Understanding Different ways of Funding with the Founders of Zetl

In this episode of A Founder's Life, we present Shan Han and Mark Francis, who are the founders of Zetl. Zetl is a company that offers growth financing through various products to help with business expansion and working capital needs. Throughout the episode, both Shan and Mark talk about the different types of financing/funding, which types different founders should focus on and what investors are truly looking for in a start up.

Episode Transcript

Victor 0:10

This week, I'm pleased to introduce Shen Han and Mark Francis of Zetl, one of Asia's fastest growing startups. In this podcast, we talked about how they got their start in entrepreneurship in the founder friendly financing that they've built for the marketplace. It's a pleasure to have them on the show, everyone. Thanks for joining in. This is Victor Lang. And I'm so happy to have two esteemed guests on our show today, the founders of Zetl, Shan Han and Mark Francis. Sorry about that, Mark. I'd love to begin by learning a little bit more about you guys and your company, and especially how you guys founded it.

Shan Han 0:50

Sure. Well, thanks for the intro Victor. Mark, and I actually we've known each other for over a decade. But a bit about myself. I'm from the UK. I originally grew up in Asia, between Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. My background is in finance, as many are in Hong Kong, working in banks and hedge funds before going into fintech. So I've been running various FinTech ventures in the region for the last seven, eight years before Mark approached him with the idea of Zetl. Like I mentioned, I've known Mark for over a decade, because he actually tried to headhunt me, but was unable to tell that story.

Mark Francis 1:33

Yeah, so similar to Shan Max, I was born in Hong Kong. So I grew up here, spent a bit of time in the UK, as well as in Shanghai. But Hong Kong has been my home for most of my life. I spent a long time working as a financial services headhunter, mainly focusing on hedge funds. And that's actually how I came across it. Shan, he was somebody I tried to Headhunters, a candidate over a decade ago. Now, when he was a trader at a fund, he didn't take the job, but I didn't hold a grudge didn't hold it against him. And, you know, we started to sort of get to know each other. I actually invested in one of his very early stage companies, many moons ago. And we also even collaborated on a previous project, which was to build like an SFC, scraping algorithm. So you know, we'd have a bit of experience working together in the past. And I mentioned to him that I encountered some frustrations in trying to access financing from our bank. Because they looked at this small asset, light consultancy, no real furniture, or commodities, or goods to post as collateral, and they didn't really know what to do with us, even though the business was profitable. And that was kind of how it first started, you know, and it seems that this is an issue for other founders who are having the same problems, be an asset-light and be locked out of these capital markets. So Shan was the first person that reached out to you know, given that he had a strong FinTech finance background product by an entrepreneurial guy, and that was actually kind of how it really first began. And that was sort of we went back and forth for a few months, right until we eventually decided we should pull the trigger and incorporate a business almost exactly four years ago. I was checking this at the end of this month as well. 2018


Amazing. I mean, are you guys classmates? How did you guys know each other before you were headhunting each other? Or how did you guys get to know each other to begin with?

Mark Francis 3:27

Unfortunately, Shawn went to this very small school called King George the fifth kg five somewhere in Kowloon. I'm not familiar with where I went to South Island School, so we didn't know each other growing up. But obviously ISF schools, it was a healthy rivalry. We actually connected to one of my colleagues, if I remember correctly, whose name will remain unsaid. So no, I never actually knew Shannon growing up, but I think we probably do have a couple of mutual friends, I would imagine, sort of couple of years older than him in school,

Victor 3:56

and the business that you guys started Zetl. Can you guys tell me a little bit about it? What do you guys do? Exactly?

Shan Han 4:03

Sure. Well, firstly, everyone always asks why we're called Zetl. It's actually a bit of a pun. So we're called Zetl because we help our customers settle their bills, also happens to be a four letter domain name available. But that's, that's the pun that we play on. What we do is we help early stage small scale, SMEs, particularly asset might, but typically in the high growth stage, we help these companies get access to capital. So we do that through a variety of products. Typically, they're either based on bringing future revenue forward to date, or unlocking capital from receivables. So the idea is that if you're a company that has revenues, and those revenues might not be coming in for another 369 months, we can help you access that cash today, so that you can invest in the growth of your business. So it's pretty fast, flexible capital, for ambitious high growth companies make sense.

Victor 5:04

And you mentioned, you know, collateralizing invoices. I know, that's a big part of what you do, what are the kinds of companies that are most appropriate for the kind of financing that you offer.

Shan Han 5:17

So generally speaking, the types of companies that benefit the most from our financing, as I mentioned, tend to be high growth. So these are companies that are experiencing very good top line revenue expansion, therefore, they need access to capital to continue growth, and they need it fast. The second is that they are post revenue, as we do use revenue as the collateral. So being posted, revenue is one of the main things. And then the third is generally companies that tend to be asset light. So the definition of this would be if the majority of your cost base is in stuff, human capital, then typically it means that other companies are going to find it hard to assess you as a business. But we specialise in this. So the types of companies we tend to work with, they're often in the technology space, they might be agencies or consultancies. And that's kind of the main market that we held.

Victor 6:16

That sounds really useful. I know, for a lot of founders, like ourselves, it's impossible to get financing from a bank sticking a step back when you guys were starting out this business. I mean, how did you get your seed capital? I mean, it sounds like for your customers, you know, they need to establish growing businesses with revenue. But for those of us who are starting out from scratch, you know, how did you raise initial funding? You know, what do you look for in an early investor for settle?

Shan Han 6:46

Yes, so actually, what we did, he's, the co founders, we have a third co founder, Matt, who's not here. The three of us got together and actually just made a long list of all the people that we knew who might be interested in a business like this. So really building out on the personal network that we'd had up until this point. And then we just systematically reached out to everybody. They said, Hey, this is what we're thinking of doing. Would you be interested? And luckily, we found a few sort of friends and family to back. And that's how we got going. Mark, is there anything you want to add to that?

Mark Francis 7:21

I was gonna say, As Shan mentioned, there's one member of the CO founding team that they're still on this call with, which is Matt; he's based in Singapore, you know, he had a really good understanding of this kind of credit risk as well. And his skill set was very complimentary to us. So I think that was also a part of it was making sure that you had the right pieces in place. And, you know, for some entrepreneurs and founders, that could just be one person, you know, in some rare circumstances, where they just have every skill set. But for the vast majority, it's about trying to find a team and individuals that are going to be complementary, and utilising those skills together. Because when you do go out and have to raise money, you know, whether, before you even get to VCs, you know, just looking at, you know, friends and family and angels, you know, you they also need to be investing in the business, but also in you, right, so they need to have faith in that team. So I think that that was also a core part of it, especially at the beginning, when you haven't yet proven your product market fit, you know that you have a scalable business, more than anything, these individuals are investing in you. So that then comes down to your track record your previous work experience, but also, when you are presenting yourselves as a team, you know, do they believe that this team is going to take a business and grow it three, four or five times a year, and keep that up for maybe up to a decade. So I think that was kind of a core part of it. And then yellow, when we when we first really began, you know, going back sort of over three years ago now. Realistically, it was kind of the close network that we began with, you know, we're sort of that friends and family were the initial supporters in that business. And I think that was sort of a core part to get us off the ground. Because you can imagine, in the kind of business that we're involved in, it can grow quite quickly, because, you know, we're there providing financing products to SMEs and startups. And we also launched both Hong Kong and Singapore concurrently. So in addition to sort of setting up a silo, you're doing it in two different cities at the exact same time, right, so then you have to know, what regulations do we have? Are there any cultural differences? What is the startup and SME scene look like? Luckily, there were enough similarities in the two that we could get off the ground relatively quickly. But I think, you know, for the founders, given Asia was so vast, you know, different cultural and language, language differences there, that can be a bit more of a challenge. So I think that was something that was quite useful for us at the beginning.

Victor 9:40

You know, you're mentioning the different skills that each other has, you know, I'd love to know, what are the skills that you compiled together to make settle a success? But moreover, you know, an overarching question, what do you look for in entrepreneurs when you're looking at financing businesses or invest thing in what what are the what are the attributes of a good founder

Mark Francis 10:03

will be for the first part of your question. So I think for me, it's domain expertise, understanding of the HR space, definitely sales. And that's also having been a serial entrepreneur myself, you know, set up two other businesses that are one by one, even to this day, our team, so that was obviously a core part of it. Shawn, maybe you could talk about yourself?

Shan Han 10:24

Yeah, I mean, fairly similar. Having been a serial entrepreneur, myself, as well worked with a lot of founders across the years. I think the one consistent point between those that are successful in what I've come across is generally in a word, grit. So the founders that can exhibit grit that they can get through the tough times that they are willing to put in the effort. These are the guys who really make it through and succeed. And I guess to the first part of your question, how do we fit together as a team? Well, Mark's obviously the sales guy extraordinaire, he's the people person, he's the guy who gets on the phone in front of people. I bring more of the FinTech and product background. So that's a bit of my expertise. And then Matt, as we've mentioned before, he brings a lot of the credit experience to the team.

Victor 11:20

Makes sense. And now that you've been running this business for a few years, I'm sure it's been a challenge, translating all your personal values and visions and expectations into a functioning business. All that stuff takes a lot of time, you know, how important is the company's culture? And how did you establish that

Shan Han 11:38

culture, I think kids, one of the most important things that we have, I think we've always had from day one, had quite a strong emphasis on it. And I believe part of that is because of the way we started, because we started actually as a distributed team, even the three founders, at the time, Matt was in Singapore. Mark was in Hong Kong, and I was actually in Tokyo. So we started out as a remote distributed team first, which meant that we had to work through a lot of the difficulties that a lot of remote teams face. Now, during COVID, we had to deal with it before that. So an outsize emphasis on culture building for us has always meant making sure that we have, for example, over emphasis on communication, because we are distributed, had we focused on that. It's been about learning where we are a startup after all, so making sure that everybody can pick up knowledge that we are sharing internally between the team. And these are the kind of exhibits that I think because we as founders started with, when it's just the three communicating with each other. As other team members have come in, they've picked up these cultural traits as well, which has helped us because it means you know, culture isn't what we say it's what we do. So leading by example, I think has helped to build that culture that we really value.

Victor 13:00

I mean, you mentioned communication is a big part of your culture, you know, how specifically do you do it? How do you communicate in a distributed team? How do you share knowledge?

Shan Han 13:10

Yeah, so it's a variety of systems that we basically have built up over time. And look, we're constantly iterating on these as well, right? Nothing's set in stone. What we're doing today was vastly different a year ago, and will be different to what we do next year. But generally, there are few things that we've put strong emphasis on. The first is making sure that all communication is done by our core communication channel, which is Slack. So all the tools that we use pipe notifications directly into Slack, most conversations that are asynchronous happen in Slack. We also obviously tried to get a lot of FaceTime in like this through video calls. So each team has regular video calls throughout the week, we have a daily stand up that's done just like this every day. But also importantly, after every meeting, we try and log the few bullets after every meeting. And the idea here is so that if somebody wasn't part of that meeting, whether because they missed it, they were in another meeting, or they're not part of that team, they still get awareness of what's going on across the organisation. So the idea here is to really build up a shared context that everybody has, so that what experience one person has, say, a sales guy goes speaks to the prospect. They're typing notes into the CRM; the CRM pumps notification into a public open channel. And everybody, including, say, developers can read it, they then get a bit of context into what's going on with the customers. So for us, that means it reduces the communication levels, information doesn't have to go up and then down and across different functional departments, but rather, it's very flat. It's transparent and that's why all of our communication by default is in public. And that's what we encourage across the team.

Victor 14:59

Makes sense. makes sense. We're very similar as well, we rely on slack as well. And we've noticed that there's a lot of communication, differences between the engineering and the product side and the sales and marketing side. Is that something that you've noticed before as well? Or is that just our problem?

Shan Han 15:17

I don't think we've had any particular issue with it. But in terms of actually trying to mitigate some of that, but definitely things that we try and catch ourselves and make sure we don't fall into. And so that's things like trying to avoid jargon, trying to avoid domain specific abbreviations. And basically being a bit mindful that people sales guys might not understand what's going on in dev and vice versa. So that's something that we're constantly working on as well. I don't know what the if there's a magical silver bullet, but at least those efforts that you can make to try and

Victor 15:53

help. Yeah, yeah. And I think what you mentioned about asynchronous communication is the important key, I mean, that is a big, was a big change for us in going from like a in house team, that's everyone's sitting in the same room to kind of people being distributed, we've had to, you know, become more accustomed to asynchronous communication. And it's done great for us, when it comes to, you know, finances of your business or the customers that you deal with, you know, how do you plan your growth? And how do you plan? How much are you going to spend? I mean, largely, you know, every company needs to maintain positive cash flow in the long term. But for startups, you know, that's not a reality. How do you guys kind of stay in the green? And how do you guys kind of manage your finances in order to achieve the outcomes that you're looking for?

Shan Han 16:46

So I think for a business like ours, in particular, we've got a very strong emphasis on being on top of our finances. So that means we actually monitor our finances on a daily basis, because that is the nature of our business. Now, not every business will need to do the same level of granularity. But in terms of staying on top. That's one of the things that we see between a lot of the companies that we finance, the ones that have regular financial reporting, regular bookkeeping tend to find it much easier to actually forecast what they're going to spend, which in turn makes it easier for us to finance them because they've got a clearer picture, which means we've got a picture. And the way to do that best for a company that doesn't have a full time dedicated finance resource is certainly just to have a regular point to try and keep that up to date. So things that can be done, make sure that bookkeeping is done weekly, it'd be used to like zero, make sure that you're reconciling transactions on a regular basis. Because otherwise, what will happen is you end up with hundreds and hundreds of unreconciled transactions that you then need to catch up on. But when you do that, it's because you're looking for financing. And if you don't have that up to date, then you're not going to get financing. So these are the kinds of things that while they don't seem to add much value in the short term, in the long run, it's very important, not just for external capital raising, but also internal projections. If you don't know where you're spending your money, then you're going to struggle to actually budget and forecast where your cash flow is going. Yeah,

Victor 18:25

That's fantastic advice. I mean, have you seen that most companies have a problem with this? Or is it kind of a minority? And what are the kinds of businesses that you find are more likely to have good financial controls?

Shan Han 18:41

I think it's a fairly mixed bag. The type of companies that have an easier job of monitoring their finances tend to be the ones that have some kind of digital payments processing, simply because the tools that are used for financing, generate the reports that they need to do it. In other words, it's a lot more automated. I think the ones that have a harder time tend to be more manual types of businesses. So actionable things that businesses like these can do, make sure that if the invoicing quotes, use the invoice function in Xero, because then it automatically re-consult your bank feeds, make sure that they're hooked up to zero, because then the transactions will come in. And all you have to do is actually go through and click and adjust the actual adjustments, you don't need to put them in manually. So I think in terms of actually getting your finances in shape, the more automation you can do, the better. The other thing we've seen, used to quite big success is a lot of our customers' prospects, they use outsourced, CFO type businesses, where somebody might come in for half a day once a week just to tidy this up, and that makes a world of difference to their finances. So those are just some small things that any business can do. Today,

Victor 20:00

That's great advice. Yeah, I remember when I first started my business, I was spending a lot of time in QuickBooks. And back then there was not even an online QuickBooks as a desktop. And it was the thing that I actually hated to do the most. But it was the thing that was most important for when I was looking for financing or when I was looking for investors. And, you know, I became a self trained accountant, but it was painful, right? I mean, being able to have an outsourced bookkeeper or outsourced CFO, those kinds of things make a huge, huge difference. And, you know, on that note, when looking for financing, you know, I'd love to hear, from your perspective, what are the different ways that companies can capitalise their business?

Shan Han 20:43

Sure. So broadly speaking, there are four types of sources of capital for any business. On one side, you've got grants, followed by equity, followed by revenue, which is what we do, and then ending in debt. So across the spectrum, depending on what stage your company is in, different sorts of financing are more suitable to your business. Generally speaking, the earliest stage, the more speculative, the better grant and equity financing is, the more stable, the more growing your businesses, the more revenue and debt based products are suitable for your business. So with Grant financing, imagine a lot of companies in the r&d phase, maybe pre-revenue, these sorts of for these sorts of companies, grants can be a great way just to get started to validate some of what you're doing. There's no equity to give up, obviously, there's no obligation to pay it back. What there is, is a lot of the administrative work that's involved in grants. So it's a time based involvement, which if you're late to stage business, you're growing very rapidly, the time spent administering the grant might not be worth it, even if it is non diluted. So that's the trade off team made with some growth. Equity, we're all very familiar with. Fantastic for early stage companies, especially equity capital tend to be very patient, they can wait a fair few years for liquidity events. And so can be very good at those early stages, when you're still getting the business up and running. You might have a bit of revenue, but you haven't quite fully found product market fit. And you're really in that pre-scale, downsides, obviously, dilution, giving up a portion of your company. While it might seem like a free ticket is never free. In the future, when you do eventually find a liquidity event, maybe you sell, you go public, anything you sell, any equity you've sold. That's money that isn't going to come back to you. So the very large opportunity cost. So the larger you expect to grow your business, the more expensive that equity becomes. So think carefully about exactly how you're diluting your business then, the second risk with equity is obviously problem dilution, loss of control. This is more relevant to venture stage capitalization. But often as part of the financing, investors, rightly so, will want a board seat, which gives them much better control over the executive actions in the business. While this can be a very good thing with the right investor, it can also dilute your control of the business. So bear that in mind when looking at equity. As I mentioned, revenue is what we do revenue based financing, receivables based financing, unlocking cash from your own revenues, is a great way to unlock funding. If you are posting revenue, and you're growing quite rapidly, there's no dilution, there's no loss of control, it can be generally quite fast. And that will really help you to supercharge your growth by bringing forward future revenue to invest in your business. Now, the downsides of this, generally speaking, are that the tenants won't be as low, so you can't keep the capital for as long as there is a repayment. So it will impact your cash flow, which is why it's quite important to have high growth and high margins. And generally speaking, the more stable your revenues become as your growth plateaus, the more debt financing then becomes a good option for you that financing can be relatively cheap. downsides of the early stage are that debt investors don't like to deal with small companies with a short track record. So generally founders will have to leverage their personal credit if they're going to get business financing at all. So it's often not even available. But once you've been around for a few years, you've grown your business to a certain size, you've got a good operating track record, then debt capital can be a fantastic way to get access to longer term facilities at relatively low rates. Now, because there is a fixed repayment portion to debt, there is also greater risk. So make sure that if you're taking this you'll Business is at least stable to a certain level, and then a drop in business isn't going to destroy your capital base. So those are kind of the four main methods of raising capital.

Victor 25:10

Makes sense. I mean, sometimes I hear from founders the criticism of debt is that especially for venture debt or revenue based financing, the repayment rates are very high, like maybe up to 20 or 30%. On an annualised basis, I'm wondering what you think about, you know, how you would think about that, in terms of comparing that with equity financing? I mean, you obviously talked about some of the risks involved. But, I mean, maybe you can give an example of how the actual impact would be in the long term with equity, as opposed to, you know, being with debt in a kind of more short term comparison?

Shan Han 25:49

Yeah, great question. I think this really depends on the type of growth that you project for your company. And often people don't realise that the cost of equity financing can be very large when you factor in what the effective repayment rate is. Because let's say your company's worth $100. Today, you sell 10% of that company, you've given up $10. Now, tomorrow, if your company in a year's time, called it, is now worth $20, the value of the shares you sold is now worth 20. So if you were to instead sell that same 10% of your company today, you've left $10 worth of money on the table. So that's effectively a 100% cost of capital, which is absurdly expensive. And when you put it into that context, then debt financing revenue based financing, even that sort of 20% cost of capital is significantly cheaper. If you can sell much more of your equity tomorrow. Why cheap, cheap on it today, and lose out by leaving money on the table? Yeah, I

Victor 26:56

I think there's a lot of it related to the mentality of people, right? A lot of people just think debt is bad debt is bad, I want to pay it off, right? But maybe that's something founders need to think a little bit more about, that it's not a matter of debt being good or bad. It's just a, there's a cost to capital, and you need to think about it in those terms. I mean, that's something that a lot of founders, like, have difficulty understanding, going back to your own startup experience, knowing what you know, now, like, what would you have done differently, when, when you were, if you were to start all over again,

Shan Han 27:31

I think one of the things I probably would have done is spent more time speaking to more prospective investors early on because one of the things that I've definitely started to learn now is this concept that investors invest in lines and not dots. So what that means is investors like to see the progress of a business of its founders over time, rather than investing in them the first time they come across the business. So had we spent more time with a wider net, we'd have even more investors on our, on their radar. And I think that would have made fundraising over this entire period that much easier.

Mark Francis 28:17

Yeah, just saying, I was thinking back to sort of the first iterations of what we were doing. So 2018 2019, I think one thing is almost tried to have gone to market even sooner, I think that we did spend a lot of time discussing how the business was going to look, you know, making sure we obviously abided by all the regulations that were in place or any licensing regimes. But on reflection, we could have probably tried to get started, even at the smallest stage with an MVP, and just, you know, maybe even towards the end of 2018, or early 2019, we could have actually started to get out there because we knew there was interest in the market. And we sort of took a bit of time to actually go live officially which took us to about the summer, I think on reflection I would have liked to sort of just get started with as soon as possible. And then as you said, you know, make sure that we were on the radar of a lot of these investors right at the beginning, not necessarily to even ask them for anything, just to make them aware that we were that we were there, that we saw an opportunity and we were going to go and try and and reach out to that market. And I think then a chance said, you know, as we return to them every year or so, we've been less than they could have seen the development and how far would have come in those first couple of years. So I think for me, it would have been a case of I know a lot of other startup founders are even more guilty of this, as you know, they wait sometimes years, trying to create the perfect product before actually launching it right. And there's a lot of a lot to be said for sort of just coming up with an MVP, getting it out there getting customer feedback, and adapting and improving upon it right by the lean methodology. So I think that that's one thing perhaps looking back we could have tried to do a little bit sooner, is actually just get to market and start buying into these customers. As soon as we could have done feasibly

Victor 29:58

that filter. Great. That's great. advice. I mean, I, for us, we had that mentality as well, you know, maybe not launching fast enough was a barrier for us early on. But you know, you live and learn, right? But as your business has progressed, I mean, the pressure is immense on you guys, as founders, you know, what are the ways that you deal with the pressure, the stress, especially, I'm talking about mental health care, right? Like, you know, there's a lot of, you know, founders who can't really deal with the stress in healthy ways. I'm wondering, what do you guys do to help manage that stress

Mark Francis 30:35

on top of that, obviously, in COVID, as well, but it's not just setting up a startup or doing it in the worst pandemic in our lifetimes, right, where, in particular, in Hong Kong, a lot of people have been either locked out of going to anywhere, really any public or facilities, bars, nightclubs, and even restaurants for a while. So that also plays into it. And I, you know, I think, the mental mental health and management that is so important to founders, especially so with what we've been going through this constant pressure, coming from government, from friends and family, I think, like, it's important that people don't get burnt out too quickly. There's, you know, this mentality that you see, in the corporate world, you know, work hard, play hard. And, you know, when you're younger, perhaps for a short period of time, you can manage the two, but it catches up on you, right? And I think it's important that people try and find more of a balance in their life, you know, create space, because as a startup founder, you're really on so much at the time, right? It's not the type of role where you clock in and out, do that nine hour shift, you know, realistically, any message comes in from, when you're awake to when you're going to bed, you do need to respond to it, especially when the team is small. And that can be so crucial, just waiting those 12 hours overnight, that can make all the difference. So I think that's the issue that comes from that is, then you can feel that you're plugged in all the time, man, it's only really when you sleep, that you're not working. And that also isn't healthy. Because that can also lead to burnout. So I think that creating some space is important. And I think founders have to remember that, you know, whether it's giving yourself an hour when you're woken up or an hour before you go to bed, just to unwind and sort of prepare for the day ahead. I think that's a crucial one. And obviously, as part of that, there's things such as exercise and meditation, you know, which I think both of us do, which just helps to get you that balance in your life. So those are probably a few from my side. What about you?

Shan Han 32:28

I think one of the things that Margie said to me once ages ago that I really picked up and took to heart was this idea not of work life balance, because as a founder, it's hard to balance the things that work life integration. And I think that's a really great way to think about it. Where, you know, as a startup founder, it is very important to have all these things to integrate your work into your life. And I think it is all the things that Mark talked about, right, it's making sure that you do have the time and make the space to actually unwind to focus on other things. And for me, I found routine to be very helpful with that. So building up little practices doesn't have to be anything major. But little practices that I can do on a daily basis, tend to grant me and, and helped me get through a lot of what there is, I'd say the other thing that I found very helpful, is that often the they say the job of trying to convey learning, and I find that's incredibly true. And we're lucky enough that Mark and I sat here together, we have a long relationship. So we can talk about a lot of this stuff. But for a lot of people, if your circle around you isn't with other founders, it can be hard for people to understand as supportive as your partner's parents' children might be, if it's not something they've done before, they're not quite going to understand how lonely the journey can be. So one of the things I'd strongly recommend is to try and build up even a small network of other founders that you can touch base with regularly. And it doesn't have to be anything where they actually actively help you. But just somebody to talk to who understands what you're going through, can go a long way to helping to alleviate that stress. And also, quite frankly, normalise a lot of the experiences you have, because often it can be all too easy to sit there thinking, Is it just me? Am I doing something wrong? Is this normal? And just having somebody to bounce those experiences and ideas off? And for somebody to go? No, that's really normal. I went through that too, and it can make a big difference.

Victor 34:27

Yeah, I have to say you guys do a good job of that. I mean, hosting happy hours with founders, you know, just for us, we'll be able to go to those things. Because it's really cool to meet other founders right and to share experiences and that's a fantastic outlet. Shawn, you mentioned routines you know, I'd love to know what are the small routines that you've integrated into your life and how they are helpful.

Shan Han


Show us I mean, my routines go all the way from the large to the small so on the large I actually spend quite a lot of time prioritising My work. So every quarter, every month, every year, I have different levels of planning. And then I work down to my smaller intermediate goals. And I try to book these in the calendar in advance. And that's really based on this idea that what you work on is more important than how efficiently you're working on them. Because you can work incredibly efficiently on the wrong things. So ruthless prioritisation there and making sure that I know what I'm working on is correct has really helped. I tried to give myself space every week, usually Sunday evenings and Monday mornings to actually plan the week ahead. So that helps me clear my headspace and makes it quite clear what it is that I need to work on. And again, helps them come to that micro prioritisation. Then in terms of actually making time for myself, a few things that are quite straightforward. Exercise being an obvious one, try to get a bit of moderate activity every day. If possible, try and walk half an hour a day. Those are things I tried to do. I tried to meditate most days and read at least an hour a day before bed, because I find that's a great way just to unwind.

Mark Francis 36:13

Yes, actually an interesting couple of ones that you said, I also tend to read for about an hour before bed to unwind to just find it helps to relax me. That can be a mixture of you know, actual books, or also just my iPad. Normally, I meditate in the mornings. So for me, it's about setting myself every morning, sort of before we do then we have the standard call that John mentioned. So typically, I'll do a sort of 1015 minute meditation in the morning just to sort of calm my mind and prepare for the day ahead. Similar to Shawn, I also plan out on the Monday morning normally, so make sure my calendar knows what's happening in my calendar and every day. And I feel prepared for that. And then the other thing is also an exercise, whether that's, you know, 10,000 steps or half an hour of exercise, typically, when the gyms are open, I would be, you know, be going to the gym over lunch, and sort of using that that hour to sort of actually create more energy for the afternoon. You know, when there can be a slump, sometimes I find that it helps to alleviate it. So yeah, I think there's a combination of the few that works best for me.

Victor 37:13

I just have one last question for you guys. And this is not one that I had mentioned before. So it's a little bit out of left field. And it's a little bit personal. But um, I'd love to know, for both of you, what is the most memorable childhood experience that you have? And how does it impact you as an adult today?

Mark Francis 37:30

I have one because it's just been on my mind a lot recently, but probably for me, it was. So I grew up in Hong Kong, like I mentioned, my dad was a big sailor. So I used to go out sailing with him every weekend, I was very fortunate that we were able to do that even though he was a police officer. And I just was thinking back to a memory I had of being a bit he behaving which is sort of in cycle. And we used to take the boat out and actually sleep on the deck over the long weekends and sort of looking up at the sky. There was one particular trip, I remember over Easter that we went and we did that and just had a wonderful three days. So that was one that's really sort of stuck with me in the last few days especially. So yeah, that's probably the one that's been in my mind the most.

Victor 38:12

And as an adult, like what resonates with you about that memory, why do you think it keeps coming back up?

Mark Francis 38:18

One, I know what it comes back to because of something that happened last year with my father. But second is I've also been really keen to do sailing. I was talking about this balance of life. It's one of those goals that you always want to sort of come back to. I haven't really had much time to do it in the last couple of years. But I've been feeling that edge to sort of start getting out there to do more seating, especially on the weekends. So I think that's what my mind was telling me, like you need to bring that into your life in some way and and get back into it. So we need to do really well with this business. So I can afford the yacht but I need to buy it.

Shan Han 38:50

Sure. I mean, I can talk a bit about how it's raised. So I come from a single parent family raised by my mother, and for quite a long period in my childhood actually lived separate. I was raised by my grandparents in Tokyo. And I remember at that very young age, feeling entirely powerless in my circumstance in life, feeling powerless to help those I love and feeling like I was such a child because obviously I was but that feeling of powerlessness really stuck with me. And I think that's something that I've always strived to reverse. And I think that's why I've always wanted to be in entrepreneurship and my wife ended up as a serial entrepreneur, because I would rather be master of my own destiny and fail, then follow some other path and not have control over it and then succeed. And I think that sort of Extreme Ownership of my own destiny is why I put a lot of value in entrepreneurs, said business owners, and it's something that I'm really passionate about helping other entrepreneurs achieve as well. And so I'm really grateful to be able to do that with Zetl.

Victor 40:10

Well, Mark Francis and Shan Han. I love our conversation. Thank you guys for being so open, and all the best with your business. I wish you a fantastic year. It was fascinating to speak with Shan Han and Mark Francis of Zetl. It's great to be able to interview founders who are so tapped into other founders that are able to create products that help them grow their businesses. Thanks very much for coming on the show.

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