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Building The Future Of Credit Cards

Tim Chong


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Building The Future Of Credit Cards

Tim Chong



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Tim Chong Yonder
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About Tim Chong

The BAE HQ welcomes Tim Chong, Co-Founder of Yonder.

Today on the podcast we have Tim Chong, The CEO and founder of Yonder. They are a  modern credit card, packed with rewards. Tim has a really interesting journey having been brought up in Australia, going through the consulting space, strategy, working at different fintechs and then looking to carve out his own space. What's interesting is that you'll find for this story is that what he wanted to do with Yonder and what it looks like today is very different.

Tim Chong


Show Notes

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Tim Chong Full Transcript

Tim Chong: [00:00:00] Credit cards are a 15 billion pound industry. I realized that my, my superpower was like, building stuff from scratch. I kept seeing other people executing on the ideas I had, and so I'm like, gosh, I need to just go and do it. Two years prior to starting Yonder, I had this literally Evernote folder, and it was just called Startup Ideas.

Tim Chong: But, you know, we're doing 2 million plus annualized revenue now, we've got really good retention, really, like, really low churn, that every single other... Fintech bank in the world has stepped up their game because of what Yonder has brought to the market. 

Amardeep Parmar: Today on the podcast, we have Tim Chong, who's the CEO and founder of Yonder. They're a modern credit card packed with rewards. Tim's got a really interesting journey, having been brought up in Australia, going through the consulting space, strategy, working at different fintechs, and then looking to carve out his own space.

Amardeep Parmar: And what's interesting is that you'll find for this story is that what he wanted to do with Yonder and what it looks like today is very different. And he took a lot of different [00:01:00] customer experiences and customer feedback to keep pivoting. So let's go into the show. So Tim, obviously you've done incredible things now with Yonder and it's growing really successfully, but you didn't start from that, right?

Amardeep Parmar: So when you were growing up, did you ever think one day... You've been doing what you are today. 

Tim Chong: Yeah. So my family, I actually grew up in a family of tech and actually my dad worked at Hewlett Packard. Basically we don't know Hewlett Packard was like the cool tech company back in like the eighties and nineties.

Tim Chong: He was there for about 25 years and was there literally at the early days of when, you know, Hewlett Packard or HP, well, one was the birthplace of Silicon Valley, but also we're very hardware oriented. So at home we would always get the latest computer, which was like at the time of 386 or 486 computer. For those who are old enough, they used to have turbo buttons on them as well.

Tim Chong: And I would tinker with them when I was four or five years old. Uh, my mum, bless her, gave me a touch typing book to learn when I was six or seven years old and said, you just need to learn how to touch type. And so I learned to touch type at a very young age. So, uh, I'd definitely say I grew up with [00:02:00] Let's call it tech, or at the time it was called information technology.

Tim Chong: And I still remember there were a couple of books around the house that I probably started reading when I was like 12 or 13 years old. One of them was The HP Way, which was literally the founding story of HP. Um, the founding story of Microsoft, of Sony, of IBM. And I don't know why I read them, if I'm honest.

Tim Chong: I think I was just bored during school holidays and they just happened to be on our shelf. But I remember reading them being really, really excited about their journey, building something and the ups and downs of that process as well. I would say though that, I would say that, you know, as I started to get to sort of finishing high school and thinking about university, the sort of dream and aspiration versus reality of I need to get a job and I need to go to university definitely sort of took over a little bit.

Tim Chong: And I think a bit of the wave of like everyone going, Oh, we need to get like a great, in Australia it's called an ENTER score, to get into a good university was sort of the resounding theme and it sort of drowned out. Uh, I'll describe that sort of entrepreneurial spirit, but I, I always had, [00:03:00] I describe it as an itch and people always joke about, you know, what are the kind of businesses you started when you were young.

Tim Chong: But I know quite funny. One of them was I used to do, it was probably not the most good business to do, but I used to have, I had got one of the first CD burners so you could copy CDs and say, I would copy like, Video games at school and then I would sell them at school, but not much for like 5 dollars Australian.

Tim Chong: Uh, I would go and like to the effort of making like a really nice case for it and things like that. And then in high school, I started buying soft drink from the local supermarket and trying to sell them at my school as well, but absolutely no money. You know, I think at one point people figured that out and then I tipped over my locker and all the drinks exploded.

Tim Chong: It was, it was an absolute disaster, but yeah, I would say that I always sort of tinkered about on the edges of it. Um, but I definitely wouldn't say that my goal was to start a fast guy, 10 company, tech company. It was sort of like, I liked the idea of what they were talking about. And when I read these books, I liked having a bit of fun with trying new things, but I wouldn't say that my dream in life was like, I want to be an entrepreneur.

Tim Chong: This is my [00:04:00] life ahead of me. I was like, I really liked the idea of it. This is kind of a cool space. And there are a couple of fun little examples where I did it at at a tiny scale, and I had a lot of fun doing it. So yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: So hopefully the Australian police aren't listening to this podcast. 

Tim Chong: I hope they're not.

Amardeep Parmar: But with your dad being in the tech space as well, was he encouraging you to go down that route? Or what were you kind of getting in terms of pressures there? 

Tim Chong: I think the pressure was more around find a good stable job. I think he definitely introduced a lot of tech at home though, which was great. Right.

Tim Chong: So I got, you know, we were the first, one of the first to get a CD burner. I used to, I used to actually really like hardware actually. So my original aspiration was to go and run a computer shop and like go and repair computers. And I still actually like tinkering today. And then I think I've got introduced a bit more to software.

Tim Chong: For those, you know, many of you grew up with like the MySpace days. And so I got into like website building. I learned a bit of like basic, like server side scripting was like PHP. I learned C + C which is a horrible language. And I never [00:05:00] want to learn sort of that low level language ever again. So I was like tinkered around.

Tim Chong: I didn't really get a lot of pressure. I think, uh, you know, I'm a second child. So I feel like my older sister got all the pressure. I sort of got the okay, she turned out all right. You do whatever you want then. Like, we kind of trust that you'll do something reasonably sensitive and, and, you know, go and find something that you ideally would get a good job with.

Tim Chong: And I think originally my plan was to try and, was to go into aerospace engineering, but, but in Australia, there's basically very little aerospace jobs. And so I was like, okay, well like maybe I'll do something else then. But I think at the time I never really thought beyond the borders of Australia. It was almost like, what degree do I get to get a job rather than going like, what do I just want to do and want to learn about?

Tim Chong: So what did you go into straight off the university then? So, yeah, so I studied, um, information systems, which I kind of described as like sort of half commerce and sort like economics and half computer science, but neither of them, uh, I went into consulting that was just a sensible job to get at the time as well, there weren't a lot of tech startups in Australia.

Tim Chong: People talk about Atlassian, Atlassian was the only example that people could talk [00:06:00] about. You know, companies like Canva weren't around, uh, and a lot of the other startups you're starting to see coming out of Australia weren't around. And so going to a startup was basically like, if you couldn't get a real job, you go to a startup.

Tim Chong: I was never a really good software engineer and consulting was sort of like combining a bit of the, Oh, I think I'm like reasonably good at people. I think I like solving problems and also, honestly, it was a cool way to travel the world. And when I was like, I think I was 20 years old at the time. I was like, Oh, cool.

Tim Chong: The idea of like being able to travel around the world on work is super exciting. So honestly, part of that motivation was wanting to like live abroad, wanting to just travel the world and, you know, feel like I've got some sensible sense of like job or employment as well, which keeps the parents happy as well.

Amardeep Parmar: Did it live up to expectations? So you, that's why you got into it. But when you were doing it, was it fulfilling? Was it the travel around the world? Did it excite you?

Tim Chong: I definitely think like early on it was fun. I think, you know, when you're 20, 21 years old, going to Malaysia for work, you know, I went to Chicago when I was 22, 23.

Tim Chong: I spent it, I think my first year of work. I [00:07:00] went to Malaysia and India in the first year. This is the year after that. I think I went to Chicago and then I did quite a bit of work sort of across, you know, Southeast Asia and things like that. So that, it was really fun actually at the time. And I did really love.

Tim Chong: Especially in my early twenties, the excitement of just being able to be on the road all the time. So that was cool. It was a, you know, it was a chance to go and see the world essentially for free. And the work was relatively interesting. I think, you know, early days consulting is quite fun. You're like learning new problems, you're learning how to like work with clients.

Tim Chong: I guess there's a bit of prestige factor of it as well, being able to like, you know, stay in nice hotels and things like that. I wouldn't say like, I didn't like it. I would say that I actually did overall really liked it. I think sort of by my mid twenties though, I started to get the feeling of like, well, I look at sort of where the path is next and that doesn't excite me.

Tim Chong: So, you know, as you stay in consulting for longer, it becomes much more about like getting really good at selling consulting work. And then secondly, really knowing how to like work the system, like knowing how to navigate a big consulting firm and get sort of figure out how to like, [00:08:00] You know, get yourself in the right position for promotion and things like that.

Tim Chong: And eventually I looked at it and I'm like, that just doesn't really excite me a whole lot. I actually wanted to go to Asia multiple times. I actually failed moving to Singapore multiple times. I tried to move there twice and never managed to figure out a way to do it in the end. And I think I was coming to that point where I was getting a bit itchy.

Tim Chong: I was getting a bit bored of like doing another. Telecom and media transformation program or another product launch. I was like, this is just honestly getting really repetitive. And I think the only thing that I found frustrating was that ultimately I never took complete ownership of something. It was always, I'm there for a period there for some engagement, but I don't own it.

Tim Chong: And it's never really my accountability. And I think I kind of had the feeling of like, I need to do something different now. 

Amardeep Parmar: There's interesting mention there as well about because so many people like in the corporate world, right? Some of them are listening right now and a lot of them are trying really hard for promotion, but I think often people don't think about if I get that promotion, am I going to actually enjoy the job there?

Amardeep Parmar: And they're working really hard to get a job, which they're not going to enjoy. And it's sometimes it gets that position and it's not as fulfilling as they want. [00:09:00] And it's really interesting to think that you had that vision before you got there. So think about, do I want to keep going down this path or not?

Amardeep Parmar: At that point, what were some of the options? What were you thinking about? Was it, obviously you went into a startup space, but did you have other things you were considering as well?

Tim Chong: So funnily enough, I was planning to go into international development. So I, I actually have always liked the impact sector as well.

Tim Chong: So I think I was like 22. I took a three month sabbatical and moved to Cambodia to basically work as a missionary. It was really random, but I was sort of like, What do I want to do with my life? Let me just like take a sabbatical and go and do some volunteering for three months. I found out that that wasn't for me, but it was actually great to just go and like break that cycle.

Tim Chong: And I think that the way I described it was almost like this treadmill of life where it's really easy to just do the most sensible thing next, so. again, for example, you know, finish high school and get a good enter school, get into a good university, then get a good job, then get a mortgage. And I think I was looking at that going, I don't mind if that's the path that I choose to take, but I don't want that to be the default.

Tim Chong: And I'm just doing that because I [00:10:00] just got default into that path. And so I sort of questioned like, you know, what if I kind of like reset everything? And so I had this weird thing that every like three years, I'd basically just reset. So, you know, two, three years into work, I got promoted and literally straight after that, I'd be like, reset.

Tim Chong: And so I'm going to take three months off and just like figure out what I want to do. And then about three years later after that, I, I went to go to grad school. So I went to go to business school and actually failed the first time getting in. And then I decided, okay. And I also tried to move to another startup in Australia, didn't succeed there either.

Tim Chong: And I was like, I feel very stuck. Like I can't find another way out to do something different, but I know I want to do something different. I know what I'm doing right now isn't what I want to do, but I don't know what else to do next. And so I needed some sort of like, I call it like a circuit break or something to reset.

Tim Chong: And so there was a opportunity to do a project in Kenya for about nine to 10 months. And what was kind of nice, it was both a sort of related to like consumer products. It was Telecom media based with some healthcare and finance in it as well. So kind of a mix of industries and [00:11:00] honestly, it was a cool chance to just like live abroad as well.

Tim Chong: So I moved there in 2016 and had a phenomenal experience working with, um, SafariCon, which is a major telecom company, the Kenyan ministry of health with a major FinTech foundation called M Pesa foundation, South African tech company, and then a healthcare NGA called MRF Health Africa. And we were looking at commercializing a

Tim Chong: Mobile health training products that would basically help community health workers access training on their mobile phone. And that was really cool because it was both building something from scratch. So the product was built, but we're trying to figure out how to commercialize and scale it. It was entrepreneurial.

Tim Chong: So it was like, Hey, how do we like figure out how to make this money? Now this was like an NGO project. And how do we like figure out how to make money from this so we can keep sustaining it? Can we expand this into things like healthcare insurance, healthcare disbursement, and it was super impactful as well.

Tim Chong: Like the more the product grew, the more people you would hopefully help save lives of because more people that are trained on the platform, you know, the more community health workers are [00:12:00] trained, uh, you sort of increase their ability to then go and make an impact in their communities. I was like, Oh, well, this is like, it takes like a whole bunch of boxes and I loved it.

Tim Chong: I actually absolutely loved my time there. And so my conclusion where it was like, there's some threads and tenants in here that I want to continue to do. And so I actually originally was planning to move into like a pure international development role. So at the time, Accenture had this development arm called Accenture Development Partnership.

Tim Chong: And I basically said to them, Hey, I want to go and like run the Asia business. And they're like, look, go and try and do Australian New Zealand for a while. And I spent a year doing that and I loved it. It was like working with Save the Children, World Vision. My final project that I sold was like with QBA insurance

Tim Chong: and World Vision's Vision Fund on like micro insurance like, wow, this is like super exciting. And I somehow found my niche into the space of like financial inclusion in fintech. And so it was funny because I came to fintech through a completely different arm. It was really about how do you use fintech in emerging markets to drive financial inclusion?

Tim Chong: And because of my experience in Kenya, I had this little thesis that Hey, if you get fintech [00:13:00] working really well, you can drive financial inclusion and both economic growth for countries as well. At the same time that I decided to give business school another crack. Um, I always wanted to go to business school.

Tim Chong: I don't know why, but I just wanted to, and again, I think I can actually did get into a school and got into MIT Sloan and LBS in London. And I was like, Okay, I think I want to go take this opportunity. And so that's how I sort of ended up in London. Um, I would have actually planned to stay probably in development doing this type of like fintech for financial inclusion work if I stayed in Australia.

Tim Chong: And I really liked it there. Um, but I also was like, actually, I've always wanted to, um, learn from some phenomenal FinTech operators and I think one of the things I found really hard was that a lot of the time I'll be writing PowerPoint slides on FinTech and what it could be used for. But if I'm honest, I had no experience doing it.

Tim Chong: Like it was a very, very conceptual. And so I really wanted to get like my hands dirty and really go. And know how to do this from scratch. And even when I was in Kenya, I spoke to the founders of M Pesa, which is a [00:14:00] really successful mobile wallet fintech that was started in the early 2000s. And hearing their stories of like punching out SIM cards that were linked to M Pesa, doing KYC with literally like an Excel spreadsheet and saying, and looking at IDs and like typing in the details in the spreadsheet.

Tim Chong: I was like, that sounds really fun. I want to go do that. And so that kind of all is like, I would say like disparate pieces ended up sort of leading me to go, to go to grad school London and part of the motivations for London was actually going, look, there are some really great fintechs there. My plan always after going to business school was to go to work in tech.

Tim Chong: Uh, and so, you know, why don't I go move to London and do that? 

Amardeep Parmar: So it's really interesting. One thing you mentioned earlier as well, but the missionary work, and I think it's a really common thing in the States for a lot of people who have done like Mormons, for example, right. That a lot of them then become really successful entrepreneurs because I think selling religion is one of the hardest things to do, right?

Amardeep Parmar: So if you're going to people and you're knocking on their door and telling them to try to say like, here's how I could help you, that's a higher level of rejection, but it builds that skill that then is useful later on in life. 

Tim Chong: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar:  And even with the work you [00:15:00] did in Kenya as well, being in that environment, which is very unfamiliar, it builds that resilience, right?

Amardeep Parmar: Because It's not the same as when you've got all of your creature comforts of being in a city where everybody talks the same language as you. And I can imagine that's had a huge impact that work in other countries to get you to where you are today as well. 

Tim Chong: Yeah, I think if I'm honest, Kenya was really easy to live in.

Tim Chong: It's so funny because people are like, Oh, you must be really struggling. Nairobi is a phenomenal city. It's so easy to live with. I had a great apartment. I had a, there was like a swimming pool and a giant tortoise in my backyard. Like it was phenomenal. I think what I did learn a lot though, was cultural differences.

Tim Chong: So for example, I'm Australian and we're culture quite direct. In Kenya, if you want to get stuff done, you need to be more thoughtful on how you communicate things and how you work with different cultures. So I think it's definitely changed my view on cultures and what's sort of described as the best and going, there is no, the best is different and sort of being okay with that.

Tim Chong: I think [00:16:00] as well, I think I realized that If you look on the outside, everything's very shiny, but actually the day to day is just hard. And what do I mean by that? So when you tell people you're living in Kenya doing an international development project, everyone's like, wow, that is like the perfect job.

Tim Chong: You know, everything is like, it's impactful. You know, you get to work with like very senior people.

Tim Chong: Yeah. Back to my garden. Everything's amazing. But the day to day was like a grind, right? Like it was like the day to day. I would, you know, go to work. I would get on it. Like it would be a 30 to 45 minute commute, two hours if it's raining.

Tim Chong: You know, I was doing this sort of same type of work as any other normal job. It just happened to be like really impactful work. And so I think it definitely helped me understand that to get stuff like to do anything great involves a lot of day to day grind. And I think that was helped me because I think startup building people only think about the tech crunch article.

Tim Chong: Speaking on this big conference, but [00:17:00] actually great businesses are built through like the day to day grind. And so I think when I was thinking about my work there as well, it was really impactful and really rewarding, but the day to day grind was real. And like, I didn't wake up being like, wow, like this is such a privilege to like be changing the world.

Tim Chong: I'm like, I'm, I'm here. I'm going to run a meeting. We've got to do some planning for a project. Like it was pretty much the same type of work, but I think it did really show me that actually, um, that's okay. And that I think a lot of startup founders, in my opinion, anyway. Get so caught up with, uh, just networking, going to events, go to conferences, going to like pitch nights and all that.

Tim Chong: And I'm like, mate, to build your business, you need to go on like grind, like build great business. I built on day to day grind and you need to go and grind. And actually that is good because that's how you achieve the great things. And in fact, you know, I spent a year there and day to day it was a grind.

Tim Chong: And then by the, by the time I left, I was like, wow, like we've scaled this and we've figured out a commercial model for this, you know, mobile health learning platform. Damn, that's super cool. But like the nine months [00:18:00] leading up to that was a lot of just like Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint slides, a lot of meetings, a lot of coordinating.

Tim Chong: And yet actually the outcome though is super positive and it's still running to this date, you know, it's been about seven years since I left now and it's still running. And so I kind of think about that and reframing now, what, you know, what like start up life should look like, cause I think people can have a, it might be an over glamorized view and be like being a startup founders

Tim Chong: like every day you wake up being like, wow, I'm living the dream. Like, no, that is not true. Like that is not factually true. There were days that are really great and the days that are very hard and that's like every other job. And so I think one thing I would always say is like going to start a startup to like find fulfillment in life is a really bad idea because you won't like you will not find life fulfillment by doing a startup.

Tim Chong: I think that's completely false. 

Amardeep Parmar: The point you mentioned  there as well. I think because everyone posts on LinkedIn all the time, for example, and there's some people post every single day and they're at this talk or that talk and it's. And then the day to actually build a startup, you've got to do the thing.

Amardeep Parmar: And that's a bit which isn't like, you don't, nobody takes a picture of them, like typing on Excel, right? [00:19:00] And, but that's what, in order to actually build the business is what you have to spend a lot of the time on. And it's really important, I think, people listening as well, who are potentially going to start startups, to really realize that it's like, there's a ton of stress that comes with it because you're responsible for people, you're, it's, you've got the ultimate decision making power, which is, it sounds great, but sometimes I just wish I had a nine to five and I could just like, somebody tells me what to do.

Amardeep Parmar: I just do and I go home. Right. And there are those different elements to it as well. So after you did your like MBA, you obviously, you didn't start a startup straight away. What made you go into whatever you did next? 

Tim Chong: So  it was funny because I, Okay. Actually, he wasn't planning to do a startup originally.

Tim Chong: I was planning to just join a scale up and my original dream was to basically run a market. So run a market for scale up and a part of that was driven by a sort of a mentor of mine. He is now the, um, sort of the UK CEO of ClearScore, but he, at the previous to that, he was in consulting and between that set up Skyscanner in [00:20:00] Asia Pacific.

Tim Chong: And I was like, actually, it's got a lot of attributes that I'm looking for. It's, it's got the excitement of building something from scratch, building an entire market from scratch, you know, zero to one, which I really enjoy that early stage, but it's also got the stability of a salary. Plus you get some upside cause you still got stock options and things like that.

Tim Chong: So my original mind was actually not to go and start something. It was usually to go and like go and work in international markets, which I did actually. I spent about two years working as part of the international expansion team, um, working on. Please go in South Africa, India, Australia, and also looking at the other international markets as well.

Tim Chong: And that was super fun. It was zero to one. It had a bit of the elements of traveling around the world. I met my co founders there. So it was really exciting. And I think the thing for me was that it ticked a lot of the boxes and that it was a FinTech. I got to learn from some great operators. I got to build stuff from scratch.

Tim Chong: So zero to one market. So it wasn't zero to one business, but it was zero to one. You had a product, but the market was from scratch. So that was fun because you got to be part of like the whole part, thinking around talent, you know, reg, product [00:21:00] development, finding, I call it new PMF in a new market. That was really, really cool.

Tim Chong: And I think it was only when I was in, I moved to San Francisco for a bit of time. I went to an exchange at Berkeley and I started thinking, going, actually, I think I could do this myself now. And I met an investor. From IVP actually, I knew him through a mutual friend and I said to him, what would you do if you were in my shoes?

Tim Chong: And he went, he did his, um, MBA at Stanford and, you know, ended up staying as an investor and I said to him like, you know, you were in my shoes like five, six years ago, what would you do if you're in my shoes? And he said, go and learn at a scale up and go and learn, like, to become like a great sort of general manager at a startup, learn the skill and then go do your own one.

Tim Chong: And so I'm like, fine, I'll go do that. And so literally I did that. So I stayed on for about a year and a half long after grad school, uh, was head of product there, ran two product squads, actually worked primarily on our zero to one product. So previously it was zero to one markets and then my wife moved over from Australia and we were just like, I can't travel like this anymore.

Tim Chong: I need to [00:22:00] be based in London. And so then I worked on like new products, but in a UK market. And so I love that. I realized that my, my superpower was like building stuff from scratch. And so I love the uncertainty, love the ambiguity. And I also learned a lot about management and made a lot of mistakes on management, but learned a lot from both managing teams, but also working for great senior leaders and learning from them about management as well.

Tim Chong: So, you know, I, way I treated it, it was like a great three year training grounds. And I still, to this day, look fondly upon the experiences I had in terms of, from like, a learning perspective. 

Amardeep Parmar: One of  the things you've mentioned as well, like, during this journey, you've travelled so much, and you said that your wife moved across from Australia later on.

Amardeep Parmar: So it's all of these different things which make quite a difficult, like, personal life as well, right? So how was that element in terms of... When people from the outside, your family, and as you said, like many people when you're growing up, it's like get a mortgage, get a safe job, where you're doing all these other things, which may be from the outside look quite crazy.

Amardeep Parmar: How is that [00:23:00] environment for you and the support around you? 

Tim Chong: I definitely had some feelings of like FOMO when I go back and my friends have a house and they have a pretty chilled life. I was like, Oh, she wouldn't mind that. To be fair. One of the reasons why I did leave Melbourne was I was getting a bit bored as well.

Tim Chong: Um, the, I would say like I have a super supportive wife, but we did long distance for two years. So we literally fly back and forth between Australia and London, literally every three months. And we would meet each other, Singapore, we would meet each other in Melbourne, in London. And I think like, I feel very fortunate that

Tim Chong: you know, she was willing to do that with me. And then after that, I think where I found out how I was actually doing COVID though, because what was happening is London was not particularly fun. I was living in a 50 square meter apartment. You know, startups weren't the most exciting place to be at that point.

Tim Chong: They were all really struggling. My wife got made redundant and all my friends were moving back to Australia. And we're all in that sort of age on the early thirties where everyone was moving back home. I did my 30th birthday in lockdown. Uh, [00:24:00] and all my friends were like, I'm going to go back to Australia.

Tim Chong: And we were like, there was no one left here. What are we doing here? So that was, it was hard. It was really, really hard. I think that we both had conviction that we had a reason to be here. We, I don't know how to describe it. It's like feeling like this is where we need to be. And so we kind of stuck it out, but it was hard.

Tim Chong: It was super difficult. And I think I would say at this point that we probably got less pressure from my family that I didn't really get that much pressure from my parents. I think they originally they were sort of bit like, why would you go to a business school? You already have a job at consulting.

Tim Chong: You know, you have a path to potentially become a partner. Like, why would you leave? But I was sort of like, I just, I just don't care. Like, that's just not my motivation. I want to keep learning. I think one thing that's kept me going is like, I just love learning new things. And so I felt like my learning was stagnating.

Tim Chong: And so actually, uh, I think that the learning offset. Let's call it the FOMO or the feeling of like, why don't we go pick this like more stable life? You know, you know, I would say we're still pretty fortunate though. Like I came across London with savings at least. So it wasn't as hard as some people. In fact, some of the people I [00:25:00] know who move over don't have much financial support and it is very difficult.

Tim Chong: So. Yeah, I always say that it's hard in context, but it wasn't that hard in that sense. Um, I'd say more mentally hard during COVID, but that was for everyone as well. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you then went to create your own startup, right? So Yonder, where did the idea come from? Why is Yonder the one that you believed that this is the one I'm going to go all in on?

Tim Chong: So, so the two years prior to starting Yonder, I had this Literally Evernote folder. And it was just called startup ideas. And one of them actually was quite funny because it actually got built in the end. I spent my early career filling out time and expense reports and putting expense receipts and envelopes.

Tim Chong: It was super annoying because in consulting you fly a lot and you have to always like the way it worked when I last started was you'd have to go into this really old SAP system, log in your expenses and then collect your receipts and then put them in a little yellow folder or envelope and then mail it off.

Tim Chong: And then they would then audit it. And I was like, why can't you just like take a photo of it? Why can't you just automate a link with it? I was like, you know, one day I will build like a spend card like a corporate [00:26:00] spend management card and literally like five or eight years later play oh payhawk Soldo all turned up and I'm like gosh like I actually had like pretty good insight there and then I had another idea I realized you couldn't build a business out of it, but it was really knowing I always found it was a bit bizarre that you're typing a sort code account number and you never really check like there was no way of checking whether it was right or not.

Tim Chong: And I had this idea, like, what have you built a business that you could like check those details? And all of a sudden, like, you know, all the banks now have this thing saying, let's check the pay at pay verification. So I was like, okay, like, I think my identification of like problems is actually pretty good.

Tim Chong: And a lot of people actually aren't bad at finding problems. They just don't do anything about it. So anyway, I had this list of like different problems that I came across in my life and said, what if I could build this poem? What if I could build this? I never did anything about it, but I always felt like it was quite therapeutic to just write it down.

Tim Chong: And when I started to see some of these businesses being built, I'm like, gosh, what am I doing? Like I have the insight. Why don't I go try and build something? And so it was actually [00:27:00] doing 20.. I think it was 2020 during the start of COVID. My wife is unfortunately unemployed, but we're in the middle of lockdown.

Tim Chong: I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I'm like, gosh, if there's a time I should go and work on this business, this is probably the right time. I have a lot of spare time. I have a lot of ideas. Like, what am I going to start working on this. And so literally that throughout that year, I just started a doc, literally just a product doc, cause I was, I was a, I was a product person and literally just like writing down what was my core thesis, like, what is the market?

Tim Chong: And it was really originally at the time, looking at people who had no sort of credit file and a clear score. We saw a lot of those customers. Um, it was, uh, it wasn't a huge, but there was a reasonably large percentage of customers that we couldn't find a credit file on and therefore banks couldn't underwrite them.

Tim Chong: And I was like that as well. When I moved over, I was like, Oh, could you create a product that would provide a so you see a credit card for people who didn't have a credit file or had a thin credit file, or it needed credit. And also could you bring that to life with like a Monzo style neobank experience.

Tim Chong: And then also could you really create a like consumer [00:28:00] first experience in terms of like credit cards, like famous for like screwing customers over. And actually if you think about like, why is built a multi billion dollar business by basically being like, we'll be transparent with the customers and we'll create a much better product experience.

Tim Chong: Like, that's really fun about the end. And obviously it's faster and cheaper, but really these core tenants of like a better consumer experience when you send your money abroad and I'm like, wow, they've built a multi billion dollar business doing that. You know, credit cards are 15 billion pound industry.

Tim Chong: Could you do something like that? And so it was originally just like this kind of document that I was working on. And then eventually I got the point where being like why didn't I go and do it? And so, eventually I said, let's go take the plunge. And it was quite scary because at the time, my wife was unemployed.

Tim Chong: And we didn't have huge savings because we just got married. I just spent all my money on my MBA tuition as well. So we were like pretty broke. But I literally, I think at one point Mel said, I will like, take up delivery riding just to make ends meet if we need to like, uh, it was amazing, super supportive.

Tim Chong: She ended up contracting with one of our old bosses back in Australia, who was a barrister and did a bit of contracting work as well. But [00:29:00] literally it was like, we ended up going, we'll move into one of our house, moving with one of our friends to save rent. Mel will look at taking up delivery riding and I will basically look at our personal runway and see whether we can get it off the ground.

Tim Chong: And so that was sort of like this time. I think, I think we kept feeling like this feeling of like, if I don't do it now, when will we do it? I kept seeing other people executing on the ideas I had. And so I'm like, gosh, I need to just go and do it. I think there was a bit of a practical thing. Like I wasn't my thirty at that point.

Tim Chong: I was like, I felt like I had about 10 years of experience. I had enough experience. To build something, but not enough personal like commitments in terms of, I didn't have any kids at the time, you know, I didn't have a mortgage in the UK, so I didn't have any like sort of financial or personal commitments that were holding me back.

Tim Chong: So I'm like, if I'm going to do it, this was like the right time to do it. And so it's funny, ‘cause I think people are often like, just go all in blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, I was super realistic. I was like, look, statistically speaking, it's like a 99. 9 percent chance of failure. So like, let's just go in with that.

Tim Chong: My worst case is I'll get another job. I'll go back to consulting. I'll go back to another startup. And also like, we're not going to be [00:30:00] homeless. I think the key thing for me was like, we have to be super sensible about this decisions. And also I don't really want to start a family the same year outside of startup as well.

Tim Chong: So like, how do I think about those timings as well. So it was quite funny because I think people have this often misconception that it's just all in YOLO. And I was like, no, I was like super methodical about it. I was like, I had a framework of like, what is the optimum time? And it felt like basically in my thirties, in my forties, that was like my ideal age because the forties.

Tim Chong: You know, ideally we've got kids who are a bit older at school, so that's okay. And you've got some financial security or 30s. You've got like some level of like experience and you don't have the financial commitments or family commitments. So like super systematic approach to like thinking about timing.

Amardeep Parmar: So you mentioned there about  like 99. 9 percent chance of failure. Obviously you haven't failed. You're still going. You're growing rapidly. Could you tell the audience like where you are today and like what some of the biggest wins have been for you? 

Tim Chong: So, I mean, I always described it as, uh, if you've been excited, sort of three things you need to get right.

Tim Chong: You need to get Uh, create a product that people actually want, you need to find a way to make money [00:31:00] and you need to find a way to find customer distribution. And I would say broadly, we've got like, we're very. healthy across all these areas. Now our biggest challenge is like really scaling that to become like a huge company, but you know, we're doing 2 million plus annualized revenue.

Tim Chong: Now we've got really good retention, really like really low churn, uh, really good word of mouth. Like people are talking about us. It's like, you know, I would say we're sort of, I'll say I've described as a way in late PMF, early scaling phase. So you know, I always say that the first zero to 1 million revenue is super difficult.

Tim Chong: There's one to 10. So now in the, like, let's call it the one to 10 stage. You're like, okay, we've got a recipe. Now we're gonna figure out how to scale the recipe. And when you scale everything breaks, it's like, how do we now scale it while also trying to fix our house and we'll get our house in order as we're scaling it.

Tim Chong: ‘Cause you know, operations gets hard when you scale. Processes need to scale. Your people need to scale. Everything needs to scale. And so we're definitely in that scaling phase where I would definitely say where you know, we are far from guaranteed success, but we're definitely not in the, Hey, is there a [00:32:00] product that people like here?

Tim Chong: We're definitely not in their stage of like, you know, does anyone like your product? Do you know how to make money? We've got that. It's like, do you know how to grow? We know how do we need to grow? We need to accelerate that. So I'll just kind of like, we've got the recipe. Now we're scaling the recipe. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you have to like so much experience before you started, you worked for another FinTech, you had the MBA.

Amardeep Parmar: What are some of the things that when you actually started your company? With the mistakes you still made, even despite all the experience?

Tim Chong: I think that I underestimated how hard operations would be because a product is so complicated because I worked on, I worked like my early career in consulting was contact center optimization.

Tim Chong: Like I was really good at like managing large scale customer support teams. But by the way, running at 30, 000 is actually easier than doing a subscale. Because we had to provide 24/7 support with like three people and also the level of training you need to develop. Like we're, we're both like, I think the way I'd describe Yonder is like, we are [00:33:00] flying on a plane while also rebuilding, changing the wings while we're flying and hoping we don't like

Tim Chong: stuff it up while we're changing it. And so I think it's, it's this constant tension of how much do you reinvest? Like, how much do you invest in scaling versus growing? We're scanning is great. And it's constant tension. And I think we, we got it wrong many times. Sometimes I think we scale too quickly without having the right, you know, controls that I need to have in place.

Tim Chong: And as we, we didn't scale fast enough and it's a bit of this pendulum thing. I think we knew that like this would get hard. Like there's a saying in it, it's not a world that basically investigate calls when there are two problems. One, when you're not growing and two, when you're growing really fast.

Tim Chong: Like those are like the two, two main reasons because each of them bring different problems. The first one, you're not growing, like you can't get anyone to talk about your product out. That's a problem for obvious reasons, but actually when you're starting to get momentum, that also brings new problems as well.

Tim Chong: And I knew that cognitively, but I didn't realize how important it is to shift my mindset to now go build for scale, build for scale, whereas the first year or two is like build for scrappiness, build for speed. And so trying to find that right balance, but you don't want to build for scale so much that you slow down.

Tim Chong: And so I don't know, we haven't found [00:34:00] that perfect balance yet. We're still on that journey of trying to get the right balance, but that was something that I'd be reflecting on a lot. And, you know, the, the realization that my primary job now is to build great managers. That is literally my job. I like that.

Tim Chong: This is saying that you basically go from being a builder to a manager, to a politician and like, actually through the different stages of being a startup, your challenges change massively and you have to adapt when your company is like the size of stripe, you can't be the builder anymore. You have to think about managing, you know, global regulators.

Tim Chong: You have to think about policy. You have to think about the GDP impact of your company. And these are really different problems you have to deal with super fascinating, but you can't go and like build new product features when you're running a company that size. And so I think that's been a really interesting mental switch for me as well.

Amardeep Parmar: So  some of our listeners are going to want to be like you in the future, right? And some of them might have consulting backgrounds or might be working at scale ups. What are some of the biggest lessons you think you took from your background that really transferred well across to running Yonder? 

Tim Chong: So I think [00:35:00] one thing I would say is like building a startup is like a giant science experiment and you can actually run it like a very hypothesis driven science experiment.

Tim Chong: So like I had a framework which was like. Okay. The first hypothesis is ignoring pricing, ignoring distribution. Would it, does anyone like our product? And so we just focus all our efforts on that. And we always kind of, we had this thing called like product market fit, product market fit, product market fit.

Tim Chong: And all we're talking about is like built on the customer's love, do things that don't scale, like very like Y Combinator advice. And it was like, just focused on that one thing. So we took a really systematic approach to be like, we know that we've proven this when X happens. Then we say, once we've proven that, then we want to prove our next hypothesis, which is how do we make money as a monetization engine.

Tim Chong: Let's prove that out. Then we want to prove our distribution. And so we took a really systematic approach, which I think is actually, consulting lends itself really well to that. I think the second thing it lends itself well to is like being very data driven, like really analyze the data. Let me understand like this question, like what's going on here.

Tim Chong: And I think a lot of founders pivot too quickly without understanding the question. What is going on here? So I think that's really useful. I think what you have to unlearn is you have to be way more [00:36:00] scrappy. Like you have to just get shit done. You can't spend months perfecting slides. It is better to just come up with a strategy in a day and then execute, execute, execute, execute, execute.

Tim Chong: And I'd say like, our job is like, you know, about 95 percent execution, 5 percent strategy. And I think that's probably at the right balance. Now you need to have that 5 percent though, you don't want to be a hundred zero. You do want to be thinking thoughtfully about like what's going on here. What are we learning?

Tim Chong: Therefore, what should we do next? What is the next hypothesis we want to prove? I think that approach for me has worked really well for us, but then okay, great. Go and make it happen then. And so I think it's this combination of like holding this tension of the creative innovation process while also being like really systemic, like systematic in how you test and validate your hypotheses.

Tim Chong: Because all startups really are. It's a giant science experiment trying to prove whether your idea could be a viable long term business. That's really what you're doing. 

Amardeep Parmar: With all the success you've had so far, but you said like there's so much more to go. What is the dream for Yonder? What do you want Yonder to end up as?

Tim Chong: I would love to see Yonder [00:37:00] sort of having its footprint all across the world. I always imagine this idea, imagine we've been doing this idea like Yonder Spaces. So imagine like member only spaces at like really cool cafes across London, pop up experiences across airports across the world. Imagine going to like a new city and being like, Hey, Yonder's got you covered and where you want to go.

Tim Chong: Here we found a really cool experience for you to try out. So you can imagine this idea of like Yonder  all across the world. And secondly, I think making sort of bringing this idea of experiences to life across the world and major cities all across the world. And then thirdly, I would say setting the standard for what great fair and conscious financial services look like.

Tim Chong: Like I would, I know that. It is not realistic for Yonder to be the only one. There are very few reasons that they will never happen. It's because like they don't allow monopolies, but I would like for us to say that every single other fintech bank in the world has stepped up their game because of what Yonder has brought to market, both in terms of, you know, making credit really, really fair [00:38:00] for consumers and really transparent, making money is super rewarding experience.

Tim Chong: Like for me, that would be the win. And for the people side, being a place where we've just helped accelerate people's growth and I always say that Yonder is not right for everyone for the entire career. It is really intense. It is really demanding. But I hope for the season that you do choose to work with us. You feel like this is the most rewarding experience both in terms of like my professional development, but also how i've grown as a person as well.

Tim Chong: That would be like for me a win.

Amardeep Parmar: So thanks so much for coming on today. We're going to need to jump to the quick fire questions. So first one, who are three Asian entrepreneurs that you'd love to shout out or spotlight? 

Tim Chong: So, uh, there's a really cool founder called Stephanie Leung starting a company called KareHero.

Tim Chong: She's working on essentially. Thinking about the care home experience, um, for, for elderly people. And I just, I just love the mission, which is working on. I love she's a super experienced operator and working, in my opinion, on a super impactful space. I've got another friend I've known for many, many years.

Tim Chong: We've sort of lost touch, but, um, uh, a lady called Neala Fulia, starting a [00:39:00] startup called more good days. Uh, it's a really cool startup in Australia, uh, working in healthcare space. And then I have a, an old friend called Zezam Zan. He's now living in the Bay area and he's no longer, uh, he's not a founder, but he's starting his own coaching business.

Tim Chong: But he was super pivotal for me in my early years of wanting to move out of consulting and just having a pep talk for me and being like, do you need to leave? Like, and I'll help you make that move. ‘Cause he was at BCG and moved to the startup world. So yeah, I'm super thankful for that one hour coffee chat we had like 10 years ago.

Amardeep Parmar: Perfect. And,  and if people want to find out more about you or find out more about Yonder, where should they go to? 

Tim Chong: So finding out more about Yonder, our website is yondercard. com, uh, we'd love for you to try out the product. Uh, we'd love for you to spread the word. I think, uh, you know, we don't have huge marketing budgets, but we rely on our community and our members to support us in our mission.

Tim Chong: And so we'd love for you to spread the word and then you can find me on LinkedIn, just Tim Chong, uh, CEO of Yonder. 

Amardeep Parmar: And is there anything that maybe the audience listening right now could help you with?

Tim Chong:  I think  just. I would love for you to spread the word about us. I think, uh, startups like ours rely on [00:40:00] community and rely on people talking about us through social media, talking about us to their friends.

Tim Chong: That would help us tremendously. 

Amardeep Parmar: So thanks so much for coming on. Any final words to the audience? 

Tim Chong: I would say the best first thing is just get started. I think so many people have ideas. They never get started and you don't need to quit your job straight away. Just get started.

Amardeep Parmar: Hello. Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It means a huge amount to us. And we don't think you realize how important you are because if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes a world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here to inspire, connect and guide the next generation British Asians, 

Amardeep Parmar: if you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact.

Amardeep Parmar: And by doing that, it means we can get bigger guests, we can host more events, we can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part. So thank you so much for supporting us.

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