The Creepy Executive

Subtitle: A Colossal Waste of Time or Why being a female founder sucks (part 1 of many)

Last fall, I was contacted by a “talent scout” on behalf of a high-profile media executive. According to the scout, said executive, who had an illustrious career in the entertainment and media industries, was brewing new ideas which could provide for some interesting collaborations with ZAOZAO. Rather than resting on his laurels and retiring comfortably, this former CEO was leading new ventures particularly in the US/Asia cross-border realm, and had identified me as an influencer who could potentially add value with my experience. I googled him to confirm he actually existed – a New York Times article from the 90’s, check.

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That Oriental Stuff: Who Cares?


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Recently, team ZAO presented at a “shark tank inspired” demo night. For those unfamiliar with the reality TV show, it features business pitches by entrepreneurs to a panel of investors (“sharks”). Our version included a panel of New York City based VCs and a live audience of 200 with rolling cameras. Despite what was meant as a pressure test during the Q&A, Ling and I emerged relatively unscathed. We did receive one question that we’ve never had to address before, and I am going to expound on it here in greater detail in case others have been wondering the same.

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Thoughts before the grand unveiling

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Hoorah! The day has come! In less than 8 hours, the fruits of our labor will finally be unveiled to the world.

So, why the re-launch? It just occurred to me that while we’ve done this schpiel a million times to investors, we haven’t really gone into much detail about it to anyone else unless they’ve asked.  Well, here goes. For what it’s worth here, the important thing to note is that fundamentally we haven’t changed our positioning, as purveyors of emerging design from Asia. Beyond “just” an e-commerce site that sells pretty things from the mystical Orient to the curious American or European customer, ZAOZAO now incorporates an added layer of storytelling via mixed media – mainly videos – to explore Asia in all its glory. The new ZAOZAO is a travel-inspired marketplace to discover exotic independent designs.

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Flying Through Fear

Ziplined my paralyzing fear or heights away today at the Sky Trek in Arenal, Costa Rica.

Ziplined my paralyzing fear of heights away today. 8 times. Non-stop.

Sitting in an open air gondola, I tried to stifle my tears and regulate my breathing. I was about to zipline for the first time, down 8 back-to-back circuits of varying lengths and altitudes. For someone deathly afraid of heights, I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for an adventure tour meant for adrenaline junkies. As my mind oscillated between fear and paranoia, I tried to calm myself by staring dumbly around me: trees, birds, overly ecstatic pre-pubescent boy, more trees, blue sky, carefree octogenarian couple. Wait, what? How was it that I was stupidly worried about being suspended in air and plummeting to my death, while they were clearly living la vida loca?

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Imagining the Pink Elephant

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Once in a while, I’ll try to re-visit something I’ve failed at in the past, especially if it’s something that’s supposed to be good for me. Most recently, that something was meditation. Having trained as a barista for the Kadampa Meditation Center café in Hong Kong a few years ago, imagine my pleasant surprise when I learned of a KMC right here in Manhattan. According to the internets, Kadampa is a tradition that encourages people to apply Buddha’s teachings using a practical method, channeling daily activities into a path of enlightenment. Sounds pretty simple, right? But akin to mastering a sport, understanding the theory behind how something should work doesn’t automatically bequeath unto you the skills to execute that play.  Those assignments for religion class at Harvard Divinity School, where I deconstructed the esoteric texts of Vimalakirti, analyzed purposeful cultivation of passion, and mastered the “mastery of the non-self”… did squat for my meditation skills.  Coming from a family of pretty intense Buddhists – my aunts have been profiled by Tzu Chi, and a distinct childhood memory I recall from visiting Taiwan is being slapped on the hand by a bald woman for not finishing a banana the monastery cafeteria had served for lunch – I am regularly urged by my parents to try it out, mostly because they are worried about me losing my mind (NB: that may or may not have already happened).

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Take me back to California

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And we’re back from a busy week of investor meetings, pitching, and conference-attending in the ever gilded (or should I say siliconized? ok, bad pun, starting off strong…) Valley. A list below to collect my thoughts:

1. Consistent with the hullaballoo, this IS startup central. Nearly a year ago, during the game-changer trip that got us to this point today, I came here for the first time in the context of being a startup founder. The original plan was to spend some time in the Valley, osmos-ify the energy/talent vibes, and go back to Hong Kong stronger & better (harder, faster)…but all the tech people I connected with unanimously advised posting up in New York “for the fashion”. So obviously we figured our shit out and did just that – no regrets. But going back to San Francisco, this time with a fresh pair of eyes, made me re-think not fighting more to spend time here. Maybe not initially, but it has become abundantly clear that there is value in being in this scene if you are doing something relevant to tech. Plus, I do like me some Philz and flannel…

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