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Power to the Peculiar: Rituals ASEAN Start-up Founders Observe Before Making Big Business Decisions

Among other things, voyeurism. But not the kinky kind.

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 03 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

If there’s one thing tech start-up founders cannot play hooky on, it’s the business of making the difficult decisions that will impact the company moving forward. Whether it’s deciding on which investor to work with (yes, you can be choosy and have standards), conceptualizing their next big product, pivoting the business model, or restructuring the company, the decisions that founders face are no joke and require a great deal of strategic thinking.

Being the “round pegs in the square holes” that they are, as Steve Jobs succinctly put it, you’ll often see these tech bigwigs engage in some rather quirky habits in the run-up leading to D-day—some of it having nothing to do with the business itself. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, the Japanese inventor of the floppy disk (the great grandfather of your portable hard drive, millennial readers), claims to benefit from oxygen deprivation, making inventions “0.5 seconds before death.” Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, in this Inc. article, attributes the conception of his best ideas to something as mundane as the morning shower to more visceral experiences like going to the Burning Man festival.

From the normal to the nonsensical, tech start-up founders share rituals and habits they make prior to a big business decision:


Take it to court

The tennis court, that is. Ben Wintle, the founder of food discovery and reservations app Booky, shares, “I tend to make a decision on a long outstanding issue soon after losing a tennis game. I may be a little angry in this state so I’m more aggressive with moving things forward.”

Wintle also likes his mornings uninterrupted. “My phone stays off, usually on Saturday, to figure stuff out. Last weekend, I walked my dog through Ayala Triangle park and gained clarity on a few things,” he shares.


Dismantle time

Nothing quite as magical as Hermione Granger’s time-turner in the J.K. Rowling books, but when he’s about to make “super big decisions,” Veem founder and COO Aldo Carrascoso follows his “If-I-feel-the-same-after-24-hours-rule” where he “splits decision-making into two distinct times.”

“The first part is when I want to do it. When I know what I want to do, I completely forget about it and distract myself with work, hiking, gaming…and long walks under the stars,” he says. Fast-forward 24 hours, if Carrascoso still feels the same, “then the decision is final.” If he feels even “the slightest difference,” he then “reframes the decision using new insights and repeats the cycle again until I have two days of consistent decisions in a row.”

When he’s funding for large rounds, Carrascoso’s a little superstitious. “I wear the exact same watch all the time without removing it for any reason—think about it like a lucky rabbit’s foot. When the round closes, I don’t use the timepiece again,” he shares.


Stay under the radar

If you happen to be in the middle of negotiating a deal with Kalibrr founder Paul Rivera, expect him to disappear over the weekend. “I don’t really have any weird ritual[s] other than making sure I’ve had a weekend to think about it—meaning, you’re always going to have to wait until the following week to hear from me. This allows me to decompress, reflect, seek advice, and let the emotions dissipate before coming to a decision,” he shares.


Voyeurism—not the kinky kind

Seatris co-founder and CMO Chris Franke is no stranger to making hard decisions like pivoting a business, letting go of many people and teams, and kicking off a restructuring process. The former co-founder of Indonesian start-up YesBoss, Franke shares, “I like to go out of the office, grab a coffee, and sit somewhere in a coffee shop or a park and just watch people doing stuff. People are talking, arguing, rushing, relaxing, reading or working—whatever they do, it reminds me everyone makes decisions every day and experiences challenges. It relaxes me and clears my head.”

When it’s crunch time, Franke says he checks in with friends and family “to talk about something totally different than work to distract myself. Once finished, I have a fresh view on things and can get back to making decisions more focused. I guess it really depends on the situation or mood I’m in and how hard the decisions are.”


Vitamin sea intake

Eko founder Korawad Chearavanont admits that he dithers on big decisions for days, sometimes weeks. When push comes to shove, however, going to the beach or an island accelerates the process. “It clears my mind and gives you an opportunity to take a step back from the fray and see it from the outside,” he shares.

Sven Yeo, the co-founder of AgTech start-up Archisen, pretty much follows the same ritual—but with a little twist. “I like heading to the beach and taking a swim, and listening to music underwater,” he says.


Walk it off with Don Miguel Ruiz

Paulo del Puerto, co-founder of Kinvo and PocketMarket, and Managing Partner at 8ventures, finds that the decision-making process is made easier when he walks around by himself while listening to an audiobook of “Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Listening to the audiobook always reminds him that “everything we do is based on agreements we have made—agreements with others, with God, and with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. With these agreements, we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, and what is impossible,” shares del Puerto. Another reason he likes it? “Well, the narrator also sounds like an old hippie with a very cool and relaxing voice,” he says.

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