Nuseir 'Nas' Yassin may have set up shop in Singapore a year ago but he doesn't seem to have caught the kiasi (afraid to die) bug yet.
By that, we mean the 27-year-old travel vlogger and CEO of The Nas Company has not bought into the hysteria that has compelled many of us to rush to the nearest pharmacy and buy every single surgical mask in sight.
In an interview with AsiaOne on Jan 31, Nas was nothing short of cavalier about the coronavirus outbreak that has been labelled a global public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO), saying: "I don't necessarily panic. I think it's a panic."
"The minute 10,000 people die, I'll start paying attention," he added.
He went on to point out that last year, way more people died of the flu. And he's not wrong — influenza claims 290,000 to 650,000 lives annually, according to WHO estimates.
Despite the 425 deaths and 20,438 confirmed cases in China alone (as of Feb 4), it's business as usual for Israel-born Nas, who travels around the world and makes videos for a living.
In case you haven't gleaned by now, Nas is all about focusing on the good instead of dwelling on the bad.
Or, as he puts it: "I don't want to give 50 per cent of my effort to something that's one per cent. I want to give 99 per cent of my effort to the 99 per cent that's good."
Perhaps it's this infectious positivity that made the one-minute clips documenting his travels viral successes and attracted a whopping 14.8 million followers to his Nas Daily Facebook page.
Unfortunately, it's the same thing that has caught him some flak. That's right — Nas gets hate for being too positive.
Accusations levelled against him include being "sponsored" and a sell-out.
After Nas made several clips in 2018 praising aspects of Singapore such as our food, airport and landfill system, he had some netizens speculating that he was on our government's payroll (he wasn't).
With the recent launch of Nas Studios, The Nas Company's video production arm, and Nas Academy, a four-week workshop for budding videographers (more on that later), it's safe to say that those "sponsored" comments aren't going away anytime soon.
And Nas' response to the critics is unsurprisingly on-brand.
Managing to put a positive spin on negative comments, he declared: "That shows you how effective we are. Nobody accuses a clown of being sponsored."
For Nas, hate comments are simply a validation of the power of his videos.
"They're scared of the reach of the videos. They can reach millions. They've become powerful and can change opinions on a mass scale," he explained. "Haters of governments and lovers of governments are scared of them. And I like that."
Also a testament to the power of videos? The business he built.
After quitting his tech job at Venmo in 2016 to travel the world, a project to make 60 daily videos turned into 1,000 videos once Nas realised how fun it was.
As his following grew, his content has also evolved from punchy, energetic travel vlogs to include social commentary. See The Forbidden Land, which covers Malaysia-Israel relations; Asia's Secret Country, a video shining the spotlight on Taiwan; and most recently, This Is Not Funny, a scathing critique of the sexist phenomenon of "guy talk".
Four years on, he's celebrating his company's first anniversary in Singapore with his team of 19.
And he isn't stopping there. His self-described "100-year-mission" includes turning Nas Academy into "the Harvard of video".
Aspiring content creators will be taught how to script, edit, shoot and publish videos. Nas will also be imparting the secret sauce — the art of storytelling.
If you're hoping to enrol in the course to learn from mentors such as Alyne Tamir, creator of popular Facebook page Dear Alyne (and Nas' girlfriend), or Nas himself, be warned: you've got competition.
While upwards of 1,000 people expressed their interest in two days, the course, which will cost between $1,500 and $2,000, will be opening just 10 places in its pilot batch this month. That's a one per cent acceptance rate. Technically, you'd have a better chance of getting into Harvard (five per cent).
Fortunately, Nas Academy will be opening up more places on a monthly basis.
Future batches can also look forward to greater accessibility — there are plans to provide financial aid for up to 20 per cent of the seats. Nas Academy may also expand to countries such as Philippines, India, the United States and Israel, Nas said.
Other big plans include expanding to 50 employees this year, grooming fresh video and voiceover talents across the globe, starting with Singapore. So don't be too surprised if you see local faces fronting Nas' videos in the near future.
Not content to be the sole star of the show, Nas says the idea is to create "a ton more Nas Dailies".
"If there is a story about a person, a business, a product, we want to be the best people in the world to tell it."