88rising Co-Founder Jaeson Ma On The Impending Dominance Of Asian Culture
In the latest episode of Gen.T’s podcast Crazy Smart Asia, Jaeson Ma, co-founder of music and media platform 88rising, talks about the rise of Asian culture, the importance of humility, and how Paris Hilton helped him invest in Tik Tok
Gen.T’s podcast Crazy Smart Asia explores the unexpected stories of Asia’s disruptors—and not many successful entrepreneurs have a more unconventional story than this week’s guest.
Jaeson Ma is a musician, entrepreneur and investor best known as the co-founder of 88 Rising, a music label, talent management and media company that focuses on bridging East and West through culture, technology and entertainment.
But that only tells a fraction of the story. Much like the content he produces, Jaeson’s life is pure box office. There’s his childhood run-ins with the law, his years spent as a celebrity preacher and evangelist, not to mention his career as a musician, when he discovered a little-known artist called Bruno Mars. And that’s before we get into his career as a trend-spotting VC.
We’re leaving the tales of Jaeson’s personal journey as podcast exclusives—they're best heard in their full, long-form glory from the man himself. But here are a few excerpts from our conversation that cover how to spot trends, the power of cool and why the most difficult battle will always be with yourself.
THE RISE OF ASIAN CULTURE
"When you just look at it by sheer numbers, it's inevitable that Asia is going to rise become the most dominant force. Not just in economics, not just in politics, but in culture. And that's what you're seeing with the rise of K-pop. That's what you're seeing with movies like Parasite."
A NEW BOSS IN TOWN
"What's going to happen is Asia is going to have its own media voices, its own platforms. And the world's going to have to listen because they're not going to be able to afford not to. They are anticipating and acknowledging that there is a new boss in town. When Asia controls your bank account, and Asians control your technology, your fashion and your content, you have no choice but to listen."
HOW TO SPOT TRENDS EARLY
"Challenges and problems create opportunities. I don't look for ideas; I look for problems. I don't look for innovations; I look for challenges. That is where great entrepreneurs become. They recognise that there's a problem in the market that doesn't have a solve, and they recognise that they have access to resources and ideas that can actually answer those problems and create a solution. That is what a great venture capitalist or a great entrepreneur can discern and see: 'Oh, kids don't have that, but they want it. And no one's providing it. This idea or this product could serve that desired need.'"
THE POWER OF COOL
"If you own the streets, you own the culture. If you own hip-hop, you own the pop charts and it goes to the masses. And once something's cool, you don't need to pay for cool. Cool is not paid for. Cool is innovated, ideated and created."
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR OWN DESTINY
"Don't wait for your seat at the table, create your own table. I came from nothing, so I knew from the very beginning that I had to figure out real fast how to survive. I knew no one was going to give me a hand out to give me a hand up. And I never waited or expected anyone to help me get anywhere.
"I always used to say, 'Pray like it all depends on God, but live like it all depends on you.' In other words, no excuses. You have to work your ass off for something you want. It's 90 percent blood, sweat and tears. And yes, it's 10 percent luck. But if you do the right thing—not because it's going to make you money, or make you famous, or make you powerful—but you do the right thing over and over again because it's the right thing to do, ultimately you will achieve what you're out to achieve."
THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMILITY
"The people I've met who are the brightest, the wisest and the most disruptive are humble. They are always learning, listening, reading and observing. They're more observant than they are talking. They watch and they recognise that they know what they know, but they don't know it all.
"Humility is absolutely critical to an entrepreneur. You need a heart that's willing to absorb and learn and grow. Because if you stop listening, you stop learning. If you stop learning, you stop growing. If you stop growing, you become stagnant. If you become stagnant, you eventually deplete and die."
THE GREATEST BATTLE IS WITH YOURSELF
"The most important thing is resilience. And that takes a lot of fighting through depression and anxiety and a lot of self-acceptance to accept yourself in the midst of your flaws and your weakness and to still move forward. That is not an easy thing to do, because most people give up after they lose a few times.
"Someone asked Elon Musk, 'What type of encouragement would you give to entrepreneurs who want to succeed?' And he said, 'If you want to be an entrepreneur and you need encouragement, don't be an entrepreneur.' Because it's a thankless, no encouragement job. And the more successful you are, the more people hate you, the more people judge you, the more people will want to take you down because you become a target for people's insecurities.
"I don't really consider myself successful. But I will say this: I am the most successful version of myself. There's still a lot more to improve, but my competition every day is not you, or you, or you. My competition is me. That's what I'm trying to win at—just becoming a better version of me on a daily basis."
Quotes are edited for clarity and brevity.
Listen to the episode and subscribe using your preferred podcast platform on the Crazy Smart Asia hub page.