Top of the Class

#27 Building Businesses that Change the World with Young Australian of the Year, Nathaniel Diong

January 16, 2021 Crimson Education Season 1 Episode 27
Top of the Class
#27 Building Businesses that Change the World with Young Australian of the Year, Nathaniel Diong
Top of the Class
#27 Building Businesses that Change the World with Young Australian of the Year, Nathaniel Diong
Jan 16, 2021 Season 1 Episode 27
Crimson Education

During school, Nathaniel Diong felt helpless to make a difference in the face of the world's problems.

Now at 19-years-old, Nathaniel has been recognised as a 2021 Young Australian of the Year, AMP Tomorrow Maker and World Economic Forum Shaper for his work in education. As CEO of Future Minds Network, he’s helped 11,000 students become future-ready through entrepreneurship programs. His students are mentored by entrepreneurs who have raised millions in funding, built companies alongside the founders of Airbnb, and featured on Forbes 30U30.

Today, Nathaniel is also an international startup mentor, judge, and Giant in Residence at Blackbird Ventures, Australia’s leading VC firm. In the near future, he plans to launch a VC fund unlocking the endless potential of youth.

This episode is full of Nathaniel's fantastic tips, mindset advice and life experiences that will not only inspire you to turn your ideas into reality, but take you through how to get started as well.

The Top of the Class podcast is powered by Crimson Education. If you want to learn more about your path to top US, UK or European universities, click here to request a free and private meeting with an Academic Advisor in your area. Click here to try out Crimson's US College Admissions Calculator to predict your best fit college.

We invite listeners to fill in this form to be considered for the show.

**Interested in STEM? Download the Ultimate Resource Bank for Science Students with the favourite resources from young scientists featured on the Top of the Class**

Show Notes Transcript

During school, Nathaniel Diong felt helpless to make a difference in the face of the world's problems.

Now at 19-years-old, Nathaniel has been recognised as a 2021 Young Australian of the Year, AMP Tomorrow Maker and World Economic Forum Shaper for his work in education. As CEO of Future Minds Network, he’s helped 11,000 students become future-ready through entrepreneurship programs. His students are mentored by entrepreneurs who have raised millions in funding, built companies alongside the founders of Airbnb, and featured on Forbes 30U30.

Today, Nathaniel is also an international startup mentor, judge, and Giant in Residence at Blackbird Ventures, Australia’s leading VC firm. In the near future, he plans to launch a VC fund unlocking the endless potential of youth.

This episode is full of Nathaniel's fantastic tips, mindset advice and life experiences that will not only inspire you to turn your ideas into reality, but take you through how to get started as well.

The Top of the Class podcast is powered by Crimson Education. If you want to learn more about your path to top US, UK or European universities, click here to request a free and private meeting with an Academic Advisor in your area. Click here to try out Crimson's US College Admissions Calculator to predict your best fit college.

We invite listeners to fill in this form to be considered for the show.

**Interested in STEM? Download the Ultimate Resource Bank for Science Students with the favourite resources from young scientists featured on the Top of the Class**

Podcast Host  00:00

Welcome to the Top of the Class podcast. I'm your host, Alex Cork. And this episode is packed with amazing advice from the founder and CEO of the Future Minds Network and young Victorian of the Year, Nathaniel Diong. With a burning desire to change the world for the better. Nathaniel turned to entrepreneurship. And today, more than 11,000 students have learned the fundamentals of how to start a business through the Future Minds Network. Nathaniel discusses the misconceptions around entrepreneurship, and how to get started today. Let's chat with Nathaniel Diong. Nathaniel, Welcome to the Top of the Class podcast, it's fantastic to have you on. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Nathaniel  00:53

Yeah, thanks for having me, Alex. Well, I'm Daniel, I'm the CEO of Future Minds Network. And I've been working to unlock the endless potential of youth, whilst tackling stemming unemployment through entrepreneurship. So we've been really lucky to work with 11,000 Youth across the world to build human skills, a growth mindset and create their own jobs through startups.

Podcast Host  01:14

Right. It sounds like you've done that quite a few times. When did you start future minds network?

Nathaniel  01:19

Yes, I actually started the exodus theme. And it really came from a place of helplessness. And I grew up feeling really helpless to make a difference where 1000s of people died each day. And so I actually, I got clinically diagnosed with depression, because I spent a lot of time thinking about people in the world who would die. And I wanted young people to realize they could make a difference and realize their own potential.

Podcast Host  01:41

I think that's an interesting take that you go to Ward's creating an organization or building a network of people. When the enormity of the issue is weighing so heavily on your shoulders, it can be very difficult to kind of say, what can I do as one person? I think a lot of people get weighed down by that, right? They see the world's issues, and they think, well, what can I do? And you're like, well, I might not be able to do much as one person. But if I put together a whole group of people, and created a network now that has a bit more power, was that your thinking behind creating future minds network?

Nathaniel  02:16

Yeah, like for me, you know, I spent like six years thinking about what I could do to make a difference. And it really just started from an idea. I thought to myself, What if we could do this? What if we could run a conference where we could gather people just like me, and see what we could do? And so you know, sometimes I wish I had this grand idea that I create a company that would influence 1000s, and millions. But it really, it never intended to be a company. I started it off as a gathering of 100 yachties. And it just grew from there.

Podcast Host  02:48

Where did you go about finding those emojis? I mean, like you were trying to find people like you, how many people will like you at school? Did you have to go too far outside of that community to find these 100 young ladies,

Nathaniel  03:01

I think in terms of people like me, not many, because I spent a lot of time by myself thinking about these issues, and really trying to dissect and understand the world around me, like, at 10 years old, the world, like cracks already began to form in a perfect world where I realized that, you know, it was an absolute privilege to have a bed to sleep on every night. And you have to be on the table and to have water. And I think particularly if this conference, what I realized was young people really do want to make a difference, but they just don't know how they don't have the right tools to do so. And they don't know where to start. And so we see this increasingly, like even see on social media, where young people are getting more work, if you will, and more aware of the issues around them, and using advocacy as a way to do that. But for me, I wanted to do more than that. And I wanted to be able to create tangible projects where we could actually see the impact happen. And so that's where I stumbled into entrepreneurship and the journey began.

Podcast Host  03:57

It's very interesting to kind of take that leap from advocacy to projects and tangible, actual action. How big a leap was that? And was that a big challenge for you?

Nathaniel  04:08

Yeah, definitely a big challenge. And by all means, I don't think like advocacy or entrepreneurship should be one or the other. I definitely think like, in order for us to work as a society, they really have to coexist. Yeah. And you can't have entrepreneurship without advocacy. And you can't have advocacy without entrepreneurship. There's not one that's better than the other or one that's like more superior in that sense. And in terms of elite to me, I literally, I mean, and to this day, I'm a big believer that nobody knows anything. And so for me, it was just a process of just trying and figuring out what I could do. I literally started with a conference and I thought about, okay, how can we actually turn this conference into something where we make tangible projects. And so I started this idea of a hackathon. And I explored that and then eventually it turned into a fully fledged program where I began running it at high schools across Australia and so on. For me, I think it's a very like entrepreneurship mindset in the sense that I really had to just build, measure and learn everything I did. And from that I was able to see what worked and what didn't, and really understand what are the intricacies? And how do I actually run a program like this. And so like throughout the whole program, like, and my whole journey, the company and its vision has constantly evolved. I wouldn't say that even now I have like, one set definition of what it is. But that's the beauty of it. Like just like a team culture. And just like, the world that we live in today, everything is constantly evolving and changing.

Podcast Host  05:34

Did you have any co founders?

Nathaniel  05:38

I had a team of about eight, so I had a cabinet of eight at my school. And so they helped me to sort of coordinate the conference. There were some mishaps in the conference, actually, on the day, we had one entire school rock up that we didn't account for. And so he had an additional like, 30 people to feed with no budget to do so I'll venue space got cancelled three times. So we had to re navigate. And the project and technology shut down for an hour.

Podcast Host  06:06

Of course it does. Like the one thing you can almost certainly bank on is the time you run your first conference, that projector is going to shut down.

Nathaniel  06:15

And so like throughout the whole process, like we have to add live, we have to find icebreakers to fill in the time do new activities. And I feel like you know, that first taste of running that conference is exactly what entrepreneurship is like us, as a founder, you have to do everything from marketing, to pitching to business modeling. And a lot of the time things aren't going to go your way. But being able to adapt in these times of uncertainty and extreme pressure is what's going to help you in the future. And I think like during the moment, I very much considered the conference as a failure. I was like I did such a bad job as a leader, you know, I should have been able to see these risks in advance. But looking back, it was a really valuable learning experience for me to see that now, even if you plan, the best conference in the world, mistakes are gonna happen. And it was two or three years ago, I was actually chatting to someone who'd been to the conference. And they said, it was absolutely amazing. And I talked to them about like everything that happened. And they're like, really, I had no idea. And to me that that really amazed me. Because in the moment, I was like, "This is the worst thing I've ever done in my life. I've made the biggest mistakes." And so it's really interesting to see those two different perspectives where, you know, you can be really harsh on yourself in the moment. But failure is really just another learning experience. So you'd build measure and Linda?

Podcast Host  07:35

Yeah, absolutely. And you do say build, measure and learn. And you say that as if it's like something that you approach almost everything you do with that philosophy of build, measure, learn. What are some of the metrics that you use to build, measure, learn?

Nathaniel  07:51

I think it really depends, depends on what what projects you're running. But typically, like, in everything that you do, particularly if you're if you're building your own business, for example, you're really testing a bunch of assumptions, right? And so it really starts with the customer. So customer is king in everything, and being able to understand what are the pain points that they actually suffering from? And what how does my solution? Or how does my company actually fix that? A lot of people approach entrepreneurship, thinking that, you know, I have the best solution in the world, I'm going to change this problem forever. But they forget that the customer is at the core of that problem. And so where build measure learn comes in, is really testing these hypotheses on these customers and understanding what is the biggest problem that they're facing right now? How can we focus our priorities on that, rather than trying to force something or the best product in the world onto them?

Podcast Host  08:46

What is it like being a student entrepreneur, though? Do you think it is easier to be a entrepreneur or entrepreneurial student? Or is it easier to be an entrepreneurial 20 to 23 year old?

Nathaniel  09:00

It's it's a double edged sword with everything. Particularly when you're younger, there's more room to fail. Yes. And that's because nobody really expects you to do anything better. And so if you come in fresh faced 17 1819 start a business and it fails. No one bad tonight. But if you're 34 years old, trying to sell into like a new career, if you fail, there's a lot more at stake, you have to think about family car mortgage housing. But beyond that, there's a lot about reputation and what other people will think of you. But when you're young, not only do people not have any expectations of what you should do, because they think you should be studying. But people are also a lot more willing to help you because they've been there before. They have been young people who've had amazing ideas of the world that they want to create, but haven't been supported to do so. And so a lot of the times you'll get, you know, political entrepreneurs from Y Combinator or Forbes 30 under 30 actually come back and teach the students because they're doing what they wish they had. when they're younger, and so very much we see this in our programs that future minds Well, we have amazing entrepreneurs come in and teach these students and everything from customer discovery and validation, all the way to how to create a business model and pitching. And it's all based on wanting to give back, because they wish they could have started their business at 16 instead of 20.

Podcast Host  10:21

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think I think there's a lot of people who would love to see entrepreneurship being a bigger feature of the school curriculum. And I, you know, there's the argument that people like Gary Vee often make that school failed him because it didn't give him the toolkit to be an entrepreneur, and he had to kind of self learned, did you have to self learn it too? Like, were you kind of just going on YouTube or talking to people? How were you approaching the discovery and experience of entrepreneurship and trying to learn what to do?

Nathaniel  10:51

It was all learning by doing. And so you know, when you when somebody wants to learn soccer, right, you don't tell them to sit on the bench and watch someone else play soccer for a week. Because that only helps when you know what you're watching for. Get them to get on the field, start playing gel, start playing games, losing over and over again, and practicing and practicing and practicing until we get better. And so for me, that was the exact same process, I just started building things when they didn't work. I use that as an opportunity to think about what did I learn from this experience, because failure is just feedback, right? It's telling me what's not working and what I can do better. And so the other thing I did was really surrounded myself with community, I surrounded myself with people who I looked up to in the space, and try to learn from them, like very much like law of attraction that you might have heard of, yeah, but being able to manifest and if that's something that you want to become, in the future, hang around those people, and really being able to understand and realize that, Hey, I know nothing now. But there's a whole world of opportunity where I can learn more, I think the other thing was consistently putting myself into ditching me, I went into like seven different startup programs across Australia, where I got to learn through a program, which is meant to give birth to startups. And so I got to learn from the weight Institute from Fitzroy Academy, catalyze a lot of different programs, where the whole process was them teaching you how to learn by doing and constantly pushing you to fail,

Podcast Host  12:23

did interesting kind of concept of learning by doing I think there's some people who are doing but not learning at the same time, like they're just doing and they're pushing forward, or they're too attached to their idea. And then they externalize blame, oh, it was these things that were the issue, not my product, not my marketing, not my this, that or the other. It was everything else. But me that was the issue. How do you switch that kind of thinking to take responsibility, take ownership of what is going right? And more importantly, what is going wrong? without necessarily feeling without feeling weighed down by the failures and thinking that maybe entrepreneurship isn't for you, right? Like, how do you keep the motivation going, as you're taking responsibility for the failures, because that must be a bit of a tricky thing to do.

Nathaniel  13:13

It's a delicate balance. Because obviously, you know, we talked about this trait called pathological optimism, where you continue to fail, even though you know, you will fail, and you go into that failing again, and again, and again, and you constantly get up. And that's one of the biggest and best things that I've found that can have in mindset. But the other hand is, it's also really important for founders to know when to stop, you know, when an idea is not working and be able to pivot or persevere. Those are the two options that we often hear about. I think, particularly when we talk about an idea and holding yourself dear to the failures that happen, I've definitely encountered that before. One of the things that I've had is almost thinking about your idea as a rock, right? It's not your baby, it's not part of you. It's a rock sitting on the table. And so when people talk to you about your idea and give you ideas about that idea, or they give you feedback on the idea, they're not criticizing you, they're describing the rock. And they're giving you feedback on how to shape that into a better towel than you could ever imagine before. And so I think really taking this perspective and being able to process feedback is something that takes a while as well, because there is a beauty in being able to create something of your own. Because it's like your baby, right? Like when you start a podcast, you're proud of that. Oh, yeah, I think that you've made right and you can't take away from that. But I think what really differentiates success is being able to see your idea as a rock and allow other people to describe that for you and see what they see because you're going to be able to really understand all these different perspectives that you might never have seen before. People could be seeing the rock from a completely different angle. Like it could be in front of you here, but they could be describing the crevices on the other side.

Podcast Host  14:55

I love that idea because I feel like in my life at the moment, my brother is Got his own business? Yeah. And I feel like he is the business. Right, he hasn't been able to externalize the business from him. So when people are critical of the business, he feels like

Nathaniel  15:11

an attack on yourself.

Podcast Host  15:12

Yeah, right. Right, he feels it and it gets him down. And that kind of stuff when he kind of used that thinking of the rock or externalized. And being like, it's not a criticism of me, it's just feedback on the rock, right, which is, you know, the rock that you've created and whatnot, but still, it's, you know, perfectly fine to give feedback to that external piece of piece of yourself, then that's, that's, I think, super, super important.

Nathaniel  15:35

The other thing is like being really conscious of who you take feedback from? Yes, the way that I sort of think about it is I almost have like three buckets of where I see feedback. So there are like one or two people that I really look up to. And I really value that advice, because I know they have, like experience, particularly in the industry of education. And they have valuable insight that there are two to five people who have some involvement in entrepreneurship and know the space well, that I sort of trust. And when I hear that advice, I'll consider it or not consider it. And then there's everyone else who has never started a startup before has never worked in education. And the opinions won't really influence the decisions I make. And so it's really important because often, when you're first in your journey, you're listening to everybody, because you want to receive all that advice. But when you do that, people might point you in all different directions, and you won't know where to go. So knowing what to regulate. And when people do describe that rock, knowing what to receive and what not to receive is also a really good trait as well like having one or two trusted people, where you know that they probably have the best angle that you've never thought about and being able to consider that. But then also having the bucket where people describe that rock and they tell you what to do. But knowing that if they have no experience, and you don't trust what they have to say, then it's totally okay to stick to your guns. 100% I

Podcast Host  16:57

think it's a really interesting concept of those unsolicited advice that you get


a lot, right. Yeah, yeah. So

Podcast Host  17:05

how do you pretend to listen to the unsolicited advice without necessarily being, you know, mean, or cutting people off? Like, they're obviously trying to give advice, because they feel that their advice would be helpful at this point in time and whatnot. But like, if you haven't chosen them, as your trusted source, how do you kind of sit there and nod and say, Oh, yes, that's very interesting. I'll definitely give that a go. Like, how do you handle that?

Nathaniel  17:29

I don't think you have to necessarily, like be fake about it, and nod and agree. But the way that I tend to deal with it is I like to listen first and completely, like, I might spend one or two days actually processing the information, somebody told me next one or two days, I won't receive it straightaway. And so I really acknowledge it because I genuinely care about the advice they're giving me. But I'll look at my own values, I look at what I've learnt and see where does that actually fit in? If it challenges my beliefs? Is it challenging it in a way that will result in progress? Or is it challenging it in a way that will just serve to put me down? Because sometimes the advice that you get is completely unconstructive. People might just say your ideas, horrible idea doesn't have customers, the idea doesn't have a market, which may be true. And so being able to have that time to weigh up these options, and really understand where they're coming from,

Podcast Host  18:25

I think it's really important as well. I think sometimes like parents, they can be so well meaning, but at the end of the day, they might not know a huge amount about what you're trying to achieve. And other friends might say, well, well, I know you so well. And you're like yes, but you might be a bit of a negative Nelly, and I love you for it. But in this case, I'm going to choose who I take my advice from. So when you're thinking of the people who you take your advice from, what was your selection criteria for that, like, what were you trying to, or who were you trying to pick and for what reasons,

Nathaniel  18:54

and we're not talking about people that I trust or information that I trust, I always look for things that challenge my perspective. And so particularly, it's almost like I seek out people who don't think like me, is often in the space, it's easy to get trapped in your own bubble. And I think we see this in our friendship groups as well, obviously, the friends that we have people who are a lot like us, because we don't want the disagreement, and we don't have it, we just want to hang out and have a good time. And so for me, I like to hang out with people who have a lot of different perspectives to me. So for example, you know, in the education space, someone that I talked to about education innovation is Janette chia from the hacker exchange. So she has a really interesting insight about what the future of work is going to look like, how startups are going to influence that and how the gig economy is constantly changing, that I might not have the same expertise of. So I see the rock, I see the angle, but I see that angle from the person of a young person who's trying to navigate the world of work Janette, she sees it in the perspective of someone who's been in the industry and who's worked in innovation for 1015 years. And so being able to identify what are the things that I'm looking for? And who do I want to challenge my perspectives really helped me to pick the people that I want to spend my time around.

Podcast Host  20:11

Yeah, that sounds like a pretty important part of the entrepreneurship process, right? Like you've got your product or your service idea, and you've got all these other bits and pieces. But I think knowing who your trusted sources are, knowing who your community or your support group is, is almost as important as the initial idea in itself, right? Because you know, you need people who will be straight with you will tell you exactly what they're thinking without necessarily being too negative or too nasty about it. So you have been really smart about who you choose, and your support group can be a super important thing. Would you recommend students to choose some older people as well as younger people? Because I mean, I'm sure most kids will look around, you know, in their group. Yeah, as you said, like your circle of friends. Usually you'll find people who agree with you, but I'm willing to guess most students would take their best advice, or their most advice in their circle of friends, and their parents most likely.

Nathaniel  21:08

It really depends. I mean, if you have a group of people and all of your friends have businesses that all 17 year old business tycoons, then sure, and the other thing is, maybe they don't have to be business tycoons. Maybe you're working on a idea around disability, and maybe the people that you consult, and your friends are people who've lived with disability, think that's something that we really pushed out programs is, you know, entrepreneurship at future minds isn't just about skills building. That's also about jobs building and mindset building, and thinking about all these different perspectives, and how can I gain insights, and open my mind up to feedback without being overwhelmed by feedback, it doesn't necessarily have to be an older person that you take advice from, but someone with different with experience, or from what I hear from young people is, I don't have enough experience. And I get where that comes from. Because often people think age is experience. But in reality, it's not. Just because you're younger doesn't mean you don't have as much experience means you have a different experience. So depending on the product or service that you're serving the market for. If for example, you're doing work, working with teenagers who love playing video games, and you're developing a solution there, maybe your friends are the best people to talk to because they are the customer. So it really depends on the scenario that you're dealing with. Yeah,

Podcast Host  22:28

love that. Love that. How did you say entrepreneurship, helping to solve the issue of injustice and poverty and helping people in different circumstances around the world? Because I think when most students think of entrepreneurship, they're just thinking like money in the bank. Right? So when you think of entrepreneurship, you obviously saw that it could be a solution to some other problems. And how did that come about? And how is the connection continued to grow since then?

Nathaniel  22:58

To get context, right now we're in a global unemployment crisis. So 2.8 million young ladies in the next 10 years, need to be significantly rescale. That's seven and 10, Yama, Z's, right. Enterprise skills, human skills, already three times more in demand than technical by employers, and technical is everything that we learn at school. And so entrepreneurship is that gap that bridges all of those things. It does skills building does jobs building, and it does mindset building. And more than that entrepreneurship is a canvas to create change in the world. I started understanding that with entrepreneurship, you could essentially create your own business on anything. And so the way that it really formed was, how might we work with young people to create impact driven businesses? Because what I found was a lot of young people had amazing ideas of how they wanted to change the world. But they just didn't know where to start. Because it seemed too far fetched. Yes, business seem too complicated. It seem like it cost too much capital. And so a lot of it was giving them the blueprint to actually do that. But along the way, we realized that within the education space, it has this endless capacity to help young people into future employment, because you practice things like financial literacy, when you're building your business model. Practice things like communication, when you're pitching. And these are all future skills for a lot of work.

Podcast Host  24:18

So like, entrepreneurship isn't just the experience of starting a business, it doesn't matter what the business is, because you will be learning the skills of financial interesting pitching, etc. So it's like, it's like almost a whole new extracurricular, right, because everyone's like, Oh, go do sport. It will teach you teamwork or go down music, it will, you know, make you smarter. But you're like if you want to build a tangible, real world skill set, practice entrepreneurship.

Nathaniel  24:45

Yeah. 100%. And the goal of entrepreneurship isn't always to become an entrepreneur. Because whether you succeed or fail, you would have learned skills that are so valuable for future employment. And so we've had what 11,000 young people Go to the program now. So young people from 50 different cultures have gone on to land jobs at UNICEF, build companies with more than 50 employees and gain their own financial freedom. But beyond that those who haven't started their own businesses, they've gained really valuable skills, things like critical thinking, like problem solving, like analytical reasoning, and they've been able to apply it in their own lives to find better employment.

Podcast Host  25:25

Now we're getting it because why not? Yeah, I guess, like, my understanding of entrepreneurship was a little bit one dimensional, right? It was like start a business make money, but I didn't really think about it is the skill set and how that skill set can continue to impact you in other areas of life, beyond school, within school, all kinds of different ways. And as you say, like can help to alleviate some of the global issues that are out there, whether that be through starting your own company and employing people donating money. Yeah, because that's why I was trying to think like When most people think I want to make a difference in the world, and I want to help, and I think most students go to the side of, well, I guess I've got to raise money, right, you know, guess we do a casual clothes day. And everyone donates a little bit of money to wear casual clothes. And I guess you're you're kind of thinking bigger and bolder than that. And you're saying I don't know, like, it's about building a skill set first and making long term changes and building a long term skill set for long term impact.

Nathaniel  26:20

And sometimes, maybe the donation drives are the best way to do things. Because one of the really important things if entrepreneurship is really being able to understand the customer you're solving for. And so if you do have, like, if you're working with people in Yemen, for example, and you're not from Yemen, and you don't understand the problems they're facing, most likely a business is going to fail. And it's probably not going to make any impact either. It's the same thing where we get you know, policymakers who say young people are the future leaders of tomorrow, but they don't consult young people. And so nothing habits. Yeah, there's no impact that's made. And so you know, when we talk about problems we often think about, you know, have you ever heard of the vitamin best painkiller example?

Podcast Host  26:59

And no,

Nathaniel  27:00

yeah, okay. So if you take a vitamin every single day, right, and you miss it once, nothing happens. But if you have a burning headache, you'll do anything, and you'll pay anything to get a painkiller. The other side of the spectrum is oxygen. So things you can't live without. So if you go for an entire day, without technology, your phone, the internet, the world's basically going to end, right. So when we think about vitamin, Painkiller, and oxygen, these are the same as how painful our problems are. So if you've got oxygen, you've hit gold. Yeah, something people can live with that. If you have a vitamin. It's a nice addition. But people probably won't care that much about it. painkiller, solving a big pain, that's when you've also hit God, so painkiller and oxygen, because at the end of the day, like each of the businesses that you've run, whether it be impact or not impact, aren't immune to the challenges of business, you still have to finance and what people are going to pay for are things that solve pain points, because there's so many other things to care about. So when we bring that back to the example, you're not solving a painful problem in Yemen, or in your local community, that's not going to be successful business.

Podcast Host  28:13

Yeah, fundraising certainly has its place. I'm not saying fundraising is useless thing. I'm just saying like, it's interesting to kind of look at a problem and to think about it in different ways.

Nathaniel  28:22

There's a funny story, like, because I started off my journey, fundraising as well. And so one year I did the 40 hour famine, and you might know that 40 hour famine is this competition, where for 40 hours, you give up things you love. This one year, I gave up food, water, technology, transport, furniture, talking, it's

Podcast Host  28:44

Oh, my gosh, you went extreme?

Nathaniel  28:46

Yeah, yeah. So I was like, completely silent the whole day, didn't eat anything. I had to sleep on the floor, couldn't sit on chairs. But yeah, that was like one of the experiences that you know, where I started off, donating and trying to make my impact there. And then gradually, I stumbled into entrepreneurship. So

Podcast Host  29:05

really lucky to have had that journey. Yeah. And you saw that that entrepreneurship could have I guess, longer lasting change, and you could sleep on a bed and sitting on a bed,


which is a good thing.

Podcast Host  29:17

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I'm interested in your entrepreneurship toolkit, right? So you've got all these different things that are going out there different apps, is there anything that you personally rely on and say, yeah, these are my go to that I use every day.

Nathaniel  29:29

Honestly, there aren't any apps or systems in place that are going to make you successful. And there aren't any that you really need to be an entrepreneur, but some good ones just for fun. Things like figma, where you can start prototyping UI and UX. But you can do the exact same job just on paper and do paper prototyping and do sketches and wireframes that, you know, you can use everything from Google Docs to notion to air table where you get to start information, but I think the biggest thing is really starting with what is the problem that I'm solving, as we talked about before? Is it a vitamin painkiller and oxygen, and having open and honest conversations with the customers you're solving the problem for? So I think really like, applications are one thing, but just start and you'll find things that work better for you along the way.

Podcast Host  30:21

When you say just start, what would be the first thing, the first point on the to do list that students should have? If they want to get into entrepreneurship more, because I know that there's a lot of students, and also podcast hosts who might suffer a little bit from paralysis by analysis, right? where it's like, I need to know more, I need to research more, and you're obviously an advocate of doing, but I think there's a lot of people who will say, Okay, yeah, look, I get the benefits of doing, but I need to kind of lay a little bit of groundwork first, before I feel ready to do the doing. So what would be some of those initial steps that you think students could take within the next 24 hours or so to start getting their business pointing in the right direction,

Nathaniel  31:10

find the problem of solving, find something that you're passionate about, and you're able to relate to, or can connect to, or if you can't, people that you can talk to who suffer from that problem, always start problem first and just go from there. I think, you know, there isn't really a toolkit as to where to start, other than really diving into it. Because along the journey, that's where you actually learn. If you spend all the time planning, everything that you plan is based on assumptions, because you haven't tested anything. It's the same thing as, say, for example, you have like a lab experiment. If you spend all the time planning, you have a great research document, but the research documents going to be black until you do the experiment. That's when you see the results. And you learn from those results. Yes, so the biggest thing is being able to identify a problem, and really understanding you know, what's actually complex about this problem that I haven't thought about before? Who can I talk to who suffers from this problem? Is that a painkiller? Or oxygen? Or vitamin? Yeah, really starting there?

Podcast Host  32:11

When you look at some of the world's problems, they can be pretty overwhelming. Would you recommend students look at working on more niche problems they can help solve? Or perhaps problems on a smaller scale?

Nathaniel  32:22

Yeah, definitely. That's where they should start. And obviously, from there, it's just a process of brainstorming ideas and what you do, like you can literally, you know, okay, so I care about the environment a lot, I can think about how can we reduce plastic waste, so something very specific, but even then plastic waste is really big. So what's the tangible activity or thing that my business can do? What's the key activity that we can do, or we can earn money from, maybe we collect plastic bags, and we bring them to a recycling center, and they pay us like a seven donation to continue our work. And so it's starting from that problem, brainstorming a whole ton of ideas of what you can do, and testing each one of these ideas until you find something that

Podcast Host  33:05

works. I love that last bit there. Because I think so many people get attached to an idea, right? The first idea, or the one that they love the most, or the one that they think will work best, right? And then like they I feel like some people get so attached to that idea that they're either a scared for it to fail, and so don't do much with it. Or be don't consider any other possibilities. And say, like, this is the thing, this is my golden ticket to success, right? No, but I love that idea that it's about creating a whole list, you know, brainstorm, 20 minutes, write as many things as you can all those kinds of ideas, right? There's little activities you can do. And then kind of testing one by one, you know, how will it work? Is it a vitamin? Is it a painkiller? Or is it oxygen? And then kind of going through that process of? Will it be able, you know, will I be able to monetize? You know, will I be able to monetize it? Is that my goal? In any case, you know, is it going to achieve the things that I want it to achieve? Essentially?

Nathaniel  34:05

Yeah, exactly. And, you know, like, the first thing I started was a smart to set pack, which is equipped with light sensors and reminders for chronic illness patients. So with remaining chronic illness patients when to take the medication. And when the time was right, the pills would all fall into the center compartment, you'd open it up. And once you've opened it, the sensors would send reminders and notifications to your local GP, and your family and things like that. So they know that you took your minutes. And what I found was no, I tested this idea build prototypes did mdps. And what I found was I just didn't have the interest or expertise to continue doing it. But if I never took the leap, and if I never tried out this idea, I would never have you learned anything. And so I decided to close that idea and start a new one. I started meals and deals which was a start up in food and financial literacy. And I started future minds and so you This whole journey jumping from idea to idea was really exploring everything that we talked about before. It's totally okay to test different ideas. And if they don't work, it's okay to move on to another one.

Podcast Host  35:11

I'm sure there's a students who think that once they kind of brand themselves as, say, for instance, the pill reminder guy, that it must be a bit of a pride swallowing activity to then give it up. And for people to be like, Hey, what happened to that medication idea that you were so passionate about? Not too long ago, what happened to that did you have to do with any of that, to me,

Nathaniel  35:34

it wasn't a big deal. I was just like, you know, I didn't end up doing the idea. And that's fine. I just moved on. I can understand where it's almost like a reputation thing where it becomes your nickname, or it becomes a thing that people refer you to believe everything, like, even when you move high school to university, your nickname is change your identity and who you are, aren't defined by what you do. But what you consistently put out in the world, and so sre, you might be the pillar minor guy who didn't end up doing that, the setback and didn't end up mass marketing and making a billion dollar idea. But you're also that guy who learned from your mistakes, and had a valuable learning experience, which projected you even further into entrepreneurship. So I'm a strong believer, and you know, obviously, like, the the age old rejection is just redirection. But more than that, we as human beings are constantly evolving. And failure is inevitable. Like, if you're not failing, it means you're not trying at all, you're not even getting a shot. But if you are failing, that means you have that opportunity to succeed or fail, you're gonna fail either way. So my swag out of a bag?

Podcast Host  36:45

Absolutely. I think that's very valuable advice, to just go back to that original mindset shift was there actually, that moment where you were like, hang on, I'm thinking about this completely the wrong way. It's not about me trying to solve the world's problems. It's just about me starting, was there any particular catalyst for that,

Nathaniel  37:03

to me, it was realizing my place in the world, and where I fit into everything, and I'm sure you would have picked up from my talk and sort of how, you know, we've known each other for a while, and how much I think about the world and get it into that. And realizing that the world is not all about me. But the world is also not not all about me as well. And so there are like, in everything that I say, and everything that I do, everything is a double edged sword, and being really aware of the world around me and how I fit into that was a really big part of my journey. Because something with me is like, I have like a classic growth mindset, where everything I hear I almost absorb like a sponge. And then I process that information. So being aware that I know nothing at all. And I'm constantly on a learning journey really helped me to develop the perspectives I have today, and be really solid and what I believe in.

Podcast Host  38:02

Yeah, no, that's, and that does take time, you know, when you're 1516 years old. Those are some pretty big topics that you're wrestling with, right? Yeah.

Nathaniel  38:10

And there's no rush to success, right? You have the rest of your life to ponder about these topics, by any means. I don't think I want anyone else to go along my journey as well, because it was one filled with a lot of sadness, and one that was really challenging. But, you know, being aware that there is options to create the change that you want to see in the world, and to be able to create cool things without consequences of losing millions of dollars. It's really important. Like a lot of people think about startups and like, I don't want to start because I don't want to lose like 100 k in money to invest in my startup. Yeah, when people start, most people put in $0, if anything, they might get $10 out of it. So it's totally okay to use these as learning experiences to just do things that you care about and do things that you love.

Podcast Host  38:57

Yeah, a very good message for our listeners, one of their guests, their perennial questions for any young entrepreneurs is what is the value of university, when you are wanting to start businesses,

Nathaniel  39:08

universities have their value in the sense that they create a really good environment and community, for innovation and for creativity. A lot of the people that you meet in University are invaluable connections that you'll have for life. No, I go to Monash University and really blessed to have a really good curriculum around them trying to embrace innovation for the future. And so I've actually lectured at Monash college and developed some entrepreneurial content. And so it's good that they have this forward thinking but definitely, like all educational institutions, there's a lot of lacks. Yeah, a lot of the time like in degrees, we aren't being taught the skills that we need. And so it's really important that we as young people continue to explore these journeys. And don't just take University as the be all and end all in a sense university should be your supplement. And self learning should be your main source of learning. So you should be like able to be exploring all these different topics and learning new things all the time. And university degree, that should just supplement everything that you already know. So I definitely think like there's a lot of work to be done in this space. But yeah, it's it's, it's still very important in terms of being able to create that sense of community of people who can support you in the future, but also having a really good time. Like, there's no rush to become like a millionaire overnight. The good points is the community and the sense of knowledge that you can have the bad points is almost like you go through a system for four years, but what do you actually get out of that? How are you pushing yourself to use uni as a supplement, rather than your main source of learning?

Podcast Host  40:48

Yeah, I think it's a not just a good way to live by when you're at uni, but definitely when you're at school, too. And speaking of self learning, and entrepreneurship at school, did you have any issues with your parents, when you started spending more and more time on your business ideas, rather than say, studying for the next exam?

Nathaniel  41:04

Definitely. And coming from like a Malaysian Chinese background as well, like heavy like Asian parents, the expectation is, you know, get good grades, do really well get a good job, start a family have house, etc. I've always been a bit of a rebellious kid. To me, entrepreneurship, like I mentioned before, was this canvas where I could create the change that I wanted to see in the world. And so despite being told to like, consistently focus on my studies, I couldn't keep my brain away from it. And so if I couldn't take my studies off, which I didn't want to at the time, I might as well just do both, and see how I cope with it. And I think the the understanding there for me, as well as not putting an expectation on myself to change the world overnight, or start the best business overnight, but still be able to pursue my passion. While I still study. Some people that works for some people, does it some people have to drop out of school, and start their own business and do that full time? But if that works for them, that's great. If it doesn't for others, that's also great. I think it's a process of knowing what's most important to you, and giving yourself that opportunity to try. So if that means that you have to take off a year, like a lot of people actually do this, like take a gap year. Yeah, before university to explore what you want to do, then so be it. There's no like blueprint to success or blueprints, having a good life, but following what you think is best and giving yourself room to try and fail. The other thing that I hear a lot is, I don't know what I'm passionate about. And often people ask me, How do I find my passion? My answer is, try things. Yeah. Are you meant to know what you're passionate about? If you haven't tried anything new, be really bad at something, try surfing and keep falling off the board. If you love it, keep surfing and get the hang of it. Try Water Polo, play an instrument, start a business. Start your own Etsy store and make your own clothing or jewelry. Yeah, like there's an LS word for that to you to really explore, you know, right now information is at our fingertips. So if you look at AI, and you're like, Wow, that sounds really cool. I want to have a look into that. Google it, learn more about it. And maybe along the journey, you might end up building a startup that involves AI, you never know where that might take you. So if you want to find your passion, and you want to explore these things, just try a bunch of different things and see what you like.

Podcast Host  43:27

Yeah, I completely agree that there's a lot of kids who do have that I can find my passion. passionate about. And yeah, I I usually say to kids, what frustrates you, when you see something on the news, or you read about something or you see something happening in your local neighborhood? And you're like, Oh, I have a visceral kind of emotional reaction to it. What is it?

Nathaniel  43:48

It's like, you can create something, join something, learn something. And a lot of times, not knowing what you want to do is great. It means that you're not stuck in one pigeonhole. Like, if you're really set on, like you love playing the guitar, chances are you spend all the time playing the guitar and you never explore another instrument. So if you don't know what you're doing, or you don't know what you like, that's great. It means you have an endless amount of opportunity to find and see what are the things that really excite you? What are the things that frustrate you? What are the things that evoke these emotions?

Podcast Host  44:19

Yeah, I love that I that concept is something that I talked to students about as well. They're like, I don't know what I want to do in the future. I'm like, great. All the doors open, right? Like, you know, at the end

Nathaniel  44:28

of the day, like a thing that I say a lot is age is just a label. Yeah, at the end of the day, we're all curious humans. We all want to explore things, learn things. It's it's human nature to want to learn new things and be curious and ask questions. So if anything excites you, like go ahead and do it, and a lot of the times, there is no right or wrong answer. No one says there's a meaning to life or a set purpose for each individual. It's up to you to explore what that looks like.

Podcast Host  44:55

Well, is there any other advice you would give for our lovely listeners from all around the world and keeping Your mind most of them are high school. Some of them are Crimson stuff. I'm sure if you heard this episode, some of them are going to be teachers and educators. But yeah, what advice would you give to our listeners no matter what age or walk of life

Nathaniel  45:12

they're from. The advice I would give is, failure is just another word in the dictionary. And it's up to you to define what it means.

Podcast Host  45:21

Yeah, short and short and sweet to marijuana. If you walk away with anything from this episode, it's a really good one to walk away with. Yeah, I think that's a really good message. If students want to contact you, what would be the best way?

Nathaniel  45:34

Yeah, contact us on Facebook, Instagram, it's just future minds network. Or on LinkedIn, you can google us website, whatever is easier for you. We're running events in high schools all across Australia, all throughout this year next year. So excited to see where the rest of it leaves.

Podcast Host  45:52

Thank you so much for joining us on the top of the class podcast, and we can't wait to see what you do next.

Nathaniel  45:57

And thanks for having me.