My Beef with Tony Robbins

Yesterday, I was having a long conversation with my brother about work and millennial problems – the idea to reach for the stars. We both agreed “following your passion” and “finding your potential” is an incredibly American idea. Classic Tony Robbins and Steve Jobs. 

I started out interning through a school program in DC, applied as an Intern twice to get into the State Dept. I found a position with the Office of Policy Planning. When Trump came in, I left along with the rest of the Secretary’s Office and rejoined as a contractor. I was hit by a car a week after my employment. During the last two years of my time at State, I joined as the Korea head at NEXUS Global, a network of social entrepreneurs and impact investors, and hobbled through conferences and made a small network of my own in connecting policymakers and entrepreneurs to keep good initiatives going. I convinced former diplomats and staffers at State that left during the Trump administration and formed a team called GeoStrat Ventures, LLC consulting on new market entry & geopolitics to impact investors. Here in Korea, now I am bringing together my background to help the market entry of federal technologies abroad in aerospace and defense into South Korea.

I think you can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time. In my experience, there is a huge opportunity cost to “following your passions” and “staying who you are.” If you prioritize work, you lose family time and might lose out on your hobbies. I had advantages like I was single. And I could afford the time to work on side projects and the money to attend the conferences as I did.

You don’t belong in a certain social group, because you are on your own. You have to be mindful of navigating the cultural difficulties among different social groups. For instance, I am a young Korean woman here, and my State and entrepreneurial venture do not bode well with the older Korean businessmen here in Korea. What helped me is finding a few industry leaders as personal advisors and staying focus on my priorities.

If you have the Tony Robbins dream, and I do think it is incredibly rewarding to have one, there is never a short-cut or the easy-way out. You also have to navigate your own waters, flexible, be disciplined, diligent, be extremely smart in prioritizing. What gives me comfort is knowing where I am and what I can and cannot do. 

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If you’d like to be absolutely original, my tip is to manage your mental health and to keep fine-tuning your skillset. Keep learning and taking the initiative to carve space in your life devoted to what you’re good at and creating an environment that continually motivates and excites you.

Ad Astra.

Disclaimer: these are my thoughts and my thoughts only by February 22nd of 2021. They may change and evolve over time.

How to Grow Your Overseas Branch into $600 M in Net Profit

South Korea has historically been reliant on foreign suppliers for the core technologies. Many of its advanced weapons systems are based on technologies developed outside South Korea.

To mitigate the dependence and facilitate the technological development of the defense sector the commercial R&D activities carried out by the state are increasingly being outsourced to the defense industries.

One way to bring in foreign technologies into the defense industrial ecosystem is to work with local partners, suppliers, trading companies, and manufacturers that already have a contract with the ADD (Agency for Defense and Development.)

You’ll also need to get through the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. I’ll have a follow-on post about ITAR.

Here are five ways to enter the Korean market:

  1. Work through a trading company. This method is used when the foreign entity is not interested in establishing an entity in Korea, but in testing out the market. A contract is drawn between the company sourcing the product and a domestic import/export partner. The trading company in the deal receives an estimate from the supplier, sign a sourcing agreement with clients, and receives a set fee. Then they work with domestic partners, customers of the product, and negotiate ($/unit, etc.)
  2. License out the technology. Licensing or outbound licensing is essentially selling the intellectual property of the technology to commercialize the IP into the business. This is useful if the supplier lacks market knowledge, infrastructure, and resources to bring the product to market without the related R&D costs. The key here is to set reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms to avoid the likelihood of future IP litigation.
  3. Set-up its own branch here in Korea. At Big Bang Angels, I worked on a fund model to help U.S. and Canadian tough-tech startups with IP protection but without access to the market, network, and investors, to make inroads into Asia. The thesis was that the startup could secure IP protection in the international finance hub of Asia, Singapore, or Hong Kong, to attract follow-on capital on the specific technology. Then form a team agile enough to navigate the Asian market. Risky, but an appealing method for startups, especially AI or SaaS companies, for its agility.
  4. Partner with a local manufacturer or supplier that could establish itself as a sales partner on the ground. This could be a one-stop-shop solution to localize the production of the technology. They can ideally deliver on the technical capabilities, integrate the product into the niche needs, and utilize the sales channel to get the product into the market.
  5. Form a joint venture. It’s an agreement between two companies with different areas of expertise in the creation of the new, separate business entity. By sharing the risk, revenue, and technical know-how of two business entities, they can enter the market much more effectively.

Forming a joint venture is a common method to set-up an entity in Korea between two companies from two countries. They share different cultural capital, market know-how, and through the JV, they share their areas of expertise in the creation of the new, separate business entity.

I recently had a conversation with a family member who grew a joint venture, or a business entity created by two or more parties with shared ownership, into a ~$690 million USD figure business in Korea.

Vacuum pumps used to remove air, gas, or oil particles from a device or equipment that can corrode the internal parts of a machine. It is used for various industrial applications in manufacturing units for optimal processing environments such as semiconducting materials, glass coating, etc. They are used even in medical applications that require suction.

In the beginning, he received an offer from the company to set-up a venture here in Korea with around 15% or so market share. When he began his business, he found that machinery malfunctions. The problem was that the company knew how to sell, not to engineer.

The Korea office would field complaint calls about tech malfunctions. Even if the specific equipment is around $50K or $100K USD per unit and the technology it supports is $10 Mns USD, it will not operate if the supporting tech does not work.

When he found the issue in the supply chain, the company did not have the capacity to fix the equipment but just to carry it into the country. And instead of delaying the issue, he created a study program for engineering students. In turn, they would help troubleshoot the mechanics.

The slogan became — “Fix First, Fighting Later.” As in, fix the equipment before they make the sales. They created a one-stop-shop to smooth out the process inventory to procurement. Competitors did not.

Eventually, the company sustained its customers and slowly increased its market share. The most popular use for the vacuum pump was in suppliers of semiconductors and flash memory chips. They began receiving offers investments from the parent company and the client companies like SK Hynix and Samsung Electronics, the South Korean memory chip powerhouse. It built its own facility to manufacture the pumps then exporting it from overseas and hired electrical engineers and field engineers. Engineering support was no longer a simple value-add, but its main competitive advantage to help design and set-up the system from ground zero.

There certainly many elements to the equation — the careful maneuvering of relationship management in penetrating the market, the internal R&D to continue improving the deployment systems piling on its many IPs, and others. But what gave the company the kick it needed to get off the ground was resetting priorities, creating another value-proposition, and building it into a core asset in the company.

Advancing Multilateral Public-Private Partnerships for Biden’s Priorities

One lesson I had learned witnessing the Trump transition at State was that while policies and programs may not outlast an administration, the work can continue with advancing priorities under shared values, iterating upon what works, and working with the private sector.

In the private sector, I witness an incredible array of work by innovators in climate science, aerospace, and defense protecting human lives and achieving security and sustainability agendas through greener, cheaper, lighter, and more efficient technologies.

I had an opportunity to work on a program called Engage America – a whole of government initiative to bring policies closer to the American people. With State as a more diplomatic arm of the federal government, we worked with interesting private innovators to provide public resources to local municipalities, such as Small Business Administration to provide translation services for Somali populations in Buffalo, NYC.

Many public programs, such as Engage America, did not continue, but public and private resources exist to be harnessed with a renewed sense of optimism and energy to be catalyzed. We are also at the precipice of many changes to move at scale on complicated and interrelated issues.

Executive Offices at institutional banks, like Goldman Sachs, adopted Environmental and Social Policy under a top-level operational framework. Investors are pouring an unprecedented amount of capital into start-up ventures with government stakeholders as a source of funding, building confidence among investors.

In many ways, coronavirus is accelerating what has already been out there in building the cyber resilient networks and thinking through supply chain disruptions. As a country, we should come together to think about how public-private partnerships can instrument the solutions that can be scaled.

Each entity offers from a business or government standpoint to meet the needs of consumers, citizens, and the environment in a collaborative working sense. By creating the conditions for tackling those problems within and in partnership with implementation strategies that are feasible, practical, and operational.

Government officials need to work with business or non-profit not only as a way to reduce cost but also for innovative and long-term solutions to manage multi-dimensional policies. Business leaders will need to balance responding to short-term solutions and long-term strategic policies part of the larger political reality by anticipating risk, clear social goals with flexibility and independent expert advice.

  1. Create industry coalitions for immediate solutions, such as pandemics. There are technologies we can utilize today such as sensors or commercial satellites monitoring the patterns of life. We can mobilize this data to predict the patterns of future biological threats.
  2. Establish R&D coalitions in each arm of the federal government. We can apply the technical knowledge of U.S. startups to policy goals to cover Presidential priorities, such as nuclear disarmament, food security, global health, and climate change. By working closely with the Department of Energy, entrepreneurs would help bring clean energy technologies with high upfront capital costs into the market. By catalyzing the connection with DOE, entrepreneurs, regional partners, and incubators, the partnership would foster collaborations among start-ups and federal entities. 
  3. Educate. The advent of the internet and the data is that everyone can share information. The downside to this is that everyone can share information. Massive amounts of disinformation or misinformation about the coronavirus are still out and about. Information can be weaponized to polarize each other.
  4. As the US seeks to broaden its alliances, it should engage partners not just on trade and traditional security issues, but also on emerging “nontraditional” challenges. One principal area for America to collaborate constructively with Asian nations is in “natural security,” or the security implications of climate change, environmental degradation and natural resource dependence.
  5. We could also establish bilateral technology funds, funds could support a range of initiatives, from seed projects to road test high-risk ideas to incubators for startups innovating at the nexus of defense and commercial applications.
  6. We could build anonymous data sets with U.S. allies to offset China’s scale advantage in the arena or its potential deliberate policy choices. Each government’s initiative to pool select, curated datasets can be used by companies and innovators in each country.

Achieving national security and next administration’s priorities will continue to require working across those barriers. It cannot be done without building upon what has already been effective and also through tapping into convening grounds across the public and the private entities for a safer and a more secure world.


Coding controls how we live – online and offline.

About a third of 1% of us can write it.

Think about what we’re doing right now. You’re probably reading this article. This article itself is – coded, and run on a web browser, which is code, run on a computer which is designed by code.

It’s a very exciting time to be living today. Everything we do is on the computer, and as we’re generating more data, we’re relying on it to make more decisions for us day by day.

Here is how artificial intelligence works. We give the computer a lot of examples and get it to write its own code with its own set of directions to follow. If we do not train it to consider a set of decisions to go into making more decisions, the computer will decide it is not relevant. For instance, the computer may decide the parties don’t have any hispanic people, if the input does not have any hispanic people.

Some call for a “data governance council” to ensure fair treatment and protection of personal data. Some have called for technology conferences to discuss the unintended consequences of technology.

For me personally, the technology really has not caught up to speed yet for us to worry. Of course, there are ethical concerns of deep-fakes, but to generate any working algorithm, data analysts have to comb through thousands of datasets pulling from hopefully a source that is statistically a good sample size.

I wouldn’t worry so much yet, but I would be mindful of the selective screening of information and as the algorithm on your online content viewership advances. This leads to a whole another conversation on polarization, populism, etc., that I won’t get into today.

Thank you for reading!

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

I do want to share how this book was written. The author a well-renowned medical doctor and a global health educator with a well-known TED talk. When he was diagnosed with an incurable pancreatic cancer, he canceled his external engagements and focused on pouring his knowledge into this book. This book is his final gift to the world to make sense of the world around us amidst the noise and to create impact with the knowledge.

Every day, We are bombarded with information too general and simplistic. This book was spoken from the author’s voice and was an easy read. Each chapter demystifies each of our instincts and shares with us stories and rules to test our assumptions. He gives us tools at the end of each chapter of how we can think like a true data scientist.

With this book, we can see that the world is not as bad as it seems, “and we can see what we have to do to keep making it better.”

The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Link here

I picked up this book in the midst of COVID-19. It helped me rationalize and understand this mark in our better.

One day, I will think of this moment as a simple story, simplified, summarized, and elegant, but there are often moments like these with great pangs in our stomachs unsure and unfathomable.

As Nassim taught us, we seem to tend to rationalize the events past – that they are fathomable that they somehow made sense. Alas, the occurrence of the market shifting up or down, one country or state falling or another though they lay completely outside of our forecast, do not seem so outlandish in the aftermath.

Perhaps instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario and the unknowns, we can focus on the redundancies – less imposed, more regular, and more derived from the past – the long-term game. And we continue to stay true of – sticking to what grounds us – just like time spent with family, friends, and all else certainly keeping our feet on the ground.

Digital Diplomacy: Conversations on Innovation in Foreign Policy

Digital Diplomacy is a series of interviews compiled by a public affairs officer at the Italian Embassy. I will never forget the first time I met him. He hosted an all-women panel with the coolest social impact pioneers in DC – Frances Holuba from the Obama White House, Nicole Isaac from LinkedIn and Anastasia Dellaccio of WeWork Creator Awards at the time. I remember this was one of my most favorite events to this day..

This is an important book of our time for many reasons. There are not many books told from the perspective of a public diplomacy practitioner of how to navigate the waters of the changing time today. He cherry-picked the innovation leaders across the administration and those at the front seat in Washington DC from the World Economic Forum, United Nations, TEDx, and the New America Foundation. His questions are well-researched and poignant. He pulls from history and covers different perspective specific for each interviewee for what it means to innovate, what conditions create the culture to innovate from respective organizations, and how to conduct it with vision, strategy and for good.

It is a guidebook to treasure for all thinkers and practitioners in government, business, and private partners interested in working at an international level. I am still a fan of his Medium, and I recommend you all to check it out, if you haven’t done so already. 🙂