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New ways of ideation and prototyping

Updated: Dec 17, 2020






Mark de Rijk

Dear listeners, thank you for tuning in for the next episode of the SME Business podcast. Today we are joined by Jonathan Sun. Mark and Jonathan are also members of Mentors and Mentees. Jonathan is the founder of Nifty. Nifty helps entrepreneurs validate ideas.


Mark de Rijk

Jonathan, welcome to the podcast.


Jonathan Sun

Thanks for having me.


Mark de Rijk

Yes, of course, perhaps some questions for you that I would like to ask to help discover more about you. That will help our listeners discover what you do and where you are in the journey. So just to give a bit of background for the listeners, can you tell me more about yourself and how you got into entrepreneurship?


Jonathan Sun

Yeah, my name is Jonathan, and I wrote Nifty, which is a pretotyping studio. Pretotyping is a creative way for aspiring founders to validate their startup ideas using creative manual experiments.


Jonathan Sun

The way I got into entrepreneurship was I guess it was more of a family influence type of thing, so my dad's an entrepreneur as well. I remember being told a lot of different, you know, a lot of positive things about entrepreneurship going up. And I just kind of gravitated towards that career path. I would always remember in secondary school and always trying to sketch out different products on sheets of paper.


Jonathan Sun

And sometimes the time when I would go make trips to China. I would try to go to different factories to show my different, really terrible looking product sketches that I would show to different factories. And, you know, those never really go anywhere because later on, I found out the hard way that they cost way too much to make in different factories like that. But that was the beginning, and that's kind of how I got started.


Jonathan Sun

And I guess it could go a little bit more into my journey if you like. Yeah, whatever you want to delve into.


Mark de Rijk

Yes.


Jonathan Sun

Let's see, the first legitimate business I ran was called Horizon, which back in the US, me and a few of the students. We created an app to match US high schoolers to the best university. Using creative metrics such as their personality types, what kind of environments they wanted to be in. What kind of activity that they wanted to do day to day, with their test scores and things like that.


Jonathan Sun

So I ran that for about three and a half years. And although we didn't achieve the result that we wanted to, I think I got a chance to learn many things. Both about myself and my ability to, I guess my skills and abilities in terms of running a startup. Then I think midway I think around, 2018 or 2019, when I started running mentors and mentees together with the founder Tim Salua.


Jonathan Sun

I became that it was around that time when I start to become passionate about entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Bringing communities together to support each other or, you know, finding ways to support founders. And so and that's how Mark and I met because it turns out that there that mentors and mentees was already a very large Facebook community. And there were many people all around the world. And it turns out there was a very significant London chapter, and you were already a part of it.


Jonathan Sun

And it was cool. So when I took my next trip to London in the summer, I wanted to bring everybody together just nothing of this sort has been done before. And so I messaged everybody and everybody agreed to meet somewhere in Shoreditch. And so we did it, and it was a really good time. Since then, I don't know what happened to the momentum as much in terms of that. But I think just the experience of bringing everybody together brought me much energy over the last couple of years working on it.


Mark de Rijk

Yeah, because it's nice to meet up with fellow people that value entrepreneurship because that was my experience.


Mark de Rijk

Moving here from the Netherlands myself, that's I thought more people would be interested in entrepreneurship. And then I struggled to find meetups where people were generally interested in it. There were lots I want to work for a startup, but not necessarily work in a startup or on a startup. So that's why I liked it.


Mark de Rijk

And hopefully, that will change, as in it will revitalize or come back in a different form. And maybe this whole coronavirus thing is then causing things to become even more virtual if you will. It becomes less of an issue like where do you live. You get more startups that are founded completely virtually. I think in general there's going to be lots of people with plenty of brilliant ideas, but not necessarily living in the right spot.


Mark de Rijk

So that's one of the things I'm personally working on, as part of the Institute of Directors. I just want to like reach out my hands like you're doing and then support people that have that feeling in their heart that they want to build something. So, yeah, it's cool that we met.


Mark de Rijk

And, yeah with Nifty, you're doing pretotyping, you already briefly mentioned it, but can you explain a bit more in detail?


Jonathan Sun

Yeah, so pretotyping is a way to validate your ideas, using creative experiments to get your own data. So the most important thing, when people when aspiring entrepreneurs start their businesses. They need to get data to prove whether or not it will be successful at a very early stage. So they don't spend a lot of time and money pursuing ideas that won't have any demand for it right.


Jonathan Sun

So, for example, if somebody has an app idea, right. Normally a lot of people's first instinct is to try to call a developer and try to get them to build it right. Or they would go around doing user research, but they wouldn't always include questions and research such as like would you download this app? Would you pay for this service? Right. And both of those approaches are not always the most effective because they are not always an accurate measurement of consumer behaviour.


Jonathan Sun

So with pretotyping, for example, what you do is you require people to put in the skin in the game. As part of your experiment to prove whether or not that they will actually pay for your idea and then how attractive is it. So if you have an app idea and you want people to pay X amount of money per month for a certain service, what you do is. You, for example, you can either make a simple website or simple video and then have a link for people to preorder for a small discount.


Jonathan Sun

And then what you do before that is you make a hypothesis. So there's a thing called X, Y, Z hypothesis, which before you do any experiment. You say at least X per cent of the target market will take a certain action. You use that hypothesis, and you go ahead, and when you run your experiments or pretotyping experiments to see whether or not you can match up to that. To see whether or not your results are in accordance with your X, Y, Z hypothesis, which is what are like the minimum amount of people that need to sign up and pay for your product or service for you to be considered successful.


Jonathan Sun

So for me, I'm a very heavy advocate for pretotyping, and it's something that excites me. I feel like a lot of early-stage entrepreneurs; whether or not they may be students or a little bit older. I feel like if everybody learned how to get good at pretotyping, there would be much less failure with ideas. There would be a lot more successful businesses because people are ruling out ideas that they know will not work.


Mark de Rijk

It makes sense, yeah. Let's be honest. It's a general challenge with entrepreneurship that people go, I have a dream, and then they stand on the virtual stage and tell the friends that they have this brilliant idea. They're going to build it, but then there's no market validation. So sounds like a good idea to validate if people are willing to pay for whatever that is, whether that's an app or product or service.


Mark de Rijk

It makes complete sense. So I was wondering as well, how does it relate to lean startup?


Jonathan Sun

Pretotyping has many similarities to lean startup, but pretotyping is leaner than lean startup if that makes sense. So with pretotyping, you're generally not supposed to build a product. You're supposed to build like the minimum possible thing that can convince people to put money into your proposed idea, right.


Jonathan Sun

So, for example, some people would say, like with the lean startup, build an MVP. Nowadays, I have a slight issue with how people define MVPs. If you go to many development agencies, numerous people will charge you ten thousand pounds or fifteen thousand pounds for an MVP. The so-called MVP, at that point, you're not sure if it's an MVP anymore because it's ten thousand fifteen thousand pounds. For even a per cent of what they think is a basic app but chock full of, like, features and everything.


Jonathan Sun

So with pretotyping, you're generally not supposed to spend very much time, and you're generally supposed to get it done very, very quickly. You know, if you do those things. If we do pretotyping right, you should know whether or not your business idea is going to be successful or not within about a month. Running four or five experiments off that one idea, that makes sense.


Mark de Rijk

Yeah, yeah. And that's a quick turnaround and helps you save your money. Because if the idea is not right and if you only got the money to spend on one idea. It's better to make sure you're putting the money into one idea that's going to pay off. So it makes sense. And especially now with changing consumer behaviours and budgets.


Mark de Rijk

I think, in a way behaviours changing where, for instance, the lower and the higher end of the markets might see more change. But the middle-end of the market, if you will, might be more difficult.


Mark de Rijk

Because there's more, let's say, erosion of middle classes during with the pandemic crisis. So it is interesting to see as well whether the product or service that you're thinking about, also still makes sense for a post-pandemic society.


Jonathan Sun

Yeah, exactly, and I think it's interesting, you mentioned about with the erosion of the middle class due to the pandemic. Because I truly think that pretotyping can help create more successful, self-employed people and help reverse the erosion of the middle class.


Jonathan Sun

Something that like I continually talk about often is that especially in the UK, there's going to be a predicted dip in the economy due to the combined effects of Brexit and covid right. So with Brexit, people are going to lose a lot of financial jobs. And so the financial sector of particularly London is not going to be as strong as before.


Jonathan Sun

And while something like covid is going to continue to hammer the hospitality industry, the travel industry particularly so with many people, out of work, they need to find ways to support themselves. And not everybody is cut out or should be cut out to get another full-time job for themselves. So with a method like pretotyping, I truly believe that's a method to get a lot more people starting and running, more successful, businesses, technology or not technology.


Jonathan Sun

And I believe that for the UK economy to thrive in this decade, we must we got to do everything we can to contribute and foster the growth of entrepreneurship in this country, in the city. However, I think London has done quite well so far. The progress made over the last ten years in terms of building a tech startup ecosystem and an entrepreneurship ecosystem in general.


Jonathan Sun

There needs to be I still want to see much more. There still has much work to be done. I still want to see a lot more emphasis and push in terms of growing entrepreneurship in the city and the country. And I think if we can all work together as entrepreneurs, as ecosystem builders, as supporters. I think that we can take this country and help it to be better than it ever was before.


Mark de Rijk

Yes. And that's the thing as well. As you said, you know, people are now looking like, OK, what can I do on the side if they still have a job or what can I do if I can't find a job? And not even like, the Tesco's of the world, are not even hiring anymore because you have pilots working for Tesco. So, yeah, it's quite interesting times and entrepreneurship, I agree as well. But the government to be stimulating that way more. Unfortunately, as it's looking right now, taxes wise and policy-wise, they seem to do the opposite if you will.


Mark de Rijk

Hopefully, they see the error of their ways. When you see financial services going away, I think it was like yesterday. I think 1.7 trillion was moved out of the UK.


Mark de Rijk

And of course, that's just on balance, and that's, of course, not what they're generating daily, but those are not small amounts. And the dependency on financial service is also let's be honest, asking for trouble. So, it needs to be more products because in general, the UK economy is a services economy. I think it can help if we start making products again.


Mark de Rijk

But yeah, we also need to discover new entrepreneurs for that. So, like the Gym Sharks of the world. So it's great that we have Gymshark and I'm very happy about that. But that shouldn't be the exception.


Mark de Rijk

That's one of the things that you're working on, and I'm working on my end too. On my end, specifically like to work with schools to help kids discover there are more ways than potentially, get rich and famous. Then be a footballer or try to get into a private university, like the Cambridge's of the World or Oxford's of the world.


Mark de Rijk

If there's a whole new generation of kids that feel like there is a third path that would be helpful. I'm not saying that there are like thousands of people with billion-dollar ideas sitting in school rooms and school classes. But let's be honest if you start with we find ten people a year that come up with a successful idea and that gets funded.


Mark de Rijk

Then we can turn things around. But we do need to do something with Covid and then Brexit to be honest.


Jonathan Sun

Yeah, exactly, and it's interesting, you mention many things because I think I do have many ideas in my head. Like how do you boost entrepreneurship?


Jonathan Sun

How do you improve? How do you make the UK more entrepreneurial obviously, not everything can be done by myself because I'm not a one-person show? And it might be really, really tough, but I do have a few ideas, for example, starting with schools. I think a lot of the teaching styles and methods are a little bit archaic. And I think that there are a lot more has to be done to encourage kids, I think to be.


Jonathan Sun

I think to not learn as much of what will not be applicable in the future and but instead to like challenge them to think more critically. Right, so, for example, like a lot, I'm always a fan of a lot less testing and a lot more projects, that's something I believe in, and there was a school I remember in Austin a while back. I remember seeing and it was so unique because in that school (and my friend is like one of the guys that run it), it's an environment where there's no schedule for the kids.


Jonathan Sun

The kids come in every day, and the school looks like a coworking space. They self-pace themselves in their learning, and they have much free time to explore their interests. So, for example, some kids are doing, helping businesses or consulting businesses in terms of reaching generation alpha on social media. Some of the kids are building IoS apps, and some of the kids they're just doing all these big creative things. I think that from an education side, rather than sticking to I think let's teach to the test. It's more let's try to build critical thinkers that are willing to challenge themselves and the society around them.


Mark de Rijk

Yeah, and that was my observation as well. I think with many people saying it; it's not uniquely mine. Still, it's that critical thinking is something that could use with some more emphasis in the UK curriculum. You know, don't get me wrong, that's typically Dutch. But I was very specifically taught to question everything.


Mark de Rijk

Maybe a bit too much to be fair, but I'm still like feeling like sometimes I'll be like, I can say something you'd be like, oh, but why don't you question what I'm saying, that kind of thing? Because it just, it becomes an equal kind of thing. If you question what the other person is saying whether that makes sense or your just going along that kind of thing. Then the schooling. As you said, the curriculum is different.


Mark de Rijk

For instance, now, one example that happened, this is why I'm doing stuff with the Institute of Directors. If you are born in the "wrong neighbourhood", and you don't have entrepreneurial examples that come from where you are from. Then, your mindset might be such that you could be like, well, I'm from here so I can never achieve that kind of thing.


Mark de Rijk

It's just yeah, well, there will be kids in there, not even could there will be kids in there that have some brilliant idea. But the fact that they don't even pursue it because they feel that they don't have a support system and confidence and whatever to pursue it.


Mark de Rijk

So, I believe it with the whole virtual thing is like these things could change. Like, for instance, I got online summit software. So I want to start organizing online summits. You could bring CEO's, of this massive successful companies. Put a summit together and then have children attend from let's say charter schools or whatever you want to call them up and be like this is an extreme example.


Mark de Rijk

This is Tim Cook, and he's going to get you pumped up. Or, get somebody like Tony Robbins because if it doesn't even have to be live, it can be like recorded talks were you get like a motivational speaker.


Mark de Rijk

And then get it like a shark from SharkTank or DragonsDen here. Then have somebody, if a particular school that has, lots of, minority background students, find entrepreneurs representing them so that they can relate to them.


Mark de Rijk

That's one of the issues as well. You know, oh yeah. We got this motivational speaker. And then the school is like, mostly non-white. And then you put this white person that went to this private school, and you go like, well that these kids can't relate to that. So, lots have to change in a sense.


Jonathan Sun

Yeah, now I feel that and kind of going after that, I do want to see entrepreneurship taught earlier. Because I think, like many times I sometimes think when you give a lot of, really broad messages to kids, you can be anything you want to be. Yes, it sounds good for like 30 minutes, but then you still don't know what the path you need to take to get where you need to be.


Jonathan Sun

That's why I think that. I think regardless of what age, like step by step, examples are always the best way to communicate with them. And I think that, like I do want to see entrepreneurship and things like pretotyping, lean startup method taught to kids at a younger age. Using creative methods like things that will keep them engaged rather than just like teaching them like games. Kids love games. Kids love to work together in teams.


Jonathan Sun

And kids love competition, which sometimes many instructors don't always get because they want the easiest path out. That's fine if you're trying to earn money as a job being an instructor and you don't care about the quality of teaching. But if you're serious about the quality of your teaching, you talk less. You arrange more activities, and you let kids discover certain things for themselves. Right. And so that's kind of like when we're talking about building out the foundations for entrepreneurship and especially going into inner-city types of schools.


Jonathan Sun

You know the biggest thing is teaching kids to think for themselves. Yes, too. Like you said, question everything. And I think it's amazing that you were raised to question everything in the Netherlands. I mean, within my family, I was raised to question everything as well. But my family was unique among other Chinese families. Because actually in traditional Chinese culture, you are taught to listen and follow and obey everything rather than question everything.


Jonathan Sun

And so when the traditional Chinese definition of a good kid is, you've got to listen and obey your elders. What does that do to your creativity and your ability to question and your ability to challenge? It kills it off because you're raised with all these messages your whole life. You got to listen. You got to obey. You got to follow. To the point where, when you have autonomy and your freedom, you have no idea what to do with it.


Mark de Rijk

Yeah, and that's true as well. Yeah, I didn't see it from that angle. I guess it helped me. I had like pretty much like lots of clients where I'd be like, yeah, just because I say something to you, like, doesn't make it the absolute truth. So, please call me out if you don't think it makes sense because I don't hold the truth on everything, that kind of thing. Yeah, the entrepreneurship as well and the funny thing is as you mentioned, it's not just inner-city.


Mark de Rijk

I think it's also like if talking about the great divide, if you will, the north versus the south, like up north as well, although, you know, like it shouldn't just be a question like London has left this behind. You know what, the whole virtual thing, redo the high streets, like have coworking spaces in the high street that are like heavily subsidized because it's already empty.


Mark de Rijk

Have like experimentation labs, and then lots of things can be virtual. So, instead of somebody saying, I have to travel to London to, like, go to this meetup with this, entrepreneur, do virtual talks, we have mobile data.


Mark de Rijk

Just imagine, having the guy from Gym Shark, basically broadcasting him to, these entrepreneurial labs around the UK, where there are all these kids sitting in these labs. They go this kid is from the UK, and if he can do it, then I can do it, that kind of thing. That's the absolute power.


Mark de Rijk

And I think, what Coronavirus did do for us, virtually opens new avenues.


Mark de Rijk

So that's what I'm hoping for, if you go like instead of being like, I am near the sea so just like my daddy. I'm going to work in a shipyard, why not something else or maybe like the kid comes up with something maritime-related?


Mark de Rijk

You know, like a device to help sailors save themselves or something, like an airbag, if you will.


Mark de Rijk

We might joke about it, but, kids that have plenty of ideas. If they're not in a suitable environment, then, they're not going to feel stimulated actually to express themselves. The whole virtual thing, I think the whole government has to jump on that to use it.


Jonathan Sun

It would be interesting because it's interesting you mention a lot of that, because I think first off, like online is good for some things, but not for everything. There's a certain element I think, that gets missing online that you can only make up for by meeting people in person. Right. To myself, I think, although you can start building relationships online. I agree that you cannot build a solid ground foundation for any relationship, where that may be business or friendship unless you meet people in person.


Jonathan Sun

I think just that invisible magnetic energy of being able to meet people in person, I think cannot be replaced. That's something that I strongly believe in, which I think kind of goes on to the next point, which you mentioned about kind of like bringing coworking spaces onto the High Street. It's interesting because something I've thought about a lot recently is that. What's going to be the future of the city centre if you have a lot more people working remotely and doing many activities remotely?


Jonathan Sun

And when I picture it, I picture the city centre as being less of a place where people have to be and more of a place where people want to be. So if you imagine the city centre being a place where people can get together, work on different things and do activities that only being in person can satisfy. Then we can start to reimagine what are the different elements of the city centre.


Jonathan Sun

Right. So first off, we talk about coworking spaces and experimentation labs, right?


Mark de Rijk

Yes.


Jonathan Sun

I imagine the future of a coworking space is not just an open environment, many desks. But also an environment where people can come in and try and experiment all kinds of things in an open environment, in a very inexpensive type of aesthetic. Right. So I see it as less expensive aesthetics and much more like a garage style, kind of like fairly affordable kind of methodology.


Mark de Rijk

A neighbourhood rec centre. That's how I also see it. You go to like a neighbourhood rec centre that's not fancy, but a safe place, which is sometimes also important depending on where you live. But also, you can meet and then, for instance, could be like, you're in a neighbourhood where not everybody is potentially inclined to think like entrepreneurship, but.



If you then end up going there, for instance, you have 10, 15 people that think similarly; then you can bounce off each other. You could then combine it with what can be done virtually now. I think that can be really, empowering sort of just like, like you could do like a Dragons Den kind of panel where you find, like 20 bright young kids in the UK.


Mark de Rijk

And you have them pitch for dragons around the world and literally at the end, pick three, and then they launch a product. So, yeah, many things can be done in person, and I agree, relationships and that kind of thing. Still, I think we're underestimating how it can shorten. Let's say from the process, from ideation to booming, if you will, because it's not a question that there's no money.


Mark de Rijk

The money is there. The traditional, startup ecosystem can only be enriched or grown by finding a generation of prepreneurs if you will. Think of kids with bright ideas. and of course, that might not always work. Still, I think we're underestimating the new generation.


Jonathan Sun

The new generation, in particular, is very, very technology savvy. I mean, I think the youngest kids, I believe so right now, I'm Generation Z, which is about, I think nineteen ninety-eight until about 2009, 2010. And then after that is what we call generation Alpha, which is from 2010. So all the kids that are ten years old and under. It is amazing to see how quickly they've been able to pick up a variety of digital concepts even faster than I have been able to.


Jonathan Sun

Those are the kids that I think it's sometimes crazy for me to sometimes I walk around in Sainsbury's. These two, three-year-old kids are holding iPads in their hand, playing Peppa Pig. Have you seen those? And I remember when I was three years old, this is around 2001. So that meant that I was still if I wanted to use anything digital, I had a box computer. I could only if I wanted to play games, for example, I had to get on a box computer and type in whatever website I wanted.


Jonathan Sun

And that was my computer game, per se. Right. And I didn't see the first iPhone came out when I was nine, and the first iPad came out when I was 12. So that's a whole different world, I think.


Mark de Rijk

Now I feel old.


Jonathan Sun

Exactly, it's OK. I mean, as long as you're adapting because the next generation will be even more tech-savvy in the next generation.


Mark de Rijk

I'm waiting for the generation that you know, where people will just have been Brain Implants, and I know, like Neuralink and such, but it's way too early stages. But I think we'll get to a point where it will just become "Normal". You end up with, like, Neo's situations where, you get a brain plugin and be like you want to learn Spanish, buy the Rosetta Stone course, and by the end of the week, you know what you're doing.


Mark de Rijk

I think we're going to get there and I think we're going to get there quicker than we might think. And, of course, there's going to be scrap metal along the way, that kind of thing. But it is accelerating. I remember my first mobile phone was a Nokia. Sixty-one, ten, I think, now sixty-one fifty.


Mark de Rijk

And like people are like, you have a mobile phone? And then before, this is a Dutch thing probably something similar in the UK and US as well.


Mark de Rijk

And so it was something called Kermit, which is was a mobile phone. It was like DECT systems, so like cordless phones. So what you had to do, you have to drive to like a fuel station or McDonald's, and then your phone will work. But, yeah, it's quite funny, and I still remember pagers, and then I have got to stop talking before I show my age even further.


Jonathan Sun

Oh, my goodness, no, no, no, it's OK. I mean, I know my parents would always tell me stories about like how technology was. My uncle had the very first cell phone, mobile phone model ever. So this was around nineteen seventy-seven. And my uncle had one of those like you know like big those big mobile phones like that before the Nokia sixty-one ten.


Mark de Rijk

Oh yeah. I've seen those as well.


Mark de Rijk

But of course, I didn't have that personally.


Mark de Rijk

But I had a neighbour that was like he had an office home office in the building. There were offices in the building that would be rented out. And basically, he was the head of the calculation centre of the Dutch version of BT Telecoms.


Mark de Rijk

The crazy stories, as well. He had like multiple pagers all different models and mobile phones and had the one with the built-in battery I forgot the brand even, acoustic coupler modems and whatever.


Mark de Rijk

And I've even seen him like work with a PDP 11, you know.


Jonathan Sun

Oh, my goodness.


Mark de Rijk

I know. But yeah, that's how I got started. But yeah going back to now and if you explain to a new generation that you had a phone where you could only call with it. They would look at you like, really, but I run my business on that kind of thing.


Mark de Rijk

And then, you let's say 15 years further, and probably the next thing will be. Oh, you're not using virtual reality to operate your devices, you are still looking at this tiny screen? Or something like that, it's amazing. You have to keep going with times, to be honest.


Jonathan Sun

It's interesting for sure, and it's interesting you bring up NeuraLink because I saw what Elon Musk did, the NeuraLink with the pigs.


Jonathan Sun

He had the whole presentation, and he was like, oh, this is pig one. He has NeuraLink and here's pig two, and he had NeuraLink taken out. And then here's pig three with NeuraLink taken out and then put it back in or something like that. And I saw like the way they put in that Neurallink. I guess it's fascinating and scary at the same time. Suppose you look because if you remember the exact presentation, they put the NeuraLink in-between in between the nerves, which is a very scary sight. After all, if you mess up, you've completely, completely wiped out this person's speech function.


Jonathan Sun

So, imagine how many lawsuits you get trying to sell NeuraLink, and oops, I accidentally wiped out his speech function. I wiped out his motor function, and I wiped out his ability to recall short term memories. That would be unbelievable. And then, I think the whole process of putting a chip in and out of your brain, like, I think, is scary for sure.


Mark de Rijk

This is like a completely different example. But what was it like with the one hundred meters? There was always a feeling where people were like, OK, you can't run faster than like ten seconds or something. And then if you run any faster, your heart will explode or something, they said. And then, somebody was like, and I'm going to train for it. Then the funny part is after that, a few runners, that broke the same record again a few times, dispelling, the whole thing, like, like the world's going to stop if you try to go faster than ten seconds.


Mark de Rijk

That's interesting as well. I think NeuraLink, of course, is early stages but, they will find other ways to do it. Like micro-robotics and something where instead of, injecting whatever, like could find a suitable spot. I don't know; there's going to be plenty of people contemplating about this for a day job, if you will, figuring it out, OK, how can we do this better? But right now, it's a lawsuit waiting to happen.


Jonathan Sun

Yeah, we'll have to see about that. I've always, in terms of technology innovation, I think sometimes there's always a debate about is all progress, good progress, right? I think I guess, one of the huge debates of especially this decade is like, how much is too much? I mean, how much should a machine know about you before it gets to be too much? Because, you train AI and algorithms to be hyper-advanced, knows that's great and all of if you can use it for good. But then also, if you train AI algorithms and then authoritarian governments kind of get their hands on it. But that's a little bit of a questionable proposition. I think an example I can bring up is in China, they've started using a lot of surveillance technology in recent years.


Jonathan Sun

Right. So every day there's surveillance everywhere, like freeway and motorways and in railway stations and things like that. And then everybody has a social credit score attached to that surveillance. So basically, if you're caught, like, breaking the law or doing naughty things, here and there your social credit score goes out. And if it goes down too much, that means you cannot buy train tickets or aeroplane tickets.


Jonathan Sun

And you're kind of placed on the blacklist, and you're shamed and things like that. And you hand too much technology also in the hands of different authoritarian governments or maybe people that don't have your best interests in mind. How does that end up? At the same time, if you because if you're too afraid of not so nice people getting their hands on certain technologies. And then don't innovate, that's also stifling the idea of human progress.


Jonathan Sun

Because at the end of the day, like. We've for all maybe some of the harm that technology has done for us, it's done us much good.


Mark de Rijk

Yeah, that's the thing I like. Yeah, of course, like the whole social media debate, this is a whole other ballgame as well. Where initially it started like, it helps you reconnect with people that you don't live close to with our friends. And people have moved on to university. And now, you know, like it's on the other end where it becomes a dopamine addiction kind of thing. So, yeah, unfortunately, there are also darker sides to do development pretty much. But then you can't also then decide to just like stay where you are, because then you don't move forward as well. So that is a difficult balance.


Jonathan Sun

Exactly, because I think with innovation, there's always a good and bad side to innovation. Still, you can never go back, right. For example, you got a lot of sometimes I hear stories of a lot of like really, really older people talking about how life was better in the days of the newspapers. I mean, it's good to know, I'm sure that in life, in certain ways, it's a lot better with only newspapers like that meant that kids played outside with leaves all the time. People didn't hurt their eyes and all that type of stuff. But, if in 2020, we were still only using newspapers and writing letters to all the people we cared about, imagine how much smaller our network would be.


Jonathan Sun

Imagine how much fewer people you could have reached. Imagine just like how much less interconnected the world would.


Mark de Rijk

So if you lived in the wrong neighbourhood, you didn't have the money, and then they'd be like, OK, well, there goes your chances for success already because you don't have the right environment. Well, right now, it's like; literally, there might be gangs in your neighbourhood if you will. But as long as you can get online, you have some way out and potentially, get yourself out a situation that might not be in a single step. Still, at least there are options, you can find out that there are other options then resigning your in your fate if you will.


Mark de Rijk

So, yeah we have to stay hopeful, so. You know, we talk about small businesses.


Mark de Rijk

What do you feel as well that governments could do better to help small businesses grow?


Jonathan Sun

I think just to understand, small businesses better, a lot of times governments are operating out of the assumption of what they think businesses need as opposed to what businesses need. I guess we say for example if I was at a governmental authority position. I was tasked to figure out ways to help businesses. We got to go around and ask businesses where they need help for and what they care about, as opposed to like snapping out your fingers and be like, oh, this is what I think they need.


Jonathan Sun

You have to go and ask businesses what they need, what they're struggling with, and then tailor your budget and your programs to be able to match that. Right. And so that's extremely important, that's one.


Jonathan Sun

But there's also the other element of like government aren't in charge of entrepreneurial ecosystems, the entrepreneurs are. All the government's job is to reduce the amount of bureaucracy possible needed to start a company and to occasionally help out with the funding of certain programs that will help grow a business. That's the government's job is not to grow the startup ecosystem because it's the people's job to grow a startup ecosystem.


Jonathan Sun

Right. So all the help the government can throw out there, I mean, doesn't mean squat if nobody is willing to. Perse, what do you call it like, if nobody's willing to take on the responsibility of, OK, let's put a meetup together, or what it's like to be an active angel investor? You know, actively mentor startups and bring people together. And if people aren't willing to take responsibility and do those things, rather pass it off to some higher authority, nothing gets done.


Jonathan Sun

Sure, the government can do some things. But the real impetus lays on us as entrepreneurs; it is our responsibility to be the change that we want to see in the ecosystem that we're in rather than pass the blame off to the government. If we think that the government is not helping us enough. At the same time, we figure out a way where the government is not doing what they're supposed to. Where maybe the government may have fallen short, and then let's take up the responsibility, let's do what we can to help out on this end and vice versa.


Jonathan Sun

Right. I think that's how we encourage entrepreneurship. That's how we push the envelope. That's how we build out the ecosystem environment.


Mark de Rijk

I agree, like, it shouldn't be served up. Still, I do feel the governments could do more because they go we're supporting small businesses and then introducing measures that are the opposite of supporting those businesses.


Mark de Rijk

And I get it, in general, the bigger the organization fails, then, it's a massive impact. But then you also have always to think like, how many companies that were around let's say, hundred years ago are still around? Then, the number becomes much smaller.


Mark de Rijk

So, in a way, it is in the government's best interest as well to get small businesses in and not all of them will grow to a massive business. But you need revitalization as well to get there. And that can't all be done with just venture capital. I think if you talk about like renewable energy. I think governments can do more, and then also when it comes to tech, they can be more supportive, to create the right system. And of course, you have Silicon Roundabout and Tech City. However, I feel still feel more can be done, and like I said, you know, stimulating entrepreneurship as well. That shouldn't be questioned, like people getting out of college and then finding out entrepreneurship from like an online talk.


Mark de Rijk

They should already come out, even, in my opinion, out of high school already with some idea, let people open a lemonade stand, and sell lemonade.


Jonathan Sun

Yeah, I mean, I think it still boils down to I think the government's job is to remove as much bureaucracy as possible. If we're talking about it's the government's job to make it easier for people to start businesses. Right. Try to get rid of as much like do what you can to get rid of as much bureaucracy as you can. And then, obviously, kind of looking at your budget and I guess, seeing like how much money do you have to allocate to entrepreneurs. Have actual entrepreneurs running those government programs rather than like a bunch of like trained civil servants.


Jonathan Sun

I think at the end of the day, it all boils down when we talk about the failure of government programs, it all boils down to that being out of touch with the average person. Right. They make programs for what they think they are needed. And methods that they think will benefit them and frequently, a lot. That doesn't necessarily line up for, what people need, right?


Jonathan Sun

I mean, you know, I'm sure Rishi Sunak is doing the best they can. You know, I respect him, and I respect his position. But let's be honest, Rishi Sunak is no entrepreneur. And, he's not a businessman. He doesn't get what entrepreneurs need on a day to day basis. So his job should be to provide resources to certain entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders to let them find ways to uplift up their community and vice versa.


Jonathan Sun

Right. Like Rishi Sunak shouldn't wave a wand and be like, here's what I think businesses needs features support program, X, Y and Z and whatever. You can't produce stuff, in areas that you don't know about effectively. It's exactly like going to a certain gardening example that I put forward earlier. Suppose I was the chairman of the International Gardening Association if I came up with laws with different support packages for people that love gardening. That's not going to be helpful because I know nothing about gardening.


Jonathan Sun

All the gardeners are going to be like, how does this help me? It doesn't.


Mark de Rijk

Yeah, it's true, um, and to be fair, you know, like, but Rishi also said. He said, about not supporting, like small business entrepreneurs and directors he was like, I apologize. You are overlooked. But I do support you just like my parents were entrepreneurs.


Mark de Rijk

I'm like, think like, so you're acknowledging that your parents are entrepreneurs. Yet, you're saying that you can't help entrepreneurs. You just go like that. Well, so basically you're saying that if that happened at the time, your parents wouldn't have been supported. You might not have been in a position to become a hedge fund manager.


Mark de Rijk

Which is quite interesting if you think about it, Timeline-wise, it's just interesting, and that's the only thing that I want to add. That there is like the whole public-private school system, I think it needs an overhaul. But, that's a personal opinion. I know that not everybody agrees with that.


Mark de Rijk

Yeah, that's fine. Yeah, that could be a whole editorial in itself. If a budding entrepreneur would come to you, what piece of advice would you give that entrepreneur? Just one piece.


Jonathan Sun

Pretotype your ideas, grow your emotional intelligence and build relationships. I think even if you don't have much money, one of the most important things you can build out is your relational currency.


Mark de Rijk

Yes.


Jonathan Sun

Try to build whatever field that you're interested in. Try to build as many high-quality relationships you can, whether they may be friendships or like maybe strictly professional types of relationships. Try to build as many high-quality relationships you can in the entrepreneurship sector. Try to give more than you take. And yeah, that's probably the biggest thing that I would say, understand emotional intelligence and be relational.


Mark de Rijk

That's what I'm like I'm trying to do outside of this as well. I go to my network on LinkedIn and go like how can I connect to folks together so they can both win, that kind of thing. Because at the end that will come back to you. And then the other question I had was; if you had a magic wand, what would you want to happen?


Mark de Rijk

Well, I'd like to. Let's end poverty, OK? Sounds like a good one. Yeah, that was a good one. Yes, one of the other guests, was like give me enough vaccines for Covid-19 for the whole world.


Mark de Rijk

That's a good one. So it's funny how it all comes back, people like you know, it's like it's greater than me kind of thing response, which is good to see. It means that we're all in the end, got a heart in the right place, that kind of thing. Exactly.



Thank you for your time. I took quite a bit of time today, but I think it was interesting for me. I hope it was interesting for yourself as well. And interesting for you as a listener listening at home in the car, motorbike, wherever that might be, surfboards, any particular specific vehicle that I do, let me know.



I'll see you all in the next episodes. And, again, Jonathan, thank you for your time.


Jonathan Sun

Awesome, man. Let's catch up later after this. Thank you.



Bye-bye. Cheers.


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