Business Launch Podcast
Kevin Hua Interview - Elevate Money and Realside Capital
September 22, 2022
Carlo Selorio interviews the Founder of Elevate Money and Partner of Realside Capital. Kevin shares his story from moving to Australia and studying in University NSW and how he moved to Hong Kong and moving back establishing his businesses here in Sydney. Kevin on having a legacy says that I don't think about my life like that. I think if there's really any legacy it's really. Like most parents is to just really be there for my children, so they remember me as a good father, a good person, a good husband. In terms of of impacting the world. No I don't aspire to such a monumental thoughts I guess it's just a, really a case of just enjoying your time here, yeah. Gaining happiness both professionally and personally.

[00:00:00] Carlo Selorio: Hey! Carlo here from business launch podcast. I am here with my good friend, Kevin Hua, I've known Kevin for four, five years now. I'd say, is that right, Kevin? Yep. That's fair. That's probably about right. Our kids play sports together and we've gotten to know each other that way.

[00:00:18] You're the founder of a few companies now, right? Is that correct? Elevate Money and a partner of Real Side Capital. So tell us a brief introduction of your history of your working environment and all the way to earning your own businesses.

[00:00:38] Kevin Hua: Yeah. Look yeah, I, like you said, I am the founder of a couple of businesses or co-founders I do have some very important partners that I work with. Elevate money is they're both financial services, businesses. Elevate money has a series of international equity funds as well as [00:01:00] a retail super fund called elevate super which you know, is a, they are sustainable super funds that are really trying to cater to gen X's millennials or anyone who really cares about where this super money is going in terms of.

[00:01:15] Not just making good investments, but also sustainable ones that are good for the world. So that's what we're trying to do with elevate. That's awesome. Also helped found a business called real side capital, which is it. We have a flagship fund. It does a bunch of things, but really it's a structured credit fund where we're lending money to different types of companies, growth companies who need some short term capital, et cetera.

[00:01:43] So that's a, that's more debt product. So we talk about those businesses later on, but in terms of my journey look where does the where do we need to start? I grew up in Sydney in the Western suburb pretty, had a pretty humble life to be honest.

[00:01:59] [00:02:00] Really happy childhood my parents were immigrants. They worked hard, so I didn't see much of them. During the week because they were always working. So really my sister and I had to really be sustainable ourselves. And be self sufficient for a lot. So I grew up pretty quickly. Tell me about it.

[00:02:20] Yeah I enjoyed my childhood too. I was happy. Life was simple back then you go to school, you see your mates at, after school. You might, you do some homework and then you might go out the front yard or play cricket or something like that. And there was no such thing as devices or anything like that.

[00:02:37] The world was much simpler. And tell me about it. All my kids are like, so fixated in all their devices. Back in the days we just go outside, go play in the front yard, backyard, go play different sports. But now it's like the new world is coming to I think. New 

[00:02:55] general. Yeah, that's right.

[00:02:57] Yeah. Yeah. That's right. I think it's striving a [00:03:00] little bit off topic here, but certainly it's the onus is on us as parents to, to get our kids active and get them outdoors and not just rely on iPads and gaming devices to keep them busy. Yeah. That's the challenge for all of us as parents that's true I think growing up.

[00:03:17] With a reasonably humble beginnings, that's probably what gave me the drive to succeed and work hard. I went to high school out in ston high school, which is a high school out in new Bankstown. I did pretty well at school, so I ended up doing a commerce law degree at U N S W in Kensington.

[00:03:36] Yep. So I really actually enjoyed both the sort of accounting finance side, as well as the legal side. Cuz they were both different types of I guess disciplines in terms of both math, mathematical, but logical thinking as well, as far as the law. That's true. But I never became a lawyer.

[00:03:56] I, I always loved numbers. I always liked. [00:04:00] Economics and finance. So that's where I wanted my career to go. Yeah. So I started as a grad at a us investment bank called JP Morgan. Nice. 

[00:04:10] Carlo Selorio: That 

[00:04:10] Kevin Hua: was here in Sydney, right? Yeah. That was here in Sydney. Yep. Yep. Yep. And so I ended up staying at JP Morgan for eight years, actually doing mergers and acquisitions and equity in capital markets derivatives as well.

[00:04:23] And then my journey took me to Hong Kong with JP Morgan where I stayed with them for a year or so. But then I then joined the buy side which is for layman speak is really just the investment side of the world where. I joined a us hedge fund called stark investments and nice.

[00:04:39] They were a investor in all types of assets and that's really what sort of spur my love for investing and getting to that side of the business. And that's what sort of led me onto this journey of coming back home. I spent almost a decade in Hong Kong and when I came back home, I really wanted to be still part of that business, still part of the buy side still [00:05:00] involved in investing, but also obviously then thinking about how I do that in my own way.

[00:05:06] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. So how did you transition to starting your own business? So what was, what spread you on to get to. To be the founders of a few companies now 

[00:05:21] Kevin Hua: for, yeah. I don't think it was any one sort of single event. It was really just a natural evolution of my working career. When you work for a large organization, is.

[00:05:31] JP Morgan you learn a lot, you meet a lot of people and it's a great foundation for your career. But you also see the flaws and frustrations when it comes to being part of a massive business so in how they service their clients how they how that sort of work life balance can stifle employees.

[00:05:52] So I wanted to really be more in control of my and so going into my own business and choosing my [00:06:00] partners was a great way to control my own destiny. Have a really largest say in how we treat our customers and satisfying what I wanted both professionally and personally. 

[00:06:10] Carlo Selorio: Yeah that's a great way to, to stay your own business picking and choosing who you actually wanna do business with.

[00:06:18] Yeah. 

[00:06:19] Kevin Hua: Yeah. You look at it's an important thing I think most people. Don't go it alone. There's always a partnership of some sort it's hard to build a business on your own. Yeah. And I've always found that you need good partners and choosing the right partners is difficult because you want to choose people.

[00:06:39] But at the same time, you don't necessarily want them to be your best friends either. Yeah. Yeah. Cause you don't want business to supersede your friendship. So it is finding that balance of the right people with the right. Complimentary skill sets for each other as well. So that you are helping each other out in different fields.

[00:06:59] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. That's [00:07:00] awesome. What were the big wins early on that you made you realize that, this business is gonna work for you? Yeah building financial services business is a long term game. It's a hard slog. So I don't think there were necessarily big wins per se. But more incremental things.

[00:07:18] Kevin Hua: So when you start think, when you start getting traction from customers, when you starting getting really good feedback from customers that they like the product, they like the service. And also when you get external validation from. Other people for example, people that you raise money with. Yeah.

[00:07:34] And as the business just really organically grows. So that just really encourages you to keep going. Even when you face the many speed bumps that you do when you have your own business, So I think it's just little incremental things that sort of build upon the business and give you confidence as a founder to keep going.

[00:07:53] Carlo Selorio: Yeah that's awesome. On the flip side, what events happened, where you were like, sure. [00:08:00] If the business would survive that having that little teething problems, but you figured out a way to pull through. 

[00:08:09] Kevin Hua: Yeah, like I said, I touched on speed bumps in the previous question I think there's always issues that come up as you are launching a business or grow, starting to grow a business.

[00:08:19] So again, it comes back to the people you end up starting to work with. You make sure you have complimentary skill sets. Each of you whilst working together can also divide and conquer and tackle problems individually as you make decisions together. Yeah. I think that's really important cuz I've found one person can't do it all or it's very challenging for one person to do it all because it just takes sucks up so much of your own personal time and.

[00:08:45] And it's hard enough to grow a business with partners. So yeah, I, I admire the people who can actually do it themselves. But I think one of the largest challenges of many startup businesses, if not all of them are funding. That's. You've gotta really ensure [00:09:00] that the business is well funded to keep going ensure that you've got enough working capital, especially in the initial stages as you build the business and you're waiting for the revenue to come in.

[00:09:09] Like I said, this is especially the case for financial services because yeah, because there's a lot of initial investment required. It's both a people business as well as a highly regulated industry. Yeah. So you've really gotta have the adequate funding to play the long game.

[00:09:28] Carlo Selorio: That's really good answer what makes your business venture stand out from your competitors? 

[00:09:36] Kevin Hua: Yeah, look it's hard to make financial services stand out they're not the it's, you are not always gonna be top of mind for people. People obviously care about their money.

[00:09:46] They wanna see their money grow. They wanna make good investments to build wealth for their future, for their retirement, for their children. But as people get on in life get on with their life day to day, they're. [00:10:00] Thinking about financial services? No, they're not day to day.

[00:10:03] Just thinking about getting the groceries, getting to work, taking their kids to school. And then in terms of purchasing decisions again, investing is not something that most people are. Want to think about frankly, because there's far more enjoyment from buying a new pair of sneakers or looking at cars or et cetera.

[00:10:23] Whereas actually thinking about your wealth, thinking about growing your wealth is just as important. If not more important, it's just that most people don't have the time or the expertise to do it. So what we wanted to do with our businesses is really. Especially on the elevate side is to really create products that were simple, understand for customers and would really resonate with them.

[00:10:46] So that customers really bought into the concept and really said, oh, this is a real product for me. I want to invest in a Superfund, for example, that cares about the environment and cares about labor [00:11:00] practices and cares about. Gender equality, et cetera. So really creating products that resonate with people such that I think we can build something that.

[00:11:10] Differentiates ourselves from other financial services out there for the really. And it's just, yeah. Sorry, 

[00:11:17] Carlo Selorio: go ahead. It's like for the standard superannuation businesses out there, I guess you guys are like, have a specific niche for different people, yeah, that's right. Yeah. We're trying to appeal to people who not only want to generate wealth and retire.

[00:11:32] Kevin Hua: Returns, but really what their money to be invested in, in good businesses that are a sound from a sustainability perspective. For example we wouldn't invest in firearms or tobacco businesses as an example, right? Yeah. Cause that's not what our investors want us to do.

[00:11:52] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. It's a really good niche market. I think you got there. What motivates you daily? I think, [00:12:00] yeah, it's, that's a great question. Think for me, it's really just building something that can be sustainable as a business creating businesses that will hopefully be there for the long term and they can that serves a particular market and serves a particular customer.

[00:12:17] Kevin Hua: So day to day, it's really about achieving short term goals. But I really, I guess what motivates me daily is just doing that professionally. So that personally I'm a happier person and you feel enriched and satisfied so that's probably you can't really of separate professional and personal life when you are a founder of a business.

[00:12:38] So you gotta make sure that what you do at. Is enriching, cuz that makes you a happier person, which makes you hopefully a better person in your personal life. 

[00:12:47] Carlo Selorio: Being a founder like is a 24 7 business thinking of 

[00:12:51] Kevin Hua: it 24 7. Yeah, it can be. Yeah. At times it can be, which is.

[00:12:57] It's funny I talked about [00:13:00] controlling your own destiny as a founder. You certainly do that. You have the final say in most things along with your partners the flip side of that is you constantly thinking about the business and worrying and stressing at times.

[00:13:14] And yeah, it is the flip side to being in. It's not, it's very different to being an employee where you have the luxury of shutting off when you leave work or you have a weekend. Yeah. So it's different. 

[00:13:27] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. Yeah. It's it's one, I think a few founders that I've spoken to are, there are always constantly thinking about what's next or how to improve the actual business itself.

[00:13:41] I'm glad you got a bit more. Balance in your side, 

[00:13:46] Kevin Hua: yeah. You have to try it all goes back to finding that right balance. Professionally and personally, like I said one of the reasons I actually wanted to build businesses was actually to be able to manage my life better.

[00:13:59] [00:14:00] When you're in control and you can be always sometimes very busy at times, but when you are at least in control your businesses, you can prioritize more. You can emphasize where you need the business to go and what you need to, what needs to happen. But you also have hopefully some ability to say I need this time off as well, or I need to have dinner with my family or whatever and control that aspect of it.

[00:14:27] Yeah. 

[00:14:28] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. That's really good. Influences who are your influences growing up or like even in business or even outside of business? 

[00:14:38] Kevin Hua: Yeah. Look, I don't know. I dunno if these are the most Obvious answers, I guess they are I think my parents obviously were big influences than me I think, like I said earlier, they were immigrants.

[00:14:50] They worked really hard and I think for them, for, from them, I learn work ethic I will learn that nothing [00:15:00] comes unless you work at it and really push through things and work hard and also obviously learning qualities like humility. Taking care of other people, taking care of your customers that comes through business, things like that.

[00:15:14] So there's a lot of life skills that we all learn from our parents, but parents that's. Yeah. So I think I think my parents, I was very close to them so I think they were really. Obviously big influences on me, both professionally and personally, actually.

[00:15:32] I think in terms of professional it's hard to say it's, I think you can pick and choose from various people. It's probably, I dunno if there were influences there's certain admiration I certainly have for certain business people I think.

[00:15:48] Someone like Steve jobs and his marketing pros it's just amazing what he created with that apple brand. And I think Warren buffet is someone I admire because of his not only his investment [00:16:00] acumen, but his longevity how he's been doing this for 60, 70 years of his life.

[00:16:05] And he's just has an astonishing track record in making money for people. Yeah. And then as opposed to the people, I'd probably admire business models how people have created businesses like Amazon and Uber and Google and YouTube and things like that. I think where we live at the forefront of technology now and some of these businesses are just mind blowing how big they are, but how much they've grown, how much they've changed our lives.

[00:16:32] So I think that's Probably admiration more than anything in terms of how I think about that sort of stuff. Yeah. And I think the last leg of it is really just I see people like bill gates and McKenzie, Scott and people like that who they're multi billionaire, some of the richest people in the world, but they're they're philanthropy and the fact that they're donating all their.

[00:16:53] I think that's pretty inspirational to, 

[00:16:55] Carlo Selorio: yeah, that's absolutely true. They've given away majority of [00:17:00] their wealth and yeah, that's right. Yeah. Making it in, making it a better place, yeah. Yeah. I think so. Yeah. Look I know that some people are cynical about all that sort of stuff, but I just think they've chosen a path in terms of what they wanna do with their money and.

[00:17:16] Kevin Hua: You can agree or disagree with some of the causes that they've supported, but I think just the philanthropy alone is something to be admired. I believe, 

[00:17:25] Carlo Selorio: yeah, that's awesome. Going forward. What big goals do you have for your businesses in the next three to 10 years? 

[00:17:34] Kevin Hua: Yeah.

[00:17:34] Look, I think pretty humble goals I think we just want to grow them to the point where we believe they're sustainable businesses going forward that not necessarily they run themselves they get to a size. We're achieving the goals for both our customers and our employees, you know that our customers are getting a great service.

[00:17:55] They're getting hopefully good investment returns. Our employees feel know, [00:18:00] satisfied and part of a business that they want to be at for the long term. So that's really it. I don't really think about size of the business or anything. I think that will come with it.

[00:18:10] If you do all the right things the small things, then the bigger things will just happen. I think. 

[00:18:15] Carlo Selorio: Yeah, of course. How many people do you have work? For both businesses at the moment. 

[00:18:23] Kevin Hua: Yeah. So for elevate, we have 10 people and in the broader rural side business there's probably close to 20 people.

[00:18:31] Yeah. Growing. Yeah. 

[00:18:33] Yeah. Slowly but surely. Yeah. What's your top three advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners out there? 

[00:18:43] Yeah, look, I think what I touched on earlier, I think the first one is to be well funded or have a funding plan in place, know where you need capital from.

[00:18:52] So whether it's yourself, whether you're gonna raise money from family and friends initially or from more [00:19:00] sophisticated investors really have that sort of better down. So you're not distracted with. Raising money while we're still trying to build the business. Yeah. I know that's easier said than done, but if you can do that, then I think that's a one big factor that you can sort of park in the corner.

[00:19:15] But I think the second one is really just knowing your customer needs like what does the customer really want? And then you build your business around that. I think a lot of people obviously can build a business. Where example for something like Google, obviously they built something that they knew or that they believed customers would want, but it was a new product.

[00:19:38] But many business are all about just understanding what the customer needs and giving them something that you know, that they need or they want better guys. So it's really. So I would say a real focus on the customer. Yep. And I think the third thing is really Just your employees I think treating them right.

[00:19:58] Making sure that you're [00:20:00] building a team, particularly if you're in a business that relies on people. Yeah. Building a team that really feels like they're part of the business, because again, one person can't do it alone. One. Management team. Can't do it alone. You need a whole firm of people to really grow your business.

[00:20:16] And I think it's building that right culture and having the buy in of employees is really important. 

[00:20:22] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. I think that's a big factor in growing any business for all those three, three advice. 

[00:20:30] Kevin Hua: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Yeah. I think whatever industry I think all those principles should be pretty similar.

[00:20:38] Yeah. 

[00:20:38] Carlo Selorio: How do you want to impact the world and what kind of legacy do you want to 

[00:20:42] Kevin Hua: have? Oh, look mate. no real legacy. I don't think about my life like that. I think if there's really any legacy it's really. Like most parents is to just really be there for my children, so they remember me as [00:21:00] a good father, a good person, a good husband. In terms of of impacting the world. No I don't aspire to such a monumental thoughts I guess it's just a, really a case of just enjoying your time here, yeah. Gaining happiness both professionally and personally.

[00:21:18] Yeah. So that's my goal day to day. And you, my end goal. Really? Yeah. 

[00:21:24] Carlo Selorio: That is nice. Simple and just the true Kevin that I know. 

[00:21:30] Kevin Hua: Yeah, look hard. I think you can make life far too complicated at times and it's hard enough finding things in your life to, to make you happy and make you feel rewarded and riched every day, so that you are a better person so that you can become a better friend or better father or a better husband.

[00:21:47] Yeah, I think that's challenging enough without aspiring to. More than that. 

[00:21:52] Carlo Selorio: Last question. Fun question. Anyway, if you could recommend one book. For our listeners out [00:22:00] there. What would it be and why? Yeah. Good question. Look, I probably like most people I'm time poor and I don't get to read as much as I do as I like to.

[00:22:11] Kevin Hua: But two books that I've read in the last couple of years which fall into the same category. Is a book called range by David Epstein. And another book called Norwich by Karen Krause. Nice. And those two books are really, they talk about the same topic, right? They talk about widening our experiences, trying new things and looking at situations with different lenses.

[00:22:36] Yeah. So that when we ultimately do something whether it's choose a career, play a sport undergo a hobby, those experiences have shaped us. And those different situation actually help us focus and problem solve and give us perspective in actually how we deal with different situations.

[00:22:56] So they make us actually better at what we do. If that makes any. [00:23:00] Yeah. know, I give you a few examples it's when you're nor is a book actually It's a really unique book about athletes that are from this small town in the Northeast of the us. Yeah. I can't recall how many people live in this town, but they have a disproportionate amount of Olympians particularly in winter sports.

[00:23:19] Yeah. That come from that town and the reason is not because they focus kids on sport really early on in their age or. Their parents are in their lives, pushing them into sports. It's quite the opposite. It's the fact that the kids are outdoor. They try tons of different sports as kids, the pressure the parents don't put any pressure on them.

[00:23:39] Yeah. But they just naturally find their right sport and find the right groove. And because they're always outside, they're skiing, they're they're skating, they play ice hockey. And it's generated this community where. Kids just become very good athletes just because they've tried lots of different things as they were children.[00:24:00] 

[00:24:00] So I think it's these types of books. I like them because they teach particularly me as a father. Not to pigeonhole my own children give them wide experiences, let them try things and whatever passion that they choose to go with or passions, then they'll become better at it because they've had different experiences.

[00:24:23] And I think it's, it allows you to enjoy your childhood a lot more as well as opposed to. A kid that focuses on playing one instrument from their age of three whether they like it or not because the parents push them. So I think it, can be about your children.

[00:24:39] It can be about business as well. Cuz I think a lot of. Entrepreneurs have become really successful or not because they've had one necessarily single great idea at the start, but because they've brought a wealth of different experiences and challenges into a business and had gears or decades of growth and [00:25:00] failures as well which has shaped.

[00:25:02] They're thinking, right? Yeah. So yeah, so that's, anyway, that's a very long answer into your fun question, but I would highly recommend those two books. 

[00:25:10] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. I'll definitely go have a look at it and read it as well. So thank you very much again, Kevin for coming on and being part of the podcast.

[00:25:21] If people want to get in touch with you or where can I point them to if they want to. Ask a question or anything like that or where you 

[00:25:31] Kevin Hua: want learn about find on our, yeah. On my two websites. That I'm involved with the first one's and then the other one is

[00:25:43] Carlo Selorio: Excellent. Thank you very much again, Kevin. And I'll let you know when the show drops

[00:25:48] Kevin Hua: no. Okay. Thanks very much. Carlo. 

[00:25:51] Carlo Selorio: Appreciate your time. Thank you very much for your time.