Justin Kan // Ep 47 // Transforming Habits into Destiny
Welcome to Episode 47 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Justin Kan on this week's episode.
We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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ustin Kan is the cofounder of Twitch (world’s biggest live-streaming platform). He’s been a serial entrepreneur and technology investor at Y Combinator and his new fund Goat Capital. Justin is also the host of The Quest, a podcast that brings the world stories of the people who struggled to find their own purpose, made it in the outside world, and then found deeper meaning beyond success.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. He is Justin Kahn. Justin Kahn is the co-founder of Twitch. The world’s biggest live streaming platform. He’s been a serial entrepreneur and technology investor at Y Combinator and his new fund goat capital. Justin is also the host of the quest, a podcast that brings the world stories of the people who struggle to find their own purpose, made it an outside world, and then found deeper meaning beyond success. Justin welcome to the show.
Justin: (00:00:53) Thanks for having me.
Bryan: (00:00:55) We’re super excited to have you on Justin, this hearing about your story. What was your upbringing like?
Justin: (00:00:58) What was my Asian upbringing? Like? I would say it was good. My parents were, were, um, you know, very supportive of me and they, they were. Uh, you know, my dad was born here in the U S he’s pretty Americanized. Uh, you know, he’s, he’s, full-on American does speak Chinese. My mom was an immigrant. She came here from Malaysia. She’s ethnically Chinese, but came here from Malaysia when she was, um, 17 years old, immigrated to Seattle. And so. Uh, you know, they’ve really valued education, which was probably not surprising, you know, send me to a private school and, and really made sure that I studied hard. And my mom was like, at one point I was, was failing math, I think in the fourth grade or something, she was just like, or second grade. And she was like, this is not going to happen to my kid. Right. So she, she would write these problems out, like math problems in color, different colors, like called pencils or whatever. And. Call them color problems. And that was like her bait to get me to do extra homework. And so that was, you know, I was kind of the early days and my, my parents, you know, my mom, especially, I learned the value of hard work and, um, a number of other things that probably helped me later on. She was very much like. She had this very team mentality. So my, I have two younger brother, my brothers, and I would get this list of chores to do. She’d be like, okay, you have to do everything on this list. Otherwise, no one gets to play Nintendo. Right? Like everyone, it was like a group task list. Right. It didn’t, wasn’t divided by person. And so that kind of gave us like, you hate it at the time, but really got this like team vibe on like how to execute something, you know? And so. Um, that was kind of, kind of it for the early days. My mom had had a scarcity mindset, which I think a lot of Asian immigrants do or immigrants in general. And so, you know, even though we were, we weren’t bad off at all, like, you know, she was able to send me and my brothers to private school and we had a pretty decent house. And, you know, she always felt like there was a sense of like, there’s there wasn’t enough. And so. You know, I think in the, from the early days that really gave me a drive to go out and make money and make more and be successful. And, um, when I was younger, I also, you know, I was kind of an outside, I wasn’t a popular kid. I felt like an outsider among my peers. And I think that really drove me later on as well. It wasn’t to try to be successful as like a way of proving something about myself, you know, like, Oh, I can, if I’m just, if I become successful, if I’m. Become an entrepreneur and make it, then I’ll finally get the approval. I always wanted, you know, I didn’t know it as that at the time, but I think I had this deep drive to succeed because of it.
Bryan: (00:03:46) Ah, that’s, that’s so powerful. I feel the same way too. I personally have always been the odd kid, stand out a lot. I say the wrong things all the time, but for me, the driving force behind entrepreneurship is fit in as well. And the reason why an Asian also network is more of a internal reason is because I felt so lonely. I felt like I couldn’t relate to anyone. So I want to build a community where if anyone else feels the same way I do, I want, I don’t want them to be alone. No, that’s behind Asian hustle network and yeah, I’m curious too, you know, you mentioned the scarcity mindset. What was your parents’ thoughts? Uh, when you’re at age 22, 23, starting Justin TV, instead of getting a conventional job, what was their thought process? Like when like Justin, you’re not gonna get jobs, would be entrepreneur what’s going on here?
Justin: (00:04:32) Yeah. My mom was an entrepreneur, so she was actually quite supportive. Uh, you know, it wasn’t. I think she cared a lot about my education. I, I, you know, I went to Yale and after that though, she was very supportive of me becoming an entrepreneur to her credit. And so, you know, I think she was, she wasn’t like a traditional tire mom in that she was saying, Oh, you need to be doctor or a lawyer or something like that. She was much more like, whatever you do, you should. Try to do what your best and had a very high standard for your work ethic. And then when I set up, I want to be an entrepreneur. I actually wasn’t for Justin TV, which is a company that eventually turned into Twitch. At first, it was another company that we started right out of college called Kiko, which is a web calendar. And so we decided, okay, we’ll like, uh, we’re going to start this company and stuff and bring a return. The bonus checks we got from these jobs that we’re gonna go to after college and my friend, Evan and I were going to start this company. And she was supportive of it, you know? So it was, it was, uh, it was good to have that.
Maggie: (00:05:35) So while you were starting Justin TV, you love streamed every part of your life. How did you know how to set boundaries between what you wanted to live stream in terms of like your personal life and what you wanted to make public?
Justin: (00:05:47) Well, yeah, the idea for just two years back in 2007, before there was an iPhone or Periscope, or I guess the shutdown Periscope now, but like Instagram live or anything like that, it was really before people were using data on their cell phones very much. So we had to figure out all this technology to build this platform, to let us stream from the mobile, like a mobile, what was effectively like our own mobile device that we made to the internet and then out to people on their computers. I had to watch it. And, um, you know, when we, we, I thought of it entirely, almost as a technology problem. Cause we’re engineers, so of like, Oh, how do we build this thing? But we never thought about like, how what’s the show going to be? Like, what is, how are we going to make an interesting show out of my life? Number one, or like, what are the social implications of having this stream model? The time it was kind of an experiment. And we really only thought about the technology part of it. So when we launched the show, so I think March 17th of 2007, Um, we. Launched it. And then, you know, it kind of went crazy on the internet cause it was this weird, crazy thing that nobody expected or heard of before this guy streaming his life, the internet 24 seven. It wasn’t actually 24 seven. Cause the site went down all the time, you know, kind of like the early days of Twitter or something. But you know, we tried to do 24 seven. So, you know, the impact on my life was just, I mean, it was like chaos, you know, we were trying to do run around, do stuff all the time. Like interesting stuff, whatever it would be like. Going and meeting people or talking to other startups or seeing whatever, like event was in town, like going to whatever like event was going on or like any event, basically just to try to generate content and. People were, um, you know, but it was exhausting. It was exhausting. And then like it started to get, you know, I started getting crank like all the time, you know, like, like various forums of like people who had nothing better to do. So they’d like call the cops or wherever I was at, or like order pizza, like. Wow. Pizza is the way wherever I was. And it was just like, uh, I mean, it was kind of hilarious in retrospect, but at the time it was, it was quite stressful. And so we really didn’t think about any of the implications of like, how it would work or like setting boundaries. Um, because the idea of it was this gimmick of like, okay, let’s just go out and try 24 seven, you know,
Bryan: (00:08:00) Yeah. Wait, tell us a story about that outfit when it looked like, you know, we follow your Tik TOK. I think he pulls like yesterday or two days ago, about early days. Your homeowners tell us about that story.
How’d you look in?
Justin: (00:08:12) Yeah, so, so it was, this had cam you know, basically it was this 24 seven live stream and was wearing this camera and it was like that mountain to a like baseball cap on the side. There was this camera. That was a, um, it was an analog camera. Actually. It kind of like a. Like, what does the early GoPro cameras? Um, and, uh, then it was attached to a backpack that had like this, what was effectively like a computer with all these cell phone data motives and a huge ass battery, like 20 pounds of batteries. Um, because they had not really made lithium-ion battery technology to the level it is today, you know, with mobile devices. And so it was just carrying around this back on all the time. And I was. You’re broadcasting from this hat cam, it’s pretty obvious, you know, that there was this camera thing attached to my head. And so people would notice it, it was, it wasn’t the coolest look, but you know, that’s, uh, it is what it is. It was kind of like,
Bryan: (00:09:06) I love that. I love how committed you are to the idea. Yeah.
Justin: (00:09:11) Yeah. It was a, it was a stunt for sure. It was not. The most, um, it was not the most, like at the end of the day, the content we were creating was not super interesting, but there was something there that was a precursor to everything that happened on social media. You know, I really did feel like, have you. Uh, gave people access into some watching someone’s life and they would be interested in, you know, people are fundamentally interested in other people for the most part. And so, uh, you know, I think that’s really developed with social media stars and influencers and people really wanting to see, you know, the real authentic side of, of the people they looked up, they look up to.
Maggie: (00:09:45) Yeah. And on that topic, you know, personal branding is so big today. Like everyone is trying to increase their personal brand at that time, when you were starting Justin TV, how big was personal branding and what did you kind of learn from? Because nowadays when people post YouTube videos of their personal brand, they just post highlights, but you were posting like every bit of your life.
Justin: (00:10:04) Yeah, well, the highlights are a better way to go from a branding perspective and also from a making it entertaining, right? Like stories, Instagram stories, and Snapchat stories is a good example of, you know, kind of pieces of someone’s real life. But they’re mostly just posting the highlights they’re posting, you know, 30 seconds or a minute of every day, not, uh, not 24 seven, right? Not 24 hours of a day. And the problem is like most of the time in the day, For most people, in fact, for everyone, including people who are celebrities that seem like they’re lean glamorous lives, most of their day is boring. You know, they’re on their phone, they’re on email, they’re just sleeping or whatever, you know, so it’s not as much, the highlights are much better and a much better way to go. And we didn’t really figure that out from a product perspective. Um, but I think there was something there, some core insight there that some, everybody has some things that are interesting every day that they can, they can zero in on.
Bryan: (00:10:57) Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, what I noticed about you as well is that you’re, you’re such a strong, early adopter, all the social media platforms, you know, we’re watching your interviews when, when, uh, Snapchat came out and you’re like, hold on. I wanna, I wanna stream this real quick. And we see the line clubhouse right now, too. So what are your, your, your, um, thoughts on being an early doctor for these types of social media platforms and how can that benefit someone’s personal brand?
Justin: (00:11:20) You know, what’s interesting is that I don’t, I don’t actually think I’m an early adopter because so. Um, didn’t really use Instagram, probably still don’t Twitter. I, I remember I signed up in 2007. Early 2007. And I was one of the top thousand accounts with Justin TV before we, um, you know, before, when we launched Justin TV, like in, it was just in San Francisco, like, you know, tech people. And then I didn’t really use it until 2009 for myself, you know? So it was like two years where Twitter was growing, but I didn’t. Use it at all. And then with Snapchat, like I had signed up, you know, 2013 or whatever, and saw stories and like, didn’t get it. And then it was only, I think in 2015 or late 2015 that I heard about DJ Khaled getting lost on his jet ski or whatever. And I was like, Oh, this is interesting. I want to see what’s going on. And so that’s when I started creating startup content on Snapchat. And then, um, you know, clubhouse is another good example. I had signed up for a clubhouse in. April. I think like I was probably one of the first thousand users and I didn’t get it. And then only finally lists last week when it’s like, you know, like blowing up that have I been, or two weeks ago I started using it again, uh, and Tik TOK, another great example. I mean, there’s 1 billion people on Tik TOK now, or like hundreds of millions or whatever. So, you know, now I’m starting to use Tech-Talk. I don’t, I don’t think I’m an early adopter, but what I do think I have. Is that I’m pretty creative. And I love like experimenting with these platforms once they’re, once I kind of get it, which usually takes a long couple of years, there’s like too long. It takes too long and then live experimenting and creating like authentic content. You know, I think I do create like content that people can connect with because it’s very, you know, that’s, that’s pretty authentic. And, um, does that, I don’t really need to be. You know, I’m like, no, I know I’m like not good enough looking or like polished enough to like, do something. That’s like more of an influencer style where they’re like making great Instagram videos or whatever. I’m like just some fucking guy. And so I love to make content. That’s just like just some guy doing whatever I’m doing, you know, and being as authentic as possible about it. And I think there’s something to that. That’s so I guess one tip for people out there. I think people really resonate with authenticity. And then the second thing I’ll say is, I think it’s never too late, right? I think. You know, with Twitter, for example, I really started being more popular on Twitter in 2018, you know, when I started and that was really late. Right. Like, I’m just, I was like, you know, I think I had like 20,000 followers in 2018 and then it, you know, maybe I’ve got like 110,000 now or something like that. So it’s still not, I mean, we’re not talking a lot, but it’s very target. Or my guests are type of people like startups and people who are like entrepreneurs, stuff like that. And I think people. You know, so I, it wasn’t too late. It’s just like, really about the content that I was creating about startups and wellness and things that resonated with the specific company. And I think, you know, that that’s like, yeah, if you look at black people who live on Instagram, they, a lot of them were like 2016, 2017, like, well, after the platform was like very broadly adopted. And so I think that people often think, or I’ve often thought myself, Oh, like, Um, I’ve missed the boat, you know, but I actually think the cases, like since so much that all these networks are growing so much and people’s usage of them is growing so much that they know you’re never, you’re never too late, you know, as long as you have the right kind of yeah. Angle of content that resonates with people.
Bryan: (00:14:44) Yeah. I really liked that mentality a lot too. Um, that’s really strong and I do want to point out one more thing. So Justin’s actually really handsome by the way.
Maggie: (00:14:57) It’s true. It’s true. And I really liked, yeah. I also really like that mentality because. You do have people who think like, Oh, I have to be an early adopter, but if you, it is not too late, if you joined late, because you have all the fundamentals down already, you have everyone who like tested out and try to see like, what is popular on those social media platform and what works. And then you are, you already have all the basics down. And so that’s a really good mentality. Um, so when you switched from Justin TV to Twitch, what was that transition like? And you know, what, what was the TV.
Justin: (00:15:26) You know, we we’re, we’re a platform for anything to anyone to broadcast live video. We had pivoted from, you know, I was doing my own show and then my show sucks. So we were like, okay, let’s make a platform for anyone to broadcast. And so we did that and did that in 2007. And then for the next four years we built Justin TV and it became a pretty big site, like probably a top 250 sites in the world. And people were streaming all sorts of live content. It was kind of like, um, You know, like the type of content that was on a, you now or Instagram live or it’s just people, whatever, like people would be chatting with each other or people would be streaming themselves playing video games where people would be, uh, streaming, um, you know, like sports event or something like that. And so people were kind of streaming, whatever they wanted. And then we, um, we basically stopped growing and so we were like, W what do we do? You know, we’re a pretty small company is about 25 people at the time. Had no idea what we should do. And at that point, uh, decided, Hey, let’s like, we need to figure out something to pivot to. And so we had two ideas and the four founders of our company and myself, Michael Seibel, who’s now the CEO of Y Combinator immature is the CEO of tuition, my friend, um, our other friend, Kyle Vogt, who is a, the CTO and co-founder of Cruz self-driving car startup. Um, We were at the time, just all, you know, probably in our mid, mid to late twenties and trying to figure out, okay, what do we pivot to? And we, we like we’re sitting in this room and could only come up with, we came up with two ideas, you know, one was. And then decided he was like, I love the gaming streaming. We should just go all in on gaming. This was very counter-intuitive gaming was not thought of as like a big content category at the time. It was 2011. And then actually 2010, probably like the end of 2010. And my, uh, our other Michael really was like, Hey, mobile is going to be a huge thing. We should go all in on mobile video. And so th I mean, there were some right ideas in there, but we couldn’t agree on what to do. So we decided we would try both we’ll work on both things in the same company. Uh, and we’ll see what one works after six months. And so, um, it was a horrible way to like, do this pivot, but we could decide to do it. And it turns out like the gaming thing kind of grew and grew and grew against the benchmarks that we set. So I am in, and, um, our COO at the time, Kevin Lynn, who was a friend of ours from college, started working on this gaming site part of Justin TV, like the gaming section. And, uh, they would go out to people in the and gaming video community. I mean, there were a lot on YouTube, but, um, there wasn’t as much on live streaming and try to get people to create live content and ask them like, what did they want? You know? And, and so, you know, people. A lot of these content creators, they were streaming the professional gamers, or they were very entertaining gamers who just loved streaming and they wanted to stream, but they want to do more of it and they want to get paid. So we decided we’d build a partner program so they could get paid from it. And then they wanted to figure out how to get more viewers. So we would figure out ways to, to help them get more viewers. And, um, that’s basically what we did was just talk to them and iterate. And eventually, you know, that turned into Twitch. Uh, yeah. It was, I mean, a pretty amazing story that I had Emma and Kevin really deserve all the credit because they were the ones really working on it primarily internally. And then eventually we pivoted more and more of the company’s resources to, uh, to, to them, you know,
Bryan: (00:18:49) that’s, that’s awesome story. And, you know, congratulations on being acquired by Amazon. And I want to focus the S the shift post Twitch, you know, I feel like. Posts, which you put reply to see more content on medium, we’re reading a lot of your articles. It seems like you went to different phases of your life in different years, you know?
Justin: (00:19:08) Yeah.
Bryan: (00:19:09) It was like experimental starts start small, think big. And then I thought you went to a period where you were exploring your own potential. I, what else can I do out there? You know, what other companies can I start? And I feel like the last year. Was more focused on self-improvement like 2000, 19, 2020. Whereas like, I felt like you were deep in reflection a lot.
Justin: (00:19:29) Yeah.
Bryan: (00:19:30) I went to startup grind. That’s where, that’s where I saw you for the first time. You know, I got to the UN early, I sat in the front stage. I was literally like 10 feet away from you, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t see me at all. I was like, well, I was listening to you. I S I noticed your progression draft the years. What, what was that? Why did mean, what was the profession point like, like when you were starting your self improving part, was it because you’re feeling a lot of stress and your companies where you’re like, how I feel inside is often higher. I reflect the outside. What was that point where you’re like, okay, why is that so important? But what is the theme for 2021? I’m kind of curious for that as well.
Justin: (00:20:10) Yeah. So, uh, that’s a good observation. You know, I have been through these different phases and, and, um, In my life, you know, and the early days of the storm, I just really want to make it and then kind of making it in 2014 and, and selling it. Then I was, you know, doing some content creation on writing mediums, like you said, and reading posts like longer form content and, but really still in the startup world. And then, uh, You know, I played around on Snapchat and had a lot of fun with that. And then I was like, okay, I’m going to start another company really like still needing to prove myself in the world, you know, like the billion dollar company wasn’t enough. I was like, Oh, I want to make more, I want to build a bigger company. Cause I had friends who built, you know, $10 billion companies or whatever. And so, um, how does fairly, I would say unhealthy obsession with, with that. And then eventually started another company and that company was incredibly stressful. And so at that point, you know, a couple of years ago you really started to realize, Oh, you know, it’s not. My external circumstances are driving a lot of how I feel every day. And that is weird because kind of objectively, like things are like pretty good for me. And so how do I stabilize what’s going on? You know, how do I feel good every day, regardless of what’s happening in the outside world. And that’s when I started really becoming interested in the self-improvement train. And so that was investing in a lot of different things that were, um, You know, ways to kind of grow personally. And I, I never been interpersonal improvement before, at least not like ex in that explicit way. I’d always been curious and loved learning, but I didn’t think, Oh, people could improve at, you know, whatever, whatever. There was a, they, they, um, you know, I thought people were kind of baked when they were 18. Right. They would just be the way that they were since they were a kid. And that, since they were like kind of a young adult, that’s like how, what they were going to be like for the rest of their lives. And so for me, you know, I never thought of, I can actually improve who I am. And then, uh, I had a number of experiences that like kind of broke me open and was like, maybe you see like, Oh, I actually have a choice on how I want to show up in the world. And so, uh, you know, first was like really drinking. I WASC it for the first time sitting in the ceremony and, and experiencing that, the idea that I had always done everything for the approval of the outside world. And that if I didn’t have to make that choice anymore. And so, uh, for me, that led to, okay, I’m going to start a meditation habit. And in doing that, it led to, um, exercising very regularly, like do try to exercise every day. It led to investing in like a gratitude practice, gratitude journal. Um, I quit drinking alcohol. Uh, and so there was just a number of things that helped me. Uh, kind of improve. And I realized through a couple of books that I read, including James Clear’s book, atomic habits that, um, you know, improvement wasn’t really about getting to some goal. It was about creating a framework by which I would like make small, incremental steps every day, incremental reinforcement steps every day. Right. So, you know, every day sit in meditation, even if I just do it for two minutes, right. Every day I want to exercise, even if I just exercise for five minutes. And so, um, that really helped me. Get on the path of self-improvement, you know? And so the last couple of years I’ve been really dedicated to that. And this year, I would say, you know, maybe in the last couple of months, I’ve come to realize like, Oh, you know, I wanna, I wanna focus on doing the things that. Are my, you know, bring my joy to the world, like our express, my inner joy. And so a lot of that is around. I love investing because it’s a way to learn about new topics and new ideas.I love mentoring people investing helps. We support that, you know, so with my new fund go capital that’s, that’s like a. Of investing. It helps me fulfill that, activate some of these things that bring me joy. And then I love creating content, you know, which is why I have this new podcast about the journey I’ve been on and other people’s journeys. And I’m watching a YouTube channel, you know, 20th, you know, 15 years or whatever after YouTube, um, started or 16 years. But, you know, it’s never, never too late. Like, um, um, uh, I’m just having fun with it. What they’ve been trying to do, the things that activate my joy.
Bryan: (00:24:21) Yeah. Yeah. I love that lot.
Maggie: (00:24:23) Yeah. That’s amazing. I love how you talk about gratitude a lot, and we know that you believe in showing gratitude as a way of achieving happiness. Can you talk about your gratitude journal and you know what? You kind of put into this
Bryan: (00:24:33) before we get there and kind of curious too, because. I think we read through your medium articles and you did an article you wrote, like, I think it’s like 13 minutes of read or something. And the bottom part you’re saying that you used to be so against therapy, you know, you’re like, I don’t want any of that. So what change in terms of like, maybe this is a great option for me, because it’s so relatable. It’s the Asian culture. Yeah, there’s a huge stigma against mental health. And even nowadays running Asian house network has been extremely stressful on my side where I talked to my parents like, Hey, I might need therapy. And mom’s like, you’re not crazy. Wait, what are you trying to do? You know, I just want to hear it from your point of view. Cause I know like where we are and how you used to be with therapy is very slim, similar to how I feel right now about therapy. And I just want to highlight that real quick.
Justin: (00:25:18) Yeah. Well, you know, what’s, what’s ironic is my mom is a. Uh, she had multiple careers. It was a programmer. And then she was a real estate agent mortgage broker, and real estate investor. And then now she actually is a. Marriage and family therapist. And my mom was super into therapy and always encouraged me to go. And I was like, no, I don’t, I don’t want to, you know, cause I was kind of had, I had a lot of conflict with my mom, you know, when I was growing up. And then when I was a young adult, because I always felt like even though she was different from a traditional tiger mom, she was a very, um, micro-managing, you know, kind of personality. And so, uh, Ironically, she was the one who was telling me I should go to therapy. And I was like, no, I don’t, I don’t want to, I, you know, I don’t need that. And it was really like most of these things, you know, adopting meditation or therapy that came from breaking points where I was like very stressed out and looking for some salvation. And so in one of the companies I had early on, you know, maybe a summary eight years ago, I reached this point where I was fairly, very stressed and. I didn’t know how to cope. And so out of desperation, I, you know, I realized that I was burned out. And so I went to start seeing a therapist then, and, and that was very helpful to me to learn some tools, to deal with my circumstances, you know, my present home and circumstances.
Bryan: (00:26:32) Wow. That’s powerful. I mean, why’d you did that, you know, I need my form of therapy or now it’s like, I need more sleep, you know, you’re going to stress my body. Just like, okay, just sleep it off and take it day by day.
Justin: (00:26:45) Yeah. So, so that’s, you know, I’ve, I I’ve recognized that because I mean, that can be formed sleep or anything. I used to, you know, I used to have all these coping mechanisms to deal with my stress, right. Something wasn’t going on while in the outside world and my company. I would um, watch a season of Netflix where I’d go to sleep or I would get drunk. I drank a lot. And so those were all forms of those were all ways to like, cope with my situation, right? Like in a way to like, but they were all forms of escapism. Right. They were forms of, of, of saying, Oh, instead of being present with whatever you’re experiencing. Like you maybe feel guilt about the way things went or what do you promise to investors and you’re not delivering, or maybe you feel anxiety about what’s going to happen in the future, or maybe you feel anger because, you know, a supplier just cool, you know, fire to you, or like a vendor or a customer just fire you or whatever, you know, it’s, instead of being able to sit with that and those emotions you oftentimes, we’re looking for escapes. I, that was who I was anyways. And what helped really helped me was. Figuring out ways to just be present with that experience of whatever it was. You know, if I feel guilt, being able to sit down, I feel guilty and identify that it’s and sit with that. And by doing that, let it pass, right? Like take the signal of, of whatever the experience is, which oftentimes those emotions are, those emotions are usually signals of, you know, you you’re, you’re not feeling like things are going the right way and you need to make a change, which is a valid, a valid signal. But often times we get, they, we turn them into ruminations and moods because we just continually fixate on them because we don’t let them. We don’t, we’re not able to sit with them and let them clear. So instead we like push it down by, you know, like, Oh, that was a horrible day. And I dealt with all these things. So I’m going to go with faded and then you’d do that. And then the next morning, like you still have those problems and you’re still having anxiety and you, you know, maybe it’s even amplified because of the alcohol. And then what are you going to do? So for me, a lot of these tools were about helping me sit with those emotional States and then let them pass.
Bryan: (00:28:51) Hmm. Yeah. And that’s extremely relatable. I tell a lot of us too, more than you ever imagined, Justin. Like we had those moments where at the time we didn’t know each other yet, or I knew of you, we didn’t know us just reading through your, your journalism and whatnot. And I’ve been following for years now. Really? Honestly, you. You are one of my heroes that I never thought I could talk to you right now. It’s kind of amazing. And it’s really amazing. So whenever you wrote whatever you went through, like I could feel your emotions, you know, and I wanted to highlight in this podcast and talk about those things.
Maggie: (00:29:27) Yeah, it’s true. I like, I think two years ago when we were, I remember Brian was talking about, you know, I would love to meet Justin gone one day.
Bryan: (00:29:36) I think I saw your billboard or something around the Bay. And I felt like Justin. Justin Kahn, Belvoir. I’m like, I want to meet this guy one day. I’m like, I don’t know how I want to meet this guy one day
Maggie: (00:29:46) and have some network. We started meeting people who were actually connected to you and were just like, wow, I can’t believe we know people who know Justin and
Bryan: (00:29:57) too shy to ask them to introduce me to Justin. So I’m a D I’m Justin randomly myself.
Justin: (00:30:04) You did? Yeah. So here we are. We’re meeting and I’m glad to connect with you.
Bryan: (00:30:07) Definitely.
Maggie: (00:30:08) Yeah. And so, you know, you started so many companies and I’m sure it got easier over time. Did you ever feel fear and anxiety when you were first starting out? And if so, like how did you overcome that feeling?
Justin: (00:30:19) Yeah, so it didn’t get easier over time actually, because I mean, you can just look at the last company I started, which failed. Right. Uh, so, you know, clearly my hit rate has been okay, but I mean, it’s been good enough, but you know, with startups. I mean, I think there’s a lot of things you can do to probably de-risk them. And maybe I should be doing more of those things, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t say it’s gotten easier for me. Um, one thing I will say is that I felt anxiety and fear constantly. Yeah. You know, even post being successful because then the stakes are higher. The reputation’s higher, you know, now I really need to make it work because. This is the one, you know, I’m running out of time, whatever it is. There’s like always things to make you anxious, anxious. You know, I had a lot of imposter syndrome in the beginning and I think that’s very common among many of my friends, including the ones who are very, very successful, you know, DECA corn founders and. You know, that’s, that’s part of being human is, um, we only are aware of our own terminal experience. We aren’t aware of other people’s experience. So it’s very easy for us to project on other people and say, Oh, that guy knows everything. He knows what’s up. He’s like so good at all of these things. He’s like, he’s great. He probably, he’s probably so confident. And for us to be like, my mom I’m like. A loser. I don’t know anything about this. I’m new. I don’t have any experience. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to fail, you know, and, and, and to, because you don’t have the whole story of, of what other people what’s going on with other people. And, you know, that’s especially exacerbated with the day with social media, where everyone’s just posting all their highlights and like all this great shit that’s happening. And you don’t see the full story. Right. You only see your own full story. So. Yeah. I encourage people to really, it’s hard. It’s easy to say. And it’s hard to internalize, you know, it’s easy to know that conceptually, but not to feel it, but everybody goes through that experience of, of being, um, you’re not being confident in what they’re doing. They’re, they’re new to it and they’re just figuring it out and. I have friends, you know, I’ve had a conversation with her. Even like this week. I had a conversation with a friend who I look up to and I’m like, this person has so many qualities that I wish that I admire. He connects so well with people. He’s so eloquent, you know, he’s, he’s somebody who’s such a great speaker. He’s someone who’s so comfortable around other people in a way that I’ve never felt, that felt that way. And. He was saying, we were having this conversation in a more vulnerable conversation. And he was saying to me like, Oh man, sometimes I’m intimidated around you because you were so successful. You know? And so that’s just, it’s funny because it’s like the. It’s funny because it’s, it’s, it’s like, you don’t know what what’s going on with other people, you know, you can easily think they are so confident and so sucks such on a perfect path, but they, everybody has their own anxieties and insecurities that they live all the time. And even once they. Figure out how to deal with those anxieties and insecurities. Like, I think I’ve figured out how to like accept them a lot through meditation, through gratitude, through, um, therapy, et cetera. I’ve I have a bunch of tools in my toolkit to be with the person I am like, if I’m anxious, I’m like, okay, I’m anxious. That’s okay. I don’t need things to be different, but that doesn’t change who I am. Right. I still have those anxieties. And if you talk to, you know, Buddhist monks, right? Who are like have meditated for 30 or 40 years. They, they say that they’re still, you know, they still have the human experience of all of this range of emotions, which includes anxiety or sadness or regrets or fears. Um, but they’re just much more present and okay. With whatever their experience is and they don’t need it to change.
Maggie: (00:33:49) Hmm. That’s really insightful. Well, if that, and so what was the inspiration behind building atrium?
Justin: (00:33:57) Well, I mean, the inspiration was I wanted to make a lot of money, more money and be, have a bigger company than Twitch, which is not a very healthy inspiration, right? Like that’s a very mercenary like goal. And so when I started the company, I was like, Oh, this is a great business idea. You know, the idea, I thought it was like a very good idea for something that could create a big company. Um, but I would say. One of the places that it fell down was that I was not primarily motivated for some higher purpose, you know? And so, um, that led to like, you know, a lot of cascading negative consequences in the company, but. Uh, you know, it was a learning experience and, and I don’t have any regrets about it.
Bryan: (00:34:37) Yeah. I’m really glad you see it that way too, because I notice a lot of the personal improvement posts came from the years of atrium. So I was kind of wondering what was going on with you? Um, not in, not a bad way, but I was kind of curious, like, is Justin feeling okay? Cause I’m very conscious of people’s mental health. Yeah, which is that I spent a lot of my time studying people that I aspire to be like or self or you know, other people. So I was trying to visualize myself in your position, like, what are you currently feeling right now? Because I feel behind every action is also a reason why.
Justin: (00:35:09) Well, that’s very empathetic of you, Brian and I, and my, I admire that. I think that, you know, for me it was, I mean, it’s pretty obvious. I mean, like raised a ton of money. We’re building this company. There were some things that we’re working is very stressful. And in order to deal with that stress, which I was kind of initially confused about, you know, why am I so stressed? Like objectively as this company fails, I have lots of good options, which is actually what’s happened, right? Like the company did fail and I’ve been able to, you know, I start a VC fund. I’ve liked. Invested in companies, my investments have done well. Like I’m fine. You know, I’m living like an amazing, beautiful life, but I didn’t incomplete and fuel that at the time. Right. I didn’t have, that was like a conceptual idea. It wasn’t like a felt idea. And so, um, I started looking for like, what, you know, I was so stressed. I was like, what can I do to solve this problem? And expressing that externally, you know, most people like they’re stressed in their startup and they just say, yeah, Oh, you know, we’re doing well, we’re killing it. They’re not talking about that. Um, I like to talk about it publicly cause I just, you know, um, that’s the person I am and it helps me learn about how to improve and how I feel about something by talking about it publicly and being honest about it. So a lot of the material from that time where it’s like, here’s how I’ve been working on, you know, meditating or, or feeling good, or like all these different practices I’m implementing or, you know, Difficulties I’m going through or things, learnings I’m having about like how to be a better leader, you know, and the truth of like how I, maybe wasn’t a good leader in certain ways before, you know, I’m very honest about that because that’s just the way I learn, you know? And so what you saw from the outside is probably exactly what you think, you know, and what you would guess is, is exactly what was going on, which is like, it’s very stressful. And I was finding ways to deal with it.
Bryan: (00:36:56) Yeah. I mean, I, I saw your tweets recently too, about your 10 takeaways from each room. And the thing that they’re really, really made me smile was when you’re like, don’t start a service company because we get a lot of recommendations for Asian hostel network through become the service company. But also adamant and not doing them. I know it’s going to give us so much work and stress when I started did that. It just validated a lot of our ideas too, because we base a lot of hard decision makings on people like yourself that came before us, you know, like we just constantly learning and learning to see what we can do better we can do. Right. And, um, just to keep learning from people like yourself, you know? Cause it. This the thing with, with the tech community is it’s not too many Asian leaders out there that, that we can look to you. And you’re one of the Asian leaders. Um, then we looked here and pre really appreciate you being so transparent and authentic with that.
Maggie: (00:37:55) Amazing. And so when you were starting out Twitch, did you ever expect it to grow as big as it did? Because you know, now we have like big corporations live streaming and. You know, many, many people who are actually making a living off of Twitch.
Bryan: (00:38:10) Yeah. Because we’ve talked to other, other startup founders and it seems the common theme is, I didn’t know I was going to be this big. I was always going to be this big. We just happened to be this big,
Maggie: (00:38:19) many, many founders when they’re first starting out. They often don’t know what the potential is and they don’t know how it’s going to turn out. So I’d love to see from your perspective, you know, what was your vision of where into to whoever expected to grow this big?
Justin: (00:38:40) Yeah, it was, you know, there was no way that we expected to go out and speak. We said in the beginning, we actually wrote down what we expected, because that was our goal. You know, we said, we tried these two projects for six months, right. And so we sat in two years, if this is successful, in the best case, it’s going to be bigger than game trailers.com, which at the time was like 10 million monthly active users. And so that was our goal. And so we said, okay, To get to that. We’re going to say we need 15% monthly growth for the first year and 10% off the growth for the second year. And so that was our goal is 50% monthly growth for the first six months. And we actually blew that out of the water and, and, you know, today, twitches, I don’t even know if they released numbers anymore, but you know, the, I think the last release was like a hundred million Mau. I think it’s much more than that now. Um, but you know that that’s. So, so, you know, we touch exits in orders of magnitude bigger than it than we ever guessed it possible, which was like, whoever guests, like the best success case would be, you know?
Bryan: (00:39:34) Right. Well, that’s, that’s amazing. Um, I guess my next question is I heard in your recent podcast is that you were talking about the importance of having a community, you know, and you’re talking about the most ironic thing about like, Lowering your audience to a target niche is the community that supports your products. I just want to hear your opinions on like how important it is, building your tribe, building your community, building that group of people that believe in you. And no matter what
Justin: (00:40:02) I mean, I think that’s everything, you know, for, for me, the whole purpose of making money and being successful was to try to be more connected with, with people. And, you know, that was kind of funny because I think a lot of people have this. Motivation internally, but they don’t think about it and really think about it hard because you know, being rich and successful is not conducive really to the type of interactions where you are really. Building like a true community, you know, oftentimes people want something from you and they want to like, Oh, can you help me with this thing? Which is fine. I’m actually not denigrating that at all. I think it’s totally fine to like, reach out to people who are successful and try to get help with your project or whatever. But I’m saying it’s, it doesn’t really move you towards closeness and vulnerability and true connection with other people. And so, um, yeah, you know, I, I do think it’s, it’s really like the more you can invest in, in. Rebuilding relationships with the people around you that that’s, that’s really wealth, you know? And, and that’s, um, what makes us feel good as human beings and feel connected and close and that’s, um, you know, there’s like a lots of other social benefits and economic benefits to you, uh, to being connected with people. But I think primarily the biggest benefit is, is really that human beings are social animals and we like it.
Maggie: (00:41:19) Yeah. I love that, which is what Asian hustle network is all about as well, because we really want to build our community. And we often feel that Asians, they often have to feel like they’re silenced, right. Or they’re quiet. They stay quality quiet about their entrepreneurial journey and for us to kind of create Asian hustle network and have people share the entrepreneurial stories and have people relate to other people is what we’re trying to achieve in the committee.
Justin: (00:41:44) Yeah, I guess for us, the entrepreneur, like Asian hustle network came from a place of like feeling lonely. No. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re feeling like a lot of people out there feel like they’re alone, but also noticing a problem in our society. That’s like we don’t see that many Asian leaders out there. And when we talk to them, they oftentimes are not promoted to the CEO positions. They create their own damn company. So there’s a huge bamboo ceiling that we’re trying to solve in, you know, listen to your story too, because you know, when we look at you, Justin, the first impression we have this strong. Powerful and successful. We want to be like Justin, you know, but the thing is like a lot, a lot of people, including myself a couple of years ago, don’t realize that you are human yourself. There’s and that’s the thing that we’re trying to capture in our podcast is Justin, as a human being, just like all of us, he goes through the same emotions. He has the same struggles, you know, and just to make that part relatable to all our journey, because sometimes we just don’t know where we’re going or what we’re doing in life. Yeah. Hey, that’s perfectly okay. Like everyone has their own journey, but the most important things is to self police. You have in yourself, like you believe that you can do it. You know, you block all the naysayers. You know, everyone has their own different stress. Everyone has their own different problems, but they still find a way to work through it and get to where they want to be. And you can do it too. That’s the point of our podcast, the point of each Asian hustle network, you know, and that’s why we love having you on the podcast today.
Maggie: (00:43:13) Yeah, absolutely agree. I want to echo everything that Brian said, and I love that you’re just being authentic on this podcast as well. Really appreciate you just being true to who you are talking about, you know, all the life struggles that you had and just wanted to reiterate to our listeners, like, you know, Justin is like, like all of us, you know, and he believed in himself and you know, as long as you believe in yourself, you know, you can do it too.
Bryan: (00:43:35) Yeah. Yeah. I think I want to highlight as well. It’s like, even though you might not know it. But you can inspire a lot of people that don’t, that you don’t personally know yet. You know, Justin inspire us, you know, years ago I was extremely unhappy in my engineering job. And I was looking at billboard. It says, Justin Kahn, I’m like one day I’m going to start a company so I could meet this guy, you know? And you just don’t know.
Justin: (00:44:01) Yeah, I appreciate that. And you know, that those are some of the messages that I love to get the most is when. Uh, people pay me on, on Twitter or Instagram or, or, or, you know, email me or whatever. And they say like, you know, this one interaction that we had five, 10 years ago led me down this path of like, you know, I started this company or I, I quit my job and did something, you know, and those are the things that like, that’s the reason why I like to do this stuff and like be out there with this. Um, and then the other thing I’ll say is. You know, I, I love that message of, you know, every person, every successful person you might look up to and say, Oh, they have a perfect life. Or they must’ve been super confident in the beginning. They go through a journey to get there. And that’s really why I want to create my own podcast. The quest is to tell those stories, you know, similar to what you’re doing. And it’s so funny to see how, how many of friends of mine, people I know of who are famous, successful CEOs of companies, famous musicians, star athletes, you know, they have their own struggle and they have. Um, you know, they, they, nobody starts off as like the most confident, perfect executer in the world. You know, for myself, I went through this, you know, people look at me today and they say, Oh, that guy’s very confident. He’s red, she’s successful. He’s you know, he’s got, he’s got it. He’s like, he people say, Oh, you must be like naturally confident or naturally extroverted. You’re very extroverted, you know, but actually like great public speaker. People always tell you, you know, often tell me, uh, a great public speaker. And the funny thing is like, I didn’t start off that way. I was a very shy kid. I was very, I hadn’t, I was not confident at all when I was younger. And all of these things were kind of learned behaviors by putting myself at the edge of my comfort zone. So even though I wasn’t, I hated public speaking. I remember the first, you know, in, in the eighth grader, it was sixth grade. I had to do a presentation in front of, for the summer camp. I was a part of, it was like, you had to read this report or like present this report. And I did the whole thing with this. Papers in front of my face. I wouldn’t have to see what the students, you know, the other kids in the class, I like literally put, I was like reading it with the paper in front of my face. And you know, today I can go and give a talk and like be out there or whatever. And that, that is, has calm. It wasn’t like overnight. Right. And the way it had happened was I. Was constantly willing to put myself on the edge of my comfort zone and say, Oh, okay, well I’m no, I’m not a good public speaker and it terrifies me, but I’m going to. Sign up for Toastmasters. I remember doing that when I graduate from college, you know, and it’s like a professional speaking club, and then I’m going to sign up for like PR speaking engagements, even though I am going to hate myself for doing it, you know, the day of, and I’m going to feel horrible, uh, and scared I’m going to just sign up. Cause I know that like, I want to be the type of person who is able to like speak in front of people. You know, and even though I was shy, I wanted to connect with people. So I put myself in the position to talk to people and to connect with people and to like, learn that like elders, these are skills, right. Nobody’s born with, you know, an amazing, amazing skills as like a beautiful public speaker. They have, these are things that people will practice and get their 10,000 hours. And so you might look at somebody like me, who’s got the advantage of having almost 20 years of professional experience now and say, Oh, that guy’s got it. He’s got it. He must’ve had it like back then, but that wasn’t the case.
Maggie: (00:47:18) I love that you bring that up. I, you know, the whole self-development thing, I love how you explain it, because I definitely think that, you know, there is always room for self-development. And like you mentioned before, you didn’t believe in it. And some people do believe like, Oh, you can be born with this trait or not. Like you can be born with an entrepreneurial spirit where you’re not where you can be born to be disciplined or you’re not. And I definitely do not agree with that because I definitely. Agree that like, if you think that you need to get to one place in your life, if there’s like a gap between who you are today and who you want to become, there is a way to get there. It’s not impossible for you to get there as long as you put in the work and you work on it every day to get to that position.
Justin: (00:44:01) Yeah. So it’s about building frameworks for you to be able to do it, to like improve every, every day. And it’s not saying like, if you set a goal of like, Oh, I want to be as funny as Dave Chappelle. Yeah, you want to be comedian. You want me as funny as Dave Chappelle and you know, then the next day, like you’re not like that could be discouraged. I think the key is to like set up a structure where you’re like, Oh, I’m going to improve every day. I’m gonna improve every day. I’m going to write a joke and I’m going to tell a friend a joke, you know, every day I’m going to, uh, I’m going to practice, right. Like whatever it is. And then eventually you will get there. You just have to start a structure infrastructure. That’s gonna, that’s gonna get you better.
Maggie: (00:47:18) Right. Love it. So, Justin, we have one more question for you and that’s what one advice can you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Justin: (00:48:44) Uh, well, my advice that I always give, and I think it’s true today is like, you know, you just got to get started. Like, if you’re aspiring, like the barrier to starting a company is just going lower and lower and lower. It was like pretty low when I started in 2005, but now it’s like extra, extra low, you know, like, so anybody can sort of company if they want to. Uh, I don’t necessarily think it is for everybody because it’s very stressful and there’s, you know, I think you should be doing it for the right reasons. Um, But if you want to get started, the key is to just start, start building something and start testing your idea with among people who are in a potential customers or employees or investors. And, you know, the first step is the hardest
Maggie: (00:49:27) that’s very sound advice. Um, and where can our listeners find out more about you online and how can they learn more about your podcasts?
Justin: (00:49:32) Okay. So, um, yeah, I’ve sorted, you know, I’d have to taking a hiatus from like producing non-time content for awhile. I realized I just, I love doing it. So, uh, check out my podcast, the quest on Spotify, iTunes and everywhere else, you get podcasts. Um, I’m on Twitter, twitter.com/justin Kahn. I’m on Instagram at Justin Kahn and Tik TOK now at Justin con. Uh, so. Find me all there and I’m going to launch my YouTube channel at some point soon in the next couple of weeks or whatever. So, uh, Um, check them out,
Bryan: (00:50:05) all those links into your show notes.
Maggie: (00:50:08) So awesome. Hearing your story today. We are so honored to have you on the show. Jess said,
Justin: (00:50:14) thank you. Just thanks for having me.
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