Podcast with Mark Hlady Part 1
Mark's journey from building social apps to founding Finance for Good, which aims to increase funds in preventive healthcare, and creating Triple Play, a game-driven social network for deeper global relationships. Mark and Andrew explores the impact of technology on people's lives and the need for more virtual activities to connect people.
[00:00:00] Andrew Liew Weida: Oh, hey Mark. Good to hear from you, mate. How are you doing man? How was your day?
[00:00:04] Mark: I'm doing well today.. Good morning here. So the day's just started
[00:00:09] Andrew Liew Weida: Great. It's 8:00 PM over here. I'm very thankful that you actually pick up the invite and join me on this show.
[00:00:15] Mark: That sounds great.
[00:00:16] Andrew Liew Weida: Great. Let me begin. Thank you Mark for joining up the show. Let me do a bit of introduction about you. So Mark has been building social apps and scaling companies for the last 10 years. Previously, he was on the product team at Facebook, L six and was the first product lead at two Startup, which has raised over 300 million dollars. He has a degree in engineering and started his career as a business analyst at Mckinsey. So here's an interesting background of previously what he has done at entrepreneur. First he started this , formerly known as Lobby, and now it's known as Triple Play. It's commonly known as a ROBLOX for the enterprise companies with distributed teams socialize on triple play today where we can easily move between conversations and foster bonds during immersive games. It's a game driven social network the team is building for Enterprise today, but also establishing the technology for new social network. It's a proven land and expand model with Marks leadership and has expanded from one team to 20 within their first month. And they're in contracts with super majors .
[00:01:19] Andrew Liew Weida: Let's welcome Mark. So Mark, tell me more about the story. How do you start from the day where you are beginning to the day where you eventually founded Triple Play Mark. Go ahead please.
[00:01:30] Mark: Sure. Thank you for that intro. So for me, I'll start at the very beginning and jump in as you want more detail, but I'll keep it relatively quick, but try to touch on a few parts that might be interesting to your audience. So I studied engineering, and after engineering I joined Mckinsey and I got to travel around the world and help different companies essentially with digital transformations way back then, and digital transformations back then, say in around the early 2010s, quite different than they do now, 10 years later, but the fundamentals are still the same. After two years of Mckinsey, I actually had the confidence and the skills to start a consultancy of my own, and then I started to act on I think, what's been the common thread throughout my career. What's been driving me, and that's always been how do we create a better world? Most simply, and over time that's changed to be how do we use technology to create a better world.
[00:02:31] Mark: So the first company I started was called Finance for Good. And the idea here is that finance shapes so much of the world we know today. But if you're not intentional about setting incentives, we can actually create the wrong incentives. So we have different organizations that might not be achieving the outcomes they could.
[00:02:48] Mark: So for example, the first problem I wanted to solve with finance was the lack of funds flowing into preventive healthcare. If you look at Canada or the US that 99% of funds actually flow to remedial care, which is helping people once they're already in the hospital as opposed to helping people stay healthy.
[00:03:08] Mark: And this is an interesting problem to solve because we actually know through science and through quite a bit of research and for almost 30 years, that money spent on preventive care has a better impact than money spent on remedial care. Yet due to the way that the public funding is structured, the way that it's financed we don't invest more in prevention.
[00:03:27] Mark: So I thought maybe there's a solution here. And with Finance for Good, we would raise private sector capital, then we would use that private sector capital to fund nonprofits that otherwise would not have been funded. And then as those nonprofits achieved positive outcomes, the savings they generated or the value they generated would be shared back to the investors and to the government that realized the savings so that was "Finance for Good" and very happy with the work that we did there. . During the time that I was running Finance for Good, I started to get involved with a few folks at Oxford and I started to see the great work they were doing across the world and just how much I could learn from an institution and from people at an institution like that.
[00:04:04] Mark: So I had an opportunity to get a full scholarship to go to Oxford, and I took that and I took that with the idea of figuring out, how do I should say, took that with the opportunity most generally to learn more about the world and see how others were having a positive impact. During my time at Oxford, I would continue to run finance for Good.
[00:04:23] Mark: Then also get involved with somebody who I met there who became a friend who was running a solar power company. And I've always also been interested in solar power. since high school and when I saw this person running a solar power company, and not only that, but bringing light to people who've never had it before all throughout the Sub-Saharan Africa. I thought this is a very interesting company to join. And so during my internship at Oxford I joined what was then called Off-Grid Electric, and I helped him build that company from about 10 people when I joined to about 800 people when I left and had various roles at that company and it was really meaningful work.
[00:05:04] Mark: There I saw for the first time, really the power of technology to create a positive impact in the world. We were bringing light to people who'd never had it before through solar power and through that light people could study. When it got dark through that light, people had more safety at night. And through that light, people could stop using kerosene and avoid burns.
[00:05:23] Mark: And so through this power, literally through solar power and the power technology we were having a very positive impact on the world and that was great work to do.
[00:05:31] Mark: So with the solar company, I actually moved to San Francisco and get deeper and deeper into to building technology. And what's interesting here is that I start to see the impact that not only physical technology has, like solar power, but also how much technology such as Facebook really impacts our daily lives and now other companies as well. And growing up, I remember when Facebook came out. I remember when Facebook introduced the wall and the timeline.
[00:06:04] Mark: Most importantly at the time when the timeline was introduced, it seemed like a change that nobody wanted. And I remember where I was and I remember several people that I was talking to were upset that this timeline was coming out. And now you see that the timeline is the main paradigm for so many other apps.
[00:06:24] Mark: So it was interesting to see how that change in technology, that change in digital product really impacted the lives of millions now billions of people around the world. And I thought it was just fascinating how a small team of engineers and designers could have that impact. Now after working at the solar company and seeing how positive an impact technology can have on people, I thought digital technology, information technology can also have that positive impact on people.
[00:06:49] Mark: And I wanted to go see what kind of impact we could have for the better at Facebook. So I joined Facebook and worked there and worked on products at Facebook and Instagram with the underlying goal of helping people have better lives, positively impacting people through the technology that they're interact, interacting with daily.
[00:07:05] Mark: And I learned a lot about product there, working with some incredible people. finally wrapping the story together, and I'm skipping a few pieces here. After working at Facebook for some time, I get the vision for a new type of social product that's missing and that's essentially what becomes Triple Play and the difference between Triple Plan Facebook and essentially the gap that I saw was that a lot of the popular social apps such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, even YouTube to some extent have an ability for one-on-one connection, but are principally focused on feeds.
[00:07:40] Mark: And I thought, what if we could spin that around? What if instead you were principally focused on connecting with the other people in your community? And what if instead of doing that connection principally through text it was high fidelity. And that's where triple play got started with the idea of he helping people have a space we're over a distance they could connect in real time.
[00:08:02] Mark: And there's a little bit more on the inspiration behind that.
[00:08:05] Andrew Liew Weida: Yeah it's a very interesting, exciting path that you're onto, beginning from the day that you wanted to do finance for good, figure out the incentives, and then moving on to solar and then eventually Facebook doing products.
[00:08:19] Andrew Liew Weida: Tell me more about the, that discovery process in the aha moment where you figure out that what drives you to build triple play that you couldn't really figure out that when you were at Facebook
[00:08:31] Mark: yeah. So during Facebook, I was focused on that product and the future that those teams are building which is exciting. And so I wasn't thinking about triple play directly but I was focused on how do we help Facebook, Instagram, Oculus, achieve their goals. And it just helped me learn a lot about product and learn a lot about thinking about people and how people interact with technology. And so it was there that I also saw the importance of strategy and having focus. And so when you're doing one thing, that means you can't do everything and companies that try to do everything typically won't succeed. And Facebook was focused on those products. And it wasn't the time where I had a specific vision on tripleplay, but after leaving Facebook, I had more time to think about the world and reflect on what our company's doing, what are people feeling, most importantly, what two new technologies available also. And so in this period of time that I had to step back and to think, I started to see triple play in more detail. And what I started to see was based on analogy, but also based on first principles. So I'm pretty interested in classics. And if you look back to, say, 2000 years ago and read the works of those philosophers, a lot of the themes they talk about are the same themes that are being talked about in the news today.
[00:09:46] Mark: And so that tells us that a lot of the problems that we deal with, how do we find that as action political turmoil different extremist groups, how do we deal with those things? Those aren't really a question of our time. Those are more a question of humanity, the human condition. And so what I started to do was think.
[00:10:04] Mark: The belt from first principles. What do people need? And one of the most important things that people need, both intuitively but also triangulated through the classics, is different types of relationships. And so holding that thought on one hand I had a separate line of thinking, which was that the world's becoming increasingly unequal.
[00:10:25] Mark: And this has been a trend that's been going on for a very long time, arguably since 1970s and accelerating. And in a world that becomes increasingly unequal it's principally, , driven by house prices. And so you have a lot of people who have global connection due to internet connectivity, but who can't afford to live in global sentence.
[00:10:48] Mark: And so you have in pockets in maybe gamer communities in some other online communities, people developing the best relationships of their lives online, very meaningful, very rich. But this is only happening when they have a very deep shared interest and connect with each other online through that shared interest or through that activity such as gaming.
[00:11:08] Mark: But the vast majority of people won't have such a niche interest, and then they won't be able to connect with others remotely. But yet at the same time, they might not be able to afford to live in a global c enter, where they would form that global community. And so with those two macro themes I saw the need for people or the desire that people had to form deeper relationships in a global community.
[00:11:33] Mark: And I thought the way we could do that was by helping people come together through more common shared activities such as the activities and games that we put onto triple playing continue to develop there.
[00:11:45] Andrew Liew Weida: After leaving Facebook , you dwell into reflecting about the macro play. As you mentioned about people are always talking about relationship. Relationship inequality increases because of housing prices. One of this major trend that , not everybody can stay in the center city and therefore people wants relationship and the way they do it is true virtualization or getting connect through digital activities and that's your aha moment.