Building a mental health startup in Asia with Joan Low (ThoughtFull)

In this episode, Joan Low (ThoughtFull) talks about:

  • Why she had the discipline to do the legwork before jumping in to create solutions, and the importance of this 
  • How her life experiences have taught her to navigate the vastly different industries she has been involved in
  • Why she believes timing is crucial to the success of startups
  • Why she decided on bootstrapping her start-up
  • The importance of doing a good job with the first few clients 

Podcast information:

About the guest

Joan Low is the Founder and CEO of ThoughtFull, a digital mental health company that is building more efficient and effective mental health ecosystems which are also morw affordable. 

Prior to founding ThoughtFull, she was a banker at J.P. Morgan, Hong Kong, for 6 years managing a portfolio of USD1.3 billion in assets under supervision.

Find her here:


Books, tools, people, frameworks mentioned in this episode:

Joan Low  0:00  
Mental Health Care unlike any other therapeutic area in healthcare is more nuanced. There’s a lot of cultural and religious layers to it. There’s a lot of things that go into mental health care that are not black and white. And so I think, really because the intention was to truly find a solution, the temptation to expedite the entire thing wasn’t as strong, right, because good things don’t get built within a day.

Ricky Willianto  0:29  
Not all problems are created equal. problems that are related to social and health issues particularly require more than just pragmatic are innovative solutions. Thoughtful in its pursuit to solve mental health issues in Asia, has to tread tactfully, as a misstep affect not just the company’s top line, but also its users health. As the founder of dodgeville. Joan Low always prioritises a business’s impact on the users ahead of other growth metrics. They’re often top of mind for most founders. Tune in to this episode to hear more about Joan’s brand of purpose driven entrepreneurship, and her journey so far in building thoughtful. My name is Ricky Willianto, co founder of Ravenry and the host of the growth multiplier podcast. This podcast, I hope to uncover the pathways, startups and companies have taken in their journey of growth, share some stories from the trenches, and hopefully identify patterns and hacks that can be replicated by businesses in Asia and the rest of the world. I hope you enjoyed the show. Hey, Joan, really nice to have you on my podcast. Finally, it’s been a while we’ve been talking about this. Before we begin, I’d love to have you introduce yourself, and a little bit about what you’re doing right now with heart for

Joan Low  1:40  
sure. So very happy to be here today. Just a quick introduction about myself. My name is Joan Low, and I’m the founder and CEO of ThoughtFull, were a digital mental health company whose vision is to make access to mental health care more affordable and seamless for everyone originally Malaysian but here in Singapore right now where the company is based probably about the last 15 years of my life kind of traipsing around the world. I spent a lot of time in North America for school and also spent some time in Europe and China. And then I was most recently a banker in Hong Kong at JPMorgan. So really, the journey to entrepreneurship started with the Journey to the West, and then back to the east. Happy to go deeper into those adventures later.

Ricky Willianto  2:27  
Yeah, I would love to go into that. But I also want people to know what thoughtful is. So can you elaborate a little bit about the company? How long has it been around and what you’ve achieved so far?

Joan Low 2:36  
Sure. So ThoughtFull as a concept, I guess, started late 2018. So about two, two years and a bit ago. And really, what we’re doing right now is to make digital mental health care accessible employers so that employees can have the benefit of access to these resources, as well as other organisations as well. And so really, why thoughtful came into being is because we really believe that proactive engagement with mental health care should happen earlier rather than later. It should not be a mode of crisis intervention, as it is today, mostly in Asia. Really, what it should be, is more of a lifestyle choice, right? If we have the opportunity to do so just like how we exercise all the time. For our physical health, the same thing should be done for our mental health as well. And so our main offering an app, which is called thoughtful chat, does exactly that. We empower people to engage earlier rather than later through providing self driven tools, as well as one on one bite size coaching with our certified mental health professionals. Now, these are all qualified counsellors and psychologists who have been vetted and on boarded. And our model is a little bit different to the traditional kind of telemedicine and but, you know, counselling sessions, where it’s that booking of one hour kind of sessions for us, the model is different. It’s preventive, it’s proactive, and so users can text anytime, anywhere. And our professionals check in asynchronously within 24 hours, it’s daily bite sized coaching. So even if you forget to text them, our coaches will most probably be dropping in Hello, and seeing how you are doing. So very different model. And yeah, it’s very exciting because people can track their progress, they can really get into engaging with your mental health through thoughtful chat. That is

Ricky Willianto  4:27  
amazing. Just to clarify, does that mean that you mentioned is b2b right? You’re working with employers? Does that mean that if I am an affiliated consumer that wants to have access to your app, is there a way for me to get access to that?

Joan Low  4:39  
Yes, absolutely. So although majority of the business is focused on b2b b2c, we do also have a consumer side for anyone who wants to try out thoughtful chat. You can download it either on iOS or Android and you can sign up on your own. It’s free to download our self driven content and tools which are all curated by our clinical team in Health, that’s all free free our tools for tracking your moods, your thought journals, and assessments, those are also free and before if you want to engage with a coach, but you can throw a monthly subscription fee. So for the price of a one hour session for counselling, usually you get full access to your coach for the entire month techs anytime, anywhere, and they get back to you within 24 hours. So it’s it’s a pretty good deal if you ask me.

Ricky Willianto  5:25  
Yeah, that’s, that’s pretty awesome. I mean, like, I’ve heard the prices of some of this in person sessions, and they can be quite expensive and prohibitive for a lot of people. So great to hear that you’ve been able to help scale that process to more people, I want to learn a little bit about how the company have evolved as well, this I’ve known and I followed your journey from the very beginning. So I kind of know what you’ve gone through. But I think for people who are interested in in what you’ve done, and also how you pivot to change your business discovered the right business model, right. Tell us your journey on how you’ve been able to discover this model that works really well with a b2b b2c model right now.

Joan Low  6:00  
Yeah. So I would say that that Fool’s Journey is perhaps a little bit different from the traditional kind of startup formula, because it is built from ground up as opposed to top down. So let me explain what I mean by that, instead of a top down version, where we have an idea roughly of what the company would be, and we build a beautiful deck, raise a tonne of money, and then figure out product market fit and the solution for the problem. We did that completely in reverse. So we actually started with the problem. Now, I don’t think I mentioned this. But the motivating factor for me to leave my banking job in Hong Kong to start thoughtful was because my family and I, ourselves are caregivers to someone who have been living with mental health challenges for the last 20 years. So when it comes to understanding the roadblocks, challenges, and the fragmented market of mental health care, we know this very well. And we’ve known it for 20 years. And one of the biggest motivating factors for thoughtful was to solve the huge innovation gap between what mental healthcare could be where you see a lot of innovation happening in the US in Europe, not as much as trickling down to Asia, we’re still very nascent, and really what’s on the ground here. And so that was how we started thoughtful, the problem was very, very clearly laid out in the sky for us. But the question was, what is the best solution for it? And so without me, even knowing what design thinking processes were, because I had never heard of it before, right? I was not from a consulting background, not from the innovation background, very traditional finance, without realising that that’s always built in true formula of design, thinking from empathy all the way till the end, we did a lot of groundwork by first trying to see how we could validate a is the problem also being experienced by other people, and be what were some of the solutions that were needed immediately for all these people. And so we actually started off our business by providing mental health programmes. So you know, running Men’s Health workshops and things like that to corporates, because that was the lowest hanging fruit raising mental health literacy, we partnered with psychologist and my partner to build all of these. And so through that process, we actually got front and centre with all these people, we reach 1000s of people within just a short span of time of seven months. And we ran assessments for them for depression, anxiety, and stress, which are the most commonly experienced afflictions. And I would say, not surprisingly, but it was very alarming, we actually flagged one in three of these individuals for severe or extremely severe, and one or more categories of stress, anxiety, or depression. Now,

Ricky Willianto  8:44  
you know, these participants are talking about what is the demographic just so that people understand all about who you’ve talked to. And

Joan Low  8:51  
so all of these people were employees in huge corporations. So they’re high performing individuals, hopefully, like you and I, I assume we’re in that category. But these are employees of big mmcs. Some of them are students of universities, we also work with the government, the mo E to run programmes for students all around the state. And so this was something that was very alarming. And through that process of flagging these one in three, that’s when we started conceptualising, what the solutions might be and started iterating. From there, one thing we found out that was very interesting was that the traditional format of what tele medicine would be was not as effective as we would have liked. So what I mean by that was that, you know, if you just match them to a professional to the traditional mental health care system for traditional counselling, chances are your dropout rates will be very high, your no show rates will be very high. because number one, the stigma is still there for mental health. And number two, it is also not financially sustainable for people to do counselling all the time, especially for you know, the average wage worker out there. And so that’s really how thoughtful chats concept came about. Where to break the stigma, we allow people to sign up with a pseudo, they can discreetly sign up. And the professional does not need to know who is actually on there that gives them that confidentiality and that safe space to make sure that it’s also proactive and more consistent. That’s why we broke away from the traditional counselling model to give them that daily bite sized coaching and higher touch point kind of service model. And I think in terms of just financial sustainability as well, that’s why we’ve managed to bring down the pricing from you know, $200 an hour to $200 a month. And so I think that’s something that was very important to us. And we could only do it with digital and at scale. So that’s really how thoughtful kind of came about, and the entire journey was I would very bottoms up, and very organic.

Ricky Willianto  10:48  
So that’s great. I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of doing the actual legwork. Right? And for you What’s interesting is that you don’t even know how that is oftentimes that kind of the best practices that’s been prescribed right by most successful you know, startup entrepreneurs, right? start there, start talking to your customers empathise, look at the customer journey and figure out what’s wrong with it. So I think as a founder myself, sometimes you are also easily tempted into just going straight working on your ideal vision, right? So what makes you not go down that route? Especially like you’ve had a lot of experience dealing with this firsthand, right? So what made you fight that urge to just jump into the solutioning? Right away, rather than go and talk to 1000 people first before you start even doing anything tacky?

Joan Low  11:33  
Yeah, so I think this is probably where it did take some discipline, but it’s also the nature and the motivating factor of how it was why thoughtful is so I think if let’s say for example, thoughtful is a vehicle to jump on the bandwagon of mental healthcare, which is, you know, very hot right now. But I can tell you in 2018, it was not the case and to build the next unicorn. And that was the only objective then I think that that the willpower to restrain from prescribing the solution without actually understanding the true problems, the users and whether solution A B or C will work, you know, the willpower would not have been there, but because the intention behind powerful was one that was very authentic and driven from a very real place as a person who could empathise as well as their caregiver and being in the, I guess, mental health space for 20 years, I knew that I did not know the solution. And I knew that whatever solutions that we can find in places like the US, for example, might not work here in Asia, because mental health care, unlike any other therapeutic area in healthcare is more nuanced. There’s a lot of cultural and religious layers to it. There’s a lot of things that go into mental health care that are not black and white. And so I think, really, because the intention was to truly find a solution, the temptation to expedite the entire thing wasn’t as strong, right? Because good things don’t get built within a day.

Ricky Willianto  13:07  
Yeah, I like that you brought up a really interesting point, which is, there are already solutions in other markets, specifically the US that has done really, really well until today. And I think a lot of the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem, a lot of them are playing the copycat game, so they just kind of copy and reuse the formula that works in other markets. But I’m glad to hear that you’ve done the legwork and actually found something that works even better for the local market, because I do think the Asian context plays a big part into how you can develop the right solution. Right. So what I want to explore next is where you are at right now in terms of your business model, which I think is quite interesting, a b2b to see approach. So tell me how you started getting your first client because b2b space tech, mental health, you know, these are a very difficult intersection to get into, right? But let’s not even bring in like mental health and b2b tech, in general is quite hard to collect crack. So how have you been able to be successful in the past two, three years? And tell us about your first client? How do you manage to close that deal?

Joan Low  14:03  
We have to leave it a night, we closed our first corporate client even before the app was live. So that’s how crazy everything has been. So I think the beauty of actually doing homework and doing the groundwork, and we spent about, you know, nine months doing that before even deciding if it will be a health tech company, was the fact that we had built a very strong corporate pipeline already where the trust was built and where we definitely prove that we could deliver on some aspects of it already. I would like to say that Oh, it’s because thoughtful is so great. And you know, the team was fantastic. And that’s why we got the first client even before the product was live. But the reality of the situation is that it’s always a mixture of hard work, and also luck and timing. And so as we were already building thoughtful chat, and we were kind of running the PLC in simultaneous fashion to building the app itself, I think, as we were doing that and preparing for The pandemic hit. And so even though that fall was supposed to be launched later part of 2020, everything got accelerated because the whole world got turned upside down. And so this is where the luck and this is where the timing comes in, right. And we were already working with some clients before in a different capacity, you know, running workshops and things like that. And they already knew what we were doing. And we had the trust. And so we actually brought on AIA, who was our first client within three weeks, actually, from the time that we told them, we were about to launch this app to the time that we signed, everything took three weeks, it was truly a whirlwind, another three weeks later, the app actually went and then the rest is history. I mean, it was truly lucky that we were able to go to market with a client and not just any client, but one of the biggest insurers in Asia from the get go. And so I think that’s really how things kind of panned out. And from there, it’s a lot of referrals, word of mouth, do a good job with your first couple of clients, because those are going to be your biggest supporters and champions. And I truly believe that.

Ricky Willianto  16:04  
So tell us about this growth strategy that you’ve mentioned, you know, this is kind of like a magic word as well, right? for early stage startup, you do want to get that word of mouth, you know, marketing, you didn’t want to get that referral, right? How have you been able to tap into that into growing thoughtful? And how has that flow grown since you close your first client. So

Joan Low  16:21  
I think in terms of and this is where I’ll probably maybe just draw a bit of differences between BTC, which is a model that I think in Asian startup landscape we’re more familiar with, that’s been the game for majority of the time b2b, or b2b to see less so and b2b received health care even less so. Right? So I think for growth strategies, on the b2c side, there is a method to growth marketing, performance, marketing, paid market all of that. And I think that’s a formula that works very well for b2c. But when it comes to b2b, and you’re dealing with, I guess, kind of enterprise type scenarios, and really, it’s more sales heavy when it comes to b2b b2c. And so that’s why that first word of mouth is super important, I think, just in terms of the growth as well, this year with forex, our revenue, and only, you know, half year in and this is compared to last year, of course. So it’s been, it’s been a busy time. But But truly, truly grateful to also recognise that things have changed and have accelerated, not because of anything that we have done, but also because of the timing of everything, we couldn’t have planned a better time to go to market, it is truly needed in society, it’s truly needed in corporates, because people are burning out from a year and a half worth of pandemic, pandemic fatigue is real. And so it’s just been an exciting time for this space.

Ricky Willianto  17:48  
That’s great to hear. I was just watching YouTube video is a TEDx video of Bill Gross, who’s talking about the one driver of startup success. And you’re right, it’s actually timing of like the 100 plus ideas that he launched in your market, right? Like, the most successful ones are the ones that are most Well, time. And funding is even top three funding is like the second last one, or like the fourth of the fifth one. It’s quite interesting to see that. And that’s also kind of a segue for me to want to talk to you a little bit about funding, right? Because I knew you’ve done some amazing work in the initial days, bootstrapping the business, trying to find ways to finance yourself and your team before you had the product. Tell us about that journey. And why do you think that works? And what kind of business do you think should consider bootstrapping first and taking a bit of a bottoms up approach and put your head down and figure out the problem? You know, and how do you do it successfully?

Joan Low  18:39  
So it’s a bit of a controversial question, I guess, right? Because it’s a very bifurcated viewpoint, you have one school that believes that funding is a very important part of that formula, in terms of getting from zero to one. And then on the other hand, you have also the other school of thought, where if you’re going to raise money for the sake of raising money, you’re not going to build a real business, you’re going to build, you know, a powder keg, so to speak. And so I think, I can’t really prescribe or say, you know, what kind of industry or what kind of company should take the bottoms up approach, or should take the pathway that thoughtful did, but I would say it all boils down to what the founder envisions the pathway to be and also what this entire endeavour is for, and so to just speak on behalf of ourselves, because I can’t speak for other people. I think for me, it was very important to ensure that the groundwork was done properly. And I was happy to do it bootstrapping because it also takes away the as a founder, right, from a founder to a founder, Ricky you already know this. The moment you take someone’s money, there is pressure to perform certain things and sometimes those things might or might not be the best for the business. It might might not be the best for solving the problem you’re trying to solve. Because it gets more complicated, the matrix gets more complicated. And so that’s why in the early days, I was very happy to just bootstrap it and to make sure that we had that leeway, the non objective non bias leeway to find what was it the right solution for the problem. And it was only when I was very sure what we were going to build that we did our first race. So I think, yeah, that could be a pathway for some founders, but it’s definitely not for all.

Ricky Willianto  20:33  
Yeah, I think the reason why I like to talk about this with founders is because I feel like a lot of the mentality. And I think also the media right is affected the media as well, when it comes to like startup technology, you know, industry, I think, oftentimes raising fun to start with almost a default. And I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I think it depends, right? I’m gonna give you a very consulting answer, it depends. Because if people I say race for the sake of racing, and just to be featured on this tech media companies and use that as kind of like a claim to fame, it doesn’t do anything good for the startup, right? Because you’re not actually thinking about the problem correctly, you don’t have the right fundamentals. And I think it is very much against what business building is and what value creation is, in my opinion, because you’re just taking money and throw into things that you don’t know will work or not work. But there definitely some businesses that require that in upfront investment, but I’m just always trying to highlight You know, there’s this other pathway that is highly, highly feasible, very, very viable for founders to take without stressing about money in the beginning to start your business and figure things out first, before go and spend your energy on things that may not necessarily be your favourite thing to do in a world, right, which is fundraising.

Joan Low  21:43  
I think, on that point, if you don’t mind me jumping in two things came to mind. One of it is a something that one of my mentors told me when I was telling him about, you know, I think we need something like thoughtful chat, just based on all the findings and data that we’re gathering. And I have a lot of respect for him. He’s the founder of jobstreet, who, and he obviously exited the company for a good amount of money, right. And I’ve known Mark since I was a kid, but like, I’ve known him for a long time. And when I was telling him this, and he’s first generation tech founder, like he’s g one, you know, in the first tech bubble kind of era. And one of the things he said to me, which stuck to me was that john Money makes you stupid. And essentially, he told me that if you think that there is a solution that you want to try out that it might be tech enable of some sorts, I can bet you that you can find tools out there that will enable you to map out your entire product for free, and test it. And so I actually took that to heart. And I actually did that. And when people were paying us through pay now and Maybank to you and all of that. For our service. I was like, Okay, I think I think this is monetizable I know what I’m building now people are paying for it. And so I would always be very grateful for that kind of words of wisdom. But I think also the other thing that you brought up just now in terms of how do you know that this kind of pathway is for you, I think it’s also very important for companies to think about the positive and the negative impacts of what they do with their business. So because we are not an e commerce company, where the negative impact is a bad customer experience of getting a broken product, or maybe the product didn’t even come or the product was delayed, and you can kind of give them some credits, or you give them a replacement product, I cannot do that with mental health. My negative impact is that someone’s mental health will be affected, worst case scenario, it will deteriorate. And in the healthcare industry, I think one of the biggest golden rules of thumb is always do no harm. And so if you’re in the healthcare space, and you’re thinking about the hard and fast kind of growth model, I would really urge you to also map out not just the forward looking positive growth impacts that you will have, but also map out the potential negative impacts that you will have if your product does not work the first time the second time. And as you’re iterating. And what safety safeguards have you put in place to ensure that those are mitigated from the outset? So I really think it’s also industry dependent.

Ricky Willianto  24:22  
Yeah, they had a same conversation with another founder the other day, and he was saying the same thing, right? I think growth at all costs is not necessarily the best way of building businesses, if you care about sustainability of the planet, if you care about the positive or negative externalities that you might actually create from, you know, doing like one day shipping or like, you know, getting the price as low as possible, right. I mean, like, yes, people generally love that, but at what cost at what invisible costs, right to get that kind of value proposition, right. So I think totally with you when it comes to thinking more broadly about the impact and repercussions of you as a business like when you have accountability to your users, especially in healthcare. I think the impact could be life and death easily, right?

Joan Low  25:05  
We should be more thoughtful founders. Just putting it out.

Ricky Willianto  25:09  
Yeah, I can see now why you chose that company name. So I think what what is something that is interesting for me is to learn from founders as well on the growth principles, and also what has worked really well. And not from the perspective of just, you know, growing my top line or getting new clients, right. But also like, how have you grown your team? How have you grown your culture within your organisation? So how have you been able to do that successfully while you’re juggling, validating a new idea, you know, talking to new clients, and I’m sure you have a lot of our mental health professionals that you have to talk to. So how right, how do you make sure that you know, you are pulling on the right levers to also scale your team? Great

Joan Low  25:44  
question. Because I think one of our biggest challenge now as a one year old company, so I mean, we’re one year old, because really, the product has launched only one year ago last year is how do we grow fast enough? How do I scale myself fast enough? as a founder, how do I scale the existing team fast enough, hire new hires fast enough, without diluting the culture too much or maintaining the culture that we want, but I think those are ever present factors to consider. And to balance, it’s always kind of hanging in the balance at any one point. But again, I think when it comes to, so business is always going to be business and you know that the targets will always be there will always want more, right? Even if we hit the target will want more, even if we exceeded those targets, we’ll just set higher targets. So I think that is just the perennial question that will always be there. But how do we achieve that sustainably and also, without, you know, making too big a boo boo. And I think a lot of times when we only think about growth at all costs, and I’m not saying don’t think about growth at all costs. But if we only think about growth at all costs, I think that’s when sometimes not the best hires will happen, some of the decisions maybe not as thoughtfully made as it could be. And I think also in terms of scaling ourselves. One thing that I’ve been speaking with some of the investors is the fact that coaching, for example, is very common in the US coaching or therapy for founders, for startup employees, for just anyone in general, but particularly for founders, because if we cannot scale faster, then we’ll have the business is scaling, then that’s when things start breaking apart, including the founder. And so I think I’m very proactive about it. So some of the things that we’re doing, for example, which might not be very common, but very much in line with our DNA. I myself proactively engaged with my mental health all the time, I have my own therapist, I also do coaching and you know, it’s all about understanding yourself so that you can always reinvent, grow, extend, stretch without overstretching or overextending and burning out. So I myself do it to set an example for my entire team, we highly encourage my entire team to also do coaching proactively if they need because everyone’s always, you know, breaking new ground right there. Everyone’s not in their comfort zone, we’re always pushing the boundaries, and we want to make sure that we’re well set up to do so. And I think that’s something that I hope will become the norm here in Asia. And I’m very open to speaking to anyone who might be interested about doing it because it’s important. Absolutely.

Ricky Willianto  28:29  
Yeah, I think finding that balance is important. And I think when we talk about growth and personal learning and development, a lot of people forget that. Sometimes you do need to slow down. And it’s not just about cramming new things and trying to do new things that is like tangible, in a sense, right? Like but you also need to think about like, you know, things that are a little bit more intangible, like how you self actualize? What is your purpose? What are your deepest fears, your mental health? What worries you? I think that’s something that people don’t invest as much in, especially in Asia, I think people just don’t talk about it as much, right?

Joan Low  28:59  
Absolutely. And decision making, for example, is really a combination of your fears and your strengths together, which drives you to make certain decisions and behaviour a certain way. And I think when we don’t understand our own levers enough, and what drives us, they will never understand why we made certain decisions, and you know, how we got to those good or bad outcomes in the first place?

Ricky Willianto  29:23  
Yeah, I think that’s good to hear that that’s the first thing that you emphasise when you talk about personal development and growth and also your team development and growth, right? I’d like to understand a little bit as well how you’ve been able to grow yourself a more, I guess, traditional sense, like, you know, as an entrepreneur, right? Because you come from banking, finance background, and you’ve gone into mental health. First of all, it’s a different industry. Now you’re working on tech. So again, something completely new for you, right? How have you been able to keep up with the growth of your company, and also keep up with what’s going on in the industry and make sure that you are up to speed and you’re able to execute at the level that you need to?

Joan Low  29:56  
I think I’ve always for some reason, I’m like, I don’t know if it’s called a masochist. Or if this is a pattern that I’m starting to see for myself, but I realised I’ve always done silly things like this, go jump ahead first into the deep end of things that I’ve never done before, and then figure it out and kind of come out on the other end, right. I mean, I did it with with French, you know, learning completely the new language and then moving to France and learning alongside local students doing all the exams in French and working in that environment. And then, you know, kind of figuring it out. I did it also with my job in Hong Kong. I didn’t study finance. Fun fact, I do not have a major in finance. I studied political science and development economics. And, by the way, and spent most of my college life, you know, where you end up here, immersing myself in languages and parties. But then I ended up in the biggest, literally the biggest Wall Street for finance. And I think the other thing as well was I didn’t speak any Cantonese, except for ordering chicken rice and asking my grandmother how she is but decided to also somehow move to Hong Kong to work on the Hong Kong team covering Hong Kong markets. And again, same thing literally learn Cantonese on the fly, the first eight months was probably harder than it should have been. But you know, it was a transitional period and finance as well learned it on the fly. And now again, I’m doing it for some reason

Ricky Willianto  31:24  
is the advice is to jump both feet in and figure things out and really commit to something and try to do it as well as again,

Unknown Speaker  31:31  
I think the advice and I don’t know how this will pan out, because you know, we’re in Asia, and particularly Singapore, with the education system and everything. But I think it’s something that I’ve probably picked up a bit more from going to a liberal arts school and going to a school like a united world college, right where they don’t really teach you the rote memorization route. They teach you how to learn, they teach you understand where the dots are, and then connect those dots in different ways. And so I think that’s something that I’ve always inherently done, whether I realised it or not, but it’s more stark today, because it’s completely different things right, from finance, to mental health, and detect, which are all things I’ve never done before, but the process of learning is the same. And so I think one thing, if anyone is crazy enough to kind of do the same thing, and is thinking of making a big jump into things they’ve never done before.

Ricky Willianto  32:21  
By learning French is it is that advice.

Joan Low  32:23  
Oh, it’s Oh, it’s huge. Franco felt like everything ends up with go learn French, but no, but but more on a serious note, I think learning how to learn is having the discipline to find the right people and surround yourself with those people who will be able to impart that knowledge and to also share experience. I think that’s definitely very important. The other thing as well is just, I mean, like all analysts in finance will tell you, right, just put in the hours and the work. So really reading up about anything and everything. I could get my hands on podcast, research papers that were more medical than I could ever hope for. I was like, Okay, this is definitely going into a different realm. Yeah. And also trusting that you will be able to learn along the way we will never know everything a tizzy ever, I think knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge is always going to be ongoing. But to be comfortable with that, and to just have that process for learning. I think it’s more important.

Ricky Willianto  33:20  
That’s awesome. I think that’s definitely one of the biggest things that I have to learn along the way as well, which is, how do I refine my learning skills? How do I actually pick things up in more effective way, because as your company grows, you, you have to grow, you really can’t stop learning new things, I’m sure is the same for you. You hire a new person who suddenly takes over your job, let’s say someone who’s an officer taking suddenly, like all the ops work that you used to do, and suddenly you’re left with all this time to figure out okay, what do I do now this person is doing that bit of work better than me, you know, there’s very little value you can add there right now. Right? You have to figure out what’s the next, you know, problem to solve in the organisation in the company. Right? So definitely a good advice. Okay, we’ve spoken for close to 45 minutes, so I’m just gonna close it with our quickfire round. Are you ready? Sure. As ready as I’ll ever be. Cool, cool. So the first question I have is, what is the one metric that you care most about right now for thoughtful revenue? What is your favourite software to help you or your company grow? Oh, we have so many, obviously telegram. I thought they’re gonna say thoughtful,

Joan Low  34:23  
thoughtful as well. But I don’t know if it’s a software more than an app really,

Ricky Willianto  34:28  
we will edit it out and say thoughtful. What is your favourite growth strategy that you’ve tried and that you think that is sustainable is good works for you

Joan Low  34:37  
do a good job from the first time and then everything, especially in the enterprise space, the power of word of mouth is so much stronger than it is or rather so much more important than it is in the b2c market, just because of how the industry works. And that’s what I mean right when we say growth strategy, yes. Have your lead generation machine Have your sales people jump on those first calls and all of that, but if you land that client and with b2b b2c, I mean, these are multi year clients, right? If you don’t do a good job from the outset, you’re never going to get a client again. Yeah,

Ricky Willianto  35:16  
good advice. What’s your favourite go to resources for growth can be a book, newsletter, website, podcasts, etc.

Joan Low  35:23  
Honestly, for personal growth, I would say my therapists, I’ve never learned so much about not just myself, actually. But all the processes and the day to day and how I approach things, as I have with my therapist, I think that’s probably one of the biggest things for growth for myself. The other thing for growth, for just learning new things to keep up to date with your industry with also the growth of the company and all of that, I would say, again, find all those major publications that you need to be subscribed to subscribe to them. Sometimes I listen to podcasts when I run, but for me, it always boils down to people actually mentor or what do you mean, I make networking a part of my routine? And I think it’s because I learned the most from people’s experiences. And of course, you know, for the people that you cannot have a networking chat with, then podcasts and interviews is the next thing to go into.

Ricky Willianto  36:16  
The last one is Who are some of your growth role models in Asia? And if not in Asia, then you know, anywhere in the world?

Joan Low  36:22  
Hmm, that’s a good one. In Asia. When you say growth, what do you mean?

Ricky Willianto  36:28  
Someone who inspire you who has done a good job growing themselves growing their company growing the startup that I guess, not that you aspire to be, but really inspire you?

Joan Low  36:37  
There are a couple unfortunately, in my space, there’s actually less female founders than I would like to have as role models. And I hope that with our generation, we can change that. But I do really look up to Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. I think she is true and true. A business builder, you know, back when the whole startup game might not even have been a thing. But she managed to build a multi billion dollar company with her own hands out of her apartment. I have a lot of respect for that. In terms of the actual startup ecosystem off today. I can’t think of any

Ricky Willianto  37:10  
hopefully, you’ll be the first one to inspire people in Asia. What else? Right. Yeah.

Joan Low 37:20  
I mean, I can only hope to do a good job. And then hopefully, there will be lessons to impart from there. Yeah, great.

Ricky Willianto  37:27  
I also really liked Sara Blakely, mainly because you were talking about her a lot to me. I finally subscribed to master class because of you. And I watched the entire series like in one go, which is really good. She’s She’s amazing. Yeah. Okay. Last question is, what is the best way for people to reach out to you? Right, and what kind of people do you want reaching out? Yeah,

Joan Low  37:47  
sure. I think I’m in general, very approachable person. I always love to have a thoughtful chat, you can find me on LinkedIn under Joan Low. you can also reach out to my email if you’d like Actually, it’s on LinkedIn, so you can find it there. So just find me on LinkedIn. And if you want to learn more about thoughtful do follow us on our social media accounts. It’s at athoughtfullworld on Instagram and Facebook, that’s thoughtful with two L’s, by the way, just because we wanted to be cute with it. And our website is, I am open to speaking to honestly at different profiles, or if you’re an employer who is looking to implement mental programmes and solutions for your company do reach out at any time happy to walk you through that process. I know it’s a very new thing in Asia steel. So always happy to go through that learning journey with you. If anyone wants to collaborate in terms of research in terms of also for your organisation, or partnerships for direct to consumer. Of course, you know, you can always reach out anytime we’re always open to collaboration. I think the more players who are advocating for mental health, the better it is for society. And I think on a more personal level, I truly believe in mentorship. I have a lot of mentors in my life. And if you know you’re someone who thinks that would benefit from connecting in that angle, I am always open and I’ll try and make myself available.

Ricky Willianto  39:12  
That’s awesome. Hey, john, thank you so much for making the time today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Joan Low  39:17  
Thanks, Ricky. It’s been wonderful.

Ricky Willianto  39:20  
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. Check out other episodes to hear more growth stories and hacks from experts who have been there. You can find our show on iTunes, Spotify, or via our website See you next time.

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About Growth Multiplier

The pursuit of growth is never-ending for any business – from a small startup all the way to a large global corporation. The Growth Multiplier podcast examines pathways, strategies, and hacks companies have explored and tested in their efforts to scale up their businesses. 

In each episode, host Ricky Willianto – co-founder of Ravenry – speaks with CEO’s, growth hackers, product managers, and marketers all around Asia to find nuggets of wisdom and insights from their journey multiplying growth. 

Ricky and his guests discuss viral marketing, community building, pricing strategies, channel development, and also company culture and people. Growth Multiplier explores not only replicable successes, but also phenomenal failures that we all can learn from.

Growth Multiplier is produced by the team behind Ravenry.

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