Thriving in the Age of Disruption

Breaking Free of Workaholism to Take On The Most Important Job of All: Max-F. Scheichenost (Vietnam)

March 22, 2023 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra & Mr. Max-F. Scheichenost Season 1 Episode 36
Breaking Free of Workaholism to Take On The Most Important Job of All: Max-F. Scheichenost (Vietnam)
Thriving in the Age of Disruption
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Thriving in the Age of Disruption
Breaking Free of Workaholism to Take On The Most Important Job of All: Max-F. Scheichenost (Vietnam)
Mar 22, 2023 Season 1 Episode 36
Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra & Mr. Max-F. Scheichenost

Hard-driving yet reflective, Max-F. Scheichenost is a successful serial entrepreneur, investor and venture capitalist. In today's episode, he has a heart-to-heart conversation with Dr. Ramesh, retracing his journey from his childhood in Austria, riding Europe's Internet boom to landing in Asia, where life surprises him.

He was handed the the most important job in the world - as father to his young son, and underwent a personal transformation to break free of a self-built prison of workaholism.

Being obsessed with chasing achievements had deeply hurt Max's health and relationships. Join Dr. Ramesh as Max shares his ongoing journey to redefine success, balance and meaning in life.

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

If you're interested in building crisis resilience, Dr. Ramesh will be launching her new book on the crisis ready mindset in the first half of 2023. Make sure you follow Dr. Ramesh on LinkedIn so that you’ll get her new book alert!

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Mr. Max-F. Scheichenost, Partner, Mekong Capital

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Entrepreneur #Vietnam #Success #PrivateEquity #MekongCapital #Partner #Max-F.Scheichenost #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #AlpsVentures #FALCON #SEAFounders #Lecturer #SMU #INSEAD #DigitalTransformation #VisionDrivenInvesting 

Show Notes Transcript

Hard-driving yet reflective, Max-F. Scheichenost is a successful serial entrepreneur, investor and venture capitalist. In today's episode, he has a heart-to-heart conversation with Dr. Ramesh, retracing his journey from his childhood in Austria, riding Europe's Internet boom to landing in Asia, where life surprises him.

He was handed the the most important job in the world - as father to his young son, and underwent a personal transformation to break free of a self-built prison of workaholism.

Being obsessed with chasing achievements had deeply hurt Max's health and relationships. Join Dr. Ramesh as Max shares his ongoing journey to redefine success, balance and meaning in life.

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

If you're interested in building crisis resilience, Dr. Ramesh will be launching her new book on the crisis ready mindset in the first half of 2023. Make sure you follow Dr. Ramesh on LinkedIn so that you’ll get her new book alert!

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Mr. Max-F. Scheichenost, Partner, Mekong Capital

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Entrepreneur #Vietnam #Success #PrivateEquity #MekongCapital #Partner #Max-F.Scheichenost #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #AlpsVentures #FALCON #SEAFounders #Lecturer #SMU #INSEAD #DigitalTransformation #VisionDrivenInvesting 

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

If you're interested in building crisis resilience, Dr. Ramesh will be launching her new book on the crisis ready mindset in the first half of 2023. Make sure you follow Dr. Ramesh on LinkedIn so that you’ll get her new book alert!

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Mr. Max-F. Scheichenost, Partner, Mekong Capital

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Entrepreneur #Vietnam #Success #PrivateEquity #MekongCapital #Partner #Max-F.Scheichenost #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #AlpsVentures #FALCON #SEAFounders #Lecturer #SMU #INSEAD #DigitalTransformation #VisionDrivenInvesting 

Ho Lai Yun 00:00

Hello and welcome to Thriving in the Age of Disruption. In today's episode, we meet Max-F. Scheichenost, who is hard-driving, ambitious, and a successful serial entrepreneur and investor. Max has a heart-to-heart with Dr. Ramesh, retracing his journey from his childhood in Austria, riding Europe's Internet boom to landing in Asia, where life surprises him.

He was handed the the most important job in the world - as father to his young son, and underwent a personal transformation to break free of a self-built prison of workaholism.

Being obsessed with chasing achievements had deeply hurt Max's health and relationships. Join Dr. Ramesh and Max as they explore his ongoing journey to find success, balance and meaning in life. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 00:49

Welcome to the Thriving in the Age of Disruption podcast series Max, I'm excited to have this conversation with you this afternoon. You have a very rich background, you've been founder of some startup companies, and then gone on to be an angel investor, and now you work for Vietnam's oldest private equity firm Mekong capital.

Max-F. Scheichenost 01:08

First of all, thank you so much for having me. My name is Max. I'm a proud father. So, my son is turning four years old in April. He's the reason why I'm in Vietnam. And he's also the reason why I'm now working in private equity. Which is a very different story if you look at my background, I started my first business out of university, I was 22 years old. I had very little idea what I was actually doing other than the drive to build and to create and have been an entrepreneur for 10 years plus. Like with all ups and downs with the highest highs and the lowest lows. But after my son was born, I realized this a new dimension to life, which got me to Vietnam, and then which got me to work in private equity. And also what shifted for myself, my purpose in life.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 01:54

You highlighted a couple of different aspects of your life that I want to dig deeper into. What's the motivation around your son, and moving on to private equity space versus being an entrepreneur yourself?

Max-F. Scheichenost 02:09

It's a great question my life before my son was organised around work, I defined myself and my success as work. So if I'm successful at work, I suppose I'm successful. And I was very proud back then to be an independent person, I valued freedom. And for me happiness, I derived it through work. So I was by definition, like a workaholic. This is for me, so fulfilling, I love to work. All of my friends are business partner or other entrepreneurs or other investors, and this was what my life was all about. And then when my son was born, it was a very intense delivery. My partner, she had a near death experience with an emergency C-section. And she was 36 hours in ICU, I just got back from Europe, jetlagged. We got like this news three days later, for this emergency C-section. Now, from one moment to another, I was alone with my new born son for 36 hours, when preparing to be literally a single dad for the rest of my life. These 36 hours were very transformative for me, I'm still very touched to talk about this experience. But this really changed my perspective of what is life about what’s important to me, who am I being, and it really started my personal transformation journey, where I shifted by 180 degrees to give up a lot of the companies that I was running, either was looking for a CEO, or I removed myself from an operating role and decided for the first time in my life, that I'm not chasing business opportunity, but chasing what makes me happy in life. And I decided to move to Vietnam without having a plan. 

Max-F. Scheichenost 03:50

So, it was not a business decision. Before the 10 years, my mindset was all about, “Where’s the business opportunity? Let me jump on it and let me grab it.” And this was the first time that I realised, “Okay, I moved to Vietnam, because I do not want to be a weekend dad.” But I don't know what I am going to do. It was a very different approach to what's next in my next stage in life. And then it was March ‘20 when I moved to Vietnam. I was one of the last Europeans entering Vietnam. And then I had three, four months’ time for myself to decide what's next. And one thing that was clear for me is my previous lifestyle is not compatible with my lifestyle that I decided to have. And I wanted to be a father who was present for my son, I'm a father who brings his son to school, I’m a father who sees his son after school, and who is part of his development. And this made me think, should I bring one of the businesses from Singapore, Southeast Asia to Vietnam? Or should I start a new business or should I just explore something new? I was intrigued, but also in a way, surprisingly scared for trying something versus starting something by myself.

Max-F. Scheichenost 04:52

So, I got introduced through a family friend to Mekong Capital. And I met with all of the partners and surprisingly, there was such a good chemistry right from the beginning. I shared that I went through some personal transformation where I was very clear what are my core values. What is my personal vision? What is my purpose? And I saw that the way of thinking was very much aligned with the way Mekong Capital as an organisation is operating and is thinking. But they were obviously concerned because an experienced entrepreneur moving into a private equity company, which is doing an ontological approach, there were concerns that I might come with all of my baggage, there were concerns that I might not be a good coach. And also, I had concerns. Am I a good coach? Because it's very different being a CEO and running a business versus being on the side-lines and being a coach. And also I did not have any actual working experience in Vietnam. So I also did not know will it be effective and successful? Yeah. So, we decided then that I start for six months as a consultant first. After three months, we know, “Okay, it's a marriage for life, dating period is over.” So I decided to try on full time and I assert this has been next to moving to Vietnam for my son, the best decision in this point of my life. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 06:04

Wow. Excellent.

Max-F. Scheichenost 06:06

It's very interesting. I do have next to my desk a 100,000 Vietnamese Dong note, which was my very first trip to Southeast Asia, it was to Vietnam. Back then, the first time this was in December 2011. I was just blown away but could never imagine to live and to work in Vietnam. I was blown away by the drive of the people. After my second or third trip, I started to build really deep relationships with some of the companies. But I thought culturally, I'm not sure whether I can just jump into the ice water.

Max-F. Scheichenost

So, I decided to jump into the warm water, which is Singapore. I decided to take the perceived easier road and moved to Singapore. But then over time, I got much exposure to Southeast Asia, I also did invest in two companies in Vietnam. So, I was regularly here. And then I also found my life partner here in Vietnam. But she is originally from Hanoi and lived in Ho Chi Minh City. I tried to convince her to move to Singapore, and we have this wonderful life in the bubble. She said very clearly, “Look, you either come here, move here or stop”. Hanoian mindset, knows exactly what she wants. What we agreed then, on a compromise, because I was running a business with plus 70 people and five offices. And I could not just move here. So, we decided that I come every weekend to Vietnam. So, for years, every week or every second weekend, I commuted between Southeast Asia, and Vietnam was my home base. So, it was like then really familiar. But the tipping point was really when my son was born, it was clear, I'm not a weekend dad, I'm not the dad who is working Monday to Friday, and then just coming in exhausted just for the weekend and flies out on Sunday. So it was like the natural decision, and something that really has grown.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 07:54

Thank you for sharing that and when you look at your son who is four years old now, what's your wish for him, and what type of world he will grow into?

Max-F. Scheichenost 

So, my wish for him is happiness and happiness is this experience of being fulfilled. I want to enable him in what he wants to do. So I do not want to put him on limitations. And giving him unconditional love, where I'm just very glad is the way how I was raised by my mother. She gave me unconditional love, although I was like this problem child out of five kids; and quite an intense period of growing up but she gave me this unconditional love. This full belief whatever I'm doing there’s something good. Even if, at 4am six policemen are raiding the house. That's a good learning for me. So, I also do want to enable him to do whatever he wants to do to explore whatever he wants to explore and be himself. When I grew up in Austria, there was only Austria. So, for me, I grew up in Salzburg but I never moved out of Austria up until when I was 18 or 19. And once I got the scholarship to study in Canada in Montreal, it opened my worldview and my mind to the extent that wasn't able to come back to Austria because I realised, “Oh, I lived in this small box thinking, where I thought this is the world”. But I wanted to enable my son is also to see the world to experience the world. Yeah. And then to find happiness in whatever he chooses to do.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 09:18

That's excellent. And what does your partner do? 

Max-F. Scheichenost 

So, she is retired. She's on the Buddhist spiritual path. So, she converted past one year ago, and she has really dedicated her life to her spiritual development next to the family life. She's also very impressive background story coming from a very, very good family. So she was one out of 12 kids, and she got a scholarship. And then she was also a founder of a big tech company here in Vietnam, but in 2014, retired and ever since she's just doing what she is really passionate about. And she's also my alter ego. When we got to know each other. She always says, “Look Max, you always say you value freedom, but in fact, you've built your own prison, and you are the prisoner of your own prison.” I didn't see it. I just thought, “I'm involved in this business and that business, and I love it.” But she saw me as being the prisoner in this prison, took me really years to realise it. But she's like in terms of development, especially spiritual development, definitely multiple layers ahead of me, which I really appreciate because it also gives me a very different perspective.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 10:23

Thank you for sharing all that. Where are you in your spiritual journey?

Max-F. Scheichenost 

I am in discovery mode. I do have a legacy of growing up in Austria, especially Salzburg which is like the epicentre for Catholicism. I went to a Catholic boys’ choir, went to high school, like Catholic private school. My parents tried really hard to get me into one direction. I broke out of this when I was 14 to decide, okay, go to business high school. I left the boys’ choir and started more of a wide journey. But since I came to Southeast Asia, I've explored so many different religions, and I was just blown away. So of course, Singapore the first time I lived there, I was just impressed about how all their religions can live in harmony. And I had so many friends of different religions, and I tried to explore all of them that was exposed to so many different religions. 

Max-F. Scheichenost 11:14

For me now, spirituality is very simple. There's something much bigger than myself. It is like the journey to find this pathway, some would call it enlightenment. There's also like my pathway. I do practise like different forms of meditation. But I try not to be dogmatic because how I grew up, religion was so much pressed on me. There is only one way, and this is the way it is to be. Like, up to the point where we were in the class out of 30 people I know the one person who's not Catholic. It was so extreme, this world, that I did not want to operate and live in such a limiting world. But if I look now into my library here, so you see, there's a number of books from Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, I love the spiritual work of David Hawkins, he wrote the book Letting Go, which is also like the energy levels, how we can operate different energy levels. In short, it’s discovery.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 12:14

That's interesting because you move from Catholicism to exploring all this. And I guess you will find what is that true expression of it is being bigger than yourself? Right, great. Great. And do you think it's possible for people to live a simple life in today's world?

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Yes, I see it with my partner. Like five years ago, when you saw her, it was all brands and all luxury, and all of, “Look, I made it by myself.” Now she's wearing the Buddhist outfit every day, she is selling anything that is a material burden for her, and she lives really a simple life, and I see she is so much happier, and she's so much relaxed compared to before. For me simple life, it still takes effort. When I say effort is just being surrounded, I'm also accountable through all of the noise, for tech and digital, that's around me. To make really an effort that I have specific time slots where it's just myself. And there's no device. Or for me, like just daily meditation, or breathing. Just like this morning, I did like a breathing exercise after my swim training. 

Max-F. Scheichenost 13:21

And then I walked bare feet on the grass, just to get the sense of, “Am I present?.” And this is for me, the simplicity. But of course, once I go into my work mode, I turn into a little bit of a work machine with a heart. But once I come home, for me, it's like this moment, I opened the door, my son welcomes me with open arms and is so excited. These simple moments, really in a day, which is for me, considered having a simple life. My partner she always shared with me, “Bigger boat bigger waves.” You can always choose which boat you take, just be aware, if you take a bigger boat, the bigger waves and then accept the bigger waves. Yeah, and this also helps me even if sometimes, some things might occur, intense, or like the responsibility and also the people that I do carry. These are just waves because I choose like a certain boat.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 14:02

I love the metaphor. Bigger boats, bigger waves. Yeah, that's right. 

I wanted to have this conversation with you about entrepreneurship. And I divided into two sections. One is the mindset piece. And the other is the action piece. I'll classify the entrepreneurial mindset as a necessary mindset to have in today's world of disruption, because it allows one to be resourceful; essentially, being someone who can look at a problem, define what the real problem is, so that you go to work on the right solutions. Number two is you are someone who knows how to manage the risk around that whole process and deal with uncertainty that comes along. Most importantly, also to be able to create value not just for yourself, but for the stakeholders around you with whatever that you're trying to bring into reality. So that's the entrepreneurial mindset. And then of course, there are people who like yourself, when you started at 22, you will find an opportunity like an idea and you then decide, “Okay, you know what? I want to start my business.” You've been responsible, being a founder, co-founder of 22 different e-commerce companies. How did you do it?

Max-F. Scheichenost 15:24

So, very interesting. Seven years into my entrepreneurial journey, there's this wonderful study from Uppsala University, like what are the key behaviours of entrepreneur? Certain common behavioural traits. I read through the study, and I told myself, “I wish someone would have told me this when I was 14, 15, 16, that whoever I am, it's absolutely okay.” That like who I am and the mindset that I have. And in fact, this is a good foundation of being an entrepreneur. But back then when I grew up, I was always like, the unique person. I'm not saying that outsider, everyone was drinking Coke, I was ordering Sprite, everyone went to this high school of art and music, and I went to the business high school. 

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Also, when I went to university, all of my study friends and I was in a group of really driven people. But there were, in fact, only three career paths- consulting, investment banking, corporate. And I just knew none of them fits me. So, I tried to work for a student consulting company, then I realized, okay, I will never be a consultant. Then I did internships in the corporate investment banking. Back then I thought, like, okay, this is really not where my true passion is. When I started at my university, being an entrepreneur was not hip, it was not a keyword. In fact, there were no classes about entrepreneurship as we understand today. 

Max-F. Scheichenost 16:50

This was just about like family businesses, and how to when to take over and run a family business. I just knew that with my characteristics and behaviour, and especially also challenging rules. For me rules was always okay, this is man made, they're just invented just to follow a certain direction. But I was really questioning why do certain rules exist, why something good today, and tomorrow, it's bad. So, who decides this? Which led me also to really challenge this with authority. Back then I just thought, “Okay, I'm just an outsider, I'm just very unique.” And my mother always told me, “It's totally fine, you're just so unique, you don't have to fit in.” And that's why she's one of my role models, and especially in this period of 14 to 18, and everything that she had to endure. And she always saw just the positive in me at home, which we did not have any helper also. So she was alone, raising five kids who are very close in age. She always shared, “We need five nannies, one for the four kids, and four just for you.” I also had too much energy and I didn't know how to handle this energy. 

Max-F. Scheichenost  

So, she got this master plan, “Okay, I just let him try so many things that he can let go of his energy”. But then there were a couple of turning points and one was that in 2008, I was at a conference, I saw this entrepreneur on the stage, and he built the largest German social network, they were much larger than Facebook back then. And I was so inspired by his story and who he was being he went to the top business school, worked for an investment bank. But after working six weekends in a row, delivering something that no one looked at, he said ‘I'm definitely not going to work for someone, I will be my own boss’. I was so inspired by him. And then I went afterwards to the stage and asked him, “What can I do to learn from you? He said, “Just work for me.” That simple. I started to work for him the next summer as an intern and then I really discovered like some mindset elements that were so similar. But I saw also he was the one who's really practice it at a level that I aspired to practise. And this is like, really where my entrepreneurial journey started. And he played a very big role. And he was, in fact, for the very first business, my first business angel. And then for my three consecutive businesses, he has always invested in. Very grateful for that. He really has been my internet godfather. 

Max-F. Scheichenost 18:58

So when I talk about a lot of my e-commerce activities, he was really the key person there. And he opened up the world to me for entrepreneurship, for being surrounded by very experienced people. So, thanks to him, I got to know, back then the first generation of internet entrepreneurs in Europe. And then I always had four or five mentors around me that I call at least once a quarter where I had a lot of reflection time with them. He opened really up the world for me, and he really let me explore things and others shared the craziness in my thinking, helps better put the possibility that is out there, because he was a real creator. So, this was definitely a key factor. He was our first business angel in the business. And after we got acquired, he was also the first person I went to, and shared with him, “Look, it’s a great success. And I know people would love to potentially continue working for this big tech company, but it's not where I am. And this is not where I am fulfilled.” And then he gave me a professional and personal view. Back then I was then 24 and he said, “Look, you're young, you've very little to no responsibilities in your life. At this stage, you have a form of financial freedom at your age that super majority of people don't have, do whatever you want to do.” And I ask, “What can I do to continue to work with you?” And he said, “Okay, I can manage his portfolio in Southeast Asia” and then like couple of months later, so I resigned from my positions, and I started to be accountable for his portfolio companies in Southeast Asia. But I use this of being on the ground and getting to see, this was back in 2012, how does e-commerce look like in Southeast Asia? And from there, back then after the second trip, I decided to relocate to Singapore with a good friend. And he was one of my former employees. We just started a healthcare portal in Singapore. No experience in healthcare, never worked in Singapore, and we just started this business in Singapore. And it was like then continuously, continuously, like that. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 20:49

At 24, to find that it was a moment where you had to decide what to do with your life. You have all the financial success, there is this two pathway, you can go and become an employee at Google Inc because they acquired your company. Or you could go on and continue to be a creator and be an entrepreneur. And what do you do? And for me, I had a similar situation, I had started my first technology company in 1999. And by 2021, from considering listing it in the Singapore Stock Exchange, I had liquidated it and I was like, “Okay, what do I do now with myself, go back and be an entrepreneur? And I never thought again about that conversation until last year, when I was updating my book on entrepreneurship. Then I realized that my life in the last 20 years had been entrepreneurship as a way of life. I had worked for others, I had been an entrepreneur, but it was always entrepreneurship as a mindset. And I guess that's what you mean by a creator’s life, right?

Max-F. Scheichenost 21:50

Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 21:51

You also pointed out something very important here. And I think it's a role of mentors in our life. It’s not a one way street, if you want to have that beautiful relationship with mentors, because we've got to invest the time and effort ourselves in staying connected and creating value.

Max-F. Scheichenost 22:06

I found that to make it a two way street, I set the rules of engagement very early on. I firstly, I was looking for who's the best of the best. And I asked my internet godfather, who's the best of the best in this area for being a great board members or an investor, and he introduced me to them. And in the very first conversation I shared to the person, “Look, I understand you are busy, you have a lot of other priorities, and this might be only like a small thing, but also want to make it work for you. So how can I add value to you?” And it was super interesting thing. Some said, “Hey, I want to have more exposure to Southeast Asia, share with me always what's happening on the ground?” Okay, got it. So, I took this on. 

Max-F. Scheichenost  

And part of the conversation was not only what are the challenges that I face, or where I want to get some input, but I share what's happening on the ground. For example, for this one investor, he wanted to know how CVC landscape developing, this was back in 2014, 15. But as the first smaller funds in Singapore started, another person, he really wanted to know, what are some players to look into in the e-commerce segment. Having someone trusted on the ground. Once in a while, he sent me an introduction to someone and asked, “Can you meet this person for coffee?” So, I did a little bit of reference check. But some, they really just want to give back. And we define some criteria, so that it's not just like a one off, and then it dies off. But it is a continuation and something that we both work towards, so that you can also participate in an upside. So, this was really my common approach to it. Ithat I was really looking for how can I add value?

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 23:34

Very nice. Thank you very much for spending the time to elaborate on this. 

I want to move on to the next topic about having a crisis ready mindset. Unfortunately, when you're in the crisis in the thick of the moment, you have to make decisions. And it's often difficult because you're emotional, you're attached to the outcome. And somehow at the same time, you have to be able to step back to make a decision. Because if you don't make a decision, then things are just going to get worse. What have you found to be really useful for you in your life in dealing with crisis?

Max-F. Scheichenost  

I experienced major crisis, I managed the first one badly, and the second one luckily forced me in a way to get very professional support that had built this mindset and a form of resilience. Let me just share a little bit. The first one was 2015 and 16, I was engaged to a Singaporean, we just bought our apartment, and I was full on the core business, and I was engaged in three other businesses as well as a co-founder or as an active member. But then the core business went completely sideways. Back then we had three offices, and we were under a severe cash crunch and I was then three or four months non-existent in any form of relationship, was super exhausted and did not feel like the energy to spend any quality time, after like all of the traveling, like with this person. So, we did not proceed with getting married. And we had to go through the whole motion and I was just so exhausted. And definitely I was not just dealing really with the root causes of it. And I just thought okay, let's cut it off fast. There were already like a number of warning signs there. But I was not listening. And after this got over, from one day to another, I shifted my context and then I said, “I'm not sad and looking backwards.” I saw, “Hey, what's the opportunity? I'm a free man. I can focus on the business, and I can do what I want to do.” But now in retrospect it was really the first crisis.

Max-F. Scheichenost 25:33

Since which led me then to the second one. From there, I went full steam ahead and opened new offices, then I started with my partner two more businesses, then I started to get involved in real estate. So, I did some real estate investments and I had then for two and a half, three years, 160 flights per year. So it was really on the move all the time. On top of this, I trained for the Ironman, and I can only laugh about it. Without a coach! But I said, okay, I have a plan. I religiously follow it. But there were trips where I arrived in Hong Kong at 10pm. I was at a hotel at around 11. And it looked online, it was a gym open until 1am, and I went there. I was really exhausted, went full steam ahead. I know I only have one hour, so I go back and sleep but then I was not able to sleep. So, I started to self-medicate on sleeping pills. So I took like different kinds of sleeping pills. First, just like melatonin and then built it up, built it up, built it up.

Max-F. Scheichenost  

And my body gave me really all of the warning signs. So I got like tinnitus out of the pool, then the sleep issues, they got really major because I got in the evening, then so pumped that I've continued to work and I only stopped when I was physically exhausted. I did not stop when I really was not able to work, I went to bed and was not able to sleep. So I took them, one of the sleeping pills, it was slowly but truly downward cycle. And then I started to get anxiety, panic attacks, and so forth. And one night it was one of these trips like to Hong Kong, business meeting, 4am I woke up and I thought I get a heart attack, then followed by the panic and anxiety attack. And then I flew back to Ho Chi Minh City. 

Max-F. Scheichenost 27:02

And this was really where it was, my body said, “It’s enough!” And this was really five, six weeks, getting off the grid. So it was from 100% full on where I can be full on, to 50% 30% 20%. I was physically exhausted, emotionally non-existent, because I put everything emotional on the side. Was mentally empty, spirituality-wise, was really nothing there. But the difference there was, I did have my life partner, who was really there for me. Now I'm really grateful for this experience. Because for each of the dimension I shared - physically, emotionally, mentally, I got either coach or a doctor and had to rebuild it, but also really had to work on the root cause. So, this time forced me to really look into this life that I've lived for so long, I cannot continue with this pattern. So I started to rebuild first my physical strength, then I started to get access to my emotions. I mean, this might sound weird for some people, but if you asked me how I feel, I would say, “Good.” I did not have a vocabulary for my emotions. And I would not even know where to look into emotions. Yeah. And then also build up mental resilience to understand what is it that gives me strength? What is it that takes strength? What are some elements, simple habits and simple behaviours that are instilled that build up this measure of resilience along the way. And my partner was extremely helpful.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 28:22

What you talked about is actually a very critical part about crisis. I'm completing my book on crisis, I hope to publish it by the middle of this year. You know, most of us think sometimes when we encounter a crisis, because we sort of solved the problem, that everything is fine. But what we will discover later is that because we did not go to the root cause that we are just putting things on top of. Yeah. And then it's like for the real meltdown to happen. It is actually a good opportunity to go back to reconnecting with ourselves and to rediscover new perspectives, as well as to build new muscles to be able to cope with life. You speak so highly of your mother and your partner.

Max-F. Scheichenost 

One side note so you have context, my partner and I, technically we are separated, so she moved out of the house, but I am responsible for the boy. She's pursuing her spiritual pathway that I fully support. All in very good terms, why I'm sharing this with you, because I've been fully responsible for my son  and discovered the greatest respect for single mothers. I'm in a position where I'm very, very fortunate that I can have a support network handling what I have to handle. But if this will not be in existence, I have no idea how someone can physically, emotionally, mentally handled this. So, this is really my greatest respect. If I now meet someone who shares with me that they are single mothers, I cannot stop acknowledging them, because it's really incredible. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 29:56

That’s right. And thank you for sharing a very intimate aspect of your life from the journey from your son's birth to the process of healing for both you as well as your partner, right, in terms of the life journey you now taken on individually as well as collectively as parents to your son. It is unusual, even in these times. So, I'm sure that there are days when you just have yourself. Just like being an entrepreneur. Is it a lonely journey? Just have yourself. 

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Yeah. And we both value each other's freedom. For her, it's independence. For me it's interdependence now. But she's still my life partner. So, she knows that I love her. She's my family, I also want her to be happy. It's very simple, that she finds her happiness. And she knows that I love her, who she is being and what she's doing. And she's a wonderful person, a wonderful mother. And we have found a way that works for both of us.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 30:54

Everyone wants to be thriving, as well as flourishing. What would be the state that for you describes striving in your life?

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Thriving in my life. So, the state is an experience of being fulfilled. It means that all of these dimensions. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 31:11

The physical, the emotional, the mental.

Max-F. Scheichenost 

Correct, and the spiritual, they are really aligned. When they're aligned for me, then I get in the state of flow. And when I'm in the state of flow, everything is so easy. It's so natural, I accomplish with 50% less workload in terms of time. I accomplish more. This is only on the work side, not talking about my relationships in life. But the time I spent with my son, the time I spend for myself, my me time, this is for me really thriving. I also learned a couple of things along the way, what is for me needed to thrive in the world. And one element is a long term, multi-round game. In the past, I was trying to set very ambitious, impossible targets until I realised it's a multi-round game. And multi-round game long term is like compounding interest. So, in order for me to thrive, I invest in certain things like relationships, I call it time invest. This is reading, studying, exercise or exploring. All of this is needed for me in order to really thrive. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 32:13

That's right. Oh, that's really beautiful. We have a definition in our work for what we call as sustainable success. A lot of people mistake our sustainability with ESG. But actually, the definition that we take on is that it is the ongoing thriving of a living system. As human beings, we have so many subsystems, all these subsystems are interrelated and interconnected. And for us as a human being to flourish, we need all the other aspects to also be working together and flourishing. 

You are 37 years old, you've done so much in your life, is there a bucket list?

Max-F. Scheichenost 32:51

So, my bucket list sounds contrary to what people might think is a bucket list. So, my bucket list is simplicity. With simplicity that I can be fully present. Before that, I've done so many things, travelled so much, put my hands in so many different businesses. I over stretched myself in so many dimensions. There are of course, things I want to explore, but it's not something that I enforce. If the time is right. And I do want to be present for it, for me is really trying to simplify. And my daily bucket lists are really three things. The first thing is that in the morning, I wake up my son, I bring him to school, I tell him, I love him. And I tell him, “You are perfect as you are.” And I can feel he enjoys it, I enjoy it. And this is for me like how I start my day. Second one is, though we have coffee machines in the office, I get twice a day a coffee. But for me the notion of getting out of the office, go for a walk, time to think, just taking very conscious breath. And then having a good coffee and taking one sip. This is like one of my daily items that I really enjoy. And the last one is spending in the evening time again with my boy and reading, its book time, 30 minutes, and he chooses the book and it's usually not one book, it's typically three to five books that he's choosing. But like this is that for me really, okay, this has been a fulfilling day. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 34:09

You've just opened up a whole new world view for me that in just fulfilling on three simple things that are important, we can get the fulfilment and satisfaction of being alive.

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Right. Yeah. And interestingly, since I'm not so attached to, in the past, it was a financial success. It was this business has to be acquired, or we have to list it and other things. Since I'm not attached and let go of this one, and I focus on what is really important to me, I'm so much more successful. Really like, so the success just comes as a side product.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 34:48

That's right. It's a huge by-product of just being 100% focused and giving your all out, right? You're working hard, but not just for the outcome.

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Yes, it’s also my own expectation setting because a bucket list creates a new expectation and someone shared with me a quote, ‘Expectation equals to motivation minus perception”. So, if my expectation is high, and I really wanted to achieve it, but then my perception of it whatever I do is not that high, then there’s a gap there. This gap, dissatisfies me. Whereas if my expectation is non-existent, in the best way, than anything I experience is just so much more fulfilling and great when I perceive it. Like I always wanted to go to Japan there’s this art island. I'm not sure if you've been that like the Toshima Nashima the first time I had so high expectations that, wow, once in a lifetime, I have to be there as an art collector. The expectations were so high and then I thought, “Okay, it's just an island.” That's it. And the second time when I went there, I really said, “Okay, I'm just there to see what I can discover.” And same place, same location, but such a different experience. So, this was really, really eye opening.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 35:54

Wonderful. Yeah. Okay, great. I think we had an excellent conversation. Very authentic and heartfelt. It's really a conversation to explore your journey in life and allow the listeners to see what they can take away the gems from this conversation.

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Okay, great. I also want to acknowledge you I feel it's a very comfortable setting. I feel although we've not met in person yet, right. But I feel connected to you.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra 36:19

Thank you for saying that. Our listeners are going to really enjoy what you have shared. So thank you so much, Max, for being open to share your life with us.

Max-F. Scheichenost  

Great. Thank you so much.

Ho Lai Yun 36:30

Thank you for joining Dr. Ramesh and Max today. It’s touching to hear how Max has prioritised being the best father possible to his son and the personal and career growth he’s experiencing as a result of that.

If you're inspired by Max’s entrepreneurial experience and interested to learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset, check out Dr. Ramesh's book "The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0", simply click on the Amazon link provided in the podcast description. In addition, make sure you follow Dr. Ramesh on LinkedIn so that you’ll get the latest insights from her and our amazing podcast guest speakers.

Next up, we hear from another powerhouse in Vietnam, Ms. Jen Vuhuong, who’s a writer, trainer, speaker and coach, With the mission to empower future leaders and change makers.

Max-F. Scheichenost
Partner, Mekong Capital

For the past 10 years, I have been at the forefront of initiatives that launched and scaled successful companies in the consumer internet space. Through incubation of digital business models, fundraising, mentoring, innovative partnerships and digital marketing, I have co-founded and invested in more than 15 companies with an international presence and helped scale 20+ consumer internet companies in the APAC region. My entrepreneurial drive, innate curiosity and passion for digital transformation has helped me identify and capture opportunities in an increasingly digital world. 

Career Highlights:
• As Founder and Managing Partner of Alps Ventures, built this venture builder firm to drive innovation by supporting high potential internet consumer businesses throughout the entire growth cycle. Portfolio of companies include Duriana (acquired by Carousell), Clusterhaus (exited to existing shareholder), KochAbo (acquired by Marley Spoon), OkieLa and FALCON.
• Spearheaded establishment of Alps Ventures’ internal digital marketing and growth practice, which later spun off into a successful full-service agency, FALCON Agency. As Co-Founder and Director for Digital Marketing & Transformation, grew agency to a multi-million-dollar and multi-awarded business, ultimately earning recognition as Singapore’s most awarded independent agency in 2018. 
• As Co-Founder and Managing Director, established DailyDeal in Austria, a group-buying online marketplace company which was later acquired by Google Inc for U$114m after only 22 months of operation.

Digital Transformation | Digital Strategy | Growth Marketing | Strategic Partnerships & Alliances | Start-Ups | Building & Scaling New Businesses | Venture Capital | Angel & Venture Investing | Thought Leadership | Complex Negotiations | Go to Market Strategies | Multicultural & Multi-functional Team Management