By Prof Dr Jonathan A.J Wilson &
Bilal to his friends
ABCD Expert (Ads, Brands, Comms & Digi)
Over the past few months, Mohamed Geraldez and I have been hitting the conference circuit pretty hard. I pinned him down during his recent speaking tour in Indonesia to capture some of his thoughts and key take-homes in this interview. We share a love of Branding, sharp talking, sharp suits, walking the hard yards, taking Muslim markets mainstream, music to make your mind tick, and the ASEAN vibe shaking up the world. Read on…
JW: Good to hear from you again! What have you been up to and more importantly where in the world are you nowadays?
MG: Thanks for interviewing me, Prof. Wilson. It’s an honor. What have I been up to? Man…I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking all over the world and just started vlogging because after years – plural – of people telling me that I shouldn’t be so camera shy with all the good advice I dish out, I decided at the beginning of this year to start vlogging and give advice for free. I charge a pretty penny for my public speaking appearances and for my coaching/mentoring so I felt that it was only right to give those that needed the advice, the most, for free through my vlogs. I travel an awful amount so the locations will provide the backdrop.
JW: What has been the feedback so far from vlogging?
MG: People actually really enjoy them! I put in a lot of time into each vlog post, and I hope they’re getting better. I’ve only filmed and published 4 from an airplane, a couple of airports and Indonesia. I have something like 4 to 5 more vlog posts in queue from California, Dubai and Paris. Be sure to subscribe to me on YouTube by simply searching for “Mohamed Geraldez” and looking out for my channel.
JW: Man, I’ve already subscribed. I loved the ones on ‘Excuses’ and ‘Tupac in Indonesia’. For those readers that haven’t seen them yet, what vlog topics have you covered so far?
MG: Hmmm. The 4 have been on travel hacks and tips because I travel so much, love and money, making excuses and men’s fashion.
JW: That’s quite a range, but there again you are that renaissance man of random facts and acts, with a dash of Hip hop swagger…
MG: [laughs] Ya, I know. I think that’s why people want to know what I think on random topics because I’m addicted to information and more importantly, acting on it!
JW: That’s a great lead into my first question regarding entrepreneurship and a comment you made when we were in Bangkok together for the Halal Thai Assembly. During a group conversation, someone asked you what was the biggest challenge facing hopeful entrepreneurs – and you said something like the lack of action.
MG: That’s correct. Succinctly-put, it’s called analysis-paralysis. People want to research so much and understand every conceivable angle of the industry they’re trying to enter and sometimes this results in “Wow, there’s so much about business I need to understand…let me research more” and they simply can’t pull the trigger because of a whole host of reasons: fear, public opinion, etc. That’s what I meant about the lack of action. I agree that you must have a basic understanding of the sector and the market you’re targeting but you must have the resolve to make it happen. Go for it, work hard and don’t stop!
Life is all about limiting regrets and you don’t want to look back at your life thinking “I should have, could have, would have with that idea I had.” In my life, I’ve missed a lot of shots but I have also made some important ones, Wilson (chuckles). No fear, bro. To hit a home run, you have to swing and a lot of people are scared of swinging. This is actually a topic I’ll be speaking about in a future vlog post.
JW: Cool! Entrepreneurship is a topic you speak on, but what specifically do you address?
MG: From how to come up with a business idea, to tactics of scaling your business, to managing your mental state as a founder because this is so much of entrepreneurship, to the importance of social media for your company, and more. The last point was another contributing reason for me to start vlogging. I emphasize that content is king but am I really producing content myself? No. Why? Because I was at odds with being in front of the camera but I decided to overcome that mental block and go for it because I knew what I would deliver was quality. Content isn’t king…quality content is king. Don’t put stuff out just to put stuff out because if you don’t provide true value, people will mentally bookmark your communications as spam and it will take time for you to remove that stigma from your reputation.
JW: You said that some of your vlog posts were filmed in Indonesia. As someone who has visited Southeast Asia several times, what are your overall thoughts?
MG: SE Asia in general or Indonesia, specifically?
JW: Let’s go with Indonesia…
MG: I see huge potential in Indonesia. They have one resource that a lot of countries don’t have: humans — on the producing side and consuming side. I recently saw a list with projected GDP of all countries and it had Indonesia at fourth by 2050. I had a 2-week speaking tour there and met with many entrepreneurs, small business owners and professionals and saw the hunger to create. I think I’ll be back in mid-May but it hasn’t been confirmed yet since I’ll be based out of Kuala Lumpur from April to July. I just have a hectic speaking schedule but would definitely make time for Indonesia since I’ll be right next door.
JW: Dope! Well what do you think about SE Asia in general then?
MG: One thing I’ve come to realize is that I’ve spoken about many of these issues and topics all over the world but for some reason I seem to really resonate with SE Asians and I think it’s because of a few comments people have made to me while in the region: “Mohamed, you look like us so it gives us hope.” Comments like this and other statements like it made me realize that me simply looking like them had a deep effect that I did not know was going to occur.
Additionally, they’re quite entertained by my straight-talk, cowboy western, gun-slinging, speaking style because as Southeast Asians, my parents are from the Philippines although I was born and raised in California, we are generally shy, reverent people that follow protocol and avoid making waves. So they see me as such a break from the norm but I don’t know if they find joy in me simply for entertainment reasons, truly beneficial causes or for both. I mean it could be both and the organizers told me that it is but you know me, I’m always trying to improve so I question everything from delivery, to tone, to humor. I want to be the best speaker I can be and understanding culture and context is key. Being a convert to Islam, a student of Islamic law and being able to speak Arabic has definitely earned many peoples’ respect as well in the region. I think I’ll do a vlog post on the power of speaking multiple languages (laughs).
JW: True that – you do speak a few languages. I can surely see how looking like them makes you relate to them easier. Switching gears, I know you’re involved in digital tech and have some finance projects of your own – what are your overall thoughts on Fintech?
MG: Such a great sector it is. Some of its earliest well-known ventures that had seismic effects on consumer behavior was PayPal’s partnering with Ebay during the dotcom craze, and now it’s about cryptocurrency and concepts like peer-to-peer lending. With a shift of how millenials and z’s view the banking industry — remember the Occupy Wall Street movement because of the financial crisis of ’08? players like Simple and Lending Club are able to disrupt an old institution like banking which ultimately creates better services and products for all. And when you start thinking about the unbankable segments and how we can improve their lives with access to financing — think microfinancing with Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank — I only get excited about the revolutionary products and services that some young tech entrepreneurs are cooking up right now in their parents’ living rooms that will make life easier for people on the other side of the planet. Now that’s impact!
JW: For sure – Great examples! What’s a recent Fintech product that you truly believe in?
MG: Hmmmm, recent? Well, it’s not recent but it’s one that I talk about often that had tremendous effects for small business owners and that is Square by Dorsey. To walk through carnivals, parades, conventions, etc. and see people process credit card payments from their smart phones when it was so difficult for “the small guy” to gain access to this service is so cool to me. I always take note of it and think “what a great idea!” I wish I would have thought of it (laughs).
JW: You’re also involved in Islamic finance so how does that tie in to Fintech?
MG: Did I ever tell you that I had a peer-to-peer lending idea regarding education finance that was quickly shot down by Islamic scholars (laughs)?
JW: Nope – you didn’t…
MG: Well you could compare it to something like Pave in which an investor would invest in a person’s dream and in return, once the investee is making money off the dream like being a veterinarian, the investor would receive a % of that person’s income for a period of time. We had to get creative to please the scholars but in the end it was to no avail so to those that say Islamic finance scholars are “scholars for dollars” I would disagree (laughs).
JW: Pretty innovative idea. What a shame it didn’t get through. How are things coming along with ReCenter though?
MG: Yes, a shame we couldn’t get that first Fintech project going. I’m all about innovation and providing real impact and true value but sometimes the timing, people, etc. just isn’t right. No problem. We keep pushing.
As for ReCenter, we’re still in talks with potential investors. Insiders have told me that my time will come and that things move slowly in Islamic finance for a few reasons, however many believe that I’ll be able to come to market soon. I’m not holding my breath though because I have a feeling that we may be a bit too early so I’ve moved on from it with my current busy schedule but every now and then, I take a meeting here and there about it because those who know, know that education finance is a huge problem in the US.
JW: I wish you mad luck in that. Well Mohamed, I don’t want to take anymore of your time, because I know you have another wave to catch, so would you like to leave us with any last thoughts and where will you be at in the world in the upcoming future
MG: Thank you for having me. This was funnier than I thought it would be [chuckles]. Where will I be at in the world in the upcoming future? Hmmm, well I’m currently on my way to Paris from Dubai, then to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Oman and I can’t remember the rest. Please be sure to follow me on social media and you’ll see where I’m at (laughs). Go to www.mgeraldez.com and there you will find all my social media accounts and some of my projects. Please be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and you and I need to jump on a vlog together, bro! Now that I’m loosening up in front of the camera, I think our chemistry would be fun!
JW: We do. Let’s make that happen when you’re back in London or when I’m out in SE Asia!
MG: That’s if I’m there. You know how travel is for me. I tell people I’ll be based out of KL but to be frank, I live on a plane, but yes, let’s make it happen. I should be in London in a few months.
JW: Sounds great. Thank you for your time again, take care, much love and big salaams.
MG: Nah, thank you Bro – salaams and peace back at you, more love, happiness, money, and wisdom to you Prof.