Tim Grassin is a Co-Founder of TendoPay (Iterative S20), the largest online installment provider in the Philippine. On this episode, I talk to Tim about his earlier influences, switching from finance to entrepreneurship, how he built a multi-million dollar design agency, why he gave that up to start a startup in the Philippines and how they tested their initial idea by building a fake website that sold fake products to see if people would try their fake financing product.
- 1:37 – How our childhood may or may not have shaped our future as entrepreneurs
- 9:37 – Early professional influences and business school
- 14:37 – Getting into startups after the financial crisis
- 22:50 – Quitting his job to start a presentation design company
- 24:57 – Getting the first few customers
- 29:48 – Scaling up customer growth
- 33:37 – The importance of learning how to learn
- 38:16 – Going from a multi-million dollar agency to building a tech product
- 43:55 – Coming to Southeast Asia and starting TendoPay
- 53:26 – TendoPay’s first MVP
- 1:01:18 – We reminiscence about growing up playing video games
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Iterative podcast. Today, we have Tim Grassin Co-founder of Tendo pay. Tend to pay is the largest online installment provider in the Philippines. They offer a virtual credit card that allows consumers to shop on over a hundred retailers with as low as 0% interest. Tend to pay was part of our first batch of companies and grew 10 X during the program.
Tim has an interesting background. His parents were French diplomats so he grew up in places as diverse as Kenya and Finland. We talk about how his early experiences might’ve shaped him as an entrepreneur, how he quit finance to start a design agency that designed PowerPoint presentations of all things, how he got his first few customers and eventually built it into a multi-million dollar business. We also talk about how, even after that success, he still wanted to build a tech startup and a chance encounter in the Philippines, made a move there to start Tendo, pay his story of how they tested the idea for 10 obey by building a fake website so they could test the fake payment option is one of my favorite. I hope you stay and listen here’s my conversation with tim greyson from tendo pay
Thanks for being here. Do you mind introducing yourself and telling us a little bit what TendoPay does.
Tim Grassin: [00:01:14] Hey, Hsu Ken, thanks for having me. I’m Tim Grassin, as you mentioned, I’m one of the founders of TendoPay and I also manage growth. So TendoPay is a buy now pay later company located in the Philippines where I’ve been based for two and a half years. I’m originally from France, but traveled all over and built a few businesses back in Canada.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:01:37] So you were born in France, but you didn’t grow up in France,
Tim Grassin: [00:01:39] Yeah, that’s correct. I did grow up for the first six years and then, my dad being a diplomat, we sort of moved around quite a lot. So we traveled throughout Europe, a bit of Africa, and then I decided to go and study in Canada. So yeah, no real French background, but uh, mostly European, I’d say.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:01:59] I’m moving around a lot. As a kid is like an interesting kind of influence probably on you. What kind of kid were you growing up?
Tim Grassin: [00:02:07] Yes, it’s definitely an interesting, interesting trajectory as a kid because basically every three to four years, we pick up and go. You have to adapt to an entirely new environment. And I’m talking about going from minus 20 and Finland to plus 30 in Kenya. So new languages, new cultures, new people. And as a kid, you have to adapt to, you have to conquer that.
So I don’t know if it impacted my entrepreneurship that much, but it did impact me as a person. I think it made me quite social and quite curious about new things. And the exposure to different cultures, I think just made me want to always dig, dive deeper into wherever I moved them and also made me want to move constantly.
Basically staying in Canada for 12 years was the longest I’d ever stayed anywhere. Uh, I spent five or six years in Montreal and the rest in Toronto, but by, by the sixth year in Toronto, I had the itch to move and that’s why I TendoPay in the Philippines was such a perfect project for me, basically.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:03:08] My brother and I used to move every nine months, I think, too. So we went, I went to like, I think like six or seven different schools before I was 10.
Tim Grassin: [00:03:18] Military parents or..
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:03:21] No, my, my father used to work for Intel. Like very early on since like the late seventies, I was almost born in Barbados actually. My dad was basically Intel’s fixer. He worked in their manufacturing and factories. And so you used to go to the worst performing factory and fix it. And so we would move every like nine months. Maybe this is like connecting the dots after the fact, but that it helped make me kind of more adaptive.
A lot of startups is about learning to adapt. You’re constantly doing stuff but I don’t know if that’s a story I just told myself about myself.
Tim Grassin: [00:03:53] Yeah. I mean, it could be true. I’ve never tried to associate one with the other but it is true that having to adapt is basically the bread and butter of a startup. Right. You have new problems. You have to overcome them, figure out a solution, usually try to figure out the best solution and move on.
So I guess you’re right. It does have an impact when, as a child you’re exposed to adaptation quite a lot. And it’s sort of mandated to you. You don’t really have a choice, right?
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:04:21] I don’t know if you felt the same way, but I never thought that that kind of childhood was different because it was the only one that I knew. And so I just kind of assumed everybody else was like that. It wasn’t until later that I was like, Oh, okay. That’s somewhat unique.
Tim Grassin: [00:04:34] I completely relate to that. So whenever I would come home to France for the summer, because thankfully my dad would have rather long vacations during the summer. So we’d go back every summer and I’d see my old friends or my cousins or whatever, and they’d have this sort of hometown ecosystem that I didn’t have.
So I was always kind of jealous of them having these friends that they’ve known forever or this school that they’ve been frequenting forever. But at the end of the day, um, I learned that, you know, I could live without it and I actually enjoyed the benefits of my lifestyle as well.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:05:06] Okay, so you and I are actually even more similar cause we moved around a lot, but spent every summer in Malaysia, that was always kind of like home-based. So it was like, you know, you’re moving around a lot, but every summer was in Malaysia.
Tim Grassin: [00:05:17] Yeah. And I mean, I agree. I don’t know if your family did the same thing, but my dad still has very good family values. So every summer, no matter what year we would reunite with my entire family, like cousins and everything, usually 30 to 40 people would take a week together. And we’ve been perpetrating that tradition ever since I was probably six now, like 10 years ago, we bought this big summer house in France and we bring the entire family together for a week, uh, which I missed this year because of COVID, but it was the first time in 15 years. Right. So pretty crazy.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:05:48] Wow. That’s awesome. I mean, similar the whole family doesn’t get together as much now, but when we stayed in Malaysia, I lived with my grandmother. So it was a traditional Chinese home. Three or four families living in the same home. I used to sleep in the bunk beds with my grandmother.
Tim Grassin: [00:06:03] And you had cousins I’m sure.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:06:06] Yeah. It was like, I mean, it was like 15 people in the house
Tim Grassin: [00:06:10] I love that. Yeah.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:06:12] Which is great.
Tim Grassin: [00:06:13] That’s also important as an entrepreneur is interacting with so many different people and having to, you know, not be likable, but be sociable and just being able to adapt to any type of conversation because you’re exposed to 30 different people at once. That’s super cool too.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:06:31] And I guess you probably had to, like, I mean, if you were a diplomat son, you probably also have to go to social functions. I mean, there’s a lot of functions I can imagine as a diplomat. Right. You probably have to learn from an early age, how to carry yourself in these kind places, how to talk to this person.
Tim Grassin: [00:06:46] Yeah, so definitely a bit of that, especially towards my teenage years where we were old enough to attend those functions or. Be conscious of them basically. But I would say that on top of that, my final country with my parents, which was Kenya, where I moved when I was 14 or 15 and basically I was this fully functional human being.
And I was, I had ideas and I had ambitions and things were starting to grow. Like I was trying to figure out what I was going to do after high school. At that very moment, I was exposed to some very influential people. All of their kids were attending my school. So all of my friend’s parents were either CEOs, uh, very high positions in NGOs or ambassadors and whatnot.
And that kind of exposed me to a lot of things that I had no idea about. So. This there’s absolutely no value in what I’m saying, but just being exposed to playing in these mansions, going, playing golf and all these things that I had no idea about, kind of gave me a taste of what life could be, that I didn’t know about.
And sort of talking to my friends, fathers who are extremely influential, very smart or great at what they do. Just made me want to become like that because of course you have your dad and usually that’s your role model growing up. But when you’re exposed to more people like that. I think overall, it just makes it feel possible to attain these types of levels in life, which again, it’s not the material aspects and sort of feeling like you can be the best at what you do no matter what you choose and you have exposure to that.
And they kind of explained to you how they got there. Um, so that’s awesome that that was really useful. And I kind of, I’m blessed that I managed to have that lifestyle as well.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:08:31] That totally resonates with me because my, I was the same thing, but it was going to business dinners. My dad he’s like “hey, you should, you should learn how this stuff works.” It’s kind of the reason we’re doing this podcast a little bit. Right? It’s when you get some exposure to some of these people, you kind of realize that they’re regular people in these positions and stuff, and they’ve worked quite hard and you kind of hear their stories and stuff, but it makes it more relatable. Coming from that, that kind of background and kind of growing up, I don’t really get intimidated by people nowadays. Um, like I’ve had some friends who maybe they, I mean, it’s a big privilege that I think we were able to do this, but I have some friends who maybe didn’t grow up like that. And when they meet like an investor or something like that, um, they’re a little bit more kind of like intimidated because I haven’t kind of talked to people like that a lot. Um, but I think maybe you found it a similar thing where it was like, you grew up kind of talking to people like this and so on some level your life. They’re just a person, like that’s the thing to remember,
Moving forward a fair bit. I feel like we could probably just have a personal conversation about growing up for a long time. What did you study in school?
Tim Grassin: [00:09:37] So I started finance. I went to business school and I did finance as a specialty.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:09:42] You worked at a hedge fund for like a little while and you went into finance for a couple of years.
Tim Grassin: [00:09:46] Yeah. So speaking of people who influenced your life a lot. So when I was living in the UK as a younger child, um, one of my best buddies, his dad was working in finance. I didn’t know about it at the time. I just knew that. Hey, this guy’s house is awesome. And his dad’s always going away to Hong Kong. Like I wonder what he does, you know, when you’re 10 years old. I stayed in touch with this guy over time and when I was doing my prep school. So in France, when you want to go to business school, you have to do two years of prep school. So it’s like an intense, very selective process of learning everything you can about entrance exams for business schools. Based on your scores at that you get put in the best business schools and so forth. So I was, I was doing that in France. During that time, they kind of encourage you to do an internship, to figure out what you want to sort of specialize yourself in during business school.
I completely randomly reached out to my buddy in the UK and asked if his dad had any openings for an internship. I kind of dabbled a little bit in finance. I was interested in the stock market, but nothing very specific. So I reached out to him and he said, look very happy to have you on board as an intern. I didn’t know what he did, to be honest. I knew it was something in finance, something in London. So he told me, okay, this is a list of books. You’d have to read. This is what you have to learn before you come. Like, I want to make sure your math levels are this and that. So thankfully I had all that, uh, and basically it turned out to be a fund of hedge funds. So. What they did is they had institutional money and then they would place it into a various hedge fund. So kind of similar to a venture capitol that invest in a bunch of different funds or different companies. Super interesting. So I spent four months in London, um, being exposed to all these different hedge funds, super smart guys from quants to like, you know, there’s a variety of different hedge funds, but basically you got exposed to that.
At that point I was like, okay, I really like finance. It’s super interesting. It’s basically utilizing my brain as much as possible. And there’s a very good compensation outcome from that. So why not? And there’s a lot of opportunity to travel and basically, uh, my buddy’s father told me, look, if you graduate with this and this from business school, do two years of investment banking, then I’ll hire you. So that was my trajectory. At that point, I thought. Man, that sounds really easy. Like I’m already about to go to business school, investment banking for chews. I have no idea what investment banking was, but I said, sure, why not? And that was basically the idea. Uh, but what happened is I ended up going to business school and I studied for investment banking. Did all the finance. And then I did a couple internships during business school to learn more about what finance really was on a day-to-day basis, what it, how it was in Montreal versus the UK. Because it’s very different and that’s where I probably have to do it for two years.
I realized on a day-to-day basis that what I was doing was not as exciting as what I was exposed to in London during my internship, I was kind of kind of routine and basically the hierarchy and finance was just so heavy that you’d have to stay in the office and be the latest to leave or the last to leave the office.
There were all these rules and. This is also from my childhood. I’ve always been raised to kind of challenge rules. Uh, and my boss after, you know, two years of back and forth internships just told me, look, I really like you. You’re a smart guy, but you’re very insubordinate. Uh, I don’t think investment banking will be for you.
You’ll be miserable banking. You’d be better off doing your own thing. And that was kind of like the key. I never thought about doing my own thing ever. Like I told you, my entire background, never did it come to mind that I would build a business one day. So that was kind of the trigger for me to start exploring entrepreneurship.
And back then startups were super hot. You’d always hear about all these Silicon Valley startups. I’m talking around 2009. So right after the financial crisis, there were all of these new startups that were blooming. So, you know, Facebook was blowing up Twitter and basically tech was in, it still is. But back then it was really like every guy’s dream to have a tech startup.
So I told myself, and I hope I don’t babble too much, but I told myself I really want to build a tech startup. At some point, I have no idea what it’s going to be. But I have to do it and I don’t know if I’m already like stepping into your future questions, but what happened is I graduated, I had $5,000 to my name and I know in Asia that might seem like a lot, but in Canada, that’s basically two, two and a half months of rent.
So I didn’t have that much to fall back on. I had to figure out a way to make that money work to build something. Um, so essentially. I had this vision to build a tech company. But what happened is I ended up building a service company that would enable me to get cash flow rapidly because you know, that’s, you know, you read about people building tech companies, and it could take years before they make money.
They have to raise funds when you’re a fresh graduate and you have no background, no history or anything. It’s very hard to raise money, right. Especially in Canada, it’s not Silicon Valley. So instead I decided to build a new service business. And it’s super random, but you, you probably saw on my LinkedIn, uh, this company I built called Stinson design.
So what it was is, um, during my finance days, all I was doing every day, except modeling and Excel was doing presentation decks, whether it’s for a fundraise or pitching our company or whatever, I was the one doing the pitch decks, which made no sense because I had no design background. I was not the most, like I was not the most knowledgeable about what we did.
I knew it, but somehow the role of building presentations just falls back on the junior and during university. Yeah. I had a friend of mine who was excellent at doing presentations. He was kind of mandated by our group of friends to always do their presentations and he was doing them in this cool way. Back then a cool software called keynotes, which was just sort of emerging.
And he was really like blow blowing minds with, professors because the keynotes were really compelling and beautifully designed. They had an animation. So I just reached out to my buddy and I said, look, I know you don’t have a job because you told me and you’re looking, I want to go the business.
Would you be interested in doing presentations for a living? And this was kind of. Like I’m trying to project myself back then. And I had no idea where I pulled that idea out of, but basically it was a combination of me doing that as a job and knowing someone who does it and realizing that there must be a better way than to give it to the junior guy.
Maybe give a little professional edge to your presentation. So that’s when Stinson design was born and essentially I had a deadline of two and a half months to start making money before I have to either find a job or go back to my parents’ house in France, which was not an option. Um, do you want me to continue on that trajectory or do you want to
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:17:11] I want to go back to two parts. What books did that guy ask you to read? Like he was like, he does a summer list.
Tim Grassin: [00:17:19] So, I don’t remember the entire list. There were 10 books, but I remember some that really impacted me. So one of them was wise poker. I don’t know if it rings a bell, very finance book, and the other one was, uh, too big to fail the rise and fall of long-term capital management and LTCM great books. And those really teach you what finance was, what finance was in the eighties and nineties.
Super exciting. Very, very testosterone driven. I dunno. It was something that appealed to me. So yeah, those would have books.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:17:54] That’s interesting. I just didn’t have much visibility into finance. I mean, I was never going to be a finance person. Although my father wanted me to be a quant. He was like, “Oh, you do CS and math. You should move to New York and be a quant. That’s your path. You should do that.” And I’m like, that doesn’t sound fun at all. But I think the thing that I’ve since read a lot of, quite a bit about finance, and I think the thing that’s surprised me about finance was that it continues to develop like a field, right? Like there were theories and ways to do stuff.
Decades ago that no longer are kind of done and, you know, uh, portfolio theories kind of evolve. And so, I don’t know, I just kinda thought it was like a static kind of area where it was like, yeah, people move money around and invest stuff, but actually it kind of evolves quite a bit. Yeah. And there’s new theories and
Tim Grassin: [00:18:44] Oh, absolutely. Yeah, definitely. It’s quite fascinating, but it is, it’s a bit of a dinosaur overall. So if you’re someone who’s hyperactive has a bit of ADD and needs to get stuff done quickly, it’s not, it’s not a good place to be.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:19:04] The other part that I thought was interesting too, is the insubordinate part is literally a description that people used to describe me. They were like, you’re really good, but you’re just a pain in the ass. You’re always asking why. And you question things all the time. Where do you think that comes from for you? Is that where your parents are? Was it like, I dunno something in your upbringing?
Tim Grassin: [00:19:29] No. My parents are fairly conservative.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:19:34] I mean, I guess there are diplomats. Like they kind of have to be a little bit.
Tim Grassin: [00:19:37] Yeah, a little bit. Uh, I came from a Christian of Greg Brene. So usually we don’t ask so many questions, you know, otherwise you start to question religion itself.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:19:46] Yeah, really big things. Yep.
Tim Grassin: [00:19:47] Yeah but I came from a family of four kids. Uh, and so you kind of have to fight for everything. You debate everything, you talk a lot. And yeah, you kind of questioned things. I don’t know. I honestly, it’s a good question. I have no idea where it came from, but as a kid, I was always like that. I was always sort of questioning or like, you couldn’t just tell me, don’t do this. I’d be like, sure. But Y you know, like, I’m totally fine not doing something. If you give me a rational explanation, I’m not just going to take your word for it.
So I think some of us have that intrinsically, I don’t know.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:20:24] I’ve always tried to, I think this is a thing that a lot of entrepreneurs have. And so it’s just like, we just end up in these places. Cause it’s like, we just suck as employees. Like we’re just terrible. I always debate whether it’s like a nature nurture thing. I mean, it’s never just one or the other.
With your siblings is. Are, are they kind of like you or is it kind of everybody is different?
Tim Grassin: [00:20:45] Yeah, so they are kind of like me, I’m the eldest, by the way, I have a younger system, two younger brothers who are twins, and it’s funny. So my sister sort of went into biology for his studies. And then I don’t know if I had any impact on her life, but then she decided to become a consultant and be her own boss. So that’s what she’s been doing for the last two years. One of my brothers is a lawyer in Kuwait, so he got the travel bug, but he’s more like, you know, the standard type of, um, traditional career.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:21:23] Wow Kuwait.
Tim Grassin: [00:21:24] Yeah. Still Kuwait, totally random. And then my other brother is also an entrepreneur, so. He built a company. Um, I think five years ago in my leg. And since then he got married to a Lithuanian and now he’s living in Lithuania and he’s also still running that business. So definitely something in our upbringing turned us into more or less entrepreneurs and travelers. That’s that’s the easy one to figure out.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:21:55] That’s interesting. I feel like, yeah, your siblings are all like, I’m sure they all have great stories. Like, it sounds like your family is just interesting. Going back to the, going back to the Stinson design part in that part of it. So it was like, you’re basically like, I mean, it’s. I feel like whoever your boss was, who told you, “Hey, I don’t think you’re going to want to do this. You should kind of do your own thing.” I don’t know if they, they probably didn’t think about how much of an impact that has, but in hindsight that probably was a big thing. It was like a nice thing for them to kind of like, say right.
Tim Grassin: [00:22:29] Definitely an inflection point in my life. And actually I’ve, I’ve already told my old boss and I’ve stayed in touch with him and I’ve kind of thanked him for it basically because he did have a major impact on my career. I don’t know if he meant it in a good way or not, but it did have a positive impact on my life.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:22:50] We started doing it. I mean, you were kind of like, you just quit cold turkey. You’re like you had this conversation with him and then you were like, kind of soon after you’re like quit only got $5,000 in the bank and like you quit, not really having a plan. Is that fair to say?
Tim Grassin: [00:23:05] Yeah, that’s a hundred percent fair to say I quit. And I said, I’m going to spend two months in France. So I quit in June and spent two months in France. I was discussing ideas with my buddy, the guy in the keynote guy, I was discussing ideas because I wanted to figure out what exactly we would build, because back then a presentation design agency did not exist.
I actually, there was one called Duarte that was basically doing presentations for Apple officially as an agency, but it didn’t exist. No one paid to get professional presentations unless they hired a consultant internally, but there was no agency for it. So I kind of have to create that concept from scratch and figure out if it would take, right. I didn’t really have a proof of concept in the sense that I had a negative proof of concept when I had already seeded the idea to my old boss, told him that I wasn’t very good at presentation and that we should hire someone to do them. And he told me, look, historically, it’s been your role as a junior. So we don’t have a budget for it and I don’t think it’s necessary. So I was already on the right track to fail, but didn’t sort of deter me.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:24:18] This is a thing now. I know at YC before demo day, it’s like, sometimes there’s like people start passing their own referrals for things like making decks and stuff.
Tim Grassin: [00:24:27] We’ve since done probably 20 YC decks in the past already.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:24:32] Oh, okay. There you go. You might disagree with me since you were in this business, but just for the rest of the audience, like you’re, if you’re working on your first deck, Probably don’t hire a designer, like work on the content and the growth numbers first. Like, don’t worry about that yet. But at some point it probably helps.
Where did you guys get your first couple of customers? Your boss was basically like, we’re not going to pay for that, we have junior analysts to do that.
Tim Grassin: [00:24:56] Yeah, plot twist, he decides to work with us a few months later, but initially yeah, the first few customers came from networking. I had no experience in sales. I had no experience in anything. Let’s be honest. I was young. I was, gosh, I was 20, 21 or 22, something like that. Maybe 20. Yeah, 22. I’d say.
I looked a lot younger than I do now. Suits were oversize and, you know, did not look professional at all, but somehow I had to convince senior level people to trust some funds into my little business, make them believe that we’re going to bring some value and, you know, Yeah, basically trust us.
I went to networking events. That was my first intuition, kind of an old school, uh, legacy of our business school business schools kind of teach you old, old fashioned ways of doing business. Everything you learn in business school is already obsolete by at least five to 10 years. So I was going to networking events and every single networking event I could find online on meetup or whatever I would go. With my little business cards and just try to get meetings. Thankfully I managed to use my terms or something, and I secured a number of meetings in the first few months. Uh, and we actually signed our first client the second month already. The clients were very small, but basically this one, I actually got it from Elance. Do you know, do you remember Elance?
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:26:27] Totally.
Tim Grassin: [00:26:28] Upwork or whatnot. So that was the second idea. Start posting a Stinson design as an agency on Elance, trying to get contracts from there. So we started getting contracts, but the type of clients you get on Upwork or Elance is like pay as little as possible and have the highest expectations. So we were working on presentations for days on end and basically our hourly rate was like below $10 by that time. But we were making, we were making revenue, right? So that’s how we started surviving the first few months. And you know, for me having income was better than not. So I did that and we built a portfolio that was the key as well as we have no portfolio when I was pitching to these people at networking events. So when they wanted to see samples, I had nothing to show for. So we started building a portfolio on Elance and we started taking on as many projects as we could. And the projects were ranging from $300 to $800. The first time we cracked a thousand, I was like, “Oh my god, we’ve discovered a pot of gold”.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:27:29] What was your pitch at the networking events? You just showed up in your oversized suit and you walk up to people and are like I make PowerPint presentations?
Tim Grassin: [00:27:36] I mean, I’m a little more subtle than that. So I’m just building the relationship. I’d be like, “Oh, you know, what are you doing here?” Like, “what are you guys trying to do”, “what are you trying to learn” this and that, you know, try to build conversations. I never did direct marketing. Like I was always trying to build a relationship. And then in a follow-up conversation talk a little bit about TendoPay. Oops the habit is now a force of habit with TendoPay. So it was more of building a relationship and that’s why I didn’t really have any fruits in the first few months. It took a longer time to get those local clients, physical clients to give us any work.
We also got some odd jobs on Elance, which I don’t need to get into the details with you about because we want to keep it PG. But basically we got some very interesting gigs on the lands that paid rent basically, but were not fun to do at all. That’s how we survived the first few months. Once we had a portfolio, the next thing we had to do was build a website. And right now, like it’s so easy to build a website with a template and whatnot. But 10 years ago, as a non web developer, it was a nightmare. I had to learn everything because I didn’t have the money to hire anyone.
So I had to build a website somehow, and the themes were ugly as hell. Somehow it worked like it enabled us to create a brand and to host our portfolio and having that online presence helped when I was following up with these needs. And basically by month four, we signed our first big clients in Montreal. It was an advertising agency. And the beauty there was, they had basically a project flow. So they were giving us one project every two week. Basically we were building a presentation on their behalf for another client. So they were passing money along to us. And there we were starting to make decent money.
So the budgets were like $1500 to $2000 for a long presentation, but it was still worth it. It was more than we ever made before. And I leveraged that name because it’s they had a great reputation in Montreal. It’s a very famous ad agency and I started leveraging that name with other local players. And basically that really helped build momentum. And I managed to sign like the fifth month, probably five or six local clients, which brought our revenue up to 10 K for the month, which was a massive milestone. Right. So from then on, it was just leveraging one thing to the other. But the biggest inflection point for that business was when I thought to myself AdWords, because all of a sudden I managed to turn outbound sales, which were really time-consuming and not very fruitful into inbound sales.
I was terrible at it, but I managed to get leads, which was crazy. And then all of a sudden we started getting one lead a day, then two. Then five and I’m projecting myself as a future. By that time, I already moved to Toronto and started getting an office and whatnot but basically Stinson really grew when we figured out Ad-Words and we figured out inbound sales. We were able to reach, you know, 10 leads a day. By the time I sold it. It was already making a few million a year, but basically. If there was a very interesting progression. Once we went fully online and built an inbound sales strategy.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:30:58] Picking up on your progression. With that business, it was like you basically, and it honestly, it sounds exactly like a tech startup. I mean, this was more of an agency, but it’s like, you basically hustled your butt off in the beginning. There was like nothing fancy about it. You just hustled your butt off and kept parlaying those gigs into a bigger gig, into more gigs and stuff. And then you were like, okay, we’ve got to do this website thing. I have no idea how to do this website thing. Then you’re like, okay, I guess I just have to figure out how to do this. I mean, you weren’t technical. It sounds like, right. So you were just like, I got to pick a website. So like you just went online and were like, do I make a website?
Tim Grassin: [00:31:37] Yes. And then I learned about WordPress, which was like a godsend. Uh, and then I was browsing WordPress and I can’t remember the name, but there was a website that had a bunch of different templates and back then the templates were very rudimentary, but. Enough for me to look professional and I started to learn to customize HTML CSS and this and that. And I was so proud. Like, I, it took me an entire week to build a decent website, which was probably 90% the template, but I was so proud to put out something that I did myself and yeah, as a non-technical when you build your first website, you’re quite happy.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:32:17] And I, I feel like it’s and then, and then you learned Ad Words. So how did you even hear about Ad Words? So you’re like, okay, I did this website thing, and then it just sounds like, it feels like you kept. Running into these walls. You’re like, okay, the business is going pretty well. We can’t grow it any bigger. I’m just doing stuff. So I got to do this outbound thing. Where did you, like, what did you hear about Ad Words?
Tim Grassin: [00:32:36] So because we were online, I learned a little bit about SEO first. Because like, that’s the keyword with everyone’s like, if you want to be referenced, you’ve got to do SEO. So I was Googling, I was using stuff like SpyFu and trying to figure out who our competitors were, if any, and one time I was Googling PowerPoint presentation agency, and I saw an ad for something completely irrelevant.
It was something on a, on another platform. I think it was even advertising Elance, but it was advertising PowerPoint, presentation, design, or something on the islands. And I was like, Whoa. Okay. Why don’t I use Ad Words. I’m sure people search for PowerPoint presentation design, and that’s how I learned about Ad-Words basically, I’d never really thought about it from a business perspective. I always kind of clicked on the w you know, as a user, without really paying attention. But then all of a sudden, I really got conscious of the impact of being on the first line of Google when people search it. Uh, so basically I tried to learn everything I could about Google app Edwards.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:33:37] So did, was anybody kind of like, did you have any like mentors or anybody kind of like telling you about it? Like staff or was it just like you were, it was really, you were just kind of figuring it out as you went.
Tim Grassin: [00:33:49] Yeah, so no mentors, unfortunately but the internet was my mentor. So I learned everything from YouTube, from Google. Uh, I mean, YouTube still to this day is my number one source of information. Everything I want to learn is on you. I spent a shameful amount of time on YouTube. Learning about anything from work to building a cabin, to farming, fishing, hunting. Again, anything you can think of. I want to learn. I go on YouTube. So that’s what I did back then, too. I learned about the outdoors. I learned about business. I learned about web everything there.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:34:26] I mean, I learned about starting a podcast, literally by watching YouTube videos, I was like, so what do you need to do?
Tim Grassin: [00:34:32] Yeah, there’s no better way.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:34:33] That’s actually such a good thing, YouTube, the internet or whatever, it’s such a good skill to learn for entrepreneurs because you just have to do this so often. So I think, you know, when we are talking to a founder sometimes, like we try to get a sense of like, Are they good learners because, you know, we want to teach them stuff and help them with stuff, but like there’s no way we’re going to be able to help them and teach them everything. I think that’s such a good, like, it’s great that you had that experience. And I think the, the flip part of it too, is, is that you learned and then saw the benefits of it. And that just reinforces your ability to be like, “Oh, okay, I’ll just learn this because I’ve done this in the past and it went well. So, and even going forward, I can also just do that”. I feel like that attitude turns to be like a superpower.
Tim Grassin: [00:35:19] Yeah. And I think that using the internet to learn stuff, it’s basically a question of timing in our childhood. I think we were kind of the generation that got computers when we were 10 to 12, maybe. And with some, like someone who’s curious by nature will start to use it properly. And so every question I had instead of asking my parents. When I realized that they didn’t have the answers to everything like the internet had the answers I was looking for. So I exploited that and it became part of like, it’s part of me now, any question I have, I refer to my phone through my laptop, but it’s something that’s not innate with everyone. Um, so I’m, I’m noticing, and this is not now they’ve evolved now, but my siblings back in the day, I was, I was monopolizing the computer, so they never had that screen time And it basically turned out that when they were teenagers and they had questions and they didn’t know what to do with their computer, they would always ask me instead of Googling. And I was always. I got frustrated after a while. I just, I don’t remember. I don’t remember what it was called, but there was this service you could use where you type the question for someone and send it back to them. And it’s basically a Google search for that question. Kind of like, okay, just use Google man.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:36:39] I remember that site.
Tim Grassin: [00:36:40] Yes. So I used to start doing that and then they got more familiar with it, but it’s really a question of timing, like at one point in your life. You’re so curious if you have the right tools, you’ll have the means of growing your, I dunno, your, your knowledge basis. It’s very interesting.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:36:57] I feel like also maybe when we were, I think you and I are roughly about the same age. I think when we were growing up, two startups were like getting hot, but not nearly as popular and certainly kind of information about how to they do them was not as widely available as they were now. Um, and I feel like now it’s like, there’s so much good information out there on like how to do startups and stuff.
Like anybody has an audience. Like you can definitely learn a lot of like, um, Guides and just like best practices on how to do startups online. Uh, it is no substitute for actually doing it. I think when you actually do it, you find out that it’s like, the experience is quite different, but like all the practical knowledge I feel like is out there.
Tim Grassin: [00:37:35] Oh, definitely. I mean, there are entire courses that are practically free where you can learn everything from ideation all the way to execution. So yeah, there’s no lack of information.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:37:47] One of the things I was going through your LinkedIn too, is, is that, I mean, like I thought I was cool, cause I like started three companies in 12 years, but you’ve started like six in the last eight. Um, and so like Stinson was just like the beginning of kind of like many companies that come.
I feel like every company has its own story, but like maybe on like a broader level, like what. What do you think was kind of the commonality between like, kind of like each of the companies and like what kept you going like continuously kind of like wanting to start there?
Tim Grassin: [00:38:16] Yeah, so I can go chronologically. But basically when I had Stintson yes, it was making money, but it was not what I was. There was no, my ambition to have a service business. I always wanted to create a tech business. Something like a startup, you know, something cool, a product. So when I started making money with, uh, with Stinson, it allowed me to fund my ambition of building a tech startup.
If you look on my LinkedIn, that one, the first basically product that I ever built was called Credico. I was really into social. I was really into gaming and stuff like that as a human. So I wanted to build. A social game essentially, and those were super popular about it. And then, uh, if you, you know, if you could build, I don’t remember what they were called, but like candy bars and stuff like that, all these social games or words with friends, you’d be making like millions, if not more. So I essentially started funneling money from Stinson into this product. I hired a tech team and it was a really cool product. Actually. It was basically a social app that allowed you to wager with friends on the outcome of different TV related items. So like a TV show or sports or the news or whatnot, you could bet. Like social betting. It’s not real money, but you could bet on the outcome and basically be able to score and like be in scoreboards and stuff like that. So it was really exciting and the game was working really well. But basically when I moved to Toronto and you know, I had both this Credico and Stinson going at once. There was a point where I started raising money for Credico. I got a term sheet for an accelerator, but I lost my technical co-founder and I realized that finding someone to take his place and learn the code base would be a very long stretch of time. And the accelerator was already off the table because I lost the technical co-founder. And so at that point I gave up, unfortunately, because Stinson was making a lot of money and there was a lot of opportunity to grow it. So that’s the time I decided I’m going to focus my efforts on Stinson. I sold the code for predicate to someone else who was looking to build something similar.
So it was my first exit, but we’re talking about a very little sum of money, basically not even covering my costs. But it was cool. It was a cool experience. And that sort of was my first attempt at building a product. But then I really got focused on Stinson Design, and I got really good at service. I built a significantly bigger team in Toronto. I got some nice offices and started discovering other opportunities in services.
I can talk to you a little bit about candy banners and how I got into that. But basically, in Toronto, I got to meet this guy who was a freelancer for ad agencies. And back then he was building flash banners on the side as it’s sort of a gig that he was quite good at. So these ad banners, but were built in flashback then, and we became friends over the years and I took him to Cabaretta we’d meet. I wanted to teach him kite surfing. So we went to Dominican Republic, spend two weeks there. And I was seeing him working on his little laptop at night, building these banners. So I started asking him like, What are these, like, these are the banners that we see on websites and stuff. It’s like, yeah, these are built in flash and it’s very simple animations and stuff. Awesome. How much? And I was blown away because presentations, we were charging $1,500 on the low end and then some very, very high numbers on the high end, but there was a lot of work and it requires a lot like a project manager and our directors and designers. And he was doing these banners on his own and he was charging like $2,500 for five banners. I was like, are you kidding me? Like, you go to those banners overnight and you make $2,500 from that. That’s insane. So like the wheels start spinning in my head and I started thinking like, can I build a business out of this?
Can I partner with this guy who is very good at what he’s doing? I can be the business side and build some. So I started looking into it. Of course, I’m not going to give up Stinson. That was my main, main gig, but I started putting out feelers and seeing if this was a one-off with this agency or was every agency, uh, subcontracting, that type of work. It turned out every single agency in Toronto was subcontracting flash design, because if that developer with like $80,000 a year and they didn’t want to have any staff for that, especially as it was a kind of dying technology, they didn’t want to have someone doing flash only. So there was something neat out. So I told them my buddy Jaan. I said, look, do you want to go 50, 50 on a business? I think we can build a big business out of this. Like based on what you’re charging based on what I’ve seen in Toronto alone, let alone in North America. I think we could build this big. So he was down with it. I mean, he’d seen me work on Stinson, so he knew I could build something. So I basically put Stinson under management. I automated that and I went full steam on candy banners and basically. We started reaching out to every single agency in Toronto, trying to figure out if they were looking for a fast flash developer, et cetera. And within a few months, we ran into a situation where Jaan was completely overwhelmed at work and we have to hire developers. And as I mentioned earlier, flash developers were $80K a year. So we had nowhere near that type of money. And we didn’t want to take that type of risk. So me knowing Elance and Upwork and all this stuff, I thought, why don’t we try to subcontract our own work to someone else in a foreign land? Right? So we put up dealers in six different countries and I’m sure like the most common ones, like China, India, Ukraine, and then this random little country that I know nothing about the Philippines.
Right. And we wanted to see how they would perform on a single project. What the rates were, communication, all that stuff. And man, the Filipino guy just turned around the project with an overnight, right? We expected maybe two or three days turnaround. He turned it over overnight and spoke perfect English.He charged a fraction of what the Indian and Chinese guys were charging. And we were like, what? Like, what is the Philippines like? Who is this guy? He spoke fluent English. We were shocked. So we started feeding him more work. And he was always delivering on point that we barely had any feedback. And I mean, at that time we were making probably like a 20x profit on his work with the agencies we’re working with. So I was like, this model is beautiful. I can, we scale this? Wo we told them, look, we’ve got much more work to give you. Can you handle it? Or do you have any friends you could handle it with? So he brought on another friend and they took it on for like a month and a half. We had these two guys working. Like day in, day out on our projects. And like our agencies were super happy with us. They were giving us more deal flow. It was awesome.
But we got to a point where these two guys were not enough. Right. We needed to scale. And we told them, look, we know you guys have day jobs, right? Would you be willing to come full time? Would you be able to build a team with us? And they said, look, we don’t know you guys, we’re not going to quit our jobs. We have like managerial jobs here in Manila. Why don’t you come to the Philippines, we’ll meet you, set up an infrastructure, and then we can talk. So two weeks later we were in Manila. We had like an open-ended ticket. We had no idea what we were doing, where we were going. It was a completed venture. It was awesome. And, uh, that’s how it all started. Like the candy banjos experience was really fun. And it was my first exposure to, uh, the Philippines basically, which is where I reside now. So clearly that path evolves quite a bit.
The Philippines, we met the two guys, we built a structure, built an office and within a couple of years we have 30 staff, uh, doing, developing in the Philippines.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:46:37] Was that your first time in Southeast Asia.
Tim Grassin: [00:46:40] It was my first time in Southeast Asia. Yes.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:46:44] Okay. So you were like you, you met these two guys. This business kind of goes well, and they’re like, Hey, you got to come to the Philippines. You’re like, sounds good. And so you and Jan went down.
Tim Grassin: [00:46:54] Yeah. Yeah. We both went down.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:46:57] This kind of begs the story kind of like, I mean, Jan is one of the co-founders of TendoPay now. What was your first impression of the Philippines?
Tim Grassin: [00:47:07] Yeah, it was madness. It was absolute madness. I mean, the first thing is, I like to be sort of aware of what I’m doing. So I had read up a lot about the Philippines and, and sort of knew the pitfalls and knew what to do and what not to do. We weren’t completely blind. Right. So we arrived and there was, it’s already chaos at the airport. We had to figure out where our hotel was. We go like this three-star, but a three-star in the Philippines turned out to be this cockroach infested hotel. So there were a lot of nice hiccups on the way. But basically we landed in Makati where I still live and. We really dug it. Actually once we figured it out, all the sort of madness and sort of got our bearings, it was a really beautiful place. And the people were really welcoming, really cool. It’s a nice atmosphere to work. And like, you know, you might have noticed from how I spoke of them, but they’re really hard working people. They like to deliver. They like excitement. So. They love the idea of working with a team in Toronto. It was like super excited, whereas versus working for a little, uh, employer and our employees. Well, I mean, standards are super laxed compared to the employment standards in the Philippines where there’s a hierarchy. Most companies have uniforms here. So they really liked the idea of working for a foreign company. And in our case, we were young entrepreneurs. So it’s not like, you know, these old school methods where we kind of let them do whatever they want as long as they produce results, basically.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:48:45] How did you meet the rest of the TendoPay crew? How did you guys get this idea? Like, talk about that transition.
Tim Grassin: [00:48:50] Sure. So TendoPay is originally an idea from Kacper. So our CEO was sort of exposed to FinTech in his entire career in the Philippines. And he was noticing that there were a lot of gaps, especially in the financing and like space. So knowing the growth of players like Klarna and affirm, he wanted to figure out if there was a way to reproduce the model in the Philippines. And as it turned out, Kacper was my next door neighbor in the office we had with candy banners and his boss at the time. Yeah. His boss was my best friend from university, which I actually told to go to the Philippines and he built a business there as well. So we already knew each other for quite a while.
When Kacper had that idea, he turned to myself and young for technology advice. Basically at that time we didn’t plan to partner up. Right. He was just. Consulting with us on what, how he should dope Tendo pay and Yon. And I took a look at it and thought about it and said, look, we’re ready for the next project. We want to build a product we’re kind of tired of service at this point. And it just seemed like a perfect storm to, you know, go full steam ahead on a product in the Philippines with these guys, they seem to be knowledgeable about FinTech. So we just decided to offer our services as full-time founders, basically.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:50:19] So Kacper was at Coin’s before. So is that when he was kind of doing a bunch of FinTech stuff there.
Tim Grassin: [00:50:25] After Coins. He went to a Radian, which is the company my buddy sort of founded in the Philippines. It’s an, it’s not founded by him, but he founded the Filipino brash Brit. Uh, Kacper was working with him in those offices.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:50:38] They just were next door to you and you would just see him in the hall. I haven’t met him in person yet, but he’s like a giant.
Tim Grassin: [00:50:47] In a way, yes, but like I said, he was employed by my body and when I was back and forth in the Philippines, I would always hang out with my friend. Actually interestingly enough, we would always play Call of Duty and then Kacper showed up one day with my buddy and he wanted to play with us and stuff. So that’s my first interaction with Kacper basically. But then we stayed friendly, like I was there in and out for probably three years meeting Kacper every time. Right. So we’d built a report over time.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:51:19] And then when you kind came to this idea, he kind of came to you guys. I mean, I guess it sounds like he was kind of asking for advice initially, and then you guys kind of saw the opportunity, like, “hey, we should just all do this together.”
Tim Grassin: [00:51:28] Exactly. So he came to us for advice. Then once we gave him our advice, he kind of came to us for consulting, like hiring us as a tech consultant. We just wanted to be more involved. Cause we knew we couldn’t just build some sort of MVP for him. It would, it would have no value like. And we knew how difficult it was to hire tech talent in the Philippines. So it was kind of like if we don’t work on this, it’s going to be very tough. Not that he couldn’t do it, but it would be very tough to build something like that in the Philippines without a proper tech team. And it just made sense to us as well. We really liked the project. We liked the guy. We also knew like Kamil, we sort of met over a Vizio because we were all on different continents. It just made sense. And when he spoke about the market opportunity, I had witnessed that as well, because I had friends who were working in e-commerce and I knew that payments was such a challenge in the Philippines. So, you know, it just clicked. And I knew that there was definitely something there when he put it.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:52:30] People always have a hard time kind of like meeting co-founders and stuff, but I feel like your story is one that is like, it’s the best case scenario which is like, you just kind of. Build a relationship with somebody over years and not, not planning to necessarily start a company, but like you just got to get to know people. And then when something kind of comes up, right. It’s like they immediately turned to the people kind of around them. And they’re like, what do you think about this? Right. Was there much debate on your end? It sounds like you were pretty ready. You always wanted to build a product. You did it before, but you didn’t get it as far as you would like it to go. So when this kind of came up, it was in the Philippines. You had already moved to the Philippines at that point.
Tim Grassin: [00:53:05] No, I didn’t. So I was still in Toronto and it’s not like we went full steam ahead, like the day, the day off. Right. So I ran a couple of scenarios and I started working on some very. Very very early MVPs for 10 DoPay to figure out if there was even demand for the product. So I didn’t jump in that easily.
I built some fake e-commerce websites when we were in Toronto. And basically I, we were selling random products like sneakers and things that we knew were, would sell it, but the store was completely fake. I was like, Alpha sales. The pH is some, some crazy domain we bought and we would just create a bunch of landing pages for products and under the price we had by now. But we also had finance or like buy now pay later by this much per month or whatever, and you’d click on it and then you’d have a sign up for me. It was like a Typeform, right. So super rudimentary. It took us like a few hours to put together and I ran probably a hundred bucks in ad-words in, uh, in ad-words or in Facebook ads.
I don’t remember, but. That goes quite a long way, probably like a thousand clicks in the Philippines. So once I realized that people were willing to click on “finance it”, and they were willing to go through the entire application for it back then, it was completely random questions about your salary and stuff like that. But then we that’s when I got the solid, like the firm, go ahead on. There is a market for it. People are willing to go through an application process to get this fake sneaker from this fake store. So imagine a real one. That was when we decided that, okay, I’m going to move to the Philippines and we’re going to build this. There’s a market for it.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:54:50] That’s so clever. The fake site thing is kind of like a tried and true kind of method. Right? So in the Valley, we call that like building. It’s basically building fake doors and seeing if people will open the door, but you guys did the inception thing of one level deeper, which is like, you made a fake door that had a fake door inside of it. Which is so smart. That’s awesome. I’ve never heard of people who built a site to test the thing for the site.
Tim Grassin: [00:55:16] Well, I mean, it’s just, it’s a cheap way to test the market, right? Like if people are not willing to give their information for the financing, then forget it. Like we can move on to something else.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:55:28] For everybody out there, like this kind of stuff is the stuff that, like, if you’re thinking about trying to test an idea, this is the stuff that you should be like doing. This is the stuff that if you are talking to like investors about, and they’re asking you about, you know, like, How, you know, that there’s like, um, traction for this, or people want this, like, this is the stuff that is the like, best right. You can give me, you can cite me all of the Deloitte studies that you want, but you know, the people who built the fake websites sell the fake thing that gets people to sign up as worth all of the McKinsey reports in the world. I actually have never heard that story again and that’s, that’s awesome.
I think the benefit in Southeast Asia is, I don’t know if people notice here, but cost per impressions and cost per clicks are way lower than like in the U S and I’m sure Canada it’s like way lower. So like a hundred bucks will get you a long, long way. It’s not like you need to throw like $10K at this.
Tim Grassin: [00:56:21] Oh 100%.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:56:23] Kacper, I kind of was pitching this idea. You’re like, okay, that seems kind of interesting. Were you running the test yourself to prove it to yourself or
Tim Grassin: [00:56:29] Yeah, so. No, no, I pitched, I pitched them to run this test because it was going to help me validate the product, but it was also for them like, look, yeah, it’s not going to work out. Might as well know, right but that’s how I’ve done it before. For many other projects I’ve done from selling fake stuff on e-commerce to, you know, pitching projects, et cetera. I’ve always tried to, you know, test it before jumping into it. Um, so that was a cheap way to do it, but yeah, definitely. I was doing it for myself, but it helped everyone basically.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:57:06] I feel like when I told people to do this in the past, they get nervous setting up a fake store. They’re like, “Oh, people are going to get mad if they don’t get the shoes and stuff.” I was just like, never charged the credit card. I don’t know what you guys did, but like you just don’t actually charge it. Not a big deal.
Tim Grassin: [00:57:20] Yeah. If you’re any good at analytics, you can follow people through a funnel, right? So you don’t have to actually charge, as you said, but I’ve, I’ve done a lot of e-commerce stores for fun, just as hobbies. And I’ve always charged for the product and then return the money. Just validate that you get a sale and then you refund them and tell them, look where we’re out of stock or whatever. They don’t care.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:57:47] Yeah.
Tim Grassin: [00:57:48] It never hurts your market. You’re selling to like 10 or a hundred people out of millions. It’s never going to affect you. It can only benefit you.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [00:57:57] I think that’s the other thing too, though. We talked to founders about sometimes when they’re like, where they want their launches to be perfect. Cause they’re like, “Oh, we only get one chance with customers”. I was like, if your market is only the number of customers that are going to see you on your first day of launch, your market is so small, none of us should be doing this. Like you should work on it. We shouldn’t invest in it, and none of us should do this. So that’s fascinating, man. It’s like, You on some level, it’s like the meat co-founders you almost just need to be in the game. Like you need to be around other people kind of working and stuff.
We were the same. Brian and my brother worked at Zillow together and Brian basically was like, I needed a technical co-founder. He thought my brother was good. That’s how it happened. You kind of need to be in the game. Where did you guys did you guys get your first, like 10 customers from? Talk a little bit about what the first version of TendoPay when you guys actually launched.
Tim Grassin: [00:58:49] Oh boy, the first version of TendoPay. Once we actually built an MVP that was functional. We had signed for different merchants. So some very tiny merchants, because we did in this case, we really didn’t want to burn ourselves with some bigger merchants. So we had to find merchants that A didn’t have so much traffic that were willing to, to take another payment method that was brand new, et cetera. So we signed these for merchants and we gave them 10 away for free. So they didn’t have to pay any commissions or whatnot. And to find our first clients was super straightforward. I mean, We built a very rudimentary application flow. Uh, and then we ran some Facebook ads and basically sold it saying you can buy this laptop for 40,000 benzos.
So like a thousand bucks or for, you know, $20 bucks per every two weeks for the next 10 years, I’m just exaggerating. But basically when you advertise that on Facebook, people will click because you know, why not get something cheaper or for less money per month than you would upfront. Uh, and then we’d have an application flow and we probably signed like a couple, couple hundred clients in the first week just from running ads. Yeah. I mean, you know, in the Philippines, we’re lucky. Yeah. That first of all, the purchasing power is quite low. So there’s a need for financing and financial options are just very antiquated. So if you want a loan here and you want to go to a bank for Solium, you won’t find out about it on social media or at least like three years ago, you didn’t. And just to go through an application process online was virtually unheard of. Right. So people would be tempted and they just do it. And that’s how we got our first clients.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:00:34] Wow. So, it just kind of worked. I guess the initial stage kind of just worked right away?
Tim Grassin: [01:00:40] Yeah. I mean, giving money to people it’s quite easy. I’ll be honest.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:00:45] I was telling my parents, when we were starting Iterative, tjat we got like 200 applications the first two months. My dad’s response was you’re giving people money. Right. And I was like, we’re investing it. And he’s like, yeah, but you’re giving them money. And I was like, yeah. He’s like, yeah who’s not signing up for money? You know what I mean? I was like, fair enough, good point. Just to kind of wrap things up a little bit, I want to kind of like always try to wrap things up with kind of like some, uh, fun stuff you and I talked briefly about this, so I’ve been hoping I’ve been wanting to have this conversation for awhile.
It became clear when we were working together that at some point we both played video games, somewhat competitively, and probably took it a little bit more seriously than we should have. What game did you play?
Tim Grassin: [01:01:31] I’m a big FPS player. What got me started really a while ago was, I don’t know if you know games like Wolfenstein and I mean, of course, Golden Eye everyone was. Yeah. So I would really take on those. Yeah. Early teenage hood. I was obsessed with those games and then I discovered probably the love of my life. Half-life. I became, like, I played hundreds of hours in the dark at home and it was kind of scary and exciting. And it was like this game that I just got obsessed over and did over and over. And that’s also when I discovered forums to learn how to get by certain parts of a game. And I got addicted to the communities and stuff. So half-life kind of changed my life. During high school, I started playing more like land games. So I was playing Quake III Arena, Unreal, Tteam Fortress and stuff like that. Later in high school I discovered Counter-Strike. So that’s when my obsession began and I had to play. I was always in like internet cafes, basically after school, sometimes during school. Uh, and that’s kind of, you were talking about semi competitive. So that’s the counter strike was really what took me. And then I had to kind of stop because high school was becoming unmanageable and I did want to get into a good university.
So I gave up on it probably, the last two years of high school and kind of gave up gaming for a while and then like, No five, six years later when Stinson was doing okay, I started playing games casually and, uh, I bought a console and I discovered Call of Duty, which I knew nothing about everyone’s talking about college. I picked it up with Black Ops Two super late and wow. Like playing online with people. My competitiveness came back to me and while I spent so many hours on black ops two, it’s unreal. It’s kind of the subset passive, uh, personality where I have to become good. I have to get up the rankings. So probably for six months I played very competitively, Black Ops Two then I stopped completely because I started candy banners and I had to focus on work again, like it wasn’t like a smooth sailing, like I used to, it completely stopped. And then this pandemic actually I bought a what is it a PS4? Yeah, it’s a PS4. I was like PSP or PS4. So you can keep track any more.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:04:03] PS5 is about to come out.
Tim Grassin: [01:04:04] So PS5 is about to come out, but like look, in the Philippines, we had a lockdown where for four months, nothing was open except grocery stores. So the day before they shut down, I didn’t know it was going to last that long. I bought a PS4 and a bunch of games and I’m amongst those games was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and that obsession that addiction just came back to me. So I played a lot, a lot. And to be honest, our business TendoPay was on stand still because our president here shut down the economy, including e-commerce and we weren’t allowed to collect loans. So basically for three months we couldn’t issue loans. We couldn’t collect loans. Our business was dead. So I was playing Call of Duty way too much. Basically I’ve stopped sinc they reopened the economy in may. But that’s basically my background. How about you?
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:04:58] I feel like now I feel like I’m just the Malaysian version of you because it was the same. I mean, it was like, I played Duke Nukem. I played Wolfenstein. Like all of those, like do all that, like all that stuff. And then Half-Life was the game where it was like, that kind of changed everything for me. I was like, this is a much richer experience. And then CS I mean, Counter-Strike. I traveled around the U S playing in Counter-Strike tournaments, going to LANs and stuff. I had to stop when I got to college because there was about two semesters where I was skipping midterms because I was playing on this competitive Counter-Strike team. And the tournament was the same, it was like I had to miss the midterm so I can make it to a tournament. And so I would just skip school and midterms to play in Counter Strike tournaments.
Tim Grassin: [01:05:44] That’s heavy.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:05:45] lIt was really fun, but at some point I was like, okay, I can’t do this. This is ridiculous.
Tim Grassin: [01:05:53] I miss LANs so much.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:05:56] I know, right? Like LANs, I feel like gamers these days. They’re never going to get up to it. Like, there’s something just about like bringing your computers and you’re all sitting at the table and like yelling,
Tim Grassin: [01:06:07] Yeah. It’s awesome.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:06:08] Different. Are you playing Call of Duty on a controller?
Tim Grassin: [01:06:15] Yeah. I transitioned to console. I made the switch with a, with an X-Box. Yeah, with black ops two. Uh, at first it was like, guy, I’m never going to pick this up. I gotta get a gaming computer, whatever, but dude, you pick it up after like a few weeks. I was better with the remote than with the computer until, until with modern warfare three. They now have cross-platform rights. So they have trust advice. Sorry. So they have PS. X-Box NPCs. And now you realize how much better someone on a PC, how, how fast and accurate they are. And man, like that makes me miss it a little bit, but I’m just, I can’t commit to something like that, but yeah, controllers are very easy to pick up. If you’re a versus a control basic team.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:07:06] Yeah. I mean, I feel like you can’t put people on a P on a mouse against people. Like, that’s just,
Tim Grassin: [01:07:12] They did that for modern warfare three. Right. So that’s crazy.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:07:16] I had like a rollercoaster of emotions as you were telling me about this, because when you were like, Oh, the controller is pretty easy to pick up. Cause I haven’t been playing any FPS. I never, I never touched any call of duty. Cause I was like, I don’t have a PC anymore. Right. So I was like, I’m not going to buy a PC, just the light. Play FPS is like, I don’t want to do that. But then when you were like, Oh, the controller, like that kind of works. I was like, Oh no, I got a PS4 over there. Like, am I going to do this at night?
Tim Grassin: [01:07:45] Yeah, you are.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:07:46] But the mouse is kind of like, you know, still there, like, wait, so
Tim Grassin: [01:07:51] Well, wait, so you have, you have forms. So you have, uh, you have options to remove people with PCs basically. And just to play with other PS4. Yeah.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:08:02] Okay. And you’re playing, what are you playing now?
Tim Grassin: [01:08:06] Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 3.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:08:10] Okay. Oh, am I going to get into that? If I get into this game, I don’t know if you’ve got a Discord channel, but we’re going to have to, I’m going to get it. And then I’m going to be like, Hey Tim.
Tim Grassin: [01:08:20] Yeah. Among those scores.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:08:21] We got to get into this, this core channel. We got to, you’re going to have to suffer through me for the first,
Tim Grassin: [01:08:25] Oh dude. No way. First of all, I haven’t played in the last four months, so it goes up and down, right? Like you build it up and I never got back to anywhere close to where I was. Uh, during cold, uh, call of duty black ops two. And even then I was nowhere near my counter strike time. So I just devolved.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:08:48] By the way I played contract with a friend, like two or three weeks ago, I just like loaded it up. And he and I, he was, he was like, I’ll do it. I want to see you like, like on a strike. And I was like, alright, sure. So I’d like loaded it up. Um, I’m terrible.
Tim Grassin: [01:09:04] CS Go?
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:09:05] CS Go.
Yeah. Um, I mean, it feels a little bit different, but like, it’s funny because I know, I know where to go still. Like I still remember how to play. Right. So it’s like, yeah, people are going to come out of here and you want to be here. And there’s this funny spot here. Like, I remember all that stuff, but I just like, can’t hit anything. I just don’t have any of that down anymore.
Tim Grassin: [01:09:28] And people nowadays use aimbots and stuff. It’s kind of enough fun to play. Yeah.
Hsu Ken Ooi: [01:09:33] Yeah. Yeah. Well, thanks. I appreciate you taking the time to, um, tell us about your story.
Tim Grassin: [01:09:40] Appreciate it. Thanks again.