Cindy Mi and Qi Lu Share Advice for Entrepreneurs Building Global Companies | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Cindy Mi and Qi Lu Share Advice for Entrepreneurs Building Global Companies".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Qi's intro (00:00)

Hi everyone, my name is Chi Lu. I'm a partner at the Y Combinator. I'm also working on YC China. Today, I'm very, very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Cindy Mee, the founder and CEO of VIBKit. As many of the YC community in the US or China know, VIBKit has been a tremendous entrepreneurship success and has seen the credit to your success you more and more become a role model for many entrepreneurs.

Cindy'S Journey & Insights On Vipkid

Cindy's intro (00:15)

Today, I have the opportunity, I want to go through the list of questions. Hopefully, we can share a lot of your insights what learning you had over the years. That can prove to be very valuable for many other young generation entrepreneurs. So let me start with sort of your early phase upbringing, because as we look at the many entrepreneurs, motivation, passion, long-term drive about something, is often a key success factor. Can you share with, when you grew up, in particular, what was like when you had to move, I believe it was at the age of 14, I believe, moving to different province and start new school? What was the experience like and how that impacted you?

Moving to a new province as a teenager (01:15)

- Sure, absolutely. Firstly, I'd like to start by thanking UT for doing this interview and then congratulations also on funding and launching YC China. - Thank you very much, appreciate it. - This is really exciting for many young entrepreneurs and tech people, because you are the role model for everyone for connecting the world and making it a better place and making these companies global from day one. So thank you so much for being here. - Absolutely, absolutely. - And I'm really looking forward to our discussion. So to your question on the story of my upbringing and growing up, I was born in a little bit. - Little bit, actually. - So it was a John D'Aco city, where all the big games will be held. And the reason I believed so much in lifelong learning is because I moved from John D'Aco to Harbin, in Hilo-Jang province when I was 40 years old. And in my math class, my teacher hated me and she thought I was the most stupid student on the planet. And she just doesn't believe that I can learn. So I lost confidence in learning when I was a little kid and I thought school probably is not the right place for me and I should leave. So I dropped out of high school when I was in the 11th grade. But nevertheless, I was very lucky because I started tutoring young kids English when I was 15 years old, part-time. So teaching has been my passion and learning has been the motivation that drives me all these years. And then through teaching young kids, I learned that every child is so curious and we should help them build. The connection to the world of the best teachers and content and learning experience and then they can imagine and explore. And then through the experience of being an English tutor, I figured learning is also so important for the tutor or teacher herself because if only if you learn more, you can then teach better and then creates this lifelong learning mission for all the kids so that they can learn better. - That was very interesting. So what you shared was sort of the early phase of experience motivated also shaped the spirit for you to become a educator in many ways to promote learning. But the interesting aspect for me is learning and English and also learning, blend was entrepreneurial, entrepreneurialism. So can you also tell us more about that aspect? For example, I believe you start learning English when you were 13 and you mentioned you start tutoring other kids English when you were around 15.

Being an educator and an entrepreneur (04:15)

And there's another very interesting aspect. You actually co-founded an English training school when you were at 17 with your uncle, believe it or not, with your uncle. So tell us more about that and how those sort of blend together shape up sort of instilled spirit in you as an educator and also a entrepreneur. - Sure, absolutely. So when we moved to Beijing it was a very linked startup experience. We rented one classroom in the middle of nowhere now today by the third room room. But then it was a very rural area in the city. So we went and find students by the elementary school that they go to and then sent flyers to their parents and then say, "Hey, comment and learn with us "and you don't have to pay, you get a gift "and if you like it, you can say "and continue to learn with us." And then the lessons that I learned from those early days is very important because it helps really build up the understanding of the students, the parents. And then to be a entrepreneur or to fund a business, I think there are so many things one needs to do well. For example, how do we hire the right people? How do we make sure we have the best culture? How do we build our customer base one by one and make sure everyone is happy and successful? So I was the chief errand officer by then. - You're only all the errands, right? - You're only all the errands. - The chief errand office. - So I was driving hard. I need to pick up the other teachers from like 20 kilometers away in Tungjong and then when everyone goes too bad, I need to continue to learn more and then to prepare for the next day. So by running all the errands, I think it just taught me so many things. But then by being so close to the customers, namely our students, I got the privilege to understand much more on what every child want and what every parent want. So I think those understanding really shaped the way that what I think about learning or education and then when I got the chance to build the second business of VIP kid business, I then really understand and appreciate way more on how difficult it is to build something from the scratch and then what are the mistakes not to make and how to do better. - That was a terrific set of experience you went through running all the errands, the learning about the students, what they need, also the parents because education in many ways, the users are not the buyers. The buyers actually what pays is the parents. So understanding both students and parents are super important. But why you just touch about, so naturally let me switch to the next to keep several area of topic. I'm gonna go through seeing the additional questions about how you start VIP kid, your second business. And initially, why you saw the opportunity that many others perhaps at the same time didn't see in particular English learning market when you started was already very competitive market. There's a lot of players in that space. In China, a lot of people will always say it's hyper competitive, very, very aggressive. What you see as a unique opportunity that you latch onto, and how you convince yourself and your teams that you can win in this very hyper competitive environment.

Starting VIPKid in a hyper-competitive market (08:00)

- Right, that's a great question. So when we started VIP kid back in 2013, the market was competitive. The market size is about 15 billion US dollars, parents spending every year. And then Chinese parents value education as investments. So from around 15% of our household income goes to supplemental education. - Or 15% for household, oh, obviously. - Compared to 2% in the US. - That's in some ways the culture and the traditional for the channel specific. Because it is absolutely to the Chinese parents value education and the willing to invest. That's great to know. So it's 15% of household income they are willing to spend. - This is 2% in the United States. - That's terrific. - Yeah, yeah. - And then although it's a competitive market, but there are still a lot of pain points yet to be solved for the parents. So how to win the pain points that I see from by then 15 years of being the classroom and being close to the students and parents are a few. One is we don't really have good English teachers that are out of China today. So there are only 27,000 North American teachers national life. And the number is so little compared to our vast number of students. There are 17 million new babies born every year. And there's about a million elementary school kids only in Beijing. And today VIP kid has more than 60,000 teachers. It's almost three times of the supply. So supply has been a huge challenge. And you know, what parents want is a good teacher. And I think a teacher can make or break her students learning curiosity and sparks that life on learning spirit. So it's really critical to have the best teachers. And then even if the teachers are in China, it's mostly very young, like people spending a couple of years in China. They're not really teachers. So the teachers we're able to find are the best kids health like educators in the US coming from all different states, Texas is our largest teachers. - I see, I see. - We really love our teachers and they're the reason that we're successful I think. So teachers supply. Secondly is the content of learning. Students are still learning curriculum from many, many years ago. And it stays unchanged. But we have technology like all those paths and mobile devices for children. It's much more engaging if they're able to explore. And for example, read the online learning library and they have the content to get access to instead of just a whole set of book. So the content has also been a challenge in the traditional service providing that parents can get access to. And lastly, talking about language learning, if one can spend 15 minutes a day to learn the language, it's much more effective than 15 minutes time seven, putting to a two hour weekend class. Because more frequency helps memorizing better and utilizing the language in a much more effective way as a tool. So those are the pain points that parents feel in terms of quality. And lastly, parents today are so tired of bringing their children to children classes in the weekend. It's a more challenging job than their day job. They have no free time of their own. So parents would prefer if children can learn from home and they can probably do yoga at the same time. So all these pain points, we've been rethinking how can we re-imagine children's English language learning? So we can bring more value to the kids probably 10 times better. So that's why VIP kids launched by the idea that we want to find the best teachers, build this global classroom where we connect cultures and sparks the life and learning spirit for the kids. So the product itself by what parents believed in and word comment on is at least five times better if not 10 times compared to existing product and services. - This is terrific. So let me summarize a few key things that I move to next questions sort of right, connect to what you're describing. Essentially, you saw your own experience. You identify a subtle opportunity uniquely inside. One is demand, essentially particularly the Chinese parents, the China's traditional value learning education and willing to spend, that's the demand is there and it's growing. The second is you identify opportunity, essentially to use the internet to expand supply because without the internet, you actually set up teachers in the United States won't be necessarily become a supplier, but technology enables you to have that unique insight to say, I can bring a lot more supply in another different product. So second, a very big insight. So there is sort of the content and devices that are available can be more engaging. And the force is the product form. You sort of tune to the language in any itself, moving to a smaller set of chunks, make it much easier as you said, five times better than the alternative form. So that's terrific sort of insight that you identified. And then my question to use almost every start the founders will grapple with, which is the classic product market fit. Essentially, you identify a market already. You see the supply and demand, you have the opportunity to bring them together. But ultimately, you still have a product that fits the market demand. You already elaborate quite a bit about the some aspect of product, content, device, short duration, continuous learning, life learning. But in the early days of VIBKit as a founder, I'm curious, do you have a set of measurement metrics or key success factors that you keep measuring, comparing and say, this will help me to find the product market fit and keep improving the product along those metrics.

Metrics for measuring product market fit (14:30)

And then when do you feel like I already find it? This is the product's gonna wait. So help us sort of walk through this. I think that would be super helpful for a lot of founders that are sort of initially starting going through this phase. And they try to learn what the insight you can share with them on how to find the product market fit. - Absolutely, it took us a year and a half to a year and a half. - A year and a half, yeah. - That product market fit. It's a very long time. - Yeah. - We had a few metrics that are still very important to us today. - What kind of metrics? - So those are like efficiency and effectiveness and engagement of our students. And that's essentially what believed to be the user value of the product we created. So for efficacy, we would be measuring students units, assessments, scores. - I see. - So we would just-- - Test scores, test scores, right? - Yes, okay. So those are evaluations conducted by our teachers, livestreaming. - I see. - And also the practice. - I'm curious, are these standard, like what sort of tests are similar to schools, how they're testing English? Or you invent something different? - So similar to schools, but we do build our curriculum content based on our scope and sequence. - Okay. - And the knowledge that we need students to learn and the skills we need to master. So based on those scope and sequence, we've developed our content. So it's really critical for us to go back and then check and then see, well, how does she learn? How does the student learn? - I see. - And then is everything very efficacious. So it's really important to have that. And secondly, on the effectiveness, we would then be measuring of all the time that is consumed on the platform, how much progress has the child made. And then lastly, on engagement, how well is the student reaching the class and what are the feedback from the parents? And does he keep coming back and take classes every week? And then does the parent refer our program to other parents? What is NPS score? So those are the very basic and fundamental matrix that we look at and when we evaluate the product market fit. So by the first year and a half, what we did was a few steps. One is we started with actually four students. - I see. - Because we can't now find the fifth. - I see just the four students. - Four the fifth students. - Yeah, so that's an MVP, right? That's the mobile product, yeah. - And Sanovation Ventures, Dr. Kfeudee. - Oh, they founded it. - They had to help us find the first three. - I see. - I see. - They found three, you found another one. - One, only one. And that one was a friend of my co-founder, Jesse's kid. So it was Lucy, Theo, Crystal and Lovely. - I see. - It's very hard to persuade even before to start to learn with the program. But then later on, gradually every month, we would have additional 10 students. So it makes it almost 200 by March 2015. And then throughout this whole experience, we've iterated our content and technology platform a couple of few times already. - I see. - Because it's critical to, we only had limited resources as all the, like every entrepreneur in the very early days. Start up teams. And so we had a handful of like in content developers in the handful of engineers. So where we'd spend those resources matter the most. And then by iterating three times, three versions of our content, and two versions of our online learning platform, we found the most important tools were the ways that we need to build for our students. And similarly, on the teacher side, we also make sure that our teachers are happy with the schedule. They find a community to teach, they have the essential tools that they need, and they have the content that is very well designed by our team. So it's also a part of market fit for the supply as well. - You have to do both sides, because you're a marketplace. - Right, we are a double-side marketplace. We have to do, but I think we have more responsibilities than double-side marketplace. We need to guarantee the quality of the whole experience for both students and teachers, and their success are what we believe to be the most important. So by piloting the program with 20 teachers and 200 students in the first year and a half, when everyone was like 2014, it was the year where everyone celebrates entrepreneurship and grow like funding the company every day, we chose to really lock ourselves in a little room and figure out all these fundamental challenges and important part of market fit questions. - Terrific. So there's a lot of things, I will actually have a couple of follow-up questions based on what you described. But, Cindy, what you shared is, in many ways, sort of why she also advocates for, essentially, it's always about build something users or customer want. Can be a very humble beginning. In your case, four kids, essentially four kids, and you start teaching, but once you find the right fit, it will grow, right? So at some point from what you described, sort of the key markers of initial milestone will be 20 teachers, 200 students, and you have two iterations of platform, three iteration content, that in many ways showcase you find something. I think this is a terrific story, it's motivating for many other startups. Don't be sort of discouraged, I want to have only one user, two users. Any big enterprise, they all start with small. In your case, it's just a terrific, you start with a humble beginning. Sanovish eventually give you three students, you'll find another one, that's awesome story. So when I will have two related questions, I think, sort of, classic for a lot of founders to go through. One is the business model, the revenue models, because ultimately, we operate in the market, you need to make business wise, does income, otherwise, you won't sustain. So how to, essentially, get to the point to where, by the key segment of people, which is the parents, I assume this is the case, they are willing to say, okay, this is something good, my kids are learning good stuff, I'm willing to pay for.

How did she find the business model? (21:20)

How do you sort of find the business model? And making sure that this business model is viable, and it can provide a sustained, growth for an enterprise. So can you share with the aspects of experience, on the business development side? - Yeah, so for business model, we believe that it's essential to bring value to both sides of the market, the students and parents and the teachers. So for the students and parents, the value in the business model is we have lowered significantly the one-on-one learning experience, the cost for the parents by more than 50%. - 50% of the house production. - So parents used to pay about 600 R&B, worth less than 100 US dollar to find a one-on-one teacher. And as we talk about, they're only 27,000, so go like finding one, it's very difficult, it can. And then it's literally impossible also to find a teacher and have her come to your house every day for half an hour, because the commute will be two hours for that half hour class and you've got to pay for it. So essentially parents find it, if they only pay for a small class tuition, for one-on-one experience, they have multiple times of value created, and also on top of that, 50 to 60% less than they had to pay for one-on-one offline. So they're paying about like $40 per hour of the one-on-one learning experience. So it's great, and the teacher are really amazing. They're five times better than what they can find in China. So if you multiply those values, you probably see 10 times more. The value created for our parents and students, and also children, we love it, because previously they cannot find, you can never choose your teacher. You can only go to a training like an institute and there is a teacher for you, you sign up, you learn. And now it's very personalized. We can compare the most suitable, engaging and motivating teacher for this child out of our 60,000 teacher books. So all these are value created for students' parents. And for teachers, similarly, if you look up on, you then find teachers get paid 16 US dollars per hour of their tutoring services. And then you got to commute as well, half an hour, one way, two hours, you get paid 16 on average. Of course, not in New York or San Francisco, where parents pay tutoring a lot of money for for SSATs but generally we're talking about like the few million K-12 teachers and English language teachers, national whites in the US, World Canada. So the value for teachers then is they are willing to teach a global student audience, but unless they move to China or Asia or Japan, they can't do this. And also teachers, many of teachers are female. And then when they have children, they become stay-home moms for a few years. That's a really great, the teachers are doing this for the family, but at the same time, teachers need to supplement families' income. And if you are in Salt Lake City, in Utah, what are the options as a teacher to make those supplemental incomes? So then the advocate brings value to our teachers in a way that we pay our teachers about 20 US dollar per an hour, we make sure they don't have to commute, they can't even stay home and teach in the early morning and then spend the whole day with a kid, with a family. So we have a very, very strong teacher community, teachers are connected with each other online. You see the 30,000 V YouTube videos that teacher created in the Facebook community, we have teacher conferences. So all these value add we put together our value created for our teachers. So we want to make sure that we're here to facilitate the communication, the culture connection, the learning, and everyone is successful. And there becomes the V advocate business model. - Gotcha, gotcha. It's terrific. So essentially fundamentally we focus on real value creation on both sides. And then economic model becomes very natural and sustainable. So I have related to questions, which is a lot of startups always need to be focused on which is you mentioned iteration because ultimately to build that long-term successful business, there will be things you have to try and curious to, you are learning what sort of iteration you mentioned, iteration on content, iteration on platforms, what sort of things you tried that didn't work, sort of the senior learnings. Often you learn a lot more by trying something, didn't work. And then you capture the learning, move on to a new self-expand.

What things did she try that didn't work? (26:30)

Are there's important learning lesson you can share with the other startups, funders? - I've got two lessons that I learned that are very deep memory for me. So one is we try to build too much for the technology platform when we started from there. - It's a common mistake for our companies. - You would always imagine, well this would be perfect. - Yeah, yeah. - And that and that. And then you're the blueprint that is so impressive to everyone. But then we need to, we need to, we have to understand there are limited resources. So we did spend like three months trying to build this in the second half year of 2014. But then we found it did didn't work. We should focus on what's most needed and then we reorganized our resources. We were able to launch something formally March 2015. Otherwise we'll probably won't be able to launch anything like that. And the funny fact is that of the blueprint we built by then four years ago, some of the work we haven't even finished today. So it's not a three month job. It's a probably 10 year job that we've blueprinted. And second thing was we were not ready for growth. But one of the key opinion leaders, one of the student parents, she owns a Weibo blog. - Absolutely. - And she posted. - But it's called the Big Weep. - Right, the Big Weep. And she posted on Weibo. So about 2000 parents sign up for the day and we took her three months to call them back. So we probably should be thinking about, oh, we've been building the product market fit. It takes a long time. But what if in the middle of the timeline, something exploded and then you've got to be ready for this? But because it's negative customer satisfaction if they didn't get respond along the way. So the solution we had was everyone becomes a customer service person. And our engineers really hated it when they are asking for lots of different-- - But that's really, really good. They did that. That's terrific. - Yeah, yeah. - But our engineers said, I didn't want to talk to people. That's why I become an engineer. - Oh my god. - Why do I have to call parents? It's really difficult. So we did manage to make sure 2000 customers get a dress and responded and connected in the time span of three months. But there were a lot of unsatisfactory voice. People say, are you guys for real? Where are you? Nobody's calling me. What's wrong with you? - Yeah, yeah. That's also learning. So now let me sort of move one step up. Obviously, looking back, you had a sort of early beginning. Now it's very clear. Lipkit is going through tremendous growth. Just walking upstairs this morning, going through our building, it's very impressive. Now you have a building, almost 10,000 employees with massive cyber-gloses. At the core, it's always about product. My understanding is your product recently goes through a lot of expansion. For example, you are getting into mentoring learning and essentially moving from English to another language. In some ways, the market sort of reversed. The learner will be in North America. The teacher will be in China. It's a swap, if you want, than the original product. And also, you have expanded your English learning product from sort of the classic one-on-one into one-on-four. And you also expand the range of students from all the way from sort of zero, I would imagine a zero young kid's learning to 18 years old. How you envision how you sort of strategize, pick these product expansions and how those new product initiations, initiatives, come together to catalyze the next phase of growth for VBK.

Strategy for product expansion (30:15)

Right. So the theme of all these product services we built are a common theme. It is to build a global classroom. Global classroom, okay. That is shared by many, many teachers and students. That's the entire everything. Right, with amazing contents that is personalized and also connect cultures and in-sparks, this lifelong learning for everyone. So then comes the one-on-one VBK. And then we have a CVC, our one-on-many one-on-four model. And then we have Mandarin learning and all the other critical sets. So we follow the demands of the parents and students we work with. And we believe that by building this global classroom, we then had a great chance to personalize learning for the kids with data technology. And also my dream goal as a tutor or teacher myself is to empower our teachers better by building more intelligent tools and assistance functions so that our teachers job can become much easier in the days to come. I see. And they can make more income and then be happier. Gotcha. So this is super helpful. It's essentially there's a cohesive thing of global massively expanding classroom that's personalized and technology and data can enable both sides. Learn not to learn better the teachers to be able to teach better. So in that context, content always seem to play an important role. My understanding is VBK is also a launched set of initiative to expand the content. For example, you had a recent partnership with, I believe, Scholastic, including sort of premier content like Harry Potter's and also with Halton Miffling, Harcourt, and Oxford University. And we created these sort of English content. And then speaking of mental learning, why do you think it would be sort of the marquee catalyst Chinese content that can help the mental learning? So I'm curious to see how you envision the content aspects of expanding of your product portfolios.

Content expansion for Mandarin learning (32:40)

Right. So similarly, we also follow the needs and demands of our students and parents. So for the Harry Porter content, the Scholastic partnership, we also have a lot of reading library like readers that we introduced to the platform. So that's based on the skill that we believe to be very important reading for our children to have a global library. And we also work with partners like Lexile to measure children's like reading ability and then to measure how they've learned without major curriculum together with the reading library content. And also for the Halton Miffling, Harcourt content, we've introduced journeys and collections, which are the elementary school and high school curriculum for American students at school today to be accessible and available for China's international school students, who's willing to later on take a global like international school path. And then we partnered also with SSAT. Oh, okay. Okay. So that we're then able to provide our students with a very exclusive opportunity to sign up and to take that assessment. And also a total primary total for junior for young kids as well. As a third party assessment tool. I see. I see. Okay. So let me maybe take our conversation into one more step, which is the global aspect. Because earlier you mentioned emphasizing many ways. Vip kit, the prior road map and the long term vision applies to be a global classroom that's personalized learning. That's also fits into the sort of the bigger themes that we see, particularly the wide component, that there is more more global innovations, new startups.

Building global companies (34:30)

They all tend to have aspiration to be a global company. And the Vip kit in some is very unique. Your beginning is global because you connect the surprise demand through a global platforms. Can you share with us with sort of your learning experience? How do you initially build sort of global aspects from beginning, from get go? One of the challenges that you had to overcome by building global company that's based in China. Absolutely. So I was at the first Fungus Forum two years ago, and last year and also this year. This year is so good to have you for both of the Fungus. I really love the YA competitor family, the community. And then the topic, a new gave me for the first year, was a global company from day one. I see. So it was a very interesting topic. And I think Vip kit is able to make this happen for a few reasons. One is, I think we believe that with our teacher community, we are global from day one. I personally interviewed and persuaded our first 20 teachers. I see. The first one was extremely challenging. How did you do that? You tried to the United States, so I interviewed remotely. So I interviewed remotely. I see. But I did spend three months trying to find teachers in the US. Before I found Vip kit, Portland, Oregon. I see. Los Angeles, California. You went to Texas? Do you go to Texas? I did go to Texas, but then I say New York. I see. I even went to Toronto, Canada to find teachers. So by spending three times their full time understand, it is extremely difficult for people to come to China. But if they were to allow to work from home, and it will be something really beautiful for teachers. Because every teacher wants to have a tau dee mantezia. Yes. As a teacher, the helping seed the learning of every tau dee mantezia across the globe by the Chinese city. So it is a value that teachers want, to work locally and teach globally. So the community is essential for our global perspective. Because it is our entire supply side. And then our teachers coming from all states, and Texas is our largest state. Yeah. And all 50 states? All 50 states. And for the Texas community, we're very proud of our second teacher conference journeys in August, Dallas, Texas this year. The former first lady, Laura Bush, Keynote. Really? They are the session. She's been the whole afternoon. Our teachers feel so proud of being a Canadian priest. That's wonderful. By her. And then Orlando is where we had our third teacher conference. I see. The city named VIP hit "Day." Yeah, good day for the whole city. Yes, 29th of September. And it's a great honor for our teachers, because they feel-- That's terrific. --as cities in their contribution is so well recognized by their mayor. And our very first teacher conference is in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's where teachers are so loving and passionate. We will have our fourth one in Chicago next year. So we just signed an AMOLU with the city mayor of Chicago, by helping the underserved community in Chicago to the kids to learn Mandarin. And we'll be providing programs for free. I see. So this is the global community that everyone cares so much about. And the value is tremendous for the teachers and the local community. So I think that's a very important reason. And secondly, we have a global team from day one as well. And today, we have a San Francisco office. We just launched a new city office on the Hallworth Street. I see. 301 Hallworth. And our teams come from-- Interesting. What that team does-- you actually didn't realize, you have a team in San Francisco. What that team does, like, do they do customer service or product development? What's their role? I'm very curious to learn. So the team is essentially about teacher success. Oh, OK. So we have people mostly in San Francisco, but we also have a Texas Dallas office as well. And then we have team in New York and everywhere. So the team are from organizations like Teach for America, right? Right. Like, at-tech communities in the US, people who's worked in United Nations, those institutes globally to help teachers be successful. So we have people who really cares about teacher success. And they are from the local community that knows how to do it and how to communicate with our teachers. And we've built a very transparent service platform for our teachers. We have called Houtong. It's our-- Houtong, I see. Right. It's a posting system where our teachers can send us tasks or questions or tickets or anything that we need to work on. And we communicate very proactively with our teacher community. And we have teachers keeping in leaders. We have formed all those Facebook groups. And initiated local events, like communities. But some of the work are facilitated by our teacher success team. But everyone-- I really love and admire our US team because they constantly fly to all different states. But in the sponsor-teacher event, make sure teachers can have a great time. And whenever there is something we need to work on or address, they would be in the teacher's house the next day and be there to make sure that they're successful. I think it's because we've got the right people to be without the global. That's terrific. I think two key success factors. One is the wonderful community. The other is the teams that's underground in the United States. Right. And maybe if I may say the last one, the last one I think is where people in our Beijing office are-- we really want to make sure that we have a very good communication. And we cater for a different time zone. Oftentimes, 60 hours a day. I was going to ask you about this. It is difficult to-- A lot of global organizations, what they struggled with, the difficulty to build a global culture that's being very mindful about the other teams that would be 16 hours away. When we schedule a meeting, we don't want to schedule a meeting when people have to wake up in the wee hours.

Creating a global culture (41:00)

So how do you-- I'm curious, how do you sort of cultivate that? Build that so that Beijing teams is very mindful about the US team. The US team is also-- when they collaborate, they really sort of think for the other side. Make sure that we can create an environment internally. People really work together to build success for the global platform. Right. So firstly, we make sure when we operate, we have the most availability to our teachers in this organization. We set that up. Right. So if you think about how teachers can apply an interview with the IPK, it's 24 hours. We have a team that will come night shift. Oh, night shift? I see. Teacher said get access. I still have night shift to team. The value, I think, then very naturally would impact on how the team worked together. So I was asking the head of my global business development team, and he said, I have a morning call at 4am. Morning conference call. Not a morning call. The morning call, probably, at 3am. And because of the time differences. And then you work with the partner center. I think it's just the culture is led by example. If the leadership teams would want to do this, and they would accommodate more to the team that are not in the bigger office, I think it made much easier. And also, we also have this concept of global dual headquarters idea. So we want our teachers to trust that. So teachers sometimes would say, this is too good to be true. Are you guys for real? You're so far away. So we want teachers to understand that our American headquarters, the Incentrances office, is there to make sure we have teacher success. And our team is there, so important and critical to our future success. And we're keeping investing in the team. Now it's a 30 people team, we're investing the team to be a 200 people team. So we want to make sure that the team there has more they can execute on and help the teacher with. So that we can build the culture. Terrific. So particularly the one thing you mentioned Cindy, the culture is best to shape or most shape the by leaders behavior. That's true for so many successful organizations. Maybe switch gear to the last stretch of our dialogue this morning. Which is looking forward to the long term future, the future of education. Particularly Cindy, in the context of a massive new way of technology, for example, AI, that will give us so much more technological capabilities. What is your big long term, more ambitious vision for the future education because you already have a very, very strong vibrant platform.

The future of education (43:50)

What's that vision with those new technologies? Can you share with us? Absolutely. So the common theme there is for the big global classroom that we're able to build on the cloud. Two things. One is personalization. The other is empowerment. So the idea for personalization is that learning should be engaging and effective and efficacious and fun. But then every child is so different. How can we find the most appropriate and engaging, motivating teachers for the child? And then how do we make sure there is a personalized learning path based on the knowledge graph that we've built the content, massive bank of readers and learning content and books and everything. And then also how do we make sure that the way teachers engage with the child is most focused on how this child learns. And then what are the methodology, the training we need to give to teachers. And then for the empowerment section, I think for teachers' job, it's been a very, almost most challenging job on human history. But then the common traits for good teachers are very, very similar. The passion for your students, the love, the understanding of this child. And then the real-time interaction between the child and the teacher to motivate and to inspire. So how do we help our teachers build a more effective tool so that they would have a AI tutor, a AI that teaching assistant means to help our teachers to do their job better. So our teachers can be more effective and they can get paid more, they can be happier with what they do and they can make more impact. Because if they can only teach one, like teacher 10 students, they can probably not teach 100 students, even 1000 students, when we're able to empower our teachers with technology. Terrific. That's a very, very powerful vision for the long-term future. My final question to you Cindy is looking back and looking forward to you as very, very inspiring journey. What are the key devices that you will have for today's young generation of entrepreneurial just thinking about starting or just starting? If there's one important piece of advice to them, what that will be. Great question. I mean, think about this, but at the same time, I also ask you a question on the technology piece. Sure. I think you're the model for every like parents who are packed background and want to be global and help their children learn better. So I have two questions. I will give you my answer, but I would make sure that you also give the important advice to the staff. Actually, sure. I'll always be able to figure out the most important one. But I think my question to you is, how should an engineer, product manager, or anyone in tech think about education sector going forward? Because traditionally, it's fintech that matters more. It's medtech, medical technology matters more. What are the opportunities in education technology that every parent, if they're able to change the world and make it better for their children going forward? What should they be thinking about for the sector? And also on the AI question, what are the things you believe to be the driving force for the change for the future? Okay. So I will share some of my thoughts with the obvious caveat. I think these are coming from my personal observation, but I'm not a domain expert.

Views On Edtech And Ai

How should engineers and product managers think about edtech? (47:45)

This is more observing from a macro perspective and project that into the education space. And in many ways, seeing the way you articulated earlier is in my view, it's a very, very expensive, comprehensive vision because you've addressed the learning side, the teaching side, the platform, the personalization, the knowledge, the graph, the connect everything. So on top of that, here's a couple of things. For me, that's important. One is, I think ultimately, technology should be able to transform pretty much everything we do as a society. And the education is perhaps among the most important. To me, personally, it's always about education, medical services, because these are the only two human professions that are unique. They make human better. Education perhaps will pay a little bit more emphasize because if imagine every kid or every adult can always learn more, can become wiser in power with more knowledge, the world will be much, much better place. There are so many positive things that can come out of learning. So personally, I thought actually briefly in Fudhah University before I went to Carnegie Mellon. And I always have this sort of lingering passion for teaching because it's fundamentally important. Having said that also sort of deserved education for the past couple of thousand years hasn't really changed that much. Technology hasn't really made a massive uplift or transformation yet. What you haven't done in many ways is a tremendous step forward. What I think at its core for the innovating in the air tech space, you need to think about is the end-to-end complete learning scenario. Because technology is only a means to self-end. We cannot sort of put the horse before the cart. With technology sort of focusing on technology to think the other way around, I think we are all better at thinking the learning, the teaching, the completion of it. Let's say, for example, early childhood. What I learned is sort of my incomplete knowledge, a sixth grade in the United States, learning fraction mathematics, is actually the defining moment. That would be the most sort of leading indicators on this kid's intellectual development. And there's a lot of sort of cutting edge technologies, including brain scans too. So analyze how a sixth graders learn fractions. And I was sort of honing on that at complete scenarios. How do we teach? How do we really understand a six year old six graders learn fraction mathematics? And then use that to make sure that our content, our teachings, our learning experiences are truly transformed to the next level so that every kid will be given much, much better opportunities to run fraction mathematics. And that opens the door for them to whether they want to be an artist, whether they want to be an engineer, they can all be better off. So our focus on scenario, end-to-end scenario, then anything, and say what technology can do. That's sort of one piece of thoughts. The other is on the technological side. This is my personal view. AI is massive. We have an unprecedented set of technological capabilities. For me, I think we need to understand what's the core essence of what AI is.

Thoughts on AI (51:10)

My heavy on this is AI is about a rapidly efficient way of quality knowledge. We can use sensors, cameras, whatever sensors to observe a phenomena and use deep learning machine learning techniques to rapidly distill into self-energetic. Because knowledge is power, as Bacon said, with knowledge we would understand. So I think with the early cusp of understanding fundamentally how kids learn language, how they adopt learning a new programming language or new manufacturing skills with the very early cusp. I think VIBCIP is a powerful platform, global platform, with additional technological capability, you will be able to get so much more personalized data to figure out at the early frontier how kids learn language. I'm pretty sure you expand your part of the map, how let's say a kids learn artistic skills, drawings, dancing or designing new machineries. The future is unlimited. The key is can we so brand technology with passionate innovators like yourself and then truly use the opportunity in front of us to make learning so much better for everyone. I'm pretty confident with that. The world will be a vastly better place for decades to come. Thank you. That's so hard. But 2,000 is a sort of comment because I sort of often fancy myself to be a teacher even though I do talk for you as a teacher at the FURA University. In the future when there is opportunity, I certainly would be interested in the kind of YC, China or YC overall seeing it with the love to explore future opportunity we can collaborate helping more innovators figure out new technologies, new way of teaching and learning and hopefully that can be synergistic to vipicate as well. That's really exciting. Thank you. I think to echo what you said learning science is a huge opportunity here to hope work here and I totally agree with you that we should start from the scenario where a sixth grade child learns factions in math and I apparently failed when I was a sixth grade and the seventh grade is where I had the most challenge learning math and if the child can be assistant and helped with the technology learning better, it just feels so much better foundation for the future learning. Thank you for the great visionary comments. Thank you. Can we come back to you? Sorry, you are wisdom if you can share with and if there's sort of one piece of very feedback or advice to a young founders today, what that would be. So I think the most important thing is always the most apparent thing and it's always so hard to stick to it every day even if you think you believe in it but then I think you would need to check on your actions, your agenda schedule ready to see if you're investing most time on it.

Advice For Entrepreneurs

Advice for entrepreneurs (54:10)

So my answer there is customer success. So I think for vipicate, the core of its success is because parents, teachers, our colleagues, all 10,000 of them. Ultimately what we want is student success. The young minds being sparkle to learn and curious and imagine and everything. It's the dream that everyone wants for their own children is what everyone wants for the hundreds and thousands of vipicate students and there are a lot of challenges that we talk about, global company, culture, the work time zone, the technology, the day one problem, market fit. But then how does everyone keep working together, going through all the challenges because there are always a lot of them. It's the common goal that we want student success. And then go to the teacher success part is also important that we can align on this and then I personally would fly 25 hours to be at our teachers' conference in Orlando because I had to be in another business team and after flying 25 hours straight, I went to the conference straight away and I stood there for four hours so that our teachers can take photos one on one with me and then everyone shared with me in three sentences their own story and more than half are in tears and everyone thanked the vipicate platform because they said, "Sing Yi, make sure tell your team." It's their diligent in answering all the houtong like post questions and communities made our success so that our teachers said, "I'm a retired teacher. I broke my leg last year. I can't teach but I need the income so vipicate really helped me loving my kid and then making an income." Another teacher said, "I had breast cancer but I was pregnant. I worked so much I cannot have a healthy baby. VIP kit gave me the emotional support, the income opportunity and then now here's my photo of my lovely baby." So I think it's customer student success, teacher success that are so critical. Our team, many of our wake-up calls are a set of 10 customer phone calls from the previous day. Some of us would do it 9am on the way to work, 7am on the way to doing in the gym or for me 60-30am to listen to all those customer feedback and then it motivates the team greatly to go to work and solve the challenges. So I think the thing is very apparent but it's very difficult to stick to it every day and make sure that everyone does it. So I think the VIP kit team bears in mind that our mission is to inspire an empowered child for the future. It's such a challenging goal because for the future already it's a typical topic and what we want for the future for our children is a global kid, global citizen and then how do we build up their 21st century skills and how do we build up this global competency. This is something that we really need to work on but inspiring in power itself is also very challenging because it's not just teach the children, give them the fish, teach them how to fish and make sure that they're inspired to learn, they want to learn. So all these mission and ambition we have drives the team forward and I think as a young entrepreneur it's very important to check on this every day and to figure out whether we're doing the right thing. So well said Cindy it's truly inspiring. Thank you very very much for the wonderful interview session. Today on behalf of Y Combinaries or community members very much want to thank you for your time and best wishes for continuous success with VIP kit. It's an inspiring journey. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.

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