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AnyMind's early-stage employees speak out on their journey so far

We sit down with some early-stage employees of the company to find out how it has been like over the years

It’s no real secret that AnyMind Group has grown rapidly over the years, starting from a two-person founding team in April 2016 to over 1,000 staff across 13 markets in Southeast Asia, East Asia, India and the Middle East today. The company has also expanded from marketing technology to span products and offerings across the business value chain – from manufacturing to e-commerce and logistics, becoming a true end-to-end commerce enablement company.

For those who joined the company at the start, the journey so far must’ve been an exhilarating one with ups and downs and invaluable learnings. How the company was back in 2016 is definitely a far cry from how it is today, and we wanted to find out what exactly changed for them.

In this interview, we speak to various people who were either the first or the first few to join the company way back in 2016. All have progressed in their roles with the company, but one thing was apparent: they still have the same fire they did back when they first joined the company.

What attracted our interviewees to join at the start?

Throughout the conversations, there were a few apparent things. For many who joined in the company’s first few months of operations, the main reason to join was to work with founders Kosuke Sogo and Otohiko Kozutsumi.

Riku Saito (Riku), who was the very first employee in the company and now Regional Account Director, shared that he felt that the company had the potential to become the leading marketing tech company in Southeast Asia. He also added: “When I joined the company, there was only Sogo-san and Oto-san, so the main reason was that I wanted to work with them.”

Riku, pictured on the right at AnyMind Group’s first-ever all-hands meeting

In reference to how his two motivations have evolved, Saito shared that: “The former has changed, but the latter has not,” when referring to how the company has evolved from the marketing tech space into end-to-end commerce enablement tech, and how working with the company’s founders still remains a motivational factor for him.

Tripti Chaudhary (Tripti), Regional Deputy Head of Strategic Initiatives, echoed Saito’s sentiments: “My biggest motivation to join the company at the start was Sogo and Oto and their commitment to nurturing their startup into what it has become now. I still remember when I first met Sogo and how determined he was to make AnyMind Group huge.”

She also shared that another motivation was in the role itself, working across various departments, and how seeing and playing a part in the foundational work at the start was a big motivational factor for her.

For Yeh Hsun-Wei (Sunny), who is now Senior Manager of Influencer Management in Taiwan and also the first hire in Taiwan, shared that her motivations have changed over time, but one thing that has remained the same is excitement about what she’s doing: “I am still excited about the things I’ve done, excited to take tackle challenges, excited to learn new things, excited to meet great people, excited to get feedback from others, and excited to be part of this.”

Sunny, pictured seated in the middle of the picture, at an all-hands meeting in 2017

Moving quickly, learning and adapting

As the company grew, early-stage employees also had to adapt themselves to keep pace with how and where the company evolved.

Sunsanee Alansari (Joy), who is Head of Corporate in Thailand, shared that with the company growing rapidly both in direction and expansion, she believes that speed has been key for the company’s growth and her own growth as well. As such, she has adopted a speed-first approach to decision-making and action, in order to keep up with the company’s pace of growth.

Joy, seated on the left in picture

Another common thread is around constant learning and growth, enabled through an environment that was fast-moving but also allowed for a degree of experimentation and change.

Devi Aprilla (Devi), Senior Finance Manager in Indonesia, who was the fifth person to join the company in Indonesia is one such advocate of constant learning, ensuring that the company is always on the right track with compliance around finance, accounting, and tax regulations in Indonesia.

Chris Lu (Chris), Regional Head of Communications and Marketing, also shared that learning and adapting have always been a constant. He added: “Some of our internal communication activities that were built for 100 people had to scale as we grew to 300, 500 and 1,000, ensuring that everyone has equal access to information inside the company.”

Chris, seated on the far right of the picture

This allowance for learning and improvement also extends into country leadership. Lidyawati (Lidya), who started the company’s Indonesia operations and is Country Manager for Indonesia, shared that she is always trying to be flexible and open to change, especially when working for a startup. In order to do this, she is also always keeping herself aware of new trends and happenings in the industry, which played an important role in her growth journey with the company.

The phrase from a founder that made an impression on many: “Done is better than perfect”

A few have shared that a single phrase has resonated with them even six years later. The phrase was said by Kosuke Sogo, CEO and co-founder of AnyMind Group: “Done is better than perfect.”

“During the years, I understand that I should just do it. You will get better when you start to try to do it. And now I realize what Sogo-san mentioned to me at the beginning – Done is better than perfect,” shared Sunny.

The same was similarly echoed by Tripti. “Done is better than perfect. I think when Sogo-san initially mentioned this to me, I couldn’t get myself to actually be okay with this. As students, we always aim for perfection – the best version,” she said, and added: “When we’re in a fast-moving company, being perfect is good but speed is incredibly crucial and I fully comprehend this now.”

Tripti, seated on the right in picture

Turns out that the true definition of that phrase is to just try something out, learn along the way and improve from there.

This can-do attitude also extends to Joy, as she shared: “There may be many things that I have never done before joining AnyMind and might lack experience in some areas, but I would think of the ‘Can-Do’ mindset which often pushes me through difficult times and it can create great things in both my personal life and work life.”

How wearing multiple hats at the start helped some employees to grow

Working in an early-stage startup often means having to take on multiple roles within the company and learning the ropes of various business functions. Oftentimes, employees have to manage role ambiguity, learn as they go, and adapt as the company grows.

When Lidya first joined the company to start its Indonesia operations, she wore multiple hats – from sales and operations to hiring and administration. During this time, she also had to hone her leadership skills quickly as the team in Indonesia grew from a single person to 100 people today.

Lidya, dressed in light-colored clothing standing in the middle of the picture

She shared that communication is a vital skill she had built, as she has to provide the team with a clear direction to ensure the team is in line with the company’s goals, and added: “Aside from that, being persistent, flexible, and supportive to all the team and enjoying every process helped to shape me into a better version.”

Sunny and Tripti also held multiple roles in the company.

Tripti said: “Oh boy! I cannot begin to explain the roles I played initially when we were starting off! I adapted to any version the company needed me to adapt to and I have always been open to it. I still remember in the second month of running I was in all departments; helping set up the processes and operations. I have also done recruitment across all countries.”

Sunny shared with us about her early days as the only employee in the Taiwan office, where she had to hold multiple roles and set up various parts of the business. Uncertainty was a recurring theme in her first few months, but what she did was to constantly adapt herself to the rapid changes and grow together with the company.

Chris added that: “In the early days (when we were less than 30 or even 60 people), it was important to be highly flexible and adaptable as everyone’s work spanned multiple functions. As the company grew, this flexibility and adaptability were also important, but building out expertise in a certain area became important too.”

It’s not just about the perks and benefits

Our interviewees all had their own motivations when joining the company, but there must be a reason why our interviewees have stayed in the company for this long. There were some mentions about company benefits, but in a context where benefits were and are not the reason why they’ve stayed.

Riku shared: “In a good way, I never get bored and that’s why I love working at AnyMind. Watching reality shows like “The Apprentice” is fun, but it is incomparably more exciting working in this company. The feeling that you are building the company yourself as one of the main characters in this story is the best part!”

Devi shared about how she loves the company’s all-hands meetings, which are internal in-person events where all employees are flown to a specific market for a night of fun and insights into the direction of the company.

Devi, standing 2nd from right of the picture

However, the part Devi emphasizes is that: “Not all companies value their employees by giving them the opportunity to join this kind of event and provide the opportunity to meet face-to-face with teams from other countries. Rewarding employees, including giving awards and recognizing them for their hard work and contribution to the company is something special for me. Even though COVID-19 meant that we couldn’t hold such an event for the past two years, It’s still appreciation and recognition from the company that I love.”

Joy, whom many know loves the company, shared the exact same thing: “​​I love everything that is AnyMind. It might sound cheesy, but I really do think that AnyMind Group is like my second home and it has become a part of my life.”

She likens going to work as “working in another house,” a house that has to be expanded every two years due to the company’s growth and expansion. She added, “I am proud to be a part of this growth, therefore we must take good care of our company, just like taking good care of our house.”

In addition, Lidya and Sunny mentioned a few similar points, which are openness and diversity. These have been ingrained in the company since the beginning.

AnyMind Group’s founders pictured: Kosuke Sogo (left) and Otohiko Kozutsumi (right)

Purpose and learnings

For current and prospective members of the company, this group of early-stage employees has several pieces of advice and words of wisdom to share.

Chris shares that it is important to be open to new opportunities to learn and grow, including exploring new areas of the business and improving capabilities based on constructive feedback from peers, reports, and line managers. This is also similarly reflected in the responses by Lidya, Riku and Tripti.

Chris added: “Also, it’s important to find long-term purpose in what you do, and this way, you’ll be able to appreciate even the smallest wins and improvements to reach your long-term purpose.”

This focus on “purpose” was a point of emphasis by Sunny, as she shared: “Stay committed to your goals and light up your work with a positive purpose (no matter how minor your work may seem).” Her learnings over the years include not letting frustration drag her down, focusing on the tasks ahead of her and staying positive, and knowing the worth that she brings to herself, to others, and to the company.

Pictured in a 2018 managers’ bootcamp, Sunny on far left and Joy in the middle of the picture donning a limited edition AnyMind t-shirt (yes, that’s how much she loves the company)

Devi gave what seems like a scripted answer, but is in fact reflective of what was shared in this article from early-stage employees: “Achieve Together, Be Open, Move Faster, Be Bold and Stay Updated are very much what determines success In AnyMind. By applying the AnyMind values ​​in daily work, I think everyone can achieve success in the company.”

Being open and being bold are what many of our interviewees here have shared they did in their early days with the company, moving faster is reflective of the speed the company has operated, staying updated about what’s happening in the company and the industry helps employees to match the company’s speed, and achieving together is indicative of the teamwork early-stage employees had to do to help build the company.

Just the beginning

With our interviewees taking a reflective look at their time so far in the company, one thing is for certain: all of them have grown as professionals and as individuals, together with the company.

Since they joined, AnyMind Group has grown its headcount by over 15X. There will definitely be more stories to share from employees who have joined the company in the past six years, but all of us know that this is still just the beginning of a company that will continue to reach greater heights.

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