Category Archives: Asia Startup

Asia Startup

Fastest Growing Asia Digital Media Company Dino Media Takes Netizens by Storm

Dino Media Publishing consist of a network of news portals and social media channels, serving 3 million people monthly with news about entertainment, lifestyle, humor, viral news, and all things trendy. NextUpAsia.com chats with one of the founding members of one of the fastest growing startups in Asia about the Art of Building a company to serve millions of content hungry consumers online.

Dino Media has captured over 3 million readers online just within less than a year of its founding
Dino Media has captured over 3 million readers online just within less than a year of its founding

(a)   Getting to know The Start-Up Entrepreneur

 

Aaron Teng is one of the founding members of Dino Media's Digital Publishing Arm
Aaron Teng is one of the founding members of Dino Media’s Digital Publishing Arm
  • Tell us more about yourself – Who are you, what do you do, what are your qualifications (If any) and what have made you into the successful entrepreneur that you are today?

I’m Aaron Teng, my team and myself are part of the founding members of Dino Media’s Digital Publishing Arm. We build and grow news portals as well as various social media channels. Our team are from diverse backgrounds from graphic design to editing and all of them are equipped with great passion for technology and information. We wouldn’t accomplished what we got today without them.

  •  Why did you get started on this path towards building your own business?

We want to build our own business in digital publishing because on top of having control of the flow of information, we genuinely want to entertain our audience with great engaging content. That would be our primary motivation that is still driving us forward.

  • Was there any inspiration or anyone who inspired you to pursue your dream to become an entrepreneur today?

Naturally, in the modern digital publishing industry, we would put Khailee Ng from SAYS as one of the people who greatly influence what we do. Our team’s dream is not short of ambition and we want to make Malaysia proud.

  • In your experience, what are the 3 Winning Traits that Entrepreneurs should possess when they start their business?

a) Adapatable  b) Determination c) Visionary

 

### End of Part 1 ###

About Dino Media:

Dino Media Publishing consist of a network of news portals and social media channels, serving 3 million people monthly with news about entertainment, lifestyle, humor, viral news, and all things trendy.

About the Founders:

We are a group of young and capable team who are hustling to entertain the world with stories and news we find engaging. We strive to never stop innovating the way you read news and we hope we could ultimately build a news portal that would channel you with personalized news that really matter.

 

3 Business Wisdoms shared by Email Management Startup Mailbird on Success

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. NextUpAsia.com chats with the CEO and Co-Founder, Andrea Loubier about how she started this revolutionary business online.

Changing the Way We Use Emails by Mailbird
Changing the Way We Use Emails by Mailbird

(a)    Getting to know about The Wisdom behind The Start-Up

  • What would be your 3 main advice that you would offer to entrepreneurs who want to start up today?

1)      Find something you are truly excited about, a business idea that provides a solution to you and at least thousands around the world.

2) Define how you are going to be better, stronger different than others in your vertical – measure yourself up against the competition with a plan to be on top.

3) Don’t be afraid to tell people about your idea, because before you exert the time and effort into it (because it takes a hell of a lot of time and resources to do it) get the feedback, welcome the challenges that people propose about your business idea and use that to your advantage and go for it.

  • If you have a wishlist, what would you want Governments or the Private Sectors to do, to assist businesses like yours? Just any wish and why?

Government grants allocated to tech communication and productivity businesses. I’d want a global effort to make online communication truly secure, available for the world (I love Google’s Project Loon for example). Having a strong collaborative network in offering productivity through our email platform to large student groups, small to large businesses, partnerships with local ISP’s.

Why?

Because I believe in our strong vision to be the de facto world-wide best email client for Windows that delivers speed, productivity, an awesome user experience and a highly secure means for both personal and business communication.

Mailbird sets to make managing emails for companies and busy people easy
Mailbird sets to make managing emails for companies and busy people easy
  • Any last remarks to close your ‘The Start-Up Entrepreneur Speaks’ series for now?

Working on a startup is the biggest roller coaster ride you’ll ever experience, there are a ton of uncertainties and challenges. It is probably one of the hardest things to do, but if you love building something from nothing then you will embrace those moments of struggle and actually find it very rewarding and fun. I think more people should pursue entrepreneurship.

### END OF PART 4 ###

About Mailbird: 

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. With key productivity hacks and differentiators like multi-account support for both IMAP and POP3 accounts, multi-language support to make Mailbird more globally available, data driven email management with the Wingman productivity booster and a community driven initiative to solve the many unique problems with email.

About The Entrepreneur: 

Andrea is the CEO and co-founder of Mailbird, an email tech startup based in Bali that focuses on email security and productivity hacks on the most creative platform for email innovation ever. She is half American and half Filipino, thrives on diversity as a social connector, particularly for women in Asia that are leading influencers and founders of tech companies. With 7+ years of marketing, project and community management under her belt, she is a firm believer in the strength of women in the world of tech, in the fast-evolving startup ecosystem emerging across Asia

The Inspiration Behind Social Media Platform Startup for Public Safety Developed by MYHERO

MYHERO is a startup building a gamified social network specifically designed for people to report & consume purposeful and relevant information according to their physical location. Founded less than a year ago, the startup is close to release its version 1 really soon. NextUpAsia.com takes a look into the making of the revolutionary app which will ensure that public reporting of crime and natural disasters can now be easily done by netizens around the globe, while rewarding them for their responsible ethics to come together and keep their cities and neighbourhoods safe with MYHERO.

MYHERO Rewards Online Users for being more Responsible about Public Safety
MYHERO Rewards Online Users for being more Responsible about Public Safety

 

Getting to know The Start-Up Entrepreneur

  • Tell us more about yourself – Who are you, what do you do, what are your qualifications (If any) and what have made you into the successful entrepreneur that you are today?

My name is Wei Chi, my team and myself are part of the founding members of the MYHERO project.  We were from diverse background with a great passion for technology and business. This has became our primary motivation to kickstart MYHERO.

 

MYHERO's Co-Founder Chan Wei Chi
MYHERO’s Co-Founder Chan Wei Chi
  • Why did you get started on this path towards building your own business?

I always disagree to the notion that every fresh graduate have to follow the conventional path to work for a company, and gradually climbing the corporate ladder.

Although I acknowledge there is valid points at employement but personally, I would rather work my hardest to build my own dream right from the beginning rather than working hard to build dreams of others.

  • Was there any inspiration or anyone who inspired you to pursue your dream to become an entrepreneur today?

Our company’s angel investor – Sean Teoh is definitely the immediate inspiration to me as we work very closely together. He is incredibly successful with his F&B businesses and various investments. I genuinely think people like Sean will be the kind of individuals that would make Malaysia a serious global player.

  • In your experience, what are the 3 Winning Traits that Entrepreneurs should possess when they start their business?

a) Proactiveness b) Persevarence c) Humilty

### End of Part 1 ###

About MYHERO:

MYHERO is a startup building a gamified social network specifically designed for people to report & consume purposeful and relevant information according to their physical location. Founded less than a year ago, the startup is close to release its version 1 really soon.

About the Founding Team of MYHERO:

The pioneering team at MYHERO always on the edge of pushing the status quo in design and technology. We are never satisfied and we are laser focus at building a technogical solution without losing the touch of human interaction. We have strong beliefs that our product is able to bring out the hero of our users.

Marketing at Almost Zero Cost to Revolutionize Email Management with Mailbird

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. NextUpAsia.com chats with the CEO and Co-Founder, Andrea Loubier about how she started this revolutionary business online.

Andrea Loubier Entrepreneur behind Mailbird
Andrea Loubier Entrepreneur behind Mailbird

(a)    Getting to know about The Strategies to Be The No.1 Start-Up

  • Marketing is King! How did you publicize your business? How did you get people to notice you and not your competitors?

We were in the right place at the right time. When we decided to go full throttle with Mailbird, there was a lot of hype in the world of email. Some topics included how many web based email servers were not secure, how emails were scanned and the lack of privacy and trust is always a concern. Sparrow, an email client for Mac, was acquired by Google. Mozilla’s open sourced email client Thunderbird announced ceasing development to focus and reallocate on other Mozilla products. Other email clients like Postbox, Inky, Airmail etc came to surface. Hotmail.com rebranded completely their web interface and style and renamed it Outlook.com- they later announced their POP3 only web email server would for the first time have IMAP support.

Marissa Mayer was named the new CEO for Yahoo with focused efforts on revamping Yahoo Mail. An online resource for anything to do with email launched called Other Inbox along with email focused tech conferences in Silicon Valley, called Inbox Love.

In the hot bed of email news, we simply found targeted tech publishers, bloggers, newspapers, magazines, forums and websites and shared the launch of a new Windows email client and people responded because we targeted the right channels, and built relationships with the right people.

Mailbird Levrages on Publicity by the media to build userbase
Mailbird Leverages on Publicity by the media to build userbase

A tip is to focus on contacting relevant tech publishers who’ve written on the subject matter of your business, and you should have a pretty compelling story to tell. Because we were named best email client for Windows by both PC World and IT World, and also a world class software by CNET’s Download.com users who were seeking this solution for email are happy to support Mailbird.

What is most interesting is your angle, what differentiates you from the competition. What do you offer that they do not. If you can clearly answer that, then go out there and tell the world about it and your early adopters will come.

  • They say, Talents is what make or break the business. For yourself, how did you get your talents and what did you do to make them remain working for you?

Character has a lot to do with how far you will go in life. I would say that one of my strengths as a person is that I am very much a networker, personable and easy to talk to. In addition to that, experience and learning by doing and through failures and mistakes is how you grow and become better.

I always grew up in a very internationally diverse setting, I like to engage with people and I love learning about what motivates people and how to build a business around your target user’s needs. I am constantly learning about great business development and marketing initiatives, and love to test different strategies; it is all part of learning and growing with your business and it is different for everyone.

You can never just be an expert on one thing, because the world continues to change, especially when it comes to technology. How you operate and communicate your vision has to also be flexible and adapt with the ecosystem in your vertical.

My background in project management in working with huge international corporations has taught be a lot about setting priorities, goals and delivering happiness to people you interact with.

Mailbird participates in many Startup events to build awareness among startup community
Mailbird participates in many Startup events to build awareness among startup community
  • If you could name 3 Main Criteria that have made You and Your Business successful, what are those 3 Main Criteria?

Early engagement with users. Relentless drive in communicating our vision to the world. A solid, reliable and talented team that cohesively works together to move a business forward.

  • Businesses need to Innovate in order to stay Competitive in the marketplace – How have you innovated your company to be competitive until today?

We’ve challenged the old school design and user experience for email on the Windows platform. We’ve adopted new technologies in building an email client. We are focused on the Windows platform – so you know it is good since we aren’t trying to be available on every OS, only to deliver a half-assed product.

We constantly test viral marketing strategies. We constantly seek opportunities that work hand in hand with email such as security and productivity. We are building community around email innovation with our developmental milestone of building the Mailbird API allowing 3rd party developers to build and distribute their super cool email productivity apps right from within Mailbird, so you have everything you’ve ever needed to manage email, your life and your business from one place.

Mailbird is not just another email client, and we are the only ones truly working to fix the problem(s) with email.

  • Global economic uncertainties Kill Businesses – In your mind, how did you weather this challenge for your business?

Well first you have to pre-determine the potential risks and threats to your business in building a thorough business plan. Economic uncertainties include optimism, employment, demand, profits, inflation, investment and access to finance. So if all things fail or go downhill in the global economic foreground we believe Mailbird will survive because people still need a way to communicate with each other online.

With Radicati’s 2013 – 2014 statistical report that email accounts are growing at a substantial rate of 6% in the billions each year, we know email isn’t going anywhere. Should there be an economic downturn, sure software will be the last thing people think about buying, but because Mailbird offers a freemium solution we believe that our user base will sustain and adapt with changing economic climates.

Startup Camp
Mailbird is one of the startups benefiting from Asia’s boom of revolutionary technology businesses

 

You see more women stepping up in senior management roles which is seen as an opportunity in the changing world economies and another strength for the Mailbird team. Also should companies consider budget cuts, if you look at the email client that currently dominates a workplace that runs Windows machines, Mailbird easily becomes the alternative solution with an value-added offer to businesses at a fraction of the price of solutions out there today for Windows users.

Whatever happens in the global economy, Mailbird will be available as a technology solution for communication. Even better, when the world emerges from economic struggle, in that cycle comes many new solutions and adaptations. People get more resourceful, more creative and become more open to alternative solutions when it comes to building a business and stimulating economic growth.

 

### END OF PART 3 ###

About Mailbird: 

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. With key productivity hacks and differentiators like multi-account support for both IMAP and POP3 accounts, multi-language support to make Mailbird more globally available, data driven email management with the Wingman productivity booster and a community driven initiative to solve the many unique problems with email.

About The Entrepreneur: 

Andrea is the CEO and co-founder of Mailbird, an email tech startup based in Bali that focuses on email security and productivity hacks on the most creative platform for email innovation ever. She is half American and half Filipino, thrives on diversity as a social connector, particularly for women in Asia that are leading influencers and founders of tech companies. With 7+ years of marketing, project and community management under her belt, she is a firm believer in the strength of women in the world of tech, in the fast-evolving startup ecosystem emerging across Asia

How does a Startup Plan to Change the Way We Use Emails Everyday with Mailbird

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. NextUpAsia.com chats with the CEO and Co-Founder, Andrea Loubier about how she started this revolutionary business online.

Fast Growing Startup Going to Change the Way We Use Emails
Fast Growing Startup Going to Change the Way We Use Emails

(a)    Getting to know about The Start-Up

  • Tell us more about Your Company – What have you built? What is your product or service to your customers? What is your track-record so far?

Mailbird is my company. It is the smartest, fastest and most secure email platform for Windows that brings productivity back into your life. We have roughly 7,000 active users and growing. We are a team of 8 incredibly smart and talented people who believe in this mission to build the greatest email productivity platform ever, with a vision to help people become better at information management. We are excited to report that users are already opting to upgrade their software to the yearly paid subscription because they love it so much already, and we are just getting started.

  • Why did you decide to go into this business? Is it because it is a lucrative market? Is it a Blue Ocean which your talents and expertise through your business can provide?

The market for a proper and modern-age email solution for the Windows platform is very much under-served. Windows still holds the highest majority of the OS market share, email remains the #1 online activity to date, and between consumer and business email accounts they are growing 6% year over year in terms of billions of email accounts. There just is nothing that has adapted to the highly distracting environment for those who work online. Email has become the number 1 stressor and distraction for many people and businesses, and we are already fixing that problem.

Mailbird to Let Businesses Manage Emails more Effectively
Mailbird to Let Businesses Manage Emails more Effectively
  • Please share with us, when you established your organization during its early days – How did you fund it? Any tips on raising the funds? Any tips on convincing investors?

The initial capital of $100k usd was injected by our CFO and original Mailbird founders and has given us the ability to bootstrap the business, while keeping operational costs down and focusing on product and business development in Bali. We are just recently actively seeking outside investment to give our resource pool a boost for marketing for growth and strategic partnerships that will scale our business.

I don’t think anyone can say there is any one way or tip to convincing investors, you have to just get out there and start talking to as many of them as possible. Make your business case, be able to sell your vision really really well with a track record that proves a future of success and growth for your business. We’ve got all the right recipe in place for this already: A solid team, a really great story, a lucrative product, awesome business development milestones built around growth, including an exit strategy. The final piece is down to finding the right investor that would fit as a great partner with the mutual benefit of seeing that Mailbird succeeds as a global email solution.

  • Where do you see your business growing into, for the next 5 to 10 years?

We are first going to build a solid email client, that will in a year serve as a platform allowing 3rd party developers and strategic partners to build productivity focused email apps that integrate with Mailbird. We are focused currently on the consumer market, but by 2015 we are looking to expand to the business market by a really great offering to SME’s, small teams and startups alike. In part of this effort we seek to close a series A investment round to allocate more resource for growth and pursuing high security measures when it comes to email, a big problem we face today. Our current focus is to build a solid desktop email application first, to focus on productivity from the desktop…this is where it happens. However in the future, we seek to expand to the mobile platform given the high demand for Mailbird on iOS, Android and even Windows phones.

Mailbird to Make Managing Emails Simple
Mailbird to Make Managing Emails Simple

 

Here we seek strategic partnerships with ISP’s, security and email message encryption partners, hardware distribution with Mailbird as a software offering on that hardware with Intel’s latest product line and of course a plan to work more closely with Microsoft in their recent expansion to offering IMAP support for Outlook.com, touch technology with their 2 in 1 machines and of course their Windows phone market expansion efforts.

Our immediate and prolonged goal is to build our user base while gathering data on email usage, to solve the unstable environment with email seen today. Mailbird is a global product, and we hope to see more users from around the world using it especially since our recent move to localize the software.

  • What is your vision for the industry that you are in? Do you see a trend coming up that your business can capitalize?

Our vision is to bring productivity back to people and businesses on a beautiful, incredibly fast and highly secure email platform for the huge worldwide Windows market. As more and more people are working online, email is an inevitable tool that you will use to communicate with friends, colleagues, potential clients and potential business partners.

A major focus today is on productivity, how to stay productive? As well as what tools will be available to help you grow your business? PC World named Mailbird the best free email client for the productive business person in 2013, in 2014 IT World named Mailbird the best email client for Windows.

Tech Crunch and Lifehacker called us the “Sparrow for Windows”, so we knew we tapped into unchartered waters in pursuit of productivity and online communication for Windows users. We hear that everything is going mobile, but when we look at email these projections can be deceiving. It is true that more people open emails on the mobile devices, however when it comes to getting things done with those emails and replying, the desktop and the native in control feel of a client is the answer.

### END OF PART 2 ###

About Mailbird: 

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. With key productivity hacks and differentiators like multi-account support for both IMAP and POP3 accounts, multi-language support to make Mailbird more globally available, data driven email management with the Wingman productivity booster and a community driven initiative to solve the many unique problems with email.

About The Entrepreneur: 

Andrea is the CEO and co-founder of Mailbird, an email tech startup based in Bali that focuses on email security and productivity hacks on the most creative platform for email innovation ever. She is half American and half Filipino, thrives on diversity as a social connector, particularly for women in Asia that are leading influencers and founders of tech companies. With 7+ years of marketing, project and community management under her belt, she is a firm believer in the strength of women in the world of tech, in the fast-evolving startup ecosystem emerging across Asia

Vserv Launches Search Intent Mobile Ads

Vserv.mobi, an award winning mobile advertising exchange, today announced the launch of Search Intent Ads, a new advertising format that integrates the power of search into mobile ads. This format is designed to help marketers attain relevant consumers and facilitate their buying decisions via a seamless in-ad search strategy.

Search Intent Ads are enabled via full screen mobile ads on the Vserv.mobi exchange across 150,000 apps and sites. The ad format will leverage user intent and deep linking to drive these relevant consumers to the right purchase funnel.

Propelled by the growing prevalence of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, emerging markets like India and South East Asia experienced a doubling of mobile data traffic in 2013. Mobile shopping has created a strong influence on the e-commerce sector, and mobile searches have been effective in helping consumers make crucial purchase decisions swiftly. Studies show that 75% of mobile searches lead to follow-up actions such as purchases and word-of-mouth sharing. Search Intent Ads allow e-commerce players to leverage this growing consumer reliance on mobile Internet use by offering consumers a fast, easy and engaging brand experience by searching for products on the mobile ad.

Dippak Khurana

“E-Commerce companies are constantly seeking effective ways to reach mobile users,” said Dippak Khurana, CEO and Co-Founder, Vserv.mobi. “Nearly 30 percent of the traffic on e-commerce sites comes from mobile, and we expect this ratio to increase to 70 percent by next year. Asia-Pacific region is poised to become the largest regional e-commerce market in the world with expected annual sales to reach USD 525.2 billion. We are excited to further boost this sector with the launch of Search Intent Ads on our exchange to help marketers engage highly relevant consumers.”

vserv intent Ads

Commenting on the innovation, Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director, Asia Pacific Ltd, Mobile Marketing Association, said, “Search Intent Ads launched by Vserv.mobi is a first of its kind compelling mobile advertising solution that will help boost mobile enabled commerce.

The timing of this advertising format launch complements the growth of mobile media consumption habits evolving from mere browsing to interactive engagement. The solution would enable commerce providers to engage consumers and facilitate the path to purchase led by advertising. Marketers would be able to harness the benefits of mobile marketing more effectively with such an innovation.”

The versatile Search Intent Ad format can be used by brands across all industries like banking, financial services, insurance, automotive and many more. Segmented sections of the advertisements can provide quick access to popular product categories and can be customised to take advantage of current trends and special seasons. By enabling, deep linking, brands can further re-engage, re-target and gain higher ROI from mobile ads.

The Entrepreneur behind the Creative Email Platform Mailbird

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. NextUpAsia.com chats with the CEO and Co-Founder, Andrea Loubier about how she started this revolutionary business online.

Mailbird sets to make managing emails for companies and busy people easy
Mailbird sets to make managing emails for companies and busy people easy

With key productivity hacks and differentiators like multi-account support for both IMAP and POP3 accounts, multi-language support to make Mailbird more globally available, data driven email management with the Wingman productivity booster and a community driven initiative to solve the many unique problems with email.

(a)    Getting to know The Start-Up Entrepreneur

  • Tell us more about yourself – Who are you, what do you do, what are your qualifications (If any) and what have made you into the successful entrepreneur that you are today?

My name is Andrea Loubier and I am the CEO of Mailbird. I have 7+ years in business development, project management and marketing. I love spicy food, building things from nothing and am addicted to travel. Thanks to the great community at Startup Getaway in Bali, I’ve learned so much and made great connections and lifetime friends that have both motivated and challenged me in my entrepreneurial journey. I believe that people around the world need better tools to help them get more done every day, and that Mailbird is the email platform to make that happen.

  • Why did you get started on this path towards building your own business?

I’ve always had a strong passion for entrepreneurship. The idea of starting a new business or creating a real solution to a problem faced by billions of people worldwide is exciting to me. Technology is the inevitable means to deliver solutions to everyday problems we experience today. I want to be an influencer in helping people communicate better online and to become more productive. I love to learn by doing. I believe you learn a lot through failure, and feel that it is important to observe future outcomes for your business through mistakes made. It’s the best way to learn.

Andrea Loubier Entrepreneur behind Mailbird
Andrea Loubier Entrepreneur behind Mailbird
  • Was there any inspiration or anyone who inspired you to pursue your dream to become an entrepreneur today?

Women in tech inspire me. My current favorite is Marissa Mayer, one of the original Google developers and Yahoo’s newest CEO. Others include Sarah Lacy, Leah Culver, Jessica Mah and Hermione Way.

  • In your experience, what are the 3 Winning Traits that Entrepreneurs should possess when they start their business?

Relentless drive for discovering and learning. Motivation to really make an impact. And Passion for what you are pursuing.

### END OF PART 1 ###

About Mailbird: 

Mailbird is a creative email platform that brings productivity back into your life on the most widely used operating system today, Windows. Email today has become very insecure, a major stress in the workplace and slow with the innovative process that adjusts to how we work and communicate online today. With key productivity hacks and differentiators like multi-account support for both IMAP and POP3 accounts, multi-language support to make Mailbird more globally available, data driven email management with the Wingman productivity booster and a community driven initiative to solve the many unique problems with email.

About The Entrepreneur: 

Andrea is the CEO and co-founder of Mailbird, an email tech startup based in Bali that focuses on email security and productivity hacks on the most creative platform for email innovation ever. She is half American and half Filipino, thrives on diversity as a social connector, particularly for women in Asia that are leading influencers and founders of tech companies. With 7+ years of marketing, project and community management under her belt, she is a firm believer in the strength of women in the world of tech, in the fast-evolving startup ecosystem emerging across Asia

The JobStreet Way: What I learned from Mark Chang

I still remembered Mark Chang’s parting advice to me when I told him that I was leaving JobStreet to start my own company.

“Go (forth and) take risks.”

I liked that so much that I got a poster made and mounted on my wall here inside the HackerHub where I work.

mark-chang-poster

Hanson Toh (ex-Google, now running his own startup Service Clicks) came to visit HackerHub a few weeks ago. When he saw the poster, he laughed and remarked disbelievingly, “Mark said this? Really? Mark Chang?

True enough, ‘taking risks’ perhaps won’t be something that immediately comes to mind when Mark is mentioned in any casual conversation. Indeed, the people who know Mark would usually describe him as “practical“, “conservative“, “thrifty“, “humble” and “grounded“. “Taking risks“? Nah… not that much.

But I know otherwise.

For someone the Focus newspaper called “the most successful techno-entrepreneur ever to surface in Malaysia”, Mark Chang is a low-profiled man. This was by design; he never enjoyed basking in the limelight that much.

I had lunch with a couple of startup entrepreneurs last Saturday, and we talked about the JobStreet billion ringgit deal.

To quote someone at the meeting verbatim, “I’ve heard (Mark) speak at a JobStreet fair once. A typical Chinaman.  You won’t imagine him to be the kind who makes billion dollar exits. And I heard he’s a real penny pincher, too!” I didn’t bother with a response.

I know that he may not fit into the swashbuckling entrepreneur-hustler archetype which we commonly associate with billion dollar exits. But to call Mark Chang a pussy-footed country bumpkin who penny-pinched his way to a billion bucks is a travesty.

And there’s this other side of him that’s not immediately obvious to many people (especially those outside JobStreet) – and that is his enormous benevolence.

I know this because Mark (and one of his other partners in JobStreet, Suresh Thiru) have been the people most generous to my career.

After leaving JobStreet, I asked Mark to mentor me, and he agreed. Additionally, I took a side consulting gig which required me to go back to JobStreet one day a week. I also had a weekly one hour slots with him where I would update him and get his advice on things that mattered.

And through Mark, I have had many doors opened, numerous pitfalls sidestepped and some hard questions answered.

I have connected with people who probably wouldn’t take my calls if not for Mark’s referral. I stopped short making a deadly blunder that could have left my budding business dead in a pool of blood if not for his advice (more on this later). I learned from him how to deal with unlimited requests with limited resources – especially relevant to a startup where time and money are scarce.

I kept in contact with Mark for about two years after I left JobStreet. However, for most of last year I had been working around the clock on building GoodPlace.my (a startup in the online property vertical), and in the midst of the hustle and bustle I have somewhat let my mentor-mentee relationship with Mark lapse.

Foolish, I know.

Then in February the news broke about the JobStreet deal with Seek. When I heard it, I had little butterflies in my stomach. The deal was enormous at MYR1,730,000,000 (spelled out for effect) for a complete buyout, representing the biggest ever exit for a Malaysian dotcom startup.

During a gathering with tech entrepreneurs at the HackerHub, we discussed about what the deal means for local startups, and how we could emulate JobStreet’s success in our own businesses. The following is a summary of what I shared during the meeting.

Work Hard And Wait For The Rain.

Mark used to quip, “I know only of the ‘kerbau’ (buffalo) way, that is, to work hard and wait for the rain.”

Truth be told, for a long time I have disagreed with him (albeit quietly). Indeed, for much of the early part of my entrepreneurial career, I was rather opportunistic in my focus and and short-term in my thinking. Instead of working hard on one thing and then wait for the proverbial ‘rain’, I would instead “look for places where rain is plenty, and then get a buffalo to do the work” (an antithesis to Mark’s approach).

My approach was scatter-gun by design, and it worked well. I made money in the online lead generation business; in simple terms, I provide a steady stream of potential customers to businesses online for a fee. At one point I had some 150 websites spitting out dollar bills in all the “hot” consumer niches – weight loss, self improvement, dating, meditation – you name it. There was absolutely zero focus; I had fingers in every pie where there was money to be had.

In short, Mark’s “work hard on one thing and wait for the rain” concept absolutely played no part in my business plan. In full hustler mode, I had simply gone to places where money was being made by the minute, hand over fist.

Churn-and-burn was the name of the game, and as such, the business model was deliberately mercenarial. You see, I didn’t care how the sites looked as long as they did what they were supposed to do: to capture, warm up and then redirect traffic to my clients’ websites. The lead generations sites could look as hideous as a Geocities site in 1998; as long as they made me money, I didn’t give a hoot.

And then things changed.

The KLCC Condominiums Database (a precursor to GoodPlace.my) was a hobby project which got started when I was interning at a property agency (more on this later).

And as I have never expected it to be a instant moneymaker, I decided to follow Mark’s approach for a change. Just as an experiment, I had thought.

The KLCC Condominiums Database was a collection of reviews of upmarket apartments located in the KLCC enclave. Different from the usual cookie cutter stuff that one would find at the developer website or a property portal, I wanted to provide impartial reviews of the condominiums, exposing the properties for what they truly were – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The proverbial ‘kerbau‘ then went to work. I had meticulously researched each property (mostly online, and also by talking to tenants, agents and building managers), collating and cramming as much original information as possible into each review.

I spent a good few Saturday afternoons wandering in the KLCC area taking pictures of the condominiums (and getting chased by the overzealous security guards in the process). I laboured over the website’s user interface with my limited Photoshop skills, ensuring that every pixel was in its rightful place. Exploiting my meager PHP skills, I manage to code a simple aggregator which pulled listings from external classifieds sites.

Sticking to the ‘wait for the rain‘ philosophy, promotion was deliberately kept at a minimum. Traction was painfully slow but I waited patiently.

And as I waited, I wrote more reviews, took more pictures and wrote some posts at the property section at the Low Yat forums. I also reached out to other property bloggers, local and international.

Eventually, the ‘rain’ did come, and when it did, it poured.

Traffic was initially trickling in from Low Yat and the other blogs, but then the search engines decided to place my site on top of the search results page for the majority of the property names (even beating some of the more established property sites). As a result, I was receiving hundreds of targeted search traffic per day which would have cost me a bomb if I were to buy them by the click.

For the last few years demand had been lagging supply in the KLCC property market, and with my website driving the majority of buyer leads online, it was easy for me to pitch property agencies. I didn’t do much shopping around although in the end I did close a nice six figure deal with an agency which I liked.

I am following the same blueprint for GoodPlace.my, and I am happy to report that it’s working well so far. At the time of writing, the GoodPlace network (which includes all our sister websites) is already servicing some 32,000 home buyers and agents a month despite near zero effort in promotion and marketing. All the on-site metrics look good – engagement is high, feedback is consistently good and email open and click thru rates are reportedly above industry average.

Make a superior product, get the word out and then wait for opportunities to knock; it worked for JobStreet, and there’s no reason it won’t work for your startup.

Build A Kickass Team.

Suresh Thiru is the Chief Operating Officer of JobStreet, and I have known him as one of the hardest taskmasters in my entire career.

suresh-hackerhub

Suresh ran JobStreet’s engine room. With a team of handpicked people with strong operational background, getting things done efficiently was the order of the day. Indeed, the guiding mantra was “serve fast, fill all” (the “fill all” part referred to job vacancies).

The competitive spirit was feisty. Eric Sito, one of Suresh’s ablest managers told me during my on-boarding at JobStreet, “Mark decides which war to win. My job is to fight that war.” I had never told him this, but I had greatly admired his work ethic and fighting spirit.

Suresh’s “get the work done” focus was the perfect complement to Mark’s strategic vision and moral compass. And together with Albert Wong (engineering), and Greg Poarch (finance) the foursome made a formidable team.

Mark’s ability to assemble a strong team reflected on my current struggle to recruit A-players into my own business.

Admittedly, I have been doing a reluctant job at reaching out to people, and as a result, I could have grown more quickly with a good team in place but I didn’t. Suresh knew that this was my biggest bottleneck, and he gave me a good dose of arse-walloping over my piss-poor effort at recruitment. Upon further reflection, I have decided to put in more effort to build up a team for the rest of the year – in particular, good hackers and people with strong operational background.

I still routinely go back to JobStreet to meet Suresh because I know that he gives me the straight talk that I need to hear (and yes, I am a sucker for pain). This brings me to my next point.

Listen To Your Elders.

In any industry, there are inevitably people who have already done the things that you want to do. Get them to help you. Ask them what the typical mistakes are. They can save you from months or even years of chasing rabbits.

Before I started GoodPlace.my, I had thought of joining a company which is already running a property classifieds website to learn more about the business.

Mark asked me not to do it. “Things might get complicated later,” he said.

Suresh was absolutely livid about the idea. I had defended myself, “I need to learn more. I know nothing about this business. I have no idea what I want to do exactly, and I might not end up competing with them anyway. And besides, I think it’ll be really fun.

But Suresh wouldn’t have any of that. “Yes, I know, STEALING can be FUN. Don’t do it.

He then offered, “If you want to learn about the property business, why don’t you work for my friend instead?” He then asked Previndran Singhe to take me in as an intern, who eventually gave me my first break in this business after I have launched GoodPlace.my.

Later I had found out that the property classifieds company that I had wanted to join had a rather chequered history – they seemed to take a leaf out of the Cut Throat Corporate Playbook with a history of attacking  competitors through frivolous lawsuits and mass poaching of employees.

What if I had indeed joined that company and then quit in six months to start a property site? I might have gotten sued into oblivion, putting a premature end to my budding entrepreneurial career with a single knock-out knee in the groin.

Truth be told, heeding the advice from the elders in the game have saved my hide, many, many times.

In most situations startup entrepreneurs will never have the benefit of hindsight, and as such, the advice of the those who have been-there-and-done-that is worth the weight in gold. Seek out the elders in your industry and ask for guidance; they will save you from a lot of unnecessary grief.

The JobStreet Way At Startups

At the end of my presentation at HackerHub I was asked, “JobStreet was founded some 16 years ago. Will this still work today?”

I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that it would.

For me, the JobStreet Way is a disciplined, level headed approach to building startups into profitable (and ultimately defensible) businesses.

Note the emphasis on the phrase “level headed”. Conservative management of growth is key. As such, for startups going down the “grow-quick-and-then-sell-for-a-million-bucks” route this may not be relevant at all. But for a long-term business delivering solid value to the user then this is a good blueprint to follow.

Indeed, these are the principles that GoodPlace.my get stitched into its founding DNA.

Eight figure exits are awesome, but that won’t be GoodPlace.my’s raison d’etre. It wasn’t JobStreet’s. It’s hard for me to imagine Mark thinking some 16 years ago, “I’m starting this job site, and I’m gonna sell it for a billion bucks.” That would be rather out of character for him.

Knowing Mark, he would probably have thought, “We’ll deliver a good service that fulfills a need or solves a problem, and the society will then reward us.“

And that’s exactly what I am going to do with GoodPlace.my.