur who is heads-down executing on the business and doesn't have the privilege that we have as an investor to meet as many people and connect with us. Yeah, that's what I think I bring. You should ask founders that I work with.


Jeremy Au:

Yeah, definitely. I think the founders you work with would definitely speak up to I think the trust, integrity, and like you said, the partnership that you bring in terms of the intellectual horsepower and the partnership that you bring to the table.


Michele Daoud:

Yeah, hopefully.


Jeremy Au:

Definitely you do, I would say. I think wrapping things up here, for a lot of the folks out there what advice would you give for people who are thinking about becoming a founder in Southeast Asia from your perspective? They're just starting out from your perspective or starting out a tech career. Any advice you would give from your perspective?


Michele Daoud:

I mean, do it. Look, I think timing is really important when you consider things. The ecosystem is at a stage that is really exciting. There's still so many layers of opportunity that are to be tackled, that I think if someone who's smart and educated who still and honestly chooses the right problem to work on, they could be very successful. I would say it's always hard to make the plunge, especially if you're in a comfy job and you're giving up something to start from scratch, but it could be such a rewarding, successful experience.

I think don't underestimate how tough it can be. I think sometimes people, and you need a little bit of that naïve perspective as well to be an entrepreneur. Maybe ignoring purposefully all of the hardship that's in front of you. I would say come prepared and aware of the fact that there is definitely going to be some very challenging things you're going to have to deal with as a founder, no matter how... There's not a single story of a founder that hasn't had very, very deep lows as well to deal with.

And surround yourself with the right people I think is probably the most important thing you can do, because it starts with self-awareness. Knowing as an individual who you are, what you bring to the table, what your blind spots are. After supporting this there's an element of humility that you need to have as a founder, being humble enough to acknowledge some of those shortcomings so that you can actually surround yourself with people who complement you. There's tons of literature on that in terms of tools that can help you do that, but at the core it comes from a place of self-awareness and humility and the desire to actually surround yourself with people that are smarter than who you are and complement you in a way. That is going to be useful as you scale in business.

Yeah, I mean, I think that's the core of it.


Jeremy Au:

Awesome. Thank you so much, Michele, for sharing so much of it. On that note, I love to kind of paraphrase the three big things that took away from this. First of all, thank you so much for sharing your professional journey. I love, especially the early notes about your early time as an early computer engineer who ended up switching to become a mechanical engineer to race cars, so we've got to see some pictures of that eventually. And eventually becoming and learning, having that foray as a consultant doing Indonesia telecom and being that first wave for digitization in the early 2000s, and then after that I love the second big theme, which was about being part of the earlier operator and scaling of technology at Google as well as Udemy and learning I think what it means to be a fast growth company, and also learning not just nuts and bolts of that from a scaling perspective, yet also what you meant from a personal leadership dynamic as well and what you meant for yourself.

And lastly I love the what it means for yourself on the venture capital side of the table, what it means for the trade-offs in essence in terms of the learning, but also adding the benefits that you bring to the table and what you're able to help founders with, both personally as well as the advice that you would give founders to be thoughtful about in the fundraising process. Thank you, Michele, for sharing.


Michele Daoud
:

Thanks a lot, Jeremy. Thank you, Jeremy. Take care.

To hear more founder and entrepreneur stories, follow the MHV Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Download
Report

Download PDF
Thank you. If your download has not started, please click the button above.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Download
Report

Download PDF
Thank you. If your download has not started, please click the button above.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.