Deb Kan

Being Patient - Deborah Kan, Being Patient

In this episode, I speak with Deborah Kan about her work to build Being Patient. Born from her own need to understand the disease, Deborah called on her background as a journalist to build a platform to help bring clarity to the families of Alzheimer's about the challenges, research, and treatments.

While operational for less than a year, Deborah's community is already beginning to come together, and through this interview we dive into how she has approached the development (And delivery) of the content, how she is building community, and the importance of remaining impact focused.

To learn more about Being Patient, please see the links below.

"I really wish people would ask me how many lives have you helped today? how many people have you helped today? For me, that's a better measure of success."

About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

Through this series, we speak with Asia based entrepreneurs whose mission it is to bring solutions to the environmental, social, and economic challenges that are faced within the region to learn more about their vision, the opportunities they see, and challenges that they have had to overcome.

It is a series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organizations into action. To identify a challenge that is tangible, and build a business model (profit or non) that brings a solution to the market.

About Deborah Kan

Deborah Kan is a new media entrepreneur, media speaker and award-winning news anchor and journalist.

Executive Editor and Founder of Being Patient, she seeks to redefine health media by creating single-subject platforms around specific health topics. Being Patient is launching a news site this July solely dedicated to covering Alzheimer’s disease.

Kan was previously the Managing Editor for News Deeply’s Women & Girls, launched in partnership with the Gates Foundation. Women & Girls seeks to cover important female issues in the developing world, around health, education and crisis and conflict. Previously Executive Producer at the Wall Street Journal, Kan launched the Journal’s video and multi-media operation in Asia and grew it into a substantial operation, spanning nine countries throughout the region.

Follow Deb and Being Patient:

About Rich

Driven by the belief that change begins with a single step, Richard Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip those around him to take their first step. Acting as a catalyst to driving sustainability, Brubaker works with government, corporate, academic and non-profit stakeholders to bring together knowledge, teams, and tools that develop and execute their business case for sustainability.

Follow Rich

Contact Rich
[email protected]

Full Interview Transcript

RICH: And so welcome back everybody. I'm here with Deborah Kan, who is the founder of Being Patient. It is a new media company that is basically trying to help those with questions about Alzheimer's to answer those questions about he research. She trying to develop a community. It's really engaging and learning from a personal issue. So thank you very much for your time. Greatly appreciate it.

First off can you please briefly introduce yourself. Your personal history and then also what your working on now.

DEBORAH: Ok, so my name Deborah Kan. I'm the co-founder and actually, sorry again I'm the founder and executive editor of Being Patient. Being Patient is a media company, a health media company where we are building single subject platforms on longer term illness to really go deep into a topic and give people the right type of in formation they need that is completely editorially independent.

RICH: Great, so how did you get into this. Like what's your personal background and what drove you to start this new company?

DEBORAH: So, I was an editor at the Wall Street Journal and worked there for quite a few years. I was responsible for video and multimedia in Asia and building out the video operation. At that time, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I didn't know much about Alzheimer's. I actually didn't really have any contact with Alzheimer's other than friends who had told me their grandparent or their parents had suffered from the disease. So I didn't' really know a lot about the disease. I did what most people do which is to do a simple Google search and found that that lead to actually more confusion around making sense of where this disease is at, where the research is, is there going to be a cure? All of that information I found it very hard to figure out on one page. It was like you would get bits and pieces.

So I decided...actually I didn't have..I started to call people as a journalist would and I was calling researchers. I was calling all sorts of people and asking them questions about this disease and I ended up mapping it out. I mapped the pathology of the disease and I started to plug in information that I had found out through talking to so many people. I learned very quickly a lot that wasn't readily available to me or in a comprehensive way.


RICH: What was the problem? You said you had pieces. I mean everything's on the internet, it's all available. Is it just too much? Too conflicting?

DEBORAH: Part of the problem is there is too much information out there and it's hard. We've almost lost the ability to give people basic information and knowledge. Instead we just grab articles and they come at you so quickly, right? I found, especially when you're talking about a disease that doesn't presently have a cure, there's so much research out there but there is a lot of contradictions. That's what makes it really difficult. For example, one research study would say drink two glasses of wine it's actually really good for your brain. It clears the plaque from your brain. It offsets the onset of Alzheimer's. Then you'd have another study that says don't drink at all it's really bad for your brain.

That's how main stream media will cover these topics because they are not in these topics deeply, right? They're covering them on occasion. So it leads to a lot of confusion. What I found is there was no one who was making clarity of the topics. So with that example, there's actually a lot of differences in those studies, right? There's the difference in demographics. There's the difference in location. There's the difference in you know how they were measuring drinking. There's just a lot of differences.

So our editorial approach is actually one where we give people the information we feel is necessary in the context of where the disease is at.


RICH: In that sense you mentioned the demographic of some of these studies are always different, so for example. Would you say that in a sense you have to make your way through the information knowing the context of your own, say your mother, being from a certain place at a certain age of a certain ethnicity, like the different biometrics. Is that helpful sothat you can make your way through? How are you trying to make sure that people get the right context for their situation.

DEBORAH: Ok what we are doing is creating an entirely different media model. Prior to launching Being Patient, I spent almost a year just surveying the community of patients and caregiver, primary care doctors and researchers. Understanding where information was failing people and depending on who you spoke to, the case was you know most of the patient care giver population were angry at their primary care doctors because they felt like they weren't getting the time and the information they needed to truly understand.

I mean you get a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, it impacts the entire family. It's not just the patient. How do I deal with this disease? Is there going to be a cure? Where is this disease and what does this mean? How does it present itself. So we mapped where information was failing people. The researchers for example told us that they didn't have enough connectivity to the care giving population. The caregivers hold a wealth of information to them. So there there...when we mapped all this out in the information problems, we found a lot of it was connectivity. It was addressing the right type of information.

So actually what we've done is we have a constant feedback loop. We not only go out to groups that we've aligned ourselves with now to tell them that we're there, but we go into their forums and we say, give us your questions and we'll get the answers. So our editorial directive actually comes from a community of people in need of information where they are directing us on the topics they want to know about rather than us telling them what they should know about.

RICH: How do you do that? Like what is the best medium for people to learn and feel like they are getting the right answers, but also in a way, like....

DEBORAH: Well, and that's why we feel like what we do is we're explaining the research to people in a very digestible way. I mean part of the problem, and what we've found interestingly enough, people...a lot of people assume that oh when you're in a disease like Alzheimer's people don't care about the research unless you have answers so what's the point. But what I have actually found is that's not true. People do care. They care, but they don't understand, right? And so there is no place they go where they can, where they feel like that makes sense now, now I understand it. So we produce a lot of our own content, but some of it is aggregated. When we aggregate content, we always put our editorial know we always put context around it. So, you know when we feel like there is more explanation that's needed, when there is context needed and how it relates to the disease or what aspect or how science is approaching this, that is where we are providing the context.

RICH: How important is it for people of this community to see people that they recognize from their own challenge, but then also have access to the doctors that make...can they ask you questions and you can then ask them?

DEBORAH: Absolutely and that's one of the things we do. We call it "you ask we got the answer." So,and you know you mentioned a gentleman with early onset named Brian ______ he is featured in a podcast that we've created. The reason why we're featuring stories of patient and caregivers and hence the name Being Patient, is I've often feel like a huge conversation exists about how health and a disease like Alzheimer's. But the patient's voice is often in the background. So I felt it's really important to not only elevate what their need is for information, but elevate their voice into the conversation on health. So, it's this happy marriage between giving people a platform to tell their stories, but also giving them the answers to the information that they are seeking.


RICH: How did your background as a reporter help to you know...what tools were you bringing to this that were just immediately...I'm going to do this, I'm gong to do this so you can start to build that platform.

DEBORAH: So I think a couple of things. One was you know I've always been very entrepreneurial and I've only worked in the context of big companies for launches. So years ago I was hired to launch/start TVs first English news cast and that was a whole launch. Later, I went to Thomson Reuters to launch Reuters Insiders. Which is a proprietary financial news channel for Reuters. Then I was hired by the Journal to launch the whole video operation in Asia, which didn't really exist. So I have always been extremely comfortable taking nothing and turning it into something.

I...when I was at the Journal and I was realizing there was a huge opportunity in health that wasn't being addressed and I was experiencing that first hand, I kept thinking that this was the...this was something I wanted to do. This was something I could do because it was an information problem and I know how to solve information problems. Interestingly enough, I never worked out of the context of a big company, so in the year where I was formulating how to do this, I worked with this company called News Deeply. They build single subject news platforms and I launched in partnership with the Gates Foundation a whole platform on woman and girls in the developing world.

So that actually gave me that year, gave me the skills that I needed to fill in I've always worked for organizations tat had huge followings and huge platforms for me to address the content, but now when we launched Woman and Girls, I learned quickly how you cultivate a community around a topic and bring them to your platform. So that was hugely useful.

RICH: So you get to play a little bit with somebody else's issues that you were....and bring those skill sets and learn through that.

DEBORAH: Yeah. Completely. It taught me a lot. You know that's in part, I'm very grateful to News Deeply because our model is a little bit different from what they are building, but it really taught me about how you get people on your platform and you engage them through information.


RICH: I mean you have Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, a blog and a podcast. What are some of the lessons you've learned about how you bring them onto the platform and are you trying to get them onto all 6? Or are there a major one? What are some of the tactics you've learned through this?

DEBORAH: You can't get them all, all there at one come. But what you can do, you can engage them on one that will hopefully turn into unique views onto the other one. But what we've learned quickly is, you know what's been amazing to me is the huge amount of support I've gotten. We're only two months old. The thing I wasn't expecting was the scientific community has really rallied behind me and a lot of the associations have because what I'm giving to the equation is something they're not given, which is really credible good content that's editorially independent.

So what I've learned is those people, you have similar intentions, right? Our intention is to get better information to people. I'm the content creator. They have a platforms with huge followings. So it's the ability to have them incubate you and so I become a content creator almost to help some of these organizations. Therefore, growing my base. But I think with media in general, it's like you need to have a clear cut strategy, but you're not going to're not going to be everything to everyone. It's just impossible.


RICH: That's actually....cuz a lot of people would run into the fire right now and try and do it all. It sounds like you're guarded in a sense like you don't want to dilute the quality of the content and maybe fail....what are some of the things you struggle with in terms of how fast you go? You must want to answer these questions for people as fast as possible, but also make sure that you do it in the right way for them because it is such a personal thing. What are some of those balances at?

DEBORAH: This is where we are at right now. We are putting, I mean we are only two months old, right? In some ways it's a really fun time because we are testing different things. But again, we're going to let the community tell us which direction to go in. What works, you know then that's the direction we are headed into. The Q & A, what we're trying to build right now is my instinct from people asking...we're already being viewed as an authority on the matter so people are automatically sending us questions. I got a message from a reader who wanted me..asking us if we knew of any scientific studies on a specific herb that he used that really helped with his mother's hallucinations, right? You know, right away we got an answer.

So it's that type of connectivity and having people view us as a credible source to give them good, reliable information. There's surprisingly a lot of mistrust in this space. I think that's along the lines to look at fake news, not so much fake news. It's not so much blatant fake news, but what you do believe and what you don't you. What's attached? Like everything we report on is attached to a credible study. We're not going to put anything out there that maybe someone thinks this works, but who knows. It has to have a substantial study attached to it.


RICH: Then how do you think from a business model, the media system right now is really struggling to find its next business model. How does this dynamic challenge you or how is that your opportunity going forward?

DEBORAH: Well, I have a approached this and whether it's right or the wrong way to do it is I'm not going to be specific about my business model until I know exactly what's working. So we have, I have a great...I have several great advisors we're on the phone probably with one of them every day. We're hashing out different scenarios. For me though, my mission is to leave the information free and open to all. I don't want to put it behind a lock and key. I want people to have access to this information.

One of the things we are modeling out is, is there a room for a premium model for this where we enhance that connectivity through virtual and live events. But again, we're so early that I'm very much focused on growing the traffic and understanding what's working before I say this is our business model.

RICH: How do you know it's working? Is it because the website numbers are going up? Because you get more questions.

DEBORAH: Yes. All of the above. So what we're tracking is we are tracking how many likes and followers we get. We're tracking how people are utilizing our content. How many subscribers we're getting for our emails. It's early days, but I have to say that I had the instinct that there was a huge need and the numbers are proving that. Our growth is incredibly healthy for a two month old company. Yeah, I mean we're you know, we're plowing the course. You know we are seeing on a weekly basis about an 8-10% growth. In media numbers, that's huge. But again, we're still early days. So is that great sustainable? I think it is and I hope it is. So we will see.


RICH: Last question. What's success for you? As you look out. I know you are only two months old, but....what's success for you?

DEBORAH: I'm so glad you asked that question because I was having this conversation with my husband and I say you know the weird thing about being an entrepreneur is the first thing people ask you is what's your business model? What's your business model? You know, I never got into this to make a billion dollars. That's the farthest thing from my mind. I get frustrated sometimes because I'm confronted all the time with what's your business model? How are you going to modernize this? I really wish people would ask me how many lives have you helped today? How many people have you helped today? For me, that's a better measure of success. It's not, it's not oh are you are you going to turn this into the next unicorn. Maybe you're not supposed to say that as an entrepreneur, but it's truly how I feel. I'm not doing this to be the next unicorn. I'm doing this because there is an entire population of people who need better information.

So if I can change just a percentage of those people and make it a better place for them when they're going through a disease, along term illness such as Alzheimer's, then I think that's success.

For more interviews from the "Entrepreneurs for Good" series, check out the playlist here.

Stay tuned for more clips and full interviews in the coming weeks.

Jack Sim

Building Awareness, Trust, and Toilets | Jack Sim, World Toilet Organization

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organization, the "other" WTO.

More than happy to talk shit, pun intended, Jack's mission of ensuring the world has access to toilets is dependent on our ability to openly talk about the problems.

It is an interview that I came away with a much greater understanding of the importance of awareness, and some key tips about creating engagement on even the most difficult of topics.

Jack is a force to be reckoned with, and the world is better place for it!

What matters is your intention. Which has to come out very very clearly, and when people understand your intention they start to trust you.

About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

Through this series, we speak with Asia based entrepreneurs whose mission it is to bring solutions to the environmental, social, and economic challenges that are faced within the region to learn more about their vision, the opportunities they see, and challenges that they have had to overcome.

It is a series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organizations into action. To identify a challenge that is tangible, and build a business model (profit or non) that brings a solution to the market.

About Jack

Founder of World Toilet Organization (WTO), has been a successful businessman since age 24. Having achieved financial success in his 40s, Jack felt the need to change his direction in life and give back to humanity – he wanted to live his life according to the motto “Live a useful life”. Jack soon left his business and embarked on a journey that saw him being the voice for those who cannot speak out and fighting for the dignity, rights and health for the vulnerable and poor worldwide.

Jack discovered that toilets were often neglected and grew concerned that the topic was often shrouded in embarrassment and apathy; talking toilets was taboo! Jack felt this led to the neglect of restrooms island wide. In 1998, he established the Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) whose mission was to raise the standards of public toilets in Singapore and around the world.

It soon became clear that there were no channels available to bring these organisations together to share information, resources and facilitate change. There was a lack of synergy. As a result, in 2001, Jack founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) and four years later, the World Toilet College (WTC) in 2005.


About Rich

Driven by the belief that change begins with a single step, Richard Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip those around him to take their first step. Acting as a catalyst to driving sustainability, Brubaker works with government, corporate, academic and non-profit stakeholders to bring together knowledge, teams, and tools that develop and execute their business case for sustainability.

Follow Rich

Contact Rich
[email protected]

Full Interview Transcript

RICH: Welcome back everybody. We are here with Jack Sim from the WTO. That's the World Toilet Organization. Just had a phenomenal conversation about the importance of communication and why now is the time to talk about poop. So please join us. Jack, thank you very much for your time. This has been phenomenal.


RICH: Thank you very much for your time. Give me a brief introduction about yourself and the WTO.

JACK: My name is Jack Sim. I am the founder of the World Toilet Organization. I created the WTO because the subject of toilet and sanitation was so taboo and neglect that they call it what the agenda. Which, doesn't make sense.


RICH: What's the big problem that Asia is facing with sanitation?

JACK: The main immediate thing we want to talk about immediately is about the 2.5 billion people who do not have toilets. So why can't we talk about a preventative medicine that is so effective that you don't really have to need so much hospital and nurses and doctors, which is very expensive. Just prevent them from having the disease first by washing their hands, about flushed toilet, not having the flies spread it and by not polluting the river.

So this is the beginning.

RICH: Is it getting better? Are people talking about it? Are there parts of Asia that are talking about it? Are there parts that won't talk about it?

JACK: I think that in the last 18 years since the founding of the WTO, the media has loved this subject so much. So this romance of the love with the global media has been the biggest change because the media legitimized the subject. So every time we talk about it, they write about it and part of it is also about this unique blend of humor and serious facts.


RICH: When you started, what were some of the conversations like? Were they really difficult back then, or was did you find the right people to get started?

JACK: In the beginning the guys get very excited because they always want to talk about toilet and their wives always stopping them. Then the wives like, can we talk about something else? Then after while they start to realize the serious facts that ey, this is so important and then everybody talks about it.

RICH: When you were setting up the meetings, setting up the conversations, were there certain things that you realized that this is a good time? They are saying things that make me feel like its okay start talking? At that level?

JACK: So actually you should be able to talk about it in relation with any subject because toilet is so intimate for the person. You can talk about how, that is a very good starting point. How you teach the children to toilet train. You can even talk about your dogs. You can begin the conversation that then slowly you can talk about subject matter itself. But you can also talk about other people like the poor. You can talk about the enormous crisis that is going on in the pollution. I think depending on the person, is a very environment friendly person you can talk about the river. Then it all comes back.


RICH: You get the conversation going, but the reality is conversation is different than toilets on the ground. How do you maintain a long-term focus when you're having short term conversations all the time?

JACK: I think if you are creating a ___3:55 you're not calculation what you will do. You are calculating what everybody will do. So the politicians are really, really gaining a lot of popularity votes and power by helping toilets to be build. People need it. Why would they do that if? Because then the people that they need it because upstream there was a driving of the man to the media talking about importance of toilets. Once they plant that seed in the head, hmmmm, we need to talk about toilet. It's so important. I think we need to improve that. It is dirty. That is not satisfactory.

It has to become unhappy and then the unhappiness drives the demand. The demand drives the supply. The vendors, the business man, the politician, the movie stars, the academy, the media...everybody take away something good for themselves. In the end, toilet gets built on the ground.


RICH: Early on you were very successful. You retired at 40. What are the skills that you too into the WTO that you could think would be the most important for you?

JACK: It's the communication skills. So when you are doing business you are actually selling products, but you are in nonprofit organization, you are selling ideas and selling incentive. So it is very similar what we do in business of course is the individual communication as well so the graphics, the visuals. The things that we promote the product with is very similar to the nonprofit sector. The fact that I don't earn any money, don't draw any salary from doing this work, that also give a lot of creditability that people now ok, this guy is not getting something out of it. Altruism breeds a lot of following.


RICH: Why do you believe that being altruistic brings you more credibility verses more profit? Because people use profit as a yard stick for business, but why is it altruism for nonprofit? Why cant it be impact for profit?

JACK: You can do that social enterprise and those models are pretty good. What matters is your intention and your intention has to come out very clearly and when people understand your intention, they start to trust you. See the difference between business and social work is that in business, you only kill all your competitors. You want to be the number one. In social work, you want to kill the problem. Therefore, you want as many competitors as possible to finish up this job. But if you are still thinking everybody stop, you don' save the world I save the world then something is crazy about your head, right?

So if you are in the social sector, you should let go no pun intended of what ever you try to hold to yourself and don't think about yourself so much, but think about the mission and you invite everybody. That's a beautiful destination lets go there together. People say I like it and then they join you. They also bring others and others join them. So a movement has no real need. It is a belief a system very near like a religion.


RICH: So how easier or difficult do you find it to collaborate with a lot of groups? I run an NGO myself, people are still competitive. People still want their brand. They still want their award. How have you found that process and how do you break through those people who want to hold on for themselves?

JACK: Trying to be famous is actually very self defeating because you come out here to do this work not because you want to be famous. You want to solve a problem. So the paparazzi, the awards, the recognition, the sadist, it is for the mission and if you always remember that everything that is visible is not about you, it is about the mission, then you are clean and your light weight and people trust you. Once you start to think that all the things about you are, then you're sick in the head and you start to shut down all the mission and you pin yourself in a corner and no one is going to believe you anymore because you are just an egomaniac.

I think to overcome that myths is a lot of self reflection to remind yourself don't enjoy it to much. What is that for? For the mission and that is the right answer and you keep doing that. I've seen a lot of police actually doing a lot of good and after a while this fame and status all this going to their head and it's so sad.


RICH: I 've been talking about this for a while. Social entrepreneurialism as a theme became very hot about 8-10 years ago and really 5-8 in North Asia. A lot of people shifted from the mission to winning awards. You said it's very sad people you've seen. When you see someone go from mission to little bit more ego to ego maniac, how does that impact the way that they look at their organization? Why is it sad? What do you see happening that you see when that happens in their organization?

JACK: A lot of my colleagues actually enter into depression. The reason is that they could not detach themselves from the mission and the mission becomes themselves. Once they are unable to feed their hunger and cravings for being recognized, then its like a movie star who doesn't have a movie for the last 3 years and they enter depression. It's no good.

The important thing is to go back to those Zen practice like detachment, know that the Chinese have a woo war, you know that means no me. Those kind of things of course is important but for me to reach a very, very high level of that is to always conscious you are insignificant, but just a tool to do this work. If you start to do that, people like to use you as a tool, it is much better.


RICH: What if you were 28yo who was entering this space for the firs time. You're developing your first idea for solving the same challenge. They're going to be looking for a little bit of awareness because they need a megaphone to tell people who their idea is better. What advice would you give to them as they are starting out now that you believe would help them long term?

JACK: Basically just two dominate feeling in a human being. One is love and the other is fear. If you love you start to give people love, you start to look at problems and just authentically address it. What will happen is that the reward comes immediately to you in the sense that you are very joyful because you are consciousness is opening up. So you're heart is starting to open up and you feel very happy about yourself. Nobody is giving this award, just you are making yourself happy.

Now if you are grabbing, grabbing attention, grabbing money, grabbing materials stuff, power, then you're consciousness start to narrow and you become very miserable because you are always have to get something. But if you don't get anything, then you will eel so happy and then young people are starting to understand this because they have no money because so they go to the spiritual journey. A lot of them if they don't give up and become good, they can of course get paid and get a salary out of it, but it is the meaning that rewards you so much more.

Nobody gives you that meaning, just yourself. You are the one who gives yourself.

RICH: Have you ever questions yourself along this journey and gotten a little bit lost and lost the meaning?

JACK: Sometime when I talk to bureaucrats and they kind of say no, I like why am I doing this? I'm trying to good and it's supposed to be his job and he says no all the time. But after a while I get used to it.


RICH: How do you get over a shitty, you know month and no, no, no no. You start questioning yourself. What do you do to reset and to get back on track?

JACK: I remind myself that I don't have much days to live so I'm 61. I budget myself to die at 80 exactly on my birthday. Of course not going to kill myself, I have to budget just like you budget your dollars every year for your company. I have thought right now about 6,800 days which is just less than 1,000 weeks and so this time is very precious. If I don't use this time and I go home to relax and watch television, then I'm not contributing while it's still possible.

So I think that is my biggest motivator because every day is one day less. So I want to use every day in the most meaningful way and toilets is one of them.


RICH: Does that mean that you spend every waking moment working on these challenges or do you have 8 hours a day for toilets, 2 hours for meditation and health, 3 hours for do you try and have a holistic life or are you really mission focus for your whole awake day?

JACK: Yeah, it's mission driven every day 7 days a week. I wake up until night time. Then in between I kind of steal a could hours to have a secret affair with my wife and to spend some time driving the kids and talking to them in the car and then going to the next appointment. It's not a sacrifice. I think you should show children how to be a good human being. You can't teach them, you can only show them.


RICH: Tell me, what is your vision for the next 25 years of sanitation? What do you hope will be accomplished?

JACK: In the next 20-25 years every single human being on earth will have a toilet that is clean, safe and the excrement is treated and doesn't pollute the river and the waterways. People would not be sick because of hygiene issues. I think people will talk about toilets in a very normal way just like we are talking about food and drinks.

RICH: Thank you very much for your time. It's been great.

For more interviews from the "Entrepreneurs for Good" series, check out the playlist here.

Stay tuned for more clips and full interviews in the coming weeks.

Steve Jiang

The Power of Story to Change Minds | Steven Jiang

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with filmmaker Steven Jiang about his work to capture the lives of Chinese living with Tourette Syndrome

Steven Jiang, is the absolute embodiment of what it means to be an entrepreneur for Good, and he is not really an entrepreneur.

He has no business model for his work, and he is not trying to sell a product, but he is picking up the tools that he has to fix a problem that he sees and doing something about it.

More than many other interviews I have done to date, Steven's attitude, grit, and the way he attacked the challenge, is an amazing inspiration.

Be prepared to be inspired, and if you are, please remember to like, share, and comment.


How can you laugh at us? We are just like you. What you can do, we can do.
What you can achieve, we can achieve.
- Steven Jiang, Filmmaker

About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

Through this series, we speak with Asia based entrepreneurs whose mission it is to bring solutions to the environmental, social, and economic challenges that are faced within the region to learn more about their vision, the opportunities they see, and challenges that they have had to overcome.

It is a series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organizations into action. To identify a challenge that is tangible, and build a business model (profit or non) that brings a solution to the market.

About Rich

Driven by the belief that change begins with a single step, Richard Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip those around him to take their first step. Acting as a catalyst to driving sustainability, Brubaker works with government, corporate, academic and non-profit stakeholders to bring together knowledge, teams, and tools that develop and execute their business case for sustainability.

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Full Interview Transcript

Hi, my name is Steven Jiang. I'm a videographer and cinematographer here in Shanghai. I've been living in Shanghai for 10 years. Beside my job I got a lifetime companion. It's called Tourette Syndrome. Last year I spent a year filming, editing my very first documentary serious. It's called the happiness of Tourette Syndrome.


Tourette Syndrome, I'm not a doctor but basically based on my understanding it's a neurological problem that causes people to do involuntary movements which they call tics.

First these two types of tics. It's a motor tic and a fawning tick, which is basically called a vocal tic. It sometimes bothers people because we do it involuntarily where it is uncontrollable. We can control it in a certain amount of time, but after this control and where we'll get them released. So when we do the tic, actually this...some part of our muscle or whatever it feels sore or a little bit uncomfortable. That's why we use tic to release this un-comfortableness. So that's why we do the tic all the time.


Yeah, I mean every day ... mean my Tourette Syndrome is not that severe. But, I first know sometimes every month I saw people with Tourette Syndrome. Also I face which, maybe it's called a so-so stigmatization and people have missed a misunderstanding about it. Because people are ignorant of Tourette Syndrome.

If you ask a hundreds of Chinese people, youngsters, you know educated, whatever, they know nothing. But they know ADHD, they know OCD, but they don't know Tourette's. So that's a problem.

For me the most insulting behavior, um the word is, they mimic me. They copy me. I wanted to makes noise and they were makes noise. Someone asked me did you hear you are like a frog Craig, or something? But, yeah I mean there were two reasons. Maybe, maybe it's my tic sounds really like a frog. So they just do you think well, what is a frog in here or maybe they know is it's my tic, but I don't' know what's going on. They just, they're just too fun. So I basically, this is something about, I know this case can be worse, like even people, the thing you bother them and they asked no reason. They think you're weirdo.


We are very sensitive about how people look at me sometimes. I mean, I don't think it's good because some if you've get over sensitive, and you will mess up all this friendly behavior.

Sometimes you just look at you. It's care. Either you too sensitive ,I think while they heck you look at me? So this is something that I told my friends with Tourette Syndrome, don't go extreme. Because again, it confuse us that, these ignorant people should be forgiven. They're ignorant. Why don't you just, just be tourists? They know nothing. Just don't fight with them. Yeah.


Even if your kids had Tourette Syndrome, it's ok for them to be phenomenal. Even our kids have Tourette Syndrome. If we have good education, if we know the trust an old properly, the tics can be healed before or after adolescence. Then there's a fewer. Why don't you see tangle with this because they don't want to spend time to study the hardcore... I mean the essence of Tourette Syndrome. They still think it's AIDS. This is something really awful.

So that's the thing to be sad about. That's the thing I want to change you know? Even I'm a little individual. I mean my documentary is not a blockbuster. It's not a boom, a week and billions of hits. No. It needs time to empower. To let people, to elect people to ignite people's heart.

It's a film that you should watch with your friends, with a relative. So It's something....I'm not so hassled to wait for the outcome because I'm sure others not perfect, but I think it's possible the best one-man crew documentary I saw in China. I mean I'm confident about that.

A lot of people say, don't do it alone. I say ok, I only have 60,000 how can I have a crew? And if I bring a crew, this heroes they don't think they don't feel comfortable. Like the girl a mother would never quarry, fine with me. So there have to be one man crew. They have to but again those have two sides, coins have two sides. London crew has it's own disadvantage, but also it gives you the advantage. But that you are so close with them.


I used to be a cartoonist. An illustrator and also a probeist...I mean taking photos with strobes and finally I found myself. I still love something...the motions.

Then that's why I became a videographer and I learned from the tutorials. Thanks for my knowledge about English because this tutorial is that, there's no in Chinese subtitle, but they usually force myself to use English software with Photoshop, Premier Adobe, whatever because you learned lingo and jargons with the software.

You don't have to learn, you don't go to freakin English first to study about it, you know? This software gave you all the professional terms. Also and I think this my lighting skills with taking photos with strobes, helps me with I think this strobe lighting tech excuse or the techniques, but similar very similar to the lighting skills in a film. Just two different lights.

My camera is simple. I only have two camera. One camera is Canon Cinema 100. It's a professional camera, but it doesn't have slow-motion functions. So Sad. But it's a professional camera and it's a light, portable. Because I'm a one-man crew, so I can't, I cant take huge camera. Also, the price for that camera is affordable.

Also a second camera is called backup camera. It is a Cannon 60D...just like the, you know the LR camera. I use it for cam laugh or some other angle with do the interview, whatever. So and a tripod, a monopod and also a slider.

That's why I say I travel with three cities...with three packages. This is not...I think it's almost nearly twenty kilos or something. It's so heavy, but again you know the power is sometimes I do, I did in the middle way I want to equate. You know it's.. I'm not a hero, you know? I'm an ordinary people. Sometimes why do I do I do this, nobody pay me You know like I think it's out of the love and a care of the Tourettesy. If everybody knows Tourettes like what American people did and Canada did, there's no need for me to make the documentary.

So Every time I think about is sad stories that there are companions of facing. Think about the ignorant people I mean, they need to be educated. I don't think in my film will change every Chinese People to think about, you know? And also now there are still some people insulting my film. They think it's a tragedy for Tourette kids. I don't care about it. So sometimes you have to be stopped in a good way.

I think everybody has a small universe inside your heart and this stubborn idea or stubbornness what figure out is a small universe. And you will possibly, you make you do some behavior that this behavior will exactly will influence people we'll ignite a society and maybe it would even change the world.

You can't say I'm a small person and I'm just individual I can't do nothing.


I choose heroes because I said there was all about 50 or 60 people like a candidate. I found that some of candidate their stories really sad. So again, I saying what kid of team what kid of color I wanna give my film. It's kind of warm. It's not like kind of dark and black because I found, not every...even most of the Trans people in mainland China are facing problems. But I don't want my film to show they're really kind of desperate kind of people.

Although I choose this person these four heroes, they have trauma, but they overcame their trauma. Or they can work with the trauma pretty well. So like the first episode is a guy from Taiwan. He's 37year old flower arranger artist, called a florist. His syndrome is the worst one. The most severe one. He was crazy. He was yelling out all the time. But he was the first Asian florist, who win the number one French, like a flower arranging competition.

The hardcore message from him is to be yourself. Do not let others people's opinion judge you. Everybody is different individual, even though you have Tourette Syndrome, just let it go. He never covered his syndrome. Sometimes I covered it sometimes in an appropriate location, whatever. But you see in a film where he was doing flower things. When he's teaching students. He releasing this all the time.

But this thing can be an advantage because interviews are some of his students and said well I like the tic of my teacher because the most of the flower teachers are really boring, monotonous. When he do oohh, it's funny because sometimes you tired and a tic makes us wake up. So he didn't notice, but his students find well this is a characteristic of my teacher. So, although some people say well maybe he say well the God or whatever it seems like a challenge for him, or unfair treatment, but it's good because he never take himself as a patient. Because the story we have specific term for the actors, heroes.

So also there is a British woman, I think her name is Jessica, something. Her name is Jessica. She have a website. It's called To So I think this person who dare to stand out and behave...relieve their tic in front of my camera continuously for month, it's really encourages act, you know? I don't think every Tourette sufferer or Tourette friend, they have this, these guts to do so. For me, they are my hero. They are a true hero because people tend to cover their trauma. They don't want to relieve that's trauma. To let billions of Chinese people know I have Tourette Syndrome. I mean in America, maybe in England, the situation got better, but here in China, mainland China this is really courageous.


There are two hopes for Tourette sufferers here in China. I hope that this film is a bit to give them strength and power to face the situation, even if incurable. There is no cure for it. That mean you are not sentenced to die. You're not into a life sentence.

So every coin has two sides. Tourette has this awful side of it, everybody knows, but also has this beauty. But you have to find out a beauty through whatever you can do. Don't get beaten by us. Because if you've gotten beaten by us, the true ego will be killed. So just be yourself. Tell the world I am Tourette's. I have Tourette Syndrome.


Sooner or later people will type of Tourette Syndrome on YouTube or whatever. Actually want I want to see is not see how sorrow we are is the real situation and justlike me years ago. I click Tourette Syndrome on YouTube. I don't want to see how American Tourette

people feel. Like I honestly can I get some strengths. Is there a cure? We are looking for a cure, not a medical cure, but a spiritual cure.

If I show this sad photos and there it will quench their fire. They have a little fire inside. They have a little universe inside. These negative images will destroy them. So I don't want to give them this kind of impression. So that's why I even used the poster I found a good illustrator. So she made a painting of this, this for heroes and just tell them this....I'll give them hope. Like the last episode that hero was the only hero doesn't have Tourette Syndrome. Her kid has Tourette Syndrome.

So this 33 year old woman, she healed her kids not through medicine, through love. Through behavior training and also this mental training so she's Tourette Syndrome gone. And then people said, well she can stop because you try a lot of effort and your son is covered. You go, just do whatever you want. But she kept writing blog. She writes 8 years, hadn't read diary for...record every second every minute.

She's almost like a doctor, but she doesn't have any medical background. And then she become profession blogger writing a blog, almost 900 articles to write about Tourette Syndrome. Not only diagnosis of Tourette kids, but also or every aspect to care, the maternal relationship, everything. And this year she is going to release her book. She is a blogger.

So in this episode, I give the people the answer, but how Tourette Syndrome inform you. How you should face Tourette Syndrome and how women changed her life and career out of the love of her Tourette kids. In the end she said someone else ask her why don't you stop? No one pay you. She said I feel I have a kind of like an agreement with Tourette's, with little Tourette angels and my mission is to tell these parents of these little angels that your job is to take care of this special angel. Do not blame them. It's not their fault. It's your fault because the key to help your children with Tourette Syndrome is you. It's not a medicine.


For the masses. The majority of the people in China, it's like I want to trigger out the empathy, not sympathy because Tourette's is not a handicap. Is like a body infection. Everybody has trauma. Everybody has "Tourette's" in some ways.

How can you laugh at us? We are just like you. What you can do, we can do. What you can achieve, we can achieve. Even we do better when Mozart, he had Tourette Syndrome. There are some American athletes, they have Tourette's. And you know there was a movie called The Front of the Class and Brad Coyne was the writer. Also the hero in that film, he was a teacher. It was the best teacher in that state.

We have Tourette heroes all around the world. So we are just like everybody. So just, and also for the ordinary people,
again for this film, Tourette's is just clothes. It's just a dress. Inside the bone is how people dealing with the trauma.

How you deal with the problem. Everybody has a problem. That's why some people after the premier, after they see my video launched online, this ordinary friends, they told me hey...I saw myself in some of the episode.

They say right. You have problem, but you don't have Tourette's.

That's why you give me the feedback. That's the thing along my documentary is..there are still some problems there. I'm not happy with this, it is not a perfect one, but I think it's missed what document the documentary spirit need to make people think.

To make people reflect even to make people change. Yeah

For more interviews from the "Entrepreneurs for Good" series, check out the playlist here.

Stay tuned for more clips and full interviews in the coming weeks.

Sustainable Tech

Developing and Scaling Sustainable Tech in China

With the size of economic, social and environmental challenges growing at a scale and scope that can shatter limits set by global governments, Mother Nature and society, sustainable tech will become the gauge by which we analyze resource levels, measure system performance, identify efficiencies, curb consumption and influence stakeholders to make better decisions.

We are already seeing the results in a number of areas, and the gains made by streamlining our lifestyles and systems to increase efficiency is a win-win for both individuals and the environment around us.

Food & Agriculture
Over the past 30 years, China has experienced rapid levels of urbanization and its citizens have become richer.  But the trade-off has been depletion in arable land while structural inefficiencies in the food value chain have made it difficult to provide safe, accessible and affordable food to the market.

With available arable land diminishing and what little there is of it increasingly over utilized, one solution that can boost production in order to meet demand is aquaculture and hydroponic systems .   Alesca Life Technology is an example of a firm taking the next step forward, through the adaptive re-use of shipping containers where food can be grown within the proximity of urban centers.  Another example is Oceanethix, whose urban aquaculture process can turn any warehouse or retail center into a highly productive, environmentally clean, and transparent fish farm.

As China lurches from one food safety scandal to another, it is clear that consumer confidence has deteriorated and changes are being demanded to improve and introduce sustainable practice. Using smartphone applications and online solutions, consumers can now easily scan and receive information regarding products’ life cycles. Shenzhen Vanch and IBM group are among those who have invested in traceability systems in China, a lucrative business opportunity that also gives consumers peace of mind.

There is also tech progress being made at other steps along the supply chain . For example, the introduction of drones that leverage advanced sensors, low-cost aerial camera platforms and autopilot capabilities can give farmers the ability to view their crops from above, detect and assess irrigation issues, pest infestations, plant health and provide soil analysis.  Tech products provided by companies such as DJI innovations and Ehang are now being used by hundreds of farms across China.

New graph 2-01

While it has made great strides in improving the quality of life for its 1.5 billion residents, China’s healthcare system has seen increased pressure to meet the size, scale and speed required for the country’s urbanized population.  This pressure increases by the day as China’s elderly population grows, and its residents transition into an urban lifestyle that includes higher levels of processed foods and lower activity levels.

To overcome the challenges faced, the government predictably made investments in hospitals, equipment purchases, and in training medical professionals. However there are a number of areas where technology has already proven itself in improving the accessibility, affordability, and quality of healthcare in China . In response to the long-standing problem of vast queues and growing inefficiencies in Chinese hospitals, solutions to cut the time spent at the hospital have grown popular. Guahao, a leading mobile app in this space, connects patients with doctors, allowing users to search for physicians in their geographic location and book appointments.

At the other end of the spectrum is personalized medicine. In response to the lack of trust between patients and doctors, medical tech companies offer a more personalized approach to healthcare where consumers can “shop for doctors”, review their qualifications, and contact them instantly . Tech has also become an important element in preventative medicine and one of the biggest trends these days is wearable medical devices.  Once luxury items for sports enthusiasts, for many people wearables are now becoming a part of daily life and may soon present an opportunity to improve quality care at the personal level. Many see this as a crucial area for healthcare, with users able to measure an increasingly wide range of metrics including heart rate, sleep patterns, blood pressure, blood oxygen, and blood sugar. There are already a number of products on the market from Xiaomi, Huawei, Fitbit, and Apple that are growing in popularity and use.


China has a national goal of economic prosperity for 2025, but the country’s rigid education system makes it difficult for students to develop skills required by both domestic and global employers. They are constantly pressured to achieve high standards but have minimal resources to adapt to the rigorous system, paving the way for an unsustainable future in education. There is limited access to quality content and structured English language classes in rural areas, while the gao kao – a high-stakes exam for high school students hoping to get into college – is seen by many as a measure of who is best at rote learning.  But there is help available in the form of online tutoring and test prep . These range from simple mobile apps such as Baidu’s Homework Helper and Kuailexue that allow students to crowd-source homework help, to online websites such as Genshuixue and Superclass, which allow students to select courses and teachers to learn interactively.

Then there are online language teachers: although English is taught in school, there are few opportunities for students to practice speaking the language. To fill that gap, startups like italki and mobile apps like CCtalk from Hujiang, are helping students connect with native speakers and teachers. This creates a personalized learning environment for students and gives them real interaction with the language.

Tech rules
Thanks to the development of technological solutions, and through the analytics that will come through the Internet of Things and meta-data analysis, smart products and services are able to tell us more and more about our daily lives. They help us identify areas for cost reductions, create opportunity and improve the uptake of technologies that help drive increased sustainability across a number of systems that will be at the core of managing the development of megacities.

To date, the firms best positioned to bring the solutions needed have been data driven firms like IBM, Alibaba, Apple, and others, who have spent billions of dollars over the last decade building the infrastructure to capture and analyze the data necessary to act on. But for entrepreneurs, this is also proving to be a huge opportunity ; this is particularly true of those looking for answers to tangible problems, and where development of local solutions can be supported. This is already being seen as particularly prevalent in the expanding cities of China and the rest of the developing world where urban populations are growing at the fastest rates. For tech-savvy entrepreneurs, there are myriad opportunities for well-executed planning to develop these cities into modern, sustainable urban centers .

Shanghai cities

Reframing Sustainability For Future Cities

2050-urbanizationFor the first time ever (as of 2012) more people – over 700 million – live in China’s urban areas than in its rural regions. By 2020, about 60% of China’s population will live in cities; and 300 million urban residents are expected to move into its urban centers by 2030. Along with this shift to a more urban population comes a dramatic change in lifestyle: from a subsistence level or an agrarian focus to a consumption-focused lifestyle.

Sustainability in China has been a topic of many conversations for years now. The failure of China and the US to come to agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009 focused even more attention on the topic.  It is a story that has been about smoggy skies and polluted skies, and as the challenges have grown, calls for a different model have grown louder.  It is a story that has gained more steam over the last several years as urban residents have become more numerous, grown wealthy, and are increasingly impatient with the smog.

On February 28, Chai Jing, one of China’s most famous television journalist and a best-selling author, released a self-financed documentary aiming to unveil the root causes of China’s notoriously polluted air. The 103-minute video quickly went viral, and within days of its release it had been viewed more than 200 million times.  Some began calling Ms. Chai China’s Rachel Carson, an American activist whose book The River Runs Black was seen as a turning point in America’s environmental movement. Others compared the video to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

For many foreign firms operating in China, this change in dynamic has often been seen as a threat as regulatory bodies and their enforcement arms have increased their efforts to curb pollutants.   For others, the changing dynamic has been a source of hope.  It’s a sign that China’s new markets for green energies, building materials, and electric vehicles – which are growing faster than anywhere else in the world – are being driven by a wider body of stakeholders that are accepting that China’s environment is failing and that change needs to happen. Change is beginning to take place.  A change that, if made, will over the coming decades see the development of sustainable urban environments becoming one of the greatest economic opportunities of our lifetime  .

Looking at the issues of sustainability in the context of China today, it is of primary importance for outsiders to understand the following:

  • Historically, China’s issues of sustainability were not linked mainly to private consumption, as they are in the United States or Western Europe; they were linked to the industrial processes that are supporting China’s economic development model.
  • China does not see emissions as a “problem” that must be dealt with immediately . With economic growth still the priority , the country’s concerns with sustainability are focused on accessing and managing the resources that its cities will need to grow, while reducing the emissions that are contaminating its air, water, and soil.
  • The largest pressure China faces to solve sustainability issues will continue to come from within, as the next 25 years of growth will come from another 300 million moving to the city  .

Simply put, the issues that China faces are largely tied to economic development , the problems themselves are growing in size and frequency, and China will do what it takes to fix those problems in a way that considers the needs of its people first. These are also issues that will continue to be faced by India, Brazil, Nigeria, and the next generation of cities that will go through hyper-development over the next 25 years.   Leaders need to stop seeing sustainability in China as a threat to doing business , and begin seeing it as an opportunity to develop a portfolio of products and services that will support the urban centers supporting billions.

Areas where there are immediate opportunities and need:

  1. Urban Planning – At the core of a sustainable city is the urban planning, and sustainable cities are often viewed as the only way that a population of 10 billion people on Earth could be sustained. They need to be dense. They need to be efficient with resources.  But more importantly they need to be places where people want to live, raise children, and invest in their communities.
  2. Energy distribution and efficiency – While the focus of many conversations in the energy industry is around cleaner energy supply, for China the real need is to drive efficiency through the grid – a grid that requires up to three times the amount of energy it takes Western markets to create one unit of GDP.
  3. Food safety – Whether it is through the acquisition of firms like Smithfield Foods, or through partnerships with IMB to create pork traceability programs, one of the key areas for improving the urban economy will be through food .  With an estimated 40-60% of China’s food lost before it reaches the tables of its consumers , it is an industry whose inefficiencies begin on the farm and continue through the entire food chain .
  4. Accessible and affordable healthcare – With China’s population graying, and its urban environments struggling to provide care to its sick and aged, mayors around the country are already looking to industry to bring solutions that build on top of the government’s own capacity to build care facilities .
  5. Efficient Transportation – As consumer demand for private vehicles continues to rise, a variety of alternatives are being developed to address the challenges. The automotive industry is focusing on broad innovations (including electro-mobility) to decrease fuel consumption and reduce the emissions of public and private vehicles. At the same time, advances in technology and investments in infrastructure have the opportunity to make public transport a more viable, efficient alternative.
  6. Waste Management – As China’s material consumption continues to increase, the level of waste production will only increase the amount of organic and inorganic waste that is entering landfills every day.

Where this gets exciting for those in China, is that once a product or service’s pilot project has proven itself in China, there will be an opportunity to scale to the country’s needs  through the markets of India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Nigeria .  These are the cities of the futures for hyper-urbanization, and will be critical players in a world where there are 6 billion urban consumers looking to live the “American Dream”. It’s a dream that is only possible through a new model, one that will be sketched out in China and fine-tuned over the next 35 years.