Originally aired on March 8, 2021 @ 2:30 PM - 3:00 PM EDT
A recurring series presented by Cloudflare Co-founder, President, and COO Michelle Zatlyn, featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs and tech leaders who clearly debunk the myth that there are no women in tech.
Today's guest is Mika Reyes. Mika is a founder, currently building something new in the passion economy space. She is an ex-PM @LinkedIn, Kumu & Ripcord via the Kleiner Perkins Fellowship. Mika is most passionate about broadening access to opportunities, especially in emerging markets like her home, the Philippines & in S.E. Asia. On the side, she works on a virtual startup incubator for emerging markets, dances for a hiphop dance troupe, and she launched a fun social card game.
Women in Tech
Women's Empowerment Month
All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome to Yes We Can on International Women's Day 2021. And I am just so honored to have Mika Reyes here. Welcome, Mika. How are you? I'm good. I'm good. How are you? I'm good. Happy International Women's Day. I know it's kind of a little bit in the past, it's kind of felt a little silly to celebrate, but I feel like it's been a tough year. So I'm all for celebrating a reason to celebrate. It's good. Well, it's nice to see you. It's so nice to meet you. And thank you so much for being on Yes We Can today. I'm excited to hear more about your background and take lots of learnings from you. So thanks for joining. Yeah, thanks for having me on such a special day too. Yeah, it's fun. Great. Well, look, you know, I wanted to start I have a question to dive in and we want to learn more about your background and you're such a product builder. And so I have a business partner, Matthew Prince. And one of the things I often have described Matthew in the past about is being such an amazing like printing press of ideas. I always tell founders, if you need an idea, if you really want to be an entrepreneur, you're not sure what to work on, like find a way to go have a glass of wine with Matthew or go for a walk with him because he's got endless number of ideas. And as I was preparing for our conversation today, some of the people that know you said, you know, Michelle, how you describe Matthew, as soon as you said that, I thought of Mika because she's also a printing, my friend who is the printing press of ideas. And so I thought, oh, well, that's that's a great place to start. Maybe you can give us a glimpse into your printing press of ideas in your in your mind, maybe share some of the ones you've had recently or the last little bit, just so audience can hear a little bit more about the wide range of ideas you've had. Yeah, well, first off, that's a compliment to be called the printing press. Thanks for that. Yeah, a couple ideas, and maybe I'll look at it into two categories of how I think about these things. One is a lot of my side projects and ideas I put out there and share with my friends are ways that I want to grow and be learning. So as an example, was very interested in the passion economy space and learning more about that. And recently put out what we call the passion economy stack. And that was my way of thinking about, hey, what are all the resources and people and articles, newsletters, et cetera, that talk about the fashion economy so that folks like myself that want to jump into it can also go to this database that's organized in these different ways and learn more about the space. And that's that's very innocent, but growing really quickly. So your next printing press rate for the audience who doesn't know what the passion economy are, new term in tech and maybe a new trend, growing trend. What can you just give us the quick over quick cliff notes version of what's what do you mean when you say passion economy? What do you mean by that? Yeah, passion economy is the whole thesis of, hey, now everyone can go into these platforms and do the thing that they love that they're passionate about and make money out of it and really subscribe to that thesis of being able to get more people to do the thing they love every day. So the passion economy popularized by Legion and growing more and more with these new platforms like Patreon and some stock helping artists, creators everywhere be able to do the things they love. So wanted to learn more myself, especially since I recently came about it last year, collected these resources, created the passion economy stack. We launched it on product hunt and got to number two. And for me, it was really good experience to get a chance to talk to passion economy thought leaders, but also collect and curate all of these resources to put into a website, a very simple website to share with everybody. So as one example of it, another example of it, which I haven't quite executed yet, but another way for me to be learning about something I'm interested in is, I was born and raised in the Philippines, very interested in the Filipino diaspora. One of the things that's on my list is, hey, could there be this photography or biography project, talking to all these Filipinos from Italy, from Denmark, a lot of people who are, a lot of Filipinos who are everywhere in the world that have different perspectives about how they came to those places. And also a chance and excuse for me to talk to more Filipinos all over the world and very tied to my Filipino community everywhere. So yeah, I come up with some of these ideas because I want to learn about something new and try to find a way to turn that into a project and then share it out with my friends. Another thing is, learning something new, but also there's a bucket that I just think could be really fun to do. So one other example there is, created this social card game called consensus, where you pick a card, it says who is most likely, if you're with a group of friends, it says who's most likely to create a card game. And then three, two, one, you all point at the person that hits the prompt best. And if you are in the majority or in the consensus of that group, then you keep that pointer, you keep that card. And that's because I love games. I love bringing people together and getting to know each other. And we launched that card game on Kickstarter and product hunt as another side project. And yeah, still learned a lot through the process of launching, but that was really the impetus for that was just, I think this could be really fun and love games myself. So when we had team building for my teams at LinkedIn, also came up with like Zoom specific games. We could leverage the different components in Zoom. Yeah, a couple of things under those buckets of learning and things that interest me. I love that. It's so interesting. You were saying about these in the last year, since we've all been at home, how do you connect and how do you have kind of game night or do other things? And so I love that you're inventing games. If people want to go find this game that you, this virtual card game, I guess that you can play remotely distributed, how do they find it, Mika? Yeah, you can go to playconsensus.com. You can buy the actual card game and we're also going to be launching a digital version of it as well. That's great. That's great. Well, so those are like, those are wide range of ideas. And what I love is they're not just ideas. You've actually like made, shipped a lot of them. That's hard. And so when you think about like Kickstarter and product hunt, what are some of the other foundational tools that you've used to help take these ideas and ship them? Because I often, I've realized as I've been building cloud for the last 10 years, that actually shipping is a skill. Some people have a really good idea, have a hard time starting projects and some other people have a really hard time finishing projects, but clearly you're very good at both starting and finishing. So that's a huge skill. What are some other tools do you use to help ship these ideas that you have? Yeah, great question. So I think we, I think step back, the reason why we had launched in Kickstarter or product hunt is because we knew that our audience for people who are interested in fashion economy, product hunt, people there would want to know more about it. And we started with Kickstarter for consensus because then that was a really good platform to still see if people actually wanted to buy such a card game and if we could reach a threshold of money and backers before we actually created the game and launched. I'd say depending on the audience and the platform, it might be a very different feel and very different strategy for launching. So another really great example is really just having a wait lists and landing page and then sending those out to our groups and saying, hey, do people actually want this kind of product or thing that we're interested in? We're talking to our social groups and seeing from there if that's something that we should be launching more broadly. So it's a very dependent on the audience, very dependent on the goal. If it's getting signups, if it's actually blasting it out and maybe we have more PR in media, like things that I've definitely had more words, more influencers, more blogs out there so we can really reach a wide range of people trying out our features and making sure that we're targeting the right folks. And the last thing that I bucket after goal and audience in crafting a successful launch or shipping something successfully is making sure that we have the feedback loops or the measurement to make sure that, hey, after this launch, this really is just the start. How do we keep iterating and get the analytics from all these different channels, make sure that we can get the emails of these folks so we can do user research with them. And then thinking about how we can launch again. I love that. There's so many things. I think back to our early days at Cloudflare, we used a lot of those, but that was even before Product Hunt and Kickstarter. And those are great resources to get early feedback of if there's demand. And instead of you go scale it up, it's great for if you have an idea and you want to get it out and you want to ship it, like it's an idea, it's a platform for people to discover it and see what the interest is. And then of course, social media, both for its pros and cons, it's a really good way to potentially easily share content or ideas if you hit it right. So thanks for sharing that. So, okay. So there's printing press of ideas. And I know that you, we're going to talk about your time at LinkedIn. We'll do that next, but just before we get there, I know that you've recently started a new company, which is, I know it's early, but maybe you can share at a high level, kind of, how are you thinking about this new company and what motivated you to start it? Share what you can. Yeah. Yeah. Very new, very excited. I talked about the passion economy. So really exploring ideas in the passion economy space, where again, I'm really subscriber on this thesis of helping people monetize their individuality and the passion that they have and doing it in a sustainable way. So thinking about primarily ideas in that space. I've also been thinking a lot about education through communities. So this rise of what we call cohort-based courses or cohort-based learning. A lot of new programs are coming up with this thesis of, hey, I can learn better and have more social accountability if I joined this cohort of other people that are learning with me and we can all learn from each other, which isn't too far away from, you know, how you learn in universities or how you learn in classes today. But just enabling that and making that available through online means and at scale. So really interested in that whole aspect of education. And the last intersection of topics and categories is for today around women empowerment. So thinking about role models, how we can learn from role models, how we can learn from other women and see that, hey, these women are successful. How can we, how can I also be at that space and learn from the lived experiences of others? So it's in the intersections of those three things and excited to be sharing more in the next couple of weeks, next couple of months. That's great. I mean, there's so many, I have my, my, my mind's like, I'm like leaning in me, like tell me more. And so if the audience wants to follow your new company and learn more about it as, as you're willing to share more, what's the best way to, for them to do that? Is it on Twitter? Best way to follow as you make progress on your new company? Yeah. Twitter is a good one. I am Smika Toots, S-M-I-K-A-T-O-O-T-S. I also have a website, smika.com. You can subscribe to my newsletter there that I send pretty weekly. And we'll share more through, through those channels. Perfect. That's great. You know, as you're thinking about these online learning, like I've just, I have two kids and how like learning is so social and it doesn't, and, and it just, how you can recreate that and leverage networks around the world and whether it's women and these passion economies, it feels like there's a lot of tailwinds to this idea. So ends up manifesting itself. It's, you know, it's interesting. People often ask me about the early days of Cloudflare and I, and I, I like to tell them, it's like, it was hard to articulate exactly what we were doing. We knew that there was like all these trends, there was something there. And we kept trying to describe it in different ways every time we met people. And eventually, you know, we, we are today where I'm much better describing what we do, but it feels like you're onto something really big. So I'm excited to follow along and see like what, what comes out of it. Thanks. Yeah. Very, very excited too. And fingers crossed that it becomes something big. Yeah. And if not, it'll morph into, if not, there'll be some, another idea on your printing press of ideas. So it's not this something, but there feels like there's something there. Okay. So before you started this new company, as it's very early, but nuggets of inspiration, you were a product manager at LinkedIn for the last couple of years, which is obviously an incredible company, a large company. And so if you think about your time there as a product manager, what were some things that you learned? Yeah. Oh, funny. I just wrote something about this. They'll hopefully be launching in one of the LinkedIn sites soon. But one of the projects that I was most excited about at LinkedIn that I'd launched was what we called internally open to hiring. And certainly what that is, is for the job seeker side, there's open to work. Like I could go to my profile and say, Hey, I'm open to work. Recruiters can reach out to me. I built the other side of that. So open to hiring, I am hiring manager, recruiter, and I have a job that I'm looking for candidates for, and I can put that on my profile, create the job for my profile, and then get this purple photo frame on my profile picture. So that everywhere I post, everywhere that I comment, then people know, Hey, this person is hiring. Let me go to their profile and apply to their job or refer a candidate that could be a good fit. So it was a really exciting project that came out of my own way that I found my job at LinkedIn, as I searched for these hiring managers that had hiring on their profiles, like a little hack, and searched for hiring product manager at LinkedIn, and found my boss. Went through the process, reached out, found my boss through that little hack, and now was able to prioritize that at scale. So I was really excited about it because of that personal learning, and also apparently turns out there are millions of hiring managers that are also leveraging this hack. And one of the biggest lessons that I got from that experience, working with 200 people cross-functionally outside of my org as well, was that relationships matter, and that's also one of the core tenets of LinkedIn. Where in particular, I felt that with some partner teams. So as an example, in the early days, we had jumped into designs and thinking about how the problem is going to be solved, but did it without clear understanding of other teams' needs. And so jumped into it, and had a lot of tension, had a lot of disagreements, and then had escalations, sent the decisions to our boss because we need to resolve it really quick, really fast. But I do think there's a difference between having a disagreement and understanding the other person's perspective versus just having a disagreement and it being very tense. In the early days, it definitely was the latter. Until I got to know my partners more, I jumped into this call that was supposed to be one hour, but turned into three hours because we suddenly talked about our careers, our goals, understood each other's perspectives. And after that, the challenges of disagreements turned less tense and really more like coming from a place of understanding. And that was a really tough initial phase, but in retrospect, was a really good lesson for me, like a master class in relationship building. And now I say, good relationships build great products. And so that's probably the number one lesson from that entire project. I love that story because we talk a lot about empathy. And I think you did a really good job talking through your experience. But at the end of the day, it's easier to want to help each other when you're on the same team and overcome obstacles versus I need this from you. And you're just like some box on their checklist. It is interesting how good relationships probably do really ship better products. And I can see why you would learn that at a larger company when there's a lot more people. You have to work to ship something. You can have the best idea, but you have dependencies within the organization. And so that's a really good one. Yeah. And that example was a really striking one. It was nice because we had the whole three-hour conversation that I mentioned. But I also see that simple coffee chats with my engineers or my designer, thinking about besides the project that we're working on, oh, what are your goals? What are the things that you're excited about? And that becomes a nicer conversation, a nicer relationship to be a foundation of for whatever you're building. That's good. Well, I always say the companies are just collections of people growing in the same direction. And I'm going to use this example as a reference point. So thanks for sharing that. How about anything surprise you working at LinkedIn? I mean, that's a great lesson that you learned. Anything surprising? Yeah. I think back to my about two years at LinkedIn, I think two things. One was, I think it's no surprise that LinkedIn has a really strong culture. But for me, being in it manifested really through leadership. So Jeff always talks about compassionate leadership. And it's not just talk. He really shows that with himself, how he brings himself to work and also trickles down to the rest of our leadership. So as an example, during the pandemic, when it started, a lot of care and thought was put into how we were all treated as employees. It was one of those days to make sure that we were taking care of ourselves. And that also manifested with all of our leaders. So my manager made sure that we had one-on -ones where she just reminded me to take it off and make sure that I was taking care of myself. It manifests in how leadership is also vulnerable about how they want to be growing. So remember this one email that I got from one of our leaders saying, hey, this is a piece of feedback that was given to me. I want you all to help me be accountable and make sure that I am doing this so-and-so in the right way. And if not, help me out. And really appreciated that. It's very rare for them to be very open. It was a group of many people that they sent this email to, which I really appreciated. Really showed how they wanted to grow vulnerable as leaders as well. So I think that whole vulnerability and compassion from leadership, which then trickles out to their employees really well. I think on the flip side, another thing that was surprising and tolerance of risk. I think before LinkedIn, I was always in startup plan. And so coming into LinkedIn, it was like, yeah, we can do all these things. Very excited. But also the difference is now everything that I launch is going out to millions of people. So it makes sense that there's risk mitigations and making sure that we know exactly what we're getting into versus just like launch, launch, launch. And so the tolerance of risk was surprising for me when I was starting off coming from startup world and transitioning to this larger corporation. And now that I'm back in startup world too, that shift has so changed and also invest in our speed and how we're thinking quicker about the things that we're launching. Well, I'm sure it slows down the launching a little bit, right? The risk tolerance, having more checks and balances. It means it's harder to get things out. And you're just like, I just want to ship it because I have the best feedback, customer feedback or user feedback, but there are more checks and balances. So I'm sure it's slower. I'm curious, in a year when you're building your company and hopefully massive success, it'll be interesting to see how you are able to juggle the moving fast with the checks and balances. And I think that'll be a really good kind of collection of experiences to hopefully help you with this next chapter. So that's great to be able to see that. Okay. I know we talked about it before, but there are so many people who want to be Yumeka. What I mean by that is they want to take their idea and ship it, or they really want to be an entrepreneur and they don't even really know where to start. Or maybe they live in the Philippines and they're just like, I've never even heard of Patreon before, or maybe Product Hunt before Kickstarter and they're Googling it in the background. And I know those people exist around the world as technology disseminates. And so I thought we just kind of make, I know we talked about it, but I want to put a really fine point on it. So you're really good at shipping products and that is just a huge skill. And so kudos to you. I hope you'd never lose that. And I can't wait to see all the products you've shipped historically and in the future. So what's your process? How do you ship a product? How do you think that through? And how can you maybe give some of our audience a framework for if you want to ship something, how to maybe think about it? Yeah. First off, thank you for that. It's still a lot to learn in the ways that I'm shipping things. But the framework, I might touch on it, but I'll make it more concrete. I think there's a lot of things that will be like a, it depends answer, but some frameworks for how we might think about it is one thinking really about the goal of the launch or what you're shipping. And that might be, hey, we actually want a small cohort because we want to get signups for a waitlist for a larger launch down the line, or we want to immediately get people using it as much as possible. And so then the strategy there will change. And as mentioned, we want more PR, more media, more eyeballs actually using it. So we can see if people actually want to be using the product. And it could be, I'm going to find beta testers. And so the launch will be a little bit more quiet and a little bit more exclusive. Maybe you're sharing out like some referral code and then they share it out to next person, next person. So I think a lot of the launch strategy and a lot of how the launch will manifest really depends on the first few goals that you want to launch and then attracting the metrics related to that so that you can quantify those goals. Second is the audience. I mentioned earlier that we launched Passion Economy in Product Hunt because we know that folks or the people that we wanted to reach were in Product Hunt. We launched Consensus in Kickstarter and then we launched it in Product Hunt. And what actually happened was that Product Hunt was not successful. We didn't get as many people backing us or people buying the product from Product Hunt because mostly tech folks probably not trying to buy a card. But Kickstarter was super successful. So I think that shows how it's important to know which platforms you're using or the ways that you're targeting your audience to cater to the launch. And for LinkedIn, our audience was hiring managers. So while there were a lot of these blog posts that were very important for the job seeker world and a lot of social media, we tapered down in some of the social media to cater to our hiring managers and instead reached out to influencers in the hiring space because then they could influence other hiring managers and talk to them instead. So the audience really changes a lot of your launch strategy and so being really crisp about that is important. And the last thing I mentioned as well is measurement and feedback. The launch is really just the start of more iterations and more analysis that comes. It's important you know how to digest how your launch went and going back to the goal is making sure that you're measuring right and strict. So that might be the analytics that you set up, how many people are clicking, how many people are converting through your funnel, and then the channels, how many people are actually using social media blogs versus everywhere else so that your launch in the future can actually cater to your audience. And also any feedback, user feedback, talking to people who actually clicked on it and see if it met their expectations, getting their emails as I mentioned so you have that higher fidelity conversation with them. So those three, the goals, audience, and measurement to fix back to your goals, I think are good frameworks and then everything feels natural after you've defined all of those. Really and you know what I hear when you're describing, when you go through all those three, it's just like look you don't have to know all the answers on day one. It's a starting point and then it's a journey and it's how fast can you the feedback work, who learns and you know if you think it's a specific you know goal what you're trying to do with this audience and turns out to be incorrect well maybe you can try a different audience and kind of feel yourself around a little bit. Of course you it's best if you hit it on the first strike but if not you have a couple other bats at plate I guess before you really strike out and so that feedback and the momentum is a really good reminder of just like what are you learning, what are you measuring, how do you how do you tweak this to keep making progress. Yeah what's helpful for me too is feels like a launch is always going to be so big and has to be successful immediately but especially if it's like a startup or a project that you're launching I think a good reminder is that you can always launch again making sure that you have this learning experience to know how to launch better and even if you launch again sometimes people will forget that you had that first launch that's why they can be forgiving so that they can use your product. So it's a nice reminder so that you're not like putting too much pressure on yourself but making sure you have the right ways to learn from that first launch. I love this like just do it you'll learn from doing things like just ship it you're going to learn something that's great that's great good okay we have about two minutes left and we have so many things left to cover so we're not going to get to all of it but I do want to ask because you grew up in the Philippines and now you've been living in the U.S. for the last several years I mean what's what's what what what's the tech scene like and entrepreneurship scene like in Philippines and how does that compare to the U.S. and you have I mean 90 seconds which is not enough to do it justice but I wanted to make sure I give you a chance because again you've been here for the last few years. Yeah I'd say it's it's nascent but growing so we have for example this batch of YC we have I believe two startups which is big for us going through the batch yeah a couple of things one is tech is still seen as kind of risky but that risk profile is getting better over time so maybe our parents will still push us towards corporate jobs and the traditional doctor engineer but the younger generation has a lot of appetite to be joining these tech startups which I'm really excited about. Second is the way we think about ideas is interesting it's less on the cusp of like innovation with something completely new and never thought of before but more rooted on day-to-day problems that still haven't been fixed a lot of it around FinTech for example so the way that we think about ideas is a little bit different and catered to what the Philippines needs at that moment and lastly is capital is not a lot of VCs out there quite yet though it is growing and also because it is hard to have where the scale of pesos Philippine pesos versus dollars so it will take some time for VCs to be able to see the returns there but yeah very excited nascent but growing ecosystem and we're excited to help drive that wave of growth. Mika I'm excited for you too thank you so much for being here today thank you to everyone for tuning in to Yes We Can we definitely need to have you back to hear about how your company goes the next chat and everyone check out MikaRaise.com and follow her on Twitter so we can all keep the rest of the the role model you are for all the future entrepreneurs so thanks so much Mika for being here today. Thanks Michelle for having me.